first_imgAdvertisement Metro Sport ReporterMonday 6 Jan 2020 4:40 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link MORE: Leeds United star Ezgjan Alioski taunts Arsenal and Manchester United ahead of FA Cup clashMORE: Mikel Arteta sends warning to Arsenal players ahead of FA Cup clash with Leeds United Head-to-head in last five meetings 09 Jan 2012 – Arsenal 1-0 Leeds – FA Cup19 Jan 2011 – Leeds 1-3 Arsenal – FA Cup08 Jan 2011 – Arsenal 1-1 Leeds – FA Cup16 Apr 2004 – Arsenal 5-0 Leeds – Premier League04 Jan 2004 – Leeds 1-4 Arsenal – FA Cup Arsenal vs Leeds TV channel, live stream, time, odds, team news and head-to-headcenter_img Comment Advertisement Mikel Arteta wants to build momentum as Arsenal manager (Picture: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)Arsenal host Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup on Monday night as new Gunners boss Mikel Arteta looks to build some momentum with his struggling side.The Spaniard picked up his first win as Arsenal boss last time out, beating Manchester United 2-0 in the Premier League, after a disappointing defeat to Chelsea and draw with Bournemouth in his first two matches.He has the chance to do so at home to the Championship side, although Leeds will be no pushovers as they sit top of the second tier with just four defeats in 26 league matches this season.AdvertisementAdvertisementThe West Yorkshire outfit are not in their best form, with just one win in their last five, but they will relish the chance to prove themselves against Premier League opposition.ADVERTISEMENTWhen is Arsenal vs Leeds?The match kicks-off at 7.56pm on Monday 6 January, with the unusual time at the Emirates due to the Heads Up campaign.What TV channel is Arsenal vs Leeds on and is there a live stream?BBC One will be showing the game live with coverage starting at 7.30pm and a stream available on the BBC website and iPlayer if you have a TV licence.More: FootballRio Ferdinand urges Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop Manchester United starChelsea defender Fikayo Tomori reveals why he made U-turn over transfer deadline day moveMikel Arteta rates Thomas Partey’s chances of making his Arsenal debut vs Man CityArsenal vs Leeds odds40/85 Arsenal15/4 Draw11/2 LeedsOdds courtesy of BetfairArsenal vs Leeds team newsArsenal are without Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney through ACL and shoulder injuries respectively, while Gabriel Martinelli and Hector Bellerin have been struggling with thigh injuries and probably won’t be risked.Manager Mikel Arteta has made his intentions for the cup clear, though, and is expected to field a strong team.Leeds may actually be more likely to make significant changes, with Marcelo Bielsa confirming that Robbie Gotts and Illan Meslier will make their debuts and Gaetano Berardi and Barry Douglas will start.last_img read more

first_imgLatvia’s mandatory second-pillar funds generated a weighted average 12-month return of 3.24% as of the end of September, according to the Association of Commercial Banks of Latvia (LKA).The results are a significant improvement on those of the second quarter (-0.16%) and the 0.28% return posted a year earlier.According to the LKA review, the third quarter was especially favourable for emerging market securities, Brexit notwithstanding, with equities benefiting from stronger economic growth, and government bonds from positive yields.In Latvia’s case, the best 12-month returns, of 3.68%, came from the four balanced funds, followed by the eight active, equity funds at 3.51% and the eight bond-weighted funds at 2.41%. Geographically, the funds reduced their exposure to Latvia over the year from 43% to 38.4%, and from Western Europe from 16% to 12%.Meanwhile, the share of investments in Eastern Europe rose from 20% to 24.6%, and that in North America from 4% to 6.7%.In terms of asset-class shifts, the active funds decreased, by 2 percentage points, their holdings in equity and equity funds, and in bond and bond funds, to 25% and 52%, respectively, while upping their investments in other funds, bank deposits and cash.The conservative funds, meanwhile, retained a high share (78%) in bonds.Over the year, membership grew by 1.2% to 1.25m, and assets by 19.5% to €2.65bn.The active plans remain by far the most popular, with 64% of the total membership, followed by the conservative plans at 27%.Since the inception of the three-pillar system in 2001, the second-pillar funds have earned an estimated €432m in investment income net of management and custodian fees, and other charges, while the average savings per member as of end-September breached the €2,000 mark.The third-pillar funds generated even higher returns, with the 12-month average rising to 4.41%, from 1.55% a year earlier.The returns of the four balanced funds shot up from 1.41% to 4.02%, and those of the 10 active plans from 1.6% to 5.7%, with the two US dollar-denominated funds outperforming the rest at 6.04%.At the First Closed Pension Fund, the scheme for the 12,750-odd employees at Latvia’s state-owned electricity utilities and part state-owned telecommunication company, returns edged up from 1.79% to 2.9%.last_img read more

