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June 19, 2017

2017 SWAC Media Day Participants

By bryanflynn

You know college football is right around the corner when the teams get together to face the media.

The SEC has a week of media days because they have to fill up hours on their own network, and C-USA normally does two to three days. On the other hand, the SWAC crams in the whole conference in one day.

All 10 teams will gather at the Birmingham-Marriott Hotel in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, July 14. Each coach in the SWAC will bring two players with him to talk to the media. SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp, Coordinator of Football Officials Harold Mitchell Sr. and others will be available to the media upon request.

The 2017 Media Day will be available for fans to stream on the official SWAC website, swac.org, with streams. The order of the coaches and athletes hasn’t been released yet.

Jackson State University head coach Tony Hughes begins his second season at the helm of the Tigers, and senior defensive lineman Keontre Anderson and senior linebacker Andre Lloyd will join him. JSU finished 2016 with a 3-8 overall record in 2016.

Alcorn State University looks to win its fourth-straight SWAC East title and second under head coach Fred McNair, who looks to build on last year’s 5-6 overall record. Senior quarterback Lenorris Footman and senior defensive end Michael Brooks Jr. will join McNair.

Rick Comegy enters his third season at Mississippi Valley State and is still trying to turn around a struggling program that has won just three conference games in three years. Comegy will try to build on last year’s 1-10 record. He will bring senior defensive back Everett Nicholas and senior offensive lineman Alvin Solomon with him to media days.

One other player heading to media days with ties to our state is Grambling State University quarterback Devante Kincade, who also played football at the University of Mississippi. Last season, Kincade led GSU to a victory in the SWAC Football Championship Game and Celebration Bowl.

The 2017 SEC Football Media Days is scheduled from Monday, July 10, to Thursday, July 13. If the tentative schedule doesn’t change, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen will meet the media on Tuesday, July 11, and UM head coach Hugh Freeze will meet them on July 13. No student-athletes have been named yet for media days.

Conference USA has yet to set its media days dates. Normally, the conference holds its media days toward the end of July. and the last few have been around July 21-23.

June 15, 2017

Mayweather v. McGregor is Finally Going to Happen

By bryanflynn

The allure of money might have finally won out between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. The upcoming fight is expected to be a big payday for both now that a deal has been finalized for an Aug. 26 bout. This fight could end up making more money than the Mayweather v. Manny Pacquiao fight did in May 2015.

Boxer Mayweather is the early heavy favorite at -1,000 in Las Vegas over MMA fighter McGregor at a payback of +700. But the fight might be closer than many think when breaking it down.

Mayweather hasn’t fought since winning on points against Andre Berto in September 2015 and will have been retired nearly two years before this fight takes place. McGregor hasn’t fought since November 2016 in a TKO victory over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.

The long layoff for Mayweather might leave him with ring-rust even though the fight is a boxing match, and the fact the fight is a boxing match is a major advantage for Mayweather.

But how good will he be at 40 years old with the nearly two-year layoff between fights? That should be the burning question heading into this fight.

McGregor is just 28 years old, which gives him a 12-year advantage in age. If the MMA star can survive the early rounds, it is possible he could use his younger legs to go after Mayweather in the later rounds.

Another factor in the Irishman’s favor is that he has never been knocked out in his MMA fights. McGregor owns a 21-3 record with 18 knockouts, one submission and two point victories.

Mayweather hasn’t knocked out a foe since Victor Ortiz in Nov. 2011 in the fourth round, but his last seven fights have gone the full 12-round distance. Over the last few years, Mayweather hasn’t shown the knockout power in his punches he had early in his career.

That doesn’t mean that if McGregor makes a mistake, Mayweather can’t make him pay with his pinpoint punches. If McGregor does make a major mistake, the question will be if Mayweather still has knockout power or if McGregor has the chin to take a big punch.

Another advantage for Mayweather could be the length of the fight. Boxing matches go 12 rounds at three minutes per round, and MMA fights are five rounds at five minutes per round. If the fight goes the full length, McGregor has to fight 11 minutes longer than a typical MMA fight.

It might not seem like an extra long time, but 11 minutes longer fighting against a world-class boxer like Mayweather is a major consideration for the fight. McGregor will have to be in the best shape of his life going into this fight.

McGregor is an inch taller than Mayweather at 5-feet and 9-inches to Mayweather’s 5-feet, 8-inch height and has a two-inch advantage in reach at 74 inches to 72. Mayweather ...

June 15, 2017

Rebels’ NCAA Football Case Provides New Twists

By bryanflynn

It might be worth being a proverbial fly on the wall when the University of Mississippi sits down with the Committee of Infractions arm of the NCAA. The university has admitted to some wrong-doing alleged in the NCAA investigation but is fighting others.

In this instance, the university is going to the wall for current head coach Hugh Freeze. The biggest charge UM is fighting against is the lack of institutional control leveled at Freeze.

Another dispute between the university and the NCAA is an allegation that a recruit received $10,000 in cash. UM disputes the story the recruit told the NCAA and questions the person’s credibility.

UM is also fighting the charge that a booster provided free merchandise to three potential recruits. Again, the university is denying the story that recruits told the enforcement staff.

The NCAA hit the university with 13 violations in football during its initial investigation and after the Laremy Tunsil draft-night fiasco, the NCAA came back to do more investigating. The second investigation led to five more charges of violations, bringing the total to 21 with 15 of the violations at Level I, the most serious in the eyes of the NCAA.

In response to the violations that the university agreed on, it imposed several sanctions on itself. UM imposed a bowl ban for the 2017-2018 season, along with scholarship and recruiting restrictions and three years of probation.

