In the doldrums of summer, there's a dearth of new sports activity for true diehards to embrace. The NHL and NBA championships have long passed and the NFL season is still months from truly starting. While MLB's All-Star Game just occurred—with a stirring tribute to retiring Yankee Derek Jeter as one of the hallmarks—the season doesn't get really interesting, even for baseball lovers, for at least another month.
However, there are a couple notable events that are worth the sports fan's attention and effort. First of all, the WNBA has taken to branding itself the “Summer Break” of basketball. While condescending in at least one light, the All-Star Game was played just last weekend, with the East winning in overtime. The story behind the game-winner by Tamika Catchings is worth it even for a casual fan: While Catchings had been ruled out of the WNBA season until July 5, she was still voted into the game by fans and hit the crucial layup. The highlights package of the game includes a look at one of the most surefire locks as a future star in the league—All-Star Game MVP Shoni Schimmel. It even features the circus shot in the 4th quarter with 3 minutes remaining that everyone should be—but probably isn't—talking about.
Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.
Meanwhile, many Americans still feel the sting of having cared about soccer once a quadrennium. And that oh-so-familiar defeat doesn't hurt any less for being so consistent. So Grantland has published a handy guide on how to continue being a soccer fan in America. This is especially useful so we can hope to avoid another spate of articles in approximately three years and 300 days about how this is finally the World Cup where soccer breaks through in America. The MLS may not have a team in New Mexico, but the PDL does—and there may be some exciting news from the Albuquerque Sol FC coming up soon.
Last but not least, it's never too early, especially in a self-billed fishbowl town like Albuquerque, to think about collegiate sports. With Cameron Bairstow signing a contract to play on the Chicago Bulls with fellow ex-Lobo Tony Snell, there's plenty of reason to believe the Lobos will continue to push out great talent. And the Lobo football team looks to continue their upward swing.
Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.
A week ago, the NCAA Division I basketball tournament reached its apex. And the University of Connecticut won. Nope, not the men's game, which was fantastic, sure, but the women's game. It was truly historic, and not just according to the wonks at 538, the newly minted sports blog from famed statistician Nate Silver. While there have been undefeated teams ostensibly playing for a national championship before—in college football at least—that's never been the case in basketball.
Many say the latest victory for the UConn women represents an endorsement of their coach, Geno Auriemma. With long-time rival Pat Summitt retired, it seems as though almost no one can stand in the way of the Huskies and their long-running records. Notre Dame fought valiantly for their place as the spoiler, and maybe if they'd had Natalie Achonwa or Ace playing alongside her senior teammates, things could have gone differently.
There's no shame in losing to this UConn team, but there are definitely columnists who have wondered if all those Husky wins piling up are leading to Geno and Co. fatigue. While Mechelle Voepel argues that UConn's winning ways are good for women's basketball overall, there's definitely room for disagreement. Kate Fagan reasons that games are better when they're truly competitive and if Notre Dame represents the best team that UConn had to face, things are getting into a bad place. The bottom line: We need a multitude of better teams, not just UConn.
The takeaway a week later, with almost no one talking about the women's game, despite the WNBA Draft already occurring, is that NCAA Division I basketball is still all about the men's game. March Madness, to most people, means men's games exclusively. Even if—or rather, when—two undefeated teams play, something that has never happened in the sport before, there's very little attention for the women. Something needs to change.
When UNM was tossed from the NCAA Tournament, the Big Dance didn't stop. Last weekend, the tourney was whittled down to the Final Four. The University of Florida Gators, the Wisconsin Badgers, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies are the the last four teams left in Division I college basketball. Of these last four teams, there is only one number one seed left: the top team overall, Billy Donovan's crew.
Kentucky has proved the pre-season hype to be justified, defying the odds of an 8 seed. Coach Calipari has coaxed the most out of his powerful, notably Aaron Harrison. Harrison knocked in a 3 ball with 2.3 second left to upset 2-seed Michigan on Sunday night. The Wildcats entered the season with hefty expectations but failed to live up on them for the majority of the slog. With 10 losses, the season could have been seen as a letdown; until March Madness began. After knocking out previously unbeaten Wichita State and intrastate rival Louisville, the team seems to be playing their best ball at the perfect time.
