A Sunday with no NFL games? That's what happened this past weekend. Feels a little odd doesn't it? Fortunately, March Madness is less than a month away (if you count the conference tournaments) and college basketball is getting awfully interesting. The Stack is here to talk about that as well as a few other headlines so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Monday, February 11:
Louisville-Notre Dame play 5 OT classic, Nuggets-Celtics play 3 OT
You never know what to expect in a college basketball game, but I'm guessing five overtimes isn't very likely at all. Fans who went to the big Big East matchup between the Louisville Cardinals and Notre Dame Fighting Irish saw an instant classic Saturday night as Notre Dame outlasted Louisville 104-101 in five overtimes. Louisville had this game in the bag in the second half, but bad shooting and decisions by some of their players like Russ Smith doomed them. As the overtimes progressed, Notre Dame made some pretty outstanding plays like the tip-in in the third overtime. Neither team shot particularly well from 3 and the two teams shot a combined 97 free throws. Ultimately, Notre Dame made more plays down the stretch in the fifth overtime. No six overtimes like in the Big East tournament a few years back between UCONN and Syracuse. What a game though. What a game!
The NBA tried to out-do the Louisville-Notre Dame Sunday. Fresh from a record setting blizzard, the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics needed three overtimes to decide a winner. The Celtics won 118-114. Paul Pierce was the difference maker in the game for the Celtics. He recorded a triple-double with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. He made a three-pointer to force triple overtime. He was the big difference in this game. The Celtics have also won seven straight games, all without Rajon Rondo. Don't know how long they can keep this up, but it is pretty impressive.
Top 5 teams in college basketball struggle this week
Unlike last year in college basketball when there was one dominant team (Kentucky), this year there isn't one. There are a lot of good even great teams, but none that are like the Wildcats of last year. But even the top ranked teams are struggling mightily this year and this past week was no exception. Four of the top five ranked teams lost this week and the other team, #4 Duke, was pushed by Boston College before winning 62-61. In order, this is what happened this week.
- Tuesday: #2 Florida loses 80-69 to Arkansas.
- Wednesday: #5 Kansas loses 62-55 to TCU.
- Thursday: #1 Indiana loses 74-72 to Illinois
- Saturday: #3 Michigan loses 65-62 to Wisconsin
- Saturday: #5 Kansas losees 72-66 to Oklahoma
Now to be fair, all of these teams lost on the road. It is difficult to win on the road in college basketball, especially in conference play. But the truly great teams find ways to win on the road and so far this year, the top teams have not been able to figure out a way to do that. Even though Indiana lost a game this week, there is a good chance they'll remain number one following their win over Ohio State on Sunday in Columbus. The only other possibility is Duke moving up three spots. It will be interesting to see how the voters decide things.
Rob Ryan hired as Saints defensive coordinator
The "5-minute wait" is finally over. Rob Ryan, fired in January by the Dallas Cowboys, has come to an agreement with the New Orleans Saints to be their defensive coordinator. It's a great hire by the Saints. Steve Spagnuolo didn't work out, but Ryan has had a lot of success where he has gone and he will come in ready to work. He's also got a chip on his shoulder from being fired by the Cowboys. He's angry and he's going to want to prove to the Cowboys that they made a mistake. The Saints defensive isn't the most talented unit in the league. After all, they did give up a record number of points last year. But through free agency and the draft, the Saints will get players that fit Ryan's scheme and they'll be far better next year than they were this past year.
Mentioned Friday that pitcher Felix Hernandez aka "King Felix" was going to get paid (seven years, $175 total deal). Well now there appears to be some concern with his elbow that is holding up the deal. Hernandez has pitched a lot in his young career, 1620 and 1/3 innings so far, but he hasn't shown any wear or tear yet. Yet if the Mariners are deeming the elbow to be an issue, then there is perhaps something that the rest of us do not know about. Expect the deal to eventually get done.
LeBron James has been on fire lately. He's now breaking records as a result of it. His 32 points Sunday against the Lakers was his fifth straight game with at least 30 points, a franchise record. He's also only the third player in NBA history to shoot at least 60 percent in each of those games. He's an absolutely amazing player. Nothing he does should cease to amaze us. He's in the zone right now and it won't surprise me if this streak continues.
Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks can not lose. They are 10-0-2 now on the year following their 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators Sunday. What's most impressive about this is that ten of their thirteen games have been on the road. They are the best team in the western conference and are looking like the Stanley Cup favorite. What they are doing right now is stunning.
Later this week: Reaction to top stories in sports