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

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Entries for March, 2016


March 31, 2016

Women's National Team Fights Wage Discrimination

By bryanflynn

What if I told you that the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final on television drew more viewers than game six of the 2015 NBA Finals, game seven of the 2014 World Series and game six of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals?

The U.S. Women’s National Team were ratings gold with 26.67 million viewers on Fox and Telemundo for the World Cup Final agianst Japan. That was bigger than the 2015 Final Four Kentucky v. Wisconsin game, the final round of the 2015 Masters, a Triple Crown winning horse (American Pharoah) in the Belmont Stakes and more.

In fact, only a few NFL and college games surpassed the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final. The USWNT v. Japan was the 26th-most watched sporting event in 2015.

While the USWNT is breaking television records for women’s sports, the team isn't cashing record-breaking checks for its work. FIFA awarded the USWNT $2 million for winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. For winning the 2014 Men's World Cup,

FIFA awarded Germany $35 million, so the German men earned $33 million more for winning the same amount of games as the U.S. women.

Germany also got to play all of its World Cup games on grass, and the US women tried to fight to get their game switched from artificial turf. The women’s players ultimately pulled their lawsuit before the World Cup and played on artificial turf.

You would be wrong if you thought that the USWNT would make more for winning the World Cup than the USMNT did for getting knocked out of the Round of 16.

The USMNT earned $9 million for the 2014 World Cup, so the men didn’t even win their group, much less the whole damn tournament, and made $7 million more than the women.

Last year, the USWNT generated more than $20 million in revenue than the USMNT. Yet the women get paid $1,350 win, lose or draw on friendly matches, and the men get paid $5,000 even if they lose, and can make a maximum of $17,625 for friendly match wins against teams ranked in the top 10, and Mexico, who is the main rival to the US.

This wage gap has caused the USWNT and the U.S. Soccer Federation to go to court after the USSF filed a lawsuit to stop any potential strike from the USWNT before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

At issue is the USSF saying that both sides have an agreement until Dec. 31 of this year, but the USWNT says a memorandum of understanding that both sides signed in 2013 can be voided at any time. A court will have to sort out which team is right.

Five of the current stars for the USWNT, including Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, have filed a wage-discrimination action against the USSF with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This is the right time for ...

March 30, 2016

The Chase for 73

By bryanflynn

The old cliché that records are made to be broken just seems just perfect for sports. Nothing gets the fans attention more than when a seemingly untouchable record gets threatened or out and out broken.

Everyone pays more attention when an NFL team is undefeated near the end of the season to see if that squad can match the 1972 Miami Dolphins, when a hitter in Major League Baseball gets near Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hit streak, or when a horse wins the first two legs of the Triple Crown, like American Pharoah did last year.

Now that the NBA season is coming to a close, it is time for us sports fans to cast our attention to a potential record that could fall this season. The Golden State Warriors are now officially knocking down the door of matching or surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

Those Bulls did what seemed impossible, as they became the first team to win 70 games in a season. In fact, they won 72 games and lost just 10 games. That team is the standard to which every great team since in the NBA is judged.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls featured Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the enigma Dennis Rodman, who all went on to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But the Bulls also had great role players in Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley, Ron Harper and Steve Kerr that season.

Interestingly enough, Kerr is the head coach for Golden State in its march toward the Bulls’ record. It seems fitting that a link to that great Chicago team would have ties to the Warriors squad that could steal the Bulls’ crown.

The Warriors have played 74 games this season and have eight games to go before they finish the full 82-game season. Golden State is one game ahead of where Chicago at this same point.

Through 74 games, the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls had a sensational 66-8 overall record. Golden State currently owns a 67-7 overall record as they enter play against the Utah Jazz tonight, March 30.

Chicago fell to the Charlotte Hornets by just a single point in game 75, making it the ninth loss of that fantastic season. If Golden State wins tonight, it would put the team two wins ahead of the Bulls’ pace.