first_imgVillanoche was taken to the Passi City police station, facing charges. The suspect was identified as Rhannie Villanoche, 32, of Poblacion A Dueñas, Iloilo. ILOILO City – Police arrested a man in Barangay Poblacion Ilawod, Passi City for transporting 50 boxes of liquor. There is an ongoing liquor ban in Iloilo province due to the general community quarantine./PN The Passi police carried out the arrest at around 5:30 p.m. on May 18 after chancing upon the suspect unloading boxes of liquor from his vehicle.last_img read more

first_img Press Association The Spain international joined Napoli on loan in July after the Reds signed Simon Mignolet from Sunderland but has two years remaining on his contract and is due back on Merseyside at the end of the season. Rodgers, however, does not believe the 31-year-old wants to return, citing an 1105-word open letter that Reina posted on his website on July 29 last year, shortly after his reunion with former boss Rafael Benitez in Italy was agreed. “He’s already written his letter,” Rodgers told several national newspapers. “He wrote a goodbye letter didn’t he? I was surprised a loan player wrote a letter. “I would suspect that he should come back but obviously Pepe made it very clear when he went to Napoli that he was looking to move. “He penned a great big letter saying he was going to work with the best manager that he’d worked with and thanked us for his time for Liverpool. “So for me it probably sounded like he’d made his decision there.” center_img Jose Reina’s Liverpool career appears to be over after manager Brendan Rodgers suggested the goalkeeper will not be returning to Anfield this summer.last_img read more

first_img “Part and parcel of the Premier League is the emotional flavour – on and off the pitch. “Sometimes managers come on TV and go over the top and sometimes they need a slap round the wrist. But we need to be careful we don’t put ourselves in a position where we just come on and nod our heads, and say nothing, because we’re frightened we’ll get punished and fined £50,000. “We have to get together as a union and talk together about the way we start approaching the press conferences after games, because if the FA is going to start fining people extraordinary amounts of money then we need to do something about it.” This week Jose Mourinho was handed a £50,000 fine and a suspended one-match stadium ban for claiming that officials were “afraid” to award Chelsea penalties after his side were denied a spot-kick during their 3-1 home defeat to Southampton prior to the international break. The FA said Mourinho’s comments “imply bias on the part of a match official” but at his book launch on Thursday the Portuguese coach labelled the sanctions a “disgrace”. West Brom boss Tony Pulis has called for transparency from the Football Association over its “extraordinary” fines – and he wants the League Managers’ Association to intervene. Pulis, who has landed himself in trouble with the authorities on numerous occasions during his career, described his counterpart’s punishment as “extraordinary” and he would like information from the FA on how they use the funds accrued from such fines. “The LMA and (chief executive) Richard Bevan and Richard (Scudamore, Premier League chief executive) have to pull all the managers together; we have to have a meeting to find out what’s going on,” said Pulis, whose team resume Barclays Premier League action against Sunderland at The Hawthorns on Saturday. “I think £50,000 is an extraordinary amount of money. I’ve been fined a few times by the FA for stepping out of line, and my argument is, ‘Where does that money go? Does it go to charity? D oes it go to pay for the hundreds and hundreds of people who will jump on the back of the Euros?’ “When I asked, I didn’t get an answer. We talk about transparency; if you’re going to take that sort of money off an individual – his money – then let us know where it’s going. “I’d love the FA to be transparent and tell us which bank it’s put in and how it’s spent. I was told generally it goes into the funds and is spent in different ways.” Pulis feels the media demands on managers have an inevitable consequence given the pressure they are put under in the Premier League. And the Welshman warned that managers will become increasingly reticent during television interviews if fines such as the one given to Mourinho continue. “Where we have to be careful is that this is a game of emotion, and managers get emotionally involved,” said Pulis. Press Associationlast_img read more

