As he enters his 11th season as head coach of the LSU Tigers, Coach Les Miles looks like he has a really good team on his hands going into the 2015 schedule. Sure the main and most important question is still at the QB spot. But to me, the LSU Tigers look as balanced and sound as they have under Miles at this time of the year.
The Tigers return key players at all spots and although LSU will once again be hit hard by the NFL Draft particular on the offensive line and defensive backfield, the Tigers look like they have a chance to be pretty good.
LSU ended spring drills with their annual National L-Club Purple and White Spring Game. The White team beat the Purple Team 45-6 in Death Valley. When I look up and down the LSU roster I really don't see an eye glaring weakness.
Now remind you all that it's April and in the last few seasons, it has been the month of November that has mattered most to the Bayou Bengals. LSU brings back arguably the best RB in the country in Leonard Fournette. The sophomore from St. Augustine carried the ball eight times for 42 yards in the Purple and White Spring Game.
Fellow RB Darrel Williams gives LSU a nice one-two punch in the backfield. Williams scored on a five yard run and capped off the spring game with 40 yards on 10 carries. LSU has some good players across the board including at the Wide Receiver position.
Former John Curtis standout and current Tiger WR Malachi Dupree was big time in the Tigers spring game. Dupree hauled in four passes for 112 yards with two TD's for the White Team. LSU has no shortage of talent at WR and Dupree is one of several players at the position that have Tigers coaches and fans alike excited and more optimistic about seeing an improved passing game in 2015.
WR Desean Smith hauled in a 50 yard TD reception from third string QB Justin McMilian. And WR John Diarse had four grabs for 27 yards and last season's deep threat Travin Dural showed off his deep ball skills with a 41 yard TD reception for the White Team.
"I think the impact of Coach Tony Ball is paying off big time," said Mike Scarbourgh. "Coach Ball has been in the SEC (with UGA) for a long time and he's well respected. I think the WR position has been the most improved this spring." Coach Ball was brought in to help the Tigers passing game from the wide receiver standpoint.
LSU ranked #114 in passing yards per game in the nation in 2014 with an average of 163 yards per outing. LSU's numbers passing the ball were even worse on average in eight SEC Games gaining just 140 yards per game in SEC play a year ago.
And speaking of the Tigers QB, the final spring game numbers saw Anthony Jennings complete 13-of-20 passes for 242 yards with two TD passes. And Brandon Harris was 11-of-17 for 178 yards and two TD's.
The addition of former Ole Miss Head Coach and interim head man at USC Ed Orgeron has brought a level of energy to the Tigers program that to me it seems like has been well received thus far. Orgeron has to be somewhat pleased with some of the things he saw his defensive linemen do in the spring game. LSU has two of the SEC's best young D-Linemen in Davon Godchaux and Maquedius Bain. Bain had a whale of a showing with three sacks while Godchaux had two tackles with one QB takedown to close out spring drills.
I think the Tigers D-Line will be the most improved part of the team in 2015. All seven of the Tigers defensive linemen that started in the Purple and White Spring Game enter the 2015 season as underclassmen. There were no senior starters on the D-Line in the spring game meaning that the future is bright at the position.
Christian LaCouture, Tashawn Bower, Frank Herron, Deondre Clark and Greg Gilmore give me good reason to be even more optimistic about an improved defensive front for LSU. LSU has had some of the premiere defensive backs in all of college football the last handful of seasons. And 2015 will again feature some of the best DB's in the land.
LSU got some good news in the form of a verbal commitment. St. Thomas Aquinas Defensive Lineman Edward Alexander committed to LSU for the class of 2016. Alexander is a 6-3 328 DL that is considered one of the best in the nation ranked as the 4th best interior defensive lineman.
Other than Alabama, I don't know of any school's that has their defensive backfield raided by the NFL and they just keep on restocking the position. True Freshman Kevin Tolliver II made his presence felt in his first every outing in Tiger Stadium with an interception in the spring game.
So now that spring practice is in the books up next off season work and then the season opener for the Tigers on Saturday September 5th with a home date against McNeese State. Is 2015 the year in which LSU gets back to the top of the SEC?
