<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:42:25 -0500 Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:42:25 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Brady Wants to Play in Week 17]]> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:31:52 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tom+Brady+121414.jpg

It wasn't pretty -- it rarely is against a Rex Ryan-coached team -- but the Patriots outlasted the Jets on Sunday, 17-16, which guarantees them a first-round playoff bye. But there's still work to be done.

Namely, beating the Bills in Week 17 to ensure homefield advantage. Unless, of course, the Broncos lose on Monday night in Cincinnati, which would also give New England homefield advantage. And that possibility is why quarterback Tom Brady might break his 8 p.m. bedtime to watch some of the action.

“Yeah, I’m going to stay up and watch at least through the first half [unless] it gets too late,” Brady told Boston radio station WEEI on Monday morning. “This is an important one for us, so I will definitely be glued to this one.”

Whatever happens, Brady says he wants to play next Sunday, even if the playoff seedings are decided late Monday night.

“I hope [I don’t sit]. I’d love to go out there,” he admitted. “After the last few weeks of football, I’d love to go out there and see if our offense can put together the best 60 minutes of football that we have put together in a long time. We’ve been up and down as of late. We really need to start putting some great football together in these next [games].”

Coach Bill Belichick has never been one to rest healthy starters, and it's hard to imagine that he'll suddenly change tactics now. Especially since the Patriots will have a week off, meaning that if the starters should sit in Week 17, they could go two weeks without seeing live game action.

That said, we're four months into one long grind.

“There’s a lot of guys that could probably use a little time off,” Brady said. “But at the same time, this is football season and you play through whatever you’ve got and deal with those things when the season ends. All of those things are coaches’ decisions.

“I want us to go out and win. That’s what I want. I don’t care about resting. I want to go out there and try to kick some butt. That’s what I want to do.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn, Nebraska Working on Home-and-Home Series]]> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:06:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-PVAM.jpg

UConn and Nebraska are working to finalize a home-and-home series that would begin in Connecticut next season before going to Lincoln, Nebraska the following year, according to SNY.com's Carl Adamec.

A contract hasn't yet been signed but Auriemma is optimistic.  "I’m hoping that will get done,” he said Friday.

Auriemma was impressed with the Lincoln crowd after the Huskies played in an NCAA Regional there last spring. Even after the Cornhuskers had been eliminated, more than 9,000 fans showed up to watch UConn-BYU's Sweet 16 matchup and another 7,100 watched UConn-Texas A&M's Elite Eight game.

“The fact that so many fans came out to the game even though their team had been knocked out says a lot about their fan base and how much they appreciate women’s basketball,” Auriemma said. “When you find spots like that around the country you want to go to those places.”

Adamec writes that UConn and Nebraska have met once before, with the Huskies winning 71-61 at Gampel Pavilion back in 1997.

<![CDATA[Lobo: Stokes Could Have Long WNBA Career]]> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:03:36 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kiah+stokes_1.jpg

It wasn't that Kiah Stokes' career up to this point was undistinguished, it's just that she was playing behind Stefanie Dolson. With Dolson now in the WNBA, Stokes, a 6-3 senior from Marion, Iowa, has emerged as dominating frontcourt player, averaging nine rebounds a game.

And while she may only put up 6.3 points per game, Stokes could have a long WNBA career. But don't take our word for it.

"I think she is going to be a really good WNBA player and there's a few reasons I believe so," former UConn great Rebecca Lobo told the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla on Sunday. "I'm not saying she could be a star in the league, but I think she is capable of having a long career because she can defend other post players and has a fantastic [athletic] body that will enable her to match up with some of the league's elite post players. I see her being able to hold her own defensively. ...

"She is good enough finishing off around the basket that she should be able to score six or eight points a game," Lobo continued. "And I think she knows how to play with superstars. She knows how to impact the game without demanding [offensive] touches. …. She's not going to be a Tina Charles-MVP type player, but she can be pretty good for a long time."

That's glowing praise, for sure, and an important reminder that while scoring points are important, there will always be a need for those players who battle for those rebounds that allow others to do all that scoring.

Stokes scored 10 points and pulled 10 rebounds in UConn's win over UCLA on Sunday.

"I know I've been working hard at it, but it's not something I thought I would hear someone like her say," Stokes told Altavilla. "I'm glad it's starting to show, but I know I can contribute even more. And that's very exciting to me."

And undoubtedly very exciting for Geno Auriemma.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Blast UCLA, 86-50]]> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:40:56 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/stewart-uconn-creighton.jpg

UConn delivered an early Christmas present to the fans in Uncasville by blowing out UCLA, 86-50, on Sunday evening. Junior All-American Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and the Huskies moved to 8-1 on the season.

"Traditionally, this is one of the hardest games to play," Coach Geno Auriemma said after the game. "There is a lot going on, you aren't sure if everyone is mentally here or not here. Sometimes you think that things will be easier than what they seem and it sometimes takes some time to get adjusted to that. Our defense was really good for the most part in both halves. It's just offensively, when we are not in sync, we are not very good. Then all of a sudden we go on a couple runs. When we are good we are good but when we aren't we are something other than good."

UConn is 6-0 since losing to Stanford back on Nov. 17. They've won by 36 or more in each game.

"We've gotten better in the last month since November," Auriemma said, via the Associated Press. "We've gotten a lot better. I think we found out today that we need to get a lot better. We gave up 19 offensive rebounds, that's a lot."

Four other players scored in double figures, including freshmen Gabby Williams (12) and Kia Nurse (11), along with frontcourt veterans Morgan Tuck and Kia Stokes (10 each). Stokes also led the team with 10 rebounds.

It's rare to see a freshman as a point scorer, but it's a role Nurse is embracing.

"Definitely, in my role outside the [Canadian] national team, I was always in the role of being a scorer and being a leader in that sense," she said, via the team's website. "It was just a matter of getting back into that role and where I was. The roles change here and there depending on the places but I'm really comfortable with the role that I have here."

And the Huskies appear to be settling in, too. They play again on Saturday when they host SMU.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 16]]> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:57:33 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP600830637116.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the sixteenth week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pats Battle Back to Beat Jets]]> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:22:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tom+Brady+122114.jpg

A win is a win, right?

In a game where Geno Smith's quarterback rating was actually higher than Tom Brady's, the New England Patriots managed to come from behind and beat the New York Jets 17-16.

New England trailed for most of the game, opening the second quarter with a touchdown but going down 10-7 as the half drew to a close.

They only recaptured the lead with a fourth-quarter Jonas Gray touchdown.

Brady, sacked four times, did not throw a touchdown after the drive ending in tight end Rob Gronkowski's hands, which opened the second quarter. He also threw an interception, completing 23 passes in 35 attempts.

He threw for 182 yards, with no receiver totaling more than Brandon LaFell's 64 yards. Danny Amendola had a season-high in both receptions, with eight, and yards, with 63.

Smith also had a touchdown and a pick, going 17-27 with 210 yards and being sacked twice.

The close win brings New England's record to 12-3 with one game left to play against the Buffalo Bills. Conversely, in what was likely Rex Ryan's second-to-last appearance as the Jets' head coach, his team's record falls to 3-12.

The Patriots lock up a first-round bye week. If Denver loses Monday or if the Patriots defeat the Bills next week, they will lock up home-field advantage through the playoffs.

More to come.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks' Sherman on Facing Cardinals' Peterson]]> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 14:45:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/217*120/AP197367378072.jpg Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman is once again playing at the top of his game, and responds to the chatter about facing another shut-down corner in Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Rex Ryan Jokes About Coaching Tom Brady]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:34:43 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Jets-Dolphins-1229005a.jpg

It looks like Rex Ryan will be making jokes right up to the end. The Jets coach will almost certainly be fired in the coming weeks, but he'll face his long-time nemesis, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, (likely for the last time, at least as the Jets coach) on Sunday.

On Thursday, Ryan, who usually finds ways to needle the Pats, joked about what it would be like to coach Tom Brady.

"No, I don't marvel at (New England's success this century). I think Brady is a huge reason for it," he said, via ESPN.com. "But the Patriot Way and all that stuff, obviously it works. My brother [Rob] was there for two Super Bowls. It's obviously a very successful system. I think having that consistency at that position in particular -- the quarterback position -- probably makes it a little easier than maybe other teams have gone through."

Ryan arrived in New York before the 2009 season and led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games but never made it to the Super Bowl. Things began to crumble in 2011, Tim Tebow arrived in 2012, and by 2013, this was Geno Smith's team. With two games left on the 2014 schedule, the Jets are 3-10. A division without Brady would have made Ryan's life infinitely easier.

"I was hoping he'd retire like four or five years ago, but that didn't happen," he joked. "Now he's talking about playing his whole life. Oh, boy."

When asked what he'd do with a quarterback like Brady, Ryan responded, "I'd do like anybody else would do. My wife could coach him ... Nah, I'm just kidding."

After years of poking the proverbial bear that is the Patriots, maybe Ryan's now trying the "more flies with honey" approach to pre-game Jedi mind tricks. Hey, at this stage of the proceedings, it can't hurt to try.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn's AAC Opponents Announced]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:27:22 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

The American Athletic Conference unveiled the league matchups for 2015-18 on Thursday. The 2015 season will be the first in the new 12-team, two-division format. The West Division will include: Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa. While the East Division will include: UConn, UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, USF and Temple.

More details via the AAC:

The conference schedule will include 48 regular-season games that will have each of the 12 teams in The American playing eight league contests annually. Each team will face the other five teams in its own division, as well as three teams from the other division, ensuring that each school will play every conference opponent at home and on the road at least once in the four-year cycle.

The East and West division winners, determined by final conference record, will meet in the first American Athletic Conference Football Championship Game, which will be played at the home site of one of the division winners.

Meanwhile, UConn's home schedule was also announced:

Home: East Carolina, Houston, Navy, USF
Away: UCF, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulane
Does Not Play: Memphis, SMU, Tulsa

Home: UCF, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulane
Away: East Carolina, Houston, Navy, USF
Does Not Play: Memphis, SMU, Tulsa

Home: East Carolina, Memphis, USF, Tulsa
Away: UCF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple
Does Not Play: Houston, Navy, Tulane

Home: UCF, Cincinnati, SMU, Temple
Away: East Carolina, Memphis, USF, Tulsa
Does Not Play: Houston, Navy, Tulane

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Duke Slogs out 66-56 Win Over UConn]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:44:17 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

UConn's toughest game of the season proved to be just that on Thursday night when they squared off against perennial powerhouse Duke. When it was over, the Blue Devils slogged out a 66-56 win on Tyus Jones' 21 points.

Duke's decisive edge in rebounding, 45-31, also played a part in the outcome; Amile Jefferson was responsible for 13 of those, while Kentan Facey led the Huskies with nine of his own. But UConn, which had lost three of its last four games, hung with the second-ranked team in the country. They trailed 30-25 at the half, and tied it 30-30 shortly after the break. It was enough to make Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski burn an early timeout.

"We were out to lunch. I mean, we were in La-La land," Krzyzewski said, via USAToday.com. "I had to take the timeout to get us back into it."

Jones added of Coach K: "It just shows the passion he has for the game. It shows how much the game means to him. He still has that passion. We weren't playing well and he let us know it. He still has that, depending on the situation. That's when he gets on us. We deserved that."

Not surprisingly, senior point guard Ryan Boatright led UConn with 22 points, a recurring theme this season as the young, new faces on the roster scramble to catch up and contribute.

"There are games within games and there are situations where we are not able to make plays," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "You can't keep blaming it on youth. We have to grow up and make those game-winning plays."

Not that it's any consolation, but Coach K came away impressed with Boatright's game.

"Boatright is the best guard we've played against thus far,"he said. "He has great heart, a winner. I thought we did a decent job on him and he still scored a lot of points."

The Huskies fall to 4-4. They face Columbia on Monday and Central Connecticut six days later, before hosting Temple on New Year's Eve in the first conference game of the season.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[If Belichick Were Still HC Of The NYJ]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:52:48 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/belichick+evil.jpg

Al Groh wasn’t the Jets coach for much longer than Bill Belichick was, but for a while back in 2000, he was the toast of the town -- or at least he would’ve been if the Giants weren’t making a run of their own, all the way to the Super Bowl (they would’ve needed about a dozen of David Tyree’s miracle helmet catches in order to be competitive with the dominant Ravens that day).

Groh, who got the job when Belichick stepped down as “HC of the NYJ” after a good 11 or 12 seconds, had instant success with Gang Green, as the Vinny Testaverde-led team started the 2000 season at 6-1 and was 9-4 -- with a playoff spot firmly in sight -- with three games to go.

Naturally, because they’re the J-E-T-S, they dropped those three to finish 9-7 and out of the money. Soon after, Groh decamped for the University of Virginia, becoming in all likelihood the only coach ever to leave the NFL after a winning season in order to take the helm at a middling college program whose own fans think so little of their team that they refer to themselves as the Wahoos.

With the 11-3 Pats set to play the 3-11 Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, it’s hard not to wonder, if Belichick kept the HC job, would he have fared better that season than Groh? Or, for that matter, then the guys who followed him: Herm “You Play To Win The Game” Edwards, who also had early success with playoff appearances in his first two years; Eric “Simply Incredible That He Was Ever Actually Called ‘Mangenius’ Mangini,” who, yes, also started off strong, earning a wild card spot in his rookie season; and, of course Rex Ryan, whose first two seasons in New York suggested a guaranteed trip to Canton in a very large yellow sports jacket down the road.

In fact, if you combined the first few years of the Groh/Herm/Mangidiot/Rex reins, the resume would nearly rival Vince Lombardi’s. Belichick, meanwhile, is headed for the Hall of Fame whenever he decides to retire from the Patriots after his own Lombardi-like run.

Would the Hoodie be on the way to the Hall if it was green instead of gray? Hard to say. Would the Jets QBs over the past 15 years still have been an over-the-hill Testaverde, an oft-injured Chad Pennington, a Brooks Bollinger-like Brooks Bollinger, a Brett Favre that appeared even further past the hill than Vinny until he was rejuvenated for in Minnesota, a guy best known for being knocked unconscious by a teammate’s posterior, and, of course, a Geno Smith? If so, for all his absurdly impressive gridiron acumen, a Tom Brady-less Belichick likely would’ve gone the way of all the aforementioned Gang Green coaches long ago.

Can you see Belichick in a TV job? He might be the only person in the world that would provoke a channel change to C-Span.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 Reasons to Watch Giants-Rams]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:33:55 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg


Pop quiz, hotshot. Among NFC teams, which longtime franchise has the best winning percentage against the Giants? If you answered the Rams (25-14 all-time versus New York), then you also probably just visited pro-footballreference.com.

Were you as shocked to discover this as I was? No? Liar.

The Rams, really. I know they’ve had some terrific teams over the years -- making the playoffs eight straight years from 1973-1980, six times between 1983 and 1989 and five times between 1999 and 2004 -- but the franchise still maintains an aura of stink for me. And that’s largely because -- outside of those cluster playoff runs -- the team has been largely terrible.

Has any franchise ever had a bigger disparity between its highs and lows? When the Rams are good, they remain good for years at a time. When they get on a run of losing -- for example like now; they haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 -- they get into a groove, too.

Would you believe the Rams actually have a winning record all-time? Well, they do, 533-531-2. If they lose their last two games this season, they’ll be exactly .500 all-time, which seems fitting for this proud/embarrassing franchise.

The Giants have actually won the last five games in this matchup, which means at one time they actually had a 9-25 record against the Rams. Bizarre? You betcha.

Can the Giants keep the winning streak going? Here are some other compelling reasons to watch this game:

Great rookies

This game features the runaway winner of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (Odell Beckham Jr.) and a contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has eight sacks on the year, including one sack each in the last five games.

The only thing Eli Manning likes more than looking for Beckham (league high 62 targets in the last five weeks) is taking sacks. Look for the announcers to say Beckham or Donald’s name on 44 consecutive Giants offensive plays.

Great coaches

Don’t you ever watch games simply because the teams are led by accomplished coaches at the height of their powers? Coaches like Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin? OK, I tried.

Fantasy football

Want to hear me talk about my fantasy football team? How kind of you, please pull up a chair.

I’m playing in my fantasy football championship this week. The guy I’m playing against has Beckham on his team, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because I read somewhere that Beckham is on more championship-participating teams than any other player in fantasy.

What might strike you as odd is that my opponent has the Rams’ defense while I am currently fielding the Giants’ defense. I say currently because, well, I have watched this Giants team all year -- all through the seven-game losing streak, the horrific Manning interceptions, the Larry Donnell fumbles -- and it occurs to me that pinning my hopes on the Giants’ defense is like playing William Tell, except in this instance I’m putting an apple on my head and asking someone to shoot it off with a heat-seeking missile.

The Giants’ defense has been stout of late, accumulating 22 sacks in the last three weeks. But the Rams’ defense has not allowed a touchdown in three weeks, and could become the first squad since the 2000 Steelers to not allow a touchdown in four straight games.

If the Rams’ defense dominates the Giants (which is distinctly possible), the Giants’ defense is going to be in bad situations all game. Decisions, decisions.

My other option is playing the Broncos versus the Bengals on Monday Night Football. So what do you think … hey, where did you go?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Revis 'Sad' at Ryan's Situation in NY]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:57:52 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Darrelle+Revis+Getty.jpg

Losing stinks, but there's nothing worse in football than pity. And that's exactly what former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has for current Jets coach Rex Ryan, who is 3-11 and will almost certainly be fired before the New Year.

New York and New England meet on Sunday in a game that has completely different implications for both teams; the Jets are in the running for the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft while the Pats are trying to hold onto homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

"It's kind of sad for the position that Rex is in right now, but at the same time [the record is] something that they've got to change," Revis told reporters on Wednesday via conference call.

The Jets drafted Revis in the first round back in 2007. Ryan was hired in 2009 and led the team to back-to-back AFC Championship games. But a looming contract dispute led the Jets to trade Revis to the Bucs before the 2013 season, and he landed in New England this offseason.

"I'm really not trying to pay attention to [the Jets' struggles], I'm really not," Revis said. "Me and Rex have a lot of history and we all know that. Some of those guys are dear to my heart and everything, but like I said, I've got to focus on the things that I am doing here, and I wish Rex the best."

The Jets' secondary, which has been decimated by injuries, certainly misses a player of Revis' caliber. Ryan was asked about just that this week but would only say that he's proud of the players he has. As to whether the team regrets not signing Revis before the Pats did, Ryan offered this: "Guys, I think we've addressed this before. Go back to our notes from the first time we played New England or even when Revis was in Tampa. You make decisions based on things. A lot of them work out, some maybe don't work out as well as others. I don't think it's fair to sit back and say this or that."

<![CDATA[Edwards Transfer Not a Surprise]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:42:30 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-2014-recruits.jpg

Last week, Geno Auriemma announced that freshman Sadie Edwards will transfer just seven games into her Huskies career. But the coach later said that the decision to leave UConn wasn't a surprise.

“I said, ‘Hopefully you learned something while you were here and hopefully you have a better idea of what it is going to take to play college basketball at this level. If there is anything we can do to help you land the right place for you, certainly we are going to do that,’ ” Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “It didn’t work. It didn’t work. ...

“You have to be all in. At this level you have to be all in, 100 percent, everything," he continued. "Everybody thinks it’s going to be a lot easier than it is. It always looks great from the outside, because what do you see from the outside? You see the crowds, the adulation, the Final Fours, the parades, all the All-Americans. What you don’t see is how all that comes about. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had an idea Edwards might leave.

“I’m not necessarily surprised that she left. I am surprised that it happened as quickly as it did,” she said. “She just wasn’t happy. You could tell she wasn’t happy that she wasn’t playing, and her demeanor just changed over the past couple of months. You could tell that it was deteriorating more and more the more she wasn’t playing.

“It takes a lot for people to stay here all four years. But it also takes a lot for someone to know when enough is enough and how much you can handle. And I think that she did the right thing by looking at what she can handle and what’s best for herself.”

Freshmen Courtney Ekmark, Gabby Williams and Kia Nurse remain from the 2014 class, and the 2015 class currently includes the nation's best high school player in Katie Lou Samuelson, and Napheesa Collier, De’Janae Boykin and Crystal Dangerfield are top-10 players. There's also Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

<![CDATA[Chattanooga Will Be Stiff Test for UConn]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:37:17 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

Geno Auriemma has never been a proponent of soft schedules to prepare his team. As best we can tell, his thinking goes something like this: Iron sharpens iron. Put another way: You're not going to get better by playing a bunch of cream puffs.

