The Advocate Blog Network


LSU softball team No. 3 in preseason poll; UL-Lafayette No. 11

The LSU softball is in the same place in the coaches preseason poll as it was at the end of last season’s Women’s College World Series – No. 3, just behind Florida and Michigan.

The Tigers, who were eliminated by Michigan in the WCWS semifinals last June, were one of four Southeastern Conference teams in the top five of the USA TODAY/NFCA Division I Softball Coaches Poll. Two-time defending national champion Florida is No 1, Auburn is No. 4 and Alabama is No. 5.

Florida received 26 of the 32 first-place votes and Michigan (2), LSU (2), Auburn (1) and Alabama (1) also received first-place votes.

The Gators return 12 letter-winners from last season’s national champion, including All-America infielder and the reigning SEC Player of the Year Kelsey Stewart.

The Tigers return seven position starters and their top three pitchers from last year’s team, which won its first 25 games, was ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, won 52 games and made the school’s fourth trip to the WCWS.

LSU opens the season against Ohio State on Feb. 12 Tiger Park, which will be the site of 21 of its first 26 games.

Louisiana-Lafayette was ranked No. 11.




Sugar Bowl All-Tournament Team (Girls Gold Bracket)

Here is the all-tournament team for the Girls Gold Bracket of the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic.

Jewel Sumner defeated Covington 54-40 in the title game and improved to 20-0.

Bre’Ashlee Jones of Sumner was named Most Outstanding Player.

Gabby Sperber, Dominican

Mai Trench, West St. John

Indya Tutt, Chapelle

Kourtney Weber, Ursuline

Brooklyn Mitchell, Ursuline

Sydney Houlemard, Covington

Chastity Garrett, Covington

Diamond Brooks, Sumner

Kiara Williams, Sumner

Former LSU star Toms shoots 5-under Friday at Zurich Classic

After an up-and-down opening round in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday, former LSU All-American David Toms put together a solid round Friday morning at TPC Louisiana.

Toms had three birdies and three bogeys on his scorecard Thursday for an even-par 72 at the rain-soaked TPC Louisiana layout, but got going on his second nine in the second round and shot a 5-under 67 for the day.

Starting Friday’s round on the back nine, Toms sandwiched two birdies around a bogey before picking up four birdies on the front nine. He has a 5-under 139 total for two rounds, just six shots behind early second-round leader Hudson Swafford.

“I just didn’t score at all (Thursday) and had only a couple birdies,” Toms said. “Today, I was really patient on the front nine. I couldn’t get anything going on the back nine and then my last nine holes were pretty solid.”

Toms finished his round with a 15-foot double-breaking birdie putt at the par 4 eighth hole and then just missed a 15-foot birdie at the par 3 ninth.

Swafford jumped into the early second-round lead in the $6.9 million event at 11-under following a 6-under 66 on Friday and a 67 on Thursday.

He was one shot ahead of Brendon de Jonge, who shared the first-round lead Thursday with Boo Weekley at 8-under. De Jonge had a 2-under 70 Friday, while Weekley had an early afternoon tee time Friday.

Another former LSU All-American, John Peterson, shot a 4-under 68 Friday and is at 6-under for the tournament after opening with a 2-under 70 on Thursday.

Salmen’s Kalani Brown picked for McDonald’s AllAmerican Game



Salmen center Kalani Brown was chosen to play in the 14th annual McDonald’s All-American Girls Basketball Game.

The rosters were announced on Wednesday for the game that pits the top seniors in the nation.

The 6-foot-5 Brown, a Baylor signee, will play for the West squad.

She is the fourth Louisiana player to play in the game that first started in 2002.

The game will be played on April 1 in the United Center in Chicago.

Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m.

Brown, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year has led Salmen to back-to-back Class 4A state titles. The Spartans are currently ranked No. 1 in The New Orleans Advocate Super 10.

She is one of two Baylor signees in the game.

Her future teammate, Beatrice Mpmpremier of Miami (Fla.) Senior High, will suit up for the East.



LHSAA players in McDonald’s All-American Girls Games

Name, High School, College, Year

Seimone Augustus, Capitol, (LSU), 2002

Quianna Chaney, Southern Lab (LSU) 2004

Theresa Plaisance, Vandebilt Catholic (LSU) 2010

Kalani Brown, Salmen, (Baylor), 2015

Seahawks win shows NFL OT rules still unfair

Seattle’s 28-22 overtime victory against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday should be the catalyst for more change to the NFL’s still patently unfair overtime rules.

The NFL modified the rules after the Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings in overtime to win the 2009 NFC Championship.

At issue – then and now – is the possibility that a team can lose a game – and in these cases a trip to the Super Bowl – without ever possessing the football in the decisive overtime.

Five years ago, the Saints won the coin toss, received the kickoff and drove to Garrett Hartley’s game-winning field goal. Brett Favre and the rest of the Minnesota offense watched helplessly as New Orleans drove to the winning points.

