Photo courtesy CB West Football Facebook page.

For the second time this month, a high school has canceled the remainder of its football season over allega

tions of hazing. Central Bucks (Pa.) School District Superintendent David Weitzel wrote a letter Thursday explaining that new players on the Central Bucks West High School team had been put through a "humiliating" preseason ritual. He posted the letter on the school district website.

Our inquiry determined that students new to the team were expected to participate in several initiations that were both humiliating and inappropriate.  The most personally invasive activity required a rookie to grab another player’s private parts while fully clothed.  These initiations took place in front of most team members.  I want to be clear that these activities did not result in physical harm, but were not harmless.  Players who did not directly participate, but witnessed and failed to report the activities, also violated the Code of Conduct. 

James Donnelly, chief of the Bucks County Regional Police Department, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that there were also allegations that freshmen had towels put over their heads and were then forced into the shower. 

CBWHS is in Doylestown, Pa., about 50 miles from Sayreville, N.J., where administrators canceled the football season earlier this month and seven players were arrested on charges related to alleged hazing and sexual assault. In Sayreville, the victims went directly to the police, who notified the school of the investigation. "The letter was pretty damning and contains some pretty scary information," Donnelly said. "We don't know if it was just kids horsing around or if it was more serious, but we're going to investigate."

In Doylestown, the school administration conducted an internal investigation and alerted the police. Weitzel's letter said the allegations were first brought forward on Oct. 14. On Oct. 17, the principal sent a letter to parents saying that they'd determined that no "intentional mistreatment" had occurred. Clearly they continued investigating and determined otherwise.

Parents in Doylestown told the local papers that missing this Friday's scheduled homecoming game is hard on the players, and that only those directly involved should be disciplined. Weitzel took the stance that anyone, whether they were directly involved or watching, is at fault for failing to follow the code of conduct.

The CBWHS team has a long history of success, going 326-42-4 under head coach Mike Pettine, who retired in 2000. Pettine's son, who played for the school, is now the head coach of the NFL's Cleveland Browns.

Mike Cary, another former standout who now coaches at CBWHS, told the Inquirer, "I literally feel sick to my stomach right now. For something like this to happen at such a storied program, it's mind-boggling."

Author: Danielle Elliot
Posted: October 24, 2014, 3:00 pm

While the Syracuse basketball program appears to be the main focus of an ongoing NCAA investigation, the Orange football program is reportedly also a part of the probe.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, the football team is “facing allegations involving extra benefits,” but only from a “two-or-three-year stretch around 2004 or 2005.” By comparison, the allegations surrounding the basketball program are said to go back “about 10 years and are as current as the 2013 season.”

If the allegations against the football program do stem from 2004 and 2005, that time frame would mark the end of Paul Pasqualoni’s tenure as head coach (1991-2004), and the beginning of Greg Robinson’s stint with the program (2005-2008). Additionally, McMurphy is reporting that “none of the allegations” occurred since 2009, when Doug Marrone took over. Scott Shafer replaced Marrone, now the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, in 2013.

Syracuse.com reported Thursday that the football team could be “potentially exposed to penalties.” When reached by Syracuse.com, Marrone said he was not invited to the upcoming hearing in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis (reported to take place on Oct. 30-31).

“There’s nothing that I know about that we did that wasn’t either punished or put forth,” Marrone said. “One thing I did, if we made a mistake, an incidental contact or something, I just always reported it. It’s not worth it. This way I can sleep at night.”

It was first reported in March 2013 that the Syracuse basketball program was under NCAA investigation for academic issues and alleged extra benefits. Since then, the athletic department restructured its academic services department.

The infractions hearing will reportedly mark the end of the investigation and could result in NCAA punishment.

For more Syracuse news, visit CuseConfidential.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: October 24, 2014, 2:56 pm

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 15: T.J. Brodie #7 of the Calgary Flames controls the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 15, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)The phrase that's probably been said more than any other in NHL circles over the years is, “He's a very underrated young defenseman.” 

Almost all young defensemen these days are underrated, it seems, and to that end they're also almost criminally underpaid.

Take, for example, the TJ Brodie contract signed earlier this week. Five years and $4.65 million per. It will take him from his age-25 season until he's almost 30 (he's a June 1990 birthdate, meaning he'll still be 24 when the Flames' season ends in April).

If he were being paid that much now, it would be a tremendous savings over his actual value. Speaking as someone who watches a lot of Flames games — for work reasons. I am not a masochist — I evaluate him as being just a smidge below his defensive partner, Mark Giordano, in terms of his ability to influence play.

Giordano was of course a very reasonable pick for the Norris last season despite missing about a quarter of the season, and probably would have won the thing if he hadn't. This is how highly I rate Brodie. And the numbers back that up: First read this from Travis Yost, then go here and filter for at least 1,200 minutes played. Brodie is first among all defensemen from 2002 to present in terms of relative fenwick. Giordano is sixth. Both play nails-tough minutes for a garbage team in an impossible division. 

Thus, given the fact that he's hardly a household name in the National Hockey League, it seems fair to also consider him underrated.

But with that having been said, the thing is that you can call lots of defensemen — and no-offense, defensive forwards for that matter — “underrated” when you watch them at least a few dozen times a year. Every team in the league, I'd suspect, have guys that fans and observers of that team would rate more highly than the rest of the hockey world simply because they see “the little things” in their game that don't show up in highlight reels.

This is especially true because, often, it's hard to find numbers that back up claims to the contrary. We have corsi, sure, but people still somehow don't trust it as a reasonable evaluator of overall play. They say it limits the ability to evaluate a player's individual defensive acumen. It's a team stat, it's biased toward highlighting offense, etc. To these players, too, the hockey world affixes the “underrated” moniker. The Flames basically made that argument when giving Deryk Engelland, who is demonstrably awful in most respects, three years at $2.9 million per. The Capitals likewise did the same when they committed to cutting Brooks Orpik five years worth of checks at $5.5 million per.

(This might, it seems, be primarily a “Penguins defense” thing.)

They said that what the numbers don't show — but what their own paid talent evaluators saw clearly — is a player of quality, who matches up against blah blah blah toughness blah blah blah.

And defense specifically is a position that remains somewhat poorly understood within the hockey world. People don't want to accept that what makes outfield players good, across the board, is an ability to keep the puck out of their own end specifically by driving it toward that of their opponents. Pretty simple, really, and yet here we are with a league full of “underrated defensemen” anyway.

The issue, then, is two-fold. First, we must consider what we value in defensemen in the game today. Ruggedness, for lack of a better word, is a holdover from ancient hockey days when you could water-ski behind any forward and not get called until you caught up and were able to board him. Orpik is rugged, Engelland is rugged. Dan Girardi is rugged. They also get killed in possession. The hockey world therefore needs to reframe the value of the ability to hit guys and block shots. They're not without value, of course, because some guys are good at both blocking shots and driving play forward when they have to; even the very best players in the league spend a good 40 percent of their time on ice in their own zones.

Therefore, what you want to do is find guys who minimize that own-zone time. Guys who get paid specifically because they are physical don't usually do that. Guys who can incorporate that into their overall games — Giordano, Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Kronwall, Victor Hedman, etc. — are consequently more valuable. You would describe them all as being “physical” defensemen, but not first and foremost when listing their positive attributes. Giordano, Chara, Kronwall, and Hedman are all properly-rated, obviously, as being clear No. 1 guys who are among the best in the league at what they do. They move play in the right direction to an extent that others cannot.

Of course, there's that kind of underrated defenseman out there, the category into which Brodie falls: mid-20s, top-pairing, low-scoring possession drivers. Also included in that group, probably, are Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, Justin Faulk, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Jonas Brodin, and Jake Muzzin. You can tell they're underrated because they're all signed to long-term deals in the $4 million-to-$5 million range. These are all very strong defensemen, underrated usually because there were bigger-name defensemen on their teams — this is the case for Muzzin (Drew Doughty), Brodin (Ryan Suter), Stralman (McDonagh), Vlasic (Dan Boyle), and Brodie (Giordano) — or they're a little too young to have really been around long enough to garner “Wow he's really good!” praise from national media outlets until more recently, like McDonagh and Faulk.

These are very good defensemen signed to great-value deals by teams that do, indeed, see them dominate opponents every day. But some aspect of their game might be lacking in one way or another that can serve to depress their perceived value. By signing long-term, they may be costing themselves some serious money, which is all the better for their teams.

This is where bridge contracts become so valuable for players, specifically. It allows them to get paid a little less than they're worth for a short while before cashing in during their prime years. By signing these middle-value long-term deals, they are effectively costing themselves an additional payday because they might be able to sign for bigger money both when they're, say, 25, and then again when they're 32 or so and still pretty effective.

PK Subban used this to great effect against the Habs, who were foolish to not give him the $5.5 million for five or six years he was rumored to have sought during his brief “holdout” (which, again, wasn't really a holdout in the traditional sense).

Thus we need to consider when defensemen move from under- to properly- to overrated, and what it is that makes them so. I would argue that while PK Subban is one of the three or five best defensemen in the league, he is still a little overpaid, and thus overrated to some extent, at a $9 million per year AAV (at least in the current NHL economy; three years from now he'll probably be paid properly). This is the risk teams run in fooling around with contracts for good young players.

Along similar lines, if Oliver Ekman-Larsson can spend two or three seasons being called “underrated” by everyone who watches more than two Coyotes games, can he really be considered such any more? What about when he pulls $5.5 million per for six years, which he did starting last year? That deal is a little bit reasonable now, and will be a clearance-basement bargain by the time it expires.

The point is that a lot of teams are now moving hard to tie down their good, young defensemen before everyone knows how good they are and start talking them up. That's exceedingly wise. By giving these long-term deals with a middling value, they are effectively locking in the prime years of a player's career at a team-friendly price before putting themselves in a position to either pay through the nose or not-pay for the player's decline years.

This is a rare case of GMs recognizing a market inefficiency before players do, and they're exploiting the hell out of it while they still can. Teams, slowly but surely, are starting to realize the value of these blue liners who don't put up a ton of points, don't play overly physical hockey, but do move the puck in the right direction consistently against just about everyone they face. They're making sure those players don't get lost in the free agent shuffle like they used to.

And right now those teams also realize they can underpay for them a little bit. But that also allows them to continue over-paying defensemen they shouldn't rate very highly at all. Some day soon, a GM who can pay everyone what they're worth is going to have the best team in the league by a mile.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

Author: Ryan Lambert
Posted: October 24, 2014, 2:17 pm

Since Syracuse is a private institution under no obligation to reveal information it would prefer to keep quiet, the school has chosen to stay silent regarding the NCAA investigation into its football and men's basketball programs.

Even so, some pertinent details are still beginning to trickle out.

The scope of the investigation dates back about 10 years and includes allegations involving extra benefits and academic violations, ESPN.com reported Thursday night. The most serious alleged violations involve the men's basketball program, according to the report.

Syracuse will appear in front of the NCAA's committee on infractions Oct. 30-31, the Post-Standard reported earlier this week. When a hearing with the committee on infractions is required, that means it involves either level 1 or level 2 violations. The NCAA defines the former as "a violation that seriously undermines or threatens the integrity of any of the NCAA enduring values" and the latter as "a violation that provides or is intended to provide a minimal to significant recruiting, competitive or other advantage."

It's difficult to evaluate exactly what all that means for Syracuse without further information, but certainly none of it sounds promising. Considering the expansive scope of the investigation and the nature of the alleged violations, it has the potential to damage Syracuse's basketball program and longtime coach Jim Boeheim's legacy.

Still, it's far too soon to pass judgment. This week's reports shed a little bit of light on the investigation, but for now we're still mostly in the dark.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: October 24, 2014, 1:54 pm

RichCluneShow on InstagramNASHVILLE – When Predators forward Mike Ribeiro thinks of scoring winger James Neal living with forward Rich Clune, it takes maybe half a second for him to compare them to a famous movie duo.

“Dumb and Dumber?” Ribeiro quipped.

There are all sorts of funny comparisons that can be thrown out there about Clune – the agitating winger who fights, chirps opponents and phones nasty Twitter followers – and Neal, the Penguins castoff who came to Nashville to not just score goals, but mend a broken reputation.

But Clune’s presence around Neal is probably the best situation that could have happened to Nashville’s newest sniper. Despite Clune’s on-ice persona, he’s a straight arrow off the ice, a recovering alcoholic who works out doggedly, cooks healthy and embraces the relaxed Nashville lifestyle, outside of the bars and Honky Tonks on Broadway.

“He’s a guy who takes care of his body, eats properly and doesn’t go out that much. I think it’s good for Neal. When you surround yourself with good people it makes you a better person and make better choices,” Ribeiro continued. “They stay at home a lot. I think that’s good for Neal and good for them.”

The joining of Neal, a former 40-goal man with the Penguins, and Clune for the first month of the season – Neal finally closed on a house, and moved out Monday – was about nine years in the making.

Both were 2005 draft picks with the Stars and both played together in Dallas’ AHL team in Iowa.

Though Clune was traded to Los Angeles in 2008, both kept up with one another. And when Neal (5 goals in 7 games, including a hat trick on Thursday night) was dealt to Nashville this summer for Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist, Clune understood there was probably a bit of shock for his old buddy and probably needed some help getting acclimated to a new city.

“He was torn between buying and renting a place. He has dogs, and I think he’s looking to put down roots here, so I said, ‘Hey man, I have a spare bedroom at my place, if you want to shack up for however long it takes, no rush,’” Clune said. “I didn’t want to see him buy a place in a hurry and make a mistake.”

Clune cooked often and showed Neal his extreme workout routines. They sometimes went to restaurants in the newly trendy East Nashville neighborhood, but mainly stayed home and relaxed when they weren’t working.

“We’ve been doing a lot of cooking at home. Rich likes to eat real healthy, so it has been good. He has been taking good care of me,” Neal said. “He has taken a liking to the city and embraced the city and he’s doing good things outside of hockey.”

Overall this sort of routine was important for Neal. Not only did he have a better sense of the city, it lessened the blow of the deal. When he was traded, there were whispers and reports that Neal was not well liked in the Pittsburgh locker room, which bothered him – never mind the fact he was at a teammate’s wedding when the trade was announced.

The bad-boy image on the ice couldn’t be denied by his three suspensions, but it was the off-the-ice issues that annoyed Neal the most. It seemed like he was essentially kicked to the curb as he left town.

“The only thing that really bothered me was when they say you’re not a good guy in the locker room and stuff like that,” Neal said. “I had a great relationship with every guy on the team there. I had a lot of fun playing in Pittsburgh. I enjoyed my time. I understand when you don’t win things are going to change. It’s a tough way to go out over the years – the way we lost. But that’s the way our business is, and I’ve been through the trade process before.”

Whatever the case with Neal’s relationship with his Penguins teammates, at least on the exterior he has been embraced by Nashville – not only as a scoring savior for the yearly goal-hungry franchise, but also as a leader. The team gave him the alternate captain’s ‘A’ a gesture that humbled him.

“It’s a huge honor coming in here and being a new guy… It’s a big honor to be able to come here and have the guys welcome me in,” Neal said. “It helps me out a lot. I’m a guy who wants to be a huge part of this team.”

***

More From Yahoo Hockey:

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: October 24, 2014, 1:47 pm

The NBA, like many employers, likes to stay up to date on its employees' habits and interests. The most obvious examples involve things like drug tests and, increasingly, sleep schedules. But the league sometimes likes to get a bit more personal instead of just private — figuring out what players like to do, not only what they ingest. For that, we have the NBA's annual Player Questionnaire.

Robin Lopez of the Portland Trail Blazers received this year's questionnaire and apparently considered it a little silly. Because he decided to answer every question as if the year were 1928, not 2014. From his Instagram (via Blazersedge):

Lopez may not be entirely correct that this questionnaire is pointless — it presumably exists so various media members and public relations official can drop in delightful tidbits about players' personal lives to humanize them. If that's the goal, though, then Lopez's answers fulfill the exercise about as well as could be hoped. This questionnaire is brimming with personality.

Could anyone else in the NBA match this level of understanding of the dominant pop culture of 1928? Which other starting centers are going to drop a Harold Lloyd reference? Or consider "root-marm" a real food? Not even twin brother Brook works on this level.

Lopez has served notice to the rest of the NBA. If you want to bring the laffs this season, you best come correct. Preferably in period detail.

- - - - - - -

Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @FreemanEric

Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: October 24, 2014, 1:00 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — Billy Butler stood in front of his locker Thursday afternoon, smiling and talking about his very abrupt role change in the World Series. His two singles and two RBIs keyed the Kansas City Royals' Game 2 victory, but now he'll wait his turn as a pinch hitter when the series shifts to the Giants' home turf for three games starting Friday. 

It's something that comes up every year in the World Series — the American League team is forced to find a new role for its designated hitter. For the Royals, a mostly small-ball team, there's reason to worry about what will happen to their offense when Butler is confined to just one at-bat per game at most. But the team is putting a positive spin on it, mostly because it has no other choice. 

"It's basically what I do four times a day anyway," Butler said, showing the easy-going sensibility that comes with a nickname like Country Breakfast. "When you're pinch hitting, you have to wait until the next day to hit again instead of the next hour." 

(USA TODAY Sports)That's the truth. But so is this: Butler's hitting .273 with seven RBIs in the postseason, third most on the team.

The Royals can rationalize the loss of Butler a few ways: They can use him whenever they want now. It adds some power to their bench. And they played without him for a spell in September, when he fell out of favor in manager Ned Yost's lineup. They know what they're getting into.

"We can use this as an advantage," Butler said. "Because [Yost] can put me in any situation he wants."

That, in fact, is exactly what Yost told Butler when they talked about his role with the series shifting to AT&T Park.

"Hey," Yost said. "You can win a ballgame off the bench in the 7th inning just as well as you can getting four at‑bats."

Butler's numbers as a pinch hitter support that thinking. He's 11-for-36 in his career as a pinch hitter, that's a .306 average. It's a smaller sample size, of course, but that's better than his .295 career average. As a pinch hitter, Butler also has two homers and four RBIs.

"I remember the good ones," he said, when asked to his recall his career as a pinch hitter. "You gotta have a short memory on the other ones."

There's truth to the notion that Butler will have a chance to make a big impact as a pinch hitter. In the NL park, the Royals will have more pinch-hitting opportunities. Given the way they play and the nature of the postseason, the Royals will likely need him to tie a game or put them ahead.

To Butler, that means staying focused on the game is even more important than when he's DHing.

"You can't let your mind check in and out," Butler says. "You have to always be watching the game, watching pitch sequences, watching everything. You have to be mentally challenged. When you come in to pinch hit, you have to ramp up your focus even more because of the situation you're getting throw into. You have to be ready for anything."

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: October 24, 2014, 10:07 am

It's a day of the week, so Mario Balotelli is being publicly scolded for something. But Balotelli isn't the only footballer who too often finds himself being taken to task by strangers and superiors alike because of perceived offenses that don't violate any laws, contract clauses or usual standards of human decency.

There are a number of unwritten rules that professional footballers must follow in order to stay on the good side of the most hardline bosses, fans and members of the press. And in the interest of helping them navigate this minefield, we've compiled some of the biggest ones here.

Don't swap shirts at halftime

This was Balotelli's latest mortal sin. Real Madrid defender Pepe asked Balotelli to trade shirts as they were heading for the tunnel at halftime and the Italian striker obliged. This instantly became the biggest talking point of the match even though Liverpool spent the previous 45 minutes not defending as Real Madrid scored three goals for fun. After the match, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made it clear that he doesn't like it one bit.

I've seen it happen in other leagues and other countries but it's certainly something that doesn't happen here and shouldn't happen," Rodgers said, apparently forgetting that two of his other players, Mamadou Sakho and Coutinho, prompted his creepy, unblinking denouncement of the practice last season.

Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo's backpage headline demanded that Balotelli "must say sorry for his halftime shirt swap."

Though an acceptable display of sportsmanship after the final whistle, concerned parties (especially those in England) see the halftime shirt swap as a treasonous act akin to spitting in the eyes of every supporter with the misfortune of bearing witness to it. Sky Sports ran a poll on the subject the day after Balotelli's violation and 62 percent of people who cared enough to respond said that halftime shirt swaps should not happen.

POLL: 62% of you think that players shouldn't swap shirts at half-time. Keep voting using #ssnhqyes or #ssnhqno. pic.twitter.com/9ZIzy6xsTj

— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) October 23, 2014

The message is clear: Even some adults can't handle it when the mall Santa Claus takes off his beard as he heads for the back room for his lunch break.

Refunds should be offered after a big loss

This isn't an absolute, but it's becoming increasingly common and, thus, more expected than in the past. Sunderland lost 8-0 at Southampton last weekend and the shamed players took it upon themselves to pool £60,000 of their own money to give refunds to the 2,500 away fans who traveled to see the match.

