College Basketball Tips Off

On Tuesday of this week, I urged everyone here to go out and vote; I said it was a responsibility of citizenship.  I want to make sure that make clear that the responsibility to vote does NOT include any responsibility to spend that evening watching any of the cable news stations as they report the results from around the country.  Given that the college basketball season began Tuesday night and that there were myriad game-viewing options available through my cable provider, that is where I spent my evening time.

The season-opening tournament featuring four blue-blood programs was the focus of my attention.  The Kansas/Michigan State game opened the action and Kansas dominated the first half leading 50-36 at the intermission.  The Spartans rallied in the second half, but Kansas prevailed 92-87.  The oddsmakers in Vegas had this one pegged; the line closed with Kansas as a 4.5-point favorite.  Dedric Lawson was impressive for the Jayhawks scoring 20 points and collecting 14 rebounds.  Rankings at this time of the year are beyond meaningless; but from what I saw, Kansas and Michigan State will be tough opponents all season long.

The second game was the one I really wanted to see; Duke and Kentucky usually play each other in late March if they play at all; Tuesday night I had the chance to see these teams in their formative stages playing one another instead of seeing either of them taking on a patsy opponent such as Middle Wherever State.  What transpired demonstrated that the oddsmakers are not perfect; the spread for this game closed with Kentucky as 2-point favorites.  Duke won the game by 34 points (118-84).  RJ Barrett led the way for Duke scoring 33 points in 32 minutes; Zion Williamson scored 28 points in 23 minutes for the Blue Devils and collected 7 rebounds as well.  This was not just an offensive showing by Duke; they also forced Kentucky into 15 turnovers for the game.

It would be a mistake to take this lopsided loss by Kentucky and write them off as over-rated or living on their reputation.  Kentucky is a very good team with several talented players; it is just that they ran into a monster performance by the Blue Devils on Tuesday night.

All four of these teams will face softer opponents in their next game:

  • Michigan State will host Florida Gulf Coast
  • Kansas will host Vermont
  • Kentucky will host Southern Illinois
  • Duke will host Army

The Los Angeles Angels have a new AA affiliate in the Southern League.  The name of the team is the Rocket City Trash Pandas.  The first thing that went through my mind when I read about that is:

  • What exactly is a “trash panda”?
  • Actually, it is nothing at all; it is a team name that was “selected” by an Internet poll of area baseball fans.  That outcome should be a fair warning to the next team owner who is tempted to use some sort of online polling to name his/her team.
  • [Aside: In speaking about this with a friend, he suggested that “trash panda” might be a colloquial term for a raccoon – an animal that frequents trash cans and one that has dark spots and lighter spots as part of its coloration.  My son – the evolutionary biologist – would certainly not approve of confusing a raccoon with a panda.]

The next point to ponder is where might the Rocket City Trash Pandas call home?  Actually, this one is pretty easy once you recall that this team will play in the Southern League.  NASA has its major rocket building research center – – Marshall Space Flight Center – – in Huntsville, Alabama.  Indeed, Huntsville will also be the home of the Trash Pandas.

  • Come to think of it, Rocket City Trash Pandas is a better team name than the Huntsville Raccoons…

The US Women’s National Soccer Team qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup for the 8th straight time; the fact of their qualification for the tournament has become sufficiently routine that mere qualification garners scant attention.  There have been 8 Women’s World Cup events starting in 1991 and the US team has won the Cup 3 times.  Their victory in 1999 was the one that provided the iconic moment of Brandi Chastain removing her jersey to reveal her sports brain celebration of the victory.  It is no surprise that the US Women’s team is in the tournament and it is no surprise that they will be one of the favorites to win it again.

There is also no big surprise in the fact that the women on the US team are at odds with the folks who run FIFA.  Recall that 4 years ago there were bitter disputes between the women and FIFA over playing the games in Canada on artificial turf instead of grass pitches.  The women filed suit claiming gender discrimination since the men always play on grass; the suit was subsequently withdrawn, and FIFA threatened various sanctions against the women who brought the action.  In the end, sanity prevailed – – which was not a certainty given that FIFA was involved.  That dispute may have been a minor one compared to the one that is brewing now.

The current kerfuffle involves money – prize money for the teams in the tournament.  FIFA plans to offer $30M to the teams in the tournament and that represents a 100% increase over the prize money available in the last tournament in 2015.  And so, you ask:

  • How can that be the source of a dispute?  Sounds like everything is a go and everyone should be happy as a clam…

Here is the “small problem”:

  • The FIFA prize money slated to go to the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar will be $440M.

Yes, men’s tournament generates significantly more revenue than does the women’s tournament; and yes, there will be 32 teams in the men’s tournament as compared to 24 teams in the women’s tournament.  But the gulf between $30M and $440M is hard to ignore.  The Women’s World Cup tournament is still 9 months into the future, but I suspect that we will hear about this issue more than once over that period of time.

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

“A woman gave birth in the restroom at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in San Antonio.

“Apparently she forgot that Pizza Hut offers home delivery.”

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



8 thoughts on “College Basketball Tips Off”

  1. Trash panda was a term I heard occasionally when I lived in Alabama. I like the fact that the owners had an open mind about it. Selling minor league baseball involves a lot of community outreach, so this first move is a good sign that the owners recognize that fact.

  2. The word around some of the ACC fan boards is that Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett could be playing in the G-League but would not accept the pay cut.

    1. Doug:

      I wonder how many of the folks spreading that word around the ACC would be saying the same thing if Williamson and Barrett were attending their alma mater?

  3. On the USWNT issue, this is also fundamentally the reason for the WNBA unpleasantness. However, is it possible that women’s soccer has a better proportion of interest in comparison to the basketball situation? I don’t think so, given that no one would be able to tell us who the women’s league champion is and in an embarrassing moment for me, I couldn’t even tell you the league’s name here and any of the teams in it (assuming of course NYC has at least one). Cruel an unfair as it sounds, this apparently is what the market (as defined by the ones paying) is and nothing more. That attitude leaves out the fact that a good product can be made popular with investment, just look at many tech companies as examples.

    On the nickname, I’ll agree that the internet idea was not optimal. I recall a couple of years back where the UK scientific folks had a contest to name their new exploration vessel (hint, hint, pick “Shackleton”) but the internet took over and saddled it with Boaty McBoatface until order was restored. Just remember the internet is comprised of too many trolls with too much time on their hands, covered with Cheetos in the basement in far higher proportions than in real life. Therefore, it’s not a representative sample of the people.

    1. Rugger9:

      The difference between the USWNT and the WNBA is that once every 4 years, the USWNT captures the imagination of about 40% of the US sports world. The WNBA has never come close to that status and gives no indication that it will come close to that status any time in the future.

      The “Boaty McBoatface” incident should be a sobering thought any time one thinks about starting an online poll to select a team name or a mascot or anything of that sort.

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