Look let's face it, Alabama is still the best program in the SEC and to me the best in the nation. But after Alabama I think things are wide open in the SEC. LSU will once again be in close November games that will be decided by a TD or less.
And unless the Tigers get better, more consistent play out of the QB spot, then the chances of the Tigers winning those close November games is far less than not. If the QB plays well, then I don't see why this team can't accomplish their goals of getting back to the SEC Title Game in Atlanta.
There would be just one lead change in the game, and after a brief and I do mean brief lead for the New Orleans Pelicans it was all Golden State until the fourth quarter when New Orleans came to life. Golden State beat New Orleans 106-99. The Warriors held off the young Pelicans to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series. Game two is Monday night in Oakland.
New Orleans looked done late in the third quarter of the game, but the Pelicans made a furious comeback, cutting the lead to just five points with less than a minute to play in the game. New Orleans turned up the defensive pressure on the Warriors in the final 14 minutes of the game to serve notice that the upstart team from the Big Easy will not go quietly in this opening round series.
Anthony Davis played like an MVP, scoring 24 points in the second half and finishing with a game high 35 in his first ever playoff game in the NBA. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 34 points.
After a 4-0 start the home team went off and rolled out to a 12-1 spurt to take a 12-5 lead. Going into the series, Bobby and I talked about how the Warriors get overlooked when it comes to their defense.
The Warriors defense was excellent early on as they held New Orleans to 5-of-22 shots from the field in the first quarter of the game. Golden State would flirt with a double digit lead for most of the first quarter and led after the horn sounded 28-13.
The Warriors' Stephen Curry scored a game high 19 points in the first half while teammate Klay Thompson added 11 to lead Golden State. The Pelicans made a quick two minute run early in the second quarter as they cut the Warriors lead to 36-29. New Orleans outscored Golden State 9-2 in a two minute and twenty second span. But that run and spark to life was short lived as the Warriors closed the first half going on a 15-2 run to claim an 18 point halftime lead up 49-41.
More bad news would come in the form of injury - Tyreke Evans left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. Then later in the third quarter it was announced that Evans would not return to the game, suffering a knee contusion.
The first half numbers were in big favor of Golden State. The Warriors shot 56% from the field while the Pelicans were 16-of-39 for 41%. The Warriors defense was solid as they allowed only one point scored from Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday combined. Anthony Davis had 11 and Quincy Poindexter scored eight points in the first two quarters of the game.
The Warriors would come out to start the third quarter as they did the contest, increasing their lead to 64-46 in the first four minutes of the second half. Golden State then made it real ugly later in the third.
Andre Iguodala nailed a wide open three pointer to put his team up 69-46 with 6:01 left in the third. The 23 point lead would be the largest of the game up to that point for the Warriors. Golden State would go on and cruise to their 40th home win of the season with a victory over New Orleans.
Then the Pelicans took over the final 14 minutes, making a game of it. Quincy Pondexter hit some big shots down the stretch as did Eric Gordon. Pondexter ended the game with 20 points while Gordon had 16. New Orleans outscored the Warriors 33-22 in the final stanza and gained a lot of confidence moving forward to the next game in the series.
The Pelicans are now down 0-1 in the best of seven series. Game two is Monday Night from Oracle, Arena in Oakland. Tipoff is set for 9:30PM but WWL's Pelicans coverage begins during sports talk with Bobby Hebert and Deke Bellavia beginning at 4PM.
Sure there are those true believers out there, but to all of you who seemingly know it all about all sports, NBA basketball is a different beast. The better team always wins in a series. This is not football. This is not one game. It's a best of seven series, meaning that each team has to win four games in order to move on.
Golden State is the better team. How much better I'm not quite ready to predict that. Sure Golden State played by far the best overall basketball throughout the entire 82 game regular season. But the Warriors are also facing a Pelicans team that is getting healthy and they are set on the floor with their prime time players for the first time, basically, this season.
Golden State is not that much of a deeper team it's just that the Warriors have been deeper, healthier longer this season. Golden State has the #1 defense in the league and the #2 offense in the NBA.
Fire power in the backcourt, front court and off the bench make this the team to beat in the Western Conference this season. No front court in the NBA has the defensive prowess of the Warriors. Center Andrew Bogut and Forward Draymond Green and a deadly combination when in comes to defending opposing players. So our MVP Anthony Davis is going to have his work cut out for him.