first_imgIN front of a vociferous crowd, Imam Bacchus Sports Club emerged winners of the DOUBLE ‘D’ and MALL T20 finals played at the Walton Hall ground , last Saturday .It was their experience and composure that made the difference during several tense periods in the game. Winning the toss and batting first, Bacchus’s XI were given a solid start by their openers who scored 38 in 6 overs before the first wicket fell.It was the breakthrough that Walton Hall needed as their bowlers began to make regular in-roads and finally restricted Imam Bacchus’ imposing batting line-up.In reply,Walton Hall quickly lost their three former national youth batsmen,Nathan Persaud who top- scored with 23,Latchman Rohit for 08 and Yogeshwar Lall for 17,all in quick succession and were eventually all out for 113 in 19 overs.On a turning pitch,which proved difficult for strokeplay,off spinner Uvindra Balgobin 3-12 (4 overs) and left arm spinner Navin Bahadur 2-23 (4 overs) exploited the conditions to good effect.When the host began their run chase the intention was to be aggressive.Regular boundaries within the first six overs saw Walton Hall racing to 48-2. However,when the restrictions ended and with the introduction of spin, the match swung in Imam Bacchus’ favour.The limitations of the remaining batsmen were exposed as they attempted to clear the boundary in desperation.In so doing they lost their most accomplished batsmen including Vishwanauth Lall(4), Nanin Bahadur(8) and Navindra Balgobin(2) within five overs as Walton Hall struggled to 67-5 in 11 overs at one stage.However,despite an entertaining knock by Uvindra Balgobin 28 (2×6 and 2×4) during the latter stages of the innings which proved futile,the host lost their last five wickets for 30 runs and in the process were all-out for 97 in the 20th over, losing by 16 runs.The left arm spin of Yogeshwar Lall(3-8)and the medium pace Latchman Rohit(3-17) combined to achieve an exciting victory in a low scoring encounter. Lall’s all-round display earned him the Man-of-the-Match award while the tournaments’ best bowler and batsman were Safraz Ally and Yogeshwar Lall respectively.The winning team received $60,000.00 and trophy while the runner-up received $40,000.00.In the third place play-off Ravens defeated Charity by four wickets to earn $10,000.00.(Errol Stephney)last_img read more

first_imgThis rings true of the recent hosting of the UEFA Champions trophy in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital some few weeks ago. But in very certain terms, with the historic event, Uyo as a city came into a prime and different phase of global spotlight.Remarkably, with the UEFA trophy hosted in the Akwa Ibom capital, Heineken, official sponsors of the event, spoke significantly in a vividly bold language. By affixing its brand stamp, Uyo became its imprimatur for a red star that has risen on the global firmament as future hub of the soccer world.Pointedly too, Heineken with the event elected to tell the corporate world and international event organizers never to look any further. Uyo meets all the criteria and standards for events of any magnitude – the serenity of the city, its ambience of peace and security, world class infrastructure comprising good road networks, a five star hotel among several other three/four star category hospitality facilities, a standard airport- the Victor Attah International Airport and of course, the Godswill Akpabio stadium; the globally rated Nest of Champions.With all of these attractions, the future looks exceedingly bright for the city as the rave and game centre of the moment. For instance, the problem facing many cities struggling across the world to break into global purview in football and other sport tourism is no longer associated with Uyo. The Udom Emmanuel administration, has since its inception attracted and benefited more than a fair share of international meets in the state capital. These have gone to boost the state’s popularity rating across the global football community, and its most iconic meet having been the Athletico Madrid game hosted some few months ago. To be numbered among the global cities to have hosted the historic UEFA trophy is another ball game altogether; as very few cities are remarkably so lucky.While attracting internationally adjudged leading brand (Heineken) to the city, NBL literally shut down operations on that day as Who’s who in her brewing business was drawn to be part of the many celebrated faces to adorn and confirm Uyo as the cozy home of football in Nigeria.Specifically MD/CEO Jordi Bornut Bel, Marketing Director, Emmanuel Oriakhi, Corporate Affairs Director, Mrs. Sade Morgan, Finance Director Rob Kleinjan, Porfolio Manager (National Premium), Serah Agha, Public Affairs Manager (South) Uzodinma Odenigbo, Senior Brand Manager (Heineken) Mfon Bassey among several others, it was a fresh experience worth repeating and reliving.Nigerian Breweries MD/CEO, Mr. Jordi Borrut Bel, when asked, “why Akwa Ibom?” had some inspiring words to say: “For us, Uyo, Akwa Ibom was a given. Apart from Lagos as our operational