The Stack is back from Sioux Falls and in our normal post in Brookings just up I-29 completely stoked about the Jackrabbits putting on their dancing shoes again! I admit it, as an alumn, it is pretty sweet. More on them shortly. Right now, it's time to see what else made "the stack" for today, Wednesday, March 13:
NFL free agency gets underway
The official start to the NFL year began Tuesday at 4:00 PM ET and right away there were some mega deals. Among them...
- WR Mike Wallace (5-year $60 million) signed with the Miami Dolphins (formerly with Pittsburgh).
- LB Paul Kruger (5-year $40 million) signed with the Cleveland Browns (formerly with Baltimore).
- LB Dannell Ellerbe (5-year $35 million) signed with the Miami Dolphins (formerly with Baltimore).
- TE Jared Cook, signed with the St. Louis Rams (formerly with Tennessee)
- TE Martellus Bennett (4-year deal) signed with the Chicago Bears (formerly with New York Giants)
There were some notable releases from Tuesday as well...
- CB Antoine Winfield released from the Minnesota Vikings
- CB Nnamdi Asomugha released from the Philadelphia Eagles
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick released from the Buffalo Bills
Again, there were other cuts but these are the most notable. Stay up to date on everything free agency. It's an exciting time in the NFL and for fans all across the country. Oh yeah, Tony Gonzalez is returning to Atlanta. Good news for the Falcons and their fans.
Heat win 19th in a row, Dwight Howard returns to Orlando
The Miami Heat simply refuse to lose though last night's opponent seemed like they didn't really want to win. The Heat crushed the Atlanta Hawks 98-81. The Heat are playing phenominal right now. They are about to embark on a five game road trip, but this team is playing on a completely different level and the teams they're going to go against aren't that good. Expect the win streak to definitely go past twenty, maybe approach twenty-five.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers are pretty hot, 9-2 since the All-Star break. That includes their 106-97 victory over the Orlando Magic last night. Dwight Howard made his return to Orlando for the first time since he was traded and the fans welcomed him just as you would expect...with boos! Some had signs calling him "Dwight Coward." Very funny. Howard brought his game too. He finished with 39 points and 16 rebounds as well as 3 blocks, the same stat line that Shaq had in his first return to Orlando. No joke. How weird is that? But what makes Dwight's 39 points interesting is the fact that 25 of the 39 points came from the foul line. That's right, 25. Dwight went 25 of 39 from the free throw line, tying his own NBA record that he set last year. Don't know if Dwight can keep that up, but that's a much better showing from the line than he has had in a long time. The Lakers are heating up. Watch out.
Three tickets punched last night
Long Island University-Brooklyn, Valporaiso and South Dakota State all are going dancing following their respective conference championship game victories last night. LIU crushed Mt. St. Mary's from the get-go, finishing with a 91-70 victory and NEC champions. Valporaiso used a late 18-4 run to get by Wright State 62-54. The Crusaders lost on their homecourt last year, but took care of business to win the Horizon Championship. And South Dakota State beat rival North Dakota State 73-67 thanks in large part to star guard Nate Wolters who will add some much needed star power to the NCAA tournament. He had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. He is something else. Jackrabbit fans absolutely love him.
One more spot can be clinched tonight and that is in the Patriot League where #2 Lafayette takes on #1 Bucknell. Bucknell wins this game, because of big guy Mike Muscala. He averages a double-double in points and rebounds and is a beast down low. It is going to take a lot to by Lafayette to slow him down. Don't know if they can do it. Tip time is 7:30 PM ET on CBS Sports.
Big 12 conference tournament preview
The Big 12 tournament tips off in Kansas City today. Kansas is clearly the favorite as they have the most talented team, but there are two wild cards to watch for to win this tournament: Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Iowa State played Kansas close twice, especially in Iowa State where they were shafted by a coupld of terrible calls. Head coach Fred Hoiberg has done a marvelous job with this team. OK State has a fabulous freshman in Marcus Smart. Dude is the real deal. I think they meet Kansas in the Big 12 final and put on a good showing, but in the end, I'll pick Kansas to win the Big 12. Should be a good tournament.
Conference USA tournament preview
Conference USA has had somewhat of a down year. Memphis has dominated. Southern Mississippi is a fringe bubble team. After that, it's really all not that good. So as the tournament tips off today, it's Memphis' to lose and that is why I'll pick them to win this conference. They've played really well as of late.
Pac-12 tournament preview
This has been a much better year for the Pac 12. They actually have some depth unlike the last couple of years. Still the conference is a tad overrated. No one really seems like they want to take a stranglehold and be that one dominant team. They should get five teams though I think only four should get in. As far as picking someone to win this tournament, it's a crapshoot. UCLA has the most talent, but hasn't always shown it. Arizona has disappointed a lot this year. A potential UCLA-Arizona matchup looms in the quarterfinals. I would take Arizona actually and if they win that game, they win the tournament. Oregon hasn't played well lately and I don't trust Cal. So, the winner of the UCLA-Arizona matchup (assuming that happens) will win the Pac 12 championship. And I'll pick Arizona.
SEC tournament preview
Speaking of down conferences, the SEC has been the worst of the power six conferences this year. Florida is the best team in the SEC. After that, eh. Kentucky is fighting for their NCAA tournament lives and Missouri should be in though they cannot win on the road. Actually, Kentucky isn't the only bubble team in the SEC. Arkansas, Ole Miss and Alabama are all on the bubble. They won't all get in. Most likely none of them will without a deep run in the tournament which tips off today in Nashville. Then again, we've been surprised by what the selection committee has done before. Having said all that, Florida is the best team and they are my pick to win the SEC. Who makes a run and gets off the bubble remains to be seen.
Southland tournament preview
The Southland Conference is a one bid league. The top seed Stephen F. Austin lost only two games in conference all year. Northwestern State, the two seed, has lost only three and they are the highest scoring team in the nation and ninth in the country in rebounds. Those numbers are tough to ignore. I think either of these teams will win the tournament but I'll take Northwestern State to win it.
Coming up Thursday: More conference tournament previews and championship game predictions plus latest on NFL free agency.