College Basketball And Football Today…

Sports Curmudgeon  3/27/17


Of course, I will begin today with comments regarding the tournament games over the weekend:

  • UNC/Butler:  Butler is a good defensive team and can usually control tempo – – but not in this game.  Butler scored 80 points and lost; that only happened to them once all season long.
  • Baylor/S. Carolina:  S. Carolina’s defense is smothering without being frenetic.  They held Baylor to 17 for 56 from the field and 3 for 13 from 3-point territory.
  • UCLA/Kentucky:  Kentucky’s guards not only outplayed, they dominated the UCLA guards.  This was an excellent game with lots of talent on display.
  • Wisconsin/Florida:  You could not script a game ending like that for a movie and survive the scorn of the critics.  Wisconsin dominated the first 12 minutes of the game and then their offense went to sleep for the next 10-12 minutes.
  • Kentucky/UNC:  Carolina played solid defense on the Kentucky guards and held Fox and Monk to 25 points vice the 60 points they got against UCLA.
  • Oregon/Kansas:  Jordan Bell had another dominating game with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 8 blocked shots.  I wonder if he also made the travel arrangements for the team to get to Kansas City…
  • Carolina/Florida: This was an excellent game. Freshman, Maik Kotsar played very well shooting 6 for 10 from the field.  S. Carolina only got 3 points from its bench players in the game.
  • Gonzaga/Xavier:  Gonzaga was just too big and too quick for Xavier in this game; the Cinderella run ended abruptly here.

I would like to take a moment and reflect on the commentary that followed the UCLA/Kentucky game.  As I mentioned above, the UK guards dominated the game scoring 60 points between them; however, when pressured on defense in the next game, those same guards only produced 25 points.  That is a big swing and it points to a facet of the game that did not get sufficient attention.  The UCLA defense – such as it was – played a passive zone for much of the game; neither Bryce Alford nor Lonzo Ball as the guards out front did much of anything to challenge or disrupt the Kentucky backcourt.

After the game, there was a narrative that seemed to play out in much of the reporting and that narrative went sort of like this:

  • Lonzo Ball’s father – Lavarr – shone a bright light on his son for this tournament and when it came to a big game against a big-time opponent, the light was too bright.

For folks who had tired of Lavarr Ball’s braggadocio, that is a satisfying narrative; but I think there is more to it.  I do not think that Lonzo Ball “wilted” in the glare of the spotlight that his father created for him; I think that Lonzo Ball is not a very good defensive player at this stage of his career and I think that deficiency in his game is due to the fact that he has probably never been pressured by any of his coaches to learn to play defense.  I think that is a more analytical conclusion from that game in place of some sort of self-satisfaction derived from mocking Lavarr Ball.

One other outcome of the basketball tournament this year is that it became part of the political system of the country.  No, I am not talking about the national “debate” over whether the players are exploited or about how/why the NCAA changed tournament venues as a result of laws passed in North Carolina regarding public restroom usage.  Rather, I am talking about the Senate in the State of Arkansas demonstrating nationally that each and every government problem in that State has been totally resolved to the benefit of every citizen in that State.  That MUST be the case because that august body took the time to introduce and pass a resolution to chastise the officials in the Arkansas/UNC game and to urge the NCAA to provide better training/education for basketball officials so that other teams, schools and fans will not have to suffer:

“… cruel and undeserved fate at the hands and whistle of a pinhead dressed in stripes.”

Let me move on to the other major revenue sport at the collegiate level – – college football.  The SEC announced last week that it will implement a new security measure for all its football games next year.  This policy has already been in effect for Alabama and Auburn games and now the SEC will institute it conference wide.  It is referred to as a “Clear Bag Policy” and it will limit what fans may bring into the stadium to watch a game.  Here is what will be allowed:

  1. Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12″ x 6″ x 12″
  2. One-gallon clear plastic freezer bags (Ziploc bag or similar)
  3. Small clutch bags, with or without a handle or strap, that do not exceed 4.5” x 6.5”

There is even another restriction on these bags:

  • An approved logo no larger than 4.5” x 3.4” may be displayed on one side of a permissible clear bag.

Finally, here is a comment from Bard Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Last weekend Council Bluffs hosted a Monster Jam event where big, powerful trucks crush smaller, weaker vehicles. It’s the same basic premise as SEC non-conference football season.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



College Basketball – Mostly – Today…

There were 3 excellent tournament games last night and 1 game that was close at the half before turning into a rout.  Allow me some brief commentary:

  1. Gonzaga/West Virginia:  West Virginia’s defense showed up but their “efficient offense” from a week ago did not; the Mountaineers shot a miserable 15 for 60 from the floor and still lost by only 3 points.  I know from experience that officiating a game with constant defensive pressure is a difficult task but the officials for this game cannot be proud of the way they administered this game.  The officials did not determine the outcome but they were not consistent in their calls.
  2. Kansas/Purdue:  Purdue led by 8 in the first half and a late run by Kansas had them leading by 7 at halftime.  I thought Kansas was the better team all along but it seemed that Purdue would make a game of it.  Then the second half happened and Kansas won the second half 51-26.  There are several freshmen around the country that have gotten lots of ink this year – deservedly so – but Kansas’ freshman, Josh Jackson has been noticed only secondarily.  So, let me say this very clearly; Josh Jackson is really, really good.
  3. Oregon/Michigan:  The hero of this game for Oregon was Jordan Bell.  In addition to 16 points and solid interior defense, Bell collected about every big rebound that the Ducks needed to seal this win.
  4. Xavier/Arizona:  I will ask it again; how could the Selection Committee make Xavier an 11-seed?  My guess is that they did not spend any time watching the team play and were influenced by a late-season losing streak.  By the way, I really appreciated the officiating in this game; I think it was probably the best officiating job in the tournament so far.

In other college basketball happenings, Georgetown fired head coach John Thompson III.  For those of you who do not live in the DC area, this is a big deal – – not because a new coach will show up on campus but because Georgetown basketball and the surname “Thompson” have been united for more than 40 years.  When you read the reports about the school’s decision, you will read that Georgetown had two losing seasons in a row and has not been a factor in the tournament for a while and that the Hoyas have been bounced from the tournament by lower seeded teams regularly under John Thompson III.  All of that is true; yet, this firing is surprising.