headquarters, Uyo fitted the bill of a serene town, peaceful with abundant world class sports infrastructure that fitted our bill as a destination most appropriate to stage our “unmissable match.” We took a survey of some other states [and] cities, yet Uyo, Akwa Ibom topped them all.” Incredible commendation! Isn’t it?The NBL MD/CEO may not have been mistaken speaking from a like-minded perspective. Clinging to the big picture, one can perceive three things as having come with the hosting of the UEFA trophy – opening up Uyo participation in the global sporting space, boosting the state tourism potential; and capturing the political and development strides of the state on the wider scale of evaluating its investment potential. All of these presented the state in a far broader and optimally different light.Itemizing the potential loaded in these key areas one by one, it is essential to appreciate the fact that presently, only five African countries have benefited the opportunity of hosting the UEFA Trophy. With Uyo having the rare opportunity to participate in such an exclusive rite, it had presented the state an opportunity to showcase her excellent infrastructure and also the reason to be considered a prime destination of choice for sports in every material sense.Yes, Jordi Barrut Bel, delighted to be in Uyo, was right. And so were his cheerful and commending words for the city and what its ambience represented. It organically spoke of the peace and security enjoyed in the state against a vast sea of turmoil and insensate turbulence rumbling across the country.Integrally it then explains why the planners decided to bring the trophy’s hosting to Uyo amidst other places of choice. And with that brief stroke, it is gone to associate the state and the city with the brilliant history of the famous championship; and also a rare opportunity to have been so offered by the leading corporate citizen in the brewing industry.Beamed live on DSTV across the globe, Uyo came on focus; and thus became inducted into the global sporting space; while also presenting Akwa Ibom sport and cultural tourism potential to the whole world in a two-prong but single stride.Heineken jumped on the major policy plank of the Udom Administration. The policy, reckoned to have garnered huge successes in investment profile to the state has interestingly reinvented the Akwa Ibom economic growth trajectory and currently informs on the need that may have reasonably inspired Governor Emmanuel to exploit the UEFA trophy tour for greater social and economic benefits to the state.Gov. Emmanuel, who during the courtesy visit paid by the Heineken team to his office, described himself as “a professional in politics,” was wittingly soliciting and exploring the need for the leading brewing concern to take advantage of the vast opportunities and handsome potential offered by the state to consider partnering some substantial industrial investments.These are the areas of concern which vision for a synergy can be actually impacted. For instance, if NBL decides to invest in siting a sports hostel or civic hall in the state like the Shell Muson Centre in Lagos, this will not only be a corporate statement seeking to enhance cultural relations among the diverse ethnic/social classes populating Uyo, but again make Heineken as a distinct key player in the industrial landscape of the nation to directly invest in Akwa Ibom youths, who frequently and in their thousands, are weekly “addicted” to the European Champions leagued sponsored by Heineken.In a specific light, the Heineken 2018/2019 UEFA champions league tour was a plus for the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration. It had made Uyo capital to be part of a history. The “unmissable match” itself that saw global football greats – Carles Buyol and Nigeria’s Jay Jay Okocha – pitched against each other- sparkled the city with the brilliance of “the most creative attacking mid fielder of all times as he lurched against ‘one of the world’s most feared defenders ever.’Again, history was made all over again and nostalgia re-lived on the pitch. Akwa Ibom football fans turned out in great numbers to watch Carlse Buyol, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Mutiu Adepoju, Daniel Amokachi, Augustine Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu, and other Ex-Super Eagles legends slug it out in style.Besides the “Unmissable Match” presenting and confirming Akwa Ibom as a sports loving state that is ‘crazy about football, it also provided a good number of Akwa Ibom players the rare opportunity of basking in global spotlight – 20 of them from Akwa United Football Club.The UEFA trophy tour was a very invaluable experience. It brought the world to Uyo and also gave Uyo to the world especially among lovers of football. It passed as an opportunity of showcasing the state and the city as possessing a culture and passion for the beautiful game among other sports. And indeed, it had so much raised the global perception of the city.But to the senior brand manager of Star, Mr. Oludare Olateju, who served his NYSC programme in Uyo more than 16 years ago, the experience was simply amazing and breath-taking. Akwa Ibom, phenomenally has undergone great changes between those years, given the spiraling level of development the state has witnessed under a determined and focused leader like Gov. Udom Emmanuel.  Bassey is SSA to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Sports DevelopmentShare this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram Saturday comment2 The UEFA trophy tour brought the world to Uyo and gave Uyo to the world, writes Paul BasseySometimes, when great things happen, seldom does it come with a touch of momentum, breaking up and opening new frontiers for engagement, force fresh perspectives into view, or throw-up some inspiring and significantly illuminating lights.last_img read more

first_imgTwo shots, one hit crossbar and a beautiful assist for the game-winning goal. A stat line like that is remarkable for any single player on a soccer team, regardless of position. But when that kind of production is coming from a member of your defensive corps, it is truly game-changing. Maybe part of the reason Badger defender Scott Lorenz is able to have that kind of impact on the pitch lies in his roots as a player. “In high school, I played much more of an attacking role for my team,” said the 6-foot junior from Barrington, Ill. “I played a lot as an attacking midfield and sometimes as a forward, so I became really knowledgeable on the offensive side of the ball.” Following his senior season in high school, during which he collected team MVP awards for his outstanding goal production, Lorenz came to Madison primarily as an attacking midfielder. Last spring, however, UW head coach Jeff Rohrman decided to take a different approach, taking advantage of Lorenz’s natural athleticism, and tried him out as an outside midfielder.”[Lorenz] just has so many good traits that would lend themselves well to being successful as an outside back,” Rohrman said. “He can serve a good ball, he can finish off plays, he is dangerous in the air, he is a tenacious defender, and he has been blessed with excellent quickness up and down the field.”So many players just don’t have the skills he does, so when we can put him in the defensive position, it really uses him in the best way for our team.”All those abilities and more were surely on full display last Sunday, as Lorenz repeatedly made his presence known on both sides of the ball. Between his timely runs forward to help the Badgers attack the Western Michigan goalkeeper and his slick passes through the midfield, the Bronco defenders really had no answer for the mismatches he created.On one play midway through the first half, Lorenz nearly had the first goal of his junior season. Sneaking around the back of the Western Michigan defenders, Lorenz was on the receiving end of a high-bouncing pass from midfielder Pablo Delgado across the front of the 18-yard box. “[The ball] was just sitting there for what seemed like forever,” recalls Lorenz. “I was calling everyone in the area off of it, and when I finally came through on it with my foot, I realized I had probably hit it a little too hard.” The shot that resulted ended up shooting up into the crossbar of the goal, just past the outreached hands of the diving opponent keeper. Lorenz would go on to lead a few more offensive charges from his post on the back line before walking into the locker room at halftime with both teams in a scoreless tie.”I felt we did a pretty good job of dictating the pace of the game (in the first half),” Rohrman said. “Not getting that early goal can definitely test your patience, composure and discipline sometimes. I felt we did a good job responding to the challenge in the second half.”To start the second half, Lorenz and the rest of the UW defense had to withstand a fierce attack from their opponents, who had clearly used the break to their advantage. After a start to the game where Lorenz was able to showcase his offensive prowess, the junior now had to use his all-around game to quell the Bronco surge. It wasn’t long, however, before the forward-thinking defense managed once again to push the ball up field and toward the WMU goal. In a play similar to his first shot,, Lorenz found himself again on the receiving end of a cross across the opponent’s goal, but instead of firing off another rocket shot, cleanly dished the ball to waiting forward Brian Bultman for what proved to be the game winner.When asked how he thought his play impacted the outcome of the game, Lorenz once again spread the wealth, saying, “All of the defenders really helped the team (on Sunday) by creating opportunities with our passing and our overlapping runs up the field.”And on being only a couple of inches away from getting a goal to go with his assist, completing his box score line for the day?”It was a bit frustrating to miss like that,” Lorenz joked. “But in the end we won, and that’s all that matters.”It looks like the Badgers’ secret offensive weapon in the back still has plenty more tricks up his sleeve for what promises to be an exciting season.last_img read more

