Mason makes leap to the SEC - The Buffalo News

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Mason makes leap to the SEC

Column as I see ’em:

• Antoine Mason wasn’t amused when the coaches left him off the all-MAAC first team last season after he finished second in the nation in scoring for Niagara. His father, former NBA star Anthony Mason, termed it a “travesty.”

Well, the Masons got the last laugh. Antoine Mason will play his final college season for Auburn in the mighty Southeastern Conference, which sent two schools (Florida and Kentucky) to the Final Four.

The MAAC coaches didn’t think much of Mason as a team player. But coaches from high-ranked leagues thought a guy who averaged 25.6 points a game could help. Mason, who had many suitors, chose Auburn and coach Bruce Pearl over Providence and Boston College.

There was speculation that Mason might wind up at Hofstra with Joe Mihalich, who coached him at Niagara for two years. But as I understand it, neither party was interested in renewing the relationship. Clearly, Mason was shooting higher than the Colonial league.

The question is how Mason will adjust to the SEC, where even the lesser teams are stacked with athletes. Auburn finished 6-12 in the SEC last season, 14-16 overall. But Pearl, a high-profile coach at Tennessee before running afoul of the NCAA, has already signed three transfers.

Mason will have to accept a lesser role, where he isn’t the primary scoring option on every play. I can’t see him playing 35 minutes and averaging 20 points at Auburn. He’s not a great shooter and the defenders in the SEC will be bigger, quicker and stronger.

Pearl gets an added gem in the bombastic Anthony Mason, who is infamous for getting a little too involved. At one point, school officials even considered isolating him from the rest of the Purple Eagle fans.

Mason will be eligible to play right away because he completed his course work at Niagara. He wanted a chance to prove he could compete at the highest level. Let’s wish him luck. And good luck to Pearl if Papa Mace decides his boy isn’t getting enough playing time.

• The U.S. Open golf tournament begins today. So does the World Cup soccer tournament. Oh, and Game Four of the NBA Finals is tonight.

I’ve often said the opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament is the best day in sports, but this is hard to beat.

Of course, the World Cup runs for a month. The final is July 13 in Brazil. I’m not a huge soccer fan, but I love the World Cup. My sleepers are Ecuador and Costa Rica. Things should be hopping during the Cup at Mes Que, the soccer bar on Hertel Avenue in the city.

Tony Christiano, a partner in Mes Que, said he’s “expecting some traffic,” which is a polite way of saying you won’t be able to get through the door during the U.S. games.

Christiano said the North Park Theater was willing to use its screen to offer World Cup games to the spillover crowds. But FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, quickly shot it down. Love that FIFA.

• As usual, Phil Mickelson is the sentimental choice for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Lefty has six runner-up finishes, but has never won it. He turns 44 on Monday, the day after Father’s Day. Sorry, I don’t like his chances.

A couple of other 40-somethings could break through. Steve Stricker, 47, finished eighth last year and has been playing well. Aussie John Senden, 43, is a late bloomer who has four Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year. He finished in the top 15 in the last two U.S. Opens.

I like Hideki Matsuyama. The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka isn’t the only rookie sensation from Japan. Matsuyama, 22, is 13th in the world ranking in his first PGA season. He contended in three majors last season before he was on the tour.

• No one could have predicted the Spurs would score 71 points and shoot an NBA Finals record 75.8 percent in a dazzling first half of Game Three. But it was no surprise to see San Antonio bounce back when the series shifted to Miami.

The Spurs were 30-11 on the road this season, the first NBA team to win 30 away games in six years. They’ve shot at least 50 percent in four of five games against the Heat this season. If Miami can’t figure out how to stop them, the series could be over in five.

• The Bills canceled their organized team activity on Wednesday in favor of a team bonding exercise. I’m guessing it wasn’t a team street racing session.

You’ll notice I said “street racing.” Holgar Kurschner, a semi-pro drag racer, chided me for writing that Marcell Dareus crashed his car while drag racing. Kurschner said drag racing is a safe, well-organized sport. The race community hates it when reckless street racing is referred to as drag racing. Noted, Holgar.

• Skeptics figured Red Sox closer Koji Uehara would come down to earth after his amazing 2013 season. He hasn’t. Uehara picked up where he left off and continued an astonishing run of dominant relieving.

Dating back to June 1 of last year, including the World Series, Uehara has given up 41 hits in 94∏ innings. He has nine walks and 126 strikeouts. His ERA is 0.67 over that span.

• I see the Bills want to start selling beer at 11 a.m. on game days, instead of at noon. This is to “restore some of the family environment” to the stadium. A cynic would suggest it’s an attempt to squeeze every possible dime out of fans.

Maybe they could use the extra proceeds to hire Dareus a life coach. Or maybe pay the Jills.

• My two cents: The Sabres would be crazy to take a defenseman in the first round of the NHL draft. I don’t care if Aaron Ekblad is another Nicklas Lidstrom. The Sabres haven’t drafted or developed a true No. 1 center since Pierre Turgeon.

• Why this obsession with handing NBA head coaching jobs to former players with no coaching experience? Bob McAdoo is in his 19th season as a Miami assistant and aspires to be a head man, but hasn’t gotten a sniff.


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