Afternoon State Sports Briefs: Finley says its 50-50 whether he'll be with Pack next seasonWisconsin Sports
-- Jermichael Finley says it’s probably 50-50 on whether he’ll stay with the Green Bay Packers this fall.
GREEN BAY - Jermichael Finley says it’s probably 50-50 on whether he’ll stay with the Green Bay Packers this fall.
The Packers’ main tight end for the last five years says he’d love nothing more than to finish his career in Green Bay. But he also realizes that general manager Ted Thompson has some tough business decisions to make, as he tries to clear up enough salary cap room to re-sign Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and B.J. Raji over the next year or so. Finley has a year left on his current contract. He’s due to get a three-million dollar roster bonus in March, and $8.5 million in total pay over the next year. Finley has a reputation of dropping passes during long stretches – and his mouth got him in trouble with the coaches earlier in his career. But the 25-year-old Finley appears to have grown up. In 2012, he set a new record for Green Bay tight ends with 61 catches. For now, Finley continues to work out with sports medicine specialist Josh Sandell in Minneapolis, preparing as if the Packers will have him back in 2013. He had 198 catches for 2,485 yards and 17 touchdowns in his five regular seasons with the Pack.
The Green Bay Packers will have the sixth-toughest schedule in the NFL this fall – and it’s the second-hardest schedule among the four teams in the NFC North Division. The league’s Web site broke down each team’s strength-of-schedule, based on how their 2013 opponents did last season. Green Bay’s opponents had a combined record of 136-119-1, for a winning percentage of .533. Carolina has the toughest schedule at .543, and Detroit’s tied for second at .539. Minnesota has a somewhat easier schedule than Green Bay, with an opponents’ winning percentage of .516. Chicago has the easiest schedule in the North, at .502. As always, the Packers will play their division opponents both at home and on the road in 2013. Other home opponents are Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington. The Pack will play Dallas, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Baltimore, and the New York Giants on the road. Game dates and starting times will be announced during the spring.
The Milwaukee Bucks are getting ready to host the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night. Milwaukee lost both games of a short Western road trip this week at Denver and Utah. And the Bucks dropped to five games out of first-place in the NBA’s Central Division. Indiana now holds the division lead, with Chicago in second at a game-and-a-half back. Milwaukee’s also slipping in the race for an NBA playoff spot. The Bucks dropped into the eighth-and-final spot in the Eastern Conference, after Boston moved into seventh by winning six straight games without injured point guard Rajon Rondo. The Bucks are not close to being pushed out of playoff contention at the moment. Milwaukee still has a four-game lead over ninth-place Philadelphia. But the Bucks are tied for the fifth-worst home record among the 15 Eastern Conference teams. They’re 13-10 at the Bradley Center – where the Bucks will play their final three home games before next weekend’s NBA All-Star break.
By the end of the weekend, there could be a five-way for first-place in the Big Ten Conference men’s basketball standings. The race tightened up last night, after top-ranked Indiana fell by two points at Illinois. That left Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State in a tie for the league lead at 8-2. The Badgers and Ohio State are tied for fourth, just one game back at 7-3. Wisconsin hosts third-ranked Michigan tomorrow. Michigan State plays at Purdue tomorrow. Indiana doesn’t play again until Sunday at Ohio State. Wins by the Badgers, Buckeyes, and Boilermakers would create a five-way league tie with seven games left in the regular season.
All of Wisconsin’s major college basketball teams are off tonight, as they get ready for some big contests tomorrow. The Wisconsin men will host third-ranked Michigan, and 24th Marquette will try to stay atop the Big East standings when it entertains DePaul. In women’s basketball, UW-Green Bay will try to make its case for a Top-25 ranking when it hosts UW-Milwaukee. The Phoenix are one spot away from the Top-25 in both major polls, as they to win their 14th straight overall. In Division III a trio of games is on the docket for this evening. Northland College of Ashland has a men’s-women’s double-header at the University of Minnesota-Morris. And the Milwaukee School of Engineering will host Maranatha Baptist, in a game scheduled last night but was delayed due to snowy-and-icy weather.
The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will host Bemidji State tonight and tomorrow night. The 19th-ranked Badgers hope to get on the winning track after a loss and a tie at Number-seven North Dakota last weekend. Coach Mike Eaves might be without two of his key players. Sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe has an ankle injury, and senior center Derek Lee is still getting over a concussion. Wisconsin is 8-6-6 in the WCHA and 11-9-6 overall. Bemidji comes in at 4-12-4 in the conference and 5-16-5 overall. Bemidji State has a 10-game winless streak, and is 11th in the league standings with 12 points. Wisconsin is sixth with 22 – but they’re only two points out of third. Minnesota, Denver, and North Dakota are tied for third place at the moment.
After being off last weekend, the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team has a two-game series at Saint Cloud State this afternoon and tomorrow. The eighth-ranked Badgers are tied for third in the WCHA with 37 points, and a league record 11-9-2-2. Saint Cloud is in the league cellar with 13 points and a mark of 4-17-1-0. Unbeaten Minnesota clinched the league regular season title last weekend, but Mark Johnson’s Badgers still have second place within reach. North Dakota is second at the moment with 39 points, two ahead of Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Minnesota-Duluth. Wisconsin’s Brianna Decker is second in the country with 171 shots on goal – and she’s ninth in goals with 21.
The Northern Collegiate Hockey Association will wrap up its men’s regular season schedule this weekend. UW-Eau Claire has clinched the top seed and a first-round bye for the upcoming Peters Cup playoffs. The Blugolds are ranked fourth in the NCAA’s Division-Three by U.S. College Hockey Online. Sixth-ranked Saint Norbert has the Number-Two seed, still with a chance to share the regular season title with Eau Claire. Five other teams still have a chance at hosting a first-round playoff game. The NCHA women still have two weeks of play before their post-season begins. River Falls and Lake Forest are tied for the women’s lead with 26 points apiece.
The Milwaukee Admirals have played only one American Hockey League game in the last 12 days. But that’s about to change, with two home contests on the docket for this weekend. The Houston Aeros come in tonight, and the Admirals will host Peoria on Sunday afternoon. Milwaukee opened a seven-game home-stand with a 5-2 loss to Chicago last Friday night – and the Admirals have not played since then. Goal-tender Jeremy Smith will try to recover from his first home regulation loss of the season, suffered a week ago to the Wolves. Milwaukee is tied for fourth in the Midwest Division with 44 points. That’s the third-lowest total among all AHL teams – but the Admirals are also tied for the fewest number of games played, with 43. Milwaukee is 19-18-3-3. Houston is third in the South Division with 47 points and a record of 22-18-4-3.
The Milwaukee Wave’s next game is on Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Arena against the Rochester Lancers. The Wave has won 15 straight games, and has clinched at least a home game in the opening round of the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs. Milwaukee is 16-2 with a one-game lead over Baltimore. Rochester is sixth among the league’s seven teams at 7-14, a game ahead of last-place Syracuse. Rochester has the MISL’s two top scorers – Doug Miller with 89 points and Mauricio Salles with 74. Milwaukee’s leading scorer is Luan Oliveira, tied for ninth with 52.