As Richard Whittall writes for Fusion, "it's a great PR gesture," but it "sends a terrible message."

"It negates the inherent risk that comes with buying a ticket to a soccer match," he says. But in an age where a large segment of fans harbor intense resentment towards the athletes that they've helped make into millionaires, disappointment is no longer acceptable and "fair" means that only good things are ever allowed to happen.

This gesture reinforces that an 8-0 loss isn't just a bad day that can happen from time to time in a competitive endeavor, it's another flagrant insult to the fans that needs to be rectified. It breeds entitlement. But at least we haven't reached the point where an individual player who puts in a poor performance is required to refund an eleventh of each fan's ticket price. If they did, Balotelli probably would have already gone broke this season.

Don't celebrate against your former club

(Getty)

Even when a player is no longer a member of a given club, they must still demonstrate their unwavering #RESPECT for their old side in ways that undermine the emotions of their current affiliation.

Again, this is another example of twisting a benign occurrence into an elaborate show of contempt. Celebrating a goal against one's former club isn't seen as the natural and reflexive expression of joy after completing a positive achievement that it is, but an ex-lover knocking on your window and humping their new significant other on your front lawn. It's a declaration of war. It's a reminder that happiness can be achieved without you and that if you're not happy, then no one should be. Ever.

You must kiss the badge of your new club

(Getty)

This is more of a thing in Spain. When a new player is unveiled to the fans, it's become expected that the player will kiss the badge on their new shirt at some point during the festivities. If they don't, they're a snake.

Alvaro Negredo didn't kiss the badge when he was unveiled by Valencia last summer and he was booed. For not kissing a piece of fabric immediately after putting it on his body for the first time. But if you kiss the badge after scoring against your old club, you will probably nuclear war. Or prompt a bunch of people on the Internet to type really irrational things in very large letters.

Always applaud your fans after an away match

Here's another one that Mario Balotelli ran afoul of this season. As soon as the final whistle sounds and the properly timed shirt swaps are completed, the visiting team must applaud the traveling supporters in an obligatory show of appreciation.

Of course, if the visiting team loses by eight or more goals this should be done before the players start handing out refunds. If there is a refund but no applause, a special applause refund should also be given in addition to the original refund. And if that sounds confusing, just keep clapping and handing out cash until the people in the stands stop yelling at you.

Don't leave your house after a loss

By now it should be clear that some people have a hard time accepting that half of the teams in every match that doesn't end in a draw will lose. For these people, players must treat losses like the death of a family member they actually liked. Players spotted in public within 12 hours after a loss for any reason other than emergency treatment of a severed limb will be subjected to scorn, derision and even fines from their club.

It doesn't matter if the player is partying until three a.m. or simply going out for a quiet dinner with friends like Luke Shaw did, the papers will splash this across the backpage and it will be interpreted by some as a clear show of how little they care about the result in particular and their profession in general. To avoid this silly assumption, players should tweet hourly pictures of themselves wearing a T-shirt that says "I have shamed everyone I love" and crying in a dark, windowless room until they must report to the next training session. Listening to Death Cab for Cutie during this period is optional, but strongly advised.

Never admit that money is an important part of a job offer

Nevermind the fact that in any other profession, taking a new job solely for improved pay is an instantly acceptable reason. Footballers who change clubs for a pay increase during their incredibly short and terrifyingly fragile careers within a profession they have devoted their entire lives to pursuing will be labeled "mercenaries" and considered roughly equivalent to someone who sells faulty aluminum siding to babies.

The only decent reasons for a footballer to change clubs are: to play for the club (or clubs, if you're Robbie Keane) they supported as a child, to fulfill the last wish of a dying relative, or if their current club simply don't want to pay them any longer.

Never say that you're tired

As Raheem Sterling recently learned, footballers have it too good to be considered human beings capable of feeling fatigued. Constantly running around for a living shouldn't make you tired when you have a lot of money. That's just science. And if it does, keep your mouth shut about it and keep playing until your body completely breaks down. Because, as all of these rule show, true commitment is measured in stupidity.

- - - - - - -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter! Follow @BrooksDT

Author: Brooks Peck
Posted: October 24, 2014, 8:35 am

@brodiebrazilCSN

The word is "ouch."

No. 1 Star: James Neal, Nashville Predators 

Looks like James Neal is doing just fine without Evgeni Malkin as his center. The winger had a hat trick against the Chicago Blackhawks, giving the Predators all three of their goals in their 3-2 win. He now has five on the season. Pekka Rinne made 32 saves in the win.

No. 2 Star: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Quick posted his 33rd career shutout to earn the Kings’ franchise record over Rogie Vachon, as L.A. shut out the Buffalo Sabres, 2-0. Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar had the goals. 

No. 3 Star: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

The captain was awesome in the third period: Scoring his third of the season; working hard to set up Pavel Datsyuk, who set up Niklas Kronwall for the game-tying goal; and forcing a turnover that led to Justin Abdelkader's game-winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3.

Honorable Mention: Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves for his third shutout in four starts, as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Arizona Coyotes, 2-0. Jared Spurgeon had two assists. … Jonas Hiller made 16 saves and Sean Monahan had two goals as the Calgary Flames blasted the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-0. … Crazy game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks, as an apparent goal by Ryan Johansen – which would have given him a hat trick – was waved off for goalie interference, and Mark Letestu scored his second of the game with 21 seconds left to give the Jackets a 5-4 win. Joe Pavelski scored twice for the Sharks. … Ryan Miller made 31 saves against his former team as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-1. Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist. … The New York Islanders used second-period goals by Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck, as well as a strong third period from goalie Chad Johnson against his former team, beating the Boston Bruins by a 3-2 score. 

Did You Know? Neither the Sabres nor the Wild have scored on the power play this season.

Dishonorable Mention: Drew Stafford earned an instigator penalty for taking on Brayden McNabb. … Andrej Sekera, Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner were all a minus-3. … Zdeno Chara was limited to 4:13 of ice time after injuring his knee. He’ll miss up to six weeks.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 24, 2014, 6:10 am

DENVER At the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter, the Denver Broncos were up 35-21, with the ball. That last part is key to this story.

The Broncos, stealing the University of Wisconsin's bit, started playing the House of Pain song "Jump Around" in the stadium. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, on the sideline, got into it and started dancing. They showed Talib on the big screen, the crowd got even more fired up. It was fairly typical stuff at the end of a big Broncos win.

And quarterback Peyton Manning was not happy about it.

Manning wants the crowd to be quiet when the offense has the ball. He likes calling out audibles at the line, and every once in a while he'll theatrically motion for the crowd to quiet down. After the two-minute warning the Broncos got a false-start penalty, although it didn't seem that was due to the crowd noise. He wasn't mad at the fans this time; he was mad at the Broncos scoreboard operator.

"I have no problem wih our fans, our fans are great," Manning said. "I've got a problem with our scoreboard operator. I've got to have a little talk with him." 

Some reporters in his press conference laughed. Manning did not. Manning often has a very dry delivery on his jokes, but it certainly appeared he was dead serious about not being pleased with the scoreboard operator.

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

He also referenced a moment in the second half when the Broncos kept showing San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, the No. 1 enemy of Broncos fans, on the big screen repeatedly to let the crowd boo him.

"I'm not sure what he's doing," Manning said. "He's playing music and showing players dancing and getting the crowd fired up when we have the ball. I don't think we should be doing that. I don't think we should be showing their quarterback on the sideline. I thought it was disrespectful. Our fans were great, our fans were loud, but the scoreboard operator, it wasn't his best night."

Again, there was no laughter after finishing his thought and not a hint of a smile.

Manning is known for being very serious and very competitive, and will yell at a teammate for a mistake when he feels it's necessary. He apparently believes that standard should be held to everyone in the organization, even the guy showing Talib jumping around on the big screen.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 24, 2014, 6:07 am

DENVER – The Denver Broncos were really good in 2013.

They were 13-3, didn’t lose any regular-season game by more than a touchdown, outscored teams by 207 points and won the AFC. They ultimately weren’t Super Bowl champion good, partially because they ran up against a great team that was even better, but they were very good last season.

The Broncos are better this season. Clearly. Absolutely.

“Oh yeah,” cornerback Chris Harris said without any hesitation when asked if the 2014 Broncos were better than the 2013 version. “We’re a total team.”

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

The Broncos are the best team in football right now, by a wide margin. They’ve gone from a team with a historic offense and a so-so defense to a team with an even better offense on paper and a stellar defense. The Broncos gave up 61 yards rushing on Thursday night in a 35-21 win over the San Diego Chargers, and 23 of those yards came on the last play. They forced Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers into two interceptions. The offense was as good as ever, with a 100-yard rusher (Ronnie Hillman), two 100-yard receivers (Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas) and a quarterback who might win a sixth MVP award (you know who).

Hold on, hold on. Fine, the Broncos are 6-1 and the best team in the NFL … right now. That doesn’t mean they’ll win the Super Bowl, and the postseason failures of the past two seasons - and of quarterback Peyton Manning most seasons in his career - follow them around everywhere. This great football they’re playing in October means nothing if they come up short of a championship again. Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton wasn’t afraid to express that when asked if the Broncos are better this season.

“We’ll see, we’ll see. If we hoist the trophy, then yes. If not, then no,” Knighton said. “It’s that simple. There’s nothing else we can do but win the Super Bowl. If we’re not hoisting that trophy at the end, then we’ll feel let down.”

The good news for the Broncos is they should hoist that trophy. This is a much different team than the one that played in the Super Bowl last year. Between free agency and adding players back from injured reserve, the Broncos added seven top-flight starters this offseason. That's something very few teams in the NFL can pull off, yet the second-best team in the league last season did it.

The major free-agent additions are all playing as expected. Cornerback Aqib Talib broke up two passes, including a brilliant one on a deep pass down the middle to Malcom Floyd. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware didn’t record any sacks on Thursday, but he drew a 10-yard illegal hands to the face penalty on a pass rush and has seven sacks this season. Strong safety T.J. Ward is one reason the Broncos allow the fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL. Sanders has proven to be an upgrade over Eric Decker; he had three touchdown catches against San Diego.

Von Miller (USA Today Sports Images)The stars who returned from season-ending injuries have stepped right back in. Left tackle Ryan Clady is part of a great line that led Hillman’s 109-yard effort and didn’t allow a sack. Outside linebacker Von Miller is back to being one of the NFL’s best defensive players. He had a sack for the sixth consecutive game and leads the NFL with nine sacks. Underrated cornerback Chris Harris, Pro Football Focus’ eighth ranked cornerback last year based on the site’s grades, ranked third in the NFL before Thursday’s game.

All seven of those players have either been to a Pro Bowl or are capable of playing at that level, were added to a team coming off an AFC championship. And it shows. If the Broncos can maintain this level on both sides of the ball and win a Super Bowl, this team has a chance to go down as one of the all-time greats.

The running game has picked up. The passing game is unbelievably deep. The run defense is statistically the best in the league. The pass rush is led by Miller and Ware, who are on pace for more than 36 sacks. The secondary is no joke either.

“We have an identity already,” Harris said. “We’re going to stop the run, and then you all are going to have to come out and try to throw at me and Talib, and it’s going to be a long day when you have to do that.”

Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe were hanging out in the locker room long after Thursday night's game ended. Smith, the Broncos’ all-time leading receiver, said he was impressed most with this team’s offensive and defensive lines, something that doesn’t get much attention with the stars elsewhere on the team. He also marveled at how multiple the offense is, and how great the quarterback is playing.

“Peyton is ridiculous right now,” Smith said, shaking his head.

There’s another thing Smith has noticed that’s big for most championship teams: chemistry.

“You feel good energy,” Smith said.

At that point Smith called over Sharpe, the Hall of Fame tight end, and talked about the good old days. He talked about how the Broncos’ 1996 team that was upset by Jacksonville in the playoffs was great on paper, but players didn’t root for each other. That chemistry changed in 1997, the players rallied around each other and the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Sharpe nodded and agreed. And Smith sees that in this year’s Broncos.

“When you feel good about the guys you work with, that’s a part of the game that doesn’t get measured, there’s no stat for that,” Smith said.

What’s not to like about the 2014 Broncos? The roster is the most talented from top to bottom in the NFL, and it has meshed quickly. The offense is great again. The defense is much stronger. There are no real weaknesses.

The Broncos won the offseason. They’ve won the regular season so far.

And nobody will care about any of that if they don’t win the Super Bowl.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 24, 2014, 5:41 am

Retired Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding will preside over the upcoming student code of conduct hearing for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, according to reports.

Winston faces as many as four conduct violations stemming from an alleged sexual assault of former student in December 2012. The state attorney's office in Tallahassee declined to press charges against Winston following an investigation last fall. The alleged victim filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education, which prompted a Title IX investigation.

There is no set date for when Winston's student conduct code hearing will take place.

Harding, 79, was a state Supreme Court justice from 1991 to 2000. Harding is currently a practicing attorney with the law firm Ausley McMullen in Tallahassee, but has no ties to Florida State University. He is a native of Charlotte, N.C., graduated from Wake Forest and Virginia's law school. He was selected over two other retired Florida Supreme Court justices, Joseph Hatchett and Charles T. Wells.

For more Florida State news, visit Warchant.com.

- - - - - - -

Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @YahooDrSaturday

And don’t forget to keep up with all of Graham’s thoughts, witty comments and college football discussions on Facebook

Author: Graham Watson
Posted: October 24, 2014, 3:59 am

Through the month of September, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers became one of the NFL’s hot way-too-early MVP candidates. 

The Chargers were playing well. Rivers was on fire. All of the way-too-early MVP buzz was justified. But no matter how good Rivers is, he's not even the best MVP candidate in his own division.

Peyton Manning, who was surprisingly absent from the MVP talk in its very early stages, and the Denver Broncos dismantled the Chargers 35-21, leaving no question they are the favorite in the AFC West. The Broncos are 6-1, a game-and-a-half ahead of the second-place Chargers (5-3).

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

This was Manning's second straight dominant performance on prime time. Manning was 25-of-35 for 286 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Thursday's win. Last week, Manning was 22-of-28 for 318 yards and four touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Remember in the 1990s when NBA voters got bored giving Michael Jordan the MVP award every year, so guys like Charles Barkley and Karl Malone were given one even though Jordan was clearly the best player in the league? That might be other NFL MVP candidates’ hope this year: Manning fatigue by voters. Manning has five MVPs already and it's obvious he'll be one of the top candidates again this season.

That will be sorted out a long time from now, but what was reinforced on Thursday night is that the Broncos are the best team in football. The offense might even be more dangerous this year with additions like receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who scored three touchdown Thursday. The defense is clearly better, with a healthy Von Miller and other newcomers like end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward.

The Broncos were ahead 28-7 early in the third quarter, and although the Chargers got the ball back late in the fourth quarter down just 14 points, the game never seemed in doubt. The Broncos, who lost to these Chargers at home on a Thursday night last year, are just the better team.

In fairness to the Chargers, the Broncos are better than any other team right now. And Manning has a very good case as the league’s best player. Again.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 24, 2014, 3:30 am
New York Islanders defenseman Brian Strait (37) collides with New York Islanders' Zdeno Chara during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Chara left the game during the first period for unspecified reasons, according to team officials. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Bruins star defenseman Zdeno Chara left their 3-2 loss vs. the New York Islanders during the first period with an injury, and the news isn't good.

Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston and TSN's Aaron Ward report that Chara will miss 4-to-6 weeks with ligament damage to his left knee, and that surgery for the backliner isn't out of the question.

Chara was evaluated at a local hospital after the game. Speculation is that Chara was injured on this hit against John Tavares of the Islanders:

As you can see, there was some knee-on-knee action there.

Chara threw another check on that shift against Kyle Okposo, but didn’t skate again during the period.

Via CSNNE.com, Julien said after rhe game:

“When you lose your captain and your best defenseman, there’s no doubt it’s going to have an effect on your team. You’re going to lose guys during the season. It’s going to happen. How you react to it and how you respond to it is what’s important.”

According to McDonald, this is how the Bruins have responded without Chara: "Since joining the Bruins in 2006, the team is 341-204-66 with Chara in the lineup and 8-7-5 without him."

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 24, 2014, 3:04 am
(AP)

SAN FRANCISCO — The last time the Kansas City Royals played at AT&T Park, it was still called SBC Park and Jeremy Affeldt, the San Francisco Giants relief pitcher, was wearing blue.

It was 2005 and those Royals included Terrence Long in the outfield and Angel Berroa at shortstop. Ned Yost was managing the Milwaukee Brewers and Lorenzo Cain was playing his first year of rookie ball.

These Royals, the ones who will take the field Friday for Game 3 of the World Series, are a very different bunch. Playing at AT&T Park for them is like handing a 13-year-old an Atari joystick.

So the Kansas City bunch — a team that relies very much on its defense, mind you — spent their workout day learning the quirks of the Giants' home park. It's not a typical outfield out there, particularly in right field and right-center, where the wall plays an atypical game of geometry. 

"It's definitely tough," said Cain, a top-notch outfielder who plays either center or right field for the Royals. "With the brick, the chain-link fence and the angles out there, it's tough. You just have to be on your toes and be ready for anything. Even the warning track is soft. It's like beach sand."

(Getty Images)

There's also a tricky triples' alley. And if the wind kicks up, like we saw once in the NLCS, things can get even trickier.

"It's not Candlestick," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday, although his team is well accustomed to AT&T's challenges. 

Yost's bunch on the other hand, will continue feeling things out, even in to Friday's batting practice.

"They were just standing there watching balls in BP, seeing which way they bounce off those walls," Yost said. "So after our workout, after our batting practice tomorrow, our guys are going to have a really, really good idea on what's going to happen every time a ball hits that wall."

The quirky dimensions could impact the Royals' lineup too. Yost wasn't ready to commit to anything just yet, but he said the nature of AT&T Park could mean Jarrod Dyson starts instead of Nori Aoki, whose been known to play some adventurous right field. In such a scenario, Dyson would likely play center (like we usually see late in games) while Cain would shift over to right. Dyson's a better fielder, but Aoki's has a better bat. Aoki on the bench would give Yost another pinch-hitting option.

That's helpful because the Royals will also be playing a different style of ball in the NL park — no designated hitter, more double switches and more pinch hitters. 

"I managed in the National League for six years, so I'm comfortable doing it," Yost said, also crediting hitting coach Dale Sveum, who managed the Cubs in 2012 and 2013. "Dale's managed in the National League, he's comfortable. As a group, we're not afraid of the National League game. We understand the National League game."

The Royals, in fact, were quite good this season in interleague play, going 15-5 overall and 8-2 in NL parks.

"Our versatility, our athleticism, our speed definitely helps," Yost said, "and our bullpen."

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: October 24, 2014, 2:52 am

Ryan Miller faced the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night for the first time since his brief, underwhelming tenure there ended last season. And so, of course, he played outstanding in the Vancouver Canucks’ 4-1 victory over the Blues, including this incredible save against Jori Lehtera that led to a Nick Bonino goal the other way:

 

Miller made 31 saves in the win. Here's a bit longer highlight:

He was 10-8-1 for the Blues last season with a .903 save percentage, which dropped to .895 in their six-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. While the fans felt Miller’s time there was a bust, he enjoyed playing in St. Louis.

As Miller said before the game, via the Vancouver Sun:

“It just didn’t end well and I think that is where the drama comes from is people want to know why,” Miller said. “I don’t have any hard feelings. It was a situation where they were hoping it would lead to something different within the organization and it just didn’t pan out, just didn’t work out the way we hoped. There are a lot of different reasons for that. I don’t feel like I played to the best of my abilities, I don’t think I played terrible. But in the playoffs that little difference is (big).”

A few more saves like that one on Thursday night, and perhaps the playoffs would have been a little different …

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 24, 2014, 2:41 am

The family of Bobby Phills stands by his jersey in February 2000. (The Sporting News)The rebranding of the Charlotte Bobcats as the Charlotte Hornets has been a very positive experience, with a franchise in need of market traction and increased popularity grabbing hold of one of the most recognizable brands in the NBA's past 25 years. The teams' logos and mascot have been updated a bit, but the Hornets are back. Everyone get out your old Starter jackets and Skybox trading cards.

