Race in the NBA East: Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving will sit out an important game at Houston today with a sore shoulder, a move that might have an impact on playoff positioning in the NBA's eastern conference. Entering play today, three teams are within one-half game of second place, while six fighting for two playoff spots are separated by two and a half games. With twenty-three games remaining, front runner Atlanta has a ten game lead, so it's highly unlikely that they'll be unseated from their perch atop the conference. At the top, Chicago is clinging to a second place tie after winning seven of their last ten, but guard Derrick Rose's knee injury this past week could have a major impact on their playoff seeding. The Bulls have had to play large stretches without Rose the past few seasons, so perhaps they can continue their run without him. If they can hang on, Chicago may still have hope since Rose's absence is estimated to be between four and six weeks. That means he could be back for a handful of regular season games to get himself game ready for the playoffs, so hope isn't all gone for the Bulls. The real wild card in all of this is Atlanta, a team with limited playoff experience. It's way too early to project their first round opponent,, but it could be Boston, Indiana or Miami, all teams with extensive post-season experience and success. Well, not this particular Celtic lineup, but you get my point. And then we have Cleveland, as they try to balance team health with winning enough to get the second seed. Since a dismal nine losses in ten games, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and newcomers J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov have the Cavs in great position for a deep run in the playoffs.
Wildcats Remain Unbeaten: Arkansas got into Lexington late and never seemed to get their clocks synchronized, losing to top ranked and undefeated Kentucky by the score of 81 - 64. I thought the Hogs might have a chance if they played well, but they couldn't get it going, coming out of the locker room cold, falling behind early and unable to make any significant run. Of course, this Wildcat team makes it extremely difficult to sustain any momentum. The major topic of discussion in college basketball, especially now that Kentucky has posted their twenty-ninth win without a loss, is whether they can become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated and win the national championship. This team is definitely good enough. They only have five more games before the NCAA tournament, assuming they make it to the SEC tournament championship game. Kentucky travels to Georgia Tuesday night, a tough matchup. If they get by the Bulldogs, then I would think a rematch against Arkansas might be the only chance for a loss before March Madness. Can they win it all? Of course, but it will really depend a lot on the regional matchups. They will almost certainly be seeded first in the South region unless they implode down the stretch. That would put them in Louisville for the second and third round games and Houston for the regional. Right now, it appears that Virginia and Duke are the favorites for top seeds, meaning they would avoid having to play either of those teams until the Final Four in Indianapolis. Gonzaga's loss on Saturday puts some intrigue into the race for getting a number one seed. but I haven't seen many teams that will be able to combine athleticism and defensive capability to challenge Kentucky before the Elite Eight. A lot can happen between now and April 6, but that's why they call it March Madness!
PGA Tour After Tiger: I've been watching golf my entire life, some of my earliest memories tuning into tournaments on Sunday afternoons to view the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper, Tony Lema and Gary Player. As I sit looking at this week's Honda Classic, it appears the golf course has more appeal than the players themselves. Sure, Phil Mickelson is in the hunt, but his time at or near the top is coming to an end. No one can continue to putt consistently after they hit the age of 45 or 46. I like the young crop of Americans, including Patrick Reed and Jordan Speith, but none of them, not even Rory McIlroy can generate the interest and excitement that Tiger Woods did for the better part of fifteen years. When the Ryder Cup, an exhibition really, seems to be more important than the majors and regular tour events, something is wrong. My take on Tiger is that he used some type of PED's early in his career, and just like many before him, his body is breaking down a a result. I'm not accusing Tiger of cheating, because there are a lot of supplements that are within the rules. But as competitive as he is, there's little doubt that he would have pursued any avenue to try to stay on top. So if he really is done, with the exception of an occasional burst of brilliance, where will the ratings come from? Who can generate the same type of excitement as Tiger, and Palmer before him, were able to do? Unfortunately, I just don't know.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.