Friday, March 09, 2007

Spring forward with a great sports weekend

The Tampa Bay area is the hub of the sports universe as 3 major sports converge on the Gulf Coast

If there was a worse time to put the new & "improved" Daylight Savings Time plan in to effect I can't think of one.

What a weekend to lose an hour of sleep; there are so many events & games taking place in the wide world of sports that odds are a handful of marriages will not make it thru the NCAA Selection Special on Sunday evening.

And for those of lucky enough to be visiting Florida's Gulf Coast this weekend, there is an awesome array of events to attend in a variety of sports, all within driving distance of Tampa and the Gulf beaches.

Let's take a tour inside the sports universe, Tampa Bay edition.

ACC Tournament, Semi Finals & Finals
Ice Palace
(i.e. the St. Pete Times Forum)

Downtown Tampa (take the Ashley St. exit off of I-275)

The arena on Channelside Drive has been hailed as an outstanding site for the tourney by everyone from commentators to league officials (well, everyone except Bomani Jones, that is), and the building has already seen some great action this week, namely three overtime games, including a 114-112 2 OT thriller won by Wake over Georgia Tech last night.

That kind of excitement will be tough to top, but the weekend could be even better.

In what could be called the de facto Championship game, #4 seed Boston College will face #1 seed North Carolina in one semifinal game Saturday at 1:30. BC held off a pesky 12th-seeded Miami squad today, 74-71 in OT, while the Heels easily dispatched the Seminoles, 73-58.

Plenty of good seats should be available, as scalpers are trying to unload scads of tix for well below face value now that the travelling parties of schools such as Duke and Maryland have decided to spend the rest of the weekend trolling for shells around Caladesi Island and the Noles & Canes contingents have high-tailed it back to Tally & Dade County.

The winner of that game will take on either the Wolfpack, which knocked off Virginia today, or the winner of tonight's Va Tech/Wake matchup. Either way it looks like there should be some more great hoops being played at the Forum this weekend.

(BTW, in reference to that Bomani Jones link, the reason the ACC Tourney is so much more important in Greensboro is because IT'S IN FREAKING GREENSBORO! What the hell else are people gonna do there besides get immersed in the tourney and go catfishing? Here the fans can enjoy the hoops while also enjoying spectacular sunsets on spectacular beaches drinking spectacular, watered down drinks. Get a clue, Bomani.)

PGA Tour PODS Championship
Innisbrook Golf Resort, Copperhead Course
Palm Harbor (take US 19 N just past Alderman Road on the left)

The event formerly known as the Chrysler Championship gets a new sponsor (local portable storage container company PODS), new date (the Chrysler was played in late October) and new found prestige as a jewel in the PGA's newfangled Fed Ex Cup.

Although the tour's main draw, Lord Tiger, has yet to grace the event in any of its incarnations (before the Chrysler the event was known as the Tampa Bay Classic), top pros such as Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson have made appearances on the famed Copperhead course.

This year Lefty, Big Easy and the Goose have decided to skip the notoriously tough Innisbrook rough, but big names such as Sergio Garcia, Vijay, Charles Howell III and local favorite Chris Gator DiMarco have made the cut and will be in the hunt this weekend.

The wife already scored some passes to this event so I will be checking out the action firsthand on Sunday as the leaders come down to 18. Not sure if I am going to try to bring my Canon because John Daly had to withdraw this weekend after suffering a camera-related injury last weekend. But if I do grow a pair and sneak it in you can look forward to some quality shots, like this one I took three years ago as Retief was on his way to accept the trophy.

If you go remember to change out of your flip flops, gob on the sunscreen, and bring enough cash to satisfy a healthy thirst for those $7.00 Michelobs in the frosty aluminum bottles.

Grapefruit League BaseballDunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Pete and surrounding towns

If half price tickets to the ACC tourney are still too expensive for your liking and you're afraid that watching golf live might actually render you comatose then what better way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon than catching a spring training game? Well, other than checking for T-backs and sucking down cold ones on loosely-restricted Mad Beach?