Yet the Hornets' legacy is not without tragedy, as well. The newest incarnation of the franchise has not turned its back on all aspects of that history and will remember one of its saddest moments in an upcoming ceremony. The Hornets will re-retire the jersey of Bobby Phills, who died in a car accident on January 12, 2000 at 30 years old, on November 1 during halftime of their game against the Memphis Grizzlies. From the press release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that the team will honor the late Bobby Phills and re-hang his retired No. 13 jersey in a halftime ceremony during its game against Memphis on Saturday, November 1. The jersey was originally raised to the rafters on February 9, 2000, following Phills’ passing a month earlier.
“During the process of bringing the Hornets name back to Charlotte, one of the most important elements to us was to once again honor the retired jersey of Bobby Phills,” said Hornets President & COO Fred Whitfield. “It is our responsibility to appropriately recognize the legacy of a man who impacted so many people with his contributions both on and off the basketball court.”
The halftime ceremony, which will include members of the Phills family and several of Phills’ former Charlotte Hornets teammates, will feature a video and remarks on behalf of the family and the organization before the No. 13 jersey once again resumes its place as the lone retired number in Hornets history.
A 6-5 guard, Phills signed with the Hornets prior to the 1997-98 season and played in 133 games for the team prior to his untimely death on January 12, 2000. He averaged 12.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals in 32.2 minutes per game during his time in Charlotte. The nine-year NBA veteran spent his first six seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he was named to the All-Defensive Second Team following the 1995-96 season.

This is a very important move from the Hornets. It's easy to think of reclaiming the Hornets brand as an exercise in teal-tinged nostalgia, but the decision was driven by the belief that the Charlotteans feel an emotional attachment to the Hornets through a shared history. The death of Phills was a major event for the city and the entire league. Paying tribute to Phills proves that the new Hornets know that a sports franchise and the city it calls home can share a special relationship.

Phills remains the only Hornet to have his jersey number retired. The New Orleans Hornets retired the No. 7 jersey of Louisiana native and former New Orleans Jazz star Pete Maravich in 2002 during the team's first season in the city, but that honor obviously won't be carried over to Charlotte and has stuck with the New Orleans Pelicans.

- - - - - - -

Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @FreemanEric

Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: October 24, 2014, 2:08 am

(AP)John Elway is as popular as ever in Denver, but name dropping Elway did not help Broncos practice squad safety John Boyett when he was arrested on Monday. Elway, the Broncos general manager, didn't seem too impressed either, because he cut Boyett on Thursday.

Boyett allegedly had a heck of a time out, it sounds like from the police report, via the Denver Post. Take a gander at what Boyett was arrested for. It's quite the list:

"In summary, according to the police report, Boyett was highly intoxicated, threatened a bartender at a sports bar where he ate, drank and did shots, was belligerent to his fellow patrons, assaulted a cab driver, stole a shovel from a construction site so he could whack the cab driver, fled the scene and tried to hide from police by trying to bury himself under mulch."

It's really, really hard to pick a highlight out of that. Another candidate, later in the Post's story, is that Boyett "tried to take food off one woman's plate." It's like he was trying to one-up himself all night (by the way, I'm picking "stole a shovel to whack the cab driver" as the winner, although "tried to hide himself by trying to bury himself under mulch" is hard to pass up).

It's not like that report wasn't enough for the Broncos to consider cutting Boyett, who was cut by the Colts last September after being charged with disorderly public intoxication and resisting arrest (he allegedly played the "I'm a Colts player" card then), but Boyett then decided that his best move was to tell the police to "contact his boss, John Elway." He did this repeatedly, the Post said, after he was arrested and put in the back of a patrol car.

That wasn't too smart, although that shouldn't come as a big surprise given the rest of what happened on Boyett's big night out.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 24, 2014, 1:08 am

Blackhawks fans travel in large packs to opposing stadiums. It’s what happens when your team is fun, fast, entertaining and has won two Stanley Cups since 2010.

But for whatever reason, Hawks fans seem to travel exceptionally well to Nashville.

A lot has to do with proximity either by car – eight hour drive – or by air – 50 minute flight. It also helps that Southwest Airlines has an incredible amount of direct flights from Midway Airport to Nashville.

Last season the Predators tried a campaign to ‘Keep the Red Out’ where if you bought a ticket to a Predators/Blackhawks game, you had to buy one for a non-Predators/Blackhawks game later in the year.

The deal was in some ways a success, because two of the three games were sellouts, though Hawks fans still dominated the crowds.

Most of Thursday, the Predators official team Twitter had been informing fans about how to get rid of their red outfits for the evening's game between the two teams. 

PSA on the red redemption: if it's attached to someone's head please don't try to turn it in. #savethegingers #CHIvsNSH

— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) October 23, 2014

Below is the new campaign to make it ‘harder’ for Chicago fans to go to Nashville games via email from the Predators:

-Game was included in all season-ticket packages, to make sure the Loyal Legion had tickets to the game.

-Pre-sale opportunities to season-ticket holders, first access to buy game individual game tickets (this game included)

-Single-game buyers in viewing area opportunity to buy game through pre-sale codes

-Individual tickets went on sale at Bridgestone Arena only, [so] people in Nashville would have opportunity to buy single game tickets (including this game), first

-Following all of the above, tickets went on sale to the general public/outer market.

And the promotions!

- Free popcorn to any fans wearing gold

- Turn in any red item to Fan Information and get a Preds ticket voucher (one voucher per person). Red items will be donated to the Chicago Rescue Mission

-Turn in a Hawks sweater and receive a Preds sweatshirt

When it comes to the Predators – or any NHL team – if a building is full, a promotion clearly works. And there actually seemed to be fewer Blackhawks fans at the Thursday game than usual per the iPhone photo from the Preds press box from the start of the contest at the bottom of the page.

But in this golden age of the Blackhawks, and Southwest Airlines, good luck in keeping their fans out of any building.

Bridgestone Arena in Nashville from a Thursday Oct. 23 game between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. Photo by Josh Cooper 

 

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: October 24, 2014, 1:06 am

The Los Angeles Lakers’ prospects were never going to be all that swell in 2014-15. The team is thin, injury-prone, lacking defenders, and featuring a questionable mindset when it comes to attempting three-pointers. One saving grace that fans did have to look forward to was the potential, at last, for a pairing of a healthy Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Though the two would have been diminished by age and injury, the throwback backcourt would have been fun to take in.

We’ve, again, been denied a chance at watching as much. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report was the first to drop word on Thursday evening that Nash will be ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season because of ongoing nerve damage in his back. The two-time MVP has said repeatedly that he has no interest in moving his family away from Los Angeles in order to join another team, so barring an unexpected contract offer from the Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers next season, Steve Nash will effectively retire after this diagnosis.

It’s an incredibly unfortunate end to a career that, as recently as 24 months ago, seemed to be aging better than most other players in NBA history. Nash played All-Star level ball in his final year with the Phoenix Suns in 2011-12, leading the NBA in assist percentage and working in 62 of that season’s 66 games. The Lakers were all too giddy to send a pair of first-round draft picks Phoenix’s way for the right to sign Nash to a three-year, nearly $28 million contract during that offseason, teaming Nash with Bryant and eventually All-Star center Dwight Howard in the Laker lineup.

Things fell apart almost immediately, as Nash fractured his left leg in Los Angeles’ second game of the season, and his subsequent rush to return from that injury resulted in the back, neck and nerve pain that limited his 2012-13 run, and benched him for nearly all of the next season. With nearly a year and a half’s worth of rehab to his credit including the lost 2013-14 season, Nash seemed prime to give it one last go this year, and give his career a proper, if lottery-bound, send off.

Nash started his team’s first two exhibition games, but had to ask out of the first quarter of the second contest against the Golden State Warriors. Days later, he reportedly re-injured his back while carrying luggage, which resulted in the future Hall of Famer missing practice. Now Nash has this diagnosis, and we have the grim knowledge that we’ve probably already watched Steve Nash play his last NBA game.

What we should then do with that knowledge is thank our lucky stars that we ever got to see him at all.

Some 14 years ago, around this time, Steve Nash was battling Howard Eisley for the role as the Dallas Mavericks’ starting shooting guard. Following two injury-plagued and ineffective seasons with the Mavericks, the team smartly signed the well-regarded Eisley as starting insurance should Nash’s Achilles and back injuries continue to limit his play. Nash instead beat Eisley out and turned in a stellar season, as the Mavericks made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Steve went on to make the All-Star team in his next year, the first of eight such appearances.

There was a real chance that the Steve Nash that we grew to know and admire may never have come to fruition had his injury woes sustained. Nash could have limped out of this league a decade ago, never thrilling us with his work with Dallas’ fabulous offensive outfit or Phoenix’s legendary Seven Seconds or Less revue.

(On a personal note, Nash’s ascension meant quite a bit to the guy currently writing this. He was one of two bench afterthoughts, Darrell Armstrong being the other, that I hopped on as role players that could eventually take a star turn in this league – especially after watching Nash dominate the late goings of these two games in the first month of his rookie year. He seemed like a quicker Mark Price, or Kevin Johnson with deeper range, and to a game tape-hoarding teenager that wanted to eventually make a living covering the NBA, having Nash eventually take off meant a whole hell of a lot for my confidence in my choice of career.)

Nash has yet to comment, to officially retire, and we don’t blame the guy. Having the ability to play a game that you mastered at for so long taken away from you is quite the shock, even if Nash’s nerve issues have been in place for nearly two years now. It’s just as cruel a blow to NBA fandom, with less than a week to go before the season’s tipoff, to learn that one of the greatest point guards of all time is being taken away from us.

We got him for a while, though. A great while. Never forget that.

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: October 24, 2014, 12:42 am

PGA of America president Ted Bishop wanted to defend six-time major champion Nick Faldo, who he spent Thursday with at an event, in his ongoing public spat with Ian Poulter. However, in the process, Bishop made remarks indefensible for a person of his stature in golf.

Responding to published shots Poulter took at Faldo in his new autobiography "No Limits," Bishop came to Faldo's defense, referring to to Poulter as a "lil girl."

@IanJamesPoulter -Faldo's record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time RC points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl. @NickFaldo006@pgaofamerica

He made similar comments on his Facebook page. Both of his posts have since been deleted.

On Friday morning, the PGA of America issued a statement explaining Bishop's word choice through spokesman Julius Mason: "Ted realized that his post was inappropriate and promptly removed it.”

Poulter responded Friday morning, saying to Golf Channel"Is being called a 'lil girl' meant to be derogatory or a put down? That's pretty shocking and disappointing, especially coming from the leader of the PGA of America. No further comment."

The comments from Bishop, who is nearing the end of a two-year term as PGA of America president, are disappointing not only given his stature in a male-dominated sport, but also that he was instrumental in teaming with the LPGA to form a new major championship, the Women's PGA Championship, starting next year in replacement of the long-standing LPGA Championship.

In his book, Poulter took up for Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia, who Faldo called "useless" during TV coverage of the 2014 matches. Faldo claimed Garcia was distracted by a break-up and struggled to compete during the 2008 matches at Valhalla.

“Sergio puts a brave face on it but the rest of the guys are fuming,” Poulter wrote. “I’m shocked that he has said it. It’s highly disrespectful. It’s a cheap shot and it’s the worst possible timing.

“It makes me laugh. Faldo is talking about someone being useless at the 2008 Ryder Cup. That’s the Ryder Cup where he was captain. That’s the Ryder Cup where the Europe team suffered a heavy defeat. And he was captain. So who’s useless?

“Faldo might need to have a little look in the mirror. I have always got on great with Faldo in the past and I have a great deal of respect for everything he has achieved but this feels like sour grapes. It feels like a guy who is still bitter that he lost in 2008."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow @RyanBallengee

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: October 23, 2014, 11:49 pm

Rare is the fighter who tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug (or, in the case of Chael Sonnen, drugs) who doesn't question either the test results, the test procedures or both.

But when a fighter is vindicated, it's almost as if we're not sure how to act.

The UFC rescinded Cung Le's 12-month suspension for testing positive for human growth hormone following his loss to Michael Bisping on Aug. 23 in Macau, China. But Le insisted he hadn't taken anything illegal and several notable figures in the drug testing community, notably Dr. Don Catlin of AntiDopingResearch.org, came to his defense.

Catlin told MMA Junkie, "I think [the test done by the UFC] is useless. I wouldn’t pay any attention to it all."

Given the overwhelming evidence that the testing procedure was flawed, the UFC rescinded the suspension.

But in its statement announcing the recision, the UFC was very careful to avoid apologizing or otherwise exonerating Le. It announced essentially that there were enough questions about the validity of the test that it would remove Le's suspension.

That, however, wasn't good enough for Le, who released a statement Thursday demanding an apology from the UFC.

"I am extremely happy with the UFC’s decision to rescind my suspension," Le's statement read. "I believe the issues raised in regards to the testing procedures as well as the manner in which the results were determined by the UFC clearly support my assertion that I did not use any performance-enhancing drugs. I am also happy to take away the fact that the UFC has decided to make the proper changes in their testing procedures which will now ensure that no athlete will ever have to endure the same hardship.

"While I feel vindicated in this matter, the UFC’s press release does little in the way of an apology of which I believe I am rightly owed after unfairly enduring the public’s scrutiny. Their decision to announce me as a user of performance-enhancing drugs with little thought to the accuracy of the testing or proper procedures has caused my family and I great pain; that we have now come to know was completely unnecessary had the proper care been taken to ensure my test results were in fact valid proof of impropriety."

There are myriads of fighters who are cheating and using performance-enhancing drugs. All one has to do is to speak privately with fighters who are frustrating the high number of users to understand it's a serious issue.

The UFC has been working to find a solution and has indicated that, in some form in 2015, it will implement a vigorous drug testing protocol. It will be long overdue when it comes.

UFC middleweight Michael Bisping said Cung Le got off on a loophole. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)But the most important thing in drug testing is to get it right, to be absolutely certain that the test is accurate and all procedures are followed to the letter. There are serious implications which flow from incompetent, or mistaken, tests.

First, and the most egregious, is the damage it does to the reputation of the fighter singled out. In this case, Le was branded a drug cheat and may never be fully able to escape that reputation. Michael Bisping, who had defeated Le in Macau, noted that Le had gotten off on a loophole or a technicality.

So, while the suspension was removed, it's not as if the UFC took responsibility for the mistake and apologized for it publicly.

But flawed testing hurts the total anti-doping effort, because it gives a strong voice to those who are cheating. If one can't trust the results, it's a Wild West.

Le came under scrutiny when he released a photo on Instagram showing himself to be unusually buff. Bisping saw it and complained. And who could blame Bisping, given that he had fought a number of fighters who were on synthetic testosterone or other PEDs?

Setting up an anti-doping protocol isn't something that can be done in three or four days. And so while the UFC tried to do the right thing, it wound up making a critical, devastating error.

It's an error that may haunt it for a long time.

The answer to this was to become a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency code and to hire an independent outlet, like say the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, to administer its program. That may in fact be what is to come.

But it's way late and the UFC is going to have to dig itself out of a major hole just as it embarks on its new program.

Ridding combat sports of performance-enhancing drugs should be a significant priority for all promoters, but this debacle has complicated the effort and made it all the more difficult.

Author: Kevin Iole
Posted: October 23, 2014, 11:46 pm

Bryan Allen, the man who claimed he paid Georgia running back Todd Gurley $400 for his autograph, said he wants to see Gurley back on the field.

Allen’s attorney, Ed Garland, told WSB-TV Atlanta that he wanted to see Gurley reinstated and that he regretted prompting investigations by Georgia and the NCAA.

“He thinks he ought to be playing football this Saturday and thinks that he should not be punished,” Garland said. “He greatly regrets that he made the one payment to him — $400 — he wishes he never had.”

Allen allegedly sent SB Nation an email earlier this month stating that he had exchanged “thousands of dollars” with Gurley for signed memorabilia. It was later determined that Gurley had only received $400 from Allen, a payment Allen’s lawyer said was a one-time deal.

Georgia, this week, petitioned the NCAA to reinstate Gurley and make him available for the Bulldogs’ game against Florida on Nov. 1.

Thanks to Saturday Down South

For more Georgia news, visit UGASports.com.

- - - - - - -

Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @YahooDrSaturday

And don’t forget to keep up with all of Graham’s thoughts, witty comments and college football discussions on Facebook

Author: Graham Watson
Posted: October 23, 2014, 11:45 pm

With less than a week before the unveiling of the first College Football Playoff rankings, Conference USA hired a public relations firm to help assist Marshall, one of four undefeated FBS football teams in the country, with its effort to earn a spot in the playoff.

On behalf of Marshall and Conference USA, Brener Zwikel & Associates, a Los Angeles area firm, sent out a release detailing the Thundering Herd’s accomplishments thus far this season.

The release offers a bevy of statistics about Marshall’s scoring offense and senior quarterback Rakeem Cato, and even a brief history of the program.

Ranked 23rd in the country, Marshall leads all FBS programs with a 30.8 points per game margin of victory and has a pretty strong chance of going undefeated this season.

Even if Marshall does go undefeated, we all know it has no shot to reach the College Football Playoff. Just look at its schedule. The combined record of the seven teams the Thundering Herd has played this season is just 20-33 and only one team left on its schedule – 4-3 UAB – has a winning record.

We appreciate the effort, Marshall, but it’s probably not going to happen.

For more Marshall news, visit HerdNation.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: October 23, 2014, 11:33 pm

A 3-foot putt should not be exciting -- not even one for birdie. However, this golfer made it absolutely riveting.

This player, whose name is Greg, hit his approach shot close on the ninth hole at at The Golf House Club, Elie, in Fife, Scotland. Instead of simply knocking the ball straight in the hole for birdie, Greg decided he'd try his luck with the backstop hill behind the green. He putts the ball just far up enough the hill to come back down all the way into the hole for a magical make.

It's one of those moments you try sometimes with your buddies, but it almost never pans out, much less catch it on film. 


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow @RyanBallengee

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: October 23, 2014, 11:08 pm

Since its cramped gym can only hold about 2,000 spectators, Division III Mount St. Joseph University readily accepted an offer to move its  Nov. 2 women's basketball season opener 13 miles east to the 10,250-seat Cintas Center at Xavier University.

Amazingly, even that wasn't enough to satisfy the overwhelming public demand to witness terminally ill freshman Lauren Hill achieve her dream of playing one final basketball game.

The roughly 5,000 upper-level tickets that went on sale for $5 apiece Wednesday morning sold out within 30 minutes, Lions athletic director Steve Radcliffe said Thursday. Mount St. Joseph is reserving the remaining seats to its game against Hiram College for students, guests of the athletic department and Hill's friends and family.

To accommodate interest from those who couldn't buy tickets or who live outside of Cincinnati, Radcliffe said Mount St. Joseph intends to stream the game on its website and is exploring the possibility of having it broadcast locally or nationally. Xavier University spokesman Tom Eiser said a decision on whether to televise the game could come as soon as Friday.

"The support has been incredible and inspiring," Radcliffe said. "We had planned to play this game on campus, but this thing has just gone so crazy and generated so much interest that now we're able to give another 8,000 people the chance to see the game in person. It's going to help raise money and awareness, and I think that's really positive."

The story of Hill's courage has inspired massive interest nationwide since WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, Yahoo Sports and other outlets first shared it last week.

Doctors don't expect Hill to live past December as a result of an inoperable tumor they discovered growing at the base of her brain stem last year. Fearful that Hill wouldn't be strong enough to fulfill her goal of playing college basketball for the first time, the 19-year-old Indiana native's parents asked the school to petition to have its Nov. 15 season opener moved up — a request the NCAA granted earlier this month.

Lauren Hill shows off a new Cincinnati Reds jersey (via @Reds)Moving up the game was critical because Hill's symptoms have worsened the past few weeks. She told Yahoo Sports last week that her hand-eye coordination has deteriorated, she endures frequent headaches, dizziness and nausea and the right side of her body is so weak that her leg often gives out on her when she walks. She has attended practice with Mount St. Joseph's several days this week, but she typically can't last more than a few minutes on the floor without needing a rest.

"She was given the day off yesterday from practice and classes, but she was back today," Radcliffe said. "I know this is a challenge for her from the standpoint that her body isn't doing what she wants it to do, but she's there almost every day. She's putting it all in and embracing the fact she'll get to go on the floor, hear the crowd and get to play in a game."

Hill's story has captured so much attention that cards, letters and packages from across the nation have arrived at Mount St. Joseph addressed to her every day for the past week. On Tuesday, Hill received a visit at practice from Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still, whose four-year-old daughter is battling cancer. On Thursday, a jersey and a letter arrived from the Cincinnati Reds wishing Hill luck in her Nov. 2 game. 

What's most gratifying for Hill is the money and awareness she has raised to support the fight against pediatric cancer. Hill has Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare, inoperable pediatric brain tumor that primarily affects children ages 5-10 and kills 90 percent of victims within 18 months.

"Wow" is the only word repeating in my head right now," Hill posted on Facebook on Wednesday. "That's all I can think. Wow. This is unbelievable! Never did I ever think this would happen! I've never been so happy- my wish to spread awareness and play in a college game on the court wearing that jersey #22 is coming. I'm just still in shock right now at how many lives I've touched."

The support has been inspiring for everyone who knows Hill as well. Radcliffe views it as the silver lining to a sad but inspiring story.

