Saturday, May 15, 2010
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Big 16? It just doesn't add up

Questions abound over LeBron, the Preakness and a stinging mistake in a recent article.

This week's Q&A-Mac is sponsored by the Big Ten Conference. Motto: Until we can admit we have 11 teams, don't expect us to go to 16.

Q: Has the conference expansion picture gotten any clearer since last week?

A: Negative. Basically we're still stuck in the same cycle, where reports come out and then get quashed. Nobody wants to tip his or her hand at this point, but Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was refreshingly frank when he challenged his member schools to declare whether they're in or out at the upcoming league meetings. "We need to talk about where we're going and who's on the plane when it takes off," he said on a radio interview with WHB in Kansas City. "I will be very direct and talk about that with our membership."

Q: So, you might say he's waving a "Beebe" gun at Missouri, Nebraska and the like?

A: You got it.

Q: Will LeBron James leave Cleveland via free agency this summer?

A: Sure sounds like it. Funny how he kept talking about consulting with his "team" after the Game 6 loss to Boston. He wasn't referring to the Cavaliers; he was referring to his agents, PR folks and brand managers. Although it's hard to blame him. Those guys clearly provide him more support than Antawn Jamison & Co.

Q: Where will he wind up?

A: Chicago. Cap space, market, tradition -- it all adds up. Plus he can still get the Big Ten Network on basic cable.

Q: We learned this week that Virginia Tech's opponent in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in December will be Purdue. Given that the Boilermakers should be a top-5 team in the preseason, isn't this great news for the Hokies, who are still hearing about how a weak nonconference schedule kept them out of the NCAAs?

A: Sure it is. But ultimately, it could be horrible news for Purdue. Seems every team the Hokies schedule winds up having its worst season in five years.

Q: The Royals fired manager Trey Hillman this week. Thoughts?

A: Never heard of him.

Q: What the heck is wrong with Tony Stewart?

A: It's been a rough six-week stretch for the two-time Cup champion, no doubt, and it all started at Martinsville on March 29. He entered that race fifth in points, left in eighth, and now finds himself mired in 18th heading into Sunday's race at Dover. He also learned he'd be losing his sponsor of 11 years, Old Spice, after the season. I still think he'll rally and make the Chase, though. I'm a big believer in crew chief and Floyd native Darian Grubb.

Q: Major bee enthusiast here. What, exactly, is the role of the drone bee in the hive?

A: Thanks to Bob and Sandra Collins of Roanoke, I can confidently say that the drone's main function is to fertilize the queen's egg.

Q: Do you regret your error in Wednesday's column, then, where you equated drones to worker bees?

A: Deeply. Although now that I think about it, most college athletes I know would probably prefer this drone role to the one I assigned them.

Q: Whom do you like in the Preakness today?

A: Sweet grammar! I'm going big-time bombs away with No. 5 Yawanna Twist, a 30-to-1 shot in the morning line. He's averaged a very respectable 95 speed figure over his past two races and has Edgar Prado up -- a guy who cut his teeth in Maryland and knows Pimlico as well as anybody. Probably outclassed here but definitely worth a small wager across the board.

Q: Sounds like you have some idea of what you're talking about. How'd your Derby pick, Sidney's Candy, finish?

A: Uh ... 17th.

Q: So we probably should pick our own horse, then?

A: Affirmative. And good luck.

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Read Aaron McFarling's Daily Sports Briefing every weekday morning at http://blogs.roanoke.com/rtblogs/pressbox/

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