That explains the early season matchups against traditional powerhouses Stanford and Notre Dame. This brings us to University of Tennessee-Chatanooga. Coach Jim Foster, who gave Auriemma his start in coaching, has led his team to wins over Tennessee AND Stanford in the last three weeks, and a season from now, UTC and UConn will begin a home-and-home series.

“Jim said they wanted to play us,” Auriemma said on Wednesday, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I told him to call (UConn senior women’s administrator) Deb Corum and they put it together. I think it’s great. It wasn’t my idea. I didn’t go up to him and say we should be playing. It was his idea. He wanted to do it and I’m glad it got done. ...

“He’s got a pretty ambitious schedule -- us, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee …,” Auriemma continued. “But they’re in a conference that’s usually a one-bid league. They’re doing the right thing. If something were to happen that they lose in their league tournament, they could have the kind of record or kind of resume that might still get them in the NCAA tournament. Chattanooga was always good when Wes Moore was (the coach) and Jim has picked up right where they left off.”

UTC is 7-3 this season. Auriemma is 3-3 lifetime against Foster.

<![CDATA[Okafor Will Be a Problem for UConn]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:31:13 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

The Huskies face their toughest test of the season on Thursday night in New Jersey when they face Duke. The biggest obstacle -- both literally and figuratively -- between UConn and a huge win will be the Blue Devils' 6-11, 270-pound freshman Jahil Okafor, who averages 18 points and 9 rebounds a game.

“He can run the court. He’s got soft hands, he catches everything. He’s an outstanding rebounder,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said, via SNY.com. “Just skilled. He can go over both shoulders, pivot in the post with both pivots. I could go on and on. He seems like a great teammate, great person. He’s the complete package.”

Ryan Boatright added: "He moves like a guard, man," Boatright said. "He's got real good feet, he has a high basketball IQ, he has a face-up game, a back-to-the-basket game. He's a great player. He works extremely hard and he understands the game. Any time a big guy like that has great feet, he's pretty hard to stop."

That's the bad news. The good news is that the Huskies have their own big man, 7-footer Amida Brimah who is coming off a 40-point performance against Coppin State.

“You get 40 points, you’re going to have to feel good about yourself,” Ollie said. “The way he got it, moving without the basketball, catching it, finishing it, that’s what we need from him. We don’t need pump fakes, we don’t need him dropping the ball.”

Ollie likes to "rebound and run," which could mean more opportunities for Brimah.

“We always look for him at the rim,” Ollie said. “There was a lot more against Coppin State but that’s one of our plays, where he dives hard and we have shooters around him. If he dives or sprints to the rim we throw it up when we see his number or when he has an angle on his opponent.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Play Jets, Pats Every Year]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:53:29 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/459081054.jpg

The unpredictability of the NFL is one of its greatest charms, the any given Sunday maxim a central cause of the multi-billion dollar gambling industry that has helped make professional football the most popular sport among four-legged mammals, domesticated or otherwise.

But undergirding this most unpredictable of sports is the most predictable of plans, the NFL schedule. We may not know if the Giants can beat the spread in either of their final two games, but we already know who 14 of the Giants’ 16 opponents will be in 2015, because the NFL uses a staid formula with no room for leeway.

The Giants are playing the Jets, Patriots and Bills in 2015? Roger Goodell and his minions are scheduling savants! They know how to foster rivalries! Yeah, no. The commissioner and his team have no say about who plays who from year to year, which is probably good, because they’d probably have the Seahawks and 49ers play against each other in London each week.

But in proper hands (read: mine) the NFL schedule can be improved, with an emphasis on fostering regional and historical rivalries, while neglecting the perceived need to have, say, the Dolphins play the Cardinals every few years.

Believe it or not, Cardinals fans don’t care if the Dolphins ever come to town, and this is what the NFL fumbles in its construction of the NFL schedule.

As it stands, the NFL uses a very simple formula for determining a team’s schedule.

Per NFL communications:

Under the formula, every team plays 16 games as follows:

• Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
• The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
• The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
• Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Because of this formula, the Giants (who are locked into a third-place finish in the NFC East) already know who 7/8ths of their 2015 will be. As the consistently great Ed Valentine points out at Big Blue View on SB Nation, the Giants’ opponents are:

Home: Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, New England, New York Jets, and NFC West third-place team (“As of now, the third-place team in the NFC West is the San Francisco 49ers, who are 7-7. Sunday's opponent, the St. Louis Rams, are 6-8 and could sneak into that spot over the final two games,” Valentine writes.)
Away: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. Buffalo, Miami, and NFC North third-place team (“The third-place team in the NFC North is the 6-8 Minnesota Vikings. The 5-9 Chicago Bears have a shot at that spot, but they seem to have imploded.)

Is it great that the Giants get to host the Patriots and the Jets? Sure, but this should happen every other year, with the Patriots and Jets hosting the Giants in the alternating years. That’s right, a yearly contest at MetLife Stadium between the Giants and the Jets. How awesome would that be? How many fights would break out in the stands? Probably no more than go down whenever the Eagles, Cowboys Washington come to town. Well, the Eagles and Cowboys, anyway; Washington fans don’t like to travel these days.

It’s safe and predictable for the NFL to say this year’s standings should affect next year’s schedule, but it’s also lazy and idiotic. The last-place team in the AFC North this year is currently Cleveland, who are 7-7 and could finish 9-7. The last-place team in the AFC South is Jacksonville, which has two wins and could finish with, um, two wins.

Some fans complain that the NFC North will send a team with a losing record to the playoffs this year, while more worthy teams (please let it be the Eagles) get left out. But if it’s supposedly unfair to allow a sub.-500 team such as the Saints to reach the playoffs, how is it fair to automatically equate a seven-win team such as the Browns with a two-win team such as the Jaguars?

Listen, there’s no perfect formula for designing the NFL schedule, but the currently boring formula should be scrapped in lieu of a new “formula” that includes:

• A nod to regional or historic rivalries. Pittsburgh and Dallas? These two teams have played in three Super Bowls and need to play more often. You don’t think Steeler fans can hate Dallas fans as much as other fan bases? You are mistaken. Other teams that need to play more often: the Dolphins and the Jaguars, the Chiefs and the Rams, and the Texans and the Cowboys. The 49ers and Raiders don’t need to play more often; jails in California are already overpopulated, so there’s no need to put these two fan bases in a confined bowl. Like ever.

• The formula should also include never playing another game in London. Seriously, just stop. How about Iceland, though? The naturally occurring hot springs would be very therapeutic to players’ aches and pains. Plus it’s a shorter flight from New York and would actually allow the NFL to play a game on a real frozen tundra.

• Pulling team names out of a hat to determine matchups. You think the NFL Draft is entertaining theater? Imagine a scene at Radio City Music Hall, with the commissioner pulling the Eagles’ name out of a hat, followed by him pulling out...the Rams! And you think the booing was loud when Donovan McNabb got drafted.

Now, will such changes to the NFC schedule ever be implemented? Probably not.

Instead we get the lukewarm excitement associated with the NFL’s schedule release in the spring. We already know which teams play which, because the crusty old schedule formula determined that at the end of the previous season.