Stephen Curry gets all the ink - as he should - and Klay Thompson is as good of a shooter as this league has seen. But its the Warriors early season ability to commit to what new Coach Steve Kerr taught them more about playing team ball on both ends of the floor - that's what has everyone and I mean everyone picking this team to get to the Finals.
And when you can lean on a player like Harrison Barnes, and bring a guy like Andre Iguodala off the bench, then it stands to reason why this team won 67 games including 39 home games in the regular season.
On the Pels side of things like I said earlier it's a matter of which team has played with depth the longest that makes a difference to me. GM Dell Demps' addition of Norris Cole, Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter has made the Pelicans a legit deep NBA Team. If these guys continue to play well then each game in this series will be contested and tight to the finish.
I think someone like Ryan Anderson has to show up big in this series. Anderson can shoot but can he help carry the team? Anderson has to be better than he has ever been before and he can't be huge in one half and disappear in the other in this series.
Big Chief's Final Call
Hey some of my all time favorite (and best) NBA Series in the playoffs have not been that close in the win and loss columns. I go back to the late 1990's when the #1 seeded Chicago Bulls took on the #8 seed Washington Bullets.
The Bulls took game one by 12 behind MJ's 55 points. Game two saw the Bulls win by five points with things being tight till the final 30 seconds. And game three saw Scottie Pippen dunked the Bulls to the second round with 7.4 seconds left to sweep off the talented Chris Weber led Bullets.
Really folks I could see each game in this series being one that the Pelcians have a shot to win. But again I go back to our deep south, Big Easy, football mentality and that is we tend to equate everything to football.
Well this is a series and not one game. The Pelicans time is coming. This is part of the process. But right now the Warriors are a complete team while the Pelicans are trying to become one.
In an entertaining series I'll give the Pelicans two wins and call it Golden State in six winning the series 4-2.
It's as plain-jane vanilla as they come on the football field. Yes, there was more action, more drama and more real season-like play going on at one of the previous practice sessions than any of us will see tomorrow when LSU holds their annual Spring Game.
But we can still toss out a few things to keep an eye on. Let's begin shall we?
1. The QB Battle
If this were late August, Coach Miles would have already told us that he would make a decision prior to kickoff to which player he would start under center. I have no reason to believe that incumbent QB Anthony Jennings is not going to be the QB that starts the season. Brandon Harris might develop into a great player. But if he was all that right now, he would be the guy. And he's not. So let's see what happens in Tiger Stadium.
A year ago I was impressed and had a positive take on Harris and Jennings as I thought both had their moments in the 2014 Spring Game. If at the very least, both QB's have now had another full year under Coach Cam Cameron and each QB should be much more comfortable in their abilities to lead the offense. If I was a decent young QB I'd pick LSU in a heartbeat. It's a system that is not designed for a QB to carry the weight of the team, the team is loaded with talent each year. And completing about 12-18 passes a game is about the most an LSU QB should be expected to do. We shall see, I guess!
2. The newly-led Tigers defense
With a new Defensive Coordinator in Kevin Steele and new D-Line Coach in Ed Orgeron, there is a little more excitement going into this Spring Game than in past seasons. Steele and Orgeron are more animated than John Chavis and both bring a certain level of energy to the field that should benefit the players and the fans should enjoy as well. Will MLB Kendall Beckwith develop into one of the nation's premier players like he was expected to do coming out of high school? Will the Tigers depth in their defensive backfield allow Orgeron to take more chances and turn his front line loose more often, as LSU has lacked a consistent pass rush in the last few seasons? And can the Tigers get back to taking the ball away more often than not?
3. Getting what they paid for
With the highest paid coaching staff in the nation, LSU fans will point out that they should be getting more bang for their buck! LSU is a program that expects to be in the hunt for the SEC Title each season but a 4-4 SEC mark won't cut it. To me, this is a crucial year for Coach Les Miles. He has made some tweaks to his coaching staff, and he is in a dog fight with Alabama and other SEC schools to secure some of the nation's best prospects that happen to be from right here in Louisiana. And fans are exhausted with the program's inability to sign, develop and send into the game a capable quarterback that can just do his job.
