The Perfect Buccaneer Final Four?

They’re a week away from establishing the Final Four in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but in the Buccaneers’ locker room it’s already been whittled down to the Final Six.

(Sweet Six?  Happy Half-Dozen?  Elite Almost-Eight?  Whatever.)

March is not the Bucs’ best time for One Buc Place trash talk, actually, as the players are still enjoying some down time before the offseason program begins in earnest.  If the tournament fell in, say, November, you can bet it would be the top locker room topic after every practice.

When the 2013 bracket was unveiled on March 17, a total of 18 current Buccaneers (not counting unsigned free agents) had reason to be proud of their former NCAA homes.  With at least one representative in each of the four regions, Tampa Bay players had a somewhat slimmed-down version of their own bracket ready to begin on Thursday.

Now?  Well, a Final Four with Buccaneer rooting interests in every team is still possible, but just barely.  Only six Bucs can still claim a team in the running now that the field has been slimmed down to 16, and two of those six are rooting for the same school.  Here’s a rundown of how the 17 tournament teams with Buccaneer locker room ties have fared so far:

Lost in the Play-In Round (Technically, Round One):

  • Boise State (RB Doug Martin)…Martin’s tournament fun was over almost before it started, as his team lost the West Region 13-seed play-in game to LaSalle, which has gone on to challenge Florida Gulf Coast University for the title of this tournament’s darling.

Lost in Round Two (Thursday/Friday):

  • Pittsburgh (TE Nate Byham)…Went down meekly, 73-55, to one of the team’s early Cinderallas, Wichita State.
  • Wisconsin (LB Jonathan Casillas)…Victim of a bracket-busting upset for some pool players, as the fifth-seeded Badgers lost to 12-seed Ole Miss.
  • Kansas State (QB Josh Freeman)…Another victim of upstart LaSalle, meaning the core of the Buccaneers’ offense isn’t too fond of the Explorers right now.
  • Oklahoma (G Davin Joseph, DT Gerald McCoy)…Lost the 7-10 game in the South Region to San Diego State, 70-55.
  • North Carolina State (C Ted Larsen)…Missed the chance to take on #1 seed Indiana by losing a close one to Temple.

Lost in Round Three (Saturday/Sunday):

  • Iowa State (CB Leonard Johnson)…Johnson, who beat the odds to make an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent last summer, nearly saw his team overcome underdog status and make the Sweet 16.  The Cyclones upset 7-seed Notre Dame in their opener but lost to Ohio State on a last-second three-pointer Sunday.
  • North Carolina (K Connor Barth)…Lost a matchup of traditional powerhouses on Sunday, giving up a 30-21 halftime lead in a 70-58 decision against #1 seed Kansas.
  • Minnesota (QB Adam Weber)…In one of only two matchups so far between Buccaneer teammates, the Gophers fell to Florida, 78-64, as the Gators advanced to the Sweet 16.
  • California (DE Ernest Owusu)…The Golden Bears lost in what was the other matchup pitting Buc teammates against each other, falling to Syracuse, 66-60, on Saturday night.

On to the Sweet 16!:

  • Oregon (RB LeGarrette Blount)…The Ducks took down fifth-seeded Oklahoma State and fourth-seeded St. Louis en route to a Sweet 16 matchup with #1 seed Louisville this coming Friday.  Blount is the lone remaining Buc in the Midwest Region.
  • Arizona (WR David Douglas)…The Wildcats have drawn #11 seed Belmont and #15 seed Harvard so far and have handled both easily.  Next up for Douglas’ team is #2 seed Ohio State on Thursday.  Douglas is the last Buc alive in the West Region.
  • Michigan (CB James Rogers)…The Wolverines have won their two games, over #13 seed South Dakota State and #4 seed Virginia Commonwealth, by an average of 20 points.  It’s likely a tougher task ahead for Rogers’ team as they play #1 seed Kansas on Friday.
  • Florida (S Ahmad Black, P Chas Henry)…The Gators have a very interesting matchup on Friday against the first #15 seed ever to make the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast.  UF has so far dispatched of Northwestern State and Minnesota.  The two former Gators and Michigan’s Rogers could meet in the Elite Eight later in the weekend.
  • Syracuse (WR Mike Williams)…’Cuse gets a crack at #1 Indy in the East Region on Thursday after dismantling Montana, 81-34 and getting past Owusu’s Cal crew, 66-60.

