Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Football? But it's April!

I was in the car Friday, stuck in traffic on US 36 (a shitshow of epic proportions, btw), when I decided to try out some local sports talk.  You know the station. It's not a frequent occurrence that I turn to Denver's view of sports, and I should've known what I was getting into, but I was aghast at the content.  A rehash of the NFL schedule release, an early (exhaustive) look at the NFL draft, and nary a non-football thought.  In April.  *sigh, throws things*

I understand that the NFL is a dominant piece of the sporting landcape, and the absence of local playoff entrants in either of the two tournaments currently being played hurts, but this continuing myopia, from a supposedly 'major' market, is criminal.  I hear a constant refrain that the NFL is a 24/7/365 league, which only makes me weep for this once proud, diverse sporting country.  It's only a topic of conversation 365 days a year because our sports media has grown tired and lazy, either unwilling or unable to stretch their legs and come up with unique segments.  We should be demanding more.

What else is there to talk about, you ask?  Why, how about baseball?  Denver even has a team in that sport, one that is currently competitive (go Rox).  Not a seamhead?  The NBA and the NHL playoffs are in full swing, and well worth your consideration.  Even without either of the Nuggets or Avalanche competing, they're full of drama and intrigue. Still wanting more? Well, the Kentucky Derby is this weekend - i.e. the only weekend a year we as a nation pretend to still care about horse racing.  Oh, btw, there's also the latest 'fight of the century,' golf is in full swing, college basketball's Hot Stove is boiling, and I heard a rumor that NASCAR and MMA are still things. If you can't find 3-4 hours of non-football content each day out of that pool, you're just not very good at your job.

'But they should be giving the people what they want,' you counter, 'and the people want to talk Broncos!' First, I don't believe that people really want to talk Broncos in April, I think they've just been conditioned to do so.  A pseudo Stockholm effect, if you will.  Secondly, has anyone even tried to provide an alternative, local voice in this market?  In drive time, when people are actually listening to radio?   I'm not saying you can't talk football - some discussion of the draft is warranted - but talking of nothing but the NFL for an entire show proves the shallow mind behind the wheel.

But, maybe that's the point.  In the age of the podcast and satellite radio, maybe sports talk in a market such as this is an anachronistic dog.  Feed some red meat to the morons in order to squeeze the last advertising drops out of the medium, and watch it wither and die in silence.  As someone who grew up listening to sports talk in the 'golden age,' I find that notion sad, but at least understandable.  But, in that case, don't pretend to be a 'sports' station; just bite the bullet, take the football-only mantle into the light, and end all doubt.


Today in the bag, I'm talking a bunch of playoffs.  First, some NBA talk, before jumping out onto the ice of the NHL.  I'll finish with women's lacrosse, because I'm a huge homer like that.

Click below for the bag...

Around the NBA Playoffs - 

Milwaukee 94 - Chicago 88 -

What are My Bulls playing at?  Once up 3-0 in their opening round series with the Bucks, they've since lost two straight, costing themselves a commanding series lead and precious rest time in the process.  More worrying than just the simple arithmetic, however, is the fact that defense and effort have been at the root of the problem. I just didn't think that this team, which for so long had prided itself on defense and hustle, would ever coast (certainly not in the playoffs), yet here we are. Don't get me wrong, I'm not panicking about getting past Milwaukee (no NBA team has ever choked away a 3-0 lead), but the series with the Cavs looms large, and I'm quickly losing confidence.
You, uh, forgot something there, Derrick.
Cleveland 101 - Boston 93 -

That said, the Cavs have their own problems.  Sure, they completed the four game sweep over the Celtics with a steady win on Sunday, but there was some serious attrition paid.  J.R. Smith has been suspended for a swing at Boston's Jae Crowder, and Kevin Love is expected to miss the rest of the playoffs after a shoulder injury sustained from a tussle with Kelly Olynyk.  In this state, I'd see the Cavs as vulnerable to an upset, if not for the Bulls stumbling efforts with their neighbors to the north.  As it is, Cleveland's chances at a title have been severely diminished after one random first round game, which is an awful shame.