first_imgAfter being knocked from their familiar perch atop both the national polls and the WCHA, the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team (24-2-4, 18-2-4) travels to Mankato, Minn. this weekend for the penultimate series of their regular season.Although the Badgers no longer control whether or not they take the conference crown, junior forward Meghan Duggan said the team’s spirit remain high.“Everyone’s kind of harping on the fact that we are one point behind (Minnesota), and we have just lost the conference championship,” said Duggan, who netted the game-winner in last Sunday’s shootout. “I think there is still four games to be played on our end in the WCHA, and four games on their end, so stuff can happen — funny stuff can happen. I think it’s good for us to just look at Mankato as the next milestone and go into Friday night’s game ready to win.”While the one point margin enjoyed by UM allows them to determine their own destiny, it is not as if they won’t go untested.The Gophers host No. 4 North Dakota this weekend before engaging in a home-and-home series against third-place St. Cloud State. In contrast, Wisconsin faces No. 6 Minnesota State before finishing at home against last place Bemidji State.The last time the Badgers faced off against Minnesota State, the Mavericks — now 8-16-4 on the season, including a 5-15-4 mark in conference play — were overwhelmed by the Badgers by a combined score of 15-2. A remarkable 12 different Badgers collected points in the series.Even more noteworthy, in 40 all-time contests against Minnesota State, the Badgers are 39-0-1.Despite the domination, Duggan said the team won’t take the Mavericks, who last weekend tied and defeated St. Cloud State, lightly.“Our team has always been a good team at being able to focus on the task on hand and not overlooking teams so easily,” she said. “I think everyone in their head knows we are already a point behind Minnesota, so any slip-up just makes things worse for us. Everyone is excited to head to Mankato and get a couple of wins and come back here and play our last home series against Bemidji.”Though the team wasn’t able to depart from the Twin Cities with a win, the series still proved beneficial. Specifically, the team proved it could overcome injury, as the shootout win on Sunday came without the on-ice leadership and energy of senior center and captain Erika Lawler. Lawler’s absence forced head coach Mark Johnson to shuffle his lines much more drastically than he had at any other point during the season.Junior forward Jasmine Giles admitted the rearrangement challenged the squad.“That was tough, the lines were all messed up, and everyone was playing with somebody different,”Giles said.”That was probably the hardest part. And also not having her to give us that boost, that energy she normally gives the team. I think we persevered, we came through. I mean we didn’t get the win, but we did better than we did on Saturday.”With Lawler expected back in the lineup this weekend, the Badgers will look to get back on track before entering postseason play. In addition, the team will be looking to rewrite the program record books.In a season that has seen numerous individual records fall — many courtesy of Patty Kazmaier candidates sophomore forward Hillary Knight and senior goaltender Jessie Vetter –the Badgers are now closing in on a multitude of team marks.Currently, this year’s group sits 18 goals from the all-time record of 170 set by the 2004-05 team, six assists short of the 2006-07 team’s record of 263, and 20 points shy of the record of 429, also set by the 2006-07 national championship team.Records aside, even with last weekend’s loss and tie, the team sits only one vote out of first place in the poll, and, more importantly, still tops the PairWise Rankings, a measure that attempts to mimic the system used by the NCAA Selection Committee.And while the Badgers lost at Ridder Arena for the first time since 2005, they very well could get another shot at the Gophers on their home ice, the host arena for the WCHA tournament.If that scenario comes to fruition, Duggan said the team will enter the game with confidence after their performance last Sunday.“I think coach is really excited with the way we played and the way we battled and how hard we are going to work this late in the season because it’s important that we get into the playoffs,” she said. “I think we can just take from that, that we are a great team — even when we are missing one of our best players — everyone can step up and play a little better and a little harder.”last_img read more