The Warriors have yet to lose back-to-back games all season long, and the Bulls lost back-to-back games just once during their record setting season. Golden State jumped off to a 24-0 start to begin the season, which was better than Chicago’s 22-2 start in 1995.

If Golden State is going to get the record, the team will have earned it. In the Warriors’ final eight games, they will face just one team that is currently not in the playoffs and has a under .500 record —the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Warriors get the 37-37 Jazz on the road before returning home for five games. In that five ...

March 29, 2016

A Tribute to MSU's Final Four Team

By bryanflynn

College basketball will reach its climax from Saturday to Tuesday as both the men’s and women’s tournament play out the Final Four and championship games. None of the eight teams left will feature a team from our state.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of the Final Four from the past. Thursday night, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will honor the 1996 Mississippi State University men’s basketball team that reached the Final Four in that magical season.

The event is sold out, but that doesn’t mean sports fans can’t catch the tribute. While you can’t be there in person, you can check the event out online.

Just like two seasons ago when the state was swept up in the great seasons unfolding at both Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi in football, 20 years ago, the state was swept up in the Bulldogs' astonishing run.

Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame coach Richard Williams led team that season, guiding it to a 26-8 record and winning the SEC Tournament over eventual national champions the University of Kentucky.

The Bulldogs defeated Virginia Commonwealth University (58-51) and Princeton University (63-41), reaching the Sweet Sixteen. MSU shocked No. 1 seed University of Connecticut, which future hall of famer Ray Allen led, for the 60-55 win.

In the Elite Eight, MSU took down No. 2 seed University of Cincinnati 73-63, reaching the Final Four. The Bulldogs were underdogs against both Connecticut and Cincinnati.

MSU’s run came to an end in a 77-69 loss in one of the national semifinals against Syracuse University. In a strange twist, the Orange and coach Jim Boeheim are in this year’s Final Four.

On the court, future NBA players center Erick Dampier and forward Dontae Jones led the Bulldogs. Dampier went on to have a long career in the NBA, while Jones spent just a couple of seasons before heading overseas to play basketball.

Sharp-shooting guard Darryl Wilson led MSU in scoring that season. He also went on to play overseas for several years.

Other important players on the 1995-1996 Bulldogs were point guard Marcus Bullard, forward Russell Walters, center Tyrone Washington, forward Whit Hughes and guard Bart Hyche.

MSU finished with a losing record the next season, and Richard Williams was gone after the 1997-1998 season. The Bulldogs haven’t reached the Sweet Sixteen since the 1996 run.

The tribute to the 1995-1996 Bulldogs will feature highlights, team memories and a panel discussion. Farm Bureau, Weir Boerner Architecture and Mississippi State University sponsor the event.

View the livestream, which begins around 7 p.m. on March 31, at

March 28, 2016

Treadwell Finally Runs

By bryanflynn

The Manning Center was the place to be this morning. Breaking a University of Mississippi Pro Day record, 63 NFL representatives from all 32 NFL teams descended on Oxford, Miss., to look at the three stars entering the draft after their junior seasons at UM.

Overall, there were 15 current and three former players who took part in the Rebels' Pro Day. Most of the focus was on offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.

One of the things everyone came to see was Treadwell run the 40-yard dash. He didn’t run at the NFL Combine, and this was the first chance all the scouts had to put him on a stopwatch.

Treadwell did run, but his times didn’t alleviate fears that he won’t have the ability to separate from defenders at the next level. His unofficial times were 4.65 or 4.69, depending on the scout, on his first attempt, and he had a minor improvement at 4.63 on his second attempt.

While his top-end speed might not get scouts' heartbeats racing, Treadwell does have other abilities that had to impress NFL teams.

He has a big body that he can use to position himself between the ball and defenders. He also has strong hands and makes each catch look easy. He is a solid run blocker in rush attack, and in fact, he might be above average in receiver blocking.

One thing to remember about Treadwell and his not-so-fast speed is the fact that he is returning from a serious broken leg that he suffered during his sophomore season. Treadwell still came out this season and put up great numbers as he worked himself back into the shape and got his football instincts back.