To keep the characters in this saga straight, let me refer to John Thompson, Jr. (the father and the Hall of Fame coach) as “Big John” and let me refer to John Thompson III as “JT-3”.  “Big John” was a very successful high school basketball coach in DC at St. Anthony’s; many people put him at or near the level of Morgan Wooten (DeMatha High School) back in the early 1970s.  Meanwhile, Georgetown basketball stunk; in 1972, “Big John” took the job at Georgetown after the team had an embarrassingly bad 3-23 record in 1971.  “Big John” stayed at Georgetown for his entire college coaching career leaving in 1999.

As important as all that is, “Big John” came to dominate the college basketball scene in the DC area despite the presence of other high quality coaches like Lefty Driesell and Gary Williams.  “Big John” dominated the news and the recruiting; when Georgetown raised the money to build a new Athletic Center on campus, they named it the John Thompson, Jr. Athletic Center and put a statue of “Big John” in front of it.  As of the beginning of this basketball season, “Big John” still had an “office” in that Athletic Center.  When “Big John” retired, he handed the program off to his longtime assistant; and when that tour of duty was over in 2004, the school hired JT-3 who had been successful at Princeton.  “Big John” was in the arena for Georgetown games at least 80% of the time during the time “JT-3” was the coach.

What may not be apparent to those outside the DC area is that Georgetown has seen decline that goes beyond 2 consecutive losing seasons.  That “failure” could be overcome with one good recruiting class and the Hoyas’ record in those two losing seasons was 29-36; it is not as if the team had regressed to the 3-23 level it had been when “Big John” took over.  What has happened to Georgetown basketball here in the DC area is that it is no longer the “second biggest sports story in town” behind the Skins.  That used to be the case; now Georgetown basketball is approaching the category of “afterthought”.

The search for a new coach will involve Paul Tagliabue who is on the Georgetown Board of Directors.  In his time as NFL Commish, Tagliabue demonstrated the ability to navigate through choppy waters; he will need to do that here because the next coach at Georgetown will be under intense scrutiny from the moment his name is announced.

Switching gears, I ran across this report in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal saying that the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee has begun to recruit “thousands of volunteers” to help manage the swarm of visitors that will show up for Super Bowl Week in Minnesota in Feb 2018.  The key word here is “volunteers” and the Host Committee is looking to get 6,000 – 7,000 of them.

I do not want to get into a political discussion here, but one of the issues that tends to grind the gears of a segment of our society today is “corporate welfare”.  Well, here is a thought for anyone considering becoming a “volunteer”:

  • The NFL has revenues of about $16B per year and is aiming to be a $25B per year entity in 2025.  When one works for them for no pay, that is a sort of “corporate welfare” and the NFL is an entity that already gets a more than generous helping of said “welfare” from government entities around the country.
  • They can afford to pay for whatever services they seek to get from the volunteers.  Why give them yet another “free ride”?

Oh, for the record, volunteers do NOT get to see the game for free; they are not going to be in the stadium; they will spend time outdoors in Minneapolis in February doing their volunteer duties…

Finally, with Northwestern making the NCAA Tournament field for the first time this year, here is an observation from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Nebraska’s men’s basketball team hasn’t won an outright conference championship in 101 years.

“This season finally gives Northwestern fans the chance to say, ‘Ha-ha!  You’re pathetic!’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Mental Musings…

There were two news stories that played a central role in the sports world yesterday.  The first involved Cam Newton and the fact that he would have shoulder surgery sometime next week to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.  According to this report on, this injury happened in Week 14 of last season.

That same report says that Cam Newton will miss the team’s OTAs but that he is “expected to be ready” for training camp in late July.  Just as a rotator cuff injury is important to a pitcher in baseball, surgery to repair an injury there is important to a football QB for the same reason:

  • Passing a football requires the same sort of arm motion that throwing a baseball does and passing a football is critically important to playing the QB position in the NFL.

Per the report linked above, an MRI showed this partial tear in the rotator cuff in Week 15 of last season.  So, let me do a timeline here:

  1. Dec 11, 2016:  Panthers beat the Chargers at home and this is the game where the injury occurred.
  2. Dec 19, 2016:  Panthers beat the Skins in Washington.
  3. Sometime between December 11 and December 19, the MRI showing the injury took place.

The Panthers’ season ended on Sunday 1 January 2017; Newton played in every game for the Panthers throughout the season but by the time the season ended, the team and Cam Newton knew about this injury for at least 2 weeks.  So, that raises this question:

  • Why has this surgery been put off until the last week of March such that the rehab process will keep him out of OTAs and make him a “maybe” for the start of training camp?

The team says he has been seeing a rehab specialist and that the decision to do the surgery was made because Newton experienced pain in his shoulder during the rehab.  I am not a doctor and I do not play one on TV, but I know enough about anatomy to recognize that rotator cuff tears – whole or partial – are not likely to heal themselves enough to withstand the stresses of professional athletic endeavors.  Even if I assume that this injury has been monitored by the team and the player and the player’s physicians since January 2, 2017, I have to wonder why it took 11 weeks to realize what had to be done.

I wish Cam Newton well; I hope he can recover and that he can come back and be a quality QB for the Panthers this year and in upcoming years.  However, the postponement of this surgery to the point where he will miss OTAs and only “might” be ready for training camp is mystifying on a lot of levels.

The other dominating story from yesterday involves NBA players taking time off from regular season games because they say they need the rest.  They cite new science which shows that injuries and fatigue are related.  The problem is that teams rest all of their star players at the same time; essentially, they choose to tank a game once in a while and recently some of those tanked games were nationally televised games.  The NBA Commish, Adam Silver, sent a strongly worded note to the owners about this; obviously, the television partners with the NBA are not happy with paying top dollar for games when the stars show up in street clothes.  Using that avenue, Adam Silver will be about as effective as Don Quixote.

