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Points by Suns’ Devin Booker during 130-120 loss to Celtics

Like a deeply scarred lover, the Cavaliers seem thrilled that LeBron James deems them worthy of his attention again. But this courtship isn’t about the Cavs or winning a title for Cleveland. It’s all about LeBron.

With the Cowboys coming to town for this Sunday’s NFC East showdown with the Eagles, Eric Fisher reminds us of why so many Eagles fans hate — yes, hate — the Cowboys and what they represent.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the fallout from the Eagles’ season-opening 3-game winning streak, three young stars with similar-sounding first names and the new-look Chase as it arrives at Dover.

Archive for the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Villanova’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament was surprising, but it wasn’t shocking. The following is a quote from my preview of the Wildcats’ tournament road.

“Villanova also is heavily reliant on its outside shooting. It has been able to overcome cold shooting most of the time, including during the Big East semifinal against Seton Hall, but an off-night from the floor may prove fatal to the Wildcats’ chances in the NCAA Tournament.”

During the Wildcats’ 65-62 loss to Wisconsin in the second round Saturday, the four Villanova starters who aren’t Josh Hart made just 1 of 14 shots from the field. Villanova got away with a poor first half in their opener against Mount St. Mary’s because it ran off 13 straight points early in the second half. The Wildcats couldn’t put together a similar streak against Wisconsin.

Villanova become too dependent on Hart to make big plays. Wisconsin almost seemed to know that Hart was going to drive to the basket during Villanova’s possessions during the final two minutes. One time Hart ran into a double team and traveled. On the second occasion, he was stripped of the ball by the second defender.

Donte DiVincenzo was the only other reliable offensive contributor. After scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds during the 76-56 win over Mount St. Mary’s, DiVincenzo scored 15 points against the Badgers, second only to Hart’s 19 points. DiVincenzo, a redshirt freshman was one of the brightest stars for the Wildcats.

Kris Jenkins, who will always be remembered for drilling the game-winning 3-pointer in last year’s NCAA Tournament Championship Game, wasn’t an inconsistent shooter for most of the season. He struggled during the two NCAA Tournament games, making just 2 of 9 shots from the field against Wisconsin.

Depth was also an issue. Jay Wright rotated seven players. They certainly could have used sharpshooter Phil Booth, who only played in three games this season due a knee injury. Booth’s shooting could have been the difference between victory and defeat against the Badgers.

The pressure may also have affected Villanova. The Wildcats were the top free throw shooting team in the tournament, but three players made 1 of 2 free throws during the final 3:02. They lost by three points. You do the math.

The Wildcats also made an uncharacteristic mental mistake late in the game. With the score tied at 59-59 in the final minutes, Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig was the inbounds passer along the baseline by Villanova’s basket. Anyone who has played organized basketball knows that when a team’s best shooter is the inbounds passer, it’s likely that the play called will result in him getting the ball back. (My wife can attest that I was yelling at the television to watch for the return pass to Koenig before the ball was even in play.) But the Wildcats didn’t recognize this likelihood, which left Koenig open to receive the return pass and drill a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave the Badgers a 62-59 lead.

Villanova enjoyed a terrific season. But its flaws were exposed during the NCAA Tournament. Despite their flaws, the Wildcats survived the first game. They couldn’t survive the second game.

*****

DISAPPOINTING DEFEATS: Villanova wasn’t the only local team to lose a heartbreaker in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. Temple and Penn sustained painful defeats in the NCAA Women’s Tournament.

Penn has never won an NCAA Tournament game, but the 12th-seeded Quakers appeared to be on their way when they opened up a 21-point lead on 5th-seeded Texas A&M. But the Aggies turned up the pressure on defense, going on a 27-1 run at one point to hand the Quakers a bitter 63-61 defeat. Penn did not make a basket during the final nine minutes. This is the first time in NCAA Women’s Tournament history that a team had overcome a 21-point deficit to win a game.

Temple didn’t suffer a similar collapse, but their loss was also painful. Oregon took a 71-70 lead on Ruthy Hebard’s jumper with 5.5 seconds to play. The Owls pushed the ball up the court, only to have Hebard block Feyonda Fitzgerald’s layup at the buzzer to preserve the Ducks’ victory.