With a good year, another solid signing class and the biggest question of all which is the QB spot, the Tigers can not only be better this season, but really set up the next few years with bright success should they finally find the right QB. But as of right now the highest paid CFB Staff is a few wins short of producing the kind of results that go along with that high price tag!
With the most draft picks in his possession since he's been in charge of the New Orleans Saints, Coach Sean Payton says that the 2015 NFL Draft is very important for his club. "It's exciting because we have an opportunity to bring in some new faces to our team." Payton joined Bobby Hebert and I Wednesday on Sports Talk.
Coach Payton said that the Saints are currently going through their final board readings, making sure that he and his staff have all of the best information possible on each player.
The Saints own two first round picks (13 & 31), one second round pick (44th overall), two third round picks (75th and 78th), one 6th round pick (187th) and the Black and Gold's final selection in the 2015 NFL Draft is a seventh round selection and the 230th overall pick.
Bobby asked Coach Payton about how important it is for the Saints moving forward to be better in the takeaway department. "With regards to turnovers, we've got to collectively do a better job. It starts with us (coaches). Turnovers prevent you from winning games. Being better in creating turnovers can be the difference of having a five hundered season or season that's a 13 win season." Coach Payton said that the Saints also have do be better at closing out games next season which he felt like was an area that the Saints were not good enough in.
"I think we Saints look at each draft more from a position standpoint. This is where there is a little bit of an art to moving out of a pick or moving up in a round and how each team sees the value in players." Coach Payton went on to talk about the overall depth in the 2015 NFL Draft, he spoke about the club's recent signings including guys like RB C.J. Spiller, CB Brandon Brower and Center Max Unger. And Coach Payton signed off saying that he's pulling hard for the Pelicans.
You can listen to the entire interview by clicking below.
After an 82 game regular season schedule, the New Orleans Pelicans season goal has been reached. For the first time in four seasons the Pelicans are in the Western Conference Playoffs.
New Orleans beat the defending World Champion San Antonio Spurs 108-103 in a must win situation to keep their season alive. New Orleans is the 8th seed and they will take on the #1 seeded Golden State Warriors.nGolden State had the best record in the league this season and is led by arguably the best player in the league in Stephen Curry. Game one of the best of seven series will be on Saturday at Golden State.
With a rising young star in MVP candidate Anthony Davis and a roster that has skilled players and poses tough match-ups in all phases of the game, many experts think that the Pelicans can make things interesting against the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
All Pelicans games can be heard on the flagship of your New Orleans Pelicans WWL Radio FM 105.3. During the regular season the Pelicans more than held their own against the NBA's best team with the series being 3-1 in favor of New Orleans.
"All I know is that the Pelicans are in the playoffs. This is huge for the City of New Orleans and everyone should be on the Pelicans bandwagon now," said a fired up Cajun Cannon right after the playoff-clinching win over the Spurs.
New Orleans is guaranteed at least two more home games at Smoothie King Center with games three and four being in New Orleans. The best of seven series format is 2-2-1-1-1.
Anthony Davis played like an MVP with 31 points 13 boards and three blocked shots. Two of Davis' three blocked shots came in a crucial stretch in the fourth quarter. Davis now has a total of 501 blocked shots in his three year NBA Career. Tyreke Evans was salty with 19 points while Eric Gordon added 14 for the winning team.
With the New Orleans Pelicans making the playoffs, more history has been made. For just the third time in NBA history all teams from the same division are in the playoffs.
Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Memphis and New Orleans are all playing in the Western Conference Playoffs. So now the Big Easy can get ready for another taste of big time NBA playoff basketball.
This is just the second time in Monty Williams' five seasons that the Pelicans are in the post season. After leading New Orleans to the post season in 2011, the team has failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Folks this is where you earn your stars so to speak. The regular season is for players. Stars are made and legends cement their status in league history by what they do in the playoffs. And right now I'm telling you this team is respected league wide, they have a player that has a skill set and and upside that no one else in the NBA has, and they are a team that has become much deeper with a bench that can give them a boost.
The Anthony Davis era just took another leap forward and if Davis is to become the MVP that everyone knows he can be, he will start to make a name for himself during the most important time of the year. The playoffs!
