The 46th Players Championship, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12 conference tourney predictions

Tiger tries to win here again after winning in 2001 and 2013 (Photo,

Tiger tries to win here again after winning in 2001 and 2013 (Photo,

The Players Championship

TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (7,189 yards, Par 72)

Architect, Pete Dye

Defending champion; Webb Simpson. Shot 18 under to win be 4 shots over Charl Schwartzel, Xander Schauffele and Jimmy Walker. Doubled the 72nd hole to shoot 73, but shot 66, 63, 68 to have a commanding lead heading into the back 9 on Sunday.

Last week: Francesco Molinari shot 64 on Sunday at the Arnie Invitational to win it. Molinari was 5 shots behind Matthew Fitzpatrick heading into Sunday, but posted a 64 early, and the lead held. Molinari finished -12 and won by 2 shots over Fitzpatrick. He has now won 3 times in his last 12 starts on the PGA Tour including winning the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie last year by 2 shots over Kevin Kisner, Rory, Justin Rose and Schauffele.

Key holes:

No.9, Par 5, 583 yards

This hole is considered by many to be one of the finest par 5’s in the country. A large lake and bunker to the right of the fairway collect wayward drives while woods to the left hinder second shots. Second shots are critical here as a long iron or fairway wood are required to go to the right side of the fairway.. To the left, a fairway bunker and large oak trees crowd the small second shot landing area. The green is narrow and slopes severely from the front to the back right. A severely steep bunker guards the left side and the backside of the green. This can make or break an outward 9.

No. 12, Par 4, 302 yards

Redesigned in 2017. players can go for this hole, but it’s not without its perils. A lake guards the left front of the hole, so a player going for the green has to contend with that. An overcooked drive will be in the water. There is a large bunker the players will need to clear on the left side of the fairway. There is a landing area that stretches 100 yards to the green over the bunker. The green slopes severely towards the water, so good approaches and chips will be at a premium

No.16, Par 5, 523

This short par 5 will give many players the opportunity to reach the green in 2. A fairway wood or long iron will be required for the second shot. There is water on the right, a bunker front right and a challenging landing area with trees on the left where up and down can be tough. The pin on Sunday is usually in the front right portion of the green inviting players to go at it but with the fear factor of going in the water or the sand, though the sand can be managed for the most part, but the players could be short sided in the bunker making for a difficult up and down. A birdie here will be necessary for a player leading the tournament or in contention. An eagle would be exceptional as danger lurks on the next hole.

No. 17, Par 3, 137 yards

This is arguably the most famous hole in golf. The island hole requires the player using anywhere from an 7 to 8 iron to a sand wedge depending on the wind. It’s March, so it’s more windy with winds at 10-15 all weekend, but good weather overall. But the wind WILL be a factor and with the pressure ramped up to the max, this will test the player’s nerves and fortitude. Should be a fantastic watch on Sunday.

No.18, Par 4, 462

An awesome finishing hole, the most exciting in golf besides the majors. If the leader or contender survives the island hole, this hole presents another massive challenge off the tee. Water runs all along the left side of the hole, and with wind gusting right to left that could be problematic. There’s an oak tree 280 yards out on the right and if the player hits it right, he’s going to have to contend with the trees where a bogey is certainly in the cards. You’ve just got to hit it straight or hit it right to left without contending with the water. Players might try to cut it over the lake, but that could turn out to be costly. The second shot will be highly pressurized, and is critical to winning the tournament. If the leader gets it on, and he’s not close, he’ll have to 2 putt to win, and that’s no guarantee, as 2 putts from distance are challenging. After the elite and treacherous 17th, the 18th leads to spectacular drama.


Pretty nice. Sunny most days with a chance of showers Saturday. Highs in the mid to high 70’s Thursday and Friday, a little cooler on Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the mid 60’s. That could impact shots on 17 with the cooler March air. Winds at 10-16 will be a factor.


Thursday-Friday: 12-6 PM CT, Golf Channel

Saturday: 1-6 PM CT, NBC

Sunday: 12-5 PM, NBC


This is maybe the most unpredictable tournament in golf. This stat is pretty telling. Dustin Johnson, 10 starts, 0 top 10’s. Justin Rose, 15 starts, 1 Top 10. Brooks Koepka, 4 starts, 0 Top 10’s. Justin Thomas, 4 starts, 1 top 10.