*****

ACHIEVEMENT GAP: I keep waiting for the gap to close between the elite teams and the rest of women’s basketball. It hasn’t happened.

Consider these first-round scores in the NCAA Women’s Tournament: Connecticut 116, Albany 55; Duke 94, Hampton 31; Maryland 103, Bucknell 61. And those were all in the Bridgeport Region. The most lopsided game occurred in the Oklahoma City Region, where top seed Baylor trounced Texas Southern, 119-130.

Those types of scores shouldn’t occur at all, let alone in NCAA Tournament games.

*****

BUILDING A DYNASTY: Penn State captured championships in five of the 10 weight classes at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, finishing 36½ points ahead of runner-up Ohio State in the team competition.

This is the Nittany Lions’ sixth team title during the past seven years. What should be particularly frightening for the opposition is the Nittany Lions’ age and relative inexperience. Not one of the five individual champions is a senior.

Junior Zain Retherford (149 pounds) is the grizzled veteran of the group. Jason Nolf (157) and Bo Nickal (184) are sophomores. The other champions are redshirt freshman Vincenzo Joseph (165) and true freshman Mark Hall (174). Freshman Nick Suriano was the No. 3 seed at 125 pounds, but had to withdraw due to injury.

Cael Sanderson has built a wrestling dynasty at Penn State. And the dynasty’s foundation seems to be on firm footing for the future.

*****

BAD TIMING: Jeremy Hellickson allowed eight runs (three unearned) in five innings Saturday during the Phillies’ 13-8 loss to the Pirates. One day later, Pete Mackanin named Hellickson the Phillies’ opening day starter.

*****

FUTURE PHILLIES: The Phillies sent outfielder Nick Williams, shortstop J.P. Crawford and catcher Jorge Alfaro to Class AAA Lehigh Valley this past week for more seasoning. With all three of these prospects, it only seems to be a question of when they will arrive in the big leagues, not if they will arrive.

*****

VARYING OPINIONS: The more time I spend looking at mock drafts, with the same players being selected 15-20 picks apart in various drafts, the more convinced I’ve become that nobody truly knows anything.

*****

EVEN THE LOSERS: If we include last season, the Union’s 2-1 loss to Orlando SC on Saturday extended their winless streak to 11 games. They are 0-7-4 during that stretch.

The Union will have to wait two weeks to try to end that streak. They have a bye week next weekend – just four weeks into the season – before returning on April 1 against D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, was once captain of a soccer team that was winless for 11 games.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 11 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

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It’s unfair to judge the Eagles’ offseason by their initial free agent signings. There is still time to add pieces through free agency, trades and the draft. But that won’t stop people from overreacting to this week’s signings of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Chance Warmack.

The overreaction has generally been positive. There’s no question that Jeffery and Smith represent a significant upgrade of the Eagles’ receiving corps. Smith’s speed should force opposing defenses to respect the deep pass. The addition of Jeffery should improve practically every aspect of the Eagles’ passing game.

The Eagles also wisely didn’t commit to Jeffery for a long period of time. They brought Jeffery in for an expensive $14 million, but are only committed to him for one season. Jeffery has only played more than 12 games in two of his five NFL seasons. In addition to his injury history, Jeffery was suspended for four games last season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. A second suspension is likely to result in a 10-game suspension, so the Eagles are hedging their bets by signing Jeffery to a one-year contract.

If Jeffery stays healthy and avoids suspension, however, he should provide the Eagles with the true No. 1 receiver that they lacked during quarterback Carson Wentz’s rookie season.

Smith doesn’t appear to be a No. 1 receiver any longer, but he should represent an improvement over Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner and Bryce Treggs. The fact that Smith was cut by the awful 49ers worries me, and he did drop a lot of passes last season, but the 49ers seem to be such a poorly run organization – I have little faith in broadcaster-turned-general manager John Lynch – that I may discount the 49ers releasing Smith as a factor in my evaluation of the signing.

One criticism is that I would prefer Terrelle Pryor to Smith. Pryor signed a one-year contract with the Redskins for $8 million. I’d rather have an on-the-rise Pryor, who is adjusting quickly to a switch from quarterback to receiver, than a seemingly declining Smith.