"From my perspective as athletic director, I find it incredibly fulfilling that we have the chance to help Lauren tell her story and grant her wish to play in a college basketball game," he said. "It's a story we're pleased to be part of even though it has some bittersweetness to it because we know there will be an outcome that's sad. But the game on Nov. 2 hopefully will be a bright shining moment for her and her family before all that."

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: October 23, 2014, 10:53 pm

Jameis Winston and Florida State will be visiting Louisville next Thursday to take on the Cardinals at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. To commemorate the occasion and troll the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Jeff Ruby, a restaurant owner in Louisville tweeted that crab legs will not be available the night of the game.

Notice to our Louisville diners: Due to FSU & Jameis Winston being in town Thursday Oct,30, crab legs will NOT be available on our raw bar

— Jeff Ruby (@TheRealJeffRuby) October 23, 2014

Ruby, the owner of Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, is of course referencing the April incident in which Winston stole crab legs from a Publix Super Market in Tallahassee, Fla.

It has been nearly six months since the incident, which resulted in a brief suspension from the FSU baseball team for Winston. We think the crab legs joke may have reached its expiration date at this point.

The game between the 6-2 Cardinals and the Seminoles, now 7-0 and ranked No. 2, will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For more Florida State news, visit Warchant.com.

For more Louisville news, visit CardinalSports.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: October 23, 2014, 9:23 pm

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is having a nice season with the Cleveland Browns after being signed away from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Apparently, though, Hawkins' 2-year-old son hasn't given up on his dad's former team.

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

Watch this funny Instagram video from Hawkins, who doesn't take kindly to his son's proclamation that the Bengals' A.J. Green is his favorite receiver and the mock (we hope!) eviction that follows.

We'll be curious to see if Green is healthy enough to play against Hawkins and the Browns and if his son finds a new home. We'll go ahead and assume he'll get a second chance with Dad.

- - - - - - -

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 23, 2014, 9:23 pm

Even if 21-year-old Spurs striker/emergency goalkeeper Harry Kane plays professional football until he's 50, he probably won't have a more memorable day than he did in his side's 5-1 win over Asteras Tripoli in the Europa League.

It started off well enough when he opened the scoring the 13th minute and went on to complete the first hat trick of his career in the 81st minute. But then it got weird.

Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was sent off in the 87th minute, after they had already used all three of their substitutes. So Lloris swapped shirts with Kane and the goal scorer suddenly had to try and stop others from doing the same.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Kane immediately had to face a free kick from a dangerous position. It did not go well.

So Kane scored three and conceded one howler as Spurs ended up winning 5-1. And now we know what happens when the cosmic forces that write the scripts for football matches do it while they're on drugs.

Despite Kane's hilarious finish to the game, he did still get the match ball. One that will serve as a prompt for his best football story for years to come.

 (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

- - - - - - -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter! Follow @BrooksDT

Author: Brooks Peck
Posted: October 23, 2014, 9:16 pm

A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.

C: Cultist. Borscht Corp., the people who brought us "The Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse," have launched a Kickstarter to produce a second episode that "reveals why LeBron James really left the Miami Heat." Let's all do the right thing here, friends.

PF: The National Post. A fun conversation between Eric Koreen and Dave Hopkinson, who's been a member of the Toronto Raptors' sales team since the very first day of the organization and now ranks as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's chief commercial officer, on (if you'll forgive a phrase borrowed from the team's cultural ambassador) starting from the bottom when it comes to selling basketball in Canada.

SF: Hardwood Paroxysm and SB Nation. A pair of great big honkin' season previews from two massive collections of talented people. Dig in and get to learnin'.

SG: PistonPowered. Patrick Hayes on the importance of the Detroit Pistons not repeating the mistakes the organization made with Grant Hill now that a new potential franchise-changing talent, center Andre Drummond, is starting to come of age.

PG: The Triangle. Zach Lowe runs through 10 takeaways from the somewhat surprising failure of the NBA's attempt to push through draft lottery reform at Wednesday's Board of Governors meeting.

6th: SB Nation. David Roth with a lovely reminiscence on a young Nets fan's love for the late Drazen Petrovic, who would have turned 50 years old on Wednesday: "[…] Petrovic mirrored and elevated our willfulness like no one else. He made stubbornness transcendent, took common careless will and shaped it and made it beautiful in a way that we could not. We were so hungry, and he fed us."

7th: Nylon Calculus. Ian Levy considers whether Markieff Morris can shoot the 3 often enough and well enough to take on the sort of increased role he'll need to play for the Phoenix Suns this year.

8th: Forbes. Longtime Los Angeles sportswriter Mark Heisler on all this Kobe stuff: "If Bryant really wanted to destroy the Lakers from within, he could just retire."

9th: Sports Illustrated Longform. This is more a college/international basketball story than an NBA one, but who cares? Luke Winn on the similarities and differences in the NCAA recruitments of Arvydas Sabonis and his son, Domantas, is a worthwhile read full of great little notes and a scene-stealing appearance by Rasheed Wallace.

10th: Hang Time. John Schuhmann wrote last week that, in general, there's no correlation between ball movement, player movement and offensive efficiency. In the specific context of the Golden State Warriors, though? Those dudes should pass the ball more, and the numbers bear it out.

- - - - - - -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @YourManDevine

Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: October 23, 2014, 9:09 pm

For a family of four, the price of attending an NHL game rose by 4.7 percent from last season, according to the latest Team Marketing Report analysis of the League

TMR released its new Fan Cost Index for 2014-15 on Thursday, and found that a theoretical family of four would spend $363.58 on average to attend a game.

(At this point, we make the annual acknowledgement that the Fan Cost Index is built on the most gluttonous, materialistic family in the known universe:  The FCI comprises the price of four general -- not including premium seats -- season tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-sized hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two adult-sized caps.)

The Toronto Maple Leafs, as they do every year, lead the FCI at $572.58, which is up 1.9 percent. The Boston Bruins were second at $509.80, and Jeremy Jacobs has apparently decided to pass the lockout savings on to the fans by increasing their FCI by 14.8 percent.

They’re followed by the New York Rangers ($479.48), Chicago Blackhawks ($463.20), Vancouver Canucks ($456.35), Montreal Canadiens ($413.04) and Winnipeg Jets ($411.94).

At the bottom of the list are the Florida Panthers at $255.55 in the FCI, just below the Dallas Stars ($263.11). The Panthers ticket prices dropped by 18.3 percent. The Bruins, as mentioned earlier, had the steepest climb in ticket prices on average, by 20 percent.

Here are the average ticket prices and the FCI for all 30 NHL teams, via Team Marketing Report:

TMR

As for the other important stuff: “The average beer price is up to $7.45 for a 16-ounce beer. The Rangers reported the most expensive “cheapest” beer at $10.50 for 24-ounce pour.” 

Keep in mind that the Bruins, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche apparently did not respond to TMR’s information request, so they used “past information provided by teams and public information” were used in ticket price averages.

You can read the full TMR report here. Puck Daddy’s annual Beer Cost Index will follow soon…

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 23, 2014, 9:01 pm

Throughout the week you can send us your best questions, jokes, rants and just plain miscellaneous thoughts to happyhourmailbag@yahoo.com or @NickBromberg.We'll post them here, have a good time and everyone's happy.

The Chase field has officially been halved. Are any of the final eight drivers a surprise? Sure, before the Chase it would have been surprising to see both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson out of the Chase at this point before the season began, but when you compare the old Chase points format to the new elimination format, look at the standings similarities. Here's what the old points format would look like through six races.

1. Joey Logano, 2,257
2. Kevin Harvick, 2,240
3. Brad Keselowski, 2,225
4. Jeff Gordon, 2,210
5. Ryan Newman, 2,208
6. Kyle Busch, 2,197
7. Matt Kenseth, 2,196
8. Carl Edwards, 2,190
9. Denny Hamlin, 2,181
10. Jimmie Johnson, 2,174
11. Kasey Kahne, 2,169
12. AJ Allmendinger, 2,163
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2,149
14. Greg Biffle, 2,147
15. Kurt Busch, 2,146
16. Aric Almirola, 2,101

Seven of the top eight drivers are still alive in the current format. The only exception is Kyle Busch, who was unceremoniously booted after crashing at Talladega. The driver outside the top eight who is in the 2014 final eight is Denny Hamlin, and as you can see, he's only nine points back of the top eight in the old format.

So no, the formality of eliminations isn't producing any upsets. That's likely because of the importance of three-race consistency within the rounds. One bad finish – considered a mulligan in the 10-race format  can ruin a round.

How much would Joey Logano be in charge under the old points format? In the previous 10 years of the Chase, the championship-winning driver has been in first with four races to go seven times. In the three years the champion wasn't in first at this point, he wasn't behind by much. In 2011, Tony Stewart was fourth and 19 points back. In 2007, Jimmie Johnson was second and 53 points back. In 2006, Johnson was third and 41 points back. When you consider that Johnson's deficits happened in the previous not-one-point-per-position format and divide his deficits by about four each, they're smaller than Stewart's.

But as we know, these are simply fun things to talk about. With the current format, the top eight drivers are all deadlocked at 4,000 points. While much has been made about the one-race title decider at Homestead, it's important to note that we're now at a point where Logano would commanding lead based on past results as a Kevin Harvick comeback would be the second-largest in Chase history.

Instead, we're still guessing at who the four Homestead finalists will be. But it's no coincidence that the four favorites to be alive at Homestead would also be 1-4 in the old format.

It's a light mailbag this week, so let's get to it.

@NickBromberg I'm so mad about Dega still that I can't even think of a question this week.

— Chris Nulty (@RealChrisNulty) October 23, 2014

Can you take solace in the fact that Junior would be out of Chase contention no matter what by looking at the standings above?

Are the eliminations are truly testing the theory of different meanings for fans to see their driver be unofficially out of a title race vs. officially out of one? If there were no eliminations, Junior would still have the yellow bumper and windshield decal, but he'd be racing for a points finish in the top 10 anyway as he's more than two full races out of contention. The same goes for Johnson too. He's not making up an 83-point deficit if he's still in the Chase.

And if you can't, I understand. The points reset can rub a lot of salt into the wound. Had either Johnson or Junior won at Talladega, he would be considered a major contender even if he'd be an outlier based off the early returns on comparing formats.

@NickBromberg Half are gone,better/worse system than original chase? Your more impressive fan look,Moose or Face? pic.twitter.com/DyKVOWU4IM

— Brian Cullather (@Briancullather) October 23, 2014

I'm glad that this question fits seamlessly into the theme of the week. I'm not sure we can make a judgement, though it's hard to wonder if fans are doing so when looking at the TV ratings. An elimination race at Talladega should be a draw. Instead, it was down 600,000 viewers from last year.

Currently, we know that the best drivers throughout the Chase are being rewarded appropriately. Will that continue? It would be reasonable at this point to assume that it will throughout the third round. However, the third round cuts the biggest percentage of drivers. There's less margin to weather a bad or even simply mediocre finish.

To answer the first question, it's too early to tell. And I don't say that as a cop out. For the second question, after talking to Craig, the guy with the antlers, I'm going with the jean vest. First, because it was custom. That took some forethought into the design and the sacrifice of a good, plain and usable jean vest. Second, probably because he wears that to other places besides the race track. I neglected to ask, but my guess is that there aren't any non-Royals public appearances planned for the antlers. They have a specific purpose. The jean vest can be worn to Golden Corral.

- - - - - - -

Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 23, 2014, 8:45 pm

Northwestern cornerback Dwight White started six games as a redshirt freshman in 2013 and was expected to make an impact for the Wildcats defense in 2014 until one trip to the doctor changed everything.

According to the Chicago Tribune, White learned in June that he had only one kidney. Thursday, four months after the discovery, White officially decided to retire from football.

“Being a member of the football program at Northwestern University has been a huge blessing,” White said in a statement. “This football family is part of who I am, and that won't change with this decision I've had to make for my long-term health. It hurts knowing I will no longer wear my family name across my back and Northwestern across the front of my jersey on a national level, but I will always support my friends and my second family on and off the field.

“As I get older, I will be able to look back on this decision and feel good about the time I have had here as a student-athlete. I'm so grateful to be here at Northwestern where I'm able to continue my education at this prestigious University. I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches, teammates and especially the Northwestern Sports Medicine staff for all of their support."

After the discovery, which affects an estimated one in 750 children, White and his parents met with many medical professionals and decided he could continue to play. That decision eventually changed when White “took a blow from a teammate during practice” and was rushed to the hospital. Doctors discovered that White had blood in his urine stemming from a kidney contusion.

Though the decision was difficult, after further consulting with his parents, coaches and medical professionals, White decided to retire. Tory Lindley, Northwestern’s head athletic trainer, said the kidney bruise “left doubt in White’s mind.”

“In our world,” Lindley said, “a doubt means no.”

When White saw the fear his mother had at the idea of him returning to the field, it was a “wakeup call” that helped him make his decision.

“We were trying to think of a way to keep me on the field. But when I saw it was hurting other people, that was a wakeup call,” White said. “I saw my mom break down a little bit.”

White is on schedule to graduate in June 2016 with a degree in Communications and will remain on full scholarship. He’s now helping the football program with its recruiting and marketing teams by designing digital posters.

"We love Dwight and we're proud to have him as a part of the Wildcats football family,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “It's disappointing to lose a great teammate from the field but I'm excited he's able to remain involved in the program, and I'm looking forward to his continuing development as a student, a leader and a professional at Northwestern."

For more Northwestern news, visit WildcatReport.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: October 23, 2014, 8:23 pm

Erik Lamela just scored with a rabona from the top of the box and now he can never be criticized again.

The 22-year-old Argentine has received a heavy dose of negative assessments since joining Spurs from Roma in the summer of 2013. Prior to Thursday's Europa League match against Greek side Asteras Tripoli, he had only scored one goal in 29 appearances for his current club. But it turns out he was just building the suspense for the ultimate in ill-advised but somehow successful goals.

Spurs manager Maurico Pochettino was so stunned by the goal that when the camera cut to him, it looked like he had soiled himself and forgotten his own name.

If you even try to attempt this in FIFA 15, the game will melt and you will probably be arrested.

Lamela scored a second goal from a tight angle in the second half to put Spurs up 3-0. He was then taken off in the 76th minute because the world simply couldn't handle any more of his brilliance on this day.

Spurs went on to win 5-1 with Harry Kane scoring a hat trick and then bobbling a free kick to gift Asteras their goal when he took over as Spurs' keeper after Hugo Lloris was sent off.

- - - - - - -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter! Follow @BrooksDT

Author: Brooks Peck
Posted: October 23, 2014, 8:06 pm

Had that intense stare ever since I was a little guy #TBT http://t.co/xAjox3bBIY pic.twitter.com/KZ3sehrwU6

— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 23, 2014

Thursday has become "Throwback Thursday" on social media, where everyone shares pictures of themselves from back in the day and we all have a good laugh about how much things have changed ... or haven't.

Of course, there hasn't been a throw in the last three years that Richard Sherman hasn't tried to claim as his own, and Throwback Thursday is no different. He offered up the above childhood photo of himself as a wee lad, right out in front and already featuring his trademark intense stare. (Sweet overalls, too.)

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

Lil' Richard seems like he's ready to commandeer that camera and tell the poor hourly-rate photographer to take that weak Olan Mills junk out of here, pronto. Some things never ever change.

Feb 5, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) celebrates during a Super Bowl championship parade held in downtown Seattle. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:44 pm

Less than two weeks after a sexual battery complaint against Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris was dropped, the university released nearly 200 pages of police documents pertaining to the case Wednesday. The documents include the incident report and a detective’s extensive interview with Harris hours after his accuser alerted authorities.

Throughout the interview, Harris expresses disbelief that the woman would accuse him of rape. He insisted that the two had consensual sex after the two hung out earlier in the day and saw each other that night at a club in Gainesville – the same day Harris helped the Gators beat Tennessee on Oct. 4.

Harris, confused as to why the woman would accuse him of rape, asked the detective if he would be able to speak with the woman, but the detective tells him several times that it would not be a good idea. The detective also questioned Harris about a text message he sent the woman the day after the alleged incident which said “Don’t tell nobody bout nothing.” Harris explained the detective that he sent that to her because he didn’t want another woman to find out the two had sex.

Additionally, during the interview, Harris seemed concerned that news of the allegations would come out and create headlines. He asked the detective on several occasions if the news will be “on ESPN.”

Det. J. Faroni: It's all like right here. Okay. Well, that's not bad. So here's what's going to happen, okay? Like the Lieutenant explained to you is right now your room is being sealed off. What we're going to do is apply for a search warrant to go take anything that's potentially evidence in this case for the allegation. Okay? So until that's done you're not going to be able to access your room.

Treon Harris: So is this going to be on ESPN and stuff?

Det. J. Faroni: I have no idea what's going to happen with any of that stuff. What we're doing is a criminal investigation. If someone comes forward to us with an allegation, we investigate it. Okay? What I can tell you is we're really good at our job...

Treon Harris: Yeah.

Det. J. Faroni: ...and I promise you that this will be resolved the way it's supposed to be resolved.

Treon Harris: Yes, sir.

Det. J. Faroni: Okay?

Treon Harris: Okay.

37 Det. J. Faroni: So what that means is whatever happened is going to come out and it's going to be done.

Treon Harris: Uh-huh.

Det. J. Faroni: Okay? So, it's much better to just deal with this right now, right...

Treon Harris: So it's going to get on ESPN.

Det. J. Faroni: ...then put it off, put it off, put it off. What's that?

Treon Harris: So you're saying it's going to get on ESPN?

Det. J. Faroni: I'm not even talking about ESPN anymore.

Treon Harris: Oh.

ESPN was brought up again later in the conversation – Jameis Winston, too – this time by the detective.

Det. J. Faroni: I know you were asking about ESPN and all that stuff. I have no idea. I can't tell you if they're going to do anything or not. I can tell you we're going to investigate it is the best I can give you. What the media does is 100 percent out of my hands. Okay? And I think that kind of settled in a little bit for you right there, didn't it?

Treon Harris: Yes. Because I got no (inaudible).

Det. J. Faroni: No, no, I know. That's a big deal. The last someone wants is to go — I mean what was his name at FSU?

Treon Harris: Jameis.

Det. J. Faroni: Don't want to go down that road, right?

Treon Harris: (Inaudible) though I can't believe If that would've happened, she would've came in yesterday. You know what I'm saying?

Part of Harris’ confusion was why the accuser didn’t come forward the day after the incident was said to have occurred, which is what he references in the last line above. Instead, she waited an entire day.

The accuser eventually dropped her complaint on Oct. 10 and Harris was reinstated to the football team on the same day. After being held out of the LSU game on Oct. 11, Harris played last weekend against Mizzou and is expected to start the Gators’ next game against Georgia on Nov. 1.

Treon Harris interview and report by Deadspin

(H/T Deadspin)

For more Florida news, visit InsideTheGators.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:31 pm

Welcome to the Dr. Saturday Podcast! Throughout the season we'll be talking weekly about whatever is going on in the world of college football. This week, join Graham Watson and Nick Bromberg as we are stunned that we're entering Week 9 of the college football season. We discuss:

• Bo Pelini's comments regarding ESPN and the SEC Network and partnerships and platforms

• North Carolina's academic investigation findings

• Pick USC/Utah, Mississippi State/Kentucky and more

• Buy or Sell a non-Power Five team making the Playoff, Utah winning the Pac-12 and a wide receiver's chance of being in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony

We're on iTunes. Check us out here and subscribe or simply listen in the player below or click here.

- - - - - - -

Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:26 pm

Denver Broncos guard Orlando Franklin, right, congratulates Peyton Manning on his touchdown pass. (USA Today Sports)
Denver Broncos offensive lineman Orlando Franklin is giving Yahoo Canada Sports an exclusive first-person account of life in the NFL. Franklin grew up in Toronto before playing at the University of Miami and was drafted by the Broncos in the second round in 2011.

Last week against the San Francisco 49ers was an amazing game, it was great to be a part of history of when Peyton Manning broke the career touchdown passes record. It was amazing to be there first hand and to be blocking on the play when he broke the record. It was great that he did it in Week 6, because not only did he break the record he’s going to get a chance to shatter the record and make it so it lasts a long time.

Playing with a guy like Peyton, he brings you to a higher standard. Peyton is the kind of player that demands accountability. He’s a perfectionist and he demands perfection from all his teammates. It’s not okay to mess up and just say “my bad” to Peyton.

I remember when Cody Latimer first got to Denver. It was Cody’s first NFL training camp, about the second week. We were running a two-minute drill against our defence and it was third down and about eight yards. Peyton threw him a route, and Cody did something wrong. Peyton went nuts on him. He went crazy. When Peyton came back to the huddle he said “That’s my bad guys, I never should have thrown him the ball.” It’s a little stressful, especially when you’re a younger guy and you’re being counted on. But it brings out the best in you.