The Bay area is home to four major league franchises in the spring, the Evil Empire (Tampa's Legend's Field); the Philles (Clearwater's Bright House Networks Field); Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin's Knology Park); and of course the rays (St. Pete's Progress Energy Park at Al Lang Stadium.)

I know, I know, the first thing you're thinking is "what quaint ballpark names, especially the dueling cable company ones." But despite the tacky monikers these intimate fields of dreams are among THE best places to catch open-air hardball. Cheap prices, scenic settings, autograph-friendly environments and players close enough to hear you scream "Ann Coulter thinks you're a faggot, A-Rod" all make for terrific springtime fun.

Only the Rays are home on Saturday, facing the Phils in a split squad game. But Sunday, all four local teams are in action on their home fields. If you head to any of these venues, keep these things in mind:

  • In Dunedin they only serve Canadian beer, so don't get all pissy because they don't have a Sam Adams or even a Bud- it's strictly LaBatt's or Molson, take it or leave it (of course in 80 degree weather everyone learns to love Canadian beer for 3 hours)
  • The Phillies stadium presents the best option for families; the kids can play either in the nice playground area or on the large outfield berm, and the parents can keep an eye on the little ones while chugging rum runners at the Tiki Bar in leftfield. Good times.
  • Al Lang is one of the best places anywhere to watch a baseball game. The leftfield berm of the historic stadium offers a spectacular view of the Pier, tiny Albert Whitted Airport and numerous sailing vessels dotting the Bay, while players routinely launch homers over the scoreboard in left center, sometimes landing on the roof of the Mahaffey Theater next door.
  • Despite my distaste for anything & everything Stankee, I have to admit their friggin' park is sweet. It looks more like a major league stadium than Tropicana Field (not tough) and is nicer than most every other park in the Grapefruit League. But the view sucks (oh boy, Dale Mabry Highway!) and the clientele is even worse. I try to avoid this stadium at all costs, unless the wife gets freebies like she did for a game in 2 weeks.

There are other teams that train nearby, like the Tigers (Lakeland), Reds (Sarasota), Braves (Orlando) and Pirates (Bradenton), but with all this action going on here, why leave the area? Just do what I do: go to whatever events you can, watch the other stuff on TV, and try to mix in some beach time or hit Ybor City.

Your tour of the weekend sports scene in the Tampa Bay area is now officially over. Please exit the vehilcle to the right and watch your step disembarking.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Shorthanded Blue Devils can enjoy the Bay area beaches

NC State 85, Duke 80 (OT)

File this one under "you could see this coming a mile away."

The Duke Blue Devils came to Tampa for this years ACC Tournament low-ranked (#21), high-seeded (7th) and coming off four days and five nights of intense scrutiny after Gerald Henderson's perceived cheap shot on North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough on Sunday.

Apparently the country did not agree with Hansbrough's view of the hit.

Thanks to that dubious, season-ending play by Henderson, intentional or not, the reeling Devils would be forced to face a scrappy NC State team without the freshman forward, who had been on a hot streak of late, scoring 31 points off the bench in losses to Maryland and UNC.

That lack of scoring punch didn't really hurt the Devils, as it scored 80 or more points for just the third time this season (mull that one over) and 5 Devils scored 14 or more, but the psychological & emotional disadvantage suffered by the Devils from the Henderson/Hansbrough fallout was apparent.

Duke took a slim lead at the half, 34-29, thanks to a three-point barrage (6-11) led by Jon Scheyer (3-3) and Henderson's replacement Martynas Pocious (2-2), but sharpshooting senior guard Engin Atsur scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime, when the Wolfpack outscored the Devils 56-46, and freshman forward Brandon Costner outplayed underachiever Josh McRoberts by adding a career-high 30 points and 7 boards to overpower the undermanned Devils.

