Extras: How Did Thad Young Do This Season?

Extras: How Did Thad Young Do This Season?

So who's responsible for the new Ryan Howard at the dish? Turns out the Phillies slugger worked on his hitting with Barry Bonds over the winter. Say what you want about Bonds, the man, but the hitter (even before the roids) was always great. Howard has moved closer to the plate and he's showing more discipline in the early goings. The result: he's off to a torrid pace, while striking out only four times these first seven games. [Philly.com]

Speaking of Bonds, while the future Hall of Famer has been out of baseball for the past three seasons, is it possible he's searching for a way back... as a coach? [San Francisco Chronicle]

Photo by Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

In other baseball news, the Mets have quickly found themselves in the NL East basement after the first week (2-4). ESPN's Ian O'Connor asked Johan Santana after Sunday's loss to the Nationals whether the ace regretted joining New York three years ago. He probably should, but they paid him an awful lot of money to land there. [ESPN]

And across leagues, are some Tampa Bay Rays fans finally requesting they put an end to the cowbell? They're getting letters from potential ticket buyers who are refusing to attend games due to the disturbance. As long as the Rays aren't in the World Series this year, I suppose it doesn't really concern us either way. [St. Petersburg Times via Deadspin]

An open letter to Phillies fans about their treatment of Cole Hamels, who was booed after allowing a home run against Josh Willingham in the second inning yesterday. Despite his 2-0 start, people are quickly jumping on Cole for two mediocre outings so far. Maybe we should give the guy some space though. We're not that far removed from his World Series MVP performance, folks. [Crashburn Alley]

Former Flyers right winger Rick Tocchet was fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning in just his second season. After taking over 16 games into the '08-'09 campaign, Tampa finished 19-33-14 under Tocchet, and this season improved to 34-36-12. Obviously we're not close to the situation down there, but it seems unfair based on the amount of improvement over a short period of time. Maybe they want to make a closer evaluation of that roster. [Sporting News]

Reminder: the Eagles actually won 11 games last season, though it's hard to tell based on reactions alone. When reviewing the holes on the current roster, it turns out they aren't necessarily all that gaping. Two points I would disagree on though: one, Patterson and Bunkley's weakness as pass rushers creates more of a need for a rusher opposite Trent Cole, and two, I'm not prepared to write off a playoff team's Super Bowl chances in April just because they are young. [Iggles Blog]

At halftime of the Sixers 107-105 loss, their final home game of the season and much anticipated Fan Appreciation Night, Ed Snider spoke on the condition of the Sixers, telling reporters the future is still bright. The owner was non-committal about head coach Eddie Jordan's future, however he did single out a player who disappointed. “I feel like we regressed this year and a lot of players regressed, Thaddeus Young and others." I actually don't disagree one bit.
[Dei Tales]

Random thought: the Sixers ought to consider moving Fan Appreciation Night from the final home game of the year. The club just finished 27-53, their worst result since '96-'97. Aside from being plain awful to watch, when this club is not post-season bound, it lends an air of unpredictability to the event. Look no further than the infamous Fan Night in 2005, when Chris Webber and Allen Iverson couldn't be bothered to show up on time.

I can think of at least one day that would've been better suited for the promotion this season: the first home game, when this team still had a future.

Photo by Issac Baldizon / Getty Images

Penn State not going to College Football Playoff, likely headed to Rose Bowl

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USA Today Images

Penn State not going to College Football Playoff, likely headed to Rose Bowl

Penn State's wild comeback win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship was not enough.

The Nittany Lions were not selected to the four-team College Football Playoff, finishing fifth in the rankings.

Undefeated Alabama takes the top spot and will play No. 4 Washington. No. 2 Clemson will face No. 3 Ohio State.

Penn State earned its signature win of the season, handing felllow Big Ten member Ohio State its only loss of the season. 

However, Penn State sputtered in the beginning of the year, losing to unranked Pittsburgh and was thrashed by Michigan — who finished sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings — 49-10.

The Nittany Lions likely will play in the Rose Bowl, facing either USC or Colorado. The official announcement will be made later Sunday.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”