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NCAA Tournament appearances by Temple’s Fran Dunphy, tied for most by Big 5 head coach

The news that Saint Joseph’s center C.J. Aiken was turning professional was lost in the frenzy of the NCAA Tournament. But not to Eric Fisher, who first wrote about Aiken when he was a 7-year-old boy battling cancer.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on who will be to blame if “Big V” starting leads to an injury to Carson Wentz injury, the Sixers’ lack of a starting point guard, and Bernard Hopkins’ decision to fight again at age 51.

The hiring of Sam Hinkie as 76ers president and general manager brings the analytics craze to Philadelphia. Eric Fisher questions whether the numbers will add up to success.

Archive for March, 2019

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 18 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The Eagles’ offseason is far from over. We must keep that in mind when evaluating Howie Roseman’s moves. But the early moves leave plenty of question marks.

The most notable issue is at running back. Mark Ingram and Tevin Coleman switched teams at a reasonable price. Let’s give Roseman time, though. I doubt the Eagles are going to enter the 2019 season with the same running backs they had last season.

Instead of looking at what hasn’t been done – because there’s still time to bring in more players – let’s examining what has been done.

The big splash was trading for DeSean Jackson. The Eagles gave up a sixth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft for Jackson and a seventh-round pick next year. That makes it clear that the Buccaneers were eager to cut ties with Jackson. That doesn’t mean, however, that Jackson won’t give the Eagles a boost. Jackson is happy to be back with the Eagles. A motivated Jackson with the speed to stretch a defense should definitely help the offense.

The Eagles signed free-agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 with the Jaguars, to a three-year, $30 million contract. Jackson replaces Tim Jernigan, who was hurt for most of last season, and Haloti Ngata, who retired. Malik Jackson should benefit from playing alongside Fletcher Cox and should give the Eagles more than they got from Jernigan and Ngata last season.

On the other hand, the decision to re-sign Brandon Graham to a three-year, $40 million contract while trading Michael Bennett to the Patriots is a bit curious. Bennett, 33, was the Eagles’ best defensive end last season. He wanted more money, and an unhappy Bennett could be a distraction. But wouldn’t the Eagles have been better off signing Bennett for $10 million per year for two years and letting Graham walk away?

My biggest concern with the Eagles’ offseason, though, is the offensive line. The Eagles re-signed Jason Peters to a one-year contract. I have no problem with bring Peters back, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking he’s going to make it through a full season. The problem is that Halapoulivaati Vaitai is still the primary backup at left tackle. Having Vaitai protect Carson Wentz’s blind side for any length of time is taking a major risk.

With left guard Brandon Brooks coming off a torn Achilles tendon, suffered during the playoff loss to the Saints, the left side of the offensive line is fragile. The Eagles let veteran Stefen Wisniewski leave, so there’s uncertainty over who could fill in for Brooks or center Jason Kelce, who signed a one-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2021.

The Eagles also signed guard Isaac Seumalo to a three-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2022. Obviously, the Eagles have been impressed with Seumalo. They must also be impressed with some of their younger backups. Otherwise, how could they enter next season with a 31-year-old center, a 30-year old left guard coming off a major injury and a 37-year-old left tackle who has often had difficulty making it through a game the past two years?

The Eagles have filled in some gaps in the secondary and at linebacker. Ronald Darby is returning as the top cornerback, but will his speed still be there, especially his lateral speed, after tearing his ACL? Signing veteran safety Andrew Sendejo is a good move, but it seems as if Roseman still has work to do in order to make this a successful offseason.

*****

COUNTDOWN IS ON: As I write this edition of Fish ‘n Chips, there are only 10 days remaining until Opening Day. It would be nice if a Phillies starting pitcher could make it through an outing during the rest of spring training without allowing two or more runs.

*****

HARPER’S STRUGGLES: For Bryce Harper’s sake, I hope he gets a hit in spring training. It would be awful for him to arrive in Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day without a spring training hit to his credit. After being hit by a pitch in the right ankle last week, there doesn’t appear to be enough time to get Harper the 40 at-bats he said would be necessary to be in top form by Opening Day.