I do not even want to get into the discussion about today’s players and their aversion to and inability to participate in back-to-back road games.  That has been a staple of the NBA schedule for as long as I have followed the league (back to the 1950s); and only now, in an era of mega-contracts that are totally guaranteed has this become a physical problem and an injury-avoidance strategy.

Bull cookies !!


NBA players have asserted in the past that their fat contracts are justified because they are entertainers and without them the league would fold.  OK, suppose I give them that position and then ask the following question:

  • If I am a fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band [For the record, I am not.] and I pay in advance a premium price to see them perform, I expect them to show up and perform.  I do not want to go to the concert and see Joe Flabeetz and the Outhouses perform in lieu of Springsteen and Co.

By taking games off, that is what the NBA players are doing to the paying fans.  By taking games off – and announcing it ahead of time – that is what the NBA players are doing to the TV networks who are paying the money that lifts the salary cap for the league allowing the players to suck down their huge contracts.  [Aside: Regular season ratings for NBA games in TV this year are down almost 25% from the comparable time last year.]

This is a management/labor/network issue that needs to be ironed out.  What happened this week is that LeBron James demonstrated a high level of self-absorption saying that this only became an issue for the NBA when he and other of his Cavs’ teammates decided to take time off to rest.

Bull cookies !!


About 5 years ago – before LeBron thought it necessary to take time off during the season – Greg Popovich decided to rest all of his star players in a regular season game and even told them to go home so they would not be in the arena and tempt him to play them in a game.  David Stern went ballistic and fined Popovich $200K as I recall.  So, there is more than ample evidence available to demonstrate that this issue existed long before LeBron James decided to take a night off.

One more NBA note from this week that defies the existence of history…  Earlier this week, Boogie Cousins scored 41 points and took down 17 rebounds in a win by the Pelicans over the Grizzlies.  To read some of the effusive recounts of this game, one might think it was historic.  It was indeed a noteworthy performance by Cousins and one that should heap praise on him.  Nevertheless, here is something the reporters seem to have missed:

  1. In 1965, the Philadelphia 76ers played the Boston Celtics and in one game Wilt Chamberlain scored 44 points and had 43 rebounds – – against Bill Russell no less.
  2. In 1960, Chamberlain had a game with 58 points and 42 rebounds.
  3. In 1961, Chamberlain had a triple OT game where he scored 78 points and had 43 rebounds.

Those were “double-doubles”…

Oh, and for the record, back in the 60s, some teams played more than back-to back games.  Just a glance at the Philadelphia Warriors schedule in 1961 shows the following:

  1. 4 games in 4 nights in 4 cities from Feb 1 1961 to Feb 4 1961.
  2. 4 games in 4 nights in 4 cities from Feb 8 1961 to Feb 11 1961.
  3. Multiple stretches of 3 games in 3 nights and almost as many back-to-back games as “single games” with a day off before and after the game.

Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Sacramento Kings blew a 28-point lead in falling to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

“But there wasn’t a dry eye in sight when they walked into the locker room and saw the pick-me-up bouquet from the Atlanta Falcons sitting there.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



It’s Almost Baseball Season …

I received an e-mail from a friend and long-term reader whose “sports-worldview” is decidedly baseball-centric.  He included the following stat in a message that sought to remind me that:

  1. The World Baseball Classic is reaching its conclusion.
  2. Opening Day is right around the corner.

I was well aware of those two calendar-focused events but I had never seen anything like the stat that he provided as – what he called – a “teaser” for other baseball fans who read these rants:

“In his career, Greg Maddux faced a total of 20,421 hitters.

“Only 310 of those hitters got the count to 3-0.

“Of those 310 hitters with a 3-0 count, 177 of them also received an intentional walk.”

I have not even tried to verify those assertions for the simple reason that it would take far more work than it is worth.  However, my recollection of Greg Maddux as a pitcher makes those eye-popping numbers seem perfectly reasonable.  In a 23-year career involving 744 game appearances and 5008.1 innings, Maddux only walked 999 batters (177 of them intentionally).  And in all of those innings and facing all of those hitters, Greg Maddux only threw 3 wild pitches in 23 seasons.

Meanwhile, the World Baseball Classic has reached its final game; 16 teams started in the 4 pools that began the tournament back on 6 March; the tournament championship comes down to the USA versus Puerto Rico.  I do not want to nit-pick here, but natives of Puerto Rico are American citizens much the same as natives of Alaska, Hawaii and the Lower 48 are American citizens.

If the baseball mavens ever want to expand the tournament to 24 teams but can only find 22 national teams, they can use this precedent to add a team from California and another one from Texas to fill out the field.

Brad Rock of the Deseret News had this comment related to the World Baseball Classic in his column, Rock On, earlier this week:

“Playing in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands is 7-foot-1 pitcher Loek van Mil, who once played for the Salt Lake Bees.

“The Dutch team became interested after seeing him tag out a runner without leaving the mound.”

Let me continue commentary on baseball matters and citation of words by sports columnists around the country with these words from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Tick-tock: Now that a new rule requires MLB managers to ask for a replay challenge within 30 seconds, who will keep time on that? An umpire with a stopwatch? Someone in the press box? An official at MLB headquarters? Maybe a digital clock will count down on the scoreboard. And what about the arguments that could arise from either dugout if a team takes 31 seconds to call for a review? Does baseball know what it’s getting itself into?”

All of those questions are valid and need answers but let me just jump the line here and go to the last question posed.  No, MLB has no idea what they are getting into if history is any indicator of the future.

In an attempt to demonstrate that I do read things in the newspaper other than the sports section, let me note here that I read recently where scientists had discovered fossils of a bacterial species that have preliminarily been dated as 3.77 billion years old.  The protocol in privilege of naming the species.  I have no idea if any of the discoverers of these fossils are baseball fans but if they are, might I suggest a name for this species:

  • Bartolo Colon

Switching gears with regard to sports, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about cricket:

“India beats Australia, I think: Actual lead of news story I read Sunday morning: ‘RANCHI, India (AP) — A 199-run seventh-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha gave India a 152-run lead after they declared their first innings at 603-9 against Australia on Sunday.’ Anyone who has any idea what any of that means, would you please keep it to yourself?”

