SportsBlog entries for April, 2016 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

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Entries for April, 2016


April 29, 2016

Laremy Tunsil's Scandals Take Over First Round of the NFL Draft

By bryanflynn

Here's a quick rundown of what happened during the first round of the NFL Draft: The Los Angeles Rams made University of California quarterback Jared Goff the No. 1 overall pick, and the Philadelphia Eagles took Carson Wentz, a quarterback out of North Dakota State University, making him the No. 2 pick.

After Goff and Wentz went in the draft, all eyes fell on University of Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. In fact, it was a terrible night for Tunsil and got worse as the night went along.

Shortly before the draft started, a video on Tunsil’s Twitter account, which was hacked, showed someone who was wearing a gas mask. later confirmed to be Tunsil, taking hits from a bong. It didn’t take long for the video to go viral and for ESPN and NFL Network to begin discussing it and what it would mean for him.

Before the draft, Tunsil was considered to be one of the top players in the draft, and many thought he would be the first player to hear his name called. After the video got out, he began to fall down as reports came out that teams had taken Tunsil off their draft board.

Instead of being the first tackle picked, Tunsil watched as the Baltimore Ravens drafted Ronnie Stanley out the University of Notre Dame in the sixth pick, and the Tennessee Titans drafted Jack Conklin out of Michigan State University in the eighth pick.

The Miami Dolphins finally stopped Tunsil’s drop by taking him with the 13th pick. Tunsil was supposed to be a top-five pick, but he didn’t even go in the top 10.

The first reports said that the video of Tunsil was five years old, but then it changed to two years old. But it didn’t matter when the video was taken. The damage was done, and it cost him millions.

The top pick in the draft will sign for about $28.5 million, and the fifth will sign for about $24 million. Falling all the way down to the 13th pick means Tunsil will sign for about $13 million.

The video cost him $10 to $15 million in salary in his first contract.

But his bad night wasn’t over. After the Dolphins selected him, a post on his Instagram account showed the offensive tackle asking a coach for money.

That post came up during his first press conference.

A reporter asked a visibly sweating Tunsil about the conversation with his coach over money. At first he denied that it happened, but in a follow-up question, he said he did ask and took money.

The money reports said he did it to pay bills and rent. Tunsil already had to sit out games last season for the Rebels due to receiving improper benefits. The day before the draft, reports surfaced that his stepfather, Lindsey Miller, filed a lawsuit against the offensive tackle ...

April 28, 2016

Looking to the NFL Draft

By bryanflynn

Day one of the NFL Draft begins tonight with the first round and continues Friday and finishes on Sunday. This could be one of the wildest in recent memory, with the first two picks having already been traded.

In the remaining few hours before the draft, pass the time by reading as many mock drafts as you can if you don’t have a feel for the players. The best teams are able to build through and add free agents to become a title contender.

All the first-round action begins at 7 p.m. CST on ESPN and the NFL Network. Here’s what to watch for mainly tonight but a couple things throughout the draft.

Which quarterback do the Los Angeles Rams select?

It is hard to remember that the Rams are back in L.A. again. But they are, and they traded with the Tennessee Titans to get the top pick.

L.A. is going to draft a quarterback, but the question is, will it be Carson Wentz or Jared Goff? Whichever quarterback the Rams choose leaves the other for the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded with the Cleveland Browns for the second pick.

What will San Diego and Dallas do with picks at three and four?

The real intrigue of this draft begins with the Chargers and Cowboys. Both teams could make a pick on offense or defense. San Diego and Dallas could also start a run on defensive linemen since both teams need help in the trenches on the defensive side.

If the right deal comes along, either team could be enticed into a trade. Both could in fact move back in the draft if the teams that need a quarterback decide to move up.

Will the Browns and 49ers draft a quarterback?

After nearly two decades, Cleveland is still trying to find who will be the man under center. San Francisco might be ready to move from Colin Kaepernick and start fresh at quarterback.

The 49ers have the seventh pick, and the Browns follow with the eighth pick. Both teams have plenty of holes to fill, so they could pass on a quarterback in this round to pick one up later.

If both the Browns and 49ers take a quarterback, it could cause a run on the other ones in the draft.

Will the Saints take a quarterback or defensive player?

There is some thought that the Saints could go after a quarterback in the first round. New Orleans really needs defensive help like a pass rusher or in the secondary if they want to make a run at a title with Drew Brees.

On the other hand, Brees won’t play forever, so when do you get his replacement if you don’t think you already have him on the roster? This would be a classic build for the future or a play--for-right-now spot for the Saints.

More quarterbacks late in round one?

Two other teams ...

April 27, 2016

Are the Saints and Brees Playing Chicken Before the Draft?

By bryanflynn

Some interesting things have come out of New Orleans over the past few days. Both the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees seem to be trying to position themselves for some possible post-draft fallout.

By now, nearly every Saints fan knows that Brees currently has a $30 million salary number cap for this upcoming season. This is also the final year of his current contract with New Orleans.

The next few stories are why this is so interesting.

When the Carolina Panthers suddenly rescinded their franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, making him an unrestricted free agent, it quickly became apparent that Washington and New Orleans were his top destination options.

Norman signed with Washington instead of New Orleans, but after Norman was off the market, ESPN reported that Brees was willing to rework his deal so the Saints could sign the star cornerback.

Neither side has said it had a contract deal in place after Norman signed with Washington. But could Brees have worked out a deal in a few short hours to give the Saints room to sign Norman?

Then, there was this: Just this week, Ian Rapoport said the Saints were looking to move up to the number-one pick before a trade was made between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tennessee Titans.

Brees said in an interview on “The Rich Eisen Show” that he doubts the Saints tried to make a move for the top pick. New Orleans General Manager Mickey Loomis also said the report was false during a recent press conference.

Rapoport, in the same story, reported that the Saints were also interested in possibly moving up from the 12th pick to inside the top 10 to draft former University of Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.