Instead of laying any blame at the feet of Freeze, UM is blaming former athletic staffer Barney Farrar. In response, Farrar’s attorney Bruse Loyd told Yahoo Sports his client is being “used as a scapegoat” by the university.

Farrar is being painted as a rogue staffer that Freeze knew nothing about. That is to go along with the rogue boosters Freeze knew nothing about and recruits who want to hurt the school.

It is a bold strategy and will be smart if it pays off. If it doesn’t payoff, Freeze could be suspended for part of a season when the penalty is handed down.

Farrar is likely to get hit with a show-cause penalty, which would severely limit his ability to get hired by another school.

But the twists and turns in this story just keep coming. The booster mentioned giving free merchandise is fighting back.

Lawyers representing Rebel Rags, a retail store in Oxford, Miss.. have filed a civil suit against Mississippi State University players Leo Lewis, Kobe Jones and Tunsil’s stepfather Lindsey Miller.

The lawsuit accuses the three of defamation, slander, commercial disparagement, conspiracy and making false statements to the NCAA. None of the three being sued is named in the NCAA notice of allegations or in the response by the university.

There is no telling how this will end for the Rebels, but it has provided some interesting twists and turns along the way.

June 15, 2017

SWAC Football Championship Ends After 2017

By bryanflynn

Things are changing and ending in Southwestern Athletic Conference football. Starting this upcoming season, teams will no longer play nine conference games.

Under the old format, the 10-team league played a round-robin schedule. Every SWAC team played the other teams in the conference once per season, which allowed for great rivalries to develop. The SWAC made the decision to lower the number of conference games to seven during the spring meetings in 2015.

When each team played each other, it allowed for the conference to use head-to-head tiebreakers. That won’t be the case under the new format. The tiebreakers are important because the SWAC will be dropping its championship game in football after this season.

Instead of playing the conference title game, the SWAC has decided to focus on the Celebration Bowl, which pits an SWAC team against an MEAC opponent. The Celebration Bowl was established in 2015 and first took place in the 2016 season.

In 1999, the SWAC started playing its championship game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., until 2013. The conference moved the title game to NRG Stadium, formerly Reliant Stadium, in Houston, Texas, and the final game will be there.

Alcorn State University has played in the last three SWAC Football Championship Games from 2014 to 2016. Jackson State University played in two consecutive championship games from 2012 to 2013.

ASU has been to three title games and has a 3-1 record in the game. JSU has reached the title game five times and has a 1-4 record. Mississippi Valley State University has just this season to reach the championship game, having failed to do so since 1999.

Grambling State University has made the most championship game appearances with nine. The Tigers are the current champions and hold a 7-2 record in conference-title bouts.

The team with the best conference record will represent the SWAC in the Celebration Bowl. The conference will have to workout a tie-breaking procedure with the seven-game schedule, though.

Losing the title game does take away a nationally televised event from the conference. ESPN broadcasted the game last season and has done so for several seasons.

SWAC officials gave no reason for ending the title game other than wanting to focus on the Celebration Bowl.

June 13, 2017

NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Results

By bryanflynn

While no athletes from universities in our state won at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, there were strong performances. The University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi all saw athletes qualify for the meet.

USM junior Cra’vorkian Carson finished 18th overall in the 100 meters, reaching the semifinals to earn Honorable Mention All-American. His teammate, senior Emron Gibbs, placed 20th in javelin to ensure Honorable Mention All-American honors, as well.

The MSU women placed two athletes on First Team All-American and one on Second Team All-American. Junior Logan Boss placed fourth in the high jump, and junior Tiffany Flynn finished eighth in the long jump for First Team honors. Junior Rhianwedd Price landed on the Second Team with a ninth-place finish in the 1,500-meters.

Two Bulldogs men earned First Team honors in the same event. Junior Nicolas Quijera finished second in the javelin, as teammate and defending national champion Curtis Thompson, who is a junior, finished seventh.

The MSU 4x400-meter relay team of Stephan James, Rasheed Tatham, Charles Taylor and Juston Waters finished 15th for Second Team All-American honors. Senior Leah Lott finished 18th in the women’s long jump, sophomore men’s long-jumper Willie Reed finished 19th overall, and the men’s 4x100-meter team of Charles Taylor, Philip Smith, Stephan James and Lawrence Crawford placed 19th overall to earn Honorable Mention All-American.

UM junior Janeah Stewart racked up the honors. She placed fifth in the women’s shot put for First Team All-American honors, and ninth in discus and 10th in hammer throw for Second Team All-American honors.

Teammate Raven Saunders, who is also a junior, finished ahead of Stewart in shot put in fourth place to earn First Team All-American for the Rebels. Shelby Brown finished 23rd in the steeplechase, and the women’s 4x100-meter relay team of Deanna Tate, Breanna Tate, Shannon Ray and Nicole Henderson finished 19th to earn Honorable Mention All-American.

Three UM men earned First Team All-American honors. Senior Craig Engels finished third in the 1,500-meters, senior MJ Erb finished fourth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and junior Brian Williams finished fourth in the discus.

Junior Dempsey McGuigan finished in 10th place in the men’s hammer throw to become the only men’s athlete to earn Second Team All-American honors for the Rebels.

MSU men finished in 26th place overall, and the university’s women’s team finished 38th overall. The Rebels’ men finished in 19th place overall, and the UM women took 29th in the final standings. USM’s two participants didn’t earn points to place overall.

June 13, 2017

CWS Field is Set

By bryanflynn

The SEC placed six teams in the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals, but only three reached the College World Series. Two teams from the ACC made it out of the Super Regionals to the CWS, and one team from the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big West conferences are in the CWS.