The Connecticut Huskies, on the other hand, may have also been ranked for much of the beginning of the season, but never had the expectations of Big Blue foisted upon them. UConn, content to fly under the radar for much of the season, dominated trendy pre-Tourney pick, Michigan State on Sunday. While the final margin was only six points, UConn seemed to be in control of their destiny for the majority of the game. This has been the case since they needed overtime o take out St. Joe's in the first round of the Tournament. Shabazz Napier, the senior guard from Storrs, has put the team on his back, and his free throws seemed to clinch the game.
The aforementioned, overall number one seed Florida cruised past the previous upset-minded Dayton Flyers. This is nothing new for the Gators, who won it all in 2007 and have been to the Elite Eight for the last three years in a row. Florida's coach, Billy Donovan, has been here before and seems poised – at least mathematically – for a run to the championship.
However, the team that the majority of the nation has rallied around by far is Wisconsin. The Badgers have shown tremendous tenacity and the play of Frank Kaminsky is a big part of their overtime victory against the West Region 1 seed Arizona Wildcats. Although Wisconsin entered the post-season as a 2 seed, most pundits overlooked the team in their predictions of who would be left standing at this time of the year.
The semifinal matches will be played on Saturday night, with both games televised on TBS. The final matchup, for the national championship, will take place on Monday, April 7. If your bracket is busted, take comfort in the knowledge that so is everyone else's and enjoy some quality basketball.
Kendall Williams hits a deep (unadvised) three that pretty much seals the game.
The University of New Mexico men's basketball team is going dancing. There was never any doubt. Not after winning the Mountain West tournament. Not after the automatic bid that comes with that win. The only question was one of seeding. And what of the moment on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that UNM received a 7 seed and will have to play in the South Region and face a potential match-up with 2-seed Kansas in the second round? Well, it seems like feelings in the land of Cherry and Silver are running high.
New Mexico's first game against 10-seeded Stanford is no walk. And after flaming out against Harvard last year, there's plenty of emotion about facing yet another school known primarily for its academics. Stanford finished their season with a 21-12 record, as opposed to the Lobos' 27-6. The Cardinal plays in the vaunted Pac-12 Conference, where they ended up a pedestrian sixth—but every team that finished ahead of them in their conference wound up in the NCAA Tournament as well.
In fact, spurned Lobos fans, still bitter about many events from last year, are looking way past Stanford. Some are even looking forward to a potential Elite Eight matchup with UCLA—the team that ex-head coach Steve Alford bolted for after New Mexico was bounced in last year's Big Dance.
However, that's putting the cart way before the horse. Stanford will want to make waves by taking out the back-to-back-to-back Mountain West champs. No team goes into a game hoping or expecting to lose. But should the Lobos get past the Harvard of the West, they'll face stiff competition in a Kansas team that many were shocked to see fail to garner a 1 seed. The bit of good news for New Mexico fans is that the Lobos have already played Kansas. The better news is that Kansas was only up 1 point, 39-38, at halftime of that game. The horrible news? The Jayhawks ran away in the second half, finally winning 80-63.
If the Lobos can make it through opening weekend, the tournament doesn't get a lot easier, as they're in the same grouping as overall number one seed, Florida. However, the talent on this team believes they're capable of making a deep run; let's not forget all those #UnfinishedBusiness tweets from the beginning of the year. This is when that follow-through gets to the proving time and first-year head coach Craig Neal continues a proud tradition.
The post-game semi-scuffle between UNM and SDSU begins.
The University of New Mexico Lobos men's basketball team has had a great month. February, with one minor aberration that might come back to haunt the team, was a good time for Coach Neal and his squad. That hiccup—a loss to Boise State University on Feb. 12—was followed up by two quick and easy wins over Mountain West Conference also-rans Nevada and UNLV. However, on Saturday, February 22, things picked up a notch.
San Diego State University—then ranked #6 in the nation—came to visit the Pit, expecting to walk all over the unranked Lobos. The cherry and silver squad, though, quickly ran away with the game. UNM led by as much as 9 in the first half and opened up the second on a 21-2 run that hammered the game out of the Runnin' Rebels' reach. While UNLV did make a run at the end of the game to keep it respectable, it was a huge showing for the Lobos on national television on a Saturday night. The game ended with UNM up by 14, winning the game 58-44.