I remember when he first got here, during our first OTA I was stressing out about it. It was different than playing with Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton back there. You’ve got arguably the best quarterback in NFL history you’re blocking for. You want to be on your toes, you want to take care of business. And you know he’s going to give you 100 percent also.

The big difference last week between us and San Francisco was just executing. We knew San Fran was banged up, but what team isn’t banged up at this point in the season? So we were able to go in there and do a couple things very well and capitalize on their mistakes.

This week we play San Diego, a division rival, in the Thursday night game. It’s gonna be a great game because it’s a Thursday night game, and we’re the only teams in the country playing. So everybody’s going to be tuned in and everybody’s going to be excited. We need to play a full 60 minutes. We can’t expect to play 30 minutes and beat San Diego.

It’s going to be tough because we’re on a short week after playing Sunday night and now on Thursday. We do more work mentally on a short week. It’s not a physical week, as opposed to a regular week when you’re gonna go full pads on Wednesday and it’s going to be a grind and you’re pretty much playing another full football game.

This week everything has been more mental. You have to be on your Ps and Qs in meetings, you gotta listen to everything that’s going on. You don’t want to miss anything because nine times out of ten what the coaches are talking about is going to show up in the game.

As an offence we just worry about ourselves and taking care of the football. Our biggest emphasis each week is that each series ends with a kick – an extra kick, a field goal, or even a punt. That means that we’re taking care of the ball. No turnovers.

Personally, there’s stuff I need to work on each week. I thought I got better last week but by no means was I flawless. There’s definitely room for improvement. Even if you’re exactly right technically, and you’re exactly right with your hands and stuff, it still only gives you a chance in this league because you’re playing against the guys that are the best in the world. I’m just trying to improve every week.

Follow Orlando Franklin on Twitter and Instagram.

More from Orlando Franklin:

-How football led me down the right path, and to protecting Peyton Manning

-Giving thanks to the mentors who helped me get where I am today

More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports:

Author: Orlando Franklin
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:16 pm

Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009. 

Most teams are about six or seven games into the season and poolies are starting to get antsy about their goaltenders. But let's not forget that on October 31, 2013 Henrik Lundqvist was 3-5-0 with a 0.908 SV%. And Jonathan Quick was 8-4-0, which was pretty good but in fantasy his 0.903 SV% wasn't quite as rewarding. Here are some struggling netminders - and how you should play them…

Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes - I have been pretty tough on Ward over the years and he's giving me no reason to change that. And Anton Khudobin has been impressive for brief stints with several teams now. I said in the preseason that Ward is the Golden Boy - meaning the Hurricanes need him to be successful more than any other player short of Eric Staal. So he'll get all the opportunities early on. But eventually it will become pretty clear that Khudobin is the better option if they want to win hockey games. Well, this transition seems to be happening sooner than I thought and Ward should be traded or dropped as soon as possible - assuming for some reason you still have him. Hopefully he was only a No.4 goalie on your squad.

Steve Mason, Philadelphia Flyers - Mason is also a Golden Boy. The Flyers are desperate for a young goaltender with upside to become the face of the franchise and they'll be giving Mason all the easy match-ups they possibly can. Meanwhile, Emery will get the tough opponents (look no further than Thursday night). What I'm saying is - no matter how much Mason sucks, and he'll certainly have his moments, he's still getting 30 to 34 wins.

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche - Still looking for his first win, but he's on a team that has only one of them. And he's been injured for a week on top of that. Varly is expected to return Friday. Most of us projected at least a small regression for the Avalanche. But a slow start like this is too much - this is easily a playoff team so the wins will start to roll in and Varlamov will get at least 35 of them if he can stay healthy. If there was ever a time to buy low on him, that time is now.

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks - Gibson has had a slow start to his campaign, including a stint in the AHL. Regardless of the fact that he's the most highly-touted prospect goaltender in the world, or that he made a huge impression in the NHL postseason last spring, Frederik Andersen is better. Andersen has been the top goalie in the league so far and he'll continue to get the starts as long as he stays healthy. Andersen was injured twice last year, so he may not be able to handle it - but if he can play 65-plus games he will. That means Gibson is not going to help you this year. In fact this has the potential to be the next Jonathan Quick/Jonathan Bernier situation in which the younger guy is stuck warming the bench for big chunks of several seasons. 

Studs...

These fellas are wielding a hot stick. Take that into consideration when you go after them in trade talks... 

Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (4-5-5-10, plus-6, 2 PIM, 18 SOG, 3 PPPts) - After a slow start, Seguin and buddy Jamie Benn took flight against the Blue Jackets and haven't looked back. Now they're looking like this year's version of the 2011 Getzlaf-Perry connection.

Torey Krug, Boston Bruins (3-2-3-5, plus-5, 0 PIM, 8 SOG, 2 PPPts) - The 23-year-old has 55 points in his last 98 regular season and playoff games, making him one of the most prolific point producing blueliners in that span. 

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (6-2-7-9, even, 0 PIM, 32 SOG, 3 PPPts) - This is a big difference from his craptacular start from a year ago, when it took 16 games for Giroux to score his first goal and six games to earn his first assist. With a hot start like this, a return to 90-plus points could be in the cards. 

Duds...

Somebody wake these guys up – their fantasy owners are counting on them...

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (5-0-1-1, minus-2, 21 PIM, 8 SOG, 0 PPPts) - Wheeler is normally a huge second-half producer, so when he tallied three points in the first game it looked like he shook off his habitual first-half doldrums. Apparently not. The Jets have scored just seven goals in the last five games, so Wheeler isn't alone here. 

Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres (6-0-2-1, minus-4, 13 SOG, 0 PIM, 0 PPPts) - Moulson has 17 goals in 70 games since leaving John Tavares and the Islanders. Raise your hand if you saw a letdown coming before he signed $25 million deal (not so fast Tim Murray). But nobody expected Moulson to fall short of 20 goals and that could very well happen.

T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues (5-0-0-0, minus-1, 7 PIM, 13 SOG, 0 PPPts) - On one hand it's early and the team isn't exactly shooting the lights out offensively. On the other hand, four Blues have at least a point per game and first-year player Jori Lehtera has three in four. The players around Oshie are scoring, so it's just bad luck that he hasn't been in on the fun yet.

The Wire...

Mostly short-term grabs here, but as always some potential steals...

Trevor Daley, Dallas Stars (6-3-3-6, minus-2, 6 PIM, 10 SOG, 3 PPPts) - Going back to last year, Daley actually has 11 goals and 28 points in just 39 games. He's now a fixture on Dallas' top power-play unit and will be a permanent solution to your woes on defense rather than a short-term one.

Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings (5-5-2-7, plus-7, 4 PIM, 9 SOG, 1 PPPts) - Pearson is overachieving in a big way right now, but along with Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter the line is providing fantastic secondary offense for the Kings. If they can all stay healthy then Pearson will top 50 points.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (2-1-2-3, plus-2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG, 2 PPPts) - After a great preseason, Gaudreau stumbled out of the gate with zero points and just one shot on goal in five games. Then he was a healthy scratch. At that point (now sheepish) poolies were dumping him and looking elsewhere. Why it's a good idea to be patient with him:

Chris Terry, Carolina Hurricanes (5-3-2-5, plus-4, 2 PIM, 4 SOG) - After years of being passed over in favor of more highly-touted prospects with trendier names (Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman), Terry is finally getting a look. He's been at least as successful at the AHL level as any of the other three and now with the injuries to the Staal brothers, Jeff Skinner and Nathan Gerbe - Terry is actually getting premium ice time and PP time. And he's making the most of it, which could mean that he keeps getting this kind of treatment even after the injured filter back into the lineup. 

Anders Lee, New York Islanders (no stats yet) - After posting five points in five games and sitting second in the AHL in shots on goal with 18, Lee has been recalled. He should never have been sent down, to be honest. But the situation was similar to that of Gustav Nyquist a year ago - too many bodies on the big club. The Isles placed Colin McDonald on waivers to make room and they likely did this because Cory Conacher has not been working out on the big line. I'm guessing Conacher gets one more chance with John Tavares while Lee gets reacquainted with the NHL on the second or third line. If and when Conacher fails to produce, Lee will then ascend to his rightful place on the top line - and he'll thrive. Mark it. 

Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils (5-3-2-5, plus-5, 4 PIM, 20 SOG) - My favorite promising young Devils' blueliner, except I had him on this team a year ago instead of Eric Gelinas. But he's there now and he's making his mark - 20 shots on goal sits him fifth in the entire league among defensemen.

Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens (5-0-5-5, even, 4 PIM, 3 SOG, 1 PPPts) - Even if the offense dries up, Emelin won't be a total bust as he's a potential 100 PIM defenseman. But right now he's bringing the assists too, making him a good short-term depth option. 

For more fantasy hockey tips, take a gander at DobberHockey. And while you’re at it, follow Dobber’s fantasy hockey musings on Twitter.

Author: Dobber Hockey
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:16 pm

SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 5:  Michael Vick #1 the New York Jets throws against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium on October 5, 2014 in San Diego, California. Chargers won the game 31-0. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)We have no idea how newly acquired receiver Percy Harvin will fit into the New York Jets, except to say that 1. there will be a story and 2. there will be chaos. Good chaos? Bad chaos? Who knows? We're through the looking glass at this point with New York, and here's the proof: Michael Vick is vouching for Harvin's behavior.

“He won’t be a monster here,” Vick said of Harvin, according to the New York Post. “He won’t be a monster here. I can assure all the fans of that.”

Now, the easy joke is, of course, that if Michael Vick is your character witness, you've got real problems. Truth is that Vick has done everything he could to distance himself from his, shall we say, troubles of the mid-2000s. He stood up for Riley Cooper during Cooper's post-racist outburst days in Philadelphia, and he's been a loyal soldier both there and in New York. (Perhaps not the most prepared soldier, but loyal nonetheless.)

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

"I know it won’t be a problem with Percy being here while he’s here," QB Geno Smith said. "I guarantee Percy cleans his act up while he’s here. So we ain’t gonna have no problems … So Jets fans can relax and just enjoy what Percy’s gonna bring to the table."

According to the Post, Harvin will be used as a kick returner, a wideout opposite Eric Decker, a slot receiver, a backfield threat ... apparently anything up to and including running the scoreboard. There's a lot of hope on Harvin's shoulders, and a lot of people, starting with Vick and Smith, who have plenty invested in him playing to his potential.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:13 pm
Kobe Bryant reintroduces himself to the NBA. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

What are the Los Angeles Lakers even trying to do? With Kobe Bryant coming off a six-game season, the Lakers entered the offseason looking to assemble a roster and coaching staff able to carry the team to the postseason through their icon's massive two-year contract extension. The result is one of the most confusing, seemingly dysfunctional squads in the league. Somehow, they look worse than the outfit that finished a lost season with the worst winning percentage in franchise history.

Bryant, as ever, maintains a major role in organization, even if he may not be controlling and limiting their options quite as much as some articles have claimed. Yet it's as unclear as ever how much Kobe can contribute on the court. After struggling to return from a torn Achilles tendon in 2013-14, the Lakers legend enters the year at 36 years old with questionable levels of athleticism and nearly a full season of rust to shake off. Kobe has proven himself able to persevere through periods of doubt before, but this situation is virtually unprecedented. It is no longer enough to assume that he will be one of most productive and dependable players in the sport.

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today!]

In part, that's because he no longer has anything approaching an elite supporting cast around him. Two years after the Lakers entered the 2012-13 season with a collection of Hall of Famers, the roster is made up of a collection of youngsters, castoffs, and players who would not receive nearly as much attention if they didn't play for one of the NBA's marquee franchises. In the backcourt, Steve Nash could miss 65 games without surprising anyone, trade pickup Jeremy Lin might not even close out games ahead of Ronnie Price, and Nick Young remains more popular with writers seeking pageviews than anyone with a coherent basketball ethos.

The frontcourt is a little more positive if only for the presence of rookie power forward Julius Randle, an adept post scorer who could develop into a mainstay. But the lineup also figures to include amnesty victim Carlos Boozer, who contributed very little of value to the Chicago Bulls last season, and Jordan Hill, a perfectly serviceable backup big man who should never be asked to provide the entirety of a team's interior defense. The individual parts of this team could all be fine in the right circumstances, but none of them appear to be in that situation with the Lakers.

Worse yet, L.A.'s new head coach appears to be putting his players in an especially bad situation in service of a misbegotten basketball culture war. Byron Scott has seen success in his 13-season coaching career, but he has never been considered the sharpest man on the bench. Not even that long history could have prepared us for his desire that the Lakers not shoot more than 10 or 15 3-pointers a game, a tactic that makes very little sense in today's NBA but even less for a team with few identifiable qualities beyond having lots of players who like to shoot. It's unclear what Scott brings to this team besides the memory of his playing career.

Reconstructing the Lakers with a recovering Kobe was always going to be a difficult task, but general manager Mitch Kupchak (perhaps under pressure from management, for all we know) has assembled a team that has no governing philosophy. There could be worse teams in the league this season, but none figures to fail quite so spectacularly as the Lakers.

2013-14 season in 140 characters or less:

An absolute mess that looks a lot better six months later.

Did the summer help at all?

In isolation, most of the Lakers' offseason moves look passable, if not altogether fantastic. After dropping from sixth in the lottery odds to seventh in the draft, nabbing a polished offensive player like Randle represented quality value. Obtaining Lin made a lot of sense given the franchise's largesse (he'll be paid $15 million this season) and with the hope that he would serve as Nash's backup. It also helped that the Lakers got a 2015 first-round pick from a Rockets team desperate to open up cap space for Chris Bosh (whoops!).

The Lakers had hopes of adding a superstar like Carmelo Anthony this summer, but that was always unlikely, so their failure to do so doesn't stand out as terrible. Bringing back Hill at $18 million over two years doesn't look like fantastic value, but it's not a full-on splurge with a thin market for big men and overwhelming needs on the roster. Davis still holds promise, especially at such a low salary. Really, the biggest issues appear to be bringing back Young for four seasons, no matter his status as the Lakers' leading scorer last season, and claiming Boozer off the amnesty wire when he can't help on defense and isn't anything close to the scorer he once was.

Again, though, this team lacks vision and very few ideas that might eventually lead to a brighter future. Bringing in Scott at the end of July nearly ensured that the Lakers would continue to depend on Kobe as if he were his old self while taking few tactical risks. They approached the summer with the intention of putting together a playoff team, but that was never a reasonable goal. As such, the team looks even more irrelevant than it did a few months ago.

Byron Scott (right) and friends. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Go-to offseason acquisition:

When the Lakers drafted Randle, it became a running joke that Kobe would be demanding 20 points and 10 rebounds a night from him by December. That prediction appears to be right on schedule — Kobe has already stated that Randle can't mess up the opportunity in front of him (in so many words) and figures to be his usual demanding self.

I'm not sure that Randle should be seen as any kind of "go-to" player immediately — he's not yet 20, after all — but the high expectations do have some basis in reality. Randle can be a beast in the post, earning comparisons to Al Jefferson and fellow lefty Zach Randolph during his lone year at Kentucky. The young power forward lacks prototypical NBA height or wingspan and figures to struggle defensively, but he can certainly score. If he has a solid season, then the Lakers can start to imagine their next contending team in some detail, however limited.

Glaring weakness:

A whole lot of things, really, but in an immediate sense it's very hard to envision the Lakers being a passable defensive team in any way. Last season's team finished 28th in points allowed per 100 possessions, a mark that might improve slightly simply because Mike D'Antoni isn't the coach. On the other hand, the Lakers are relying on Hill to be the team's defensive leader inside and have little else to help. Kobe has made plenty of All-Defensive teams over his career, but the last few have not been very well earned and there's no telling what he'll look like after coming back from so many injuries. On top of everything, the new power forward rotation led by Boozer and Randle presents an obvious gap in a unit that already had several. Things could get really ugly.

Contributor with something to prove:

Bryant has nothing to prove to the NBA world — he could retire right this minute as one of the top players in the history of basketball. Yet Kobe thrives on convincing himself that he has everything to prove, and this year just happens to provide him with more available reasons to do so than most. Most players don't come back from a major injury and a failed six-game recovery season. Of course, the Mamba has never seen himself as a normal player and believes he can be an MVP candidate once again. Does he still have enough burst to average 25-plus per game? Can he handle the burden of nightly expectations? Or will this be the season when his aura finally begins to dissipate?

Potential breakout stud:

When the Lakers drafted Randle ... oh wait, I wrote this already. The truth is that not many Lakers look able to break out as steady contributors or achieve levels of success they haven't already. Lin may eventually prove himself to be a capable starting point guard (at least by this team's standards), but as of now Scott seems to have little faith in him. Boozer looks headed for retirement fairly soon. Guys like Young and Hill are what they are. The sad fact of this team is that Kobe, a player the fan base expects to star, is also the team's best breakout candidate simply because a conservative projection would not suggest he can be the same guy he has been in the past. The Lakers are light on options.

Julius Randle learns that Jim Buss always wears a hat. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Best-case scenario:

Kobe provides enough star-level performances to provide an entertaining product, Randle looks headed for 10 years as a starter, and the Lakers are bad enough to win the draft lottery and find a next-generation superstar.

If everything falls apart:

Kobe looks like a shell of his former self, Randle never rises above the level of a rotation guy, and enough stopgap players do well enough to ensure the Lakers end up with another mid-to-late lottery selection.

Kelly Dwyer's Best Guess at a Record:

27-55, 13th in the West and right there with 2013-14 as the worst record in franchise history

Read all of Ball Don't Lie's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews (links added as they're published):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlanta HawksBoston CelticsBrooklyn NetsCharlotte HornetsChicago BullsCleveland CavaliersDetroit PistonsIndiana PacersMiami HeatMilwaukee BucksNew York KnicksOrlando MagicPhiladelphia 76ersToronto RaptorsWashington Wizards

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Dallas MavericksDenver NuggetsGolden State WarriorsHouston RocketsLos Angeles ClippersLos Angeles LakersMemphis GrizzliesMinnesota TimberwolvesNew Orleans PelicansOklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio SpursUtah Jazz

- - - - - - -

Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @FreemanEric

Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: October 23, 2014, 7:10 pm

Few NBA stars are as divisive as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, and that’s saying something as we work our way through “Should We All Hate Kobe Bryant Week.”

The former Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star was finally granted a reprieve from the team that denied him a max contract nearly three years ago and failed to surround him with enough talent to get over the enormous hump that it takes to make the Western Conference playoff bracket. Though the Wolves will rue missing those playoffs for the 11th straight season in 2014-15, the deal was a win-win of sorts, as the team was able to take on two fantastic prospects in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett along the way.

During his time in Minnesota, Love put up fantastic statistics (save for his injury-plagued turn in 2012-13), as even his per-minute numbers were top shelf in his first few years, when he was weirdly kept from playing big minutes by coaches Kevin McHale and Kurt Rambis. In a self-penned feature entitled for The Players’ Tribune, Love looked back on his time with the struggling franchise:

I grew up a lot – personally and professionally – during my time with the Wolves. I’ll be the first to tell you that I didn’t always handle things perfectly. We are all unfinished products. It’s not easy to handle the disappointment of losing when you’re in your early twenties. There were times when I wasn’t easy to be around in the locker room. It’s hard to be a leader when you don’t have the model — and when you don’t have a blueprint for what winning in the NBA looks like.

But I make no excuses. I posted my best personal numbers last season, and we still didn’t make the playoffs. Some of the backlash was pretty hard to take — I learned that there is apparently such a thing as an “empty stat” (I’ll try to remember the importance of that the next time I am boxing out for a rebound against Tim Duncan).

Yeah, that’s a dig.

That’s a dig at the scads of basketball scribes, fans, or personalities (many of whom we should still respect to no end) that see Love’s big numbers (he managed 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season) as pointless because his Wolves only won 40 games in 2013-14.

It’s true that Love was allowed to shoot more because of Minnesota’s paucity of options on the offensive end, but it wasn’t as if he was sub-40 percent, Iverson-esque chucker. Love remained efficient despite constant defensive attention, he found his teammates and he didn’t turn the ball over much in comparison to how much he had to deal with on the offensive end.

Of course, in Cleveland, Love’s numbers will understandably dip – and it’s no guarantee that his shooting percentages will rise, or that his turnovers won’t spike. Love wasn’t exactly practicing bad habits in Minnesota, but this is a massive change in the order as he takes to playing with the game’s best player in LeBron James and a ridiculously talented scorer in Kyrie Irving that is in many ways the opposite of Ricky Rubio, who can’t shoot to save his life.

This is something to remember, especially for those of us who couldn’t understand why Chris Bosh didn’t shoot 72 percent from the field playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Love is going to have to be featured, he’s going to have to develop a rhythm, and at times James and Irving are going to have to play off of him.

