After a day off, "The Stack" is back on this Friday with plenty of Final Four talk and predictions. We've got other topics to talk about as well so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Friday, March 30:
1. NFL quick hits
Bill Parcells says he'd be a "hypocrite" not to listen to the New Orleans Saints about their head coaching position. I'm sure he and Sean Payton have talked more about the head coaching job than what either person are saying, but at this point they may as well keep it coy. The real decision for Parcells is whether or not he wants to coach this year and then have to wait five more years for the Hall-of-Fame. It seems like a silly rule for a coach to have to wait five years until he's eligible for the hall. Basketball coaches in both the college and pros can be elected to the hall-of-fame even while they are coaching. It may be time for the folks in Canton to change the rule as it applies to coaches.
The other question is whether or not the Parcells should even be allowed to coach the Saints. Would it really be a punishment for the Saints to have a hall-of-fame interim coach on their sidelines while their head coach is suspended for the year? Doesn't seem like one to me. But does the NFL have any authority in the matter? If Parcells elects to come back to coach and Roger Goodell swings his ax and says no, would people look at it as Goodell piling it on the Saints? Probably. This will be interesting to see how the NFL tip-toes on this issue if Parcells signs the deal. My guess though is that he won't go to the Saints. As much as he would like to help his former assistant out, I think the hall is too important for him.
Meanwhile in Cincinnati, it's not just the players that get in trouble with the law. Their cheerleaders are too. Sarah Jones, captain of the Ben-Gals cheerling squad has been charged with first-degree sexual assault of a student. This happened when Jones was a high school teacher. Another charge has been brought against her and her mother is being charged with tampering with physical evidence. Each charge can bring up to five years. Very surprising to see another teacher in the news get arrested for having sex with one of their students (insert sarcasm here). Oh to be a member of the Bengals. The orange and black colors are so appropriate.
2. A's-Mariners split two game series in Tokyo
The 2012 MLB regular season got underway in Tokyo Wednesday with the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Mariners. The Mariners won the first game 3-1 in eleven innings. The A's got revenge yesterday, winning 4-1. I kind of wonder why baseball elected to have two teams from the west coast playing a game that started just after 5 AM eastern time. It's awfully early or really late for fans of the two teams to get up and watch. It would have been early on the east coast, but not nearly as bad as waking up or staying up at two in the morning. From all indications and reports, both teams, the A's in particular were treated like rock stars, something the Athletics probably won't experience back in Oakland. They struggle to get a lot of fans to show up to their games. They're probably sick of the lack of success this team has had in recent years and what appears to be a failure of a commitment to winning. We'll have a baseball preview next Wednesday so come back for that. Should be a pretty interesting season in baseball. Looking forward to it.
3. College basketball news
The North Carolina Tar Heels got a bit of bad news Thursday when three underclassmen declared for the NBA Draft. Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall all declared for the draft. Marshall and Henson were dynamite this year for the Tar Heels and had they been healthy, probably would still be playing in the Final Four. Barnes was fairly disappointing this season. For being the number one prospect in America two years ago, Barnes did not meet expectations to many Tar Heels fans or college basketball analysts. He didn't come up big when needed most. Barnes would have been far better served to come back for another year. It would have been cool to see Henson, Marshall and Barnes all come back for another year to see if they could win a national championship. They had a good chance to win, and they'll still have a decent team for next year, but not nearly as good as they would have had the three underclassmen come back. With Tyler Zeller gone too, it could be a difficult year for North Carolina.
Illinois finally has found their head men's basketball coach. John Groce is headed to Champaigne after a successful run at Ohio that included a run to the Sweet 16 this year. He did great things for the Ohio program, something Illinois hopes he'll bring to their program to restore Illinois back as one of the powers in the Big Ten. It won't be easy though. Groce's biggest priority has to be with the recruiting pipeline to Chicago and getting kids from there to come to Illinois, something the Illini struggled to do under former head coach Bruce Weber. After striking out with so many coaches early on, including Shaka Smart who elected to stay at VCU, Illinois may have gotten a pretty decent head coach. We'll see if the success he had at Ohio translates to success in the Big Ten with Illinois.