About 5 years ago, my long-suffering wife and I took a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand.  Our trip leader was a huge fan of cricket and Australian Rules Football (“Footy”) and he actually got me to understand the rules and scoring of cricket by the end of the trip.  Of course, never seeing cricket here in the last 5 years or so has randomized all of those synapses; so, I shall not be able to provide anyone here with an assessment of what all of that might mean.

Finally, Greg Cote had another comment related to cricket in his Miami Herald blog, Random Thoughts of a Cluttered Blog:

“Cricket! World cricket powers India and West Indies playing two weekend matches at Central Broward Stadium. Do cricket players have single names like in soccer. Is the star named Jiminy? (Sorry)”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The Long Arm Of The Law…

Good news this morning…  Inspector Clouseau, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Ellery Queen and Joe Friday can all go home and back to sleep.  The mystery has been solved and the stolen goods have been recovered.  Of course, I am referring to Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey which went missing about 6 weeks ago right after the game and led to an international investigation and search.  Not only did the authorities find Brady’s jersey from this year, they also reportedly found a jersey of his from Super Bowl XLIX two years ago that was also “missing” and Von Miller’s helmet from Super Bowl 50 a bit more than a year ago.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the culprit here was a member of the credentialed media covering the game who had access to the locker rooms after the game(s).  Obviously, that assertion has not been proven in court so far, but if it turns out to be the case, this is certainly not a feather in the cap for NFL Security.

Obviously, I am glad to hear that Brady and Miller will get their memorabilia back.  However, I posited a wistful scenario a while back imagining that Brady had possession of his jersey all the time and was arranging for it to be planted in Roger Goodell’s basement so that it could be found there.  I still think my ending to the story would have been a whole lot more fun…

Another “pressing issue” involving an NFL QB at the moment is the unsigned status of Colin Kaepernick.  Spike Lee thinks it is tied to the racial overtones of Kaepernick’s national anthem protests last year; President Trump thinks that he has created the environment that has kept Kaepernick without a job because under President Trump, it is all about “America First”.  As with most outrageous assertions, I think there is a germ of truth at the core of Spike Lee’s conceptualization and President Trump’s pronouncement.  Let me try to square this circle:

  1. Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest had to do with his perception of improper treatment of African Americans by police officers in the US.  Immediately, there is an element of “race” at the core of all of this.
  2. As with every protest involving social issues, there were supporters and opponents of Kaepernick’s protest.  Some opponents thought he was wrong-headed to begin with; others – me included – thought that the vehicle he chose for his protest was not such a good one.  No matter the reason, his protest perfectly naturally created opponents.
  3. Colin Kaepernick had a fat contract with the Niners after his taking the team to the Super Bowl a few years ago and managed to play himself out of the starting job there.  When given the starting job back in the middle of last season, his record and his stats were not good at all.  He started 11 games and the team record was 1-10-0; using ESPN’s QB Rating scale of 0-100, his rating last year was 55.6.
  4. Given the way he has played in the last two years, Kaepernick is surely a backup QB on a team with an established starter; and at best, he can compete on an equal footing for a starting job with a team that is desperate to find a starting QB.  My assessment here has nothing to do with his activism; it has only to do with his performances for the past 2 seasons.

Now put yourself in the position of an NFL owner or a GM or a head coach and contemplate signing Colin Kaepernick.  If you have a starting QB and are looking to sign a backup who has NFL experience, there are several options open to you.  And one of the factors you probably need to consider is this:

  • Do I need to sign a backup QB – someone I hope never needs to see the field on a Sunday – with the potential to bring drama and controversy to the team?

If the team judgment is that Kaepernick is undoubtedly the best available option, then you might consider signing him; if he is not clearly the best option, my guess is that you would look elsewhere.

Now suppose you are the owner/GM/head coach of a team that desperately needs a starting QB; I can think of about a half-dozen teams in that boat.  In that circumstance, you would probably be willing to accept the drama/controversy aspects of signing Colin Kaepernick so long as you were also convinced that he had a good chance to be you staring QB in 2018 AND that he will be successful once he earns that position.  I am doing this completely off the top of my head so I am sure I will have missed some candidates here; nonetheless, consider that these are some of the free agent QBs who like Colin Kaepernick are unsigned:

  • Jay Cutler, Chase Daniel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bruce Gradkowski, Robert Griffin III, Case Keenum, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith

None of the QBs who come to my mind here bring Hall of Fame potential to the party – – but neither does Colin Kaepernick.  So, if you are a team bereft at the QB position, where do you go on this list – – or do you go to the Draft and look for a developmental project?

The free agency period is nowhere near over; in fact, it is less than two weeks old.  I am not surprised at all to see that Colin Kaepernick – and most of the people on my top-of-the-head list above – remain unsigned.  There are football dimensions to the situation here AND there are intangible/PR issues to the situation.

Finally, since today’s discussion has focused on NFL QBs, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times about a possible future NFL QB:

“The second coming of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, perhaps?

“Pinnacle High School in Phoenix boasts a highly recruited QB named Spencer Rattler.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



RIP Chuck Berry And Jimmy Breslin

The world lost two great entertainers over the weekend.  Chuck Berry entertained us with his music; Jimmy Breslin entertained us – and informed us – with his prose.  Both men lived full lives and because of their special talents, we are in a better state.

Rest in peace, Chuck Berry.

Rest in peace, Jimmy Breslin.

Prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament, there was a flood of money bet on Duke to win it all.  A week before the tournament started, Duke was 9-1 to win it all; when the tournament tipped off last Thursday, Duke’s odds were down to 9-2.  After the results of last night’s games, the sportsbooks can pocket that flood of money.