He understands as much. From Chris Haynes at Northeast Ohio Media Group:

"My entire life I've played the game from inside-out," Love explained to NEOMG. "So the more touches I can get inside to get myself going, the better. I'm not accustomed to starting out a game shooting a three, so it's just something that I see.

"I'm 26-years-old and I've been playing basketball for quite a long time. Just finding ways to mix it up. If anything, keeping it around the basket a little bit more and the offense will allow me to get offensive rebounds. That will be tough for teams with Andy [Varejao] and myself and Tristan [Thompson] in there."

[…]

"We just looked at film and I saw it. I felt it," he said. "Where I'm very effective is on the low block. That's where I need to be."

Love wasn’t complaining, but he did point out that rookie Cavaliers coach David Blatt has mostly utilized him as a spot up shooting threat so far in the preseason, as 20 of his 48 field goal attempts have come from outside so far (making 45 percent) in the exhibition campaign. Popping 25-footers right after the opening tip, especially when you’re a 6-10 dude, isn’t exactly ideal. And while Love’s outside touch is to be respected, he is a former Three-Point Shootout champion, the big man is not exactly Ryan Anderson or Channing Frye out there – Kevin is a 36 percent career three-point shooter, and shot just a tick better than that mark last season.

For all the worrying about Irving having to fit his ball-dominant style alongside the best in the game, it truly is Love that is going to make the biggest adjustment. He is going to have to assert himself in the post in ways that Chris Bosh did not as the years moved along. James will happily let Irving play yo-yo with the ball in this offense, but Kevin Love cannot turn into an afterthought.

Kevin Love’s numbers will take a dive in Cleveland, adding fuel to the fire that his critics can’t wait to stoke as 2014-15 moves along, but that’s just fine. What counts the most is that he makes those (somewhat) diminished numbers work, and that he isn’t relegated in the Cavaliers offense.

If Love is utilized properly, this already fearsome Cavaliers offense could produce some historic, historic stuff. This is going to be a fantastic team to watch. Nothing empty about that.

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:59 pm

(Getty)In his ongoing effort to whip Brazil into shape after their profound embarrassment at the World Cup, new/old manager Dunga has set some new rules for the team and at least some of them seem to be targeting star man Neymar.

Dunga has told his players to avoid wearing earrings, hats and flip-flops — a.k.a. 92 percent of Neymar's wardrobe.

From Reuters:

After taking over as Brazil’s coach in July, Dunga said players were sent a letter outlining restrictions that also cover the use of mobile phones and tablet computers during meals and team talks. The letter also told them to sing the national anthem before games, avoid any political or religious statements and said they would be held responsible for paying their own phone bills and excess baggage costs.
Dunga, a well-known authoritarian who captained Brazil to triumph in the 1994 World Cup, claimed he was not banning the players but they will know that flouting the rules could mean exclusion from future squads.

So these things aren't banned, but the players will be if they violate any of the new rules. Got it.

As Brazil showed during the World Cup, belting out the national anthem is probably what they do best, so that shouldn't be a problem. The "no religious statements" rule might mean the end of Ka-"I belong to Jesus"-ka's international career, though. Also, the members of the 2014 World Cup squad might want to ask if "paying for their excess baggage costs" means they have to cover their own therapy for the resulting emotional baggage.

- - - - - - -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter! Follow @BrooksDT

Author: Brooks Peck
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:53 pm

The conversation will grow over the next six months. So let’s start it early.

You’re a quarterback-needy team and your choice is this: Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

On the surface, it appears easy. Winston has trouble written all over him, with off-field problems galore, and Mariota, the clean record and clean-throwing (zero interceptions in 188 passes this season) quarterback, is the obvious choice.

Right?

It’s not that clear-cut. Not at all.

[Join FanDuel.com's $2.5M Week 8 fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 21,905 teams paid]

If we are to boil the players down simply on football talent and quarterbacking potential on the next level, Winston — not Mariota — might be the more enticing prospect.

So says former NFL quarterback and Yahoo NFL analyst Shaun King. I asked King to ignore character completely, for argument's sake, and strictly grade each player on their talent and NFL upside.

“In my opinion, if I am grading them, Winston is 10 times the prospect Mariota is,” King said.

What, then, makes Winston so special?

“Physically, he has great size — 6-4, very sturdy build. Built like a pro prospect. Big-time arm — can make all the throws. Great intangibles. Winner. Big-time, big-platform résumé.

“He plays his best on the brightest stages. Last year in the Clemson game, the second half of the national title game, this year’s Notre Dame game. Early in the season, second half against [Oklahoma State], he always plays his best in those moments. He just has a knack for it.”

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)Not that King is down on Mariota. There’s a lot to like, he says.

“I think he has elite athleticism,” King said. “Whereas Winston has great athleticism for a guy his size, Mariota has elite athleticism. He has a good arm; he doesn’t have as big an arm as Winston. He has good size. He’s tall. He’s smart, too.”

King is careful not to make too deep a character assessment on either player but says you can tell a lot about their personalities based on the way they play.

“The difference between the two … Winston is a football player. He rises to the occasion. He has that emotion in a player that you’re looking for,” King said. “That’s a question about Mariota, as is him playing his best when the lights are brightest.

“The difference in their personalities comes through in how they play. Mariota is really laid back. He plays like that. At some point, I think in football I think you have to be ratcheted up a little bit. I’ve never seen him call out one of his teammates for messing up. Winston is the polar opposite.”

We don't yet know what Mariota's plans are following his junior season, but reports have surfaced that Winston is planning to leave school after this season. At this point, it would be a surprise if either returns. NFL scouts already have done work on these underclassmen with the idea that they will be available in the 2015 NFL draft.

I suggest a Winston comparison of Ben Roethlisberger and a Mariota comparison of Alex Smith, or perhaps a slightly better-running version of Smith. King agrees on both — to a certain extent — but says he thinks he knows whose personality Mariota is most similar to.

“See, I think Mariota, personality-wise, is like Joe Flacco. He has a really laid-back off-field demeanor,” King said.

And as for Winston …

“Yeah, [Winston is] a special athlete, but he’s Big Ben special not RG3 special. For a big guy, he’s a great athlete. He’s got a lot of Big Ben to him. Gets out of a lot of sacks. He’ll pick up a first down [with his legs].”

In terms of temperament and being prone to extend plays, even when that’s not the best idea, the Roethlisberger comparison also works for King.

“Absolutely,” King said. “In my opinion, that would be one weakness right now. He’s overaggressive at times. There are some inconsistencies in his decision-making. But you’ll take that. A lot of great ones have that.”

Winston is a pro-style quarterback, King said, and Mariota still has not shown that in his mind.

“I do think there are some question marks about [whether] can Mariota adapt to a different system,” King said. “If I was a team that was really interested in him, I would have to be convinced that he can come from under center, take five- and seven-step drops, and can throw an NFL route tree.

“Winston makes those NFL-type passes. Mariota doesn’t. He throws a lot of screens. He throws a lot of gimmicky stuff with guys running wide open because of their tempo. The windows Mariota is throwing into are nowhere near as tight as the ones Winston is throwing into.”

And yet, there still remains the daunting character issue, which could be a game-changer. There will be no dirt on Mariota, unless people nitpick with his laid-back style. As for Winston, it’s not going to be pretty — from his sexual assault allegations to bouts of immaturity with suspensions at Florida State.

King says that could be a game-changing factor for their draft stocks. But in his mind, there isn’t enough dirt that he knows of to knock Winston down too far next spring. King’s belief: Teams will be enamored with his talent.

“If you’re asking will it affect him with some teams? Absolutely. Do I think he falls outside the top 10? Absolutely not,” King said. “Would it impact me if I was making that decision? No, I’d take him No. 1.”

Way-too-early look at the top 10 picks for the 2015 draft

Draft order based off the inverse of the Shutdown Corner Week 8 power rankings.

1. Oakland Raiders — Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi

They have a host of needs, and we have no idea what direction the franchise is going. A lot could depend on the new head coach, but we feel that Derek Carr has franchise potential. Even though other needs might be more pressing, we’ll project the building block Ogbuehi here for now.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Florida State QB Jameis Winston

Oh, boy. Yeah, we know there are about a million and one questions that need to be answered before this happens, and the four-hour drive from Tampa to Tallahassee might be a negative itself. Some feel Jameis — among other things — needs to be far away from FSU. But his guts and playmaking ability might be too tempting for the struggling Bucs, who have won 16 games since the start of the 2011 season, to overlook.

USC DE Leonard Williams (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)3. Jacksonville Jaguars — USC DT-DE Leonard Williams

This almost feels like too good a fit. Chris Clemons is inconsistent, Tyson Alualu might never develop as hoped, and Red Bryant is just a placeholder. Williams, who grew up just down the road in Daytona Beach, would be a multi-positional fix to help upgrade Gus Bradley’s defense that still needs a lot of work. Their offensive needs can be addressed later on.

4. Tennessee Titans — Oregon QB Marcus Mariota

Suck for the Duck? That could be arranged. Ken Whisenhunt needs hope at quarterback, and Jake Locker quickly is running out of time to prove he’s the guy. Mariota’s accuracy, poise and athleticism could be a nice fit for the Titans, who also happen to need an identity and an offensive lift.

5. Washington Redskins — Iowa OT Brandon Scherff

Right tackle has been a blight all season, and Scherff could be a country-strong fit there and a possible long-term replacement for Trent Williams, whose contract runs out after the 2015 season, at left tackle. Jay Gruden prefers bigger linemen, and Scherff is 6-foot-5, 315 pounds and can power clean a house.

6. Atlanta Falcons — Missouri OLB-DE Shane Ray

What the Falcons need most are defensive playmakers — anyone, really, who can rush the passer and/or dislodge the football. That’s Ray’s calling card. He’s an ultra-athletic end (who also can rush from the inside) with disruption skills and incredible burst. If he puts on a show athletically in the run-up to the draft, some teams will project the 6-3, 248-pound Ray to rush linebacker, which is where he’d fit in the Falcons’ scheme.

7. New York Jets — Alabama WR Amari Cooper

Imagine a pass-catching group of Eric Decker, Percy Harvin (maybe), Jace Amaro, Jeremy Kerley and Cooper, and suddenly the Jets’ offense doesn’t seem so feckless. The team needs to surround quarterback Geno Smith with even more dynamic talent in order to determine if he’s the one who can lead this team. Cooper is college football’s most consistent playmaker (not named Kevin White).

8. Minnesota Vikings — Georgia RB Todd Gurley

Exit Adrian Peterson, enter Gurley. Sure, Gurley’s record was marred slightly by the autograph suspension, but it’s shouldn’t hurt his draft value any. And with the Vikings appearing to move on from Peterson, another big-framed runner is needed. Jerick McKinnon is great as a change-of-pace option, but Matt Asiata is too one-dimensional to ever be the bell-cow back. Mike Zimmer would love to pound the rock, control the ball and set up play-action passing for Teddy Bridgewater.

9. New York Giants — Nebraska DE Randy Gregory

The Giants never turn down good pass rushers. With Jason Pierre-Paul under contract only through 2015, and Mathias Kiwanuka set to make an unwieldy $7.5 million next season, more youth up front is needed. Gregory is a perfect fit in the JPP mold, with an angular build and a quick first step.

10. St. Louis Rams — Michigan State QB Connor Cook

The Rams might have something with Austin Davis, who is starting to play some solid football, but — assuming they cut ties with Sam Bradford — it would be hard to imagine the team not investing in a future alternative. Cook would make a lot of sense. Davis could go into next season as the starter, and Cook (if he declares, of course) would have ample time to develop. He needs it; for every brilliant, NFL-caliber throw he makes, there is a maddeningly bad play to match. Still, quarterbacks with his skills don’t tend to last long in the draft.

- - - - - - -

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:48 pm

NASHVILLE – Sometimes it’s hard to believe Chicago’s Patrick Kane is just 25 years old just by his list of his on-ice accomplishments.

He’s scored a Stanley Cup winning goal – in overtime no less. He has won a Conn Smythe Trophy. Oh yeah, and he’s a millionaire – his next contract signed this summer and kicking in next year will pay him $84 million over eight seasons, starting in 2015-16.

Still there is a sense of youth with Kane. He sometimes seems cursed to always at very least look his age, or younger – who could forget his Abe Lincoln beard from the 2013 playoffs.

And there is that stigma of immaturity that always haunts him.

Anyway, we had a chance to sit down with Kane before Chicago’s Thursday’s game against Nashville – oddly the last two teams in the Western Conference yet to lose in regulation.

Q: Now that (former Flyers) defenseman Chris Pronger is working for the NHL, do you think you will get your Stanley Cup puck back? (Kane’s winner in Game 6 of the 2010 Cup Final against Philly has never been found. It has been surmised that Pronger is the one who stole it).

Kane: (Laughs) I don’t know if he was the one who took it. I know he was the one who was taking the pucks in all the games in the finals. He would probably be the first culprit, but I actually think it was one of our guys from the team who took it back in 2010. I’ll try to hunt that one down.

Do you still think about the fact that you don’t have the puck? I mean, this is basically an achievement every little kid dreams of playing in their driveway.

Yeah, I mean it’s different. If we had the puck in the first place it would probably go to the Blackhawks because it had been 49 years since we had won a championship. But it’s something at some point in time you hope shows up just for the sake of seeing it. Who knows if that will be the puck or where it has been? What are you going to do about it now? It is kind of in the past and I think we still have the moment to live on and the uniqueness of scoring that goal … whether the puck was in or not is a pretty amazing story.

At a young age, you’ve accomplished pretty much everything a hockey player can. You scored a Stanley Cup winning goal. You’ve won a Conn Smythe Trophy. What still motivates you?

It’s easy to be motivated around here because there are so many guys in our locker room who have that ‘never say die’ attitude. I think it wears off on us. I think the big thing is you really have one chance to do this … to play hockey for a living, you have one chance at your career and you have to take full advantage of it. I still love playing the game and it’s amazing we can do this as a so-called ‘job’ and it’s amazing we can come to the rink every day and play the game we love. We don’t take it for granted. We keep improving every year and take advantage of it.

You signed a long-term contract extension this summer. How do you not stay complacent in spite of having such financial and job security?

It’s nice and amazing to be a part of this organization for another nine years, including this one. I think both of us wanted to be in this situation where we’re here for a long time, and we both wanted to have that. I think with signing that deal and being here for eight years and the amount it was at … I think you have to prove yourself every day and every game to kind of live up to that. It’s just there and it’s something you know is there. I guess it’s obviously very nice and honoring we get to be a part of this organization for a long time. But you have to prove to everyone that you made the right decision by keeping you around.

Around the United Center, there are statues of Blackhawks legends. Ever think of what a Patrick Kane statue would look like?

We do the bobblehead with my mouthguard hanging out of it or some kind of celebration going on. Maybe it will be something with that.  

Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:26 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. 

25 Stanley

• Aside from P.K. Subban's wonderful Michael Jackson "Thriller" Halloween costume, David Desharnais' Joker was pretty strong. [25 Stanley]

• Great read from Chris Johnston about a Canadian making the drive to Pittsburgh Wednesday night to hear ‘O Canada’ in light of the events in Ottawa on Wednesday. [Sportsnet

• The NHL has rescheduled the postponed Maple Leafs-Senators game for Sunday, Nov. 9. [NHL]

• Another RFA is checked off Chuck Fletcher’s list as the Minnesota Wild have extended Charlie Coyle with a five-year, $16 million deal. [Hockey Wilderness]

• Connor McDavid wowed the fans in Buffalo Wednesday night with a spectacular goal and three assists during Erie’s 8-4 win over Niagara. [Buzzing the Net]

• Corey Crawford won’t make the upcoming Chicago Blackhawks’ road trip with an upper-body injury. [Madhouse Enforcer]

• Noora Raty made history on Wednesday by becoming the first female goaltender to play in Finland’s Mestis league. She made 31 saves in a 5-2 loss. [THN

• From Team Suter vs. Team Weber to an appearance from Sidney Crosby, what Nashville Predators fans would like to see at next year’s NHL All-Star Game. [Cellblock 303]

• This is an awkwardly fun interview with Alex Ovechkin: “Do you Google yourself?” “Always.” [Sportsnet]

• Sean McIndoe looks back at the infamous Tom Kurvers deal in an alternate universe. [Grantland]

• The New York Islanders introduced their new owners on Wednesday. Both Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky stressed that the next two years they spend as minority owners will be a time for them to learn on the job. [Islanders Point Blank]

• No, it won’t be Bobby Ryan’s fault if the Ottawa Senators miss the playoffs again this season. [The 6th Sens

• Talking with Marc Staal about his first NHL goal, being a Staal brother and partying with the Stanley Cup while not touching it. [The Hockey Writers]

• “British Texan Discovers the Dallas Stars and Falls Madly in Love with Weird-Ass Hockey” [Dallas Morning News

• What exactly is a sports hernia? [Undisclosed Injury]

• After time playing in college and a year in the AHL, it’s all starting to come together for LA Kings prospect Derek Forbort. [Kings

• Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine underwent surgery on his neck and will begin rehab in the next few weeks. [RMNB

• Are the shallower nets a danger to NHL goaltenders? [Pro Hockey News

• Wayne Gretzky’s Rocket Hockey looks like the least fun version of air hockey there ever was. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Finally, here’s Justin Bieber scoring a pretty nice goal:

Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:17 pm

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stands and delivers. (Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images)When the NBA celebrated its new nine-year, $24 billion broadcast rights contract earlier this month, the sunniest, most hopeful takeaway centered on the possibility that the rising TV tide will lift owners' and players' boats so high that neither side would jeopardize the jackpot. With everyone benefiting from a monstrous infusion of new cash, why would either side dig in for a prolonged labor battle in the summer of 2017, the first opportunity for either side to opt out of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement (CBA)?

Well, I'm glad sad you asked. From the players' perspective, a new round of negotiations would represent an opportunity to regain what was lost in 2011, when their share of basketball-related income (BRI) dropped from 57 percent to a 49-to-51 percent "band" (depending on whether the league met or exceeded growth projections) in a move that would shift an estimated $3 billion from players to owners over the 10-year term of the CBA. The players, still (understandably) smarting from that $300-million-a-year haircut, are likely to opt out and try to get whole now that owners can't cry poor.

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today!]

There's pretty simple logic from the owners' side, too: Yeah, we got an awful lot last time, but we didn't get everything we wanted. Like a higher age limit for entering the NBA draft, the implementation of HGH testing and, most of all, a hard salary cap.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — who, lest we forget, works for, is elected by and can be terminated by the NBA's 30 owners, per the league's constitution and bylaws — intimated as much after a Wednesday news conference, according to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger:

With high-profile players already barking that the league's massive TV deal won't allow owners to cry poverty when the current collective bargaining agreement can be terminated in 2017, Silver managed to slip an interesting line into his news conference: one-third of the league's 30 teams still are not making a profit.
Given that the owners ran the table in the 2011 labor talks, winning a 12 percent reduction in the players' share of revenues, it was a significant revelation.
The league's new $24 billion broadcast and digital rights agreements taking effect in 2016 obviously are not yet baked into the NBA's profit-loss statements. Still, it's ominous that so many teams still rely on revenue sharing to balance their books.
Lest you think that Silver is moving the goalposts as far as the league's goals from the 2011 lockout are concerned, I asked him the following question after his news conference: If all 30 teams aren't making a profit on July 1, 2017, is that reason enough for another lockout?
"No," he said. "No, because the caveat has always been, if well managed. And I would also say, if you don't have a hard-cap system, for example, one of the teams that isn't profitable are the Brooklyn Nets. That's an election they're free to make under our compensation system. They've elected to be unprofitable. My preference would be to have a harder cap, where teams couldn't elect to spend so much more than other teams.
"We've always said to the players' association ... you can make revenue sharing our issue, not yours," Silver said. "We've never come in and said because a particular team is unprofitable that that somehow becomes your problem. We recognize it's our obligation to run a well-managed league."

And apparently, Silver and the BoG continue to see a hard cap as a boon in their management efforts. Hmm.

As it stands, there's a "soft cap" (set for this season at $63.065 million) that teams can exceed with the understanding that if they spend more than a certain amount (set for this season at $76.829 million) they must pay a "luxury tax," which becomes more punitive the more you spend. (This is how the Nets wound up spending close to $200 million for last year's second-round squad.) There's a de facto hard cap in the current system, triggered when a team uses its non-taxpayer midlevel exception, which prevents that team from exceeding the so-called "apron," the point $4 million above the tax line, by even $1. Beyond that, though, the current cap's spongy, provided you're willing to pay the taxman.