Louisiana State University took out fellow SEC West member Mississippi State University. The Tigers barely got by the Bulldogs in game one 4-3 but won 14-4 in game two and advanced.

The University of Florida needed three games to get past Wake Forest University. Weather delays plagued this series, as the Gators won game one 2-1, the Demon Deacons took game two 8-6, and UF won game three 3-0 and moved on.

Texas A&M University played two games against Davidson College and advanced. The Aggies took game one 7-6 and outlasted the Wildcats 12-6 in game two.

Oregon State University swept Vanderbilt University in the Super Regional. The Beavers won 8-4 in game one and 9-2 in game two, getting past the Commodores.

The University of Louisville battled past in-state rival University of Kentucky and reached the CWS. The Cardinals took game one 5-2 and game two 6-2, sweeping the Wildcats out of the tournament.

Florida State University slipped past Sam Houston State University in game one, scoring 7-6. The Seminoles had no trouble in game two, winning 19-0 over the Bearkats and reaching the CWS.

California State University, Long Beach and California State University, Fullerton need all three games to decide their Super Regional. The 49ers of Long Beach took game one 3-0, but the Titans won game two 12-0 and game three 2-1 and advanced.

Texas Christian University swept past Missouri State University, reaching the CWS. The Horned Frogs nipped the Bears in game one 3-2 but won in an 8-1 blowout in game two, finishing the sweep.

Top national seed Oregon State opens the tournament against CSU Fullerton on Saturday, June 17, at 2 p.m. on ESPN. LSU is the No. 4 national seed and takes on FSU on June 17 in game two at 7 p.m.

Louisville is the No. 7 national seed and will open day two of the CWS on Sunday, June 18, at 1 p.m. against Texas A&M. The second game on day two features No. 3 national seed Florida against No. 6 national seed TCU at 6 p.m. on June 18.

The first elimination game will be played on Monday, June 19, at 1 p.m. on ESPN against the losers of the OSU-Fullerton and LSU-FSU from games one and two. The winners between the Beavers versus Titans game and Tigers versus Seminoles game face off on June 19 at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

Game three and four losers between Louisville-Texas A&M and Florida-TCU will try to stay alive on Tuesday, June 20, at 1 p.m. on ESPN. The winners between the Cardinals-Aggies and Gators-Horned Frogs take the ...

June 7, 2017

SEC Impresses in Regionals

By bryanflynn

Heading into the Super Regionals, the SEC is standing above the other conferences that received four or more bids into the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. The SEC put eight teams into the tournament, and six made it to Super Regionals.

Even more impressive is that all eight SEC teams reached the finals in their respective regionals. Three of those eight SEC teams fought their way out of the loser’s bracket. Only Auburn University and the University of Arkansas failed to reach a Super Regional.

Overall, the SEC went 25-8 in the regionals, which was the best record for a conference with four or more bids. The conference could put five teams in the College World Series only because SEC foes Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University will have to face each other on June 10 to June 12 in a best of three series.

The SEC is the only conference with multiple national seeds reach the Super Regionals—in this case, the University of Florida and LSU. Joining Florida, LSU and MSU in the Super Regionals are the University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M University.

Things didn’t go as well for the Big 12 Conference, which had seven teams into the tournament.

The Big 12 saw one of its two national seeds, Texas Tech University, fall in the regionals and only put one team into the Super Regionals. Out of the seven teams that the Big 12 put in the tournament, just Texas Christian University, a national seed, reached the Super Regionals.

Four Big 12 teams reach the regional finals, but the conference as a whole went 10-12 in regionals. It was a rough weekend for the ACC, as well—the conference put seven teams in the tournament but only saw three teams advance.

The University of North Carolina, one of the ACC’s two national seeds, flamed out as the host of its Regional. Florida State University and Wake Forest University joined the national-seeded University of Louisville in the Super Regionals.

Oregon State University out of the Pac 12 might be the No. 1 national seed, but the conference as a whole struggled in the regionals. The Pac 12 put four teams into the tournament, including national seed Stanford University, but only Oregon State survived the regionals. Just two of the four teams reached the Regional finals, and the Pac 12 went 6-6 on the first weekend.

No major conference bombed bigger than the Big Ten. The conference put five teams into the tournament, but none even reached a regional final. Overall, the Big Ten went 3-10 in regional play.

The Big Ten flame-out in the NCAA Tournament might have been a big deal in the media if Ohio State University hadn’t fired head basketball coach Thad Matta. The surprise firing took the focus off the poor performance.

If fans want to root for teams from smaller conferences, there are plenty of choices still left in the ...

June 6, 2017

MSU Advances to Super Regional

By bryanflynn

Rain caused delays for several portions of the Hattiesburg Regional, as it caused Saturday’s games to be moved to Sunday. But this was the case with several regionals, as rain held up play across the country.

Even with the delays because of the weather, things looked good for host the University of Southern Mississippi, but the Golden Eagles struggled in the opening game against the University of Illinois-Chicago.

USM found itself down five runs to the Flames at one point before mounting a comeback for an 8-7 win.

Southern Miss fell behind in its second game to the University of South Alabama before rallying to win 8-3 to advance to the regional championship.

The Golden Eagles were sitting pretty knowing that any team they faced would have to defeat them twice to reach a Super Regional. That team would even have to beat the host twice in the same day due to the weather.

Mississippi State University didn’t have the same smooth journey as the Golden Eagles. The Bulldogs lost their opening game of the regional 6-3 to South Alabama after the Jaguars jumped out to an early lead and never let MSU get in the game.