By the time overtime rolled around Duke was even more shorthanded thanks to foul disqualifications by DeMarcus Nelson and David McClure, and the Devils were ready to roll over, which they did. The team that had won the last 2 conference tourneys had gone done to defeat in the tourney for just the second time in the last eight years, and it had no one to blame but itself. Erratic play, lackluster efforts and disappointing season from players expected to be ACC Player of the Year contenders left this edition of the Duke Blue Devils an embarrassing shell of its former great self.

Maybe a few days on Sand Key will help them get through the sting of being a 10+ seed in the NCAA tourney next week.

Other tourney developments:

-3nd ranked UCLA lost in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament to a mediocre Cal team, 76-69 in OT. All-Name Team candidate Ayinde Ubaka poured in a career high 29-points as the .500 Bears (16-16) dealt a severe blow to the Bruins' (26-5) chances of getting a #1 seed in next weeks tourney.

-#15 Louisville survived against a pesky West Virginia team, 82-71 in 2 OTs, after blowing a 17-point 2nd half lead. Freshman guard Edgar Sosa drove the length of the court and hit a layup at the buzzer to force overtime,and after matching 8 points each in the first OT, the Birds ripped off 16 in the 2nd extra frame to run its win streak to 7 games.

- Unranked and horrible (12-19) Miami knocked off the ACC's hottest team, #20Maryland, 67-62 in another first round upset. The Terps looked unprepared and were consistently out- hustled by the shorthanded Canes, who dressed only 8 players due to injuries & suspensions. Maryland had won 7 straight and 9 of 11 coming in.

The 'Canes get to take on ACC player of the Year Jared Dudley and the 4th seeded BC Eagles tomorrow afternoon in Tampa.

Early Games to watch tomorrow:

-ACC: Florida State vs. #8No. Carolina
Most experts say FSU needs to win this one to get in the Big Dance; ain't gonna happen

-Big 10: Michigan vs. #1 Ohio State
Greg Oden's first- and last- collegiate postseason career begins. Catch him as an amateur while you can.

-Big 12: Oklahoma vs. #2 Kansas
With UCLA's loss the Jayhawks have a lock on a #1 seed if it wins this tourney

*Photo courtesy of AP


Set the DVR to Hyperdrive, Mr. Sulu!

Q- What's worse than having your right-handed son break his right hand?
A- Having your son break his hand when he is the star pitcher & hitter for his AAA Little League team.

Q-What's a good way to combat the disappointment over the injury?
A- Make the 4th grade Principal's list with straight A's

Yes my 10-year-old boy broke the bone between his pinky & ring fingers a couple of days ago and will be off the diamond for 3 weeks, leaving a major void in the lineup, rotation and our lives. Because I still have to coach the team, and it's just not the same when your own kid isn't playing. Kind of makes you feel like a perv, like "why I am here and I don't have a kid playing?"

Anyway the fact that he made all A's definitely took some of the sting off not being able to play ball (or write, do chores, bathe and just about everything else), but who we kidding- I am a dad. Of course I'm thrilled he's getting good grades, but it's 4th grade! I would rather see him fanning 10-year-olds, hitting line-drive triples and scoring a ton of runs than anything else at this age. Make Principal's list as a sophomore in high school, then I'm impressed.

Does that make me a bad parent?

Get well soon, son, and keep up the great schoolwork.

(awkward segue) There are plenty of delicious choices for your viewing pleasure tonight, whether you are a man or woman, sports fan or comedy lover. Let's take a look at what to watch (and DVR) on a night made for couch potatoes.

7:00PM- ACC Tourney: NC St. vs. Duke, ESPN2
The ACC Tourney invaded the Bay Area today, with Florida State knocking off Clemson by 1 point, 67-66, and Georgetown handling the Villanova Wildcats, 62-57. Tonight the Blue Devils take the court at the Ice Palace (I refuse to call the arena on the Hillsborough River the St. Pete Times Forum) for the first time since Gerald Henderson cold cocked, errrr, accidentally hit North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough with an inadvertent elbow in the regular season finale on Sunday. Duke has had a hard time winning games with all its offensive weapons, so this game will be a challenge for the 7th (!) seeded Devils.