There is, of course, disagreement as to whether the institution of a hard cap would have any impact, beneficial or otherwise, on the health of the league's management. When Silver was banging the competitive-balance-and-hard-cap drum as David Stern's deputy commissioner back in 2011, SB Nation's Tom Ziller convincingly argued that the imposition of a new hard cap would actually have a meaningful negative impact on low-revenue teams; that any boost to financial sustainability could come at the cost of "talent sustainability" in smaller markets; that a hard cap would do zip to promote parity in a league where there aren't 30 LeBrons and Durants; and that it would do little more than depress salaries for the "middle-class" players, since max-level stars and rookies on slotted deals will always going to get their money, leaving less cash for the rank-and-file.

"Stern and Silver have always claimed competitive balance as the purpose of a hard cap. Research has indicated that all hard salary caps lead to is reduced player salary," Ziller wrote this January. "[...] a tighter cap drops the highest team salaries, which is mighty helpful for owners unwilling to far exceed the luxury tax threshold. With a hard cap, Peter Holt in San Antonio and Herb Simon in Indiana don't need $80 million payrolls to compete with the big spenders because the big spenders have limits, too."

And with small-market ownership flexing its muscles in those Board of Governors meetings — check out the list of franchises whose no votes got draft lottery reform scuttled — it wouldn't be surprising to see the institution of those limits top of Silver's list of priorities come the summer of '17.

Now, lest we all start pounding the panic button, Silver did stop short of bringing back the "blood issue" talk of 2011 when discussing the hard cap. From USA TODAY's Sam Amick:

Above all else, the owners are clearly hell-bent on winning the hard cap war that they waged and lost three years ago. [...] Yet with conversations such as these already officially underway behind the scenes, Silver stopped short of deeming this an all-or-nothing issue.
"No, not at all," he replied. "And there's gradations of hardness in terms of the cap as well. I wish our current cap system was harder. It's what we proposed last time around, but we compromised." [...]
"As I've said to the players from Day One when I became commissioner, my focus is on growing the pie, and if we do our job growing the pie, the incremental differences in percentages will be a rounding error compared to us both sharing in the success of the league," Silver said.

To be sure, the TV deal does substantially increase the size of the pie. But with players still sore at the 12 percent reduction in the size of their slice and finding it increasingly difficult to stomach that reduction when franchises are netting record sale prices, it's tough to see the National Basketball Player's Association, now led by new union boss Michele Roberts, buying that "rounding error" talk. (Especially considering Roberts' not-to-be-trifled-with rep.)

And if the players aren't buying what Silver's selling, and the opt-out comes, this will become less about pie-growing and more about pie-slicing, just like the last round of negotiations. (Witness the recent back-and-forth about the elimination of max contracts and guaranteed contracts.)

While Silver says "it's premature even for me to be concerned" about a work stoppage, the positioning has clearly already begun. Every comment about still-unprofitable clubs, owners "working for" the players and the preference for a harder cap, "gradations" or no, sets the agenda for the fight to come. It remains to be seen whether the players union has greater wherewithal to withstand an in-the-trenches battle over those system issues than it did in 2011. Here's hoping the new revenue provides a path to a different outcome this time around.

More NBA coverage:

- - - - - - -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @YourManDevine

Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:11 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

It's a Thursday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

Special Guest Star: Aaron Portzline of the Coiumbus Dispatch. Jen LC of Puck Daddy. 

Question of the Day: Ask us anything! Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarek. Click here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Feedburner.

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 23, 2014, 6:02 pm

Sportsnet has a debate segment on its NHL coverage called “To The Point” in which Nick Kypreos and Glenn Healy argue different perspectives on hockey’s most pressing issues. Or if they run out of them, “Is Alex Ovechkin coachable?” 

That was the topic on Wednesday night* during the Washington Capitals’ game at the Edmonton Oilers, one of the few games this season in which Ovechkin went scoreless.

Kypreos took the “I believe in Ovie” side, although he said Ovechkin is “not the sharpest knife in the drawer” and said it’s “his last chance to prove he’s not a coach killer.” Which sounds really ominous, until you consider that it doesn’t really mean anything except that he’ll get another coach or two or 10 before his contract runs out.

Healy attempted to make that point, although it was like giving a filet mignon to a hot dog vendor to cook. Here’s Healy on Ovechkin’s coachability:

“He is NOT coachable. Here’s the number that matters to me: $124 million that goes to 2021. The only one that’s got a longer deal than that is Rogers, OK?

"Last year, 51 goals, minus-35. He didn’t listen to Hanlon. He didn’t listen to Boudreau. Hunter, Oates, Trotz … this same owner fired all those five guys, and there are three more that are going to get fired before it’s over.”

So we have the following points:

1. Ovechkin has a really long contract worth a lot of money, and that may have affected everything from his coachability to his maturation as a complete player. This is actually a sound, reasonable argument that we’ve debated before here.

Of course, it was Ted Leonsis that gave him that contract with that wage at that age, but yeah, totally Ovechkin’s fault.

2. Fifty-one apparently isn’t greater than minus-35.

3. Where the hell did this idea come from that he didn’t listen to Hunter or Oates? He modulated his game to the detriment of his offense under Hunter; did Healy really miss all the “OVECHKIN BLOCKING SHOTS OMG” stories from the postseason under Hunter?

And under Oates, all Ovechkin did was play on a different wing than he’s played his entire NHL career. Also: He loved Oates, because he found his offensive mojo under Oates. Alex Ovechkin is not the reason Adam Oates was fired.

4. Apparently, if he's fired all five of Ovechkin's coaches, Leonsis already fired Trotz. Or Healy sucks at math. One of the two.

He wasn’t finished with Ovechkin. Or his agent. From Healy:

“You know what? Call his agent. Get his agent to talk some sense into him.

“IT’S HIS MOM! HIS MOM’S HIS AGENT! No chance.”

A LADY DOING HOCKEY THINGS THAT INVOLVE, GULP, CONTRACTS? AND SHE’S, GULP, RUSSIAN!?!?

Now, you might be wondering why Ovechkin being repped by his mother has to do with any of this. Or if anyone representing Alex Ovechkin, man or woman, would tell him anything other than, “Hey, we have endorsement deals from here to Omsk and none of them care about your minus-35, so keep hitting 51.”

The answer is that it has nothing to do with any of this outside of the speaker being Glenn Healy.

Healy is an NHLPA guy, to the point where he briefly worked for them. The NHLPA, for those that don’t know, is an organization run by several player agents who allow their clients to occasionally attend meetings and pretend they have a voice on collective bargaining matters. 

Just spit-ballin’ here, but I imagin a hardened union guy like Healy, who has worked with many a powerful player agent over the years, can be none too pleased that the second most marketable player in the world didn’t play ball with the old boys network, and opted to keep his representation in the family.

But hey, that’s just a theory. Just like Ted Leonsis already fired Barry Trotz is a theory.

(* TSN allowed U.S. fans to view its video content. Rogers does not. I had to use some plug-in that plugged into another thing to watch this thing. That's a long way to go for forced banter.)

More From Yahoo Hockey

 

 

 

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 23, 2014, 5:37 pm

Our 2014-15 season preview continues with the Dagger's look at the 25 most intriguing non-conference games. Check back every day for more college hoops preview content.

1. Kentucky vs. Kansas, Nov. 18 (Champions Classic in Indianapolis): The marquee game of the Champions Classic will pit likely preseason No. 1 Kentucky against a Kansas team that lost Andrew Wigins and Joel Embiid yet could be stronger this season than last. Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden could be ready to make the leap to starring roles. Newcomers Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are elite talents.The only question for the Jayhawks is at point guard, where sophomore Frank Mason, combo guard Conner Frankamp or freshman Devonte Graham must emerge.  

More from Yahoo Sports' 2014-15 Season Preview:
Oct. 3: Eight key questions as practice begins
Oct. 6Preseason Top 25 with best-case and worst-case scenarios
Oct. 7: WCC Preview: Newcomers may tighten Gonzaga's grip on the league
Oct. 8: To become a more well-rounded player, Kyle Wiltjer changed his body and his game
Oct. 9: Ranking the 15 transfers who can make the biggest impact
Oct. 10: A-10 Preview: As VCU ascends, much of the league rebuilds
Oct. 13: Atoning for last March's costly gaffe drives VCU's JeQuan Lewis.
Oct. 14: Ten freshmen who will make the biggest impact
• Oct. 15: Mountain West Preview: Who will emerge to challenge San Diego State?
• Oct. 16:
Cody Doolin could be the ideal antidote to what has ailed UNLV
• Oct. 20: Ten coaches under the most pressure to win this season
• Oct. 21: Big East Preview: To raise its stature, the league needs a big March
Oct. 22: Chris Holtmann aims to guide Butler through period of uncertainty 

2. Duke at Wisconsin, Dec. 3: One of the most anticipated Big Ten-ACC Challenge games in recent memory features two of the top five teams in most preseason polls. Wisconsin brings back seven of its top eight players from a Final Four team including All-American candidates Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Duke boasts its usual collection of elite perimeter players and fills its hole at center with the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit Jahlil Okafor.

3. Kentucky at Louisville, Dec. 27: The nation's premier non-league rivalry will feature a Kentucky team with nine McDonald's All-Americans against a Louisville team with a strong backcourt and a potential All-American forward in Montrezl Harrell. The WIldcats swept a pair of games last season, winning 73-66 in Lexington behind a combined 28 points from Andrew and Aaron Harrison and then ousting the Cardinals from the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16.

4. Gonzaga at Arizona, Dec. 6: This rematch of Arizona's round of 32 NCAA tournament rout last March could also be a battle of the two best teams in the West next season. The Zags return all but two key players, add a strong recruiting class and bring in Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and USC transfer Byron Wesley. Arizona should again be one of the nation's elite defensive teams and will make up for the loss of leading scorer Nick Johnson by turning to sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, McDonald's All-American Stanley Johnson and a now healthy Brandon Ashley.

5. North Carolina at Kentucky, Dec. 13: Before last year's one-year hiatus, the last five games in this series had been decided by seven points or less. Another close one is possible this year as well if the Tar Heels find perimeter shooters and scorers to take the pressure off Marcus Paige and interior defenders who can replicate departed forward James Michael McAdoo's ability to hedge and recover on ball screens. 

6. Duke vs. UConn, Dec. 18 (East Rutherford, N.J.): Two teams with a surprising amount of NCAA tournament history will meet on a neutral floor in New Jersey. Duke handed UConn a crushing overtime loss in the Elite Eight in 1990 on a Christian Laettner buzzer beater. The Huskies got revenge with two of their biggest wins in program history, the 1999 national title game and the 2004 national semifinals.

7. Florida at Kansas, Dec. 5: Florida launched its 20-game win streak last season with a 67-61 victory over the Jayhawks in Gainesville, but not many of the Gators who spearheaded that victory will be in uniform for the rematch at Allen Fieldhouse. Florida will turn to sharpshooter Michael Frazier, versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith and former McDonald's All-Americans Kasey Hill and Chris Walker in hopes of winning a second straight against the Jayhawks. 

8. Duke vs. Michigan State, Nov. 18 (Champions Classic in Indianapolis): While this will be much of the nation's first glimpse at highly touted Duke freshmen Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, the matchup against the Blue Devils will also be an early gauge for whether Michigan State will be a national threat this year. The Spartans lost Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne from last year's Elite Eight team, but they return standout forward Branden Dawson, play-making wing Denzel Valentine and sharpshooter Travis Trice. 

9. Wichita State vs. Memphis, Nov. 18 (Sioux Falls, S.D.): In response to the many complaints that their non-conference schedule wasn't tough enough last season, Wichita State did its best to find quality opponents willing to play this year. One of those who didn't back down was Memphis, which resulted in this intriguing matchup. The Shockers return one of the nation's premier backcourts with Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton, but they have to find a way to replace the production of graduated forward Cleanthony Early.

10. Texas at Kentucky, Dec. 5: Only a few teams boast the interior size and depth to match up with Kentucky's stable of big men, but Big 12 contender Texas is one of them. The Longhorns were one of the nation's premier shot-blocking and rebounding teams a year ago and add elite 6-foot-11 freshman Myles Turner to a frontcourt that already includes Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh.

11. UConn at Florida, Jan. 3: When UConn and Florida met in the Final Four last April, the underdog Huskies stormed back from an early 12-point deficit to upset the top-seeded Gators 63-53 and move one win closer to their fourth national championship. Florida will get a rematch Jan. 3, but the two teams will look very different. Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey are gone for UConn. Florida will also have four new starters after losing seniors Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete.

12. Michigan at Arizona, Dec. 13: The last time these two name-brand programs met, Michigan led top-ranked Arizona for 32 minutes in Ann Arbor before eventually falling 72-70. The Wolverines will be out for revenge, but they'll be on the road this time and they'll be at a big disadvantage in the frontcourt. They'll have to hope Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle can hold their own in the paint and turn to Caris Levert and Zak Irvin for perimeter offense. 

13. Virginia at VCU, Dec. 5: Hardly anyone outside the state of Virginia saw VCU's 59-56 victory over the Cavs last year because it tipped off at the same time as the Champions Classic. That should change this year with a better time slot and a pair of teams who will begin the season in the preseason top 20. Virginia is a threat to win the ACC again despite the departure of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, while VCU is the clear-cut favorite to win the Atlantic 10.

14. Ohio State at Louisville, Dec. 2: Ohio State lost Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross from a team that struggled to score for long stretches, but Thad Matta is hopeful some new additions will help the Buckeyes improve on offense. Freshman D'Angelo Russell is a big-time scoring wing and Temple transfer Anthony Lee averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 boards last season. Fun matchup to watch? Louisville shooting guard Terry Rozier, an Ohio native, will probably spend plenty of time defending Russell, who was raised in Louisville.

15. Kentucky vs. UCLA, Dec. 20 (CBS Sports Classic in Chicago): These two blue bloods have combined to win 19 national championships, but only the Wildcats are a threat to add to their haul this season. Thanks to the early departures of Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine, UCLA has only nine scholarship players, three scholarship guards and no true point guard. The Bruins' young frontcourt is very promising, but the lack of depth and the over-reliance on freshmen gives UCLA plenty of bust potential too.  

16. SMU at Gonzaga, Nov. 17: How good is Larry Brown's team? This should be an ideal early litmus test. SMU appeared to have dark horse Final Four potential before top prospect Emmanuel Mudiay opted to skip college and big man Markus Kennedy encountered potential academic issues. The return of standout guard Nic Moore and the breakout potential of former top 30 recruit Keith Frazier and a healthy Yanick Moreira offer reason for optimism, but the Mustangs really need Kennedy to take care of business in the classroom.

17. Ohio State vs. North Carolina, Dec. 20 (CBS Sports Classic in Chicago): This will be a nice test for both the Tar Heels and Buckeyes as they approach the start of conference play. All-American candidate Marcus Paige will have the chance to prove himself against an Ohio State perimeter defense that traditionally has been among the nation's best the past few years but won't have Aaron Craft to lead it this season.

18. VCU vs. Villanova, Nov. 24 (Legend's Classic in Brooklyn): Guards, guards and more guards. In what promises to be a fun, fast-paced game, VCU will hope its swarming, full-court press spearheaded by quick-handed Briante Weber will disrupt a perimeter-oriented Villanova team led by steady point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and high-scoring Darrun Hilliard. The winner will face the winner of the other semifinal between Michigan and Oregon.  

19. Harvard at Virginia, Dec. 21: Though Harvard's non-conference schedule features other tests against the likes of Boston College, Arizona State and UMass, this is clearly the Crimson's best regular season chance to make a name for themselves and prove they're worthy of a potential high seed in March. Harvard returns standouts Siyani Chambers, Wesley Saunders and Kenyatta Smith, all of whom were part of teams that have won the Ivy League title and NCAA tournament games both of the past two years.

20. Oklahoma vs. UCLA, Nov. 26 (Battle 4 Atlantis): This opening-round game of the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament is a huge show-me game for both the Sooners and Bruins. A win all but guarantees a crack at North Carolina in the semifinals and potentially a chance to face Wisconsin or Florida on day three. A loss likely means facing Butler in the consolation bracket, squandering some of the strength of schedule boost this event should provide.

21. Louisville vs. Minnesota, Nov. 14 (Puerto Rico): Father challenges son when Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals square off against Richard Pitino's Minnesota Golden Gophers in the season opener for both teams. Quipped the elder Pitino to the Louisville Courier-Journal recently, "He wanted to play us because he thought he could beat us. That was before [All-ACC forward Montrezl] Harrell came back."

22. Syracuse at Villanova, Dec. 20: This is the second matchup in a three-game series between the former Big East rivals. Syracuse won at the Carrier Dome 78-61 last year, but the Orange won't resemble that team this year. C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis — three of Syracuse's four leading scorers last season — all left for the NBA, forcing the Orange to rely heavily on veteran Trevor Cooney and freshmen Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough this year.

23. Wichita State at Utah, Dec. 3: This may be the toughest test Wichita State faces as it seeks to duplicate last year's remarkable unbeaten regular season. Every key player besides Princeton Onwas is back for Utah from a team that was NCAA tournament-caliber by the end of the season but just didn't play a strong enough non-league schedule to make it. The battle of point guards between All-American candidates Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will be especially fun. 

24. Utah at San Diego State, Nov. 18: One of the under-the-radar tip-off marathon games pits a San Diego State program that has established itself as one of the best teams in the West against a Utah program seeking to reclaim that status this year. This could be the best Utes team since the Rick Majerus era, but they'll be an underdog on the road against the Aztecs. San Diego State returns all but two rotation players from last season's 31-win Sweet 16 team and adds maybe the best recruiting class in school history, but this will be the first true test of how the Aztecs replace Xavier Thames' scoring and leadership.

25. Arizona at UNLV, Dec. 21: With all five starters having departed from last year's chaotic, underachieving season, UNLV will build anew around three decorated freshmen and a fifth-year senior point guard who transferred from San Francisco. Too many newcomers and not enough continuity is typically a recipe for early-season struggles, but the Rebels may begin to put it together by the time Arizona visits in late December.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: October 23, 2014, 5:19 pm

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that Kobe Bryant is some wonderful, cheerful, galoot of a man. That he is super swell to work with, and that his on-record tough guy musings spat out in an expletive-laden style that reminds of a 11-year-old who just realized he could use blue words is just a show for the media. Let’s pretend that, behind the scenes, Kobe Bryant is the ideal teammate, and that he’s promised many things to prospective Los Angeles Lakers teammates through the years.

Promised that the storied franchise will be theirs, all theirs, once Bryant retires and the salary cap shoots way up upon his retirement.

Assured that he’d willingly give up shots and the ball in order to develop a more harmonious partnership with a free agent partner. Or partners.

Pointed out that there are still grapes to be eaten in California, and that he’d sacrifice whatever it takes to win, even if that means abandoning the spotlight and ceding the reins of the offense.

Let’s just try to live in that world, for a moment. It may take a Brando-like sense of method acting to put yourself in that spot, but give it a try.

Now ask yourself, in the face of a kinder and gentler Kobe Bean, does this make Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Pau Gasol, or even LeBron James “losers” for wanting to play elsewhere? Laker president Jeanie Buss sure seems to think so.

From an appearance on ESPN on Thursday:

"Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I'm glad they wouldn't come to the team," Buss said during a "SportsCenter" interview Thursday.

All of this noise comes on the heels of a much-ballyhooed and much-derided feature from ESPN’s Henry Abbott, who used a retinue of anonymous sources to pin the blame on Kobe Bryant for the Lakers’ demise since the championship season of 2010, and the likely nasty two seasons to come in the final two years of Bryant’s ridiculous $48.5 million contract.

Buss, like most of us, has made her way through the tome:

"I read the story," Buss said Thursday. "I don't agree with any of it. If there is somebody that's on our payroll who is saying things like that, I'll soon get to the bottom of it, and they won't be working for us anymore."

As with all things Kobe, and as what should have been the case with the initial ESPN piece, there needs to be a bit of nuance here.

Rebuilding through free agency in the modern era, even with one star or near-All-Star (as a diminished Bryant is, post Achilles surgery) already on hand is no way to build a champion. A team needs younger assets, pieces delivered via trade, and role players that are already in-house. Had Bryant put his ego aside and signed for a contract along the lines of what Dirk Nowitzki recently re-signed for (three-years, $25 million for a player that is better than Bryant right now), and if we’re still working under the assumption that free agents would love to play with a Kuddly Kobe, that’s still a massively long shot that the Lakers would be able to cull together a contending roster full of free agents during the last offseason. On top of that, teams just aren’t dumping overpaid-yet-productive players on other teams with cap space via trade these days. The salaries have evened out, and not even the Brooklyn Nets are dealing Deron Williams just for a trade exception.

General manager Mitch Kupchak understands this, and while he was well aware that he was basically signing away two years of his life by giving Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension, that’s what you do when you want to keep a job. That’s what you do when you’re mindful of the fact that each potential Bryant partner had plenty of reasons to say “no” to Los Angeles. All Mitch had to do is look at the list. There are actual people on it, with real names.