MSU faced UIC in the first elimination game of the regional. The Bulldogs held on for a 5-4 win after the Flames loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but UIC couldn’t get the game-tying run home.

South Alabama and MSU meet again in an elimination game for the right to face the Golden Eagles for the regional title. The Bulldogs used a five-run third inning to put the Jaguars away in the 7-3 win.

That left Mississippi State and Southern Miss still standing to play for the regional title on Monday. USM needed just one win to advance to a Super Regional, and MSU had to win twice to advance.

Rain delayed what was supposed to be an early afternoon game to an early evening game. The delay meant that if the Bulldogs won, they would have little time to recover before having to play the second game.

Another five-run third inning boosted the Bulldogs to victory, as MSU took down Southern Miss 8-1 in the first game. That set up a winner-take-all second game that came shortly behind the first one.

Southern Miss came out on fire, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning after MSU posted a run in the top of the inning. USM took a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, but the Bulldogs answered with three runs in the top of the fifth.

The Golden Eagles added a run in the bottom of the fifth, going up 6-4 after five innings played. MSU kept charging back, adding a run in the top of the seventh and two runs in the top of the eighth, which caused them to take a 7-6 ...

June 5, 2017

USM, MSU and UM in Track and Field Nationals

By bryanflynn

Most major track and field events take place in Eugene, Ore., including the U.S. Championships and qualifying competitions for the Olympics. So, it is no surprise that the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be in the same location.

The top college track and field athletes will be at the national championships Wednesday, June 7, through Saturday, June 10. Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi all will send athletes to take home titles.

Southern Miss will have two athletes there, both in the men’s events. Cra’vorkian Carson will race in the 100-meter race, and Emron Gibbs will compete in the javelin. Carson is making his first trip to the nationals, but Gibbs is returning after finishing fourth in last year’s championship.

The University of Mississippi will send 11 athletes to the national championships, with seven women and four men making the trip. The Rebels are ranked 17th in men’s track and 20th in women’s track heading to the meet.

One of the biggest names to watch for UM will be Raven Saunders, who is a two-time champion in the outdoor event in the shot put. Janeah Stewart, who qualified in shot put, hammer throw and discus will join Saunders.

Shelby Brown will take part in the first NCAA championship 3,000-meter steeplechase. The winner will make history as the first-ever NCAA champion in the event.

The UM women’s 4x100-meter relay team of Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray, and twins Deanna and Breanna Tate will also make the trip.

On the men’s team for UM, MJ Erb will try to join Brown as the first winner of an NCAA title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. He missed last year’s outdoor season due to an injury.

One of the top men to watch will be Craig Engels in the 1,500-meter race. Engels is making his third appearance in the last three years and his second trip as a qualifier in the 1,500-meter.

Two Rebels’ men reached the championship meet in field events. Brian Williams earned a spot in the discus, and Dempsey McGuigan will compete in the hammer toss.

Mississippi State will send 13 athletes to Eugene—nine men and four women. Even with all the qualifiers, MSU isn’t ranked in either men’s or women’s track and field.

The top Bulldogs star might be Curtis Thompson, who is the defending champion in the javelin. Teammate Nicolas Quijera, who won the Spanish national title last year, will join him on the field. Meanwhile, Willie Reed will try to make his mark in the long jump.

The only male MSU athletes to reach the national title are in the 4x400-meter relay. The group consists of Charles Taylor, Stephan James, Lawrence Crawford, Philip Smith, Rasheed Tatham and Juston Waters.

One of the top MSU women to watch is Rhianwedd Price in the 1,500-meters. She was the ...

June 3, 2017

NHL and NBA Finals Letdowns

By bryanflynn

Two of the best parts about the end of May and beginning of June are the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals. The two events are a perfect way to wait until MLB reaches the All-Star Game and NFL training camps open.

At the present moment, the Stanley Cup Finals sit at 2-0 in favor of the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Nashville Predators, and last night, June 1, the Golden State Warriors routed the Cleveland Cavaliers in game one of the NBA Finals.

There is still plenty of time for both finals to turn around, and become classic and memorable contests, but it doesn’t look that way right now.

Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals showed what the whole series could look like. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period. Nashville battled back with a goal in the second period and two goals by the middle of the third period to tie at 3-3.

The Penguins then scored two goals late in the final period for the win. It was a thrilling game, with the Predators getting off the floor after the Penguins smacked them around in the opening period.

Game two looked like it had the makings of a classic, as well. Both teams scored a goal in the first period and stayed tied at 1-1 after the second period. Then came another Penguins onslaught. Pittsburgh scored 10 seconds into the third period to take the lead and then added two more goals shortly after to turn a tie game into a 4-1 massacre.

The win gives the Penguins a 2-0 lead in the finals as the series shifts from Pittsburgh to Nashville. The Predators will be in a must-win situation at home for game three on Saturday, June 3. If Pittsburgh wins, it would seem like the Stanley Cup Finals are over, given how hard it is for teams to come back from that deep of a hole.

Over in the NBA, it looked like the trilogy of finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers was going to live up to last season’s series, which was a seven-game thriller. In the first game, Golden State led by five points after the first quarter, and both teams were running up and down the court.

The second quarter saw the Warriors jump out to a bigger lead, though the Cavaliers battled back. Golden State led by eight at the half, but there were signs that the team could take the game over completely.

Turnovers plagued Cleveland over large stretches of the game. The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers in the game, with star LeBron James uncharacteristically committing eight turnovers himself.

Golden State wasted no time in the early third quarter taking over the game and building a big lead. Cleveland couldn’t answer with its poor shooting and even poorer defense, as the game became a dunk fest and the Warriors had tons ...