And then there was one! Well folks it will take a full 82 game regular season schedule to decide which team lands in the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA's Western Conference.
The New Orleans Pelicans are now one win away from securing a playoff berth after a 100-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. After struggling to score 22 first quarter points, the Pelicans got red hot towards the end of the first half to take control of the game.
Pelicans fans kept a sharp eye on the Thunder as Oklahoma City took care of their business as they knocked off the Portland Trailblazers 101-90 to improve to 44-37. OKC must finish a full game ahead of New Orleans to earn a playoff berth.
Oklahoma City will play at Minnesota on Wednesday night while the Pelicans take on the league's hottest team in the San Antonio Spurs. A win and the Pelicans are in the playoffs.
After a sluggish start early in the game, the Pelicans got hot in the second quarter. Up 25-22 with just over eight minutes left in the first half, the Pelicans closed the half with a huge 25-13 run including a 17-5 run in the last 4:36 of the half. New Orleans led 50-35 at the break.
Minnesota outscored New Orleans 27-23 in the third quarter to make it look respectable - but to me the game was never really that close after the Pelicans big run to end the first half.
New Orleans sealed their 44th win of the season when Omer Asik slamed the door shut on the short handed Wolves to make the score 94-83 with 2:39 left in the game.
Chase Budinger had 18 markers for Minnesota while Zach LaVine's 24 points led the Wolves. Tyreke Evans was the hot handed Pelicans scorer with 22 points, and Eric Gordon added 22 as well. Anthony Davis had another solid night with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
New Orleans can still get into the post season even if they lose to the Spurs, but would need the Timberwolves to beat OKC in order for that to happen. Minnesota has lost 11 straight games.
Tip off is set for 7PM Wednesday Night at Smoothie King Center and you can listen to the biggest game of the season on Pelicans Radio 105.3FM.
The Rockets' fast-paced offense and a bad second half of Pelicans defense kept New Orleans from inching closer to the NBA playoffs. Houston beat New Orleans 121-114 to keep their hopes for the #8 seed in the West alive.
The two biggest things that killed the Pelicans were free throws and fast break points. Houston had a 21-0 edge in fast break points and the Rockets made of 34-of-48 free throws while New Orleans was just 15-of-22 from the foul line.
On the flip side, the Pelicans could have reduced their magic number to make the post season to one victory but failed to do so. The Pelicans did get some help as the Indiana Pacers took care of the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-104.
The Pelicans can secure the 8th seed in the Western Conference by having the same record as the OKC Thunder as New Orleans won the season series against OKC. With two games left, both clubs have identical 43-37 records.
After going down by 13-11 the Pelicans took over the game for much of the first half. New Orleans closed the first quarter with a 17-9 run to take a six point 28-22 lead after the first stanza.
Jrue Holiday canned a three ball just before the first quarter horn sounded to give the Pels a nice lead. New Orleans could have easily been up by far more points had they played more disciplined ball.
The Pelicans did not attempt a single free throw in the first quarter but they helped the Rockets stay in the game, sending them to the charity strike ten times, and Houston made all 10 of their free throws.
The Pelicans would continue to play well in the first half, pushing their lead to seven points up 31-24 with 8:48 left in the second quarter. New Orleans kept the home team in a hole, taking a 55-52 lead with them into the locker room at halftime.
Ryan Anderson was red hot with 15 points off the bench in the first half while Anthony Davis added 11 for New Orleans. James Harden paced the Rockets with 16 first half points.
The Rockets took back control of the game in the third quarter with a 34 point output. Houston outscored the Pelicans 34-31 as James Harden continued to have the hot hand scoring 14 points in the third to bring his total to 30 points with a full quarter left to play.
Houston made a living on the fast break with a 16-0 edge in fast break points in three quarters of play. Houston also made 18-of-23 free throws through three quarters as well.
Houston would threaten to pull away from the Pelicans taking a nine point 100-91 with 8:11 left in regulation. Houston kept the metal to the pedal as they just pushed the ball up the floor at a pace that New Orleans could not keep up with. Simply put the Rockets once again showed why they are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to scoring in transition.