Dwight Howard? Even with his back worries, he’ll eventually make all the money he can handle, and he left a limping Bryant (who had just torn his Achilles two and a half months prior) to work for a team in Houston with a far younger and healthier shooting guard in James Harden, one that won just as many games as the Bryant-led Lakers the year before.

Paul George? He may be from Los Angeles, but the Pacers could offer him far more money than El Lay to stay in Indiana and play for what was then a championship contender. He would have had to wait out his rookie contract, play for less money on a qualifying offer, and explore unrestricted free agency all while hoping that he didn’t suffer a career-altering injury while working his way toward El Segundo. Sadly, George would suffer that sort of injury just a month after he would have purportedly signed with the Lakers. Signed for, again, far less than he’ll make in Indianapolis – an area he actually likes.

Chris Bosh? If anything, he should have taken less money to go to the Houston Rockets, and work in a killer lineup with Howard, Harden and an ostensibly re-signed Chandler Parsons. Instead, he understandably chose to take as much money as possible to stay in Miami, a place his family is just-as understandably comfortable with. He won’t win another championship there, but he wasn’t winning one alongside Kobe either.

Pau Gasol? The guy seeks challenges, and we dig that. The idea of he and Joakim Noah flinging the ball around the Chicago frontcourt, working in a multi-cultural city, appealed to him. He took less money and moved to a climate that involves tortuous winters, and this is where our doubling down on the idea of Kobe Bryant as a model teammate is starting to crack.

LeBron James? Why does he need to play alongside an aging Kobe Bryant (and lord knows who else in L.A.) at this point in his career? Especially when he can go back home to play alongside one of the league’s best point guards, knowing that that Kevin Love deal was already just about signed off on even before James announced his free agent decision. Play at home, make a ton of money, and create perhaps the league’s best roster in a week … or go play with Kobe?

Carmelo Anthony? The Knicks won’t be winning a championship either, but he and his family like New York, and they like making as much money as possible. Anthony, as it has been since his AAU days, also likes being the face of a franchise – something he was never going to be in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant (the guy that didn’t bother to stay in Los Angeles during the opening of free agent negotiations), of all people, should understand this.

Losers, all?

If you want to peel back on the idea of Kobe as a model teammate, fine. Carlos Boozer didn’t even choose to play for the Lakers this year, and he lives in Los Angeles. Jeremy Lin was traded there, Jordan Hill had to be overpaid to stay there, and prized free agent signee Ed Davis strangely wasn’t receiving any offers elsewhere. This summer was as big as free agency whiffs come.

The Buss family was wrong to offer Kobe Bryant that much money, but the Buss family (that makes their money off of the Los Angeles Lakers, with no other outside revenue streams) was also right not to alienate a fan base that has already bought tickets, and suites, by entering into an unsettling relationship with their appointed Mr. Laker.

Kobe Bryant was wrong to take all that money, especially when he bleats on about wanting to win more than anything else while gumming up the team’s cap picture, but he was completely correct in taking as much as he possibly could from a family that has made so much off of him.

Mitch Kupchak was wrong to ignore his better basketball instincts in signing off on the deal, but he also likely knew that each free agent turn involves individuals with different agendas, and sometimes the timing isn’t right.

Sometimes the timing is right, and for whatever reason you’re allowed to pull in Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant in the same summer, or grab Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the same summer, or deal for a Hall of Famer like Pau Gasol weeks before the trade deadline.

Sometimes, a series of individuals all decline – not en masse, just at various points – to come to Los Angeles to play with Kobe Bryant. For whatever reasons.

And, as always, a bit of nuance needs to be tossed out there.

- - - - - - -

Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: October 23, 2014, 5:15 pm

Notre Dame freshman wide receiver Justin Brent found a good way to shake off the Irish’s loss to Florida State during the bye week.

Brent, a true freshman, was spotted sitting courtside at a New York Knicks preseason game at Madison Square Garden with adult film actress Lisa Ann. As pointed out by TMZ, Lisa Ann is 42 years old while as a true freshman, Brent is probably no more than 18 or 19.

Though he hasn’t registered a statistic for the Fighting Irish this season, that’s quite the catch for Brent off the field.

According to TMZ, the two met “earlier this year while Lisa was traveling” and she “made the first move and gave Brent her number.”

Notre Dame doesn’t play against until its November 1 contest with Navy at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., so we are going to assume that he had off from practice on Wednesday.

Brent, a four-star recruit in the 2014 class out of Indianapolis, has appeared in three games this season.

For more Notre Dame news, visit IrishIllustrated.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:58 pm
Man watches baseball on television.

The Kansas City Royals not only evened up the World Series against the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 on Wednesday night, they also scored an impressive victory of sorts against the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in the local TV ratings.

 

TV ratings for the World Series Game 2 rebounded somewhat, pulling an 8.8 overnight, winning the night. KC was a 49.6; SF was a 28.7.

— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) October 23, 2014

 

Kansas City's TV market is No. 31 in the country, and San Francisco's is sixth, so MLB's strong showing among World Series towns impacts only about 3 percent of the country's televisions. Local results are another matter.

Although the Royals have gained ground on the Chiefs this season, it's not often they're measurably more popular than the local football team. Chiefs games during the 2013-2014 season pulled a 42.9 overall rating and reached 48.0 for Kansas City's epic playoff debacle on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. Among the entire NFL viewership, only the New Orleans Saints did better in the local TV ratings during the regular season than the Chiefs.

Some critics seem to enjoy lamenting how MLB's postseason ratings have declined through the years, but comparing TV ratings historically is tricky because of the expansion of choices available over cable and satellite providers over the past 30 years. Factoring in the rise in popularity of the NFL, the nature of a football season — when there's one local game per week, even during the playoffs — is incongruent to baseball, which gets most of its postseason results via series that are spread over a week or longer.

Regardless, the Royals strong local TV numbers show how much interest there is in a team playing in the World Series for the first time since 1985. If they get into a position to clinch a championship in Games 5, 6 or 7, it will be noteworthy to see how far beyond 50 percent the ratings can go in K.C.

More MLB coverage at Yahoo Sports: 

 

- - - - - - -

David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

Follow @AnswerDave 

Author: David Brown
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:45 pm

(Getty Images)Players like Kevin Kolb leave our consciousness pretty fast. One year they're playing, the next they're not, and we rarely think about them again.

But Kolb still thinks about football. He has no choice. The lingering symptoms from concussions are with him every waking moment, he said.

In a first-person story on The MMQB, Kolb describes his concussion symptoms, a little more than a year after he played his last game. The former Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills quarterback suffered his last concussion in the preseason of 2013. His first concussion came in 2010, when Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews hit him. He suffered two more in 2012. He didn't even believe his last concussion was serious. It happened on a routine play. That's scary.

"The Redskins defender just ran by me at the end of a routine scramble and caught my helmet with his knee," Kolb wrote in The MMQB. "I went numb from my neck down for about three seconds, but I stayed in the game. I didn’t know what it was or how serious it would turn out to be. It couldn’t be happening again.

"But when I got to the sideline and the adrenaline wore off, I knew. The symptoms came rushing in, the pain, the noise, the queasiness. I had taken every possible step to fend off a concussion—a new helmet, staying in the best shape possible, trying to play smart. None of it mattered."

Because we don't think about guys like Kolb often once they're out of the game, we also don't think much about what the game has done to them. What Kolb outlines in The MMQB is frightening, although he doesn't dwell on any negativity. But he points out that his life is affected every day by the concussions he suffered in the NFL. Kolb said he knows he'll deal with the symptoms the rest of his life. Kolb just turned 30.

"With concussions, sometimes you don’t know what is a symptom and what is not. But some symptoms are impossible to ignore," Kolb wrote. "The ringing is like someone shooting a shotgun right next to my ear, every second of every day. It doesn’t go away.

"The sensitivity to light also has a profound impact. I’ll be in a business meeting indoors and have to politely ask to put on my sunglasses before the headaches and double vision start."

Kolb goes into more detail in the story about his concussions, symptoms and how he can lessen them. Kolb had enough cache as a former starting quarterback that his story, which included his experience being in Hurricane Odile in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in September, was featured on a major site. But there are plenty of former players who suffered concussions, are probably dealing with similar terrible circumstances, and we don't hear about or consider them.

More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:42 pm

Crumpets, tea, overt politeness – the NFL returns to Wimbley Stadium for its third across-the-pond tilt of the season. Different from previous British battles, this week's brutally early (6:30 AM PT) Lions/Falcons matchup is full of intrique. Even if Calvin Johnson suits up, will he be effective? Can Matt Ryan actually perform like a QB1 outdoors? What lame excuses will Mike Smith make up this time? 

Questions abound. 

On this week's energetic program, Melanie Collins will guide our knights of the round table (Brandon Funston, Brad Evans, Andy Behrens and Shaun King) through the Week 8 muck. On the agenda: LeSean McCoy's prospects in the desert, rookie wide receivers not named Kelvin Benjamin and Sammy Watkins with shocker special potential, Percy predictions and, of course, your pressing questions. Here's how you can join the circus: 

Phone: 800.FFL.GURU

Twitter: @YahooFantasy

As always, the Big Noise and Boss Man will prime the pump on our two-hour FFL radio simulcast. We'll provide the very latest updates on Megatron's availability, give you LIVE updates of the Lions/Falcons game, break down every remaining Week 8 matchup and, naturally, tend to your every fantasy need. Reach out:

Phone: 800.777.2907

Twitter: @YSRFFL

LISTEN LIVE TO FANTASY FOOTBALL LIVE SUNDAY AT 9 AM ET HERE 

Author: Brad Evans
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:39 pm

The Detroit Red Wings are holding Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Thursday night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins roll into town. That mean’s lavender dashboards around the rink at the Joe, as well as goalie Jimmy Howard busting out his pink goalie mask for charity.

It’s a pink version of Howard’s usual mask, with a script “Hockey Fights Cancer” adorning it.

For the second straight year, Howard and the Red Wings will be auctioning off gear to support Hockey Fights Cancer. That includes sticks with lavender tape the Red Wings will be using in warm-ups.

Howard

As far as we know, Howard isn’t busting out the pink pads from last season for tonight’s game. But we can dream …

Images via Red Wings

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:34 pm

Midnight Madness produces some memorable moments each year, so The Dagger is chronicling the best ones from this October's lineup. If you spot something we missed, let us know here or here.

An Auburn professor received an assist from basketball Bruce Pearl this week while lecturing his class about marketing and branding. Pearl crashed the lecture with players, cheerleaders and the marching band in tow to promote next week's "Pearl Jam," Auburn's cleverly named Midnight Madness event. The appearance from Pearl served two valuable purposes: It provided a first-hand illustration of marketing and branding for the class and it generated buzz on campus and via social media for the basketball program. Auburn has a chance to be competitive in the SEC this season thanks to the return of K.T. Harrell and the arrival of Niagara transfer Antoine Mason and junior college prospect Cinmeon Bowers, but it's next year that the Tigers will probably truly arrive. Between Pearl's recruiting and his showmanship, Auburn basketball will be fun to watch going forward, and really when was the last time anyone could say that?

More from the Best of Midnight Madness series:

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks performs 'I will always love you'
Bill Self recreates Andrew Wiggins' infamous draft day outfit
Clemson student sinks $25,000 half-court shot
Costume-clad Tubby Smith crashes motorcycle
Drake's appearance at Kentucky includes cringe-worthy air ball
Mercer's Ike Nwamu leaps over teammate, throws down big dunk
New Mexico coach shaves his head for a good cause
Memphis guard throws down off-the-glass, between-the-legs slam
Fresno State guard sinks five straight half-court shots
• Bruce Pearl crashes a lecture to promote Auburn's Midnight Madness

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:11 pm

Bad news - Cain Velasquez (13-1) will no longer fight Fabricio Werdum (18-5-1) in defense of his UFC world heavyweight championship next month in Mexico City. Good news - We're still getting an intriguing world title bout, albeit an interim one, in exchange.

Fabricio Werdum will take on Mark Hunt (10-8-1) for the newly created UFC heavyweight interim title Nov. 15 at UFC 180 in the main event of the promotion's first ever show in Mexico. The fight will not only pit two of the division's hottest contenders against one another, it's also a match up that has so many x-factors that we're racking our brains to pick a winner.

Here's our first crack at breaking down a few key categories of Werdum vs. Hunt. Read on, and let us know how you see things playing out in the comments section!

Standing striking:

Few fighters in MMA can boast the kickboxing credentials that Mark Hunt has. And, absolutely no one has as many walk-off knockout wins as Hunt.

The New Zealander has dynamite in his fists and granite in his chin, both of which make give him an advantage in stand-up striking against most opponents. Werdum would appear to be no exception.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu submission expert should definitely look to get Hunt on his back, to have his best chance at winning on Nov. 15. However, when it comes to stand up striking, Werdum is greatly improved and a live dog.

In 2011, Werdum arguably out-struck K-1 Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem before losing a razor-close, and admittedly mostly slow-paced decision. In his very next fight, Werdum lit up Roy Nelson with a Muay Thai clinic. 

Is Werdum good enough to out-strike Hunt? Maybe not in terms of straight skill-set, but perhaps he's got enough to give Hunt something to think of, wear him down a bit and take advantage of Hunt's lack of preparation for this short-notice fight.

Still, Werdum would be wise to find a way to get Hunt on the ground and not play around on the feet, too long. On that note...

Wrestling:

In switching opponents from Velasquez to Hunt, Werdum is also switching from someone who he had little hope of taking down, to a rival he likely has a wrestling advantage over. Werdum has to be careful, however, not to telegraph take down attempts, and instead remain gutsy and patient enough to stand and strike until he can time a smart and efficient take down attempt.

Hunt may not be an NCAA wrestling All-American, but he's gotten much better at using his substantial size and good timing to avoid take down shots, and muscle out of clinch attempts. The biggest threat to Hunt getting taken down will likely be when he over commits to his power shots (like his left hook), and leaves himself off balance and completely open to shot attempts.

Werdum will have to be patient, stay safe on his feet, give Hunt something to think about with his own strikes and use timing to take Hunt down if the slugger over commits to one of those wide punches. Hunt may want to consider being very patient himself, and using mostly straight punches, to mitigate risk of getting taken down.

Hunt may not win the battle of who can stay tight and patient for the following reason, however...

Conditioning:

Listen, despite his appearances, Hunt has proven that he can go five rounds, hard, before. Werdum has not.

Unfortunately for the K-1 champ, Hunt only has a couple weeks to get conditioned for his fight against Werdum - a pretty impossible task in any case. Add on to that the fact that Hunt is still likely worn out from his recent training camp, drastic weight cut and fight, and that Hunt has admitted to weighing over 300 pounds this week, and the smart money is on Hunt huffing and puffing a great deal if the fight reaches the later rounds.

Werdum faces a lot of unknowns in his new opponent, but we can be almost certain he'll be the better conditioned athlete come fight night...unless he eats one too many Hunt bombs early on, that is.

Ground:

Sure, Werdum is much better, here and we've already recommended he make sure to get Hunt to the mat. If he gets on top, it is bound to be a rough night for Hunt.

Unlike most other fighters, Werdum likely has the sharpness to pounce on a limb and take it home with him if Hunt muscles up in his typically sloppy manner. That is to say, if you're a beast like Hunt and find yourself mounted, you can grab hold, bridge out, or turn and stand with your arms straight out, against most fighters without getting arm barred. 

Against Werdum, that's not a great idea. Even though Werdum has an amazing submission game, he would still be smart to look to solidify top position if he gets the take down, and use strikes to wear down and take out Hunt.

Most submissions are simply not high-percentage in a real fight - they are useful last resorts. Hunt has an amazing chin but he can't last as long taking shots on the ground (with the mat there to bounce his dome around) as it can on the feet.

Even if Hunt ends up on top, on the ground, he’ll be in trouble. Heck, Werdum has shown himself dangerous off his back even after getting rocked and dropped (see his win over Fedor Emelianenko). 

We don't know who will win the main event at UFC 180 - that's why they fight the fights. We do know that we sure are looking forward to it. 

Either guy could win, and in shocking fashion. Who are you picking, and why?

Let us know in the comments section!

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter

 

Author: Elias Cepeda
Posted: October 23, 2014, 4:09 pm

Les Miles may want Katy Perry to take a smell test.

Miles' LSU Tigers host Ole Miss on Saturday and three weeks ago, when ESPN's College GameDay was at Ole Miss, Perry served as the show's celebrity guest picker. (Her manager is an Ole Miss alum)

During her segment, Perry broke out corn dogs, a gag in reference to a joke popularly utilized by Ole Miss fans that says LSU's Tiger Stadium smells like corn dogs.

GameDay is at LSU on Saturday and so Perry came up during Miles' Wednesday press conference. He was unaware of what Perry had done.

"No, what happened?" Miles asked when the topic was brought up. "She likes corn dogs?"

He was then told about the gag. "Did she? Oh no she didn't," Miles said.

(You can view video of Miles' comments at approximately the 6-minute mark here at TigerBait.com)

After further explanation of the joke, Miles laughed and disagreed.

“I guess there’s things to talk about that are important and things that are not, right?" Miles said. "I’d have to say that people who make observations about how other people smell based on the fact that their nose doesn’t work well. I guess if that’s the issue — I want you to know one thing and I’ll say it very honestly. I have gone to Tiger Stadium and never smelled corn dogs."

If you're at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, please capture the air and send us a smell sample. We need to settle this immediately.

For more LSU news, visit TigerBait.com.

- - - - - - -

Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @NickBromberg

Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: October 23, 2014, 3:37 pm

Last season, Garth Snow got aggressive for the New York Islanders, and it was a mistake. 

Acquiring Thomas Vanek was a redundant move. It was clearly a rental, as everyone and their mom knew he was going to Minnesota, or at the very least not staying on Long Island. It cost the Islanders a first-round pick in a draft so deep that it probably reaches the Earth’s core.

This season, Garth Snow was patient, and it’s been brilliant so far.

He knew he had two things coming into this season: a weak blueline and a ton of cap space. He knew the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins had two things: a surplus of defensemen and cap problems. So like a frugal shopper waiting for that party dress to hit the clearance rack, Snow acquired Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, who were thrown together as a pairing and have been part of the foundation for the team’s stunning start.

Boychuk has six points in six games, averaging 22:50 per game. Five of those points have come on the power play, and that’s where the biggest change has come for Boychuk vs. his time in Boston: 4:07 of ice time so far per game on the man advantage for the Islanders; he averaged 0:18 seconds per game on the power play with the Bruins last season.

But that’s because the Bruins had a logjam in front of him: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton all played more on the man advantage.

It’s that logjam that jettisoned Boychuk to the Islanders. At the time of the trade, he noted the Bruins had eight defensemen.

“Somebody had to go, and it was me,” he said.

The Bruins could have waited, playing out the season up against the cap before cutting bait with Boychuk in the offseason, when he’s unrestricted. Instead, they opted to move him.

And now Peter Chiarelli’s taking a beating for it. From Eric Wilbur in the Boston Globe:

Less than three weeks ago, Thursday night’s game against the Islanders was little more than an early-season throwaway game for the Bruins. That was before Peter Chiarelli went and angered the masses by trading popular defenseman Boychuk to an NHL franchise that might as well be in Siberia for all the relevance they should muster this season.

Now, Thursday night is as much about Bruins fans welcoming Boychuk back to his old haunts as it is sticking it to Chiarelli, who created the very salary cap shambles that forced him to surrender a top-four defenseman on the eve of what might be another run at the Stanley Cup.

… In many ways, Boychuk made the most sense to go in order for the Bruins to create some cap relief. That doesn’t relieve Chiarelli of the blame though. This is still all his fault for mismanaging the cap to the degree where someone with even the slightest knowledge of the financial workings of the NHL could foresee this was going to become a problem eventually, the way the GM handed out three-year deals like BOGO frozen yogurt coupons at the mall.

Ouch.

Snow, meanwhile, waited in the weeds for the Bruins to get capped out, knowing something would shake loose. It was Boychuk, and he’s having a transformative effect on the Islanders.

The “rings in the room” argument for player acquisition is a myth, but it’s hard to argue that adding a guy from a prestige team who brings it every single shift sets a tone for a roster that’s still trying to figure out this whole “playoff contention” thing.

Now he returns to Boston with an Islanders team that’s tied with them in the standings – a team on the upswing, while we’re all trying to figure out which way the Bruins are climbing.

“It’ll be different to be on the other side,” said Boychuk earlier this month. “The fans, the whole city was always behind us.

“Well, most of the time, depending on how the game was going.”

One assumes he’ll get a hero’s welcome tonight.

 ***

More from Yahoo Hockey

Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: October 23, 2014, 3:34 pm

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


four − 3 =

Current ye@r *

Looking for older news? Search in the archive