June 1, 2017

College Football Hall of Fame Ballot Announced

By bryanflynn

The National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame announced the candidates for the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame class. The ballot provides a lengthy list of players and coaches at various levels of college football.

Many names on the list went on to have long and NFL Hall of Fame-worthy professional careers. Some of the players were just stars at the college level and had short or no pro careers.

There are a few names on the list that have ties to our state. It is a prestigious honor if any of those players make into the hall, considering over 5.19 million people have played college football, but only 987 players are in the hall of fame.

One athlete from our state with a great chance of making into the hall is University of Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. The former Rebel great was a 2006 First Team All-American, 2006 Butkus Award winner, 2006 SEC Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-SEC. Willis went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers and was a star in the NFL. He abruptly retired after the 2014 season, thinking of his long-term health.

Four players from Mississippi Valley State University landed on the ballot. Younger fans will likely know former defensive back Ashley Ambrose the best. He was First Team All-American, First Team All-SWAC, and SWAC Defensive Back and Return Specialist in 1991. He went on to play in the NFL for several teams, including the New Orleans Saints.

Vincent Brown played linebacker for the Delta Devils, was a 1987 First Team All-American and led the nation in tackles in 1986 and 1987. He set an NCAA record at all levels for tackles with 570 and went on to have a successful career with the New England Patriots.

Former MVSU quarterback Parnell Dickerson was First Team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year in 1975. He was a three-time All-SWAC selection and was the conference's all-time leader in total offense by the end of his college career. Dickerson played one season in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The final Delta Devil to make the list is former wide receiver Bob Gaddis. He was a 1974 First Team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year. He was the NAIA 1970 Freshman of the Year. He played in the NFL and CFL during his professional career.

One coach to make the ballot has ties to our state. Head coach Billy Jack Murphy has the most wins in school history at the University of Memphis, which was called Memphis State University during his tenure. He took Memphis to its first bowl game, earned the title of Detroit News’ 1963 Coach of the Year, led the Tigers to an undefeated season in 1963 and was the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year multiple times.

Murphy played his college football at Mississippi State University. He ...

May 31, 2017

2017 NBA Finals Preview

By bryanflynn

There have been a few trilogies in sports over the centuries, but they are rare. Many people know that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson meet in three NBA Finals but not three straight finals.

This year’s NBA Finals is historic, as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are meeting for the third straight year on June 1.

Golden State won the first meeting in 2015 in six games, as Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were both out with injuries. LeBron James pushed the series as far as he could on his own, but he lost his fourth NBA Finals.

Cleveland had its revenge in 2016 when James won his third NBA Finals after erasing the Warriors’ 3-1 lead, winning in seven games. In back-to-back finals, James willed his team to win, making him as close to Michael Jordan as he ever has been in his career.

At some point James might pass Jordan in the eyes of the fans, but more than likely he will stay behind His Airness. Of course, his last two final appearances have made everyone forget about “The Decision” to join the Miami Heat. LeBron’s play in the 2015 and 2016 finals were truly legendary.

Now, The King faces Golden State again, but this time the Warriors have added Kevin Durant to its stacked roster of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Cleveland isn’t star poor with James, Love and Irving.

Golden State still hasn’t lost in these playoffs, as they have mostly crushed their opponents in three straight sweeps. The Warriors are the first team to enter the NBA Finals without a loss in the first three rounds.

Cleveland isn’t too shabby, with a 12-1 record heading into the finals. The lone loss was in the Eastern Conference Finals. James is playing in his seventh straight NBA Finals and eighth overall.

Golden State is a big favorite to win this finals matchup, and LeBron hasn’t been this big of an underdog since his first finals appearance against the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. In that series, San Antonio swept James and the Cavaliers.

If the Warriors can accomplish the sweep, they will be looking to pull off a perfect 16-0 playoff record. It seems highly unlikely that James would let himself get swept in a final again this late in his career.

It would be shocking if he couldn’t find some way to win at least one game if not two games. But there is some motivation for the Warriors to sweep James: He did ruin their historic 73-win season in 2016 when he denied Golden State the title.

As fans we can only hope for the seven-game thriller we received last year. Cleveland will try to play lockdown defense as Golden State bombs away three point shots as it runs and guns.

The Warriors look to be on a mission, and it ...

May 31, 2017

College Football Is Just Around the Corner

By bryanflynn

College football is less than 100 days from kickoff at the Division I level. As we head into June, it won’t be long before teams in the FBS and FCS begin practicing for season openers.

This year’s opening weekend doesn’t have quite the same jam-packed schedule as last season, but it isn’t terrible. There will be plenty of juicy matchups for fans to feast on.

Before looking at games from across the country, let’s look at those involving teams from our state on the first weekend of the season.

Jackson State University will hit the road to face a tough test in Texas Christian University. The Tigers will have to find away to slow down TCU’s high-powered offense. A JSU upset would be one of the biggest early-season stories.

Alcorn State University will have a much easier opening game against Miles College out of Division II. This game will start the Braves’ quest to play in a fourth straight SWAC Championship Game.

Mississippi Valley State University will go on the road to face one of the top teams at the FCS level, North Dakota State University. The Delta Devils will face a major test in week one, as the Bison have been racking up national titles lately.

The University of Mississippi Rebels will open the season knowing two things: They aren’t going to a bowl game, and their first foe has won at an SEC school before. The University of South Alabama pulled off a major upset against Mississippi State University last season. Things in Oxford would go from bad to worse in football if the Jaguars can trip up the Rebels.

Mississippi State opens the season against FCS foe Charleston Southern University. If the Bulldogs are going to prove that they are better than the 2016 team, they need to put this game away quickly.

One of the best opening-weekend games last season was the University of Kentucky hosting the University of Southern Mississippi. The Wildcats jumped out to a huge lead before the Golden Eagles stormed back for the victory. This year, the game is in Hattiesburg, and for neutral fans, a copy of the 2016 game would be a treat.

There are also some games that won’t involve teams from our state that should be enjoyable viewing. These games are in no particular order.

The University of Texas will host the University of Maryland in a Big 12-Big Ten matchup. This game means more to the Longhorns, who want to get back to being national-title contenders.

My opening-weekend bet for an FCS member to upset an FBS member is Eastern Washington University over Texas Tech University. If only this game were being played on the red field of Eastern Washington, all the black and red wore by both teams would murder the eyes.

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, will begin his bid to become the second man to win the award twice ...

May 30, 2017

USM and MSU in Hattiesburg Regional

By bryanflynn

At one time, it seemed like as many as four baseball teams from our state might end up in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. That’s not how things worked out in the end.

Mississippi Valley State University failed to make the SWAC Baseball Tournament, and their year ended after the regular season. Both Jackson State University and Alcorn State University made the tournament but couldn’t win the title and the conference’s lone bid.

The University of Mississippi made the SEC Baseball Tournament but lost a single-elimination game to Auburn University. That ended up holding the Rebels, who were seeded ninth, back from the NCAA Tournament since the Tigers were seeded eighth, and the top eight seeds from the SEC made the NCAA Tournament.

It is possible that the Rebels might have been in the field if they beaten Auburn. Upsets, such as Rice University winning the Conference USA Tournament and Brigham Young University winning the West Coast Conference Tournament, didn’t help UM’s chances, though.

The Rebels are missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

Late Sunday, May 28, the NCAA announced that the University of Southern Mississippi would be one of the 16 regional host sites. That assured the Golden Eagles that they were in the tournament and hosting a regional for the first time since 2003.

USM scored a school-record 48 wins so far this season and won the C-USA regular-season title. In the conference tournament, Southern Miss made the championship game but came up short against Rice. The Golden Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the regional.

On Monday, May 29, the NCAA announced the full 64-team field, with Mississippi State University also playing in the Hattiesburg Regional. The Bulldogs are making their 36th NCAA Baseball Tournament appearance.

MSU is the No. 2 seed in the regional and received an at-large bid into the tournament. The Bulldogs will open the regional against the No. 3-seed University of South Alabama, which earned an automatic bid by winning the Sun Belt Tournament.

South Alabama lost two of three games to MSU during the regular season but won the last meeting 5-2. This is the second meeting between the teams in a NCAA regional; the Bulldogs got the win in the only other meeting.

Meanwhile, USM will open regional play against the No. 4-seed University of Illinois-Chicago. The Golden Eagles didn’t meet the Flames in the regular season. UIC earned an automatic bid into the tournament by winning the Horizon League Tournament.

The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles clashed in the regular season at Trustmark Park, with USM coming out on top 7-5. The two schools played once in a 2011 regional, which the Bulldogs won 3-0.

MSU hasn’t faced UCI in program history. USM defeated South Alabama twice in the regular season this year and won ...

May 26, 2017

NCAA Rule Changes We All Can Agree On

By bryanflynn

Folks tailgating at The Grove this fall on the campus of the University of Mississippi will no doubt talk about potential NCAA sanctions. At some point, the talk might turn to another university that’s just over 630 miles from Oxford, Miss.: Baylor University in Texas.

Rebels fans might be scratching their heads wondering why they are looking down the barrel of the NCAA’s gun, but Baylor University isn’t. The answer is simple: There are no rules in the massive NCAA rulebook on what is going on at Baylor. Last year, a sexual-assault scandal in the football program came to light, and since then, the allegations have continued to mount.

Each new lawsuit against the university is painting an ugly picture about what was going on at Baylor. Still, the Bears will get to compete for the Big 12 title and head to a bowl game, but not the Rebels.

In an article on Sports Illustrated’s website, SI.com, writer Andy Staples breaks down the reasons why the NCAA won’t punish Baylor.

He points out that the organization jumped the gun against Pennsylvania State University in 2012.

The NCAA punished Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case. For the most part, many of the sanctions have quietly been reduced or repealed.

Personally, I was against the punishment for Penn State, not because of I’m a fan of the university but because the NCAA overstepped its boundaries. We can all agree that the NCAA should relax some rules and do away with others, but it can’t just make up rules on the fly.

Public outcry drowned out common sense. For the NCAA, the PSU case became, “We have to do something,” and not a question of whether organization had the ability to do something. The NCAA has learned its lesson so far in the Baylor case, but public outcry grows by the day.

It is amazing that an organization that has rules for when a coach can call or text a recruit doesn’t have rules when something horrific like what happened at Penn State and what is happening at Baylor. Maybe that should change.

Even before the Penn State scandal, the NCAA had a chance to change the rules and bring the hammer down on programs that were covering up crimes. In 2003 also at Baylor, basketball player Carlton Dotson murdered fellow teammate Patrick Dennehy.

Then-Head Coach Dave Bliss lied about Dennehy, saying he had become a drug dealer to pay his tuition. In reality, Bliss was paying for Dennehy’s tuition in order to get around NCAA rules.

Long story short, Baylor got in trouble, not for trying to cover up a murder, but because a coach playing fast and loose with rules in the NCAA books. Bliss got a 10-year show-cause penalty, which has ended his chances of coaching at another NCAA school.

It was a chance for the organization to look at changing ...