It doesn’t favor the power hitter. It’s more about accuracy and the short game.

All those guys will be in the hunt. I don’t like Tiger’s chances. His neck kept him out of the Arnie and he struggles physically these days. His putting has been pretty lousy too lately. He had 66 putts in the last 2 rounds at the WGC Mexico Championship. He’s working with a putting coach now, Matt Killen, who’s worked with guys like JT and J.B. Holmes and has had reasonable success with them. I don’t see that being enough for Tiger this week. I don’t see Phil in the hunt either.

While it’s an unpredictable tournament, I’ve got to predict it, so I’ll go with the hottest player in the world right now, and, as my man Walter Pittman says, I’m going to take a big bowl of-

Francesco Molinari

Like Molinari to be hoisting the trophy Sunday evening at TPC Sawgrass (Photo, Golf Digest).

Like Molinari to be hoisting the trophy Sunday evening at TPC Sawgrass (Photo, Golf Digest).

College basketball conference championship predictions

SEC Tournament

Semifinals, Noon and 2:30 PM CT Saturday, ESPN

In the semis, I like the Auburn Tigers to defeat the LSU Bengal Tigers, 76-74. The Auburn Tigers are hot going 3-0 in March with victories over State and UT at home and a road victory over the Crimson Tide, and the upheaval at LSU with the Will Wade suspension will be too much for the Bengal Tigers to overcome.

In the other semi, I like the Kentucky Wildcats to reach the finals again defeating the Tennessee Vols, 70-67.

Championship Game

Sunday, Noon CT, ESPN, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

I think it’ll be great to be an Auburn Tiger on Sunday. Pearly and the Tigers defeat Kentucky after losing twice to them during the regular season. It’s really hard to beat a team 3 times. Just ask No.1 Gonzaga, which had crushed Saint Mary’s in the regular season both times only to lose last night in the West Coast Conference Championship game, 60-47. Like Pearl and the Tigers.

Auburn 78, Kentucky 76

Pearl and the Tigers capture the SEC Championship (Photo, Sports Illustrated).

Pearl and the Tigers capture the SEC Championship (Photo, Sports Illustrated).

ACC Championship

Saturday, 7:30 PM CT, ESPN,

Spectrum Center, Charlotte

Virginia 72, Duke 70

BIG Ten Championship, United Center, Chicago.

Sunday, 2:30 PM CT, CBS

Michigan 72, Michigan State 68

BIg 12 Championship

Saturday, 5 PM CT, ESPN, Sprint Center, Kansas City

Texas Tech 62, Kansas State 58

PAC-12 Championship

Saturday, 9:30 PM CT ESPN T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

Arizona State 82, Washington 80

VU Baseball finishes off a super weekend, what's coming up, Women's and men's tennis excel, Men's golf fighting hard in Mexico

Our baseball team completed a 3 game sweep of Dayton over the weekend behind some timely hitting and terrific pitching.

Drake Fellows pitched a masterpiece on Friday going 6, giving up 5 hits with 3 earned, 2 walks and 13 ring ups in an 11-3 Commodore victory.

On Saturday in game 1, as the Commodores played a doubleheader Saturday due to weather concerns on Sunday, Patrick Raby pitched another gem. Rabes went 6, gave up 2 hits, 0 runs, with 2 walks and 8 K’s. Rabes’ fastball was hitting its spots and his curve and changeup were superb. Love what I’m seeing out of Rabes. He looks very much like the Patrick Raby we saw 2 years ago, even better really. His performance on the hill is a big key to our success this season among other factors. Hugh Fisher pitched 2/3 of an in inning and didn’t have great success, but Tyler Brown came in with his 93-94 fastball and was tremendous. In 2.1 innings, Tyler gave up no hits, 0 runs with no walks and 4 K’s. Tyler was phenomenal.

J.J. Bleday was 2 for 3 with his fourth homer of the season and his 11th RBI. He is now hitting .442. Austin Martin is still leading us in hitting at .476. Ethan Paul is hitting .422, awesome leadoff hitter Cooper Davis is hitting .383, and Philip Clarke is hitting .283 but has belted out 4 homers and leads the team in Ribeyes with 14. We are hitting .325 as a team and holding our opponents to a .227 average. Love the way our pitching is developing.

In game 2, Zach King, Ethan Smith and Jake Eder combined to pitch a 4 hit shutout as we blanked Dayton, 2-0. Zach went 4.1 innings, gave up 3 hits, 0 runs, with 2 walks and 7 K’s. Ethan came in for the 4th and pitched 3.2 innings of 1 hit shutout ball, with 3 walks and 5 K’s. The freshman was fantastic. Jake came in for the 9th and allowed a hit batsmen before ending the game on a 6-4-3 double play.

I thought our defense was pretty solid once again. We are now fielding at a .985 clip and our opponents are fielding at .971. We have only committed 6 errors in 11 games. We started out a little slowly, but we keep improving. Harrison Ray looks like he might be taking over at third for Jayson Gonzalez and he played some awesome third and got a couple of hits. Harrison was really good on Saturday.

We are now 9-2 on the season and D-1 Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Sportswriters Association (NCBWA) still have us at No.1 in the country. Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America haven’t released their polls this week. Collegiate Baseball had us at #2 behind LSU last week, and BA had us at No.1.

So some really good stuff going on for this baseball program. Like what this team is right now, it’s development, and what it can be. Pitching is looking stronger and stronger and we’ve got really good hitting and some pretty solid defense. Austin Martin is making some sensational plays up the middle at second, going to his right and jumping and throwing across his body for outs. Austin is a heckuva’n athlete.

Today, we’ll play Davidson at 1 PM CT at the Hawk. The game will be broadcast by SEC Network+. Freshman right hander Chance Huff will take the hill. Chance is 1-0 with a 7.71 ERA, but has plenty of talent. It will be good to see Chance get a start and see how he fares. Tomorrow, we’ll host East Tennessee State with a 2 PM CT first pitch. That game will also be broadcast by SEC Network+. No announcement on pitchers yet.

This weekend we’ll host Illinois State Friday at 4:30 PM CT (SEC Network+) with Drake, in all likelihood, on the hill, Saturday at 2 PM CT (SEC Network+) with Rabes on the mound, and Sunday at 1 PM CT (SEC Network+) with our starter to be determined.

So, we’re cookin pretty well right now. Will keep you posted on our progress today and the rest of this week.

Women’s Tennis

Fernanda Contreras won her 127th career singles match breaking Taka Bertrand’s single season career singles record at VU. The third ranked Contreras won 6-2, 6-3 at No.1 singles. Awesome stuff from Fernanda. She’s been a phenomenal player for our team for 4 years now, and is a first class young woman. And we’ve got Fernanda for a good while longer this season. She’s an amazing leader on this team as well. Such a fiery competitor. It rubs off on the rest of the team. Our No. 6 women (ITA rankings) defeated Arkansas @ the Currey Tennis Center, 6-1, on Sunday to move to 7-3 and complete a weekend sweep as we defeated Missouri, 7-0, on Friday.

Christina Rosca, Georgia Drummy, Amanda Meyer, and Carolyn Campana were also singles victors. Emma Kurtz/Emily Smith and Summer Dvorak/Amanda Meyer won in doubles to clinch the doubles point. Teams play 3 doubles matches and if a team wins 2, it clinches the doubles point. We’re a really good doubles playing team. Geoff is big on doubles and knows the importance of it.

We are on the road this weekend playing @ No.34 Auburn at 2 PM Friday and then @Alabama on Sunday at 11 AM CT. Alabama is not in the top 50 of the ITA rankings, but they’re a dangerous SEC team and it’s on the road which will make it tougher. So big weekend for Geoff and the team.

Men’s Tennis

The men, after losing a tough one @ No.8 Mississippi State last Friday, defeated No.30 Ole Miss on Sunday @ Ole Miss in a huge victory for our team, 4-1.. Our 27th ranked men moved to 10-3 on the season. George Harwell, Macsen Sisam, Billy Rowe, and Panu Virtenen were all victors in singles. Ole Miss defeated us in the doubles, but our singles performance got us over the top.

We now face Auburn at home this Friday @ the Currey Tennis Center at 2 PM CT.

Sunday, we’ll face No.20 Alabama at noon CT. Both matches will be streamed on The women’s matches will probably be available for streaming too on the vucommodores site.

Men’s Golf

Our No.3 Men’s golf team is presently tied for 4th at +3 in the Querencia Cabo Collegiate in Los Cabos, Mexico. No.1 Oklahoma State is leading at -26. No.9 Arizona State is 2nd at -17 and No. 36 Baylor is 3rd at -3. We are tied with No.50 Arizona in 4th.

We are through holes 6-8 today, the final day of the tournament. Maybe we can get hot and get to third before the day is over. Will Gordon is tied for 11th at -1, Reid Davenport is tied 23rd at +1, John Augenstein is tied for 26th at +3, and Patrick Martin and Harrison Ott are tied for 29th at +4. Not our best showing in this event, but maybe w can improve here on the final stretch of holes.

Will let you know what transpired tomorrow.

Baseball has an excellent weekend, Basketball still fighting hard even though the results aren't there just yet

The No.1 Vanderbilt baseball team had a nice Sunday morning/afternoon at Hawkins Field sweeping a doubleheader over Pepperdine, 6-3 in the first game and 6-2 in the nightcap. We are No.1 in the D-1 Baseball Poll and the Baseball American Poll and No.2 in the Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Poll. LSU is No.1 in those polls. We are now 5-1 on the season. LSU is 7-0.

The hitting and pitching were very good Sunday. The defense is still a work in progress. In the first game, Drake Fellows went 6, gave up 5 hits, 1 earned run with 1 walk and 9 K’s. Drake was terrific. Mason Hickman finished it off going the final 3 frames giving up 4 hits, 2 earned with 0 walks and 4 K’s. What I loved about Drake’s and Mason’s performances respectively is that they were throwing strikes. I know that sounds like a simple comment, but accuracy as a pitcher is just as important as accuracy as a quarterback. it’s essential and both Drake and Mason were super accurate, always over the plate. Both pitched extremely well. Austin Martin was 4 for 5 with 2 RBIs. Philip Clarke had 2 hits and 2 ribbies in 4 at bats, and Cooper Davis and J.J. Bleday each had a pair of hits. So did Ty Duvall, who is hard to keep out of the lineup with his play behind the plate and in the batter’s box.

In the second game, Patrick Raby went 4, gave up 2 hits, 2 unearned runs with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. We’re starting to see the Patrick Raby from 2 years ago so far this year. Like what I’m seeing out of Rabes. Kumar Rocker came in and got the victory going 3, giving up 2 hits, with 0 walks and 5 K’s. Tyler Brown pitched the 8th and did well, giving up no hits or runs with 0 walks and a K. And maybe the standout on our pitching staff so far, sophomore lefty Jake Eder cam in for the 9th and struck out all 3 batters he faced. Jake brings it mid to high 90’s and looks like he could be a heckuva closer for us. Cooper Davis had a 2 run triple and finished with 2 hits. Bleday went 2 for 3 with 2 Ribeyes and Philip Clarke hit a solo shot. We had an error in the first game committed by Drake and Austin Martin and Jayson Gonzalez committed errors in the second game. Need to shore that up. I know Corbs is concerned and working with the guys on that.

We play today at 4:30 vs Southeast Missouri State at 4:30 PM CT at the Hawk. Southpaw Zach King will get the start for us. Zach is 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA. He’ll face lefty Austin Sachse of SEMO. Sachse is 1-0 with a 0.oo ERA. So should be a challenge for our hitters. The game will be broadcast by SEC Network+ on the computer.

We play Austin Peay tomorrow at 4:30 PM CT at the Hawk. Pitchers are to be determined. That game will also be broadcast by SEC Network+.

So, good start to the season. Our defense needs to improve, and it should. Some guys just trying to figure some things out. We’re still making good plays in the field, just need to tighten it up a little bit in the infield. Outfield of Davis,, Pat DeMarco and Bleday are doing well. Very good defensive outfield. With Stephen Scott at first as Julian Infante is out at present, Austin Martin at 2nd, Ethan Paul at short and Gonzalez or Harrison Ray at 3rd, those are great athletes and good fielders typically. It’s early in the season, so they’re just working the kinks out. Need to get better defensively though.


After being down by 23 in Tuscaloosa in the first half to Alabama, our team kept competing hard and only lost 68-61 to the Crimson Tide on Saturday. I thought we outplayed them from the 4 minute mark of the first half through the entire second half. Still trying to get that chemistry, but we really showed signs particularly in the second half on Saturday. Simi definitely showed signs as did Yanni Wetzell. I always like what I see out of Aaron Nesmith. Saben didn’t have his best game, but he always plays hard. That’s the thing about this team; despite the record, they give it everything they’ve got. There is never a lack of effort. They’re going to figure it out soon hopefully tomorrow night versus Florida at home on the SEC Network at 8 PM CT. I enjoy watching our team play. You can tell they’re well coached. Bryce to me is a phenomenal coach despite some of the bad press he’s getting. He’s going to get this thing turned around. Big opportunity tomorrow night at home to get our first SEC victory. It’s incremental steps for this basketball team. I like this group and we’ve got most all of them returning next season except for Joe Toye. But I want to see Joe have some success this season. If we can just get tomorrow night, we’ll see how it feels and maybe get hot the rest of this season. Please hang in there with these guys. Much better times are ahead for this team under Bryce.

Thursday: Geoff McDonald and VU Women’s Tennis

Friday: Scott Limbaugh and VU Men’s Golf

Both teams are very exciting as are women’s golf and men’s tennis. Will have more on those 2 teams as well in the coming days.


Football cranks up for the spring tomorrow. Spring game is Saturday, March 30th at 11 AM CT on the SEC Network. Some exciting players back with Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kalija Lipscomb, and Jared Pinkney. The quarterback battle will be very interesting with 5 guys competing for QB1. Will have a much more in-depth report next week. Sorry I’m a little late with it, but will have it at some point next week. Thanks.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am

The tour heads to pristine Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. Pretty solid field. The weather has been an issue there with 60 MPH winds knocking down structures last Saturday and a lot of rain, up to 5 inches in the area. There is rain expected for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and winds up to 15 MPH which should make it interesting and challenging for the players.

TV Coverage

Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 2-5 PM CT; Saturday, 12-1:45 PM CT, Golf Channel, 2-5 PM CT CBS; Sunday, 12-1:45 PM CT, Golf Channel, 2-5:30 PM CT CBS

Pebble Beach is 6,816 yards, Par 72. The first 3 rounds will also be played at Spyglass Hills GC (6,953 yards, Par 72) and Monterey Peninsula (6,956, par 72). The key holes at Pebble to me are 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 17 and 18. No.6 is a 506 yard, par 5 where the second shot is up a very steep hill, it’s a blind shot and there are bunkers surrounding the green. The Pacific is off to the right for any player who cuts it a little too much. No.7 is the signature hole on the course, a 106 yard par 3, that could either be a lob wedge or a 5 iron depending on the wind. The weekend may challenge the players with club selection as there will be strong gusts. There is trouble around and behind the green. No.8 is a 427 yard par 4 with a blind tee shot and a second shot over the Pacific to a green that is severely sloped from back to front and with bunkers surrounding it. No.8 is considered by many to be the toughest hole on the course. No.9 is a difficult, 481 yard par 4 with the Pacific on the right hand side, a long second shot over a bunker in front of the green, and, like most all of Pebble’s greens, a small size green. The greens are poa annua, which can be tricky to putt on. The 14th is the number 1 handicap hole. It’s 572 yards, a par 5. It’s a dogleg right then comes back to the left. Most likely a 3 shot hole this weekend with the wind. The green is elevated with a false front that can be tricky to negotiate . Bunkers are on the front right and front left. No. 17 is a 177 yard par 3 and home to the famous Tom Watson line in the 1982 U.S. Open when, after his caddie, Bruce Edwards, told him to get it close on his chip, Watson responded, “I’m not going to get it close, I’m going to make it.” He sank it and won the ‘82 Open over the great Jack Nicklaus. No. 18 is a 543 yard , par 5 with the Pacific covering the entire left side of the hole, so any player who overcooks it will be in the ocean. There are a couple of trees in the middle of the fairway that make it interesting if a player gets behind one of them off the tee. The green has a trap front right and is a larger green for Pebble Beach. Many magical moments there including Graeme McDowell’s 2 putt on Sunday in 2010 to win the U.S. Open on Father’s Day with his father in attendance from Northern Ireland.. Pebble Beach will once again host the U.S. Open, June 13-16th. So that’s pretty awesome stuff.

Defending champion; Ted Potter Jr. Won by 3 over Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Chez Reavie. Shot 69, -3, to finish the tournament -16.

Last week: Rickie Fowler imploded and almost lost the Waste Management Open after having a 5 shot 54 hole lead going into Sunday. A disastrous triple bogey on Number 11 in which he chipped his 3rd shot over the green into the water, then as he had dropped his ball and was surveying the green, his ball, with the course very wet from hard rain, rolled back into the water costing him another shot. He hit on the green in 6 and sank his 17 footer for triple. He bogeyed No.12 and was a shot behind Brandon Grace. But Grace faltered and Fowler birdied 15 and 17 and survived for a 2 shot victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Matt Adams and Geoff Shackelford were discussing on Golf Channel’s Alternate Shot segment whether Fowler is a closer or not after shooting 73 last Sunday to win. Shackelford said he is since he’s won the Players Championship, but Adams didn’t think so pointing to the fact that he has had 7, 54 hole leads and shot over par on Sunday and lost. I side with Adams. Until Fowler can close a deal in a major, and finish stronger on Sundays, I say he’s not a closer at all. Dustin Johnson won the Saudi International last week on the European Tour. He’s got it cookin it looks like.


You’ve got 4 time winner Phil Mickelson, 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, who has 5 top finishes since his Masters victory and a whole host of others who can win this tournament as evidence of Potter winning last year and Vaughn Taylor winning in 2016. Three weeks ago, Adam Long won the Desert Classic, so it’s roll the dice many weeks on the PGA Tour with all the talent and depth on tour. Dustin Johnson has 2 victories here in 2009 and 2010, though he did implode in the 2010 U.S. Open shooting 82 and losing a major he had a 4 shot lead in going into the final day. He has 7 top 5 finishes in the 11 events he’s played in here. He’s hard to go against, but I will. I’m taking a guy who finished tied second here last year with Day, Mickelson and Johnson and has been so close to winning on tour. He finished tied for 4th last week at the Waste Management. Taking the 37 year old from Wichita, Kansas. Give me William Chesney “Chez” Revie.

Chez Revie


James Hahn

Like Reavie to be holding up the trophy at Pebble Beach on Sunday (Photo, Sporting News).

Like Reavie to be holding up the trophy at Pebble Beach on Sunday (Photo, Sporting News).

Patriots and Rams compete for the Lombardi Trophy

Super Bowl 53

New England Patriots (13-5) vs. Los Angeles Rams (15-3)

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, 71,000

5:30 PM CT


Jim, Tony, Trace, Evan Washburn, Jay Feely, Gene Steratore, Officiating Analyst

Refs: John Parry, After a disastrous NFC Championship, hoping Parry and his crew don’t mess this game up.

Patriots by 2 1/2

Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald have had a spectacular season though there is an asterisk by it after the blown pass interference call in the Saints game by Bill Vinovich’s “All Star” crew . Not only did the California side judge and California back judge blow the pass interference penalty, there were also numerous holding and a couple of other interference penalties not called by the Vinovich crew. It was a catastrophe in officiating.

But the Rams are a solid outfit and Gurley, if he shows up this time after not performing in the NFC Divisional or Championship rounds, can be a difference maker.

With that said, I’m not going against Brady, Belichick, Gronk, Sony Michel and Julian Edelman. The offensive line is not talked about, but they’re a stellar group. I see them holding Donald and company in check. I like Brady and Belichick to hoist their 6th Lombardi Trophy Sunday Night.

Patriots 34, Rams 31