Ray Jr. on Sports



  1. March Madness is here, and that means the NCAA tournament where we see 68 teams decrease to 4, and then 2-in about 3 weeks. That’s obviously what adds to the ‘Madness’ part. But make no mistake, it’s truly a fun time of year.
  2. If I had a favorite team, it would be the Michigan St. Spartans, who spent the earlier part of the college basketball season ranked #1, and finished the season 29-5 (13-5 Big Ten) and they won the Big Ten Tournament. As a #2 seed, they will take on Middle Tennessee St. on Friday. HC Tom Izzo always has his team in it, and this could be their year.
  3. Of course, that depends if MSU can get past the #1 overall seed in the Kansas Jayhawks (30-4, 15-3 Big 12) who finished the season ranked #1 and also won the Big 12 tourney. HC Bill Self’s team looks pretty dominant right now, but they know as well as anyone that regular season success doesn’t always mean success in The Big Dance.
  4. How about the highest ranked Local team? that would be the 2nd best Big 12 team in the West Virginia Mountaineers (26-8, 13-5 Big 12) who are a 3rd seed and will take on #14 Stephen F. Austin on Friday. HC Bob Huggins has been here before and knows how to prepare his team. This could continue to be a very special team for the Mountaineers if they can keep it going.
  5. And then there’s the Pitt Panthers (21-11, 9-9 ACC) who got their ticket punched despite having several underachieving moments during the regular season. I’ve said it many times before: The absence of Louisville (postseason ban) really helped Pitt, but they also beat a ranked team in Duke and won at least an ACC tourney game to convince the voters.
  6. Nevertheless, the Panthers are a 9th seed and will take on 7th seeded Wisconsin (20-12, 12-6 Big Ten) Friday. The Badgers have had their challenges during the regular season as they’ve had to deal with the sudden retirement of HC Bo Ryan, but here they are and they’re trying to get back to the Final Four, which the made a year ago.
  7. The Panthers are hoping to advance further than they did 2 years ago when they lost to Florida in the Second Round. I would like to see them beat the Badgers, which would advance them to the next round to face the winner of #2 Xavier/#15 Weber State.
  8. I think the keys to a Pitt win will be what has been a success to them all season: Consistency and getting off to a strong start. If their top 2 scorers (Jamel Artis, Mike Young) can lead the way, and if G James Robinson can also contribute. Pitt won’t be stopped. Bank on it.
  9. As for the Women’s NCAA Tournament, you have to be proud of Robert Morris and Duquesne, who earned trips to the Big Dance this season. 16th seed Lady Colonials (20-12, 11-7 NEC) won the NEC conference and are in their 3rd NCAA Tournament. Make no mistake, they are in for a challenge as they take on the #1 overall seed in UConn (32-0, 18-0 American) The Huskies are legendary and are aiming for their 3rd-straight National Championship.
  10. Meanwhile, the Lady Dukes (27-5, 13-3 Atlantic 10) are in the Big Dance for the first time in their history (My wife is very proud alumni). As a 9th seed, they will take on #8 Seton Hall on Saturday. I hope they win, as it will truly be a boost for the school. And to add to the drama, if they win and if Robert Morris finds a way to meet UConn, they will face each other in the secon round. Wishful thinking.
  11. As for the Men’s Duquesne team, they’re in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) and have already won their first round game when they beat Nebraska Omaha 120-112 at the Palumbo Center.
  12. Kudos to HC Jim Ferry for having his team play in third tournament, which has been labeled taboo in some circles, but it’s still a chance to play in the postseason. They certainly can take example of Pitt playing in the CBI in 2012. The Panthers took advantage of that opportunity and won the CBI Championship that season. Hopefully the Dukes can do the same.
  13. No onto the NFL, as Free Agency continues. The Pittsburgh Steelers are actually a little active this year as they’ve re-signed G Ramon Foster, CB William Gay and have went outside and signed San Diego Chargers TE LaDarius Green and T Ryan Harris from the SB Champion Denver Broncos.
  14. I think each of those signings are significant, as they’re filling needs. the additions of Green and Harris are very critical and I think they will benefit the team in 2016. Green will probably replace the retired Heath Miller as starter and you can never go wrong if you can get a starter from a SB Champion team, which the Steelers have done in Harris.
  15. The Steelers have also said goodbye to a few free agents as DT Steve McClendon (NY Jets), OT Kelvin Beachum (Jaguars) and Sean Spence (Titans) moved on to sign deals. I’m not mad at any of them. I wish them the best as they move on.
  16. Former Steeler WR Mike Wallace returns to the AFC North Division as he signed a deal with the Baltimore Ravens. I think he’ll do well there, being that Joe Flacco is a good QB and can get him the ball. Plus, hopefully he has matured.
  17. And then there’s the disappointing news about Steelers WR Martavias Bryant, who is suspended by the NFL for a second time, but this time it’s for a year. So if he remains a Steeler, we won’t see him until 2017. He once again violated the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy.
  18. I hope Bryant gets the help that he needs-not just for his NFL career, but for his life. He’s too young to miss out on a great opportunity. As for the team, they’re behind him 100%, but they now have to find a WR to fill in for Bryant-and it will probably be 2nd year man Sammie Coates, who looked pretty good in the preseason and part of the regular season.
  19. As for the NBA, the Golden State Warriors keep it going as the best team in the sport with a 61-6 record. They need to win 11 games to eclipse the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team of 72-10. Will they do it? I doubt it, but they will come close. It almost makes the 57-10 San Antonio Spurs record seem mortal. Ditto for the 48-19 Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavs.
  20. As for the worst team in the NBA, the 9-58 Philadelphia 76ers are about as awful as they can get, but they’re up against the worst NBA teams of all time: the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats that went 7-59 the Philadelphia team in ’72-73 that went 9-73, and the 11-71 Denver Nuggets from ’97-98. If they’re ‘fortunate,’ they’ll tie the Nuggets team.

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