The circumstances of the outcome shined a bright light on the unfairness of a sudden-death overtime. First score wins, period.

The rule in no way detracted from the Saints’ worthiness as NFC champions, and they went on to beat Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. But it did place an inordinate amount of impact on the outcome of a coin toss, something that has nothing to do with either team’s worthiness.

So the NFL rightly tweaked the rule, but wrongly stopped short of fixing it.

The only change was that a team could not win simply by kicking a field goal on the first possession of overtime – as the Saints had done – but a team could still win by scoring a touchdown on the first possession of overtime – as the Seahawks ultimately did.

The folly of the change was that the NFL acted as though the problem was that New Orleans won on a field goal, not the fact that a team lost without having an equal opportunity to possess the football.

Simple fairness and common sense say that a game that must be decided in overtime because the teams are dead even at the end of regulation must also provide equal opportunities in the extra period.

We’ll never know if a gimpy Aaron Rodgers would have led the Packers to a touchdown in overtime, but we do know this: the Seahawks got an opportunity that the Packers didn’t get simply because they won a coin toss.

That’s no way to decide a conference championship.

This Seattle-Green Bay game will long be remembered for being one of the most improbable comebacks/choke jobs – depending on your perspective – in NFL playoff history.

It should also become known as the game that finally convinced the NFL to fix its still-unfair overtime format.



LSU coach Jones to host third Tipoff Luncheon

With his team in the midst of an eight-game winning streak going into the start of Southeastern Conference play, LSU coach Johnny Jones will host his monthly Tipoff Luncheon on Tuesday.

The luncheon, which is held at the Bon Temps Buffet in the L’Auberge Resort, is open to fans. A lunch buffet is available at 11:30 a.m. and question-and-answer sessions with Jones and this month’s special guest, Ricky Blanton, will begin around 12:10 p.m.

Blanton, the color analyst for LSU men’s basketball games on the Tigers’ radio network, played on the 1986 NCAA Final Four team under coach Dale Brown and remains one of the school’s top all-time scorers and rebounders — as well as one of its most popular players.

LSU is 11-2 going into the SEC portion of the schedule on Thursday at Missouri (6 p.m., ESPN2). It will be the first of 18 conference games for Jones’ Tigers, who play their league home opener just two night later against Georgia.

The all-you-can-eat buffet charge is $14.99 a person.

Alabama receiver Amari Cooper says “I don’t really like New Orleans”

It’s less than a week away from the Sugar Bowl and the start of the College Football Playoff semifinals, but already Alabama has delivered the biggest hit.

After his team got off the plane at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, Alabama receiver Amari Cooper told reporters: “Me personally, I only speak for myself, no disrespect for the place, but I don’t really like New Orleans.”

Then, when asked why he isn’t a fan of the Crescent City, Cooper said: “Too much going on. I don’t really like Bourbon Street. It doesn’t smell good.”

The bad thing for Cooper is that he better get used to New Orleans, because the city will play a big part in his future.

Alabama plays Ohio State on Thursday, and until then Cooper and his teammates will have six days in New Orleans until the game.

Then there is the little matter of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Cooper, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior, is expected to turn professional at season’s end and enter the draft. Most draft experts project him as being one of the top selections.

The New Orleans Saints were slotted at the No. 11 pick in the draft before Sunday’s game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but could draft higher if they lose and other teams with worse records win.

The Saints picked a receiver, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, in the first round of last year’s draft.

But the team under coach Sean Payton is always on the look out for playmakers at receiver to pair with future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees.

So, fate could intervene and Cooper could be drafted by New Orleans next year.

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15 Rankings for the Week of Dec. 22-29

Here is The Advocate’s ranking of the Top 15 teams in the NBA for the week of Dec. 22-29.

Why the top 15? Because the bottom 15 teams in the NBA aren’t worth following.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) plays in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

1. Golden State (Previous week No. 1)
The Warriors finally lost another game, as expected, but they have a Pacific Division showdown with the Clippers sandwiched between games with the Lakers and Timberwolves this week.

2. Portland (Previous week No. 4)
The Pelicans learned the hard way on Saturday that the Trailblazers are tough to beat when they make shots, but, of course, you can say that about every team in the NBA.

3. Memphis (Previous week No. 2)
The Grizzlies have a three-game losing streak as of Monday, but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about for now.

4. Houston (Previous week No. 3)
The Rockets play at Memphis and San Antonio this week with Dwight Howard not quite up to par, so don’t be shocked if they lose two in a row.

5. Dallas (Previous week No. 9)
Trading for Rondo was a “Shark Tank” type deal, but how long before he clashes with his new coach?

6. LA Clippers (Previous week No. 5)
The Dallas trade was yet another illustration of how the Clippers may be the Kings of LA, but they won’t be kings of the NBA.

7. San Antonio (Previous week No. 7)
The game of the week for the Spurs is not Christmas against OKC, but the next day at New Orleans.

8. Toronto (Previous week No. 6)
It’s tough to drop the Raptors after an 8-2 week, but right now these are the only “Headlines” they are good for with the Western Conference dominating.

9. Atlanta (Previous week No. 10)
The Hawks continue to win, but don’t be fooled.

10. Washington (Previous week No. 8)
The Wizards are better than the Hawks any day of the week, but this is a weekly poll.

11. Chicago (Previous week No. 12)
The Bulls have won 7 of their last 10 and are slowly coming around, and the Windy City needs a spark with the forget-a-bull Bears’ season coming to an end.

12. Cleveland (Previous week No. 11)
The Cavs have four easy games this week, but knowing them they will find a way to lose one of them.

13. New Orleans (Previous week No. 13)
The inconsistent Pelicans are getting better, but the player movement in the Western Conference could force them to make a move soon.

14. Oklahoma City (Previous week No. 15)
It’s only a matter of time before the Thunder rolls past the Pelicans into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

15. Phoenix (Previous week unranked)
The Suns have been a consistent .500 team all season long.

Don’t expect the Pelicans to enter the sweepstakes to get waived forward Josh Smith

The Detroit Pistons waived forward Josh Smith on Monday, but the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t expected to be one of the suitors to attain the talented, but often disgruntled player.

Smith was signed to a four-year, $54 million contract in 2013. He averaged 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season.

Smith, who still has two years at $26 million left on his contract, will be free to sign with the team of his choice after he clears waivers.

This Dec. 9, 2014 file photo shows Detroit Pistons' Josh Smith warming up before an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Detroit Pistons announced Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 the club has requested waivers on Josh Smith. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

This Dec. 9, 2014 file photo shows Detroit Pistons’ Josh Smith warming up before an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Detroit Pistons announced Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 the club has requested waivers on Josh Smith. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“I don’t think Josh Smith is a good fit for the Pelicans,” Advocate contributor Darrell Williams said. “I think he is not as disciplined offensively as the Pelicans require, and there also are questions about his attitude and getting along with coaches and teammates, which is definitely a red flag for the Pelicans.”

The Pelicans have a need for scoring with the torn left labrum shoulder injury to guard Eric Gordon, who has been out for more than one month.

“Anything is possible, but I don’t expect them to go after Josh Smith,” Williams said. “If anything, they are in the market for a good backup point guard or a guy who can play shooting guard and small forward – a 6-6 guy who is athletic.”

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15 Rankings for the week of Dec. 15-22

Here is The Advocate’s ranking of the top 15 teams in the NBA entering the week of Dec. 15 to Dec. 22.

Why only the top 15 teams in the NBA?

Because the bottom 15 teams in the NBA aren’t worth following.

The Golden State Warriors are looking down on the rest of the NBA. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) pauses during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

The Golden State Warriors are looking down on the rest of the NBA. Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) pauses during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

1. Golden State Warriors (Previous week No. 1)
The Warriors are on the winning pace of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, but 72 wins is out of the question unless their interior defense improves.

2. Memphis Grizzlies (Previous week No. 2)
The more the Grizzlies win the more suitors figure to lineup for free agent Marc Gasol next summer.

3. Houston (Previous week No. 5)
Injured center Dwight Howard is back and Rockets continue to win, but they face trap games against New Orleans and Atlanta this week.

4. Portland (Previous week No. 3)
The Trailblazers figure to get San Antonio’s best shot in a game in the Alamo City on Friday, which could tell everyone how good they really are.

5. L.A. Clippers (Previous week No. 7)
The Clippers are next to last in the NBA in opponent blocked shots per game, which shows how vulnerable their interior defense can be at times.

6. Toronto (Previous week No. 4)
The Raptors are tied with Cleveland for the most wins by an Eastern Conference team against the Eastern Conference, which isn’t saying much.

7. San Antonio (Previous week No. 6)
Looking for the gift that refuses to keep on giving, download the “Best of Coach Pop” in Youtube.

8. Washington (Previous week No. 8)
The Wizards are second in the NBA in fewest opponent made field goals – playing in the Eastern Conference has its perks.

9. Dallas (Previous week No. 11)
The Mavs lead the NBA in scoring (110 points per game), but if a deal was determined by them beating the best teams in the Western Conference even Mark Cuban would pass.

10. Atlanta (Previous week No. 10)
The Hawks have the third best record in the Eastern Conference, so why is everyone waiting on the clock to strike midnight on them?

11. Cleveland (Previous week No. 8)
There is no way the Cavs should have lost to the Pelicans last Friday.

12. Chicago (Previous week No. 13)
The Bulls have a forgeta-bull 4-5 record at home entering this week.

13. New Orleans (Previous week unranked)
The Pelicans have improved and are in the No. 8 spot, but the Eric Gordon injury situation is holding the team back from doing more.

14. Milwaukee (Previous week No. 4)
The Bucks are what they are – a mediocre team that benefits from playing in a week Eastern Conference.

15. Oklahoma City (Previous week unranked)
The Thunder have been lighting it up recently and should continue to climb up the Western Conference standings.