Cubs

However, another top seed wasn't so lucky

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However, another top seed wasn't so lucky

From Comcast SportsNet
Michigan State's surprisingly successful season ended with a thud. The Spartans started the season unranked, then accomplished enough to be a top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament. They advanced to the round of 16 for the 10th time in 15 years, but ended with perhaps their poorest performance of the season. Louisville sent Michigan State home with a 57-44 win Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals. "It's hard to feel good and hard to feel bad," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "It's hard to feel good because I don't think we had anybody that played at all like they played in the last three weeks. But it's hard to feel bad because Louisville deserved it." Michigan State entered the game on a roll, winning three games to earn the Big Ten tournament title and its first two games in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans saved their worst for last. They made just 29 percent of their shots overall and got outrebounded by the Cardinals, whose zone defense slowed down a previously effective offense. "We thought we was pretty well prepared for it," forward Draymond Green said. "It's not our coaches' fault. I think they gave us a great game plan. At the end of the day, players play, and we didn't, we just didn't execute well." Green, though, did for much of the season. The do-it-all forward was chosen the Big Ten player of the year, the conference tournament's most outstanding player and broke Greg Kelser's school record for career rebounds. Green is graduating this spring, leaving the program with a big void on and off the court. The Spartans also will be without departing seniors Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood. Michigan State returns a solid nucleus of players, including point guard Keith Appling, centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne along with guard Branden Dawson, whose freshman season was cut short by a left knee injury. Dawson has had surgery and hopes to be ready to join the team for preseason practices next fall. The Spartans have a highly touted recruiting class, including two of the top in-state players, Bay City's Matt Costello, who won the Mr. Basketball award and runner-up Denzel Valentine of Lansing, along with Gary Harris, who was recognized as the top player in Indiana, and Ohio's Kenny Kaminski. Michigan State won the Big Ten title for the third time in four years, claimed the conference tournament championship for the first time since 2000 and advanced to the NCAA's round of 16 for the 10th time in 15 years. For the first time in four NCAA tournaments as a No. 1 seed, Izzo didn't guide the Spartans to at least four wins to reach the national semifinals. His record fell to 7-3 in the round of 16, and he wasn't happy about preparations for the first regional semifinal with just three days off. The team flew to Arizona on Monday night, a day after beating Saint Louis, to prepare for Louisville. "I think I made some mistakes, too, I really do," Izzo said. "I'd never come out on a Monday again. I think we needed more time (in East Lansing). It was just a weird situation for us. Michigan State started the season in an unusual position, not ranked in The Associated Press preseason poll. The Spartans had just two players -- Green and Appling -- who averaged double digits in minutes last year. After setbacks in showcase games against North Carolina on an aircraft carrier and to Duke in New York, the Spartans won 15 straight, including at Gonzaga, against Indiana and at Wisconsin. They then lost three of five in January and rallied with a seven-game winning streak that gave them a piece of the Big Ten title. They ended up sharing it by closing the regular season with two straight losses. Izzo and his players overcame the loss of standout Dawson at the Big Ten tournament in wins over Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa and with two victories in the NCAA tournament. "We had a special year," Thornton said. " We know we did some things at Michigan State that haven't been done in a long time "Our ultimate goal was to make it to New Orleans to the Final Four. We weren't able to accomplish that." Izzo said no one played well, or coached well, in the finale. "We grew together, we won together, we had fun together, we cried together," he said. "You couldn't even look at one guy or blame one guy; collectively we just didn't get it done."

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?