“But we get to learn WHEN the Giants play the Patriots!”

Come on, NFL. We can do better than that.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ryan Faces Pats, Maybe for Last Time]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:01:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Rex-Ryan-Playbook.jpg

Rex Ryan is very familiar with the Patriots. He's been the Jets' coach since 2009, and before that, he was a defensive assistant with the Ravens. On Sunday, the Jets and Patriots, two teams going in different directions, meet for the last time this season.

And, possibly, the last time with Ryan as the coach; he will almost certainly be fired in a few weeks, which frankly, is probably the best thing that could happen to him. (Ryan's a great coach in an untenable situation. A fresh start is in order.)

For now, though, he's focused on New England, even if the three-win Jets have long been out of the playoff conversation.

"We all know what's getting ready to happen in this game," Ryan said of a match-up in which there are few surprises, via ESPN.com. "We know that both teams give their maximum effort against each other. I don't think each team particularly likes each other. It's on. Regardless of what the record is. We could be playing for first place or whatever, it's the same effort always. It's usually a close game and it's usually a physical game."

Still despite the familiarity -- and even dislike -- Ryan respects what the Patriots have accomplished.

"They always have it -- six years in a row that they've won the division. You're a little envious, I guess. It's what it is -- they're the ones you chase. We respect them a great deal -- they're led by a Hall of Fame quarterback and a Hall of Fame coach. So they're hard to beat and we recognize that, but that doesn't mean that we'll take our rightful place underneath them. That's not going to happen. We're here to beat them. That's our mentality every time we play them. They're going to get our best shot and we're going to get theirs; we understand that about each other."

Ryan might be on the way out in New York but he maintains that things are going as well as they can, all things considered.

"Anything that's swirling around inside our team, I'm proud of this team," he said. "We've got nothing (in terms of issues). Some guys' reports are probably as far off as any I've ever seen. This team is tight. Our record is the only thing that stinks. We have a great group of guys that care, that prepare, practice hard. It's obviously unfortunate that our record is what it is. But it has nothing to do with the type of character in this room."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sheldon Richardson a Silver Lining for Gang Green]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:37:18 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/120714jets.jpg

April 22, 2013 is a day that will live in infamy for Jets fans. That’s when newly installed GM John Idzik traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Of course, Gang Green has no lack of infamous days. How about the day Idzik decided not to bring Revis back, leading the cornerback to relocate his island to New England and return to his otherworldly form while playing for the hated Patriots? Or the day Idzik was hired? Or Rich Kotite? Or Bruce Coslet? Or Lou Holtz? OK, you get the point. And I won’t even mention butt-fumble day.

Oh well, too late, I guess.

But back to that fateful April day. The Jets parted with Revis --arguably the best player they’ve ever had -- and in return received a mid-first round and a fourth round draft pick. Sounds like a steal for the Bucs, right? Like taking candy from an Idzik?

However, in one of the few standout moments from what will likely soon be the end of the GM’s brief tenure of infamy, with the first round choice he wisely selected Sheldon Richardson from Missouri.

Yes, just four spots earlier, the GM chose Dee Milliner, the DB from Alabama, and not only is the jury still out on that pick, but at this point no one can even seem to find the jury. The rumor is it’s being sequestered somewhere under MetLife Stadium, a stone’s throw from the remains of Jimmy Hoffa. And Idzik also whiffed on 2014 fourth round choice Jalen Saunders, whom the Jets dropped after he failed to catch a pass through the first few games of his rookie campaign.

But even if Milliner doesn’t pan out, you can’t call Idzik’s first first round a wash, because Richardson has already proven to be one of the best players from the 2013 NFL Draft. The defensive end won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors last year, and has followed that up with an even stronger sophomore season.

A staunch run-stopper in the Jets’ base 3-4 D since he arrived in New York, Richardson has stepped up his game in the pass-rushing department in 2014 -- especially since linemate Muhammad Wilkerson went down with a toe injury in November. Richardson was a constant presence in the Vikings’ backfield two weeks ago, racking up three sacks in the 30-24 defeat.

Revis should be a Jet. After all, it’s rare that you get a second chance at a talent like that, and Idzik obviously blew it. Milliner? We still don’t know what we have there. But Sheldon Richardson is exactly the kind of building block the Jets need more of if they’re going to progress from a punch line to respectability.

If they can do as well with their first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft as they did with their second choice two years ago, they shouldn’t be a laughing stock for much longer.  

<![CDATA[Huskies Know Duke Will Be Tough Test]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:41:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

The Huskies headed for New Jersey after Tuesday's practice, as they prepare to meet powerhouse Duke University at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

It's a big game for UConn, not just because it's a good measuring stick for where they are but because until Sunday's win over Coppin St., they had dropped three straight. Either way, coach Kevin Ollie knows Thursday's game will one of the toughest tests his team faces all season.

“They are incredibly athletic, and when you get live turnovers which we had against Coppin State, they are going to convert them," Ollie said, via the Connecticut News. … "We have to limit the mistakes with the basketball, make sure we limit our turnovers and of course they are going to try to pound it in there (to freshman Jahlil Okafor). I mean I saw Jahlil get a steal last night and go coast-to-coast. They’re not going to take their foot off the accelerator. They are always going to push the ball.”

Rodney Purvis, who began his college career at NC State before transferring to UConn, is quite familiar with what it means to play Duke.

“It’s great," he said. "Playing against a team like Duke, they’re undefeated right now and we are kind of getting back on the road. It will be a great game. I’m 1-1 against Duke (at N.C. State), so it would be good to get another win against Duke.”

Senior point guard Ryan Boatright added: “We were playing those first few games on just pure talent, but now it’s getting into the heart of the schedule and we got to come together and a lot of other things like that. We are starting to play together a lot better and we’re starting to understand the game more.”

Boatright also knows Duke's all-everything freshman, Jahlil Okafor, who, like Boatright, is also from Chicago.

“We worked out this summer a few times together, we played pick up and stuff," he said. "I know him pretty well, I watched him in high school. … I know him, but just pick up, I’ve never played a competitive game vs. him.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ollie, Huskies, Spreading Christmas Cheer]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:31:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-rim.jpg

Christmas is eight days away and coach Kevin Ollie and his team are doing their part to spread holiday cheer. On Saturday, they'll host Kevin Ollie’s Christmas For Hartford’s Children in the Harford's Blue Hills neighborhood.

Details via the university news release:

The event will take place at the Northwest Boys & Girls Club on Nahum Drive, where some 75 families, including about 200 people, will gather on Saturday afternoon. Coach Ollie and a few of his players will visit with two families who live near the club, bringing the joy of the holidays into their homes, while the rest of the team and staff head for the Boys & Girls Club.

Some team members will conduct numerous basketball activities for the older children, while other Huskies participate in arts and crafts with younger children. Then the team will reunite to listen to Coach Ollie address the parents and children. That will be followed by a pizza party for everybody, including gifts for the Hartford children and an autograph session with the Huskies.