Houston had a 10 point lead 112-102 with just over three minutes left in the game. James Harden was not alone in having a big scoring night for Houston. Josh Smith and Corey Brewer killed the Pelicans coming off the Rockets bench. Smith scored 15 and Brewer had 20. Dwight Howard added 19 for the winners.
New Orleans was led by Anthony Davis' 27 points. After a hot first half, Houston did a number on Ryan Anderson as the sharp shooter was held without scoring a single point in the second half of the game.
Jrue Holiday had a nice night with 17 points. So now it's down to just two games left in the regular season with a road game at Minnesota tomorrow night followed by their regular season finale hosting the Spurs Wednesday Night at Smoothie King Center.
Whoever first said "March Madness" sure nailed it. The 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has been shear madness, and this past weekend's Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games had a little bit of everything in them. Now the Final Four teams are set to make one final weekend push to see who will be crowned champion of college hoops.
Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke are the last teams standing going into the final weekend of this year’s NCAA Tournament. The first two teams to punch their tickets to Indianapolis were the Wisconsin Badgers and Kentucky Wildcats. These two number one seeds took care of business and are back in the dance for the second straight year. A year ago at this time, both were coming off Elite Eight wins and then both would taste the harsh reality of bitter heartbreak as Wisconsin fell short of the title game while the UK Wildcats lost in the final game of the season.
The plot is even thicker when you factor in that the Badgers final loss of last season was a sour one-point defeat at the hands of - yup you guessed it, the UK Wildcats. And now these two teams that both came up short a year ago will square off in one of the national semi-finals Saturday evening in Indianapolis.
When it comes to the Badgers of Madison, Wisconsin, this is the Golden Years of UW Hoops. Wisconsin is in the Final Four for the second straight year for the first time in school history. And UW is led by a man they call Frank the Tank. Big Bad Frank Kaminsky is one great college hoops player that I think has a great shot to have a good NBA career in the very near future.
The Tank was all that and then some last weekend as he scored 23 points in the Sweet 16 and then upped his game even more with a 29 point outburst in the Badgers 85-78 win over Arizona. Kaminsky got a lot of help from fellow forward Sam Dekker. Having arguably the best front court in the nation, Dekker shined, pouring in 27 points to help his club get another shot at the Wildcats in the Final Four.
And speaking of Wildcats, is there another sports program on any level that faces the same pressure of winning a title every season as Kentucky? Coach John Calipari has his youngsters back in the Final Four again this season and perhaps the experience that many of his sophomore stars lacked a year ago as freshmen could be enough to help UK get another title banner next weekend.
UK is large and in charge with some of the best young talent that will soon be in the NBA. When your shortest starter is 6-6 then you know you've got a huge advantage against anyone you face. With a front court that features three forwards who stand at 6-10, 6-11 and 7-0 along with two 6-6 guards, then just rebounding alone gives UK a big edge on their foes.
But will the youth of the Wildcats do them in again this season? UK showed some weaknesses in their game in a two point win over Notre Dame as a lot of missed assignments and lack of execution nearly kept the heavily favored Wildcats from getting back to the Final Four.
Kentucky is built to where they don't need a ton of scoring from several different guys. The Wildcats strength is in their numbers and depth, as seven players average over 20 minutes on the floor per game.
Karl Anthony-Towns had the hot hand in the win over the Irish with a team high 25 points. In fact the super freshman was the only Wildcat starter that scored in double figures.
With the recent Final Four history and last year’s tight-as-could-be national semi-final, I have no reason to doubt that the Wisconsin versus Kentucky game could wind up being the best game of the weekend with the winner taking it all!
Should any of us be surprised that the Michigan State Spartans are back in the Final Four again? With a 76-70 overtime win over Louisville, MSU makes their ninth trip to the Final Four. And should we be any more surprised that a Tom Izzo coached team has another shot at the national title?
Izzo will be making his seventh trip to the Final Four as leader of the Spartans. MSU has been on an impressive run as they are 12-3 in their last 15 games. And now the Spartans are just two wins away from capturing the school’s third national title in men’s hoops.
The 7th seeded Spartans are the lowest seeded team in this weekend’s Final Four. MSU fell behind Louisville by eight points in the first half only to come out and really put the clamps down on the Cardinals the remainder of the game. Michigan State outscored Louisville 44-30 in the second half and overtime to advance to their first Final Four since 2010.