*****

TOURNAMENT TIME: I’m not bullish on the chances of either Temple or Villanova in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Owls face a major threat in Belmont in the “first four” game on Tuesday (9:10 p.m.). The defending-champion Wildcats need to get past 11th-ranked St. Mary’s and, most likely, third-seeded Purdue in order to make it past the first weekend. The top seeds are Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Gonzaga, the only non-ACC top seed.

*****

POOL PICKS: Sorry, it’s only Monday. I haven’t filled out my bracket yet. But don’t forget to fill out your bracket for PhillyPhanatics.com’s Bracket Madness.

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NO INVITATION: There aren’t any local teams in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Penn (23-6), which lost to Princeton in the Ivy League championship game, had hoped for an at-large berth, but the invitation wasn’t forthcoming. The top seeds in the women’s tournament are defending-champion Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Baylor and Louisville. Perennial power Connecticut is a No. 2 seed, the first time the Huskies haven’t been a No. 1 seed since 2006.

*****

DYNASTY: Penn State, which finished the regular season undefeated (14-0) and won the Big Ten Championship, brings nine qualifiers to this week’s NCAA Wrestling Championships in Pittsburgh. The top-ranked Nittany Lions, who have three top seeds and three No. 2 seeds in the tournament, have won seven of the past eight NCAA Championships.

Penn State’s three top seeds are Jason Nolf, Mark Hall and Bo Nickal. Nolf (26-0), wrestling at 157 pounds, is seeking his third straight individual NCAA title. Hall (26-0), the 2017 national champion in 2017, is seeking to regain his crown. Nickal (25-0), a two-time NCAA champion at 184 pounds, is attempting to win a national title at 197 pounds.

*****

THE FINAL WORD: Congratulations to the Swarthmore men’s basketball team, which reached the final of the NCAA Division III Tournament. Wisconsin-Oshkosh defeated Swarthmore in the title game, 96-82.

*****

TOUGH START: Optimism for the Union has been dampened by an 0-2-1 start. To be fair, the Union has had a rough schedule thus far, facing Toronto, Kansas City and defending-champion Atlanta.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for more than 30 years, is working on his NCAA Tournament bracket.

First-and-10

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 18 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

A quick look at 10 sports stories in the news…

1. Flyers dig deep to shock Pens in OT James van Riemsdyk scores with 18.8 seconds remaining to force overtime, then Sean Couturier scores with 3.4 seconds left in overtime to lift Flyers to 2-1 triumph over host Penguins. Flyers, who snap 2-game losing streak, move within 3 points of Canadiens and 6 points of Blue Jackets, who occupy final playoff berth in Eastern Conference. Flyers have 10 games remaining in regular season. Carter Hart makes 41 saves, some of them spectacular. Penguins finally get puck past Hart when Teddy Bleuger scores on rebound 2:07 into 3rd period. But, after Ivan Provorov dives to prevent empty-net goal, JVR scores tying goal, with Couturier and Travis Konecny picking up assists. On winning goal, Couturier makes moves around Sidney Crosby at center ice along right-wing boards to set up 2-on-1, then beats Penguins goal Matt Murray. Flyers to host Canadiens on Tuesday (7 p.m.).

2. Bucks stop here Joel Embiid pours in 40 points, grabs 15 rebounds, dishes out 6 assists as Sixers post 130-125 victory over host Bucks, who have best record in NBA. Sixers (45-25), in sole possession of 3rd place in Eastern Conference, clinch playoff berth with their 4th straight win. Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick contribute 27 and 19 points, respectively. Giannis Antetokounmpo scores career-high 52 points for Bucks. Embiid, who scores 18 points in 4th quarter against Bucks, will rest Tuesday (7 p.m.) when Sixers visit Hornets.

3. Owls are in! Wildcats seeded 6th Temple one of last 4 teams to make cut for NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Owls will face Belmont in “first four” game Tuesday (9:10 p.m.) in Dayton, Ohio, with winner to battle 6th-seeded Maryland in East Region on Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla.. Villanova, the defending national champion, receives 6th seed in South Region, will meet 11th-seeded St. Mary’s on Thursday in Hartford, Ct. Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Gonzaga receive top seeds.

