Two years young and still as fresh as ever, the AWIR looks back on the weekend that was, as we've always done...
And then there were two
- Memphis managed to pull the wool over UCLA's eyes by holding Bruins frosh big man Kevin Love to just 12 points for a 78-63 win and trip to tonight's championship game. A combined 53 points from backcourt duo Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts assured the Tigers' first shot at the title since 1973. Incidentally, they lost to the Bruins (coached by the great John Wooden) that year.
- The Tigers' date for this ball will be the Kansas Jayhawks, who helped Bill Self reach his first-ever title shot with a 84-66 pantsing of North Carolina, the overall #1 seed. At one point early in the first half, the 'Hawks led the Heels by 28 points, BTW. The Jayhawks had Brandon Rush and his 25 points and 7 rebounds to thank, all while not allowing UNC big man and AP Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough to do much damage in the paint (17 and 9).
In other college hoops news
- After an unceremonious trouncing from last year's Western Conference finals, the Utah Jazz looked to put the hurt on the San Antonio Spurs. On Friday night, Mehmet Okur's double-double (17 points and 16 boards) and Deron Williams's 50th double dip of the year (16-11) sure helped in a 90-64 win over the defending NBA champs. In fact, things got so bad for the Spurs, all five starters were benched late in the game. Here's hoping you got a good look at them 'cos they won't be seen until the playoffs are in full swing two weeks hence.
- Meanwhile, in SoCal, the Los Angeles Lakers clinched a playoff berth with a 112-108 win over the Dallas Mavericks, thanks to 31 points from Lamar Odom and 25 points apiece from both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The Mavs, though, would recover on Sunday and managed to get a double out of returning center Dirk Nowitzki (32-12, after scoring 27 points two nights earlier) to erase a 13-point deficit against the Phoenix Suns, 105-98.
- The New Orleans Hornets have had an amazing season; further edification comes with their 54th win, a 108-96 victory over the Golden State Warriors that saw Delonte West score 25 points and 9 rebounds, as well as 16 and 10 from the once-and-future MVP Chris Paul.
- With or without Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets managed to sneak into the playoffs with a 105-79 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The aforementioned Warriors managed to fall into a tie for the eighth and final playoff berth with the Denver Nuggets' 151-147 – this is not a misprint – double overtime loss to the Seattle Sonics.
First weekend of baseball
- When manager Joe Girardi took ill with an upper respiratory infection (ESPN said that he had the flu, which was BS), the New York Yankees wound up losing their first two games of a weekend set with the Tampa Bay Rays, 13-4 and 6-3, respectively. But, when Girardi came back on Sunday, the Yanks' fortunes turned, as Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera turned in masterful performances in a 2-0 shutout led by a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui.
- Alex Rios began the weekend by signing a 7-year, $69.5 million deal. However, his .300 average for the weekend was overshadowed by Frank Thomas' hitting a homer in each game of a sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
- Hiroki Kuroda said Kon'nichiwa to Major League Baseball by pitching a seven-inning gem, giving up only one earned run and striking out four in a 7-1 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
- Wasted effort of the weekend: New York Mets ace Johan Santana tried his darndest on Sunday to end his team's slump, but not even a double could help stave off the Atlanta Braves from a 3-0 beatdown at Turner Field. The two-bagger came in addition to seven innings of work wherein he gave up only one earned run, scattered seven hits, and struck out three batters.
NHL playoff pairings announced
- The Detroit Red Wings clinched the President's Trophy for the best record in the league, amassing 115 points in a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Wings got two power play goals from Nicklas Lidstrom in the process, and will play the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
- The Philadelphia Flyers wound up being the only thing that kept their in-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Eastern Conference #1 seed with a 2-0 shut out of Crosby and Co. The second-seeded Pens will face the Ottawa Senators in the first round, while the Flyboys (6th seed) will face the Fighting Alexander Ovechkins.
- Staying in the East, the New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout won by a goal from former Albany River Rats great Patrik Elias. However, it won't be the last time this year that these two will face each other; they will tussle in the first round.
- The San Jose Sharks sealed the Pacific Division with a 4-2 win over division rivals the Dallas Stars, while scoring a first-round date with the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, in Denver, the Colorado Avalanche got a Wojtek Wolski shootout goal for a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Like the Devils and Blueshirts, these two will meet again in round one of the playoffs, while the Stars (5th seed) will tangle with the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks.
Across the Pond
- Manchester United managed a 2-2 draw at snowy Middlesbrough thanks to a Wayne Rooney 74th-minute equalizer and despite losing Rio Ferdinand to a foot injury. The Devils, who are at the top of the Premiership table three points clear of Arsenal, did get some good news with a negative MRI on Ferdinand's foot. Ferdinand will miss Wednesday's UEFA Champions League match against Italian club AS Roma.
- The Gunners, meanwhile, drew Liverpool 1-1 at Emirates Stadium, as striker Nicklas Bendtner answered Peter Crouch's goal in the 64th minute.
- Derby County's stay in the top flight will be a brief one, as a 1-0 loss away at Everton confirmed their return trip back to the Football League Championship.
- Speaking of which, Cardiff City ended Barnsley's George Mason-esque run 1-0 on Sunday. The Welsh club will face Premiership side Portsmouth (1-0 win over West Brom) on May 17 at Wembley Stadium, site of both semifinals. Righto, bach!
- In his first win since controversy struck his team at California, Carl Edwards took the checkered flag in the Samsung 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
- Youth wants you to know that Graham Rahal won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the Florida city of the same name. The son of open-wheel racing legend Bobby Rahal (who currently owns a team with US late-night yackfest host David Letterman) became the youngest driver ever to win an IRL IndyCar Series race, doing so at the tender age of 19 years and 93 days. Other obscure names in the top five included Venezuelan driver Ernesto Viso and Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi.
- Bernoldi's fellow countryman, Felipe Massa, got his first win of the 2008 Formula One season by taking the Bahrain Grand Prix. Max Mosley, currently in hot water due to a sex scandal that made Eliot Spitzer's tryst look like greasy kid's stuff, was not present at the race.
- ...to Lorena Ochoa, who scored her second career LPGA TOUR major win with a five-stroke clincher of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Ochoa became the 17th different golfer to win the first women's major of the year, a group which includes Annika Sorenstam, Grace Park, Karrie Webb, and Dottie Pepper (from this reporter's hometown of Saratoga Springs, New York).
- ...to the AWIR, which celebrates its second anniversary with this issue. Before he left, Manny Stiles said it best when he said that two years at one website like AGM was like a lifetime. Seeing how much the sports landscape has changed during that time, there was some truth to that statement.
Dick Vitale, Patrick Ewing, Pat Riley (FROM...Schenectady, New York), and the rest of the Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2008. The weekend was even more special for Dickie V, as he will also be enshrined in the National College Basketball Hall of Fame this year. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
Padres closer Trevor Hoffman: Sure, you may have more saves than any closer in baseball history, but did you even know what happened to you this weekend? Admit it, brah, you're washed up...
AWIR Year 3 is underway
Thanks for your support and, as we've said every time to put a bow on this feature, "Let's all be good sports..."