Brooklyn 120 - Atlanta 115 (OT) -

It's not much brighter on the other side of the East's bracket.  The conference's overall #1 seed, the Atlanta Hawks, are struggling with the Brooklyn Nets - a team that finished six games under .500.  Feel free to roll your eyes in the general direction of the Durty South.  It took a 35 point effort from former U of I Fighting Illini star Deron Williams, but the Nets evened up the series at two-a-side in overtime last night.  Atlanta should still be considered the heavy favorite to advance, especially as the Nets have yet to break home court advantage with a win in Georgia, but I saw more than a few sideways glances on that ATL sideline.  Game 5 will be very edifying.
Yo, D-Will.  Yo.
Los Angeles 114 - San Antonio 105 -

Out West, things have been much more staid.  Of most interest has been the series between the Clippers and Spurs.  San Antonio did what they needed to do, breaking home court with a win at the Staples Center in Game 2, and seemed to be on their way to the conference semifinals with a blowout 100-73 win in Game 3. The Clippers, however, regrouped quickly, turning the tables Sunday in Texas.  Chris Paul was up to his old tricks, pouring in 34 points, backed up by Blake Griffin's 20/19 double-double.  While I expect the Atlanta/Brooklyn series to solidify quickly, this one should remain fluid as the action returns to SoCal.  Game 5, to be played this evening, should be nuts.

Around the NHL Playoffs - 

Tampa Bay 5 - Detroit 2 -

In the only series still running, we'll see a Game 7 tomorrow night thanks to an onslaught of scoring from the Lightning (on road ice, no less). Center Tyler Johnson lead the way in the Game 6 win with a pair of early goals.  By the time he had slotted his second home, Tampa was up 3-0 mid-way through the 2nd period, and well on their way to victory.  With the action returning to central Florida, you may think the Lightning have the edge, but the road team has won four of six in this series.  I'll take the Wings (damn them) to advance.
The Lightning were all smiles in Game 6, but can it carry over into Game 7? 
Washington 2 - New York Islanders 1 -

The other Game 7 from the first round was decided late Monday night, as the Caps' Evgeny Kuznetsov found the net to tilt a 1-1 game off its axis.  Midway through the third period, the rookie skated across the mouth of goal, holding... holding... holding until the Islanders' Jaraslav Halak made the first, desperate move. At that point, all that stood in front of him was an open goal, and an easy wrister.  The Capitals would hold on for the final seven minutes of play to end the series, and move onto the conference semis.

Chicago 4 - Nashville 3 - 

My Blackhawks dusted off the Predators in Game 6, thanks to a late goal from defensemen Duncan Keith - the same Duncan Keith that ended the series' first game with a double-OT stunner.  This finish was actually a little anti-climactic, after a raucus first period saw six goals scored, and sent Chicago's starting goalie, Scott Darling, to the showers early.  The Hawks struggled with their net-minder all series, but wound up back where they started with Corey Crawford carrying the load in net. It'll be interesting to watch that competition continue to play out into the second round series with the Minnesota Wild.  Speaking of...
The Hawks may not be comfortable in net, but the winning has continued...
Minnesota 4 - St Louis 1 -

Say goodbye to the West's best, as the St Louis Blues fell flat, tumbling out of the pursuit of Lord Stanley's Cup before the race even heated up.  As an old-school hater of the Blues, nothing could please me more than seeing them humbled, and the loss at the hands of Wild serves nicely. That leaves yet another match between Minnesota and Chicago, the latter of whom has knocked the former out of the playoffs each of the last two seasons.  Three would be a trend, and My Hawks start a pursuit of that this weekend.

Lacrosse makes the post-season... again - 

A hearty congratulations to the CU Women's Lacrosse Team, who made the conference playoffs for the second time in as many years of existence.  Last time I checked in on them, it was on the precipice of a grueling four game road trip through California, one that seemed bound to determine the outcome of the season.  Not only did the ladies split that roadie - earning huge wins over San Diego State and St Mary's - but they were able to follow it up with a sweep of the final two home games over Fresno State and Oregon. The 4-2 run over the final three weeks of play was inspiring, improved their overall record to 10-6 (5-4 in conference play), and allowed them to settle into 4th in the MPSF's final standings.  That's how you close a regular season, in case you're wondering.
The Buffs are back in the playoffs thanks to a sterling run of play in April. From:
Head Coach Ann Elliott is spinning magic on the south side of campus.  The Buffs are 21-14 over two seasons, coming out of literally nowhere to play competitive, spirited lacrosse.  Starting up a program can be a massive challenge, but Elliott and crew have made beating expectations their raison d'etre.  Fueled by the scoring duo of freshman Darby Kiernan and sophomore Johnna Fusco, they've proven more than capable of helping to carry the colors in Spring.

The challenge now before them is to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.  To do so, they'd have to upset a host of schools in the MPSF tournament, taking place this weekend in Denver.  Up first is a matchup with San Diego State Thursday afternoon.  Should they beat the Aztecs, the Buffs would then have to deal with #1-seed Stanford in the semis, who handed them a narrow defeat on home soil earlier this month.  Good luck, ladies!  We're all rooting for you.

Happy Tuesday!

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