4. Eagles sign safety Sendejo Eagles continue to bolster secondary by signing veteran safety Andrew Sendejo, who spent last 8 seasons with Vikings, to 1-year contract. Eagles recently re-signed CB Ronald Darby to 1-year contract reportedly worth $8.5 million. Darby is Eagles’ top CB, but he has missed nearly half of last 2 seasons due to dislocated ankle (2017) and torn ACL (2018). Eagles sign DT Malik Jackson to 3-year, $30 million contract,. Jackson, a former Pro Bowler, spent last 3 seasons with Jaguars, who cut him last week. Eagle trade DE Michael Bennett, 2020 7th-round draft pick to Patriots for 5th-round draft pick in 2020. Bennett, 33, was Eagles’ most productive DE last season. He has 2 years, at $6.2 and $7 million, remaining on his contract. Bennett tells NFL Network he would like raise. Eagles re-signed DE Brandon Graham to 3-year contract worth reported $40 million. Graham, 30, was a 1st-round draft pick in 2010. Eagles sign offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo to 3-year contract extension, keeping him under contract through 2022 season. Eagles sign center Jason Kelce to 1-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2021 season.

5. Cardinals defeat Phillies Starter Zach Eflin allows 3 runs (2 earned), including pair of home runs, in 5 innings as Phillies drop 4-1 decision to host Cardinals in Grapefruit League game. Phillies produce just 6 hits. Bryce Harper gets his 1st unofficial hit of spring training, but it comes in minor-league game. Phillies to visit Astros on Tuesday (1 p.m.).

6. Harper returns to lineup Bryce Harper returns to lineup during Sunday’s 7-3 loss to Yankees in Grapefruit League game, 2 days after being hit by pitch in right ankle Friday during Phillies’ 3-2 win over visiting Blue Jays. Serving as designated hitter, Harper goes 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts, 1 walk. He is still hitless during spring traning. X-ray reveals no break in ankle or foot.  Kapler confident Harper will be ready for Opening Day.

7. Wildcats win 3rd straight Big East title Villanova survives late Seton Hall surge to post 74-72 victory in Big East championship game, becoming 1st team to win 3 straight Big East titles. Eric Paschall scores 17 points to lead Wildcats, who receive 16 points apiece from senior Phil Booth, freshman Saddiq Bey. In another game Saturday, Harvard defeats Penn, 66-58, in Ivy League semifinals despite 25 points, 10 rebounds by Quakers’ AJ Brodeur ending Quakers’ hopes for NCAA Tournament berth. On Friday, Villanova erases 7-point deficit in final minute of regulation while posting 71-67 triumph over Xavier in Big East semifinals. Phil Booth scores 28 points, Jermaine Samuels adds 17 and Eric Paschall scores tying basket at end of regulation for 25th-ranked Villanova. In other conference tournament games Friday involving local teams, Temple must hold its breath Sunday during NCAA Tournament selection show after losing to Wichita State, 80-74, in American Athletic Conference quarterfinals despite 20 points from Shizz Alston Jr. and 16 points, 19 rebounds by center Ernest Aflakpui, and Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble score 16 and 15 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough for Saint Joseph’s in 70-60 loss to Davidson in Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.

8. D-Jax is back Eagles bring WR DeSean Jackson back to Philly through trade with Buccaneers. Eagles giving up 6th-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft for Jackson, Bucs’ 7th-round pick next year. Eagles, LT Jason Peters agree on 1-year contract for next season. Peters, 37, was slated to make $13 million if Eagles picked up his option, but will make $10 million, with $5.5 million guaranteed, according to Peters’ agent. Eagles sign veteran LB L.J. Fort, who played last 4 seasons for Steelers, to 3-year, $5.6 million contract. Eagles also decide to release offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, according to multiple reports. Eagles will save $3 million under salary cap by releasing Wisniewski. No word from Eagles about WR Nelson Agholor, who could be expendable due to Jackson’s return.