Also at 7:00: Big East Tourney(ESPN); Pac-10 Tourney (FSN); SEC Tourney (SUN)

8:00- American Karaoke, FOX
Keeps the wife out of your hair while us men dine on a steady diet of conference tourney action; hubbies can pop in during commercials to see if Antonella Barba gets kicked off so she can answer her true calling- "hosting" soft core porn.

9:00- Scrubs, NBC
The medical comedy hasn't been at the top of its game all season, but with terrific episodes like the musical and the off-beat presentation of the comedy it's still worth checking out, especially for the awesomely acidic Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley).

9:00 Tourney games- ACC (ESPN); Big 12(ESPN2); Pac-10 (FSN); SEC (SUN)

9:30- 30 Rock, NBC
If you haven't watched this show yet, please, I implore you- CHECK IT OUT. The inside look at the goings on at a fictional NBC TV show is consistently funny, often hilarious, and seems to be gaining speed as the season progresses. Alec Baldwin is the core of the show, and his Emmy-winning portrayal as NBC honcho Jack Donagy is a treat for viewers every week. When he utters lines like this one, in reference to his mother "what the hell does she know, she's a Murphy; bunch of mud farmers and sheep rapists", well you let me know if the quality beverage you're drinking doesn't come out of your nose!

If you want to catch up on past shows, click here. Be sure to check out The Source Awards, the funniest ep of the season.

11:00- Late night tourney games
After the kiddies have gone to bed and the wife has sung herself to sleep humming the latest Idol tune we can get down to some late night conference tourney viewing. Catch the end of the last SEC game of the night (LSU v Tennessee,starts @ 9:45ish) and the Pac-10's Wash/Wash St rivalry game that kicks off at 11:00.

* My Name is Earl and The Office are repeats; you also have other shows to choose from like Survivor: Wherever the Hell We Are Now, Overrated Betty, CSI and Grey's Infighting, if you're a follower of any of those front-runners.

So crack open a bottle of your finest Donagy Vineyards and enjoy a full night of televison pleasure.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Breaking News: I've got a new blog

After my first 6 months as an active member of the blogosphere I have come to realize two things about my style:

1.) I tend to be wordy, as one reader was kind enough to point out after my 6000 word opus on the Academy Awards

2.) Unlike most blogs/sites, I cover a lot of topics. From awards shows to golf tournaments, and from movie reviews to football picks, I pretty much cover a lot of ground.

I'm still not sure if that's a bad thing, but one thing I did discover as I head into my first full baseball season as a blogger is that there is no way I could devote enough time, words and attention to my beloved Red Sox on this site and adequately cover my other interests as well.

My solution was either to trim the excess stories, and the excess verbiage in said stories, during baseball season and concentrate on the Sox, OR start a whole new blog dedicated to the Red Sox.

I think by the title of this post you have already guessed which option I chose.

My new, strictly Red Sox site is located called Curt's Bloody Sock, and it will feature game recaps, team notes, and plenty of Beantown-bred vitriol towards both the home team and its opponents. This way I can channel my diverse interests into separate entities instead of trying to shoehorn 10-lbs of crap into this 5-lb blog.

I am open to any suggestions and please feel free to comment on my columns. Or else how am I going to find out that my posts are putting readers to sleep?


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

NFL Hot Stove: What are the Bucs Doing? Edition

It's now a foregone conclusion that the NFL is the most popular sport on the planet (excluding that silly soccer of course) because this year the league's winter signing period has overshadowed spring training baseball, stretch-run NHL hockey & NBA basketball and so far even March Madness as far as headline-grabbing fan interest goes.