Two days before the event, the Huskies will face Duke in Madison Square Garden in their biggest game of the season. On Monday, they'll host Columbia at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

<![CDATA[U.S. to Bid for 2024 Olympics]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 04:15:47 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/TLMD-aros-olimpicos-juegos-olimpicos-olympic-rings-getty-images-470969827.jpg

The U.S. Olympic Committee has decided to bid for the 2024 Olympics, hoping to bring the Summer Games back to America after a 28-year absence.

The USOC board heard presentations from four candidate cities Tuesday — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington — and voted to enter a field that already includes Rome and either Hamburg or Berlin, with Paris likely to join.

A decision on which city the U.S. will put forward for a bid is expected next month.

The United States hasn't hosted a Summer Games since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

The country's last two tries have been flops, with New York (2012) and Chicago (2016) each finishing fourth in voting. The USOC chose not to bid for the 2020 Games, which will take place in Tokyo.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brady's 17-Yard Run Still Has Legs]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:35:13 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tom+Brady+113014.jpg

People are still talking about Tom Brady's 17-yard, ahem, sprint against the Dolphins that ended not with him sliding but taking on Dolphins safety Walt Aikens.

It led to joking teammates and Cheetah Facebook memes.

"It was the slowest 17 yards I've ever seen in my life," wide receiver Julian Edelman said, adding later: "It's always fun seeing the Clydesdale run. I call him Brady Vick."

"Oh man," fullback James Develin said. "Looked like a gazelle out there."

So why didn't Brady slide at the end of the third-longest run of his career? Competitiveness.

“No, I could have slid, but I wasn’t in the best mood that time,” Brady admitted. “If he was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary... things happen pretty quick for me out there. I'm not the fastest guy out there, so things close down pretty quick.”

But coach Bill Belichick has no problem with Brady's decision to take on a defender.

“I’ve coached for a long time and I don’t question players' decisions on the field when they try to make them to help the team win,” the coach said on a conference call with reporters. ...

“I think that they do the best that they can,” he continued. “They are trying to win. They are trying to win just as much as everybody else on the team is. [I’m] not saying every decision is a great one. It’s the same thing with a coach. I’m not saying every [coaching] decision is a great one. But every one is made with the intention to help this team win to the best that I can or an individual can for the team. So I don’t second-guess those.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jim Calhoun Talks About Duke Rivalry]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 15:10:23 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jim-calhoun-be-careful.jpg

The Huskies broke their three-game losing streak on Sunday with a blowout win over Coppin State, but there's little time for celebration. For starters, that was a game they were supposed to win. There's also this: They have to face Duke this Thursday at 8 p.m. in East Rutherford, N.J.

On Monday, Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun took a break from his annual tradition of passing out holiday groceries to talk about the history between the two teams.

"It is a rivalry in this sense," Calhoun said, via the Hartford Courant. "The games we've played with them include the single most important game UConn ever played, in '99. You get the first [national championship], life changes. It's a rivalry because Mike [Krzyzewski] is a great coach, the best of our generation.

"[Despite what] people might think, I don't have any hatred. I have a love for the competition. I wanted to beat them, as much as I ever wanted to beat anybody in my life. We should be happy that in our rise, we were able to beat the best teams in our generation, because that puts us there with the best teams in our generation."

And Calhoun's right; UConn beat Duke in '99 for its first championship, catapulting the program into the national conversation.

Calhoun, now an analyst for ESPN, offered this scouting report of the Blue Devils after watching them play Michigan State earlier this season.

"They were just too good [for Michigan State]," Calhoun said. "The 6-7 forward [Justise Winslow], he's what they haven't had in a lot of years. Okafor is the real deal. I thought the [Tyus] Jones kid in the backcourt, and the other guards, are great. They're real good, a very talented team, enough blend of veterans. A very good basketball team."

"Very good" might be an understatement, but these are the games Ollie relishes because it cast the Huskies as underdogs.

<![CDATA[Jets Need QB, But They Also Need Team Around Him]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 09:47:04 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Marcus+Mariota.jpg

A few days ago, I mentioned that Marcus Mariota’s college QB credentials were very similar to Geno Smith’s. Maybe that was a bit of a stretch. So let me try again.

Candidate A, Mariota, was a three-year starter and Heisman winner at a powerhouse program. He also threw 101 TDs against just 12 INTs, completed 66.6% of his passes at 9.2 yards per pass, recorded a passer rating of 172.6 and even ran for 28 touchdowns while leading his team to a 35-4 record.

Candiate B was a three-year starter and Heisman winner at a powerhouse program with 88 passing TDs against just 16 INTs, completed 66.4% of his passes at 9.3 yards per pass, recorded a passer rating of 170.8 and even ran for 57 touchdowns while leading his team to a 35-6 record.

Not much of a stretch, right? B is Tim Tebow. Yes, the same guy who in the NFL appeared as if he was conducting infield practice with his throws was one of the most statistically impressive passers in college football history -- while playing in that competitive crucible known as the SEC.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Mariota will be a good pro QB, and I think the Jets’ win on Sunday over the woeful Titans was in many ways a loss because it gave them a worse chance at landing the 2015 NFL Draft’s top pick -- and potentially grabbing the Oregon signal caller.

Then again, I also thought Tebow would be a good pro.

No, really, I did.

Are you still reading? I wouldn’t blame you if not.

But if so, I might as well come clean completely. So here goes.

I thought Mark Sanchez would be good too.

You’re not really still reading this, are you? If so, it may say as little for you as my evaluations on Tebow and Sanchez did for me.

But remember two things about Sanchez: playing the most important position in pro team sports, he brought Gang Green within one game of the Super Bowl his rookie year. Then, he did it again. How? By playing well enough to go far with a very good team around him -- one that had a top-flight running attack and one of the NFL’s best defenses.

Obviously, the Jets need a major upgrade at quarterback -- and they’re not likely to get one near the top of the upcoming draft, as, incredibly enough, 3 wins likely won’t get them a high enough spot to select either Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

But that’s OK, because they will draft high enough to get the caliber of player who can be a true difference-maker for them.

That draft pick can hopefully be a starting point in again building a team so effective on both sides of the ball that whoever becomes their QB doesn’t need to be a world-beater to go far. Just like Sanchez five years ago. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fleet-Footed Brady Leads Patriots]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:30:09 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tom+Brady+121414.jpg

The Dolphins are who we thought they were. Which is to say: A good defensive team still searching for an offensive identity. And the Patriots remain the team we thought they were, at least over the last two months of the season: A high-powered offense and an underrated, ever-improving defense.

On Sunday, both teams played like we expected, the Patriots prevailed 41-13, and wrapped up the AFC East in the process.

Of course, the Dolphins had beaten New England in the two previous meetings, and according to reports, Miami players said they should have scored more points in the Week 1 meeting. Those quotes were plastered around the Patriots' facility this week to serve as a reminder of how important Sunday's game was. The message was received loud and clear.

“There was a lot of talk … those guys were chirping," Darrelle Revis said, via ESPN.com. "The Miami Dolphins were chirping this week about [how] they should have beaten us by 50 and all of those type of things the first game,” he said. “If that's what they want to do, then that's what they want to do. The one thing you have to understand is you get a second stab at it because we're in the same [division]. You might need to watch what you say.”

Meanwhile, Tom Brady finished 21 of 35 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Run of the mill numbers for Brady, but he did have a 17-yard scramble which, frankly, took everybody by surprise.

“It was the slowest 17 yards I’ve ever seen in my life," wideout Julian Edelman said. “It’s always fun seeing the Clydesdale run,” he joked. “I call him Brady Vick.”

The second-most surprising development: Brady didn't slide at the end of the run.

“I was going to, but I was pretty pissed off that time,” he said. “If he was a bigger guy, I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary, things happen pretty quickly for me out there. I’m not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.”

The Patriots, currently the No. 2 team in the AFC, have two weeks left in the regular season to make a push for the top seed.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Heat Sends Napier to the D-League]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:02:06 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP144808893745.jpg

LeBron James once called Shabazz Napier the best guard available in the NBA Draft. So it wasn't a surprise when the Heat took Napier in the first round, though it wasn't long before James had returned to Cleveland. And now Napier has been sent to the D-League.

Napier, who led UConn to a national title last spring, has scored just three points in the Heat's last four games, and now he's headed to Sioux Falls.

Details from the team:

Napier has appeared in 23 games with the Heat this season averaging 5.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 21.4 minutes while shooting 42.9 percent from the field. He previously scored in double-figures in six-straight games from November 16 through November 25, the longest such streak by a Heat rookie since Michael Beasley did so in eight consecutive games from April 1, 2009 through April 15, 2009.

But Napier's recent struggles -- coupled with the return of Dwyane Wade -- convinced the Heat that he needed more seasoning in the developmental league.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Commitment Called "Awesome Player"]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:31:21 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+football_generic+shot.jpg

UConn's 2-10 season might be over but coach Bob Diaco has been on the recruiting trail pretty much since that final whistle. On Sunday, the Huskies got a commitment from defensive end Kirk Livingstone (Stranahan High School, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida).

The New Haven Register's Jim Fuller spoke with Tally Adams, Livingstone's high school coach, who described the defensive end as "an awesome football player."

"An All-American," Adams told Fuller. "See how fast I answered that question. He could be an All-American, there is no doubt in my mind. As a freshman I have no question, I know he will go first-team all-conference. He is an awesome football player, the kid is special. UConn is getting a real steal, he can play at any level in college."

Incredibly lofty praise, and exactly what the Huskies and Diaco need as he tries to turn around a program that has been going in the wrong direction for some time.

Livingstone was set to attend UAB, but the school shut down its program earlier this month. Now the 6-4, 235-pounder is headed to Storrs.

"It was tough when he heard the news because he had his heart set on going to UAB," Adams said. "A lot of recruiters stayed away from him because he was solid (in his commitment to UAB). The program decided to go in a different direction and he had to go in a different direction as well.

"I think it (UConn) is the perfect spot for him. Kirk is very smart, he is not just an intelligent football player, he is an intelligent kid. He is A student in the classroom and outside of the classroom, he is just an all-around great person."

Livingstone had 14 sacks in eight games this season.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Brimah Scores 40 in Win]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:22:28 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/482962317.jpg

Sophomore Amida Brimah arrived in Storrs a year ago as a player with boundless talent but little experience. He hadn't played basketball that long and, frankly, he was raw. But his enthusiasm and athleticism were evident as a freshman, and he was a key cog in the Huskies' championship run.

On Sunday against Coppin St. in a game UConn needed to win if for no other reason than to prove they could, Brimah scored a career high 40 points. The Huskies cruised to a 106-85 victory, which snapped a three-game winning streak.

“I was just feeding of the play of my teammates," Brimah said afterwards, according to UConnHuskies.com. "They found me and helped me be able to make easy shots.”

Senior Ryan Boatright added 22 points, while sophomore Kentan Facey had 15 and freshman Daniel Hamilton had 11. Transfer Rodney Purvis finally looked healthy after suffering an ankle sprain last month. He played 21 minutes, scored eight points and pulled four rebounds.

"Just for him to get back in the swing of things, especially going into Duke, he needed a game like this," Boatright said. "Get his rhythm, get his sweat going. It's a different tempo than practice, and once we get out there with Duke it's going to be a hot, intense game."

The win, while expected, was still nice, especially after the Huskies have struggled on both ends of the court in recent games.

“I’m very proud of my guys," Ollie said. "We came out and established ourselves from the start and played very well. I like our fast break. We got out on the break and then we established Amida. He did an awesome job getting 40 points and 12 rebounds, and Daniel getting a double-double with assists was great. Our ball movement was great. We had the most rebounds, I think, for this year.

"The thing that I didn’t like the most is points off turnovers. We’ve got to cut down our turnovers."

Things don't get any easier as the end of the calendar year approaches; the Huskies have to face Duke this Thursday at 8 p.m.

"Once again, we’ve got to get back in transition and we’ve got to stop threes," Ollie said. "Especially against Duke. You’ve got to do those two things because they’re a great three-point shooting team, they’re a great transition team. ... We’re going to take this win and we’re going to build off of it."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jets-Titans: Someone Has to Win, Right?]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:55:17 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/Jets-Bills-1027003.jpg

Contrary to popular sentiment, the NFL’s blackout rule doesn’t cover matchups of 2-11 teams, so, unfortunately, the Jets-Titans game will be on for your viewing “pleasure” on Sunday at 4. Sure, you can switch channels to the 49ers-Seahawks game at 4:25, but that still saddles you with nearly a half-hour of some of the worst football imaginable. Remember, that’s time you’ll never get back.

Still, it’s not all that bad. After all, you could be:

• Very slowly serpentining through the parking lot of your local mall, in search of that elusive spot.
• Having finally found that parking space after two or three hours, now having to actually enter said mall to wait on line for four of five hours while holiday shopping.
• Digging holiday decorations out of your some godforsaken corner of your home that required enduring a virtual Tough Mudder course to reach. I’m all for saving a buck where possible, but those tree lights cost all of $15 to replace, and getting to them will surely require hundreds in visits to your neighborhood chiropractor.
• Doing just about anything with your in-laws. Isn’t celebrating Christmas with them enough?
• Watching video of your kids’ holiday concert. You already passed up a good game to sit through this mess. Do you really need to relive it, complete with constant commentary from the little ones? Who said camera phones were a good thing?
• Watching video of your relatives’ kids’ holiday concerts, and then being asked to comment on the performances. And then having to nod, smile and keep your mouth shut when they say, “Really, you think he (or she) has talent?,” followed by “That was nothing, you should see his (or her) one-person play. I’m going to start emailing it now, but it’s too big a file to send all at once.”
• John Idzik.

Suddenly sounds like one heck of a game, right? Hopefully Gang Green can find a way to lose (and stay right in the hunt for the #1 draft pick), which is one of the few things at which they’ve excelled all season. But it won’t be easy against a franchise that puts the “Titan” in Titanic.