We can’t fully evaluate the signings of Jeffery and Smith until we see what else the Eagles do at receiver. Will they trade Jordan Matthews? There have been reports that the Eagles may try to trade Matthews now instead of, in their minds, overpaying him after his current contract expires. It’s also likely that the Eagles will select a receiver in the NFL Draft, so the receiving corps could undergo further changes before the season begins.

Flying under the radar is the addition of Warmack. He was considered a dominant guard  when the Titans selected him 10th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. His NFL career has been disappointing, but the Eagles and Warmack are hoping that a reunion with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who coached Warmack for two seasons at Alabama, will revive his career.

It’s unclear how Warmack will fit in along the offensive line. With the re-signing of Stefen Wisniewski to a three-year contract, the Eagles have interior linemen Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Brandon Brooks, Allen Barbre, Wisniewski and Warmack under contract. The Eagles reportedly allowed Barbre’s agent to explore trades and there is a belief that the Eagles may trade or release Kelce.

Warmack could be a little-used backup this season or develop into a starter. Either way, the one-year contract is worth the risk.

Brooks is a cautionary reminder that fans shouldn’t get overly excited by the free agents signed by the Eagles. Given Brooks’ anxiety issues, which caused him to miss games last season, there are questions about the Eagles signing him to a four-year, $40 million contract just one year after there was so much excitement about signing him.

The signings of Jeffery, Smith and Warmack were positive steps. But try to keep your excitement in check.

*****

SELECTION SLUMBER: The NCAA Tournament selection show won’t be quite as exciting this year for local basketball fans. Villanova is almost unquestionably a No. 1 seed. But no other local team is anywhere close to the bubble.

Temple, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Drexel all had to win their conference tournaments to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they all lost their openers in their respective tournaments. Unless fourth-place Penn somehow wins the Ivy League Tournament, the only local team entering the NCAA Tournament will be Villanova, and the Wildcats’ position as a No. 1 seed is almost assured.

*****

INTO THE POOL: Don’t forget to enter PhillyPhanatics.com’s Bracket Madness! Look on the main page for scoring rules and instructions for entering.

*****

LYNCH MOB: What in the world is new 49ers general manager John Lynch doing? The former safety and broadcaster signed quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and former Eagle Matt Barkley. There are rumors that new head coach Kyle Shanahan will try to get the 49ers to acquire Kirk Cousins in a trade with the Redskins. Unless that happens, though, the 49ers will be left with two barely serviceable backup quarterbacks.

*****

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES: The Jaguars look like big winners in free agency. With new executive vice president Tom Coughlin running the show, the Jaguars signed cornerback A.J. Bouye away from the Texans and veteran defensive end Calais Campbell away from the Cardinals. They also signed safety Barry Church to replace departing safety Jonathan Cyprien, who signed with the Titans. Improving the defense is an important step for the Jaguars, who hope that their talented young offense improves under head coach Doug Marrone.

The Patriots, of course, also seem to have had a good offseason. They acquired receiver Brandin Cooks from the Saints for the final pick in the first round of the NFL Draft and a swap of third- and fourth-round draft picks. The Patriots acquired Cooks without giving up cornerback Malcolm Butler, who the Saints reportedly wanted in return. The Patriots also added Stephon Gilmore from the Bills in free agency, giving them a pair of top-notch cornerbacks.

*****

COOL RECEPTION: The Union play their home opener today (Saturday) against Toronto FC. The temperature isn’t supposed to get above 30 degrees. The wind chill might not get above the teens. That’s awful weather in which to play soccer. It’s worse weather in which to watch soccer.

*****

SPRING SURPRISE: There always seems to be a player who stands out in spring training. This year’s spring surprise in Phillies camp is first baseman Brock Stassi, who (through Friday’s games) is batting .429 and leads the team with three home runs and 11 RBI. The problem for Stassi is he is behind Tommy Joseph at first base and behind offseason acquisitions Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick at the corner outfield positions – assuming he can adequately play left field. But if he keeps hitting above .400, the Phillies will have to find a place for him on their 25-man roster.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, is looking forward to one his favorite weeks of the year, starting with Selection Sunday and including the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Jenkins' 3-pointer wins national title