Of the many teams making multiple, roster-altering moves (New England, Denver, San Fran...) none have made as many mind-boggling alterations than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The sheer ridiculousness (word?) of the deals would make it appear as if the comedy act known as Chucky & Brucie is actually trying to get themselves fired so they can sit back for a year, get paid, and eye their next cushy head coach/GM gig. Because they way the Bucs braintrust have botched this free agency period has many in the Bay Area questioning not only the football business acumen of the duo, but their sanity as well.

How has Chuckie and Brucie (mis)managed to debilitate an already disastrously constructed team in just four days time? Let me count the ways:

1.) Traded for a quarterback who didn't want to play here
When word leaked out that the Bucs were trading for Jake Plummer, many in the Bay Area screamed "why? He's old, unpredictable, and has never been able to win a big game (no, I'm not counting the 2006 playoff game against New England- the Pats lost that one.) Then when Plummer announced he would retire rather than play anywhere other than Denver, everyone exhaled, thinking Tampa Bay had avoided making a big mistake.

But wait. A day later the teams announced the trade had been revised to make it a deal for Plummer's rights for a conditional draft pick, the condition being Denver would get a pick if Plummer suits up with the Bucs. Say what? Why would they even bother to trade for a guy who doesn't want to play? To trade his rights later, perhaps. But is it really worth the gamesmanship when you consider the pressing needs the team has right now, quarterback NOT being one of them?

Then, to make matters worse...

2.)...they signed a 37-year-old midget QB to compete with Chris Simms
Nothing like a little healthy QB competition, right Chucky? Way to stick with one direction, dude. I thought Simms was the man for the near future and beyond that Gradkowski was your boy, but you just dropped him for your old West Coast buddy Jeff Garcia, huh? Ah these romances never, last do they?

3.) Let defensive end Dewayne White leave
Saddled with high expectations ever since the sack king left Louisville a year early and was selected 64th by Tampa Bay in the 2003 draft, DE Dewayne White never realized his potential with the Bucs. In four seasons the speedy pass rusher amassed 111 tackles, 14 sacks and 5 forced fumbles; not exactly eye-popping stats, yet White was always stuck behind guys like Simeon Rice and Greg Spires on the depth chart, Pro Bowlers who weren't ready to cede their position to the new kid.

So when former Tampa D-line coach and current Detroit head man Rod Marinelli saw the opportunity to grab White, he did so. Now White is reunited with two of his earliest mentors, Marinelli and former Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, who is now Detroit's defensive coordinator, and the fit looks like a match made in heaven. White should blossom in Marinelli & Barry's defense, and Barry is thrilled to be getting a young, hungry defensive stud:

“We needed a guy – a speed guy,” said Barry. “We needed to upgrade the speed; the edge of our defense. Quite frankly, we put a premium on pass rush. To run this system, to run this scheme, we’ve got to be able to rush the passer – bottom line. We put a premium on that and Dewayne White – he brings an element of speed and pass rush to us.”

Translated: White is ready to explode with a double-digit sack season, and the Bucs will rue the day they let him slip away for monetary reasons, especially when...

4.)...they answer by signing aging veteran Kevin Carter to a 4-year deal
Don't get me wrong, Carter is one of the greatest, most durable pass rushers of the last 20 years, as his 97.5 career sacks (4th among active players) can attest to. But the 12-year vet is definitely on the downside of his career; of his 4 double-digit sack seasons, 3 of them came in a row (1998-2000) and he hasn't had one since 2002, when he had exactly 10.

But I thought the Bucs were trying to go younger, especially on the lines? Why let White go only to sign the 34-year-old Carter for nearly the same money you could've paid the 27-year-old?

That's almost as messed up as...

5.)...signing 30-year-old Luke Petitgout coming off an injury-marred season
If the 9-year vet out of Notre Dame can stay healthy then his versatility (he can play both guard and/or tackle) and leadership will be great assets to a team that is very young along the O-line. But if the injuries start to pile up following the stress-fracture in his leg last season that caused him to miss 7 games, then this signing could go down as another Derrick Deese/Todd Steussie-type debacle.

There's a few things off the top of my head that are causing local talk show callers to flip out and giving the local media fodder to speculate how a man who was perceived to be a "football genius" when he arrived can resemble a colossal clueless clown right now.


Monday, March 05, 2007

NFL Hot Stove

There has been so much action over these first few days of free agency it reminds me of the NBA All Star Game, minus the strip club shooting and ready availability of hookers. As soon as you go to do a story on the latest deals, a whole new wave of signings & trades washes over the sportscape and litters the shore with myriad new agreements between overrated, overpaid players and overmonied teams.

Yes folks, the NFL is "making it rain" for its entire stable of, ahem, free agents.

In fact the action has been so fast & furious in my last NFL Hot Stove post I forgot to mention one deal that went down on Saturday. It was an easy oversight on my part; there was so much going on that day that you can understand how I could miss what just happened to be the biggest deal of all time involving a defensive player: Bills CB Nate Clements' 8-year, $80 million mega-deal from the San Franciso 49ers.

"I'm rich, beeyotch!"

Let's step back a second and examine what's going on here. The NFL has a surplus of cash due to the enormous popularity of its product, which is reflected in record merchandise, ticket and advertisement sales, not to mention the revenue generated by numerous 10-figure television contracts. All of this excess wealth has gone directly into the pockets of owners, with the intention being the owners will spend the extra cache on improving their teams.

In order to ensure the teams did spend more on improving their teams and not just their country club memberships the powers-that-be raised teams' salary cap figure to a record-high $109 million for next season. It doesn't take Mel Kiper to figure out that a surplus of cash plus a sky-high spending ceiling= a multitude of players who happen to be in the right place (free agency) at the right time (when the league is wallowing money.)

Thus the end result is you get a decent player (Clements had 2 tackles, 3 INTs and 20 passes defensed in 2006), who's not even the best at his own position receiving the biggest contract ever for a defender. Clements even pinpointed this year on his personal calendar, signing a one-year deal last season with Buffalo in hopes of breaking fellow cornerback Champ Bailey's 7-year, $63 million pact he inked with the Broncos in 2004. BTW, Bailey had 86 tackles, a league-leading 10 INTs and 21 passes defensed. And Clements just got $20 mil more than him (on paper.) Crazy.

You also get crazy situations where a boatload of guards, formerly the lunch ladies of the league (i.e. doing the slop work for minimal pay), signing deals that promise running back money. It started last year when Steve Hutchinson agreed to a then-mammoth 7-year, $49 million deal with the Vikings, and that ripple effect hit hard this season as Eric Steinbach (Cleveland, 7 years), Derrick Dockery (Buffalo, 7 years), and Kris Dielman (San Diego, 6 years) all reaped the benefits of Hutchinson's breakthrough contract.

Other signings that have taken place in the last 48 hours include:

-Green Bay running back Ahman Green signed a 5-year, $25 million deal with the Texans.

-The Cowboys signed massive offensive lineman Leonard Davis a massive contract- -years, $49.6 mil with $18 mil guaranteed to lure the 6-year vet away from Arizona.

-Denver quickly recovered from trading away leading rusher Tatum Bell by signing former Titan tailback Travis Henry to a 5-year, $22.5 million deal, making him the next in line at Running Back U- to be let go. (Denver has allowed its past 4 rushing leaders leave the following season: Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Rueben Droughns, and Bell.)

-Former Falcons DE Patrick Kearney agreed to a 6-year, $39 million deal ($19 mil guaranteed) to rush the passer for the sack-lacking Seahawks.

-The NFC Champion Bears alleviated their crowded backfield problem by dealing away disgruntled starter Thomas Jones to the Jets, paving the way for Cedric Just Gimme the Nights Benson to take over carrying the rock in Chi-Town. The deal also involved a swap of draft picks in April, with New York obtaining Chicago's #63rd pick in exchange for its #37. The move also allows New York to move past the Curtis Martin era by replacing the Hall of Fame-bound workhorse with another tough-nosed, hard runner.

-38-year-old Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brad Johnson signed a 3-year deal with Dallas to become Tony Romo's backup after Johnson was unceremoniously dumped one year after making Duante Culpepper expendable in Minnesota. Fitting that one immobile, overage former starter turned clipboard holder replaces another in Big D.

-Wide receiver Wes Welker became a member of the Patriots when the Pats and Dolphins decided to forgo the offer sheet and just trade the 3-year vet. New England surrendered a 2nd & 7th round pick this year to Miami in order to obtain the promising receiver's services.

Miami was busy shedding players Monday; including Welker the Fins let RB Sammie Morris flee to New England, too, and released QB Joey Harrington and TE Randy McMichael. New coach, new players, same results for Miami in 2007?
I think that about covers everything, but I'm sure I missed something or another deal went down in the time it took me to type this outro. If so I'll cover that in tomorrows installment.

Perhaps a good way to sum up the wacky, wild world of the NFL off season, 2007, is to end on this rumor: New England is reportedly interested in bringing WR Randy Moss to Foxborough.

When it rains it pours.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Duke & Carolina end the regular season on a sour note

North Carolina 86, Duke 72

A vicious foul led to a bloodied Tarheel & ejected Dukie as the 223rd installment of the Tobacco Road rivalry nearly turned into a real backyard brawl.

AP photo

There have been many miraculous moments and incredible plays in this long & storied cross-town rivalry, but not since the early '60s, when Carolina's Larry Brown and Duke's Art Heyman squared off in an on-court brawl that resulted in suspensions for both players, has an edition of the classic contest come to such a pugnacious conclusion.

The game was a disjointed affair all along, pretty much dominated by Carolina save for a few scoring spurts that kept Duke close enough to let them think they had a chance of pulling the upset. But by the last 4:00 of the game, with Carolina up big and garbage time setting in, things started to get a little chippy. It might have had to do with the fact that Deputy Dawg had most of his starters in the game despite the fact that his team was enjoying a comfortable margin (80-65) with little time left (1:04) for a Duke comeback.

With the game well in hand and less than a minute to play the Tarheels scintillating sophomore (Dickie-ism) Tyler Hansbrough went up an grabbed an offensive rebound, then attempted to put the ball back up towards the rim. As he tried to make a move he was hit with a forearm shiver from an airborne Gerald Henderson Jr., resulting in Hansbrough hitting the deck like a ton of bricks. Hansbrough lay prone on the court for a minute, blood trickling down his nose onto the hardwood before he jumped up looking like Jake LaMotta after his St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

After regaining his composure and clearing the blood from his vision, Hansbrough became enraged and looked to take on the entire Duke team. As his teammates held him back, Hansbrough immediately left the court and headed to the locker room as the referees went to the scores table to review the incident and determine what, if any, penalty needed to be meted out.

Upon further review the stripes decided that Henderson's flying elbow smash was a flagrant foul, therefore he was ejected from the game and, according to ACC rules, will be suspended for one game. Thanks to Duke's loss, that game will be Thursday night here in Tampa in the first round of the ACC tourney, in which the Devils are the #7 seed.

After the game there was a lot of talk about whether the play was intentional or not. That notable bastion of superior knowledge Billy Packer thought it was a hard, but unintentional, foul, although other analysts believe Henderson's intent was to do damage to whoever got in the way of his wayward elbow. Either way the play will go down as a black mark in the history of the series, and will also certainly taint the normally saintly Blue Devils, who were not only swept by the 'Heels and have now lost 4 of 5 between the two, but lost some of their respect also. Not to mention the fact that Henderson, an improving freshman who has shown flashes of brilliance this season, will not be remembered for his Vinnie Johnson-like 16 points off the bench, but for one foolish play that will live with him forever.

Especially in Chapel Hill.