Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Congrats to Arizona Wildcats

By Samuel D. Bradley
Sparks Sports Staff Writer

DUBLIN, Ohio -- I covered New Mexico State University softball for the Las Cruces Sun-News, and I had a great time watching the games.

I rediscovered my passion for women's softball this weekend watching the 2006 Women's College World Series. Despite getting grief for it, my remote control kept landing on the games. I watched the Tennessee Vols make quite a run.

Tonight I watched the first inning with my daughter, Chloe, just half an hour after playing ball with her in the yard. It was fun teaching her a bit about the game. Long after she went to sleep, I watched the Arizona Wildcats finish off a gritty Northwestern team for a 7th national title.

I'm looking forward to taking my girls to many Texas Tech softball games next year! If you have not seen a college softball game in person, I encourage you to check it out.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Stop Presses: Royals Win Two

By Samuel D. Bradley
Sparks Sports Staff Writer

DUBLIN, Ohio -- I have lamented about the woes of the Kansas City sports fan in this space before. The Royals' start to the year is but an exclamation point.

However, in beating the Cleveland Indians 5-1 today, the Royals won two games in a row and won the series.

It's about the little victories in K.C.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sudden Tragedy

By James R. Angelini
Sparky Sports Staff Writer

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.--Back during the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament I made mention in this blog of the team from Army and how historic this year’s tournament was for them. This was their first ever appearance in the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Also, their coach, Maggie Dixon, was the sister of Pittsburgh’s head coach Jamie Dixon. It was believed that this was the first time in the history of the tournaments that a brother and a sister were coaching teams in the tournament during the same year.

Flash forward three weeks and all these ground breaking events are a distant memory, replaced by great tragedy.

Yesterday Army coach Maggie Dixon died at age 28 of a heart arrhythmia.

Three weeks ago it was believe that Dixon was making such a name for herself in the basketball world that Army would not be able to hold on to her. She was hired from DePaul just a few days before the start of the basketball season, and Dixon turned an average team into one that won 20 games this season.

But now all of this promise of a bright coaching future is gone and a close-knit family, both the Dixons and the Black Knights of basketball squad at Army, are devastated by the sudden loss.

It truly is a sad and unfortunate situation when someone this promising dies young.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Dancin' in the Circle City

The men's NCAA Final Four tips tonight at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

I am hearing a lot about Florida and very little about the hot hands in the tournament, LSU and George Mason.

Tennessee and South Carolina (NIT Champs) each swept Florida this season. That means that not only did the Vols and Gamecocks beat the Gators on their home courts, but also in Gainesville. The Gators are hot, but much too human for true greatness. Look for George Mason to send the Gators home.

UCLA fumbled past Memphis in the regional finals. They won't beat LSU. The Tigers and "Little Baby" are too strong inside for the Bruins.

George Mason and LSU will play in the most improbable championship match up in memory. I'm not ready to decide who I like in this game.

I'll let you know tomorrow.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Pick For Champion

By James R. Angelini
Sparky Sports Staff Writer

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Much like many of the office workers out there whose productivity slows down during NCAA tournament time, I’ve been following the stories from this year’s tournament while seeing how well my predictions are hold up.

In the men’s bracket my final four was pretty much decimated after the second round. Three of my final four teams (Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State) were out by the end of last Sunday. Maybe it was too much to believe that three Big Ten teams would make the final four, but coming from Indiana University and seeing these three teams in action against my Hoosiers I truly believed that these teams had a good shot.

The one team that I have left in the tournament that I predicted would make it to the final four is Memphis. It really was a gut feeling that told me to not only put them through to the final four but to make them the overall champion. I still believe that they have the capability to do that, and I am hopeful that I will be able to finally pick an NCAA tournament winner.

Memphis does have a tough road ahead of them. Just to get to the final game they have to win tonight against UCLA and then next week face either LSU or Texas. All three are worthy opponents, but also teams that I believe Memphis has the ability to prevail over.

Maybe it is the love of the underdog, but I want to see Memphis go all the way. Though a number one seed, many didn’t believe that Memphis had the tools to win the national championship. I believe for that reason alone I know who I’ll be rooting for through the rest of the tournament.