If you don’t remember, the Saints spent a third-round draft choice on Garrett Grayson last year. Grayson just rode the pine after the preseason, mainly as the Saints’ third-string quarterback.

The theory that New Orleans might want to draft a quarterback in the first round raises some questions.

Would the Saints want to sign Brees to a contract of three or fewer years if they draft a quarterback in the first round?

Will the Saints let Brees play out this season and then move on from the future Hall of Fame signal caller?

Will New Orleans rework Brees’ deal so they can trade him once his salary is more trade-friendly?

Even if the Saints rework Brees’ deal and draft a quarterback, is the club saying the Super Bowl window is closed with Brees?

Do the Saints want to rework Brees’ deal and make a couple of final runs at a Super Bowl?

Is this all really a pre-draft smokescreen that the Saints are using to work a better deal with Brees?

Let’s take a look at each question.

If the Saints take a quarterback in the first round, they ...

April 26, 2016

Rebels and Bulldogs Battle in Pearl

By bryanflynn

Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi travel to Pearl’s Trustmark Park to play for the Governor’s Cup tonight. Both teams are ranked to varying degrees in every major college-baseball poll, with MSU reaching as high has third place and the Rebels as high as ninth.

The Bulldogs come into the game after taking two of three wins from Louisiana State University over the weekend to move to 27-13-1 overall and 10-8 in the SEC. UM just got a huge sweep of Auburn University, which moved the Rebels to 31-10 overall and 10-8 in SEC play.

Both teams are tied with LSU for second place in the SEC West and two games behind division leading Texas A&M University. In RPI, the Rebels are ranked fifth and MSU is ranked 13th.

These teams have been meeting in the Jackson area since 1980, when Dale Danks Jr., then mayor of Jackson, started the Mayor’s Trophy. The game moved to Trustmark Park in 2007 and was renamed the Governor's Cup.

This will be the 37th meeting in the Mayor’s Trophy/Governor’s Cup series, with both teams tied at 18-18 heading into the game tonight. MSU does have a 5-4 edge since the game was renamed to the Governor's Cup, though.

Last season, the Rebels pounded the Bulldogs 11-1 for UM’s largest victory in the series. MSU leads the all-time series 246-205-5 and is 31-27-1 in neutral-site games.

This season, MSU took two of three games in the SEC series when these teams played in Starkville. The Bulldogs will also be the home team tonight, as the team will probably hand the ball to freshman Ryan Cyr, and the Rebels are likely to counter with junior Chad Smith on the mound.

Besides the state bragging rights, this game also provides momentum for the final stretch of the regular season. Both teams only have four conference series left before the SEC Tournament kicks off in late May.

After this game, the Bulldogs travel to Alabama (9-9 in SEC play), and the Rebels host the aforementioned LSU Tigers in Oxford this weekend. UM might need the momentum more with SEC series against the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M to end the season.

MSU’s schedule gets easier in the final weeks. The Bulldogs face the University of Missouri, last place in the SEC East, then Auburn, last place in the SEC West, and end the season at the University of Arkansas, second to last in the SEC West.

Currently only general-admission/standing-room-only tickets remain for tonight’s game. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the game starts at 6:30 p.m.

If you can’t catch tonight game in person, it will be broadcasted on the SEC Network starting at 6:30 p.m.

*UPDATE* This game is now sold out.

April 25, 2016

Rare News Out of the NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

Something so rare happened today that ESPN reporter Adam Schefter couldn’t remember how long it had been since it last happened. For the first time in a long time, none of the players invited to the NFL Combine failed the drug test.

This was good news for the players who teams considered to have “red flags,” but this was also good news for teams who liked players who made questionable decisions in their past.

Players can have a red flag for something as simple as not being voted as team captain, such as Michigan State University quarterback Connor Cook, or as serious as sexual assault charges, such as Bowling Green University Roger Lewis.

A player can also get a red flag for falling out a hotel window, as former University of Mississippi defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche did. After this incident, Nkemdiche went from top 10 pick to questions of, “How far will he fall in this week’s draft?”

Each NFL team will decide if a red flag matters before drafting a player. The talent of said player will also have an impact on whether a team will draft him.

That is to say, in most cases, the more talent a player has, the more room he has to mess up.

So, why is it important that no players failed the drug test at the NFL Combine? That’s because it is more than just a drug test.

The test gives teams a chance to look at the decision-making of future draft picks. When a player goes to the combine, he knows that he is going to be tested for drug usage, so failing that drug test means more than failing a random drug test in college.

Teams want to know why a player would fail a test that he knew he would have to take when he showed up. When you are talking about giving certain players millions of dollars, this becomes an important factor for teams.

No players failing the drug test is good for the athletes, as well. According to ESPN, no player with a failed drug test has been selected in the first round since 2010.

Failing out of the first round is a loss of money for each spot a player drops. That still doesn’t mean a player won’t fall out of the first round of this year’s draft because of a red flag, but it does mean that he won’t fall because of this particularly avoidable trap.

Last year, University of Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory failed a drug test at the NFL Combine and went from a first-round pick to a second-round pick. Failing a drug test could even force a player to drop out of the draft and become an undrafted rookie free agent.

While not failing a drug test won’t be the reason Nkemdiche falls in the draft, his statements in a pre-draft interview, in which he said ...

April 22, 2016

Another Former Wrestler is Dead

By bryanflynn

News of music star Prince’s death rocked the world yesterday, and rightfully so, as an icon of the industry is now gone. Earlier in the day, however, reports were already coming in that former WWE star Chyna, whose real name was Joan Marie Laurer, had died.

Sadly, her death is too often a side of pro wrestling and her sudden exit from the business is still a major part of speculation between fans. Laurer’s went from the top of the wrestling world to working in adult films to posting rambling YouTube videos about vitamins and being a vegan.

At one time, Laurer was one of the biggest stars in the WWE. Then known as the WWF before a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund forced the name change. She rose to fame during the “Monday Night Wars” between the WWE and now defunct WCW.