9. Giants trade Beckham, sign Tate Giants trade WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon to Browns in exchange for 1st-round (No. 17 overall) and 3rd-round pick (No. 95) in this year’s NFL Draft, safety Jabril Peppers, guard Kevin Zeitler. Giants sign WR Jets sign WR Golden Tate, who played 2nd half of last season with Eagles, to 4-year contract reportedly worth $37.5 million. Nick Foles agrees to 4-year, $88 million contract with Jaguars, who release QB Blake Bortles. B Jordan Hicks also leaving Eagles, signing 4-year, $36 million deal with Cardinals. RB Le’Veon Bell to 4-year, $52 million contract and LB C.J. Mosley to 5-year, $85 million contract. Ravens sign safety Earl Thomas to 4-year, $55 million contract and RB Mark Ingram to 3-year, $15 million contract. Bills sign WRs Cole Beasley, John Brown. Former Eagles WR Jordan Matthews signs with 49ers. Steelers agree to trade disgruntled WR Antonio Brown to Raiders in exchange for 3rd-round and 5th-round picks in this year’s NFL Draft. Brown signs contract with Raiders for reported $51 million over 3 seasons. NFL suspends Browns RB Kareem Hunt 8 games for altercation with woman in hotel while he was member of Chiefs.

10. Union tie Atlanta Brenden Aaronson, making his MLS debut, scores in 47th minute, but defending MLS champion Atlanta rallies to forge 1-1 tie. Union pick up 1st point of season. Atlanta scores in 70th minute. Union without midfielder Marco Fabian, the Union’s marquee offseason addition, due to red card he received during 2-0 loss to Kansas City. Union to host Columbus on Saturday (7:30 p.m.).

(To listen to past PhillyPhanatics.com’s Blog Talk Radio shows, please click here.)

WEEKEND RESULTS

Friday
Sixers 123, Kings 114
Toronto 7, Flyers 6
Phillies 3, Blue Jays 2
(
spring training)
Men’s Basketball
Big East Tournament
Semifinals
Villanova 71, Xavier 67 (OT)
(at Madison Square Garden)
Atlantic 10 Tournament
Quarterfinals
Davidson 70, St. Joseph’s 60
(at Barclays Center in Brooklyn)
American Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals
Wichita St. 80, Temple 74
(at Memphis)

Saturday
Astros 13, Phillies 5
(
spring training)
Wings at San Diego, 10 p.m.
Men’s Basketball
Big East Tournament

Championship game
Villanova 74, Seton Hall 72
(at Madison Square Garden)
Ivy League Tournament
Semifinals
Harvard 66, Penn 58
(at Yale)

Sunday
Sixers 130, Milwaukee 125
Flyers 2, Pittsburgh 1 (OT)
Union 1, Atlanta 1
Yankees 7, Phillies 3
(split squad, 
spring training)

LOCAL SCHEDULE

Monday
Cardinals 4, Phillies 1
(spring training)

Tuesday
Canadiens at Flyers, 7 p.m.
Sixers at Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Phillies at Astros, 1 p.m.
(spring training)
Men’s Basketball
NCAA Tournament
First Four (play-in)
Temple vs. Belmont, 9:10 p.m.
(at Dayton, Ohio)

Wednesday
Celtics at Sixers, 7 p.m.
Tigers at Phillies, 1 p.m.
(spring training)

Thursday
Flyers at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m.
(
spring training)
Men’s Basketball
NCAA Tournament
First round
Villanova vs. St. Mary’s, 7:20 p.m.
(at Hartford, Ct.)

Friday
Phillies at Yankees, 6:30 p.m.
(
spring training)
Men’s Basketball
NCAA Tournament

Saturday
Islanders at Flyers, 1 p.m.
Sixers at Hawks, 7:30 p.m.
Columbus at Union, 7:30 p.m.
Phillies at Pirates, 1 p.m.
(
split squad, spring training)
New England at Wings, 7 p.m.
Men’s Basketball
NCAA Tournament

Sunday
Flyers at Washington, 12:30 p.m.
Union at Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Orioles at Phillies, 1 p.m.
(split squad, 
spring training)
Men’s Basketball
NCAA Tournament

FOR LEAGUE-WIDE SCORES AND STANDINGS, CLICK ON THE LINKS UNDER THE “STANDINGS” HEADING IN THE SIDEBAR TO THE RIGHT, OR IN THE HEADING AT THE UPPER-RIGHT OF THIS PAGE

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal