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Surprise Picks Make for Exciting NBA Draft

This is what makes drafts so exciting. All last week when talking about the NBA draft that was Thursday night, the two top choices came down to Alex Len and Nerlens Noel. But when it was time for David Stern to step up and announce who the Cleveland Cavaliers had chosen for the top pick, no one expected what he was going to say. The Cavs had chosen Anthony Bennett from UNLV, the first Canadian to be chosen to go first overall in the NBA.

The choice wasn’t surprising because Bennett isn’t a good player. On the contrary, he’s an extremely powerful forward who had a 37.5 percentage from the three-point range last season. His shooting percentage overall is 52.6 per cent, and his innate ability to predict and make rebounds is also one of his biggest strengths. In addition to that, his sheer size at 6’7″ and 239 pounds will also be a bone of contention for any defense trying to overtake him.

It wasn’t just the top spot that ended up as a surprise pick. The Orlando Magic, who held the second spot also didn’t choose Len or Noel, but Victor Oladipo from Indiana instead. That may not have been so surprising in itself, but it does add fuel to fire of the rumors that Orlando is looking to trade Arron Afflalo to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe.

Len waited until the number five pick, when he was chosen by the Phoenix Suns; and Noel went to the New Orleans Pelicans soon after that at number six.

Will the Heat or the Pacers Face the Spurs in NBA Finals?

It was almost a week ago that the San Antonio Spurs ousted the Memphis Grizzlies from the NBA championship, and since that time they’ve been waiting to see who they’ll play — along with the rest of the country.

The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers will team up against each other tonight in a very decisive, and most likely very intense Game 7 to see who will go on to face the Spurs in the Finals. The Heat were the biggest favorites to win it all since before the playoffs even started this year but now faced with elimination if they can’t pull it together, the NBA Finals could look very different this year than from what people expected.

The Heat are still favored to win, and they haven’t lost back to back games in nearly five months. One of the times they did before that however, it was to the Indiana Pacers on January 8. The Heat will also be playing on home court, which they always seem to take full advantage of. Miami will need to rely on that, as well as the sheer size and power they have against the Pacers.

The Pacers haven’t counted themselves out yet though, and they shouldn’t. Where Miami has size, Indiana has speed and pace; and they know how to use that to their benefit, too. In the end, this game seven is going to come down to who can keep their wits about them, when the opponent is bringing all they’ve got.

In other words, it’s going to be a classic playoff game.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Update

The third round hasn’t yet started but already that round has already taken shape in the East. Meanwhile in the West, four teams are still duking it out to determine who will go on to play in the conference finals.

Last week ended with the Ottawa Senators being beaten out of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins. While it wasn’t a sweep the Pens beat out the Sens in just five games, and their last two were dominating wins. The following night, the Boston Bruins kicked the New York Rangers out, also in five games, leaving the Eastern conference down to just the Bruins and the Penguins. This will certainly be one hard-fought round, and one that will most likely go seven games, as both teams had phenomenal regular seasons; and they’ve also dominated in the playoffs.

In the West however, round two is still playing out. The Detroit Red Wings have taken a surprising 3-2 lead in the series; and they’ll play again on Monday to see if the Blackhawks can tie it up. Also in the western conference are the defending Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, playing against the San Jose Sharks, and in a series that’s tied at 3-3. The seventh game will be played on Tuesday, May 28, to see who will go on to play for the conference title.

No games have yet been announced for round three, as all teams must be finished up their current rounds before anything can be determined. Is your team still in the playoffs? And who do you think will win the Cup?

Update on JA Happ’s Injury

When Toronto Blue Jays pitcher JA Happ was hit in the head by a line drive on Tuesday, RA Dickey said that it sounded “like two bats” hitting each other. Happ immediately fell to the pitcher’s mound, face down, and covering one side of his head with both hands. Eight minutes later he was taken off the field on a stretcher and a total of eleven minutes later, play resumed. Everyone imagined the worst but remarkably, less than 24 hours later he was back at Tropicana Field. Not to play this time, but to talk about how lucky he is.

When Happ first arrived at Tropicana Field, he first met with players from his team as well as Desmond Jennings, who hit the line drive that struck Happ. After assuring everyone that he was feeling fine, he then spoke to reporters.

“I feel really fortunate,” he said. “It looks like I moved just a little bit. I don’t remember doing that, but it looks like it was just enough to where it must have caught me in a better spot, because I think it could have got me head on.”

Speaking about his injuries, he said, “I’ve got some stitches and there’s a fracture in the skull, I suppose, behind my ear, but it’s not serious or threatening. We’ll let those heal.”

The hit is something that’s still weighing heavily on the minds of those around the league, and many are wondering what can be done to prevent something like it happening in the future, and perhaps with more unfortunate results. The league is currently looking at many options, including protective headwear that would absorb impact and protect pitchers’ heads.

Meanwhile, Happ has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, but appears to be doing very well.

Here’s the Schedule for Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

How the Western Conference would shape up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs was decided a few days ago; but it took right up until almost the last minute for things to be settled in the East. Perhaps it’s because they got there first that the first games of the playoffs will be held in the West.

On Tuesday the Chicago Blackhawks will host the Minnesota Wild; the Anaheim Ducks will host the Detroit Red Wings; and St. Louis will host the defending Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings. The San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks will also meet in Round One, when the Canucks host the Sharks on Wednesday, May 1.

Things weren’t as firmly decided in the East until this past Sunday, when the Boston Bruins hosted the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa was facing three potential teams in the first round, depending on how Sunday’s game with Boston went. After the Sens won in regulation, they’ll now face the Montreal Canadiens, beginning on Thursday, May 2.

Also starting their series on May 2 will be the New York Rangers, when they head to Washington to take on the Capitals. But fans in the East won’t have to wait that long to see playoff action.

The Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Islanders on May 1; while the Boston Bruins will also host the Toronto Maple Leafs on the same night.

Did your team make the playoffs this year? Who do you think will be the winners of the eight different series? And who will win the Stanley Cup?

Angels Home Opener Worth the Wait as Athletics Visit

It can be one of the most frustrating things about the start of baseball season. You wait all winter to see your team take the field, only to have to sit through a week or more of road games before the home opener finally rolls around.

That’s the predicament that Los Angeles Angels fans find themselves in this year, but the home opener may well live up to the hype when the Oakland Athletics visit Tuesday April, 9.

Last year the American League West was one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the Athletics, Texas Rangers all notching 89 or more wins. The Angels missed the playoffs at 89-73, though, and will be looking to get off to a strong start in the division this year.

Last year rookie phenomenon Mike Trout was one of the biggest stories in Major League Baseball, hitting 30 home runs and driving in 83 runs while hitting .326 in just 139 games. Trout made dazzling plays in the field as well, en route to the American League Rookie of the Year award.

That’s earned Trout a lot of attention in the offseason, from sports magazines to Gentleman’s Quarterly with plenty of other media attention in between. That and a little extra weight on the way into spring training left room for speculation about a possible sophomore slump.

Thus, all eyes in Los Angeles will be on Trout when he takes the field in the home opener.

The Angels also bring back Albert Pujols, who hit .285 last season with 30 home runs, 105 RBI and 85 runs.

Los Angeles also made a splash in adding Josh Hamilton in the offseason. The slugger hit .285 last year for the Rangers with 43 home runs and 128 RBI, so the Angels lineup will have plenty of pop with Trout, Pujols and Hamilton.

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to take in a great day at the ballpark and see Josh Hamilton’s home debut for the Angels. Get your tickets right away so that you can be there when Mike Trout begins his sophomore campaign.

Cinderella Story Hits NCAA Tournament South Regional in Dallas

History will be made this Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, as Florida Gulf Coast becomes the lowest seed ever to play a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles knocked off the second-seeded Georgetown Hoyas and the seventh-seeded San Diego State Aztecs and now advance to play the third-seeded Florida Gators Friday at 10 p.m. EST.

Their Cinderella story has caught the attention of college basketball fans everywhere, but the Gators hope to bring it crashing to a halt. Florida was supposed to be here, and things went according to plan with wins over 14th seeded Northwestern State and 11th seeded Minnesota.

While the in-state showdown will be the main event, the earlier game is no slouch either as the fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines try to knock off the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks.

Kansas fans didn’t get too much of a chance to yell their trademark chant of “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!” as they narrowly escaped a second-round upset in a 64-57 win over the South Region’s 16-seed, Western Kentucky. Kansas cruised against its former coach Roy Williams, though, beating his North Carolina Tar Heels 70-58.

Most recognizable on the Jayhawks is shot-blocking center Jeff Withey, who averages 14 points, nearly nine rebounds and four blocks per game. Withey, a 7-foot tall senior, already has 12 blocks in the tournament.

Michigan took care of business against South Dakota State, 71-56 and then throttled Virginia Commonwealth University 78-53. Sophomore guard Trey Burke, who averaged nearly 19 points and seven assists over the course of the season, lived up to his star billing. Burke scored 18 points and had seven assists in the win over VCU. He’ll have to clean up his seven turnovers against Kansas, though.

Tickets are available for Friday’s session or for the entire weekend, as the two winners will meet on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Don’t miss out on your chance to see three of college basketball’s power house teams from this season and a Cinderella team hoping to continue knocking off the big dogs. Get your tickets today!

Kansas City Has Top Seeds, Traditional Matchups and Upset Potential

The NCAA tournament is coming to Kansas City at the Sprint Center on Friday and Sunday, and there’s going to be a little bit of everything for college basketball fans.

That includes a local favorite as the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks take on 16th-seeded Western Kentucky. Kansas should cruise to the second round against a 15-loss Hilltoppers squad that is lucky to find itself in the tournament, but there could be a tough matchup waiting.

Eighth-seeded North Carolina takes on ninth-seeded Villanova, and if the Tar Heels prevail, there will be plenty of familiarity between North Carolina and Kansas. That’s because Roy Williams spent 15 years coaching the Jayhawks before bolting to the Tar Heels. If those two meet up, there may be little love lost between Jayhawks fans and Williams.

Meanwhile, fifth-seeded Wisconsin takes on 12th-seeded Mississippi in the seed pairing most infamous for producing upsets. Ole Miss could be a good candidate, coming in off an SEC tournament title after knocking off Florida. The winner of that game will advance to play the winner of Kansas State against either Boise State or La Salle in a four seed versus 13-seed matchup. The Broncos and Explorers meet in a play-in game to determine the final matchup in Kansas City.

The atmosphere should be electric for both sessions, as there are sure to be plenty of Kansas and Kansas State fans in attendance. That will make for a home court atmosphere, but also a louder-than-usual venue for some early NCAA tournament sites.

It’s the rare pod of games that could give spectators a look at a national title contender in top-seeded Kansas, a likely to be hotly contested eight versus nine matchup in Villanova against North Carolina and potentially a strong storyline if the Tar Heels and Jayhawks meet up.

Once you factor in the upset-rich seedings in the other matchups, there’s a bit of everything in Kansas City.

Don’t miss out on the chance to take part in all of the March Madness. Make sure to get your tickets today, before it’s too late.

NHL Training Camps Open to Eager Fans

NHL training camps opened yesterday, after 113 days of a lockout and another week of ratifying the CBA among the owners and players. Typically training camp is used as a chance to test players, see who will make the cut, see who will fit in where during the season, and start to gel the team together. This year, with less than a week to go before an extremely shortened regular season begins, it was a chance for the players and owners to win back the fans. And they knew it.

Many arenas, such as the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, had meet and greets with the players, owners and the fans, vying for a chance to win back fan support as everyone gears up for regular season to open on Saturday. Nearly all teams are opening up training camps practices to the fans, something that wouldn’t be seen in a typical training camp.

Several teams are also extending their thanks and wooing techniques past just training camp. The Ottawa Senators, along with other teams in the league, will be offering free tickets to games for certain fans (such as children) once regular season starts; and things such as merchandise and concession items will also be available at reduced prices. All of it is for one reasons — to offer their thanks to the fans that come back, and try to get as many as possible back through the arena doors.

It may just be enough. As excited as the NHL was to kick off training camps, fans were more excited than ever.

An event such as the opening of training camp would typically only draw in the few die-hards that lived within the city. But in cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Ottawa, just to name a few, thousands of fans rushed in to watch their teams back at it. Finally. In Philadelphia, once the players started coming out onto the ice, they were met with a standing ovation.

Many fans said they wouldn’t go back; and that’s clearly just what the NHL owners were afraid of. But now that it’s officially all over, fans seem to have adopted a new mindset. They love hockey, and they’ve been waiting too long to turn their backs on it now.

The Giants Sweep the Tigers to Win the World Series!

It may have been the second time in three years that the San Francisco Giants have won the World Series, but no one expected them to stand a chance against the Detroit Tigers. Last night, in a game that went to extra innings, that’s just what they did. And in addition to winning the title, they made history time and time again.

It was the first time since 1990 that a National League team has completed a sweep in the World Series; last time it was the Cincinnati Reds. It was also the first time since 1976 that a National League team had won twice in three years; and the Giants are only the fifth team in history to ever to do it. And all from the team that was never supposed to win.

The Giants were no doubt the underdogs in this one; perhaps some of the biggest ever in Major League Baseball. Brian Wilson was out for the year. Melky Cabrera brought nothing but drama (albeit some great hits) that had him out for much of the regular season, and then for the playoffs. And the one card the Giants had left, Tim Lincecum, seemed to struggle during the first half of the game.

But it all came together for them in the end. The 4-3 score may not be impressive for the most enthusiastic baseball fans, but every score was hard fought for. So much so that the game needed one more inning just to make it complete. But that was all the Giants needed to not only go down as World Series champs this year; but to also go down in history.

“When you look at the clubs that we played and having our backs to the wall, it’s pretty remarkable what these guys have done,” said manager Bruce Bochy after the game. “It’s amazing what a club can do when they do play as a team and they’re unselfish and they do whatever they can do to help a club win. That’s what these guys did.”

After the game Pablo Sandoval was name World Series MVP with home runs in each of his first three at bats during Game 1; hitting four RBIs; and batting a .500.