▪ My Sunday NFL picks: Arizona over Carolina for the NFC title. Denver over New England for the AFC title. I like Carson Palmer and Arizona’s offense and Denver’s defense. Hopefully, it’ll be warm enough in the San Francisco Bay Area for Super Bowl 50 that Peyton Manning can bring his crawfish shorts.
▪ All four of the head coaches in the NFL’s conference championship games on Sunday have something else in common. All are examples that coaches are hired to be fired. New England’s Bill Belichick was fired as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Denver’s Gary Kubiak was fired as head coach of the Houston Texans. Arizona’s Bruce Arians was fired as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carolina’s Ron Rivera was fired as defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears.
▪ Before its loss Saturday at Auburn, Kentucky had won 47 consecutive games in which it led at halftime. The last time UK lost a game it led at the half was Feb. 15, 2014, to Florida in Rupp Arena. The Cats led 31-28 at the break, but lost 69-59.
▪ Best line from Tuesday’s news conference announcing that Pete Rose would be inducted into the Reds’ Hall of Fame came from Charlie Hustle himself. Asked what his statue will look like, Rose said, “It sure as hell won’t be me standing at the $2 window at Turfway.”
It sure as hell won’t be me standing at the $2 window at Turfway.
Pete Rose on what his Reds Hall of Fame statue will look like
▪ Rumors surfaced that UNLV was talking to Louisville’s Rick Pitino about filling the school’s opening for a head basketball coach. Speculation had it Rick would then hire son Richard, head coach at Minnesota, to serve as coach-in-waiting. Asked about the rumor, Richard Pitino joked, “The thought of working for my dad again keeps me up at night.”
▪ Speaking of Louisville, Ken Pomeroy’s advanced metrics rank Louisville as the best defensive team in the country.
▪ You have to love Jim Boeheim. The notoriously cranky Syracuse coach returned to Duke on Monday night after his infamous wild ejection at the end of last year’s game. Before being tossed, Boeheim came onto the floor protesting while flapping his sport coat open as if he was trying to fly. After a brief exchange with an official Monday, Boeheim briefly flapped his coat and smiled.
▪ Clemson recorded consecutive wins over Louisville, Duke and Miami. All are ranked teams. Yet the Tigers couldn’t crack the AP’s top 25.
▪ I’ll admit to being surprised Kentucky remained in the rankings after losing at Auburn. The Cats are 23rd in the AP poll and 19th in the coaches’ poll.
▪ CBS Sports recently described each SEC team’s football season in 140 characters. On Kentucky: “Optimism turned to sadness swiftly in Lexington. No bowl appearance again for the Cats, but hey, at least it’s basketball season now.”
▪ Speaking of CBS, the network used an unusual camera angle for the Chiefs-Patriots playoff game last Saturday in New England. The view was closer to the field, but you could see less of the entire field. The network told SI.com’s Richard Deitsch it was the third time they had used that angle this season.
▪ Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, who announced the hiring of ex-Penn State and Vandy assistant Bob Shoop as his defensive coordinator last week: “I would not want to be a defensive coordinator in today’s world.”
▪ When UK football assistant Chad Scott, recently moved from running backs to wide receivers coach, said he was “excited” for the challenge of his new job he must have meant North Carolina. A report Tuesday said Scott is headed to Chapel Hill.
▪ John Calipari might be on to something when he says the Cats need to get Dominique Hawkins back from his ankle injury. It could be just coincidence, but Kentucky’s opponents are averaging 99.2 points per 100 possessions in the games that Hawkins has not appeared this season. Opponents are averaging 94.1 points per 100 possessions in games that Hawkins has played this season.
▪ Best wishes to Chris Mortensen, who I got to know when he was covering the Atlanta Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mort, who went on to bigger and better things as an NFL reporter for ESPN, announced last week he is battling Stage IV throat cancer.