Right after Selection Sunday, I tried to explain why the Tournament Selection Committee was uniquely unqualified to pick the right teams for the brackets and to seed them in a way that reflected reality.  Now that you have watched portions of the first 48 games of the tournament from Thursday through Sunday, ask yourself if the Selection Committee had done any in depth study of the following teams:

  • Minnesota (a 5-seed) and Maryland (a 6-seed) as compared to other Big 10 teams such as Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State all seeded well below them.
  • Wichita St as a 10-seed?   Seriously now …
  • Xavier as an 11-seed?  I saw Xavier play 3 and maybe 4 games this season.  I do not know where they belonged in the seeding chart but I am positive that they are better than an 11-seed.  Putting them there means the Committee thought 40 other teams were better.

Wichita St. gave us 2 really good games to watch – a win over Dayton and then a loss to Kentucky.  There may not be a lot of household names on that team, but they are very good and they are fun to watch.

West Virginia put on another show of stifling defense against Notre Dame on Saturday.  The thing that sets West Virginia apart from other teams that press all the time and play frenetic defense is that West Virginia can also score on offense.  Too bad Arkansas lost; a West Virginia Arkansas game would have been interesting.

Arkansas advanced in the tournament with a win over Seton Hall.  Here is the note I made late in that game:

“If Seton Hall could shoot from the outside …”

Speaking of interesting potential games, how about UNC/Kansas in a matchup?  I like the OVER in that game…

As the UNC/Texas Southern game was unfolding in the early part of the first half, I made a note to myself that Texas Southern had “No hope!” in the game.  That makes me wonder what Coach Mike Davis told his players before the game about what they needed to do to win.  Their chance of winning that game were no more than my chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize any time soon.

The officials clearly missed the goaltending call against Gonzaga late in the game against Northwestern; there can be no doubt about that.  There is something else about which there can be no doubt:

  • The fact that multiple folks from the Northwestern bench were on the court while the ball was still alive to protest the call is the reason that the technical foul was called.  Moreover, that was the correct call and that behavior was so outrageous that an ejection or two may have been justified.

Speaking of officials, I saw two loose balls hit officials over the weekend and play continued in both cases.  The rule is that the official is part of the floor; if his feet are both on the court and in-bounds, then the play continues because the ball is still in-bounds; if one or both feet are out of bounds then the ball is dead when it hits the official because it hit something out of bounds.

One final officiating observation; most of the officiating crews either do not know the rule(s) governing traveling or they just do not care to enforce them.

Lonzo Ball is an outstanding point guard and will surely go high in the NBA Draft this summer.  I do want to point out however that he plays defense with the same intensity and the same interest as the NBA All Stars do in their exhibition game.  On the bright side, his father – who is given to hyperbole more than infrequently – can claim that Lonzo is already prepared to be in the NBA All Star Game…


[Aside:  Lonzo Ball’s father evidently claimed that he could have taken Michael Jordan “back in the day”.  I did not hear him say it, but it was widely reported and Charles Barkley took exception on one of the halftime shows.  Barkley pointed out that the elder Ball averaged 2 points per game in his college career – – and that was 2 points per game more than a dead man.  You gotta love Sir Charles…]


Speaking of Charles Barkley, those ads that he and Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson do each year as they journey to the Final Four are excellent.  My favorite one this year is the one where they are eating steaks on a plane…

If we ever have an Oregon/Baylor game, I must go to my TV settings and turn down the color intensity.  Baylor alone is bad enough; match them against Oregon and it might be seizure inducing…

Finally, one of the venues for the weekend games was Salt Lake City.  So, let me close with an observation by Brad Rock in the Deseret News from a while ago:

“Travel + Leisure magazine ranks Salt Lake City the second-most friendly city in America.

“Clearly the magazine didn’t visit on the week of the Utah-BYU game.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



NCAA Tournament Notes …

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  And by the way, how did the NCAA Selection Committee fail to put Notre Dame in a bracket slot that would have them playing today instead of yesterday?  Whatever…  Here are my notes and comments from yesterday’s games:

  • Notre Dame/Princeton:  Both teams are very disciplined on offense and defense.  There were lots of actual student-athletes on the floor.  Notre Dame’s offense seemed out-of-sync all day long – – or was that really good Princeton defense?
  • Virginia/UNC-Wilmington:  UVa is methodical; UNCW plays “Helter-Skelter”.  UNCW had a big lead early but had no idea how to hold on to it or to make Virginia play in a way Virginia would prefer not to play.
  • Winthrop/Butler:  Butler is a very good team.  This was a generally uninteresting game.
  • Gonzaga/S. Dak. St:  In a 16 vs 1 game, it was tied with 4:32 to play in the first half and Zags led by only 4 at the half.  Don’t know what Mark Few said at halftime, but Zags just dominated by running and playing smothering defense in the second half.  It was an easy win at the end.
  • Bucknell/W. Virginia:  W. Virginia simply had too many “better athletes” in this game.  Bucknell hung in by shooting 9 for 20 from 3-point range.
  • Florida/E. Tenn. St.:  Florida was just better at every phase of the game here.  For ETSU, it seemed as if Guard, TJ Cromer was the only one out there playing with his brain as well as his body.
  • Mid. Tenn. St./Minnesota:  Minnesota is a 5-seed?  Really?  They lost 7 games in the Big 10 and got a 5-seed?  Nate Mason was supposedly a leader for Minnesota and he played miserably.  Middle Tennessee St. is interesting to watch and has won 30 games this year but I don’t see them making a deep run in the tournament.
  • Vandy/Northwestern:  If ND/Princeton was not the most entertaining game of the early slate, then this one was.  Another game with lots of student-athletes on display.  Northwestern holds a distinction here that no other team in the country can claim; Northwestern has NEVER lost an NCAA Tournament game.
  • Villanova/Mt. St.Mary’s:  In the first half, it seemed that this year’s Villanova team did not play defense with the same ferocity/efficiency that last year’s championship team did.  Then in the second half, their defense showed up and it led to a runaway win.
  • VCU/St. Mary:  St. Mary looked awfully good for a 7-seed; they shot 56% from the field and 35% from 3-point range.  VCU plays fast but they need to recruit some shooters.
  • Vermont/Purdue:  If Purdue is the best team in the Big 10, then I wonder why there are so many teams from the Big 10 in the tournament.  The game was interesting because it stayed close for most of the time but neither team was overly impressive.
  • Xavier/Maryland:  Maryland went sleep-walking through the second half – particularly their point guard/leader Melo Trimble.  Xavier is very efficient on offense.
  • Wisconsin/VaTech:  This was an entertaining game even though neither team was all that impressive.
  • Fla. Gulf Coast/Fla. St.:  I don’t know if this game reminded you of an “And-1” exhibition but that is what it looked like to me.  I did not enjoy this game at all.
  • Nevada/Iowa St.:  I could not decide if Iowa St. had a very effective offense or if Nevada just did not play defense very well.
  • Arizona/N. Dakota:  At 10:40 of the first half, I wrote down, “N. Dak is overmatched/game over”.

Yesterday in mid-afternoon as college basketball fandom had its attention focused on the first-round tournament games, Indiana announced that it had fired coach Tom Crean after 9 years on the job there.  Tom Crean is a good coach; he took a Marquette team to the Final Four; he rebuilt the Indiana program from the scorched earth left behind by Kelvin Sampson and the probation that ensued.  In his first 3 years at IU, Crean went 28-66; from those humble beginnings, his teams went on to win the Big 10 Championship twice before this year’s team had a total meltdown in the latter part of the season.  Indiana lost its opening round game in the NIT to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.

It will be interesting to see who gets the job at Indiana.  On one hand, the program is a college basketball blueblood even though one could argue that it is not nearly as dominant a program as it used to be.  On the other hand, the way the administration there has handled athletics for the last couple of decades might be enough to get top-shelf coaches to keep looking for that “ideal landing spot”.  One name surfaced immediately and that is Brad Stevens who is now the coach of the Boston Celtics.  Stevens is a darling in Indiana because he took Butler – an Indiana school – to the final game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and lost to Duke when a half-court shot at the final buzzer rimmed out.

Personally, I think Brad Stevens would be nuts to leave the Celtics for the job at Indiana.  If he wants to go back to the college game from the NBA, he is one of those guys who ought to look at the “environment” at Indiana and keep looking for a job elsewhere.

Finally, here is a note from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Sunday is the final day for the Omaha Boat Sport and Travel Show which features a water-skiing squirrel. The Creighton baseball program’s worst nightmare? Drawing fewer fans to the home opener than a squirrel on skis.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Little League Baseball And MLB Intersect…

The largest league in terms of participation for baseball is Little League; including the girls’ softball division, Little League says that 2.6 million kids participate.  Major League Baseball is the pre-eminent league for baseball; with 30 teams and 25 players on a roster most of the time, there are only 750 major-leaguers at any given time.  Wikipedia lists 17 MLB players who were also in Little League including some rather famous ones like Nolan Ryan Cal Ripken, Jr. and Carl Yastrzemski.  I mention this because Little League baseball and Major League baseball are going to intersect in August 2017.

On 20 August, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to play one of their “home games” against the St. Louis Cardinals in Williamsport, PA – the town where Little League was born and the town where the Little League World Series happens every hear.  Mid-August is the time of the Little League World Series so the overlap here is symbolic.  [in fact, this MLB game will happen in the middle of the Little League World Series which will run from 17-27 August this year.]  ESPN will telecast that game as part of its Sunday Night Baseball coverage.

No.  The Pirates and Cards will not be playing on a Little League field even though the Little League fields in Williamsport are the largest venues in town with regard to seating.  The game will take place in the stadium used by the Williamsport Crosscutters – a Single A affiliate of the Phillies.  The Crosscutters play in BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field and the seating capacity there is 4200.

At first, I thought that these would be the most expensive baseball tickets of the season given the short supply until I read this report saying that there would be no ticket sales to the public.  A spokesperson for MLB says that the tickets will be distributed “mostly to Little Leaguers and their families”.  I guess that will limit to some extent the “ticket scalping industry” in Williamsport that evening but I can imagine that there will be complaints about who gets tickets and who does not.  There will be more Little Leaguers and family members present than can be held in the stadium.

  • Memo to MLB:  Figure out a way to minimize the complaints here lest they turn a feelgood moment into a protest demonstration.

The same report linked above also talks about some extensive upgrades that MLB will be making to the stadium in order to bring the field up to MLB standards including additional lighting and a new playing surface/draining system.

The Crosscutters play in the New York-Penn League which is a Short Season league and the home opener in Williamsport is not until 20 June.  Once all of the renovations/upgrades are finished, this should be one of the classiest venues for minor league baseball anywhere.  I don’t know if I will be able to make it to a Crosscutters game this year, but I have just added this to my list of “Things to Do” on a nice summer evening.

The players on the US Women’s Hockey Team announced yesterday that they will not participate in the World Championships that are about to be held in Michigan unless “significant progress is made to secure what players consider to be fair wages and support from USA Hockey.”  The US Women’s Team is the defending World Champion.  You can read the report on this matter here.

The two sides in this dispute are still at the stage of talking past one another.  The women say they have successfully represented their country with dignity and they want decent recompense and support for their sport at all levels in the country.  USA Hockey – the governing federation here – says that it appreciates the players’ contributions and that it has already increased its offer to them and to support for hockey in the country.

The lever the players have here is that the World Championships begin on 31 March and non-participation from the World Champions will alter the nature of the tournament itself not mention detract significantly from the economics associated with the tournament.  I will not pretend here that I follow women’s ice hockey closely; I do not.  I did know that the US Women’s Team had been successful in the past and had always been “in the mix” when it came to championships and medals in international competition.  However, a Google search told me that they have won the Gold Medal in the World Championships 7 times in the last 12 years and have won the last two tournaments in 2015 and 2016.

USA Hockey says it will field a competitive team for the tournament that begins in 2 weeks.  That sounds like bravado to me and it does to at least one of the members of the current US Women’s Team.  If indeed, they could throw together a team that is competitive at the World Championships in 2 weeks, that would denigrate the level of competition in their sport worldwide.