first_imgThere was once a time in this country when college basketball was unquestionably the king of hoops. After Michael Jordan retired for the third and final time, college ball took center stage and built a reputation as the most exciting and, at least as far as ratings were concerned, the most entertaining basketball available for viewing pleasure.If something doesn’t change, however, the NBA will soon regain the national spotlight. That is, if it hasn’t done so already.The Association’s star-power and off-court Melo-drama (pun vehemently intended) coalesced with a diminishing product on the college level might mean curtains for the once-untouchable NCAA. That threat doesn’t exclude the NCAA Tournament either.It was only but a few years ago when twice as many fans tuned in to the Final Four than the NBA Finals. But that trend has changed. Last June, the NBA Finals featuring the Celtics and Lakers drew almost 5 million more viewers than the college title game between Duke and Butler.Beyond that, in a list of the 100 most watched sports telecasts of 2010, college basketball’s championship night came in 43rd, behind, among other events, 19 NFL regular season games.Yes, a championship bout between Duke, one of college basketball’s most reviled programs, and a mid-major Cinderella in Butler, which only tiptoed into the Final Four due to a weak tournament field, might excise viewership.But don’t forget in 2009 the NBA Finals again out-drew the National Championship game between North Carolina and Michigan State, two popular programs from power conferences.It is possible the NBA’s misplaced popularity was self-inflicted. Over a stretch of about five or six years the Association’s perennial championship teams consisted of players such as Tim Duncan, Richard Hamilton and Dwayne Wade (before he was “Dwayne Wade”); players who, for the most part, had personalities as glittery as a bag of charcoal.But now, with the star-power back on top of the pro-game, fans have slowly but surely filtered back into the professional basketball world, leaving the college game behind with its table scraps of one-year wonders.The NBA’s premier athletes haven’t done the NCAA any favors either. Once derided by the public for a lack of effort, especially on the defensive end, teams like the Celtics and the Lakers have reinvested themselves in team defense, quelling the belief that NBA players don’t give their best effort on a consistent basis.However, there are other contributing factors to why college basketball has dulled over the past few years. The NFL’s popularity has blossomed into the sports world’s equivalent of a monopoly.More often than not, by the time the NFL regular and post-season buzz dissipates, the college basketball schedule has run through half of its slated games. The big-time non-conference matchups, the individual performances and the beginning of conference play all get lost in the NFL regular season shuffle.Certainly there are true hoops-fans who follow the game throughout the season, but a casual fan doesn’t usually watch college ball until their favorite NFL team has played its last down. Even then most wait until the conference tournaments begin before immersing themselves in the college basketball season.As ominous as the state of the college game may sound, it’s not all bad.The one piece of college basketball that no force on the planet can dilute is the NCAA Tournament. The fact that the NBA has become more popular over the last few years doesn’t take away from the excitement generated by March Madness.It’s hard to argue that the first weekend of the big dance isn’t the most exciting four days of sports of the year. Fantasy Football may reign atop the sports-gambling community in terms of money, but from the amateur to the self-described expert, there are likely many more “bracketologists” than Fantasy Football managers.Although, regardless of the NCAA tournament’s popularity, the talent at the college level has still suffered.Even though the NBA has an age limit, players are still allowed to abscond from academic responsibility after a single year of college service, reducing the amount of talent available to coaches and their programs.Unfortunately for the NCAA, that rule will never change as the NBA stands to make hoards of money on those players ready to make a splash at the professional level.And because those great players often leave early, the rivalries that once burned between storied programs are all but extinguished. The fans try to drive the rivalries that remain, but the players who stay in school for one year can neither invest in a program’s history nor contribute to it.As cynical as it may sound, the college game has evolved into a minor-league system for the NBA. But don’t fret; the NCAA will always have its place, especially in parts of the country that don’t currently host an NBA franchise, and always during that magical time in March.last_img read more