Many Buccaneer players will be back to work at team headquarters by the beginning of April, which means the potential for tournament trash-talking still exists if the Final Four falls right.  The nuclear scenario: A Final Four of Oregon in the Midwest, Arizona in the West, Florida in the South (since there are two former Gators on the roster) and Syracuse in the East.

Chances are, there aren’t too many brackets with an Oregon-Arizona-Florida-Syracuse Final Four.  But you never know!

Derrick Brooks Tackles Buccaneer Twitter

Throughout his career, Buccaneers legend Derrick Brooks took down quarterbacks, blockers, running backs and anyone else holding a football. And while he may be done taking over NFL games, he has two more takeovers in his sights.

Along with current Buccaneer star running back Doug Martin, Brooks is one of 64 former and current players vying for the honor of landing the Madden NFL 25 cover. While Martin lines up on the “New School” side, Derrick Brooks looks to tackle his competition in the “Old School” column and takeover the title of newest Madden cover star.

On Monday, March 18, from 12-1 PM EST, he will be taking over another platform, the Buccaneers Twitter handle, @TBBuccaneers, in the Derrick Brooks Twitter Takeover.

This event is a special chance for you to chat with the Bucs all-time tackle leader. He will field your questions throughout the hour-long session while giving away some special autographed memorabilia to some of the best Tweets that come his way. In the timeframe, tweet at @TBBuccaneers and be sure to add the hashtag #itsabucslife for your comment to be seen.

To cast your vote for the Buccaneers New and Old School candidates, make sure to visit and share http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/feature/madden25cover.

And remember to tune in on Monday, March 18 from 12-1 PM for the Twitter Takeover.

Brooks, Martin in Running for Madden 25 Cover

Derrick Brooks is the greatest tackler in Buccaneers history.  Doug Martin just might be the most elusive back ever to pull on a Tampa Bay jersey.  It might be fun to see the two face off on the football field.

They could do battle in cyberspace, if the voting for the Madden NFL 25 cover breaks just right.  Both Brooks and Martin are among the 64 former and current players in the running for that honor, the former as part of the “Old School” bracket and the latter on the “New School” side. Continue reading

Mike Alstott’s Power Running Still Memorable

Mike Alstott is undoubtedly one of the most popular players in franchise history.  Legions of Buccaneer fans loved him – still love him – for his never-say-die approach to advancing the football, his incredible tackle-breaking highlight-reel runs.  It doesn’t hurt that Alstott arrived just at the beginning of the team’s renaissance and helped it grow inexorably into a Super Bowl champion.

But Alstott’s NFL legacy isn’t just a regional phenomenon.  Just like John Lynch is celebrated as one of the hardest-hitting defenders of his generation; like Warren is considered a pioneer of sorts at the defensive tackle position, as evidenced by his Hall of Fame selection; like Ronde Barber is thought of, in what might actually be an understatement of his skills, as the ultimate Cover Two cornerback; Mike Alstott is the very definition of a power back. Continue reading

Experts Debate Potential Landing Spots for Revis

Is all-star cornerback Darrelle Revis really on the trading block?  Only Jets management knows for sure, but there are certainly persistent rumors to that effect.

Considered by many to be the NFL’s best cornerback – he certainly has one of the league’s best nicknames in “Revis Island” – he has one year left on his current deal and would surely command an enormous deal on the free agency market.  Thus, if the Jets really are considering trading Revis, any team on the other side of the deal would be making a sizeable commitment in terms of both draft picks and dollar signs.

