Jan. 31, 2017
"The Stack" 1-30-17
So The Stack didn’t post anything last Friday. Sorry about that. Was thinking about maybe doing something on Saturday, but that didn’t happen either. We’ll be looking at some Super Bowl storylines this week and the goal is to have a post every day Monday-Friday. Plenty happened this weekend and I hear that the WWE is having a Royal Rumble of sorts tonight so that ought to be pretty good if you’re into that sort of thing. Or maybe it was yesterday. I think it is tonight though. What do I look like, a wrestling fan? Anyway, let’s get right to it and see what is in “the stack” for today, Monday, January 30th:
Colts, 49ers get new GMs
It looks like we are down to just head coaching opening now after the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers named their new general managers on Sunday. The Colts tabbed Chris Ballard from the Kansas City Chiefs as their new GM. Ballard if you recall turned down a chance to interview with the 49ers earlier this offseason. Apparently he must have a thing for teams with a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. What a shocker. The Colts have talent, but they must shore up an awful defense and help give Andrew Luck enough support to get back on top of the AFC South. It’s a fairly weak division, but with the Tennessee Titans coming on strong and the Houston Texans winning the division the past couple of seasons, it may not be as easy as some think for the Colts to come back and win this division.
Ballard as I mentioned above turned down a chance to interview with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers it was thought were down to two candidates, Arizona Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough and Minnesota Vikings assistant general manager George Paton. Instead the 49ers made the surprise and bold move of hiring NFL on FOX color analyst John Lynch as their new GM and gave him a six-year contract to boot. All signs point to the team on hiring Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as their new head coach and Lynch played for Kyle’s dad Mike in Denver. The two know each other very well. But what type of GM will Lynch be? I don’t really want to speculate and say he’ll be bad, but this isn’t a move that I think 49ers fans will be too thrilled with. This franchise seems like they are going to be stuck in the doldrums for a while. Then again, with quarterback whisperer Kyle Shanahan as their soon-to-be head coach, perhaps the turnaround will be slightly faster.
Australian Open finals
What a final pairing we had on both the men’s and women’s side in the Australian Open. Most people probably didn’t get a chance to see it since it was at 3:30 AM ET and most everybody was, you know, asleep, but the tennis was great nonetheless. Serena Williams defeated big sister Venus Williams in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 to claim her 23rd career Grand Slam event. She has had Venus’ number in recent years, but let’s stop for a second to appreciate the fact that Venus was able to make it to the final of a Grand Slam event, something she hadn’t done in a very long time. Ultimately Serena was just too good.
On the men’s side, thanks to Novak Djokovic going down early in the tournament, it set up for a final’s match with two players in the twilight of their careers. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal alternated sets in a seesaw affair, but Federer would end up winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to claim the victory. This was a very good tennis match. Who knows how many times we will see this matchup between two of the best players ever to step on the court with a racket. This very well could have been it. Both players have dealt with injuries in recent years and Federer had a very significant injury that caused him to miss half of the season last year. Early Sunday morning though they turned back the clock in a classic match. Hats off to both players, but it was Federer that reigned supreme in this one.
College basketball headlines
Kansas made a lot of shots in the second half on Saturday at Kentucky and came back to beat the Wildcats 79-73. Very impressive win for Kansas. I still don’t know if I’m sold on the Jayhawks, but it’s performances like that which will definitely make me take them as a serious title contender not that I wasn’t before. It just seemed like there was something missing from this team and perhaps they found it Saturday night in Lexington.
Villanova had me worried for quite some time against Virginia on Sunday. The loss to Marquette earlier in the week really showed the flaw of this Villanova team and that is that they don’t have a bench that can contribute and score a bunch of points. That held true in this game with just two players coming off the bench to play and scoring a combined nine points. Nova got some big threes to help eliminate a 13 point second half deficit. Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges all knocked down big threes and the two teams went back and forth in the final four minutes trading leads and tying the game up. That bench of Villanova though came up with the biggest play of the game when Donte DiVincenzo tipped in a shot with a tenth of a second remaining to give Villanova the 61-59 win. They still have me a little worried come tournament time if they can’t get more contributions from their bench, but it is comebacks like what they had against a very good defensive team in Virginia that will only help the confidence of this team as we creep closer to March.
A couple of other notes to get to. The SEC/Big 12 challenge ended in a 5-5 tie. Chalk one that up as essentially a win for the SEC which looks like a very mediocre conference outside of Kentucky and Florida and even Kentucky doesn’t look all that invincible anymore. And overall this week, 56% of the top 25 lost at least one game this week. Several teams like Kentucky, Notre Dame and Florida State all lost two games. There is sure to be a shakeup this week with the rankings and Gonzaga is likely to reap the rewards and be the top team in the country regardless if that is right or not given who they play in their conference (West Coast Conference if you didn’t know). What will this week have in store? We’ll have to find out. Can’t wait!
NHL, NFL all-star games happen
The NHL All-Star weekend festivities took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Saturday night was cool to see the skills competition. On Sunday, the games weren’t all that exciting until the finale. First off, the Pacific Team crushed the Central Team 10-3. Devan Dubnyk and Corey Crawford did not look good in net. Then the Metropolitan team took down the Atlantic team 10-6 before squeaking past the Pacific Team 4-3 to win the All-Star game a cool one million dollars. The last game was very fun to watch. Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers had the game-winning goal. Cool stuff.
The NFL Pro Bowl took place in Orlando and the old AFC-NFC format resumed and the game actually was kind of competitive. There were some big hits and it seemed like the players cared a little bit more especially Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins who chased down Aqib Talib late in the fourth quarter after Cousins was intercepted. He stripped Talib, but the AFC recovered and ran out the clock for the 20-13 win. Minnesota Vikings defense end Everson Griffin had three sacks. The skills competition that the NFL had helped add some intrigue to the event, but it was still far from spectacular.
Coming up Tuesday: Super Bowl storyline plus other top stories and headlines from the sports world
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