Huggins Restores K-State Basketball

By Samuel D. Bradley
Sparks Sports Staff Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Kansas State basketball has not mattered for decades. That changed Thursday with the hiring of coach Bob Huggins. Although I grew up a diehard Jayhawks, fan, it is the Sunflower State's land-grant university from which I hold a degree.

K-State once had a proud tradition. Now there is mediocrity. The fans' welcoming of Huggins is not all about the wins. Yes, we will win now. But it is more that than. I wanted K-State basketball to matter again.

The Wildcats are now the second most prominent hoops team in the Big XII North. Iowa State, Missouri, Colorado, and Nebraska are now the step-children.

How many times had you ever heard Texas Tech basketball mentioned on SportsCenter before they hired Bob Knight? Now Texas Tech has its own reality TV show, Knight School, on ESPN. Now the program matters. They made it to the Sweet 16 last year. Yes, K-State will be back.

There is another comparison between Texas Tech and Kansas State. I moved to Bloomington shortly after Knight was run out of town. Texas Tech hats were everywhere. They still are. Today's Kansas City Star reported that K-State T-shirt sales spiked in Cincinnati the day after Huggins was hired:

"The most popular items just arrived. Those would be purple T-shirts at $16 a pop that are a tribute to Huggins. One reads on the front, 'Feeling bad about your SELF? Get a big HUG!' The other says, 'Huggieville' on the front and 'Got Huggs' on the back."

Today K-State basketball matters. And although Huggins has been vilified by the Cincinnati administration, he is no Jerry Tarkanian. I was a newspaper reporter when coach Neil McCarthy was removed. I covered the entire thing. I talked to players, attorneys, boosters. Trust me, I know a thing or two about renegade coaches. Huggins is not that.

Can he recruit the same kids that Mike Krzyzewski recruits at Duke, but he will not pay kids or commit NCAA major violations. And there's a whole lot less trouble to be found in Manhattan, Kan.

Indeed, it's the beginning of a new era for Wildcats hoops. I just hope that I can find a way to make it to Bramlage Coliseum for a game next year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All Aboard Vikings Love Boat

By Samuel D. Bradley
Sparks Sports Staff Writer

I was readinging earlier today the Associated Press report "Former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper testified Wednesday that he spent his entire time shooting dice during a boat party last fall and rejected offers from lingerie-clad dancers."

As a sports fan, surely you remember the love boat scandal. The AP story on cbsportsline.com talked about "lap dances," "lewd acts," and "naked dancers."

However, the hilarious part to me was that within the cbs.sportsline.com story about the sex boat was an ad for "Discover Boating: Get your free how to get started in boating DVD."

You cannot write comedy this good.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Showing She Was Right

By James R. Angelini
Sparky Sports Staff Writer

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As previously reported here, Pat Summitt and her Lady Vols of Tennessee were very unhappy with their number two seed in the NCAA tournament. Summitt brought her case to the press, but this reporter thought that Summitt and her team should show the selection committee, through their playing against Army, why they believed they should have been given that number one seed. Today they did just that.

The Lady Vols didn’t just beat Army’s Black Knights. They decimated them. The Lady Vols walked away with a 102-54 victory.

In addition, freshman forward Candace Parker was the first woman to ever dunk during an NCAA tournament game. And just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, nearly six minutes into the second half she dunked again.

Parker also became only the fourth woman to ever in college basketball history to dunk during a game.

The Black Knights of Army were also making some history of their own. This was Army’s first appearance in the NCAA women’s tournament. In addition, their coach Maggie Dixon is the sister of Jamie Dixon, the head coach of Pittsburgh’s men’s basketball coach. It is believed that this is the first time that a brother and a sister have ever made it to the NCAA tournaments in the same year.

Summitt’s Lady Vols showed their dominance in the sport of women’s basketball. Summitt quieted her critics for being so vocal about receiving the number two seed, and the team handily demonstrated why they really should have been given the number one over LSU. We’ll just have to wait and see if Tennessee can continue their winning ways when they meet the winner of the George Washington-Old Dominion match-up.