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Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist

Tom Jones

Tom Jones writes columns and television/radio commentary for the Tampa Bay Times' Sports section. He has covered everything from high schools to colleges to professional sports since starting with the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1986. After the Independent, Tom worked at the Times (1987-91), the Tampa Tribune (1991-96), the Times again (1996-2000), the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2000-03) and returned for his third stint at the Times in 2003. Though he has covered all sports, Tom is a hockey writer at heart. He covered the Tampa Bay Lightning from its first game in 1992 until moving to Minnesota to cover the Wild for three years. He returned to the Times again to cover the Lightning until taking over as writer and editor for Page Two in 2006. He lists Herb Brooks, Lou Piniella and Wayne Gretzky as the most interesting personalities he has covered and the 2002 Winter Olympics as the best event he has covered. Tom co-hosts a sports talk show weekday mornings from 6-9 on WDAE 620-AM, 95.3-FM. He previously hosted a weekly sports roundtable show on Bright House Sports Network.

Phone: (727) 893-8544

Email: tjones@tampabay.com

Radio talk show (620-AM, 95.3-FM): Listen live

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  1. NCAA Tournament: Sixteen thoughts about the Sweet 16

    Sports

    The Sweet 16 isn't so sweet. March Madness hasn't been so mad.

    Not this year.

    We've had a little of everything. We've had upsets. We've had top seeds advance. But it has been odd NCAA Tournament so far. And odd doesn't always translate to good.

    So as we wait for the next round to begin on Thursday, here are 16 thoughts about the Sweet 16:

    1. Where's the one shining moment? Two high seeds and two big favorites — defending champ Villanova and preseason No. 1 Duke — are out. But, thus far, this tournament has not provided that one special play or game or moment. No buzzer-beaters. No thrills. No madness....

    UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, scoring against Kent State, has been impressive in his first two NCAA Tournament games.
  2. Tom Jones weighs in on the weekend of televised sports

    TV and Radio

    Best coach

    If voting took place right now, Florida's Mike White would deserve plenty of consideration for college basketball coach of the year. His work in the NCAA Tournament has been superb. He has pulled all the right strings, made all the right substitutions and dialed up all the right plays in victories over East Tennessee State and Virginia.

    True, Virginia is offensively challenged, but to hold any team under 40 points in a tournament game is remarkable....

    Tom Jones, St. Petersburg Times sports columnist pictured in the studio for a newly branded 2C. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
  3. Jones: This just in, Leonard Hamilton and FSU exit early again in NCAA Tournament

    College

    ORLANDO — As the seconds dwindled down, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton made the slow and all-too-familiar walk to center court to congratulate the opposing coach. That's how FSU's basketball season ended Saturday night.

    That's how every FSU basketball season ends under Hamilton.

    In disappointment. In frustration. In failure.

    Another promising season down the tubes. Another season full of hope wiped out by a baffling loss. Another chapter in the book of a program that gets you all giddy in January but simply doesn't have what it takes to navigate its way through March....

    ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18:  Head coach Leonard Hamilton of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after their 66-91 loss to the Xavier Musketeers during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) 686515275
  4. NCAA Tournament: Chris Chiozza inspires Gators with big second half

    College

    ORLANDO — Trouble was brewing.

    It was halftime and the Gators were clinging to a one-point lead. Their best scorer, KeVaughn Allen, didn't have a field goal. Canyon Barry was shooting airballs. And, scariest of all, pesky little East Tennessee State looked like believers, like they were going to use halftime shopping online for glass slippers.

    If the Gators were going to avoid being the NCAA Tournament's first big-name casualty, they needed a shooting star....

    Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) looks to pass during the second half.
  5. Jones: Splashy hoops hire? Nope, USF goes with Coach Next

    College

    Whenever a sports team hires a new coach, we all immediately ask the same question:

    Good or bad hire?

    That's the question we asked Tuesday when we learned USF was going to hire Brian Gregory to be its men's basketball coach. Good or bad hire?

    The answer is not so cut-and-dried. Or exciting.

    Instead, the answer is, "Who knows?" accompanied by a shrug and, maybe, a yawn.

    That's what USF basketball has come to. Frankly, this is what we've come to expect. Another wait-and-see hire that doesn't make much of a splash....

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:  head coach Brian Gregory of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets  reacst against the Villanova Wildcats during the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship game at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
  6. NCAA Tournament: 68 names to watch in the 68-team field

    College

    Let the madness begin. Over the next three weeks, 68 teams will be whittled down to one shining moment. So, to get you ready for the NCAA Tournament, here are 68 names to watch, remember and pay attention to over the next three weeks.

    Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images...

    How far the Seminoles go in this tournament could go a long way in determining how much longer Leonard Hamilton stays at FSU. [AP photo]
  7. Tom Jones' Two Cents: How the Valspar Championship delivered again

    Pga

    Best event

    Pound for pound, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook is as good of a golf tournament as you're going to find.

    Beautiful course. Challenging course. Tight leaderboard. Every year the Valspar has everything you could want. Did you watch the final round Sunday?

    The golf was exciting, and the story lines were intriguing. The leaderboard featured the last player to commit to the tournament, the tournament's last qualifier, a sponsor's exemption and a duel between two guys who had never won on the PGA Tour....

    Adam Hadwin holds up the champion's trophy after winning the Valspar Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 12, 2017, at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC109
  8. Tom Jones: Why Bucs' signing of DeSean Jackson is a risk worth taking

    Bucs

    Risky business. The Bucs signing DeSean Jackson is risky business.

    Lots of money for a 30-year-old. Lots of money for a little guy in a big-man's game. A big commitment to someone with just enough issues to raise a red flag or two.

    But here's the biggest reason why this feels risky: It's the Bucs.

    Sorry. That's the baggage Tampa Bay carries.

    If the Patriots had signed Jackson in free agency Thursday, we would be talking about what a great move it was. How cagey. Another Randy Moss. Another Bill Belichick reclamation project on the way to another Super Bowl....

    Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) warms up before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 19, 2016.
  9. Jones: Tampa's Jimmy Stanger lives his dream as only amateur in Valspar Championship

    Pga

    PALM HARBOR — The only amateur in this year's Valspar Championship will step up to the first hole this afternoon at Innisbrook and reach into his University of Virginia golf bag. Tampa's Jimmy Stanger will pull out a Titleist ball, and just before placing it on the tee, just before one of the biggest moments of his life, Stanger will take an orange Sharpie and write the letters H and A on it....

    Jimmy Stanger, a senior on Virginia’s golf team, has spent years playing and working at Innisbrook.
  10. What if Tampa Bay's teams mimic the Knicks' sound of silence?

    Nba

    Even on television, you could tell something was off.

    Something was missing at Sunday's Knicks-Warriors game at Madison Square Garden.

    The floor looked the same. The baskets looked the same.

    Then you realized how quiet the crowd was. Then you realized how quiet everything was.

    No music. No piped-in noise. No nothing.

    Just the sounds of a ball being dribbled, sneakers squeaking on the court and the referee's whistle....

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 05:  Melissa Etheridge sings the national anthem before the game between the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden on March 5, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) 662356277
  11. Jones weekend TV notes: Good to see boxing back on free TV

    TV and Radio

    Best television

    Saturday night was a chance to go back to the good ol' days with championship boxing on network television.

    In the 1950s and 1960s, boxing on prime-time network television regularly drew a 20-25 ratings share, meaning a quarter of the country was tuned in. Even in the 1970s and 1980s, boxing on TV was still a somewhat regular occurrence. More recent legends such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson often fought on free TV....

    Clearwater’s Keith Thurman, right, punches Danny Garcia during the third round of their welterweight title fight, which was a TV rarity these days: broadcast for free on network TV.
  12. Jones: That old familiar Florida State basketball feeling of the court cracking beneath it

    College

    Why do you build me up buttercup, baby

    Just to let me down and mess me around

    —The Foundations

    The theme song of the Florida State Seminoles basketball team. They build you up just to let you down. It's happening again this year.

    Here's every FSU basketball team ever — or so it seems — under coach Leonard Hamilton:

    You don't expect much at the start. Then suddenly you notice the Seminoles pulling off a couple of wins you didn't expect. An upset here. A nice win there. Next thing you know, they are climbing the rankings. They start taking out powerhouses. You jump on the bandwagon. You start talking about the Final Four....

    Duke's Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket as Florida State's Jonathan Isaac (1) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Duke won 75-70. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) NCGB107
  13. Jones: Lightning season feels over, but that's okay as long as focus on future

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This was supposed to be the season the Lightning raised a Stanley Cup banner. Instead, it feels as if it might be raising the white flag.

    Goalie Ben Bishop traded Sunday. Veteran forward Brian Boyle traded Monday. Hard to imagine a postseason run without them. Don't be shocked if another big name such as Tyler Johnson or Valtteri Filppula is dealt before Wednesday's NHL trade deadline....

    Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the team down the tunnel for the pregame warm up before taking on the Senators at Amalie Arena on Monday. Vasilevskiy is now the starting goalie after Ben Bishop to the Kings on Sunday. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  14. Jones: Trading Ben Bishop hard but right thing for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    It had to happen.

    It stinks, to be sure. It's a sad day in Tampa Bay sports, no doubt. One of the worst ever.

    Saying goodbye is never easy. And saying goodbye to this player is especially hard.

    Ben Bishop is a class act. On the ice. Off the ice.

    The Lightning will miss him. On the ice. Off the ice. Especially on the ice.

    Bishop, traded Sunday to the Los Angeles Kings, is responsible for one of the best runs in Lightning history, leading it to the playoffs the past three seasons. He probably gave Tampa Bay its best chance to claim a playoff berth this season. Honestly, the Lightning isn't as good today as it was yesterday....

    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) works to make a save against the Edmonton Oilers during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (02/21/17).
  15. C'mon, 'Hard Knocks,' give us drama, dysfunction and the Browns

    Bucs

    No one wants to be on HBO's Hard Knocks. No one.

    It's one of the coolest shows on television. The behind-the-scenes, all-access, really real, ground-breaking reality show has been going strong since 2001.

    But inside the cloak-and-dagger world of the NFL, the last thing head coaches want is cameras cramming into every nook and cranny of their organization. At the very least, it's a distraction. At the very worst, it's a competitive disadvantage....

    Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) before he can get off a pass during the first half of an NFL football game in Cleveland, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHGP108