Two Classic Matchups in the 2017 Final Four

The Final Four features two stellar defensive teams in the first game and two more offensively inclined teams in the second though one of those teams in the second game plays some good defense as well. Gonzaga vs. South Carolina in game one and Oregon vs North Carolina in game 2 at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Here's a look at the matchups along with forecasts for who wins.

Nigel Williams-Goss (above, photo The Spokesman Review) is a stellar athlete/player, and so is Sindarius Thornwell (below, photo NBC Sports) 

Nigel Williams-Goss (above, photo The Spokesman Review) is a stellar athlete/player, and so is Sindarius Thornwell (below, photo NBC Sports) 

Game 1

South Carolina (26-10) vs. Gonzaga (36-1) 

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona (72,200)

5:09 PM CT/6:09 PM ET


Gonzaga allows 60.9 ppg and is the best team in the country at allowing the least points per 100 possessions per game. South Carolina is 2nd best in the country in that category. Both teams are tough mentally and physically, good offensively when they need to be, and relentless. Love the coaching matchup with the cerebral yet intense Mark Few versus the highly intelligent and ultra intense Frank Martin. Super coaching duel. Gonzaga has awesome guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who is a solid outside 3 point shooter, and can drive and score or score in transition. He's a superb athlete. Guard Jordan Mathews is a shooting machine from deep. Przemek Karnowski (7'1", 300) and Zach Collins (7'0") are stellar twin towers for the Zags. Johnathan Williams, 6'9",228, is a highly athletic, tough rebounder and solid scorer. This team is for real. 

South Carolina is led by superb guard Sindarius Thornwell, 6'5", 211, a 20+ point scorer on a consistent basis. P.J. Dozier is another bigger guard, at 6'6", 205, who can score outside and inside, and both can really defend. Duane Notice, a 6'2", 225 guard, is a scorer and another stellar defender. The inside game is manned by 6'9", 223 pound Chris Silva, and valuable 6'10", 245 Maik Kotsar from Estonia, somewhere near Russia. So this Gamecock team has outstanding players and their run through this tournament with victories over Duke, a smashing win over Baylor and an Elite Eight victory over a very good Florida team has been spectacular.


This is kind of the underrated matchup of the 2 games because of North Carolina's marquee name, but it's just as good a game. South Carolina is a phenomenal story. The Gamecocks were excellent in the SEC regular season, then hit a rut there at the end, but really recaptured their excellence in the postseason. I like South Carolina to really play well here. But Gonzaga is an amazing story too, and I really like their coach, Few. He's superb. I'm looking for a really close, more defensive-oriented game, with the Zags squeaking it out at the end.

Gonzaga 65, South Carolina 61


Game 2

Justin Jackson (above, photo, is the best player in the country, while Dillon Brooks (below, photo, the News and Observer) is a top 5 player nationally

Justin Jackson (above, photo, is the best player in the country, while Dillon Brooks (below, photo, the News and Observer) is a top 5 player nationally

Oregon (33-5) vs. North Carolina (31-7)

7:49 PM CT/8:49 PM ET


Roy Williams portrays himself as this folksy, Southern boy kind of guy, but it doesn't seem real. He's not the best coach in this Final Four. Mark Few is and Frank Martin is next. Williams is the third best. But he's won 2 national championships at UNC, which is very impressive. He won in 2005 and 2009, but when you have a roster full of McDonald's All Americans, that can really help your cause. Williams has that superb size and length up front in Kennedy Meeks (6'10", 260), Isaiah Hicks (6'9" 242), and a guy I would say is the best player in the country, Justin Jackson, who is 6'8", 210, and a likely top 5 NBA draft pick. He's a junior and better than the freshman who played this year, though De'Aaron Fox is one heckuva player at Kentucky. Joel Jackson is outstanding at point guard. Luke Maye is a superior 6th man, who is highly clutch, as his 18 footer to win the game at the buzzer against Kentucky last Sunday, 75-73,  attests to.