With rookie QB Zach Mettenberger out with a shoulder injury, Tennessee is turning back to Jake Locker, who forms one corner of the Bermuda triangle of quarterback drafts (In 2011, Locker was selected 8th overall by the Titans, while the Jaguars picked Blaine Gabbert 10th and the Vikes chose Christian Ponder 12th. If any of the personnel guys who made these choices are still employed—in the NFL or anywhere else—that situation needs to be remedied immediately.).

Locker is lousy, but he fits right in on a team that can’t score or stop any opponent from doing so.

The Jets should win on Sunday at Nashville’s LP Field, and you should be watching at home, where you already have a parking space.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-Washington]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:22:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/redskins+giants1.jpg

After losing seven games in a row, the Giants have now proven in back-to-back weeks that they are better than a two-win team, the Titans, and a three-win team, Washington. If the Giants had been able to play sub-.500 teams all year, they might have been able to go somewhere. Unfortunately they don’t play in the NFC South, where a 5-9 record will have you fighting for first place.

There was plenty of heroics, insanity and ineptitude in the team’s 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday, but we can only designate one Hero, Nero and Zero.
Heroes: Giants’ defensive line.
OK, we lied, you can actually pluralize the word “hero.” Who knew?
When the Giants were making the playoffs and winning Super Bowls a few years ago, the team had an amazing ability to put the quarterback on his back. Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Usi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul were avowed quarterback sackers, and this had a magical trickle-down effect – fewer successful plays by the opposition led to more successful plays by the Giants. It was like voodoo.
In recent years, as the Giants have grown wary of the postseason and all it entails, sacks have dropped off precipitously. Well, until the last three weeks anyway, as New York has rattled off 22 quarterback sacks, including seven on Sunday.
Does Odell Beckham Jr. accumulate 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns if the Giants’ defense can’t get off the field on third down? Maybe. Did Beckham deserve to be named “hero” for this game? Probably. Was I getting tired of writing about how great he is? No. I just chose to address his antics under “zero” this week. (Don’t read ahead!)
Nero: Santana Moss.
Football is a laughably imprecise sport. Where the ball is spotted on running plays? Yeah, the refs are basically winging it. Roughing the passer? You can make a great play in sacking the quarterback, but as evidenced by Jason Worilds’ sack of Matt Ryan in yesterday’s Steelers-Falcons game, you can’t make too good of a play. In short, the refs are making it up as they go along, which was further evidenced when they said Robert Griffin III did not score a touchdown as time ran out in the first half.
Was Griffin bobbling the ball as he dove across the goal line? I guess. Was it so obvious that the refs called it a fumble initially? No. Was it such a huge shift of the ball that they should have overturned it on replay? No way.
Listen, anyone with two eyes knows that Tom Brady fumbled when Charles Woodson hit him in the 2001 playoffs, in the so-called Tuck Rule game. I don’t care what the rule books says (or said at the time, anyway, since the rule has since been eliminated). That was a fumble.
Yesterday’s play by Griffin? Not a fumble. But that’s what the refs ultimately ruled, and that’s what sent Redskins’ wide receiver Santana Moss into apoplexy. He cursed at the refs, got thrown out of the game, and the Redskins got slapped with 30 yards in penalties, which allowed the Giants to kick off from Washington’s 35-yard line in the second half. This gave them the perfect opportunity to pull an onside kick, which was successful.
In other news, Santana Moss is still in the league. Who knew?
Zero: Giants rookies with 1,000 yards receiving.
Certain teams are better than others at drafting and developing particular positions. For instance, the Steelers with linebackers, the Colts with quarterbacks, and the Raiders with punters.
Other teams have a comedic inability to draft and develop particular positions. For instance, Washington with linebackers, the Browns with quarterbacks, and the Jets with everything.
It came as something of a shock to learn that the Giants have never had a rookie with more than 1,000 yards receiving. Until Sunday’s game, the rookie record was held by Jeremy Shockey with 894 yards. But with Odell Beckham’s latest stud outing, he now has 972 yards on the season and only needs 28 yards in the final two games to pass 1,000 on the year.
You can check my math, I’ll wait.
Really, is it a wonder that Giants fans are excited about Beckham Jr.? The team doesn’t exactly have a long track record of great wide receivers who don’t shoot themselves in the leg at a night club.
Besides, Plaxico Burress didn’t begin his career with the Giants. And the team’s all-time leading receiver, Amani Toomer, went to exactly zero Pro Bowls during his 13-year career.
The team’s second-leading receiver all time is Frank Gifford, who caught his last pass before the forward pass was even legal. (Probably.)
The third-leading receiver in franchise history? Tiki Barber, a running back. If you can remember the three receivers who round out the top six (Joe Morrison, Kyle Jones and Homer Jones), congratulations, you are old.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Surpasses Jordan]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 05:53:06 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/212*120/Kobe-Bryant-passes-Jordan-points_12-14-14.jpg

On Sunday evening in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kobe Bryant further cemented his place in basketball lore by becoming the third greatest scorer in NBA history.

Bryant passed Michael Jordan's total of 32,292 points in the first half of Sunday's game at Target Center. Only needing nine points on the day, most expected Bryant would surpass the required total before halftime, and Bryant did not disappoint.

Though Bryant missed his first three shots and the Minnesota Timberwolves were consistently putting a hard double team on the Lakers' star, the 19-year veteran began to slowly solve the defensive riddle.

After eight scoreless minutes on Sunday, Bryant's first two points on the night came from the foul line. By the time the first quarter ended, Bryant had four points on five shots, but he did not appear to be in any particular hurry to pass no. 23 on the all-time scoring list.

Instead, Bryant was happy to chaperon the Lakers to a three point lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Bryant would return from his rest and immediately launch a three-pointer. Bryant took the ball on a turnaround jump shot to pass Jordan, but the ball went in and out. On the next possession, Bryant would head to the free throw line and sink two free throws.

Bryant moved to third all-time on the NBA scoring list, and Jordan dropped to fourth.

The game was momentarily halted as Bryant received hugs and congratulations from his teammates. The Timberwolves' PA announcer congratulated the 36-year-old and the fans in attendance applauded in appreciation. For a night, Minnesota felt like the home of the Lakers again.

With Jordan out of the way, Bryant is still a long way behind Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone's total of 36,928 points and Abdul-Jabbar's total of 38,387 points would likely require Bryant to play past the summer of 2016, when Bryant's current contract is set to retire.

On Sunday in Minneapolis, no. 24 passed no. 23 on the all-time scoring list, as Bryant further solidified his case for being the greatest Laker of all time in the city where the Lakers were born.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 15]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 23:22:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/460466000.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the fifteenth week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles' McCoy on Playing Sunday Night]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 15:12:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP383450712423.jpg Philadelphia Eagles' star running back, LeSean McCoy, ran for 159 yards and a touchdown in a convincing win against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. McCoy looks to continue that trend against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, where he always seems to come though for the Eagles.

Photo Credit: AP]]>