Laurer, from Rochester, N.Y., began her professional wrestling career after working as a model and bodybuilder. She started, as most wrestlers do, on the independent circuit before meeting wrestlers Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H, and Shawn Hickenbottom, better known as Shawn Michaels.

Both Levesque and Hickenbottom were members of a group of wrestlers known backstage as “The Kliq” with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman.

Laurer’s trainer, “Killer Kowalski,” also introduced her to the son of WWE owner Vince McMahon. She chose to join the WWE over WCW and, according to Laurer, a chance to join the NWO, whose members included Nash and Hall.

When she joined the WWE, she was paired with Triple H and Michaels when the duo started their stable called D-generation X, but she mainly played the role of Triple H’s bodyguard. Laurer was also billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World” because Andre the Giant was billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” She stayed with DX after Michaels left the company due to back problems.

During her time with DX, she and Triple H began to have a romantic relationship in their real lives outside the ring. This relationship would later be a factor in her decision to leave the company.

Laurer broke several barriers for women in professional wrestling. She often fought against male wrestlers, and she also scored victories over the likes of Chris Jericho, Triple H, Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle, all of whom went on to become world champions.

She became the first woman to compete in the “King of the Ring” Tournament and the “Royal Rumble.” She is also the only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. Laurer and Triple H split on-screen in 1999, and a year later, the couple separated in real life, with Laurer claiming that he had cheated on her with Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, before the two officially broke things off.

Triple H went on to later marry Stephanie and has since become an executive in the WWE. Laurer left the WWE in 2001, though both ...

April 22, 2016

Drafting a Quarterback is Crapshoot: Part Two

By bryanflynn

The first part of this story looked at NFL teams drafting quarterbacks from 1998 to 2007. This second one will look at quarterbacks drafted from 2008 to 2015 and some interesting numbers behind these draft picks.

Two quarterbacks were picked in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Matt Ryan, who the Atlanta Falcons selected first overall, is currently in the midst of a solid career. But he hasn’t had postseason success, which downgrades him, in my eyes.

The Baltimore Ravens picked quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round in 2008. He has a Super Bowl win but was able to overcome early struggles as a young player thanks to a dominant defense.

There is no question that Ryan and Flacco are franchise quarterbacks. The other 11 of the 13 quarterbacks drafted in 2008 didn’t amount to much. Chad Henne got some run in Miami, but he wasn’t the answer. Green Bay took Matt Flynn—no relation—in the seventh round, and he became the king at cashing in for performances in meaningless late-season games. Flynn signed big contracts but could never become “the man” when he left the Packers.

Three quarterbacks were drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft. All three have had slightly different careers.

Matthew Stafford, who the Detroit Lions drafted first overall, is a solid starter. He has some gunslinger in him, and the Lions haven’t been able to put things together around him enough to succeed at a high level—but he is a franchise quarterback.

Mark Sanchez, who the New York Jets drafted fifth overall, was supposed to be the answer for the club’s quarterback woes. Instead, Sanchez is known for his butt fumble and moving from New York to the Philadelphia Eagles to the Denver Broncos, where he currently is.

Sanchez had early success behind a great Jets defense but more recently has proved to be stopgap for teams looking for a franchise quarterback or a backup. He could have had success in 2016 with that dominant Denver defense.

Tampa Bay drafted Josh Freeman with the 17th overall pick, and it looked like he was going to become a longtime starter in the league. He had two solid seasons in his first four years, but the wheels came off at the start of the 2013 season, when he couldn’t complete a pass. Tampa Bay released him, and he signed with Minnesota.

Things didn’t go any better for Freeman in Minnesota and he was out of the league except for a guest spot in one game in 2015 for the quarterback injury that plagued Indianapolis Colts.

Eleven total quarterbacks were selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, and the rest had limited success. The Colts selected Curtis Painter in the seventh round, and he sat behind Peyton Manning until his neck injury forced him to miss the 2011 season. The Colts turned to Painter and went 2-14 in a disastrous season.

Sam Bradford was ...

April 20, 2016

Drafting a Quarterback is Crapshoot: Part One

By bryanflynn

If you are running a mock draft of the 2016 NFL Draft, it might be time to just tear up any guesses at this point with the Philadelphia Eagles trading up to the second spot. The Eagles got the Cleveland Browns second pick in the second blockbuster trade before the draft.

The common theory is that both the St. Louis Rams, who have the first pick, and Philadelphia will draft a quarterback.

Two types of NFL teams exist: those who have a franchise quarterback and those who don’t have one. Quarterback is the most discussed and visible position on every NFL roster. Essentially, it is the face of the franchise.

When a team picks the spot correctly it can mean 10 to 15 years of success. When teams muck it up, it seems like it takes forever to fix that mistake.

Just how hard is it to pick a long-term starting quarterback? Let’s take a look back at the draft from 1998 to last year to see.

Every football fan old enough probably remembers the 1998 NFL Draft. The question before it happened was who should be the first pick: Peyton Manning out of Tennessee or Ryan Leaf out of Washington state?

The Indianapolis Colts picked Manning with the first pick of the draft, and he turned out to be a Hall of Fame quarterback now that his career is over. Leaf was selected No. 2, and he is now considered one of the biggest busts in NFL Draft history.

Eight quarterbacks were picked in 1998, and most ended up with short careers. Only Charlie Batch, Brian Griese and Matt Hasselbeck had some sort of success in the league.

The 1999 quarterback draft class produced the top three picks, though two didn’t pan out. Tim Couch, who the Cleveland Browns drafted first overall, did achieve a lot of success in the league.

He was the Browns' first pick upon their return as a franchise, and he didn’t have much help on a team starting over. The third pick of the draft was the Cincinnati Bengals choosing Akili Smith, who was pretty much a bust.

The Philadelphia Eagles used the second pick in the draft to select Donovan McNabb who was the most successful quarterback in the 1999 class. The Eagles hope the No. 2 pick is just as good to them this year.

Other notable picks in that class were Aaron Brooks, who had some success in New Orleans, Daunte Culpepper, who stuck around the league for awhile, Cade McNown and Shaun King.

