Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Bracket busting in the year of the mid-Major

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NCAA/The madness of March continued today as we saw the fall of the top overall seeded Kansas Jayhawks to the #9 Northern Iowa. Additionally #2 seed Villanova collapsed against #10 St. Marys and #3 New Mexico lost to #11 Washington. Cinderella has arrived to the Sweet 16 and brought along some friends.

Brackets everywhere have been busted wide open.

Northern Iowa was not intimidated by Kansas and played solid all game long. Kansas fought back at the end, but the Panthers’ 3 point shooting solidified the upset. The Jayhawks are now the first #1 seed eliminated and the shocking loss is now the exclamation point on a growing list of surprises helping to establish this year’s tournament as a classic.

Villanova’s exit marks the sixth loss of the tournament for the vaulted Big East conference. There had been speculation heading into the tournament that the Big East might be overrated, but given the number of Big East teams ranked within the top 25 during the season, it was hard to argue against the depth or talent of the conference. Villanova now joins Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette and Louisville on the list of early losses. Syracuse (#1), West Virginia (#2) and Pittsburgh (#3) still remain in the hunt for the national championship.

The other day I questioned the cause for the widespread upsets this year. Is this a reflection of better coaching and recruiting at the mid-tier level? Is the newfound parity evidence of the evolution of the NBA Development League (D-League)? As the D-League matures into an equivalent of the minor leagues for the NBA, the risk to talented high school and collegiate players to enter the draft early has been reduced. However, this still does not explain why we are seeing an outstanding number of upsets and close nailbiters. What do you think?

Agent Zero could be left with nothing

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Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, currently serving an indefinite suspension from the NBA, keeps his head down as he arrives to face felony gun charges at the District of Columbia Superior Courthouse in Washington January 15, 2010.Gilbert Arenas’ guilty plea on Friday to felony gun possession could allow the Washington Wizards to complete their Arenas purge and rid themselves of the remaining $80 million owed to ‘Agent Zero’.

Due to a standard morals clause in NBA contracts, the Wizards may have grounds to void the remainder of the six-year, $111 million contract Arenas signed in the summer of 2008.

Arenas under fire for gun incident

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Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas is introduced before the team's NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Washington, March 28, 2009. It was Arenas's first game back after a lengthy knee injury rehab. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstAlthough it is not exactly clear what transpired between Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton last month at the Verizon Center, we do know Arenas brought four unloaded handguns from his home to his locker and in a “misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate,” Arenas took the weapons out of his locker.

According to a statement released by his lawyers, Arenas voluntarily met with federal prosecutors and detectives of the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday to explain why he had firearms inside the team’s locker room.

Ricky Rubio and the Sportswrap speed special

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Ricky Rubio is the one that got away from the NBA. The number five draft pick opted to spend another year or two in Spain rather than join the Minnesota Timberwolves and FC Barcelona are understandably elated to have got him.

Click the video above to see Rubio celebrate his 19th birthday by helping Barcelona demolish Fenerbahce in the Euroleague. We also take a look at Jenson Button’s homecoming after his Formula 1 world title victory, and why batsmen the world over should be glad a certain Usain Bolt opted for track and field over cricket.

The Brooklyn Nets and the battle for Big Apple affections

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CHINA/The Brooklyn Nets …. LeBron James …. Battle for Big Apple affections …. Hot topics for sure among New York-area hoops fans with news that Russia’s richest man is riding to the $200 million rescue of the Nets, and Brooklyn may once again rise to alter the sports landscape of The City.

The long-ago announced plan to relocate the Nets — struggling to establish an identity and profitability in the swamplands of northern New Jersey — to Brooklyn has been an on-again, off-again mess with team owner, real estate mogul Bruce Ratner, fighting zoning boards, politicians, preservationists, environmentalists and the general economic morass for a mega development deal that included a new arena for the NBA club.

Chris Paul’s Ricky Rubio regret

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paulNew Orleans point guard extraordinaire Chris Paul told Reuters he was dreaming big about the Hornets this upcoming season, setting his sights on an NBA title, but he was also realistic about how stiff the competition would be.

Asked who he regarded as improving teams, Paul went right to the reigning champions.

Technology and the modern sports fan

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NBA/“What are you doing?” This simple question is the basic premise of Twitter, the growing social media website that has transformed how many fans get their daily dose of sports news.

In addition to the newsfeeds provided by established brands (@ReutersSport is a good one!) there are feeds directly from the major sports offices (@MLB,@NFL, @NBA). Then there are the athletes themselves, providing everything from perspective on current events to personalized fan interaction.

Breaking news: Yao Ming to have surgery, will miss whole of 2009-10 season

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yaomingHouston Rockets’ Chinese center Yao Ming is to undergo surgery on his foot injury and has been ruled out for the whole of next season.

Yao will have surgery next week to repair the broken bone in his left foot and the Rockets said on their official site that he would have to sit out the 2009-10 season.

Is Phil Jackson the best coach in NBA history or just lucky?

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jacksonThe man who’s become known as the “Zen Master” for tapping Buddhist teachings has been fortunate enough to coach the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant as they grew into dominant superstars, but rounding their games into championship form was a never-ending battle of wills.

In his 2006 memoir, Jackson refers to Kobe as “uncoachable” for his tendency to try to win games as a solo artist. After breaking the late Red Auerbach’s record to stand alone as the first coach to win 10 NBA championships, Jackson paid tribute to Bryant for his maturity as he accepted his very first MVP award.

Spain’s sporting state of grace

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pauPau Gasol’s triumph with the LA Lakers has prompted more articles in the Spanish media celebrating the country’s incredible run of sporting success.

Gasol was a vital cog in the Lakers machine this season and joins a long list of Spanish champions in individual and team sports.

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