But Oregon has 3 prolific players as well. Six-foot-seven, 225 forward Dillon Brooks is a world class athlete and super clutch shooter along with being a fantastic defender. Six foot-four, 195 pound guard Tyler Dorsey is highly reliable from deep, like Brooks, and another world class athlete. Six-foot-nine, 225 pound center Jordan Bell posted 11 points, 13 boards and 8 blocks in a 74-60 Elite 8 victory over No.1 seed Kansas in the Midwest Region in a game which Oregon pretty much had control of throughout. They dominated because Bell was such an enforcer in the middle, and Dorsey poured in 27 points with Brooks adding 17. This team is the real deal on offense and defense. They miss some shots, but they are excellent on the offensive glass and seem to make shots when they really matter, particularly Brooks and Dorsey.

Last Call

This one is going to be one heckuva battle. I love what Oregon has done in the postseason. Beating Kansas was a real statement game. Carolina is the most talented team offensively in this tournament as they average 85 points per game, but Oregon holds teams to 65 points per game. Carolina has that length, but Oregon has so much toughness and heart that I'm going with the upset here.

Oregon 74, UNC 70





A preview of the stellar spring sports landscape coming up, Mexico Championship pick

Golf season is in full bore mode now, with several 20 somethings dominating the circuit, but with some younger vets like Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler winning the past two weeks, D.J. at Riviera and Rickie at the Honda in Miami this past weekend. This week the tour alights in Mexico City for the WGC-Mexico Championship. This is a big time tournament usually played at Trump National Doral, but with POTUS's comments last year on the Wall, the Tour didn't take that very well, and moved the site. Kind of a shame that the players can't compete at the Blue Monster and that epic 18th hole, but maybe it'll come back and Club de Golf Chapultepec looks like an interesting, scenic venue with 50 of the top players in the world. I will have my prediction at the bottom of this column.

The Arnie is coming up, and the majestic 81st Masters is just over a month away. The Players will be in May at TPC Sawgrass, the 117th playing of the U.S. Open in June will take place at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, about 35 miles outside of Milwaukee. Erin Hills has never hosted a major, but has hosted the 2011 U.S. Amateur, won by Kelly Kraft, who is making a move on the tour now. The 146th Open Championship in July will be played at Royal Birkdale in England, which has hosted the Open 10 times, the last won in 2008 won by Padraig Harrington. The 98th PGA Championship will be played at famed Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C. which has never hosted a major, but is a classic venue and has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship, a regular event on the tour, for many years.

Will Jordan Spieth recapture the magic like he looks like he very well could? Will D.J, win a second major? With his length, Augusta National looks possible. Will Jason Day get his momentum back from two years ago? He certainly has that eliteness about him that allows him to win at any of  the four majors. How will Rory come back from his rib injury?  If he can, he wants the Masters to complete the career grand slam and win his 5th major title at 27 years old. Then there are guys like Rickie, Sneds, and others trying to capture their first major. Two guys you might call, as John Feinstein labeled those kind of players in his book, The Majors, "Best Players not to have won a major." Henrik, Justin Rose, Jimmy Walker, the list goes on, all of them have captured a major title with Rose winning the U.S. Open in 2013 and Henrik and Walker both winning majors last year, Henrik at the Open Championship and Walker at the PGA. And, of course, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama are banging on the door to win not just one major, but multiple majors. Both are chomping at the bit to don the Green Jacket in Butler's Cabin on Sunday, April 9th.

So a lot of extraordinary storylines heading into the heart of the season. Will have major coverage the rest of what looks like an electric season.

March Madness

The great Frank Mason III and Kansas look formidable

The great Frank Mason III and Kansas look formidable

Can Cal and the Cats have some magic in March and capture their second national championship since 2012 and their 9th overall

Can Cal and the Cats have some magic in March and capture their second national championship since 2012 and their 9th overall

This is such a sensational time of year in sports, and college basketball is at its best right now with the historically good NCAA tournament coming up. It's a pretty top heavy field this year with quite a few exceptional teams having a shot of cutting down the nets in Phoenix on Monday, April 3rd.

The four teams that really stick out to me right now are North Carolina, with their tremendous length under the basket, their ability to rebound, and their always prolific offensive ability. If they can defend well, they could very well be cutting down the nylon. Kansas is a superb team, led by All American guards Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham and superstar freshman small forward Josh Jackson.  Villanova is superb again and going for back to back national titles, which would be the first time since Florida accomplished that under Billy Donovan in '06-'07. And I'm starting to get bullish on Kentucky. They're putting it together and with all that Parade All American talent, they're in the mix every year. They are peaking well.

But there are other teams that have a good shot at the national title and certainly the Final Four. Duke, Louisville, Baylor are all outstanding, UCLA and Oregon have super teams, Zona is very good. I'm not as big on the Big Ten teams this season. Virginia lost a lot off last year's team, but the way the play defense gives them a chance to make a run. I like Syracuse a lot, too, and Va Tech has a good squad that could knock some people off. Wisconsin and Purdue look like the best teams in the Big Ten, but not good enough to make the Final Four. Michigan State will be competitive, but they've been really hampered by injuries, so this is not their year. Wichita State has another really good team under Greg Marshall that can go some distance. 

For SEC Cinderellas, I like Florida to do really well with a shot to make it to the Final Four. They're excellent. I see South Carolina making some noise and being a second weekend team. Arkansas is up and down, but pretty darn good when they're up. Vanderbilt is in right now, according to Joe Lunardi, ESPN bracketologist, but they've got work to do. They have a huge game at home against Florida on Saturday, which they have to have, and then they'll need to win at least 2 games in the SEC tournament to get invited to the Big Dance. They have the No.1 non-conference strength of schedule and No.2 strength of schedule overall with victories on the road over Florida and Arkansas, and South Carolina at home, so it's a pretty good resume. But the Dores have work to do. 

For real Cinderellas, Middle Tennessee State has a really good team as does Monmouth

Will have my bracket out the Monday after Selection Sunday, which is March 12th. 


Can Kawhi Leonard (above) dethrone LeBron, and outlast Steph and KD in the postseason

Can Kawhi Leonard (above) dethrone LeBron, and outlast Steph and KD in the postseason

I watched a superb game last night in the National Basketball Association as the Celtics defeated the Cavs, 103-99, at the "Gaaden," in Boston. I saw one of the best defensive players I've seen in a long time in Avery Bradley. Bradley was like stickem on Kyrie Irving, one of the most prolific offensive players in the NBA along with Steph, Bron, KD and Russ Westbrook. They used to call Gary Payton, who played many years for the Seattle Supersonics in the 80's and 90's, "the Glove" because his defense was as tight as a glove on an offensive player. He was a terrific defender. That's what Bradley looks like. And a really interesting part of the game happened with 1:08 left, when Bradley drained a trifecta, and the camera went into the crowd to show Bill Belichick, a huge Celtics fan. While the rest of the Boston faithful were going berserk, Bill immediately looked up at the clock in a calm, cool fashion like all the great ones do. His coaching job in the Super Bowl with his Patriots down by 28 in the third quarter was nothing short of sensational. He's a cool customer and knew there was a lot of game left. He wasn't satisfied until the clock struck :00. Isaiah Thomas, no relation to the great one, but certainly becoming a great one, canned a 30 foot triple with 49 ticks left and the Celtics sank some free throws and held off Bron and Kyrie to capture an electric victory. The Cavs got a good look with :05 left as LeBron found an open Deron Williams in the corner, with the Cavs down 101-99, for what could have been the game winning triple. But Williams missed, the Celtics got the board, and held on with free throws. 

In my preseason predictions, I predicted the San Antonio Spurs to capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy winning in 7 over the Cavs. Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs was my MVP pick. The Dubs are still awesome with Steph, KD and Klay Thompson, and, at 50-10, look extremely formidable. But KD is out for four weeks with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise in his left leg, but will be back a week or two before the playoffs start on April 15th, a Saturday. The Spurs are 46-13 and 3.5 games back of the Dubs in the west. The Cavs are 41-18 and have a 3 game lead over the Celtics, which are at 39-22. Still bullish on my Spurs over Cavs pick though it's tough to go against the Warriors with that eliteness they have talent-wise, and the Celtics have really come on. But going to stick with my prediction in October barring major injuries. Will have my updated predictions for the NBA playoffs that Saturday, 4-15. Kawhi hit a huge 12 footer last night with 2 seconds left to lift the Spurs to a 100-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Kawhi is averaging 26 points and 6 boards and is a prolific defender, much like Bradley. Should be terrific in April with the playoffs starting. Like that Big four to be in their respective conference finals.

In the NHL, I like the Chicago Blackhawks. They are a machine and have won the Stanley Cup most recently in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and have won 7 overall. Patrick Kane pulled off a hat trick last night in the 'Hawks 4-1 victory over defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh. Really like the way they're playing and have them in the west. I'm a little more uncertain about the east. The Washington Capitals have the best record in hockey at 42-13, and the most points with 91, but Washington was superb in the regular season last year and melted down in the playoffs. So while I like the Blackhawks over the Minnesota Wild in the west, I see the east as more of a toss up. Still believe in Sydney Crosby and the defending champion Pens, but the Caps, and the Columbus Blue Jackets have really good teams. The Montreal Canadians are good this season, too. Not counting out the Tampa Bay Lightning in the east either. They were in the finals two years ago and are starting to play well again. Anaheim is a challenger in the west. Will have NHL playoff predictions on Wednesday, April 12th, the day the playoffs commence.

MLB is in full stride in spring training. I like the Cubs again to do very well, but to be really challenged by the Dodgers. In the AL, I like the Indians and the Bosox with the Rangers and the Astros as key competitors. Also still like the Giants and Nationals in the NL. Will have those predictions on Saturday, April 1st.

In professional tennis, Roger and Serena were epic at the Australian Open. It was a masterpiece performance for both all time great superstars. Serena won her 23rd slam and moved ahead of Steffi Graf for most majors in a career in the Open Era, which started in 1968 when professionals were allowed to compete with amateurs in the slams. Margaret Court holds the overall record with 24, so Serena still has something to gun for. There are some good competitors challenging Serena in Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova and Carolina Wozniacki looks back. Garbine Muguruza won the French last year defeating Serena in a dominating performance. American Coco Vandeweghe is really coming on, and, of course, Venus, is still playing at a high level with her 7 slams under her belt.

It was pretty remarkable seeing Roger face Rafa again in a major final. Roger played like 39 year old Tom Brady does, who has a patent on the Fountain of Youth. Brady plays like a 25 year old and says he feels even better now than he did then, and that's what the 35 year old Fed did in beating Rafa in an epic 5 setter, winning the 5th, 6-3, in an unstoppable performance. Roger now has 18 slams. Rafa is tied with Pete Sampras for second at 14, and Joker is tied with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver at 12. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out this summer, whether Joker or Rafa can stay on Roger's heels,  or if Roger can extend his all time lead. Next up is the French, May 29th-June 11th, where Rafa has won 9 times, the last one coming in 2014, so he would presumably be the favorite. Wimbledon is July 3rd-16th, where Roger has won 7 times, with the last coming in 2012. It's his favorite, so that should be compelling as always. Roger's won 5 times at the U.S. Open which commences August 28th with the finals on September 10th. Novak was a 6 time winner at the Australian, but fell early. He seems to be struggling right now. Andy Murray is always a factor, and he'll be in the mix big time this summer. There are other guys like Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, American Jack Sock, Milos Raonic and Dominic Thiem who will be major factors at Paris, London and the Big Apple. So a lot of riveting tennis coming up.

Horse Racing

It was phenomenal when American Pharoah won the triple crown two years ago, in 2015. That hadn't been done since 1978 when Affirmed followed Seattle Slew, which won it in 1977. It had been 37 years since a three year old thoroughbred had won the Triple Crown. Of course, the greatest of all time, Secretariat, did it in 1973, and set the standard as the greatest horse ever. That still stands today.

The 143rd Kentucky Derby in May, the 141st Preakness in late May, and the 149th Belmont Stakes in June are always historically electric events. Will have more on the key horses once we get closer to post time for the Derby.  

Prediction this week

The WGC-Mexico Championship

Club de Golf Chapultepec, 7,330 yards, par 71. Just outside Mexico City

TV: Today-Friday: Golf Channel, 1-6 PM CT/2-7 PM ET;

Saturday: Golf 11 AM-2 PM CT/Noon-3 PM ET. NBC, 2-5 PM CT/3-6 PM ET.

Sunday: GC, 11 AM-1 PM CT/12-2 PM ET. NBC: 1-5 PM CT/2-6 PM ET.


I'm going with the 37 year old from Borriol, Castellon, Spain to capture his 10th PGA title, and get closer and closer to a major. He's another guy in the mix this year. He's newly engaged and seems to have settled down pretty well. Going with El Nino.

Sergio Garcia




NBA Finals Prediction

With the NBA regular season tipping off tonight, I'm going to go against the grain and pick against the consensus pick this year to win the title.

The Warriors with Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are just too good to be true for me. People are predicting they could break their 2015-16 NBA record 73 victories this season. Too much hype. I'm already tired of the Warriors.

So I'm going to take the tried and true franchise with a starting five of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Pau Gasol and a bench featuring Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and David Lee among others. It's a super shooting, rebounding and defensive team with a superb coach in Greg Popovich. That's a heckuva group.I like the Spurs to win their sixth NBA championship in 18 years. Their first was 1999. No Tim Duncan. The great BIg Fundamental retired with 5 championships, but this franchise keeps on cookin.

East Finals

Cavs over the Celtics in 6

West Finals

Spurs over Warriors in 7


Spurs over Cavs in 7 

MVP of the League; Kawhi Leonard

Tony Parker and the Spurs capture NBA title number 6 in June

Tony Parker and the Spurs capture NBA title number 6 in June

NBA championship pick

Didn't get around to this Saturday, but here are my predictions for the respective NBA conference championship series and the Finals.

Eastern Conference Championship series

Cavs over Toronto Raptors in 7

Western Conference Championship series

Golden State Warriors over San Antonio Spurs in 7


Like Steph and the Warriors to deny LeBron a third NBA championship and capture back to back NBA titles after posting a historic 73 win season, that set the mark for the most regular season victories ever by an NBA team overtaking the 1996 Chicago Bulls 72-10 record. Steph and the Warriors finished 73-9 and I don't see them slowing up. Steph is dealing with an ankle issue right now, not major, but Coach Steve Kerr may keep him out of the Warriors' first round playoff game at home against the Houston Rockets tonight, the second game of the series. The Warriors blasted the Rockets Saturday Night at Oracle Arena in Oakland. There is precedent to sitting Steph against the Rockets. Kerr did it earlier this season for precautionary measures as Steph was a little banged up, and the Warriors defeated the Rockets, 114-110, in Houston with Klay Thompson going off for 38 points. So it's doable without Steph, but it'll be harder that's for sure. But I say if there's any problem with the ankle, I'd sit Steph tonight. He's had ankle issues throughout his career and the Warriors CANNOT win it all without Steph. That's like the Bulls losing Michael Jordan in the playoffs in the 1990's. Couldn't win without him and the Warriors can't win without Steph. 

Might be a good move to sit Steph tonight. Will make it harder for the Warriors to win, but will be the right move for the long haul. Steph and the Warriors beat the Cavs convincingly to capture the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy for the second year in a row. They'll have a tougher time with the Spurs in the conference championship series, The Spurs are outstanding and will take them to the limit.

Warriors over Cavs in 5

MVP Steph Curry

Steph Curry repeats

Steph Curry repeats



The indisputable case for Stephen Curry being robbed of the MVP; U.S. Open TV coverage, final thoughts

Outrageous snub of Curry Andre Iguodala was voted the Most Valuable Player of the NBA finals by a committee of 11 voters. Seven of them voted for him, while the other four voted for LeBrick. All are media members and they should be under suspicion of smoking crack. Sam Amick of USA Today, Ken Berger of, Hubie Brown, the loud mouth ESPN radio commentator, Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, Marc Spears of Yahoo and Marc Stein of all voted for Iguodala. Steve Aschburner of, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, Zach Lowe of Grantland ( publication) and Jeff Van goofball Gundy voted for LeBrick.

Steph Curry didn't get one single vote. That's an outrage. I have to admit, I was shocked when commissioner Adam Silver announced that Iguodala had won the award.

I can see LeBron getting votes; he played a tremendous series. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. But he was 13 of 42  from three point range (31%), and was 46 of 67 from the free throw line (69%). And his team lost. While LeBron played a really good series, his drama queen acts on the court constantly and his insistent declaration that he's the greatest player in the world, got tiresome. The only player on a losing team to ever win an MVP award in the NBA finals was Jerry West in 1969, and I think that's a travesty. Bill Russell of the winning Celtics should have won it, though West put up some terrific numbers. The best player on the winning team deserves it. That should be a precedent. Great job LeBrick, see you next year.

And that gets me back to the travesty of Iguodala winning the award. Here are Iguodala's numbers: 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Steph's numbers: 26 points per game, 6.3 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. But compare their three point shooting numbers: Steph accounted for 75 points on three pointers made, Iguodala had 42 points on three pointers made. Steph sank 25 and Andre 14. Steph was 23-of-26 from the free throw line, 88%; Andre was a total liability at the line for the Warriors. He was 10-of-29, 34%, that's right 34% from the free throw line. That's your MVP? He guarded LeBron and did an OK job overall, but LeBron schooled him quite a bit. Steph is a highly underrated defensive player and makes key steal after key steal. As Bill Parcells used to say, "the numbers don't lie," and in this case they don't add up in awarding Andre Iguodala the MVP.

In addition to that, Steph is the heart and soul of his basketball team. He's the unquestioned leader and sank clutch shot after clutch shot when his team needed him  the most. I don't understand the thinking behind these guys' votes. It's an outrage. Steph even seemed pretty shocked when he was talking to Doris Burke of ABC after the game. The Golden State owner seemed to be telling him something about how well he played when they announced Iguodala won it. It was like the owner was almost apologizing to Curry that Iguodala won the award. Stephen is such a team guy that the Lawrence O'Brien Trophy for winning the NBA title is the most important thing to him, but his not getting the MVP had to be somewhat of a blow. His two year old daughter, Riley, looked ticked off. I'm ticked off. Incredible win for the franchise, their first since 1975, that's 40 years, but a travesty that the best player in the series and the best player in the NBA did not win the MVP award in the NBA finals. Forget about trying to be fair and give the MVP of the finals award to somebody different from the MVP of the league. The best players deserves the trophy. If he's the best in the regular season and finals, he deserves it. This isn't elementary school baseball or softball where everybody gets a trophy. This is the highest level of basketball in the world, and the best player should get the award.  Steph Curry was the best player both in the regular season and in the NBA Finals. He deserved both awards.

TV times for the 115th U.S. Open

Thursday-Friday, Noon-8 PM ET/11 AM-7 PM CT on Fox Sports 1; 8-11 PM ET/7-10 PM CT on FOX.

Saturday: 2-10 PM ET/ 1-9 PM CT on FOX

Sunday: 2-10:30 PM ET/1-9:30 PM CT on FOX

Weather will be terrific at Chambers Bay. Mid 70's throughout the weekend, sunny, with winds 8-10 MPH during the four days.

A lot of pundits are making a case for the bombers like Rory, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Bubba to win this thing. Their distance gives them a distinct advantage. There is a lot of sentimentality for Phil, but I really think those are heat picks. All those guys can do well, but I like Spieth in the end. He can get it out there 295 to 310, his iron play is stellar and his short game is magnificent. So I like Spieth.

Couple of predictions: the NBA Finals and college baseball

 NBA Finals

I picked the Warriors over the Cavs in seven before the playoffs started and I'm sticking with that prediction. Like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and the Warriors to get the franchise's first NBA title since 1975. The Oracle Arena home court, where the Warriors are 45-3 this year, will get the team over the top against LeBron and the Cavs. If the Cavs had the home court advantage, I would probably pick the Cavs, because they have a very strong  home court advantage at Quicken Loans Arena having won  26 of their last 28 there. But the Warriors earned it by having the best regular season record in the NBA, so I'm going with the Warriors in a classic series.


Warriors over Cavs in 7


College baseball

Like the Gators of Florida to win the national title. Their stud pitcher, A.J. Puk, throws it 97 and 98 MPH and is almost un-hittable. Puk is 8-3 with a 4.23 ERA, but that ERA is deceiving because he has been impossible to hit the last month of the season. He has 28 walks and 85 ring ups. Logan Shore (7-6, 2.79)  is the Gators' number one guy and he is pretty outstanding, too. They play excellent defense and hit it well. Every pitcher coming out of the bullpen seems to have an ERA under 3.00. They are loaded with arms and they hit it pretty well, too, and their defense, which has only committed 35 errors in 60 games for a .985 fielding percentage (No.1 nationally), is the best in the country. Catcher Mike Rivera had 302 chances this year and committed only one error. He also threw out 14 of 28 attempted base stealers, which is an amazing 50% rate. Third baseman Josh Tobias (116 chances) and center fielder Buddy Reed (132 chances) committed only one error apiece. Tobias, a switch hitter, is the Gators' leading hitter at .357. They hit 53  homers this season, 14 by DH J.J. Schwartz and 13 by left fielder Harrison Bader. They get the job done with the bats, and with their pitching and defense, they'll claim the national title, the Gators first in the program's history.  The Gators finished national runners-up in 2005 and 2011, and have appeared in eight previous College World Series.

Florida over LSU for the national title in 3



Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammates capture the NBA title


Hard throwing A.J. Puk leads his team to the national championship





NBA championship prediction

Golden State over Cleveland in 7

The Warriors will achieve their  first title since 1976. Stephen Curry, the MVP of the league in my opinion, leads his group to the pinnacle of the sport. LeBron and company will make it very interesting though.

Stephen Curry lifts his team to the NBA title for 2014-15


Duke captures their fifth title under Coach K

The legend just keeps growing and growing. Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen enhanced Coach K's legacy even more. With Duke down nine in the second half, Allen took his team completely on his shoulders and got them back in the game, and Jones finished it off as the Blue Devils won an extremely hard fought and spectacular contest with a national title winning 68-63 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers. Allen finished with 16 and was 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Jones finished with 23 and was 7-of-7 from the line. Both are freshmen. Allen was the lowest rated of Duke's number one recruiting class in the country last year, but he was a 96, four star by 247 sports. Jones was a 99, five star, Jahlil Okafor was a 100 and Justise Winslow was a 99. Quite a group to go along with senior point guard Quinn Cook and sophomore Matt Jones. Junior Amile Jefferson did some really good things on defense shutting down Frank Kaminsky, some in the second half, though the big fella got 21 and 12 boards, and played a heckuva game for the most part. A guy that Duke shut down pretty well was the all-world Sam Dekker, who had 12 points, but was 0-of-6 from trifecta. Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan was doing some unfounded whining about the officiating after the game. Kind of ridiculous and showed some pretty poor sportsmanship. Ryan is a serious whiner. Gives Urb and Brian Kelly a run for their money. Duke was very underrated on defense this year, and they showed last night that they could play Kentucky-like defense when they needed to. And they surely made the clutch shots when they counted, particularly Jones and Allen. That Allen is a dynamic  player and such a hustler-spark plug for his basketball team. Tyus Jones was named Final Four MVP, and he was deserving, but Allen sure played a big part as well. He brought them back from what looked like an L early in the second half. Okafor, Winslow, Matt Jones, the senior Cook ( love the senior) and Jefferson all played big roles in the victory.

Will Okafor, Winslow and Tyus Jones return for their sophomore seasons? Probably not. Okafor may be the first player selected in the draft, he is projected to be the number one pick,  but it would be cool if he did come back to defend. Winslow and Tyus Jones could  be gone, too, but they might want to think about it pretty hard. College basketball is special. It's like college football or college baseball. You can't beat it. The grind of the pro game is not nearly as much fun except when the playoffs start. So they ought to think through their decisions, though I'm sure they can get very good contracts if they decide to go out. But that decision will come several days from now. Those young men ought to enjoy the legacy they've created for themselves by winning a national championship at a storied program. That's something they'll remember the rest of their lives and they can always tell their kids and grandkids. It's a memory they'll keep forever.

I picked Duke to win it all and finished in the 95th percentile of my ESPN bracket. That along with my J.B. Holmes pick in the Shell Houston Open made it a very good Easter weekend. I now have two wins on the PGA tour with a Jordan Spieth victory in the Valspar Championship in March, to go along with the Holmes pick. I also have three second place finishes with Dustin Johnson losing in a playoff to James Hahn at the Northern Trust Open in LA, Bubba finishing second to Dustin at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and Henrik Stenson finishing second to Matt Every at the Arnie. It's been a good year. Football didn't finish as strong as I'd have liked, but it was a good year overall with a 71% winning percentage (204-82) and 21-15 in the bowls, while I was 97-70 in the NFL. Had the Seahawks beating the Patriots 31-28 in Super Bowl 49 at Phoenix, and that would have been exactly right if Pete Carroll had not made the most imbecilic  play call in Super Bowl history as his team was on the Patriots three yard line with 28 seconds left, a timeout, and the best running back in football in his backfield. Carroll served up the Super Bowl to Belicheat and the Patriots with a Russell Wilson pass over the middle with five Patriot defenders around the ball. The ball was intercepted and the Seahawks lost, 28-24. I picked Oregon over Ohio State in the national championship game. That was a matter of second guessing myself after my Ravens over Patriots and my Cowboys over Packers upset playoff picks didn't work out. Both teams lost barely, so I thought maybe the Buckeyes were somewhat of a reach, too.  Really liked the Buckeyes after they beat the Tide. Should have gone with them.

With that said, it's on to Augusta National now. Jordan, Tiger, Rory, J.B., Jimmy Walker and the rest of the top players in the world are on the clock, as they say in the NFL draft, as the 79th Masters commences Thursday. Should be spectacularly good. Will have preview and predictions tomorrow.

Grayson Allen was a total stud for Coach K

Tyus Jones was MVP of the Final Four

Hiring of Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson takes charge for the Tide I like the out of the box hire by Bill Battle. He didn't get his number one guy, Greg Marshall, so he tried something different. First of all, Avery Johnson is a terrific person. He's a lot more emotional than Anthony is, and I mean that in a positive way for Avery and not negative for Anthony, and I believe he will recruit very well because he's so likable. He had some success in the NBA as a coach. He had major success as a player. He was an outstanding point guard/leader for the San Antonio Spurs, and, along with "the Admiral", David Robinson, and a younger Tim Duncan (who is still playing at a high level right now and is part of a team that is peaking heading into the playoffs), won the NBA title in 1999. He's much beloved in San Antonio and throughout the NBA.

There will  be no problem with his recruiting; he will recruit well. I think he's a good strategist, too. He will most likely hire good assistants. A lot of work for him to get Bama back to playing consistently in NCAA tournaments and doing well once they get in there.

But I really like the Avery hire. Hopefully, the program will take off in the ensuing years. The Tide loses Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper, but have some good players coming back led by prolific shooting guard Ricky Tarrant, who will be returning from injury,  and potential stud point guard Justin Coleman along with super athlete Retin Obahasohan along with small forward Riley Norris, and inside guys Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale and Michael Kessens. So there's some foundational pieces in place for Avery. There are two signees for next year's freshman class, high three-star power forward Donta' Hall (6'9", 210, 89 grade by 247 sports) and high three star small forward Brandon Austin (6'5", 180, 88 grade by 247). I'm sure Avery will try to get back high three star small forward Dazon Ingram from Theodore as well. Ingram de-committed after Anthony was let go. Maybe a JC transfer can come aboard as well, but there are some pieces in place that can make this a very solid team next year, one that could make the tourney.

Anyway, positive stuff for Alabama basketball. I really liked Anthony Grant personally, but I guess the results weren't as expected as it turned out. Hopefully, he can land somewhere else, maybe a mid-major, and get his resume built back up. Maybe he'll want to stay at a smaller school for the long haul if he can excel there and just take some time away from the immense pressure of major college basketball. He's a good man, and is an excellent role model for kids. I'm pulling for him to succeed going forward.

And these are  exciting times for the Crimson Tide with Avery now at the helm.