Brock Huard from this class might be better known for his work with ESPN.

In the 2000 draft class, 12 quarterbacks were picked, but the must-known person was taken in the sixth round out of the University of Michigan. You might have heard of him: Tom Brady.

Yep, the guy picked in the sixth round was more successful than the six quarterbacks picked ahead ...

April 19, 2016

JSU's Rene Colon named SWAC Pitcher of the Week

By bryanflynn

The SWAC named its Player of the Week awards, and Jackson State University pitcher Rene Colon was named Pitcher of the Week for the conference. Colon earned the award for his work Sunday, April 17, against JSU rival Alcorn State University.

In the Tigers' 5-1 win over the Braves, Colon pitched a masterful complete game in which he struck out six Braves, gave up one run, one walk and scattered eight hits. The complete game is the first for Colon this season.

JSU jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning in which the Tigers scored on three hits but left two on base. Jackson State’s early lead was all Colon needed, but he got an insurance run in the sixth inning for the 5-0 lead.

Alcorn State was finally able to break through against Colon in the seventh inning with a run. Colon closed the door on the Braves in the eighth and ninth innings by allowing just one hit over the final two innings.

Colon came to Jackson State in 2014 after graduating from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. In his final season at EEC, Colon made 13 appearances with 12 starts and won four games but lost eight as he averaged 4.46 strikeouts per game and a 6.04 ERA. The senior was also named Second Team All-Academic while at ECC.

The 6-foot, 2-inch, 170-pound pitcher from Florida, Puerto Rico made 14 appearances with 10 starts in the 2015 season. He won five games and lost two as he struck out 75 and 22 walks with a 6.28 ERA.

This season, Colon has made 11 appearances with six starts and a 5-3 record. He has 38 strikeouts, 19 walks and a 5.24 ERA over 46.1 innings worth of work.

Colon is the nephew of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman coach Charlie Montoyo.

Jackson State is 21-17 overall this season and 8-8 in SWAC. The Tigers currently sit in second place in SWAC East division behind Alabama State University and are tied with Alcorn State.

April 18, 2016

College Sports Revenue

By bryanflynn

Texas A&M University sits atop the college-sports world in total revenue in a recent report from USA Today. The Aggies earned more than $192.6 million in 2015—quite a leap from their 2014 revenue of about $119.5 million.

A large portion of the 2015 revenue came from $92 million in contributions, with ticket sales adding more than $45.8 million, rights and licensing adding about $47 million, and other revenue adding about $7.7 million. The Aggies added zero in student fees to their total.

The University of Mississippi was the top-earning school in the state last year, with about $87.6 million in total revenue, 34th place on the list of schools. The athletic department transferred nearly $2 million dollars back to the university, which is viewed as a revenue loss. In 2014, UM collected nearly $76 million in total revenue.

In 2015, UM earned more than $39 million in rights and licensing, by far the largest revenue source for the school. The Rebels added more than $22 million in contributions and more $19 million in ticket sales. UM also earned revenue in student fees and from the school before giving some money back.

Mississippi State University comes in 45th on the list with only slightly more than $75 million in total revenue, up from the more than $62 million in 2014. MSU collected the most revenue from rights and licensing at about $40 million. MSU gave $1.73 million back to the school.

The Bulldogs collected nearly $17 million in contributions and more $14 million in ticket sales. MSU also collected student fee for athletic revenue.

There is a big drop off from the state’s two SEC schools down to the University of Southern Mississippi, the next school from our state on the list. The Golden Eagles earned nearly $24 million in total revenue, placing 118th on the list.

Student fees fed the USM athletic department to the tune of about $6 million. Rights and licensing came in just below $6 million, contributions barely exceeded $4 million, and ticket sales were only about $2 million. The school gave the athletic department nearly $3 million in revenue, and other sources gave USM nearly $3 million. USM athletic department didn’t give any money back to the school.

The Golden Eagles collected less than $500,000 more in total revenue than they did in 2014.

Jackson State University comes in 100 spots behind Southern Miss at 218th place, with about $8 million in total revenue. The Tigers’ main source of revenue was student fees at about $3 million.

JSU earned nearly $3 million from public funds, about $1 million from ticket sales, about $500,000 in rights and licensing, and just about $800,000 from other sources.

One interesting note on JSU: The athletic department claimed zero dollars on contributions. JSU made just above $7 million in total revenue in 2014.

Alcorn State University came in 222nd place with about $7 million in total revenue. The Braves’ athletic ...

April 15, 2016

Playoffs Possible With New Orleans 2016 Schedule

By bryanflynn

It’s official. For the first time since 1970, a Super Bowl rematch will start the new NFL season in week one on Thursday night, Sept. 8, as the Carolina Panthers go to Denver to face the Broncos.

That’s the first game of the season, but it loses a ton of luster with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning walking into the sunset. That leaves Mark “Butt Fumble” Sanchez and Trevor Siemian as Denver’s only quarterbacks at the moment. Siemian who? He is out of Northwestern University, I had to look him up, as well.

Carolina should be a modest favorite in this game. Cam Newton will get another chance at a defense that harassed and victimized him in the Super Bowl.

While the first game of the season might be lacking in some respects, it's time to turn our attention to the New Orleans Saints schedule. Depending on how things play out, the Saints have the potential to reach the playoffs.

New Orleans has the fourth hardest schedule, which ESPN Stats and Info shows. The reason for the strength of schedule is the Saints face the AFC and NFC West divisions, which have been two of the best in the league the last few years.

Here is a week-by-week breakdown.

New Orleans gets the Oakland Raiders at home to start the season. The noon kickoff should be a bit of an advantage, with the Raiders playing at 10 a.m. PST. Oakland has gotten better but is still building around a young core of players.

Week two has New Orleans traveling to New York City or in reality in New Jersey to face the New York Giants. The Saints will not know what they are going to get with the recent up-and-down play from Giants quarterback Eli Manning. This game could be a stepping-stone to the playoffs for the winner.