The Spartans duo of Trice and Valentine proved to be too much for the Cardinals to overcome. Travis Trice scored 17 while Denzel Valentine added 15 as the backcourt for MSU got it done. And fellow Guard Bryn Forbes came off the bench to give a much needed 14 point boost.
The Spartans now face another huge hurdle in the form of the Duke Blue Devils. If you love good sports, well, the meeting of the minds between Izzo and one of the greatest ever to coach any sport in Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski will work all week long to put together the best game plan for next week’s national semi-final.
Duke disposed of #2 Gonzaga to get back to the Final Four for a whopping 16th time. Duke has won four national titles and with a win over Michigan State the Blue Devils will advance to the national title game for the 11th time in school history. Duke last won the national title with a win over Butler in 2010.
Duke pulled away from #2 Gonzaga to rout the Bulldogs 66-52. Duke got balanced scoring and applied tenacious defense in their win over Gonzaga. Four of the five Blue Devils starters scored in double figures with Justise Winslow and Matt Jones scored 16 points each to pace Duke. Tyus Jones chipped in 15 to help get Duke back to another Final Four.
In the sports media world, we (reporters/host/anchors/journalist/analysts) are taught not to get too close to athletes, coaches and members of the organizations that we cover. However it's human nature to like those folks that are kind, nice and, well - likable! So of course, Saints OT Zach Strief is one of those guys that we like.
"Never! I never thought I'd last this long!" Zach said when I asked him if he thought he could last in the NFL for ten years. "It's a new challenge each year. The NFL is a mental and physical grind and you can never take things for granted."
The seventh round pick (#210 overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft was a key member of Sean Payton's first-ever draft class as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. The Class of 2006 has still been by far the most productive and successful class under Payton, and is arguably the greatest draft class in Black and Gold history.
Zach stopped by for a half hour visit to help promote Hogs for the Cause. Hogs for the Cause has developed into a major BBQ cook off competition that has grown from the first year of seven teams competing to nearly 100 cooking teams this weekend in New Orleans' City Park.
"I'm just doing my part to help promote this great event. We help raise as much money as we can for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research. I'm a firm believer in the cause and this event has been able to help so many children over the years," Strief said. Read more about Hogs for the Cause at their website.
As we continued our nice little in studio chat, Zach talked about his longevity in the NFL, the Saints disappointing 2014 season and what's next for him and the Black and Gold.
Even after nine full seasons in the NFL, Zach says that nobody can ever get used to what each offseason brings. "I guess you have to have the mindset to expect anything. When players are released and/or traded, we are not thinking about who's going to catch all of those passes now, or who's going to make those tackles for our defense. Players are thinking about and saying 'man, who am I going to eat with on Thursday nights this season? Who's going to be in the locker next to me?' I just had a good friend go to another team and thats what goes through my mind."
The once unknown product out of Northwestern has clearly cemented himself in Saints history as one of the most successful offensive linemen that have played in the trenches for the Black and Gold.
"Last season was a big disappointment. I can tell you that no one gets more frustrated and disappointed with the lack of success than the players. We work hard and we want to go out and have the kind of season like we did in 2009. It did not happen and we feel like we have identified the things that kept us from being a very good team last season."
The Saints are still enjoying some down time, as the official start of players working out and OTA's does not begin until next month. So have the Saints gotten better since they walked off the field in Tampa last January?
"I honestly don't know. You can't tell until you get out there and play. This is a very talented team. We have good players. But the hard work has to be done and we have to come together as a team on and off the field of play."
Zach talked about his QB Drew Brees, the challenge of helping getting the Saints back to being an elite team and his upcoming tenth season.
"After you win the Super Bowl, anything less is a disappointment. Can you have a good season and not win it all? Absolutely. But the goal here has always been to win the Super Bowl. I've been able to be on a team that won the Super Bowl and it is an incredible feeling. It feels great! But I feel like I have to be part of another Super Bowl win to make my career here in New Orleans more complete. This team, I want that feeling again."
You can listen to my entire conversation with Zach Strief by clicking below.