It is projected that an NFL team may draft him as early as the ninth pick or as low as the 20th pick. Some mock drafts have him going to the New Orleans Saints with the 12th pick. If you want an NFL comparison, think Anquan Boldin. Several teams could move up in the draft to get their hands on Treadwell since he is the near-consensus top wide receiver in the draft.

One player who didn’t run the 40-yard dash at either the NFL Combine or the UM Pro Day was Tunsil. The fact that he didn’t run at either event might not matter, as the offensive tackle is projected to go as high as the first pick but nearly guaranteed to go within the top five picks. He said in an interview that he didn’t run at the Pro Day due to a pulled hamstring.

Tunsil did an impressive 34 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press and added 10 pounds of muscle so far this offseason. There are very few knocks against the potential No. 1 pick, though his run blocking needs more work, and there are questions about his power.

However, there are no questions about ...

March 25, 2016

Malik Newman Enters the 2016 NBA Draft

By bryanflynn

This week, former Callaway High School and current Mississippi State University star Malik Newman declared for the NBA Draft. Looking back at last spring, this would hardly be a surprise, as Newman was one of the most sought-after prospects in the country.

Flash forward to this season, and him entering the NBA Draft is not the great prospect it was just one year earlier. In his freshman season, he really struggled to shine for large parts of the season.

His stats are the best way to tell the story. This season, he averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Those aren’t the stats that NBA scouts were hoping to see in the guard’s one-and-done freshman season.

In fact, Newman finished No. 4 on the team in scoring, No. 3 in assists and No. 6 in rebounding. At the same time, fellow freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon averaged 12 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Newman also finished No. 2 on the team in turnovers with 1.9 per game, and he shot just 39 percent from the field; however, he did shoot a pretty good percentage from the three-point range at 38 percent from the field.

It is only fair to point out that Newman wasn’t healthy for most of the season. He started it sitting out games due to a toe injury and got banged up as the season went along.

You have to wonder what kind of numbers a healthy Newman would put up from the start to the end of the season.

While Newman declared for the draft, he didn’t hire an agent, which allows him to return to the Bulldogs if he doesn’t like his draft position. That means Newman will be able to attend the NBA Draft Combine and be able to get feedback about his draft prospects.

Newman will have options no matter how the NBA Draft Combine works out for him. Here are my opinions on Newman’s choices. Keep in mind that they are not a declaration for what the young man should do in the draft.

If he is told he will be a first-round pick, even late first round, he should probably stay in the draft.

Unless he is certain to be a top pick in the second round, like one of the first three to five picks, he should return to Starkville.

That is, unless he doesn’t mind playing in the NBA D-League or maybe even having to play overseas for a few seasons.

Newman staying in the draft all depends on how much he wants to just play basketball for a living or needs money from playing the sport. Bettering his game in the D-League or overseas is not a bad way to make a living.

But if Newman doesn’t like what he hears, he can always return to Mississippi State. Nothing says he is a bust or failure because he didn’t shine right away. ...

March 24, 2016

NFL Adds Ejections and Tweaks Kickoffs in 2016 Rule Changes

By bryanflynn

The NFL owners recently approved two new rule changes that will be one-year test rules next season. Both were highly controversial, one among coaches and the other among players.

First, here's a look at minor rule changes.

All chop blocks, which are when one offensive player is blocking a defensive player high, and another hits the same defensive player low, are now illegal in the NFL.

Defensive players are at risk to major injuries because of the blocks and in most cases, the NFL already outlawed them. Offensive linemen can still cut block (a one-on-one low block) a defensive player.

Now, just one season after the NFL experimented with the idea, points-after-touchdown kicks ("extra points") are permanent from the 15-yard line. There were 71 misses on extra-point kicks last season with the new rule change, and 27 teams missed an extra point. The defense is still allowed to try and score on missed extra points as well.

The owners also tweaked the horse-collar rule. Now, it is a horse-collar penalty to take a player down by the nameplate or above to make a tackle. Again, this is a player safety rule, but it will have some effect on games next season.

Other changes include:

Eliminating the five-yard penalty for illegal touching after a player goes out of bounds and reestablishes himself inbounds. Now, it is just a loss of down.

Coaches can use the coach-to-player radio system whether they are on the sideline or in the coaches booth.

Teams will receive a delay of game penalty if they try to call a timeout when they aren’t allowed to.

Eliminating multiple spots of enforcement on double fouls after a change of possession.

Teams now don’t have to designate which player will return from short-term injured reserve, although teams can still only bring back one player each season from IR.

Now, here's some information on the controversial rule changes:

First, players or coaches can be ejected from a game after two personal foul penalties. Players and coaches met this rule with resistance, with coaches fearing that players would bait others into penalties.

Only certain types of personal foul penalties will qualify for the ejection. Throwing a punch, forearm or kicking an opponent, if contact is made or not, will be part of the new ejection rule.

Using abusive, threatening or insulting language to an opponent, official, teammates or league officials or using baiting or taunting acts or words to foster ill will between teams can now lead to an ejection with two fouls.

While coaches or players won’t like the ejection rule, it isn’t likely to cause many, if any, ejections. A similar rule exists in college football but rarely comes into play as far as ejections go during games.

The biggest rule change that will affect every game is the new kickoff rule. Now, touchbacks after kickoffs will come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line. ...

March 23, 2016

Saints and Payton Agree to 5-Year Extension

By bryanflynn

Every NFL team wants to have stability at a few important spots in the franchise, from ownership to general manager to head coach to quarterback.

This morning, the New Orleans Saints made sure one of the major pieces of their stability was staying in town a little longer. Head coach Sean Payton announced during the NFC’s coaching breakfast that he and the Saints had reached a deal for a five-year extension.

ESPN’s Ed Werder said in a news article that the new deal will keep Payton in New Orleans until 2020 and pay him more than $45 million over the length of the deal. Payton was already one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL and made $8.5 million a year on his last contract with the club.

In the 10 years he has been with the Saints, he has put together an 87-57 record and led the franchise to its only Super Bowl title. Payton has been with the Saints since 2006, which ties him with Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers for third-longest tenured head coach in the NFL.

Payton slides to fourth place if you discount the 2012 season in which he was suspended for the whole year as part of the Bountygate. New England’s Bill Belichick has been with the Patriots since 2000, and Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis has been with the Bengals since 2003.

While in New Orleans, Payton has guided the Saints to the playoffs five times, and he had a 6-4 playoff record. He will forever be linked with the Saints' quick turnaround after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast.

After last season, in which the Saints finished 7-9, people speculated that New Orleans might try to trade Payton. That notion was quickly dispelled when Payton himself said he wanted to finish his career as New Orleans head coach.

New Orleans has missed the playoffs for the last two years, but with this contract, Payton can keep working on his vision to keep the Saints' championship window open. Part of that vision is sure to include quarterback Drew Brees.

Reports are that the Saints and Brees are working on a four-year extension to keep him in New Orleans until 2020 as well. A new extension for Brees also might help ease some of his cap burden for the next season, which is currently $30 million.

Payton’s extension also helps the club entering the NFL Draft next month. New Orleans can focus on both short and long-term plays knowing that their head coach will be in-house for the next five years.

The New Orleans Saints have the 12th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Overall, the Saints have seven draft picks to use in this year’s draft.

March 22, 2016

Bulldogs to Face Juggernaut Connecticut in the Sweet Sixteen

By bryanflynn

The Mississippi State's women's basketball team defeated Michigan State 74-72 in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Sunday. The reward for that win is a date in Bridgeport, Conn. to face No. 1 overall seed the Connecticut Huskies at 10:30 a.m. on ESPN.

UConn defeated Duquense 97-51 Monday, March 21, and moved to 34-0 on the season. The Huskies also won their 71st straight game and reached the Sweet Sixteen for the 23rd straight time. Connecticut scored at least 20 points in all four quarters, and the Dukes never topped 20 points in a single quarter.

There might not be a more dominating force in all of sports right now than Connecticut women's basketball. The Huskies are seeking their fourth straight national championship.

Just how dominant have the Huskies been this season?

UConn has defeated every team on their schedule by 10 or more points this season. Only Notre Dame and Maryland lost by 10 points, and South Carolina lost by 12 points. The Gamecocks beat Mississippi State by six and 14 points in their two meetings this season.

The Huskies haven't had a game where they failed to score 75 or more points all season long and have topped the century mark five times this season. UConn has also defeated nine ranked teams as they steamrolled the competition.

Even Las Vegas is all in for the Huskies to win it all. Just to win $100, you would have to bet $900 that UConn wins it all. One Vegas sports bookie is allowing those who bet to take the field or UConn, where a $100 bet against Connecticut would net $600 should the Huskies loose.

Things don't get much better for the Bulldogs due to the site of the game. UConn is 54-1 in games played in Connecticut and 9-1 in Bridgeport, where Mississippi State will play.

All of these numbers don't mean the Bulldogs can't shock the world and beat the mighty Huskies. What it does mean is that Mississippi State has to play the best game in program history.

The Bulldogs have to be perfect on defense, force turnovers, get steals and don't under any circumstances give UConn easy baskets. On offense, Mississippi State has to hit shots and can't go cold from the field for long stretches like it did against both Chattanooga and Michigan State in the team's first two tournament games.

It would also help if the Huskies had an off day and played a little sloppy and were cold shooting. Because even if everything goes right for Mississippi State, it will take a monumental effort to defeat the Huskies.

A win by Mississippi State would be the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history for men or women. It would surpass, in my mind, the biggest upset ever when North Carolina State defeated heavily favored Houston and Phi Slamma Jamma and won the title.

If the ...

March 21, 2016

Cowboys Reportedly to Workout Dak Prescott Today

By bryanflynn

It could be a NFL Draft red herring but the Dallas Cowboys have shown an incredible amount of interest in Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. According to the Dallas-Morning News, Cowboys Quarterback Coach Wade Wilson is in Starkville, Miss today to workout the former Bulldogs single caller.

This will mark the third time that Wilson has meet with before this April's draft. Wilson, along with Dallas Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, spent time with Prescott at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala and then met with him again at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in late February.

Multiple reports (here and here) have the Cowboys linked to Prescott in this year's NFL Draft. And why not, Dallas has to start thinking about like after Tony Romo at some point.

Last season, Romo spent more time injured than on the field and he has had back issues the last few seasons. The Cowboys have to figure that time is running out on Romo and taking a quarterback in the draft to develop for future is the smart idea.

Prescott has been projected to be drafted as high as the second round but most projections have him being selected in the third to fourth round of this year's draft. Most draft scouts see Prescott as a bit of a work in progress but could turn into a solid starter with time to develop into a NFL starter.

The Dallas Cowboys have nine picks in the draft. Dallas has the 34th pick in the 2nd round, 67th pick in the third round, 101st pick in the fourth round and 135th pick (a compensatory pick) in the fourth round. Other picks include the 189th, 212th, 216th, and 217th pick in the sixth round.

Every pick in the sixth round but the 189th is a compensatory pick. One thing to remember about the draft is that compensatory picks can not be traded and must be used by the team that was awarded the pick. That means the Cowboys don't have a lot of picks to trade if they must move around to get Prescott.

While Prescott has mainly stayed in the news for his on the field work or for being a good guy off the field, he has been in the news for the wrong thing. Last year, Prescott was seen on video being jumped in Panama City, Florida, but the quarterback handled that situation nearly perfectly.

Last week, Prescott was in the news for the wrong reason, when he was arrested for driving under the influence. While his draft stock will take a bit of a hit, because he was arrested so close to the draft, it is not the enough to send up red flags to teams who want to draft the quarterback.

Dallas currently hasn't signed a quarterback in free agency and have Kellen Moore as the only other quarterback on the roster besides Romo. The ...