New Orleans should be fired up for its week three matchup. The game is at home against the hated Atlanta Falcons. It is on Monday Night Football and on the 10-year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. Expect the dome to set a record for loudest crowd ever.

The Saints travel west in week four as they go to San Diego to take on the Chargers. Last season, the wheels fell off for San Diego as it went 4-12, but the team does have a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, so a quick bounce-back is possible. But will the Chargers stay focused with talk of moving out of San Diego each week?

New Orleans is on a bye during the fifth week of the season. It is early, but it's a chance to get healthy before some big games coming up.

Week six starts the make-or-break part of the Saints' schedule. New Orleans gets the defending NFC Champions Carolina Panthers at home. If the Saints are going to win the division, they will have to get past the ...

April 14, 2016

The Crazy 24 Hours Is Still Going

By bryanflynn

Records, news, trades, playoffs and retirements have fueled the sports world for nearly the last 24 hours. It seems that if you look away for a single second, or go to bed before midnight like I did last night, you missed something happening in sports.

Things got started in the NHL as the playoffs got underway last night with three games. Tampa Bay outlasted Detroit 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Pittsburgh used a hat trick from Patric Hornqvist to beat the New York Rangers 5-2. Finally, the St. Louis Blues needed overtime to get past the Chicago Blackhawks in their 1-0 win.

The NHL Playoffs were nice, but the final night of the NBA regular season had a legend in his final game and a chase for a record. In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant played in his final game at home as a Laker. In Oakland, the Golden State Warriors went for win 73 to break the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins in the regular season.

In his final game, Kobe didn’t disappoint as he put on a show for the home fans. The Laker great went for 60 points in his final game.

Bryant became the oldest player to score 50 or more points in an NBA game. There is one catch to Kobe’s big night, though: It took him 50 shots to get 60 points.

He had 22 made shots out of 50 attempts, six made three-point shots off of 21 attempts and 10 of 12 free throws made on the night. Just two other Lakers attempted double-digit shots.

Sure, Kobe got 50, but he got there pretty ugly. But the only thing people will remember is that Bryant got 60 in his final game—not the way he got the points.

On a side note, the Staples Center, where the Lakers play their home games, along with the Clippers, sold $1.2 million worth of merchandise in one day. That breaks the record for most merchandise sold in a single day in any arena in the world. The previous record belonged to O2 Arena in London when Led Zeppelin sold $1 million worth of merchandise in their first full-length concert in 30 years.

While Kobe remembered that there wasn’t a shot he didn’t like in his NBA career, the Warriors were trying get their 73 wins. Golden State cruised to a 20-point lead at halftime over the Memphis Grizzlies, and Stephen Curry had hit 399 three-point shots at that point in the season.

Curry wasted no time getting his 400th three-point shot of the season shortly after halftime. He finished the regular season with an NBA record 402 three-point shots.

The Warriors' star also became the third player in NBA history to shoot more than 90 percent from the free throw line, 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from the three-point range. The only other ...

April 13, 2016

Three Rebels and a Bulldog

By bryanflynn

In just three weeks, the dreams of 253 college football stars will come true. They'll will be lucky enough to hear their name called during the 2016 NFL Draft.

The NFL released the names of the 25 prospects that will be in attendance at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago for the draft April 28-30. Ohio State University ties the 2012 University of Alabama record for the college with the most invites, but plenty of prospects from our state will be there, as well.

Highlighting the list is University of Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who is projected to go in the top few picks. Tunsil could be the No. 1 overall pick if the Tennessee Titans don’t choose cornerback Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State University.

Tunsil has all the skill you want in a left tackle to protect your quarterback for the next decade in the league. He won’t last long, and,I believe he will be gone in the first five picks of the draft.

Rebels fans might not have to wait long to hear the next UM player off the board. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is expected to be off the board quickly. He might be picked as high as sixth by the Baltimore Ravens, but he shouldn’t last any longer than the 15th pick of the Los Angeles Rams.

Treadwell is considered to be one of the two top receiver picks. If he isn’t the first receiver off the board, it will more than likely be Will Fuller out of the University of Notre Dame.

While much has been made about his lack of speed, the fact that he doesn’t have sprinter speed didn’t stop Treadwell from coming back from a broken leg, which he suffered last year, to be one of the most productive receivers in the nation. He has a big body; he knows how to use it to shield defenders, and he has strong hands. He competes for the ball, and when it is in the air, he goes and gets it.

The final Rebel to get an invite is defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. A ton of speculation surrounds Nkemdiche as he heads into the draft.

There are questions about off the field issues, disappearing at times during games, his conditioning and so forth. What is not in question, though, is when he plays at his peak, he is a top five pick.

Will a team take him on his potential over his production or will his red flags force him to slide down the draft board? It seems highly unlikely that Nkemdiche will slide out of the first round, but stranger things have happened in the draft.

One lone Bulldog out of Mississippi State University will be in attendance for the draft. Defensive tackle Chris Jones will represent MSU, and where he could land is a mystery.

Seven other defensive line prospects were invited to the draft besides Jones such as ...

April 12, 2016

Tigerfest 2016 Is This Saturday

By bryanflynn

You know it’s spring when college basketball comes to an end and the long NHL and NBA season moves into the playoffs.

Of course, baseball means springtime, as “The Boys of Summer” officially get their start. But the season is important for another insanely popular sport: football.

Every high school and college team will spend some time out on the practice field to prepare for next season.

Most college football teams will end spring practice with a football game. While being just a glorified scrimmage, spring games have become big at the FBS level, with the major conferences getting theirs on television.

Some colleges will fill up their stadiums for a game like they were playing a regular opponent on a fall Saturday. Stadiums will be filled with 50,000 to 100,000 folks just getting a sense of what next year’s team might be like on the field.

Colleges have also figured out how to maximize this event. Several schools will host other sports at home on the weekend of the spring game to get fans who are there to check out sports that they might otherwise have attended during the season such as baseball or softball.

The idea is win-win for everyone. Fans get a football fix. Football gets fans excited to buy season tickets. Other sports get exposure that they might not have otherwise gotten.

Jackson State University has a full Saturday planned when the school puts on its annual Blue and White game. The Blue and White Tigerfest 2016 is this Saturday, April 16, at Walter Payton Drive on the university’s main campus.

The Tigers will host a spring game at 12:30 p.m. at the JSU practice field behind the Walter Payton Center, but more events will happen before the game. Tigerfest officially starts with the arrival of the Mass Marching Band at 10 a.m. and a meet-and-greet with the Tigers coaches and players starts at the same time.

In addition to the game, Tigerfest will also have area high-school bands performing, and JSU cheerleaders, Prancing J-Settes and a kids zone (which costs $5). Entertainment includes Karma and the Love Notez Concert, a Greek Step Show, Ole School JD and Dance, and Thee I Love Student Live Concert and DJ. Most of the entertainment will be on stages in front of the tennis courts.

JSU baseball will also take on main rival Alcorn State University in a double-header that begins at 1 p.m. at Braddy Field.

General admission is free for children 10-years-old and under and JSU students with a university ID. General admission is $10 dollars for everyone else. Blankets and lawn chairs are allowed.

Tailgating is allowed for $25 and $50 for RVs and vendors. Gates open at 8 a.m. For more information, call 601-362-0866.

JSU Tiger Fund and the JSU Division of Athletics will present Tigerfest.

April 11, 2016

Mississippi State Baseball Continues to Climb Polls

By bryanflynn

Mississippi State traveled to Gainesville, Fla. to square off against one of the top teams in the SEC. In a series between two highly ranked teams, the Bulldogs seemed to face an uphill climb, as the University of Florida hadn’t lost at home this season and were on a 28-home game winning streak.

Florida struck down MSU in the first game 8-2 on Friday night, April 8, pushing the team's winning streak to 29 straight home wins. The Bulldogs bounced back Saturday for a 10-4 win, breaking that streak.

That left a rubber game to win the series on Sunday and the first time all season the Bulldogs needed to win the final game so they could win an SEC series this season. MSU battled its way to a 2-1 win to take the series from the Gators, who in some polls were ranked No. 1 in the country.

The series win for the Diamond Dogs was the first at Florida since 2007. MSU improved to 23-9-1 on overall and 8-4 in SEC play.

By defeating Florida, the Bulldogs have now won four straight SEC series at the beginning of conference play. MSU started the week with a 14-0 win over the University of Tennessee at Martin.

In conference play, MSU leads Texas A&M University (7-5) by a game in the SEC West standings as the Aggies come to Starkville for Super Bulldog Weekend. MSU leads Louisiana State University (6-6), the University of Alabama (6-6) and the University of Mississippi (6-6) by two games.

Overall in the SEC, MSU is tied with Florida and the University of Kentucky at 8-4 in conference play. The University of South Carolina has the best record in the conference at 10-2 and doesn’t play the Bulldogs this season.

The national polls noticed the Bulldogs' series win over the weekend.

Mississippi State moved up two spots from No. 10 to No. 8 in the USA Today Baseball Top 25 Coaches Poll. moved them up from No. 8 to No. 3 in its poll.

Baseball America and pushed MSU from No. 5 all the way to No. 2 in their new polls.

While the new rankings are great for the Bulldogs, players, coaches and fans need to remember that baseball is a marathon and not a sprint. MSU still has some big games and series left this season.

For starters, the Bulldogs play Texas A&M this weekend and then go to LSU the next weekend. MSU meets UM at Trustmark Park for the Governor's Cup on April 26.

The Bulldogs hit the road to battle Alabama after meeting the Rebels in the middle of the week. MSU finishes the SEC part of the schedule with a home series against the University of Missouri, a road series against Auburn University and at home against the University of Arkansas.

While it is tempting to look ...

April 8, 2016

NCAA Lowers the Boom on Former USM Men's Basketball Coach Tyndall

By bryanflynn

The NCAA finally released penalties on the University of Southern Mississippi men’s basketball program and former coaches, including Donnie Tyndall, who are receiving the most severe penalties with the program.

Tyndall, who was given a 10-year show-cause penalty, earned the worst one. The show-cause penalty for him runs from April 8, 2016, to April 7, 2026. A show-cause penalty means the punishment for Tyndall follows him to any other NCAA school that hires him, unless the school hiring him can "show-cause” (prove a good reason) why it shouldn’t be penalized for hiring Tyndall.

Dave Bliss, former Baylor University men’s basketball coach, is the only other coach to be hit with a 10-year show-cause penalty. Here is why Bliss was hit with his punishment.

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions based the punishment on the fact that Tyndall acted unethically and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he directed his staff to engage in academic misconduct. Tyndall was also accused of fabricating paperwork to justify payments to student-athletes.

The report from the NCAA says that Tyndall got members of his coaching staff to complete fake coursework for prospective players so they would be eligible to play as soon as they got on campus.

“The activity began within six weeks of the former head coach starting at the university, involved the majority of the former coach’s staff and involved approximately half of the prospects the university recruited during a two-year period,” the NCAA said in the report. “The former head coach directed two graduate assistants and a former assistant coach to travel to two-year colleges to complete coursework for prospects.”

Tyndall was also accused of paying players as well.

“One former high school coach mailed the money directly to the former head coach, who would then deliver the money to the student-athlete for university bills,” the report stated. It also said: “The former head coach also facilitated cash and prepaid credit card payments to two prospects from former coaches.”

While at USM from 2012 to 2014, Tyndall led the Golden Eagles to a 56-17 record and led the team to two NIT berths. While Tyndall was at Morehead State University in New York, the program was placed on two years probation due to activities by a booster.

Tyndall left USM for the University of Tennessee before the accusations of violations came out but was fired after the Volunteers administration found out the scope of his misdeeds. Currently Tyndall is an associate athletic director at NAIA school Tennessee Wesleyan College.

