Temple Awaits Play-in Winner; Drexel, SJU and La Salle Heading to the NIT

Temple Awaits Play-in Winner; Drexel, SJU and La Salle Heading to the NIT

Fran Dunphy's Temple Owls are dancing again, drawing the Midwest region's 5 seed. They'll play the winner of California vs. South Florida on Friday in Nashville at 9:40 p.m. Friday night on TNT (see story). If you haven't already put in for that half or full day off, now's the time. Unfortunately, the selection committee didn't deem Drexel's schedule strong enough to support their tournament bid, so Temple will be Philly's lone representative. I think we can all get behind Lehigh in their battle with 2 seed Duke though. 
Temple's bracket includes North Carolina as its top seed, Kansas the 2, and Georgetown the 3. If the Owls beat their first round opponent, they'll meet the winner of 4 Michigan vs. 13 Ohio. Creighton and Alabama are the 8 and 9 seeds, respectively.  
Villanova fans will be familiar with South Florida, whose defense snuffed the Wildcats out of the Big East Tournament last week, 56-47. Cal finished second in the Pac-12 with a 24-9 record and a final RPI of 38. 
How far do you think Temple will go?
[Temple Selection Show Reaction] | [Complete Bracket]
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Meanwhile, the 27-win Drexel Dragons aren't a one seed. They aren't even a two seed. They're a three seed in the NIT. And they're probably playing Saint Joseph's in round two.
Joining the Hawks and Dragons in the just announced field of 32 are the La Salle Explorers.
No. 3 Drexel will take on No. 6 Central Florida at 7:15 on Wednesday evening on ESPN3, while No. 2 SJU takes on No. 7 Northern Illinois Iowa, (also at 7:15, also on ESPN3). Should both teams win, they will face each other in the second round. The Dragons and Hawks met once before this season, when SJU defeated Drexel 62-49 at the Fieldhouse. Of course, that was before Drexel got healthy and won 25 of its next 26 games, including 19 in a row.
Somehow, the NIT committee -- those NCAA rejects (we didn't say that) -- thought it would be cute to match two city rivals within one seed of each other two ensure they saw each other almost immediately. Well, there will be some serious Philly interest in the NIT for at least one night -- it's just unfortunate it will have to come at the expense of one team or the other.
As for the No. 3 Explorers, they'll be taking on the No. 6 Minnesota Golden Gophers at 7 p.m. Wednesday night on ESPN2.
Dr. (and coach) John Giannini spoke at length following his team's loss to St. Louis in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament Friday night about his team's postseason chances, calling a potential NIT bid a "big deal."

"We're 0-4 to St. Louis and Temple – two good teams. But we're 4-0 against UMass, St. Bonaventure and Xavier. We would love to be in the NIT. I think when that bracket is announced, you see some of the best programs in the country. Obviously everyone would prefer to be in the NCAA tournament, but you're judged by the company you keep and you're going to see household names in that tournament."

We posed a question to the Drexel fans earlier, but, just to check in once more, exactly how pissed are you guys?
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@DACPack
DAC Pack Drexel gets a 3 seed in the NIT against UCF? St. Joes gets a 2? Even bigger travesty.
Mar 12 via Facebook Favorite Retweet Reply

Let the trash talking begin.
[Bruiser Flint's Response] | NIT Bracket]
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Matt P. and Nick Menta contributed to this post.

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”

Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

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Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

DETROIT — The Phillies have an off day Thursday.
 
It will come in handy for Maikel Franco.
 
The third baseman suffered what was termed a sprained right ankle while sliding into second base in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday. He hobbled off the field before the start of the bottom of the inning.
 
After the game, both Franco and manager Pete Mackanin stressed that the sprain was mild.
 
Franco received treatment after coming out of the game and he will again on the off day. Mackanin said he would exercise caution in determining Franco’s availability for Friday afternoon, but did not rule out playing Franco.
 
Franco was adamant. He’s playing.
 
“It’s a little bit sore, but it’s fine,” he said. “It already feels better. I’ll be ready for Friday. With the day off, I know I’ll be OK.”
 
If Franco can’t play, Mackanin would insert super-sub Andres Blanco into the lineup. He had two hits, including an RBI double, and scored two runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco had a pair of singles and is 7 for 15 in his last four games.

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

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Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach, you gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.