May 24, 2017

Delta State Reaches DII College World Series

By bryanflynn

While the University of Mississippi women’s softball team was making history last week, another team in our state was making strides on the diamond, as well.

Delta State University hosted an eight-team regional in Division II baseball—the Statesmen’s 31st NCAA postseason appearance and fifth NCAA South Regional appearance in the last six years. DSU entered the postseason looking to win its first regional since 2012. That year, Delta State beat Stillman College twice in the same day for the win.

Delta State started regional play against Florida Southern College after an opening-day bye. DSU jumped out to a 2-1 after the first inning, but FSC exploded for four runs to take a 5-2 lead after two innings.

The Moccasins and the Statesmen both added a run in the third inning to make the score 6-3. FCS added another run in the fourth inning to go up 7-3, but Delta State started the comeback in the fifth inning, scoring three runs to cut the Moccasins’ lead to 7-6.

DSU put up two more runs in the sixth inning to retake the lead at 8-7. The Statesmen then added an insurance run in the eighth inning, but it didn’t matter, as FSC didn’t get on the board again after the fourth inning.

After the Statesmen’s 9-7 win in a game where they had to rally from behind by four runs, DSU faced the defending national champion, Nova Southeastern University. There was no need for a comeback, here, though, as the Statesmen were in total control against the Sharks. Delta State cruised to a 4-1 win as the team pounded out 11 hits and held Nova Southeastern to just four hits.

In the regional final, DSU faced the University of West Alabama in an instant classic. Delta State started off with a 4-1 lead after two innings, but the Tigers weren’t done.

West Alabama added a run in the fifth inning to cut the Delta State lead to 4-2 and then added another run in the seventh inning to make it 4-3. In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers tied the game at 4-4 to force extra innings. Delta State got the offense going again with two runs in the top of the 10th inning.

West Alabama threatened to make another comeback in the bottom of the 10th but couldn’t find a way to get back the two runs. DSU took the victory at 6-4 to win the South Regional and advance to the Division II Men’s College World Series.

Delta State won its 12th regional title overall and its sixth regional under current coach Mike Kinnison. DSU moved to a 68-42 all-time record in NCAA postseason play and a 16-9 mark in the South Regional.

DSU is 27-19 in the Division II Men’s World Series in program history. Delta State is ranked second in the nation by Collegiate Baseball and ranked fourth by the National ...

May 23, 2017

MSU’s Rooker Wins Ferriss Trophy and SEC POY Awards

By bryanflynn

The day after the regular season ended, Monday, May 22, turned out to be a great day for Mississippi State University first baseman Brent Rooker. He is in the midst of one of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of college baseball in our state.

Rooker became the first MSU player to be named SEC Player of the Year. He is leading the conference in batting average at .415, total bases with 179, hits with 85, RBI with 73, doubles with 28 and home runs with 20.

The Germantown, Tenn., native is second in the conference in stolen bases with 18 steals out of 23 attempts.

But it isn’t just the SEC that Rooker is leading or near the top with his statistics.

He is first in the nation in slugging percentage at .873, total bases and doubles, second in batting average, third in RBI, fourth in home runs and on-base percentage, and seventh in the nation in hits.

Rooker was named First Team All-SEC and is the second MSU first baseman to be named All-SEC in the last two seasons. Last season, Nathaniel Lowe earned First Team All-SEC at first base.

Short stop Ryan Gridley joins Rooker on the First Team All-SEC, and outfielder Jake Mangum landed on the Second Team All-SEC. Mangum landed on the All-Defensive team as well.

Rooker beat out a trio of players from the University of Southern Mississippi and one from Delta State University for the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy. He is the sixth MSU player to win the award in the 14 years it has been handed out.

Every winner for the Bulldogs has come in back-to-back years. Thomas Berkery was the first MSU player to win the award in 2006, and Ed Easley won in 2007. Chris Stratton took home the trophy in 2012, and Hunter Renfroe won in 2013.

Rooker’s current teammate, Mangum, took home the award last season. The University of Mississippi has produced five winners, Southern Miss has two past winners, and Belhaven University has one winner.

Taylor Braley, Matt Wallner and Dylan Burdeaux of USM, and Zack Shannon of DSU of were the other 2017 Ferriss Trophy finalists. Rooker led the fan-voting with 1,728 votes, Burdeaux ended up second with 987 votes, Braley ended up third with 548, Shannon landed in fourth with 197 votes, and Wallner came in fifth with 57 votes.

May 23, 2017

SEC and C-USA Baseball Tournament Preview

By bryanflynn

Texas Southern University outlasted eight other teams, including Jackson State University and Alcorn State University, and won the 2017 SWAC Baseball Tournament. TSU is one of a handful of teams that have already earned a spot into the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Tournament.

Two other tournaments that feature teams from our state with spot in the NCAA tournament on the line begin this week. Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi will both try to win the 2017 SEC Tournament, and the University of Southern Mississippi will try to take the tournament title in the 2017 Conference USA Tournament.

Both the Bulldogs and Rebels will play on day one of the SEC tournament. The opening day is single elimination, with the teams that advance moving to a double-elimination format.

MSU enters the tournament as the No. 5 seed against No. 12 seed, the University of Georgia, at 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 23, on the SEC Network. Georgia shocked MSU when it won the three-game series between the two teams during the regular season.

If Mississippi State advances, No. 4 seed the University of Arkansas is awaiting the next day. The Razorbacks swept the Bulldogs in the regular-season series.

MSU comes stumbling into the tournament after losing five of their last seven games. This stumble cost the Bulldogs a chance at the SEC and West Division titles.

The Rebels open the tournament on day one at 4:30 p.m. against Auburn University. UM is the No. 9 seed, and the Tigers are the No. 8 seed.

These teams met in the final SEC series of the regular season. Auburn took two out of three games, but the Rebels won the final one of the series.

If UM advances, top seed University of Florida is up next for the team. The Gators swept the Rebels in the regular-season series the teams played earlier this month.

Southern Miss enters the top seed in the C-USA tournament and is on a 14-game winning streak. It is the longest winning streak in program history and the longest winning streak in the nation.

The C-USA Tournament, which is in Biloxi, Miss., at MGM Park, is a double-elimination tournament until the championship game. The top eight teams in the conference earned a spot.

The teams are split into two brackets with the winners of both brackets playing in title game.

USM opened the tournament at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, against No. 8 seed University of Texas, San Antonio. The Golden Eagles swept UTSA in the final conference series of the regular season.

In the next round Southern Miss will face either the No. 4 seed, University of North Carolina, Charlotte or the No. 5 seed, Louisiana Tech University. USM didn’t face Charlotte in the regular season.

The Golden Eagles swept Louisiana Tech in ...

May 23, 2017

Rebels Advance to Softball Super Regionals

By bryanflynn

The University of Mississippi softball team didn’t show any signs of nerves despite hosting its first regional in program history. Playing at home in Oxford, the Rebels didn’t have any problems dispatching the other three teams in the tournament.

The Rebels opened the regional with an 8-0 win over the University of Southern Illinois. UM used its eight hits to score five runs in the second inning and three more runs in the fifth inning to close the game out.

Arizona State University tried to upset the Rebels, as the Sun Devils were able to keep UM off the scoreboard through five innings. In the bottom of the sixth inning, however, the Rebels hit two runs that proved to be the difference in their 2-0 win.

In the regional final, the University of North Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two innings but didn’t score again. UM tied the game with two runs in the top of the fourth inning and scored two more runs in the top of sixth inning. The Rebels added more insurance with another three runs in the top of the seventh inning, but the Tar Heels couldn’t answer. UM pounded out 14 hits in its 7-2 win and advanced to the Super Regionals, which take place Thursday, May 25, through Sunday, May 28.

Next, UM will face the University of California, Los Angeles in a best-of-three series beginning May 25 and ending May 27, with the winner moving on to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.

After the weekend, only 16 of the 64 teams that made the Super Regionals will be left standing. The path to the Women’s College World Series has basically become the SEC-Pac-12 invitational, with those two conferences holding 13 of the final 16 spots.

The SEC put all 13 of its teams in the Super Regionals, and eight of those teams are still standing. Mississippi State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Arkansas, the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina are the five teams eliminated from the tournament.

There were eight teams from the Pac-12, but the Oregon State University, Arizona State and the University of California, Berkeley have been eliminated. The only crashers at the SEC-Pac-12 party are the University of Oklahoma, Baylor University and Florida State University.

Two of the Super Regional matchups feature SEC teams against Pac-12 teams, as the University of Oregon hosts the University of Kentucky and the above-mentioned UCLA hosts UM. Two of the matchups feature two SEC teams going head to head, as the University of Florida hosts the University of Alabama, and the University of Tennessee hosts Texas A&M University. FSU will host Louisiana State University, and Auburn University will host Oklahoma to round out the rest of the SEC teams.

The Pac-12 will have two of its conference teams facing off, with the ...

May 18, 2017

Always Dreaming Favorite for the Preakness

By bryanflynn

A field of 10 horses will try to win the second leg of the Triple Crown, the 142nd Preakness Stakes, on Saturday, May 20. Five horses, including winner Always Dreaming, are in the field after running in the Kentucky Derby.

Always Dreaming is the morning-line favorite and will break from the No. 4 post with 4-5 odds. There is some good luck breaking from the No. 4 post, as well. Thirteen winners have come from that spot, with 2007 winner Curlin being the most recent.

Second choice Classic Empire, who is at 3-1 odds, will break in the No. 5 post. Classic Empire finished fourth in the derby two weeks ago after he got caught up in the traffic of the 20-horse race.

Lookin At Lee, who finished second two weeks ago, will be in the No. 9 post and is the third choice at 10-1 odds. In the derby, Lookin At Lee was at 33-1 odds but ran through the field at the end of the race.

Cloud Computing didn’t race in the derby and will break from the No. 2 post at 12-1 odds. Horses that didn’t run the Kentucky Derby are known as “new shooters” in the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Gunnevera in the No. 6 post and Conquest Mo Money in the No. 10 post are both at 15-1 odds. Gunnevera finished seventh in the derby, but Conquest Mo Money is a new shooter whose owners paid $150,000 supplemental to be in the Preakness and Belmont.

Hence finished in 11th place at the derby and will break from the No. 3 post at 20-1 odds. It was a poor showing overall for Hence two weeks ago, as he never really got going in the race.

A trio of new shooters round out the field at 30-1 shots to win at the Preakness. Multiplier will break from the No. 1 post, Term of the Art will be in the No. 7 post, and Senior Investment will be in the No. 8 post.

The Preakness Stakes at one and three-16ths miles is the shortest of the three Triple Crown races. The Kentucky Derby is one and a quarter miles, and the Belmont Stakes is the longest at a mile and half.

Rain caused the derby to have a sloppy track, but it did little to slow down Always Dreaming. Weather isn’t expected to be a problem at the Preakness on Saturday, which forecasts say will be cloudy and 70 degrees.

NBC Sports Network begins coverage at 1:30 p.m., and NBC picks up the coverage at 4 p.m. The Preakness Stakes itself is scheduled to run at 5:45 p.m., but expect it to take longer with the pre-race festivities.

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