It’s a complicated situation, which is why NFL.com assembled six different NFL analysts to debate exactly where Revis could land if the Jets try to make a deal.  The Buccaneers figure prominently in that debate. Continue reading

Vote to Relive Super Bowl XXXVII on NFL Network

Super Bowl XLVII is over, but the party is just starting back in Baltimore.  On Tuesday, the Ravens conducted the customary victory parade through town – an event described as “pandemonium” – and saw 80,000 delirious fans pack M&T Bank Stadium to the rafters.

Almost exactly a decade ago, a similar scene was unfolding in downtown Tampa, as a delirious but well-mannered Bay area crowd packed sidewalks, parking garages and even nearby trees to get a close-up look at the Buccaneers’ championship parade.  An estimated crowd of 150,000 fans had packed every square inch of the parade’s three-mile route, and the night before Raymond James Stadium had been standing-room-only for the team’s official welcome back.

There’s no doubt that a Super Bowl victory taps deep into the emotional well of a team’s fan base, whether it’s located in Florida, Maryland or Louisiana.  And the award-winning folks at NFL Films have proved that they can tap into that well with their popular documentary series called “America’s Game.” Continue reading

NFL.com Ranks All 46 Super Bowls

Forty-six Super Bowls have been played since the game debuted as the pre-merger AFL-NFL Championship Game at the end of the 1966 season.  Some certainly proved to be more exciting than others.

Which of the 46 big games are remembered most fondly?  Well, that depends of course on who you are.  Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and company would probably put Super Bowl XXXVII at the top of their own personal list, as would the majority of Buccaneer fans.  It would be a bit lower for Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice and most Raider loyalists.

From a presumably more objective point of view, the folks at NFL.com have taken the time to rank all the Super Bowls, from 46th to first, in terms of how thrilling the action was.  The list is presented in photo essay form, with supporting commentary from Senior Analyst Gil Brandt, who helped build several championship teams in Dallas.

The list doesn’t seem to be based on how strong the various championship teams were; in fact, that worked against the clubs who thoroughly dominated on Super Bowl Sunday.  The 46th-ranked game, in fact, was the 49ers’ 55-10 dismantling of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV after the 1989 season.  That was a marvelous San Francisco squad, but it so completely dominated Denver that the action is described as “brutal from start to finish.”

No spoiler here as to where the Buccaneers’ 48-21 thrashing of the Raiders after the 2002 season ranks, although the final score should provide a hint.  Two of the top 10 games were played in Tampa, one each at Tampa Stadium and Raymond James Stadium, and those two selections are not hard to guess (cough, James Harrison, cough, Scott Norwood).

So check out the list, see where our personal favorite lands on the list and leave a comment if you think it should have been higher.  After all, a lopsided final score doesn’t mean a game was lacking in exciting moments.

New Coaches Dot Bucs’ 2013 Home Schedule

Last year, Greg Schiano led a new-look Buccaneer squad into Raymond James Stadium, opening the season with a 16-10 win over Carolina in his first regular-season game as head coach.  In 2013, there’s a decent chance another first-year head coach will be on the sideline for the Buccaneers’ home opener.

Eight NFL teams have hired new head coaches since the end of the 2012 season, including two that followed the Buccaneers’ model last season and turned to the college ranks.  Of those eight, three will be playing in Tampa next fall, including both squads with former college coaches at the helm. Continue reading

Jackson Expects More in 2013, Thanks to Continuity

After just one season as an NFL offensive coordinator, the Buccaneers’ Mike Sullivan had his tires kicked in the interview carousel this past month, as eight teams looked for new head coaches.  While understanding the interest in his OC, Pro Bowl WR Vincent Jackson is definitely pleased Sullivan will still be leading the Bucs’ offense in 2013.

“I think it’s huge,” said Jackson.  “To get that year under your belt is huge, and if we had gotten a new guy here we could have had a different system and we would have had to pretty much start from scratch like we did last year.  So having this confidence – you know, we kind of know what to expect from him and the coaching staff knows what to expect from us – it’s definitely going to give us a head start this offseason.” Continue reading