The players have the leverage here; the question is if they have the internal resolve to maintain that leverage and force a change from USA Hockey.  If the financial terms that are cited in the linked report above are accurate – or even close to accurate – then the women are definitely on the moral high ground here.

Finally, as I wrap this up to begin my annual basketball orgy and watch as many NCAA Tournament games as I can with only 1 TV at my disposal, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The St. Louis Cardinals will have to give up two draft picks and $2 million to the Astros after scouting director Chris Correa went rogue and repeatedly broke into Houston’s online player-information database.

“On the bright side, the Cards are odds-on favorites to win the inaugural Hack Wilson Award.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



March Madness And Money

Notwithstanding the fact that Mount St. Mary’s and K-State won their play-in games last night and that there are two more preliminary games on the card for tonight, the real NCAA Tournament begins tomorrow.  Prior to the tip-off, I would like to offer up some financial data/stats regarding the tournament as an event.

First, according to a brief article at, the total revenue for advertising throughout March Madness last year was $1.24B and that a 2% increase is expected for this year bringing the expected revenue for 2017 to $1.26B.  Yes, I know that is for 67 games; nonetheless that is a lot of money in comparison to some other sports events.  Consider:

  • The NBA post-season brought in $1.03B in 2016
  • The MLB post-season brought in $569M in 2016
  • The college football bowl games brought in $358M in 2016

Naturally, the NFL post-season and Super Bowl are the behemoths in terms of advertising revenues in the sports post-season category, but the NCAA Tournament is a clear second.

The second “financial matter” regarding the NCAA Tournament relates to the amount of money that will be wagered on March Madness.  Let me begin with a disclaimer:

  • The numbers cited here are estimates made by the American Gaming Association (AGA).  This organization is a trade group that represents and promotes the casino industry.  They see part of their mission as “relentlessly protecting against harmful and misinformed public policies.”  They work toward getting rid of PASPA and thereby opening sports betting to any of the individual States that would choose to implement that form of wagering.

This report from the AGA says that wagering on March Madness by Americans this year is projected to be $10.4B.  The projected handle for the Tournament games in Nevada – where sports betting is legal – is $297M or about 2.9% of the total handle.  The other 97% will be wagered in an underground economy.

AGA uses these numbers to point out that PASPA is a failure when it comes to preventing wagering on sports events [No doubt about that] and urges folks to be politically active to get the ban on sports betting overturned.  Anyone who reads these rants even once in a while knows that I agree completely with the AGA on that point even if I have no way to confirm any of its projections and even though I am skeptical about the magnitude of the money flow in the underground economy.

Here you can find the statements made by the AGA on this matter and look at the methodology by which they came up with their estimates.  What I found interesting was that according to their data/estimates, a total of $2.03B is wagered in bracket pools around the country.  That is a lot of cheese…

Earlier this week, I was driving somewhere and had a local sports radio program on in the car.  The hosts were filling time “debating” who should be the NBA Most Valuable Player for this season – – even though the season is not going to be over for the next month.  I call that sort of thing “Killing Time Radio”.  However, one of the hosts mentioned something while considering Kawhi Leonard’s performance this year that surprised me enough that I went and looked it up.  The host was indeed correct.

  • As of this morning, Kawhi Leonard has played 1989 minutes this year in 59 NBA games.  The Spurs have played 66 games so Leonard has been involved in most of those games.  In all that time on the floor, Leonard has more steals this year (108) than he has personal fouls committed (96).

To put that in perspective, Michael Jordan was widely acknowledged as a great defensive player – as well as an offensive giant – during his career.  In only one season in his career did Jordan finish with more steals than fouls committed.  [In the 1992/93 season, Jordan had 221 steals and only committed 188 personal fouls.]

The Cleveland Browns released RG3; he is an unrestricted free agent looking for a job.  Some folks have suggested that the Jets might be interested in him; I suspect that he will get an invitation to some team’s training camp simply because there will be a coach somewhere who believes that under the right system and environment, RG3 might recapture his magical rookie season energy and take his team onward and upward.  I put that in the “unlikely category” but I think someone somewhere will buy into it.

What I find more interesting about the Browns’ decision is this:

  • Griffin started the opening game for the Browns in 2016.
  • With his departure, that means that the Browns will have a new starting QB for their opening game in 2017- – AND – – that will mean that the Browns will have started a different opening day QB five years in a row.

The Browns are not “searching for a franchise QB” here.  They are still at the stage where they are searching for a guy they can tolerate as their starting QB for more than a season.

Finally, here is a note from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The best high school basketball player in Utah is named Stockton Malone Shorts. His last name is Shorts, his first and middle names are ‘Stockton’ and ‘Malone.’ It could be worse. His parents could’ve named him ‘Under.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The NCAA Tournament – – “Analyzed”

There are “annual tasks” that one does not look forward to.  Just a couple of examples:

  1. What to get one’s mother-in-law for her birthday
  2. Filling out one’s tax return to send to the IRS
  3. Trying to explain how Danny Boy Snyder is more appealing than a bowl of pickled assholes.   Ooops; sorry!  That happens more than once a year…

And then there is an annual event here in Curmudgeon Central that I look forward to – simply because it is fun.  Here is my annual look at the NCAA Basketball Tournament from a perspective that has NOTHING TO DO with brackets and/or which team will advance and/or bracket-busting upsets and/or things of that nature.  This is simply about fun.

Let me begin with a recent comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot:

“Off course: The Big Ten basketball tournament is in Washington, D.C., the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. This is what happens when our schools de-emphasize the teaching of geography.”

Professor Molinaro could not be more on target with this observation unless the SEC had held their conference tournament in Duluth MN – – which they chose not to do this year.  I might only add this comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World Herald to explain how the Big Ten even started to think about holding its tournament in Washington DC:

“There is online video of Michigan fan Verne Troyer supposedly being hypnotized to think he likes Ohio State. Of course, hypnosis hasn’t been seen in the Big Ten since Jim Delany was put under that spell to admit Rutgers.”

College sports can pretend that they are all about the noble goal of pure competition and that none of its decisions can be linked to “economics”.  But we all know that is abject nonsense and so I will just go off on flights of fancy here.

For example, at the end of this month, we could have a Final Four where all the mascots are prey animals:

  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Bucknell Bison
  • Creighton Blue Jays
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers

The alphabet could lead us to the Sweet 16 where teams would square off to advance.  We could have Sweet 16 matches between:

  1. Villanova and Virginia
  2. SMU and South Carolina
  3. Notre Dame and Northwestern
  4. Maryland and St Mary’s (Give me a bit of slack here…)
  5. Nevada and NC Central
  6. Oregon and Oklahoma State
  7. Middle Tennessee State and Texas Southern (Talk about a bracket buster!)
  8. Kent State and Kentucky

However, I will find my most fun in looking at the names of players in the tournament and musing about what they might portend for the future.  For example, might these be the fields of major study for the following scholar-athletes:

  • Ty Outlaw (Va Tech) – – Criminal Justice/How to beat the system
  • Vic Law ((Northwestern) – – Criminal Justice/How to apprehend Ty Outlaw
  • Miles Bridges (Michigan St) – – Civil Engineering
  • Mikal Bridges (Villanova) – – Also Civil Engineering
  • TJ Leaf (UCLA) – – Botany
  • Kethan Savage (Butler) – – Anthropology
  • Terance Mann (Fla St) – – More Anthropology
  • London Parrantes (UVa) – – Geography
  • Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern) – – Computer Science
  • Nazareth Mitrou-Long (Iowa St) – – Middle East Studies

Might these players find themselves pursuing a rather obvious career:

  • Ian Baker (New Mexico St.) – – Self-evident
  • Kevin Baker (Troy) – – Self-evident
  • Steven Cook (Princeton) – – Self-evident
  • Matt Taylor (NM State) – – Self-evident albeit spelled incorrectly
  • Amir Coffey (Minnesota) – – Barista
  • Dererk Pardon (Northwestern) – – Public Defender/May represent Ty Outlaw
  • Duane Bacon (Fla St) – – Fry cook
  • Quinton Hooker (North Dakota) – – Whatever
  • Avi Toomer (Bucknell) – – Cancer researcher
  • Anthony Lamb (Vermont) – – Animal husbandry
  • Keyshawn Woods (Wake Forest) – – Carpentry

Just a couple observations about some random player names:

  • Duane Notice (South Carolina).  Glad his mother did not name him “Didja”.
  • Jack Salt (Virginia)  Glad his  mother did not name him “Table”.
  • Joe Toye (Vandy)  Glad his mother did not name him “Sex”
  • Shadrac  Casimir (Iona)  Might he have brothers named Mesach and Abednago?
  • Jawun Evans (OK St)  Does he have a twin named JaOddaWun Evans?
  • Dajuan Graf (NC Central) Does he have a twin named DaOddaJuan Graf?
  • Dakota Mathias (Purdue)  He surely knows North from South.
  • Giddy Potts (Middle Tenn St)  I guess it’s better than being named “Chamber”.
  • Alpha Diallo (Providence)  Does he have a brother named “Beta”?
  • Duane Notice (S. Carolina)  If you read his name backwards, it is a complete sentence.
  • Desi Rodriguez (Seton Hall)  Does he have a sister named Lucy?

Now how about players whose names are palindromic – – you could reverse the names and still believe that the announcers were talking about a player in the game you are watching:

  • Dean Wade (K-State)
  • Khadim Sy (Va Tech)
  • Marcus Howard (Marquette)
  • Justin Jackson (Maryland)
  • Christian Terrell (Fla Gulf Coast)
  • Jared Terrell (Rhode Island)
  • Kadeem Allen (Arizona)
  • Tarik Phillip (West Virginia)
  • Zach Thomas (Bucknell)
  • Khyri Thomas (Creighton)
  • Matt Thomas (Iowa St)
  • Eric Thomas (New Orleans)
  • Zak Irvin (Michigan)
  • Lindsey Drew (Nevada)
  • Deon Edwin (Kent State)
  • Jonathon Isaac (Florida St)

Proofreaders and copy editors have become less pronounced in newsrooms around the country as the newspaper industry has sought to cut costs over the past 15 years.  Some still exist and those folks live in fear of the possibility that one or more of these players just might make a critical play in a game in the upcoming tournament:

  • Chimezie Metu (USC)
  • JoLual Acuil (Baylor)
  • Eli Chucha (NM State)
  • Przemek Karnowski (Gonzaga)
  • Svi Mykhailiuk (Kansas)
  • Xeyrius Williams (Dayton)

[Aside:  Play-by-play guys and stadium announcers might have some trepidation here also.]

Florida starts three players named Kevarrius Hays, KeVaughn Allen and Kasey Hill.  My question is simple.

  • So how did Kansas and Kentucky miss out on these players?

We could construct an entire Starting 5 named “Brown”:

  1. Zach Brown (Wichita State)
  2. Bruce Brown (Miami)
  3. Stephan Brown ( Bucknell)
  4. Vitto Brown (Wisconsin)
  5. Sterling Brown (SMU)

Nonetheless, Princeton is the Ivy League team in the tournament.

Of course, no such summary of players’ names in the tournament would be complete without naming the 11 members of the All-Presidential Team:

  1. Miles Wilson (Mount St. Mary’s)
  2. Duane Wilson (Marquette)
  3. DJ Wilson (Michigan)
  4. Rashaun Madison (NC Central)
  5. Kevarrius Hayes (Florida)
  6. Matt Taylor (NM State)
  7. Amile Jefferson (Duke)
  8. Justin Jackson (Maryland)
  9. Josh Jackson (Kansas)
  10. Jevon Carter (West Virginia)
  11. Jordan Washington (Iona)

Finally, let me pose a Q&A for you as I sign off this annual fun exercise:


Q:  What does the March say to all the Madness?

A:  What’s all that bracket…   BaDaBing!  BaDaBoom!!!


But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………