Direct from the NCAA report here is the penalties and corrective actions imposed by the panel which include:

A three-year probation period to run consecutive to the present probation period. The three-year period will begin on Jan. 30, 2017, and run through Jan. 29, 2020.

A two-year postseason ban for the men’s basketball team. The school will be credited for the self-imposed postseason bans during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 ...

April 7, 2016

NFL Announces Preseason Schedule

By bryanflynn

While we wait for the NFL Draft later this month, the league has given us a taste of what is to come with the release of the 2016 preseason schedule. That means we now know who the New Orleans Saints will face to prepare for their regular season.

If you take a quick look at the New Orleans Saints' schedule, they are facing three quarterbacks who have won the Super Bowl. They also face a quarterback who got a ring sitting behind a future Hall of Fame signal caller that replaced said quarterback right before the playoffs.

Week one of the preseason sees the Saints traveling north to face the New England Patriots (Aug. 11-15). Tom Brady versus Drew Brees, yes please. Two of the best quarterbacks in the league will see a quarter of action at most to start the preseason.

New England is always a great measuring stick for any ball club, and the Patriots always seem to feature players with ties to our state such as cornerback Malcolm Butler. This game should give a sense of the depth of to New Orleans, as New England always seems to have depth.

The Saints stay on the road in week two of the preseason as they travel to Texas to face the Houston Texans (Aug. 18-22). Former Denver Broncos starting quarterback Brock Osweiler, the one benched in favor of Peyton Manning, takes over under center for the Texans.

Defensive lineman J.J. Watt will get after Brees as long as he is on the field, and when he can’t get to the Saints super quarterback, he has a knack of getting his hands up to bat passes down. Houston normally has a strong defense to test the Saints' offense.

Starters for both the Saints and Texans should play a full quarter to a quarter and half in this game. It isn’t unheard of for starters to play the whole first half, either.

Normally, the third preseason game is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Starters play at least a half to some point in the third quarter.

New Orleans gets their first home game of the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers (Aug. 25-28). Another Super Bowl winning quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger awaits the Saints defense.

Pittsburgh just about always has a stingy hard-hitting defense that will chase Brees all over the field and harass his receivers. The Steelers also feature several offensive weapons that could be limited due to recovering from injuries and suspensions.

The final preseason game for New Orleans is at home against the Baltimore Ravens (Sept. 1-2). Joe Flacco is the third and final Super Bowl-winning quarterback the Saints will face as they try to slow him down.

Just like the Steelers, Baltimore also features a top-notch defense nearly every year. The Ravens normally boast solid offense each year.

This game will see very little action, if any, from the starters, as both ...

April 6, 2016

NFL and Twitter Reach Deal to Stream Thursday Night Games

By bryanflynn

One thing that has changed over the last few years is the way we watch television. The days of must-see TV are becoming a thing of the past.

There are more ways than ever to watch the shows we love, though a few programs, such as “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead,” still command a large viewership when they first air.

Now, with DVR, on-demand, streaming and other TV watching options, we have changed our viewing habits. One area where live TV still has going for it these days are sports.

Sure, you can re-watch or record a game, but you also have to worry about someone spoiling the score in person or on social media. The same can be said for most TV shows, but after knowing who won, it really makes it hard to watch a game. This is especially true if the team you were going to root for is the one who came up short on the scoreboard.

It is no secret that one of the top-rated TV programs is “Sunday Night Football” on NBC. Live sports has been a key factor that has kept a majority of people from “cutting the cord” from cable.

That has started to change as more people are still giving up cable and sports, due to the price or changes in viewing habits. The lure of live sports isn’t enough to keep people on cable packages.

Also helping cut the cord is Sling, which offers live streaming of ESPN, among other channels, for $20 a month. There is an add-on package for sports for $5 dollars a month.

As more cities get fiber-optic services, the drop in cable might be even more extreme. It could also force sports to cater more to streaming audiences who have gotten rid of their cable.

The NFL may be the first major sports entity to look to the future with its new deal with Twitter. Bloomberg first reported on the $10-million deal, which will allow Twitter to stream all 10 Thursday night NFL games.

The arrangement may be a win-win for the NFL and Twitter.

Twitter has struggled to attract and keep new users as their stock price has fallen, and the NFL gets a chance to try out streaming games while still offering the same programming on CBS, NBC and NFL Network.

The games will also be streamed on Twitter for free, which could be a way for the NFL to reach those cord-cutters and younger audiences that watch TV differently from their parents. This deal gives the NFL a way to test the streaming market before the company’s broadcast-rights agreement comes to an end in 2021.

Twitter won the right to the Thursday night games over streaming companies such as Amazon, Verizon Communications and Yahoo, which are better known for streaming shows and events than Twitter.

That $10-million bargain that Twitter signed is also important considering that Yahoo paid ...

April 5, 2016

Connecticut Goes For History Tonight

By bryanflynn

Right now, the most dominant team in sports is the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. The Huskies are on a 74-game winning streak, and with a win tonight in the national championship game, they will claim their fourth straight title.

A fourth consecutive championship would be a record in women’s basketball and would only trail the University of California, Los Angeles men’s seven titles from 1967 to 1973. Those great John Wooden-led Bruins teams won 10 titles in 12 seasons overall.

The Huskies’ dominance doesn’t sit well with some people. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe thinks Connecticut’s program is bad for women’s basketball.

Shaughnessy tweeted: “UConn Women beat Miss St 98-38 in NCAA Tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women’s game. Watch? No Thanks.”

The Boston Globe scribe doesn’t want to punish the Huskies for being great but then goes on to say he doesn’t want to watch said greatness? How is that not punishing UConn for being great?

Did UCLA men’s basketball dominance kill the men’s game? Did Pennsylvania State University women’s volleyball team, who won four straight titles from 2007 to 2010, kill women’s volleyball?

Did Penn State men’s wrestling winning five of the last six national titles ruin men’s wrestling? Did the Green Bay Packers ruin professional football by winning three straight titles, including the first two Super Bowls?

Has the New York Yankees’ dominance of baseball killed the sport following their five of six title wins from 1936 to 1943, their five titles from 1949 to 1953, or their four of five titles from 1996 to 2000?

The Boston Celtics didn’t ruin the NBA when they won eight championships in a row from 1959 to 1966. Even the WNBA is still standing after the Houston Comets captured four straight titles from 1997 to 2000.

Every sport at some time or another has seen a single team dominate the sport. Other teams had winning streaks and championship streaks like UConn .

They Huskies aren’t different from any of those. UConn might be winning by a larger margin, but in the end, winning is winning.

If it is boring or “killing” a sport to see the same team win over and over again, then at some point, everyone should have stopped watching sports. But we still watch.

Fans hold UCLA’s streak of titles in high esteem now, and when history looks back at the Huskies, their streak will be equally revered. There are only so many times in your life when you get to see greatness, and it should be enjoyed, not put down.

If Syracuse University defeats UConn tonight, the Orange should be celebrated as champions, and the Huskies should be celebrated for what they accomplished, as well. But it won’t end the sport if the Huskies win.

Connecticut’s level is what every team should strive to reach in men’s and women’s sports. The very idea that greatness ...

April 4, 2016

Basketball, Baseball and Square Roots

By bryanflynn

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Comes to a Close

This regular season of college basketball turned out to be wild and unpredictable, so fans hoped that the NCAA Tournament would be the same.

The first weekend of the tournament played out just like the regular season, with upsets and potential Cinderellas. Reality came crashing down during the second weekend as most of the upstarts went home, and the major conferences or basketball powers from non-football conferences were the only programs still standing.

Slowly, the tournament turned into the Atlantic Coast Conference invitational. Seven teams from the ACC got into the tournament, and six went to the Sweet Sixteen. Four ACC teams reached the Elite Eight and two reached the Final Four.

The ACC was so dominant in this tournament that three out of the six of the conference's losses have come at the hands of other ACC teams. University of Wisconsin's win over University of Pittsburgh, University of Oregon's win over Duke University and Villanova University's win over University of Miami (Fla.) were the only non-ACC on ACC losses.

So what began as wild and unpredictable became a question of whether anyone could stop the conference's march to end up as the eventual champion. The uncertainty became full-on blowouts in the Final Four as the University of North Carolina and Villanova rolled Syracuse and the University of Oklahoma, respectively.

Tonight, either the Tar Heels or the Wildcats will win a national championship.

This run in the tournament is something positive for North Carolina after an academic scandal rocked the school. UNC is still waiting for the NCAA to decide what will happen after former athletes and students were found to be taking no-show classes, where students signed up to take a class but didn’t ever see the inside of a classroom even though they earned high grades.

Villanova on the other hand, is living life like it is 1985. The eighth-seeded Wildcats were the last team to win a title with no shot clock.

On its way to the title in 1985, Villanova beat North Carolina, but the Tar Heels won titles in 1993, 2005 and 2009. The Wildcats are looking for their second title in program history.

This game should feature two great defenses and two solid coaches. Villanova reached the final without a possible NBA player on the roster. North Carolina looks for its sixth title and is seemingly always loaded with top talent.

The Wildcats are a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. UNC is athletic and long and can control the paint area.

This matchup is the best overall team against the best conference. North Carolina is a three-point favorite in Las Vegas, but Ken Polmeroy’s model favorites Villanova.

Coverage starts at 8 p.m. on TBS for the national broadcast, TNT will provide the homer call for North Carolina, and Tru TV will give the Villanova homer call.

April 1, 2016

WrestleMania 32 Preview and Prediction

By bryanflynn

It’s time for “the Showcase of the Immortals,” “the Show of Shows” on “the Grandest Stage of Them All.”

Are you ready for WrestleMania 32?

It’s understandable if people aren’t excited about this year’s WrestleMania. Depending how the event goes, WrestleMania 32 might be remembered more for which performers are not in a match.

Several of the WWE’s biggest stars are on the shelf or won’t compete for the company again, including John Cena, the company's biggest face in more ways than one, who is out with a shoulder injury.

Randy Orton, multiple-time champion and crowd favorite, is also out with a shoulder injury, and Seth Rollins, the only former member of The Shield who won’t be on the card, is out with a knee injury.

Those are three big name stars, and you can add a couple more to the list. Daniel Bryan, leader of the Yes Movement and major fan favorite, recently retired due to injuries and concussions, and CM Punk won’t be making an appearance after walking out and deciding to fight in the UFC.

It is worth mentioning that Sting might have been on the card if Rollins hadn’t injured him in at a pay-per-view match called “Night of Champions.” There is no telling if Sting was going to be in a match at WrestleMania 32 or if he would simply slip away into the WWE Hall of Fame, since he was close to the end of his career before the injury.

Mid-card talents will also be missing, including Cesaro (billed as the “Swiss Superman”), who is out with a torn rotator cuff, Luke Harper (member of the Wyatt Family), who suffered a knee injury, Neville (billed as “the Man Gravity Forgot”), who is out with a broken ankle, and Tyson Kidd, who is dealing with an injured neck.

The women’s division is without some star power, as former WWE Divas champion Nikki Bella is out with a neck injury. That leaves her twin sister, Brie Bella, who is married in real life to Daniel Bryan, at WrestleMania.

Injuries are a part of professional wrestling. The outcomes of the matches are predetermined, but the potential for harm from falls, flips, chair shots and so forth, is real.

But even with the injuries, the show must go on, and while the card might be underwhelming, in some areas, it has some potential.

There are three matches on the preshow to WrestleMania 32 that will be televised on the USA network. The chance for some of the biggest early pops might come from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz (tag-team match)

Expect the Usos to get the win here in a quick match that will feature some of their highflying moves and a table or two at some point.

Total Divas vs. B.A.D. and Blonde

The WWE is going to have the Total Divas team (Brie Bella, ...