That win was marred, however, by some pushing in the post-game handshake line, and from there, things got worse. It appears from the video footage that some Lobo fan (or fans) threw something at the UNLV players as they were leaving the court. Coach Neal was unhappy and the Lobos faced plenty of bad press over the ugly incident.
The great game was almost overshadowed by the poor reactions, but on Monday, Feb. 25, the Lobos got the good news they were waiting for: a return to the Top 25. At #25, UNM entered the night's match-up with Utah State heavily favored. The Lobos proceeded to play some terrible first half basketball. When the first 20 minutes expired, Utah State was up one, 27-26. However, in the second half, Coach Neal called upon his son, sometimes-maligned Cullen Neal, ex-Eldorado standout, for a key three pointer. Neal's bucket began a 23-5 run that put the Lobos up for good, stamping out the chances for an upset by the Aggies. The Lobos wound up with a win, 67-58.
inally, as the calendar finally flipped over to March, the Lobos headed up to Nevada on Sunday night. Once again, things looked ugly in the first half. Against a 13-15 Wolf Pack, the Lobos trailed by 4 at half and appeared sloppy at many points. The second half rally got UNM through a middling Nevada squad, but the Lobos have more to worry about than a 72-58 win over a team that is now .500.
In two of the last three games, Cameron Bairstow has scored more than 20 points, but the Lobos have also trailed in two of those last three games at halftime. With a game against Air Force in the Pit as the last regular-season home game, the Lobos need to build some serious momentum on Wednesday night. Why? Their last regular-season game of the season isn't at home emdash it's at San Diego State on Saturday, March 8. The Aztecs, currently sitting at #10, will be sure to have revenge on their minds.
With only those two games left and the Mountain West Conference occurring in Vegas in a mere week and a half, the Lobos are playing great second-half ball, but will need to be able to put together a complete and solid game in order to make the splash that all of Albuquerque wants in the NCAA Tournament.
Game-winning touchdown thrown by Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton
Look, let's just get this out of the way first: The Cincinnati Bengals had home field advantage, a better record and, at least according to some people, were supposed to win. But in what turned into the only letdown game of the first weekend of the 2014 NFL Playoffs, the San Diego Chargers won at Paul Brown Stadium to set up a rematch with the Broncos next weekend. Faithful supporters of the orange guys up north will remember that the Chargers and Denver split their regular season games, each team winning as the visitor.
Aside from that single blowout, though, the remaining three games in the National Football League's first weekend of Playoffs were decided by a collective six points. Three teams advanced to face the next round of playoffs and three teams are now at home, and will watch those games on TV. All because of only a single touchdown's worth of points. An amazing weekend of football, made better only by the sheer number of points that got it all started.
On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs, who started the season so well by becoming the last unbeaten team in the league in week 10, lost to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts scored 35 points in the second half to mount the second-largest playoff comeback of all time. Luck had three—of his four total—touchdown passes in the second half and put the final points on the board with a beauty of a toss to a wide open T.Y. Hilton. The Chiefs had a chance to win the game after that drive by Indy, but fell short. However, the game was truly decided on the play before, when the Colts fumbled the ball going into the endzone. Luck, thinking quickly, scooped it up and dove in for a touchdown, which made Indy's momentum seem inescapable. The Colts finished the game 45-44 and will move on to play the New England Patriots in the next round.
Just after the Colts finished breaking the hearts of Kansas City fans all across the nation, the Saints took the field in Philadelphia. New Orleans had never won a playoff game on another field, and they had the better record, so there were legitimate concerns. But the Eagles allowed Drew Brees to get into field goal range, where Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal was good for the win. After a snoozer of a first quarter, where neither team scored any points, the Saints and the Eagles went back and forth. In fact, halfway through the third, the game was verging on a Saints blowout over the Eagles, who finally got their mojo back on a TD pass from Nick Foles with just under five minutes left in the game. It wasn't to be, though, as Drew Brees fought to set his kicker up with great position. The Saints will now travel, once again, though this time without that daunting 0-5 record outside their home field in the Playoffs. They've got quite the matchup, though, traveling to Seattle, to play the NFC one seed Seahawks.
Finally, after the Chargers/Browns upset, the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay for the game that had been talked about all week. With concerns about the extreme cold settling in over the East Coast and parts of the Midwest, there had been inevitable comparisons to the infamous Ice Bowl and constant interview questions directed toward the Californians: How will you deal with the cold? Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for San Francisco, put on a cold-weather show, and then sat back and did his best Drew Brees impression, with kicker Phil Dawson ending the game. As time expired, the three points put the 49ers on top of the Packers, 23-20. San Francisco will journey to Carolina and face the Panthers next week.
So a weekend full of the visitors winning, almost all of the games coming down to the wire and some spectacular performances. What can the NFL do next weekend for a sequel?
The University of New Mexico Men's Lobo soccer team will play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a home game on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 5pm. The Lobos will host George Mason at home as a result of their 7 seed, which is the second-highest in school history. (In 2005, the Lobos received a 2 seed.)
Despite losing in the C-USA Tournament last week, the Lobos were rewarded by the selection committee for a fantastic season. The Lobos have now made the NCAA post-season 11 in the last 13 seasons.
George Mason advanced to Albuquerque by defeating William & Mary on Thursday night by a final score of 2-2 that had to be decided by penalty kicks. The PKs ended up 4-2 in GMU's favor and the match was in the books. The George Mason Patriots finished up their season with a record of 12-2-5 and were the champions of the Atlantic 10 conference.
When it comes time for the match on Sunday night, the Lobo soccer club will be positively littered with honors, both on and off the field. On Thursday, the Lobos received yet another Team Academic Award, rewarding our student-athletes for posting a cumulative team-wide 3.43 GPA. The academics are impressive, but there's no doubt that the men on the club will be looking to pick up another win to extend their season.
The Americans had lost their last game, against Costa Rica, on Friday night. They were whooped, 1-3, and they lost the mental edge of having the longest win streak in the world, at 12. Moreover, they lost Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler for the Mexico match due to those players picking up their second yellow cards of the qualification process. Michael Bradley also sat out against Mexico, having suffered a freak injury during warmups when he sprained his left ankle.
Due to those absences—particularly Altidore, whose performance for the team has been impressive, to say the least—and the long-standing disadvantage America has maintained while facing Mexico, there were some who doubted the team's chances despite the home field advantage. However, the Mexican team seems to be in complete disarray, suffering from the endless tailspin that inevitably follows a sudden departure from previously winning ways.
However, when it came time to get things done, the team stepped up as a whole with their depth tested, and the team answered the call. The previous stars were particularly adept, with Eddie Johnson scoring in the 49th minute, once again off a header. He was spelled by Mikkel Diskerud in the 76th minute. Reviled when his plan didn't seem to be taking right away, coach Jurgen Klinsmann now looks like a genius, particularly when it comes to substitutions. Diskerud played a smart ball of a throw in with a deft first touch, putting the ball right in front of the Mexico goal. Clint Dempsey had a brilliant look at the clincher but whiffed his attempt. Luckily, Landon Donovan was there, as he's been for Team USA ever since making his comeback. Donovan put his goal in at the 78th minute.
When Honduras tied Panama nearly an hour after the USA/Mexico game finished, the work of the night was complete. Team USA is now officially qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It's worth noting that, of the 207 nations in the world who compete in the qualification process, only 32 make it. Eight nations have won the World Cup; the United States is not amongst that number. With this qualification, though, the United States becomes only the 13th nation to qualify for the ultimate tournament 10 times.
Last Thursday, members of the local media were invited to the Jackson/Winkeljohn Mixed Martial Arts academy in honor of three team members who will be compete for the UFC on Jan. 26 in Chicago. Jesus-haired Clay “The Carpenter” Guida will make his Featherweight (145 lb) debut against Japanese star Hatsu Hioki. Then, in a lightweight (155 lb) bout with important title implications, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will face Anthony Pettis. Headlining the card will be Albuquerque native John “The Magician” Dodson, who battles Demetrius Johnson for the UFC’s Flyweight (125 lb) title.