Finally, Stanford used a 25-4 run against Minnesota to breeze by the Gophers in the NIT championship 75-51. Perhaps the Gophers were just tired. They did after all have to travel almost ten thousand miles in their five games. But give Stanford credit. They played a very good game and very good defense and came out victorious. It's a good building block for next year where the Cardinal should fair pretty well in the weak Pac-12.
4. Final Four preview
The party in New Orleans is just getting started as the Final Four takes place in the Big Easy this weekend. Four historic programs come to the Crescent City seeking fame and being the top men's college basketball team in the country.
The first game features the West Regional winner #4 Louisville against South Regional winner #1 Kentucky (6:09 ET CBS). What a game this should be! Perhaps the most intense rival in the country outside of UNC-Duke. Check out Yahoo! Pat Forde's column on the bitter rivalry. A national championship would be wonderful, but Louisville would first love to get by Kentucky. Good luck. Kentucky is by far the best team left in the field. They have the most talent. Now the Cardinals did give Kentucky a run for their money in December when the two teams met in Lexington. Kentucky won 69-62, but it was close. Louisville applies a lot of pressure on teams when they use their full court press, but I don't know how effective it will be against a Kentucky team who's athleticism and talent supercedes what Louisville can do with their press defense. Louisville seems to be making the same type of run that Connecticut went on last year when they won the championship. But that may end after Saturday night. Kentucky is just too good. Then again, with the way I've been picking games in this tournament, Louisville will win.
Predicted winner: Kentucky
The second game of the doubleheader at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome features a pair of two seeds as #2 Ohio State out of the East Region takes on #2 Kansas out of the Midwest Region. Quite frankly, Kansas has overachieved this season and in this tournament. When they needed their best game though against UNC, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor stepped up. And they beat Ohio State 78-67 earlier this season. However, Jared Sullinger didn't play with an injury and that changes the complexion of this game. Sullinger is a difference maker and he will make his presence felt, but the Buckeyes must be wary of getting into foul trouble. They don't have a deep bench and don't get a ton of contribution from that bench. If they have to go there early, Kansas will take advantage, build a lead and I believe hang on to win. Bill Self will continue to preach to his kids that they are the underdogs, just like they've been underdogs all year. They'll come out playing loose. Ohio State though is the more talented team. They'll get by Kansas and be ready for a date with Kentucky.
Predicted winner: Ohio State
5. Women's final four preview
The women's final four tips off Sunday night in Denver with all four one seeds meeting in the Mile High city. Baylor battles Stanford while Notre Dame takes on Connecticut. Baylor has a little distraction with head coach Kim Mulkey revealing she has Bell's Palsy. She says it won't stop her from hollering at her team and if she tells the team to forget about it, they will. They have the country's best player in Brittney Griner. Stanford is a good team, but Baylor is just that much better. Baylor wins this game and moves on to the national championship.
Does Geno Auriemma have another trick up his sleeves? He's not used to being the underdog in a final four, but that's where he and his team find themselves against conference rival Notre Dame. Notre Dame has the best player on the court in Skylar Diggins. UCONN is good, don't get me wrong and it would not shock me if Auriemma rallies his team to win this game. Notre Dame won the two regular season games, but lost in the Big East tournament to the Lady Huskies so it's not like they have the pressure of having to beat a team for a fourth time in one year. I'll take Notre Dame, slightly, over Connecticut, move I'll probably regret.
Enjoy the Final Four and the rest of the sports action this weekend. Should be a fun weekend.
Coming up Monday: Championship game preview and reaction to other sports headlines from the weekend.
Comment and suggestions on what to write about are always welcomed and appreciated.