Seahawks will top Steelers as string of close Super Bowls continue

Sunday, February 5, 2006

I don't know about you, but I am really looking forward to the Super Bowl -- and not just because it generally results in one of the biggest party days of the entire year.

No, I'm particularly excited about today's matchup in Detroit because -- and I hope I don't jinx things -- it has all the makings of a tremendous game.

In one corner you have the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, who lost two of their first four games then won 11 straight before resting most of their regulars in their regular-season finale.

The Seahawks were clearly the NFC's dominant team, then they backed that up in the playoffs by easing past Washington 20-10 and crushing Carolina 34-14.

In the other corner, you have the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 7-5 at one point and in serious danger of not even making the playoffs.

The Steelers won their final four regular-season games to slip into the postseason party, then proved they belonged by winning three straight road games as the No. 6 seed, beating Cincinnati 31-17, holding off Super Bowl favorite Indianapolis 21-18 and pounding Denver 34-17.

I'm far from an expert, but from my vantage point, compelling arguments can be made for both teams winning today, and I can easily see things going either way.

Pittsburgh's physical defense has been stout in the postseason, and the Steelers' offense, despite struggling some with its running game, has piled up points behind the stellar play of second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Seattle's defense, not necessarily considered a strength during the regular season, also has come up big in the playoffs, and the Seahawks' offense is about as good as it gets behind tailback Shaun Alexander -- the NFL's MVP -- veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and one of the league's best lines.

Interestingly, as an example of how the conferences are perceived, the Steelers are favored by four points even though the Seahawks have probably had the better overall season.

So, it's just about time for my annual Super Bowl prediction. And remember, this is for amusement purposes only. If you know my track record, you sure won't be putting much more than a cold one or two on what I have to offer.

First of all, I think it's going to be a really close, down-to-the-wire game, much like what happened the last two years, when New England edged Philadelphia 24-21 in 2005 and Carolina 32-29 in 2004.

In fact, five of the last eight Super Bowls have been decided by seven points or less, which gives me even more reason to believe today's affair might be something special.

Not to toot my own horn -- what the heck, I might as well -- but, while I only picked one winner the past two years, I did correctly pick the underdog to cover the point spread both times. My 2004 prediction was Eagles 27, Patriots 24, while my 2005 prediction was Patriots 17, Panthers 14.

Without any more beating around the bush, I'm going with the Seahawks 27-24.

Proceed with caution before contacting your friendly local bookie.

A nightmare of a season for the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team got even worse Tuesday when leading rebounder Andrais Thornton was suspended indefinitely from competition following his being charged with an alleged rape that occurred more than two years ago in Colby, Kan.

I have no idea what happened in that junior college dorm room when Thornton and one of his Colby Community College teammates got together with two women they were acquainted with. Only those four know what went on for sure.

But it does appear mighty strange that the case has been re-opened all this time later, even though the prosecutor at the time did not feel there was enough evidence to proceed. I have been told the former prosecutor believed there was nothing more to it than two young men and two young women hooking up.

What, if anything, could have changed in the past two-plus years?

I imagine only time will tell.

Apparently, some in Cape Girardeau speculated that Southeast men's basketball coach Gary Garner was ejected from Monday's game at Austin Peay -- despite receiving just one technical foul -- for making physical contact with an official.

I was at the game and knew that wasn't the case -- not even close -- but just for the record, OVC commissioner Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher confirmed in Saturday's Southeast Missourian that there was no physical contact between Garner and an official.

In fact, when Garner was ejected in the closing seconds of the 73-62 loss, I assumed he had received two technicals to trigger the automatic ejection.

I was fairly stunned after I realized that Garner had been given just one technical, because his arguing a late call didn't seem like it was anything out of the ordinary.


Former Southeast men's basketball coach Ron Shumate is one of 10 coaches in the running to be picked for the NCAA Division II 50th Anniversary Team.

The 10 coaches, along with about 30 players, were included on the NCAA's Web site, from which the anniversary squad will be selected based on Internet voting that recently closed.

Shumate, now coaching high school basketball in Chattanooga, Tenn., led Southeast to a pair of Division II national runner-up finishes in the 1980s.

Before coming to Southeast, Shumate led Tennessee-Chattanooga to a pair of Division II national finals appearances, including the 1977 championship.

All three of college basketball's Division I undefeated teams -- Duke, Florida and Pittsburgh -- went down on Jan. 21, but in this age of parity, it's probably surprising those squads remained without a loss so long.

In fact, who would really even want to go through the regular season unscathed?

The bottom line, with the single-elimination nature of the NCAA tournament, college hoops is the best sport going in my opinion.

And, with March Madness still a while away, it's anybody's guess as to who might win the title.

I don't follow the NBA too closely until the playoffs start, but that recent 81-point outburst by Kobe Bryant was something to behold.

In fact, considering the position he plays and the era he competes in, I'm not sure that second-highest scoring performance in NBA history isn't more impressive than the 100 points Wilt Chamberlain put up, although it's certainly open for debate.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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