Bouncing Around …

Every year, I say to myself that “Sweet Sixteen Weekend” – – the 12 games to cut down to the Final Four – – is the best weekend of the tournament because the teams are good and there are still plenty of different games to watch.  Last night gave us “one of each kind” of tournament game:

  • There was the blowout.  Michigan was just awful from the start to the finish last night and Texas Tech mauled them.  Tech won by 19, but it could have been 35 of Tech had a hot shooting night.
  • There was the winning team that just could n=put the game away until the very end.  Florida State hung around and made Gonzaga work all night long.  The game was much closer than a 214-point spread would indicate.
  • There was the nail-biter down into the final two minutes.  Virginia beat Oregon by 4 points but that was hardly a foregone conclusion with two minutes left to play.
  • There was the miracle comeback to send the game to overtime.  Purdue led Tennessee by 18 points in the second half; Tennessee tied the game and took a small lead late in the game.  Finally, in OT, Purdue won by 5.

Every game – even the blowout – was interesting to watch.  Hopefully, that is an omen for the games over the rest of the weekend …

There is NFL news emanating from the annual owners’ meeting in Arizona this week.  In response to the rules Committee recommendation plus a unanimous vote by the NFL coaches to expand the scope of the replay system, the owners voted overwhelmingly to allow coaches to challenge pass interference calls – – and non-calls – – for the 2019 season.  It is a one-year “experiment” to see how it works and then it will be something that could be fine-tuned next year.

The best news here is that coaches still only have 2 challenges per game, so this is not going to extend the length of the games significantly.  Nor should it affect the rhythm of the game any more than the current replay system does.  The issue that many have raised regarding pass interference on Hail Mary plays could be a wrinkle that will have to be ironed out next year. Let me explain:

  • Ever since the first Hail Mary pass play was drawn up on a table napkin and then run on the field by a team, there has been “illegal contact” and/or “outright pass interference” on every single one of the plays.  Often, there is offensive interference in addition to defensive interference; the play is NEVER effected cleanly.
  • This may call for discretion on the part of the officials doing the reviews on these plays and the whole attraction of “instant replay” is that it minimized any “discretion” and points inexorably to “the truth”.  Good luck here…

The Rules Committee recommended by a 7-1 vote to change the onside kickoff rule to something similar to the one used in the AAF.  The owners voted it down.  Perhaps there was a smidgen of “Not Invented Here Syndrome” in that vote?  I don’t read minds, but …

Other “news” emanating from the owners’ meeting had to do with Robert Kraft and his ongoing legal entanglement over an alleged solicitation of prostitution in Florida.  Kraft has pleaded not-guilty and has said that the did nothing illegal and he has now requested a jury trial in the matter.  The problem I have here is the contradictory behavior.

  • Kraft says he did nothing illegal.  I do believe that prostitution is minimalist crime, but it is nevertheless a criminal act in Florida as is solicitation of prostitution.  Someday, that law may change; but these charges stem from acts that allegedly happened when prostitution and solicitation of prostitution were clearly illegal in Florida.
  • Prosecutors and the local sheriff say they have ‘indisputable video evidence” of Kraft participating in these acts.  That may or may not be true; that is what they say.  There must be some basis for those assertions because Kraft’s lawyers argue that the evidence collected was done under improper circumstances and should be excluded.  It seems to me that if there were no such evidence because Kraft committed no illegal acts, there is no point in asking the court to exclude it on the basis that it was improperly obtained.

Here is the only thing related to this matter of which I am certain:

  • I do not want to see the video that prosecutors say proves their charges in this case.  There are lots of things in this world that cannot be unseen, and I think this surveillance video would fall squarely into that category.

Two sportswriters diagonally across the country from each other had interesting observations related to “The Kraft Case”:

“Attorneys for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, after being charged in a massage-parlor sting, sought a protective order to keep any police surveillance-video evidence:

  • “a) Under seal, preventing its release
  • “b) In a plain brown wrapper.”  [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

And …

“Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he is “truly sorry” for being caught at a Florida “spa” in a prostitution sting. I wonder if this story will have a happy ending. Wait. Too soon?”  [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News had a recent comment about another legal action peripherally related to the sports world:

“The AAF is being sued by a man who claims the league was his idea.

“Considering the history of other startup football leagues, he may want to keep a low profile on that.”

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



Making College Basketball Even Better

As I get set to watch the Sweet 16 whittle itself down to the Final Four this weekend, let me talk about college basketball in general today.  I have always liked college basketball; I began watching it on TV in the mid-50s.  There were not a lot of games on the air back then, but I enjoyed them when I could get them.  My first “live game” was in February 1959; I learned quickly that college basketball was even better in person than it was on TV.  I have said before and will repeat here for the record that:

  • The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the best sporting event of the year.  Its excellence makes the existence of the normally useless NCAA worth tolerating.

Having said that, I still believe that college basketball can be improved, and I would like to offer a few suggestions as to how to do that:

  • First of all, no college basketball game should ever be played in a venue where it is possible to play a football game or a baseball game.  I reject any and all attempts to justify such settings and I would put a hex on Houston and UCLA for opening up that can of worms with the “Game of the Century” in the Astrodome back in 1968.  Feh!
  • I have said before that I want to limit dunking in college basketball.  I do not want to ban it completely as the rule makers tried to do back when Lew Alcindor – not yet Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – came into college basketball.  However, it does not take a ton of skill for a player who is 6’9” to jump up and throw the ball down through the hoop from 6 inches away.  So, I want to make a dunk worth only 1 point.
  • I also want to modify the 3-point shot in college basketball.  Too many teams employ an offense where one player – and sometimes two – go and stand in the corner doing nothing until and unless the player with the ball whips a pass out to them from the lane and we see a “catch-and-shoot” 3-point attempt.  That is boring offense.
  • The problem here is that “solutions” to that irritant may have negative impacts on the game.  The problem with the 3-point shot is not just the guys standing the corner waiting for something to happen; the problem is that some teams do not even try to play offense; all they do is come down and set up and throw up a 3-point shot.  Extending the 3-point line and/or painting the corners as 2-point shots would only encourage those teams to take longer jump shots – – and that won’t be a ton of fun to watch.
  • So, maybe we need to insert a bit more coaching and skill development into the game and perhaps the way to do that is to put a cap on the number of 3-point shots a team may take in a game.  Suppose a team could only try 20 3-point shots in a game; after that allocation is used, any field goal would be worth only two points – other than a dunk which would count as 1 point from the modification above.  Now, teams would have to shepherd those attempts in case they need to come from a double-digit deficit late in a game.  Maybe that would encourage coaches to teach players how to do something other than shoot long jump shots or play “two-man-inside-out-offense”.

Those ideas seek to change the over-arching way that the game is played.  The other problem with college basketball games in 2019 is that the final three minutes usually take a half-hour to complete.  There are three major factors that contribute to that stasis and the solutions are not so difficult:

  • Teams have too many time-outs.  If a game has even one “TV Timeout”, then the teams should not have more than 2 timeouts apiece.  That will move the game along faster and it will put a premium on coaching and floor management.
  • Teams commit too many intentional fouls late in the game to stop the clock.  Indeed, teams that are behind are playing against the opponent and against the clock at the same time, but the strategy of “foul-after-foul” can drag a minute on the basketball clock into a geological time dimension.  The solution here is to put a limit on the number of fouls a team can commit before the next foul gives the opponent “two-shot-and-the-ball”.
  • Officials spend far too much time at the monitors in the final two minutes of college basketball games.  I have no problem with them reviewing if a shot is a 2-point or 3-point shot; I have no problem with them reviewing if a foul is flagrant or not; I have no problem with them reviewing an out of bounds call or if a shot was taken before the expiration of the shot clock.  I do have a problem with them spending 2 full minutes reviewing to see if they should add or subtract 0.2 seconds to the game clock.  If they cannot figure a way to speed up all of those reviews – – and there are a ton of them since teams are intentionally fouling for the final two minutes of just about every game – – then they need to stop doing it at all.

There is a perversion to the final minute reviews of timing.  If you think about it, you will realize how silly all of this is.  Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope estimating here:

  • When officials review the game clock in the final two minutes, it is almost always “incorrect” and some adjustment needs to be made.  Let us assume that the average correction is 0.3 seconds.
  • For the first 38 minutes of the game, no such reviews are carried out.  But if every clock review in the final two minutes shows the need for a correction, it is only logical to assume that every out of bounds play and every called foul in the first 38 minutes also should have resulted in a clock correction.
  • If there are 30 total fouls called in the first 38 minutes and 15 out of bounds calls in that period and a half dozen time out calls, that means there are about 50 instances where 0.3 seconds (on average) need to be added to the clock.  That means at the very least, the game clock is 15 seconds “off” before the first time that an official is allowed to check to see if it is “correct” down to the tenth of a second.  [By the way, every out of bounds call results in two potential clock errors – one when the ball goes out of bounds and the clock does not stop perfectly and one when the ball is thrown in bounds and the clock does not start perfectly.]

Lest anyone think that I am losing my affection for college basketball, that is not the case.  I still enjoy it immensely and only seek to make it better.  Many folks argue that NBA basketball is the superior basketball product for the simple and indisputable fact that the skill level of the players in the NBA is far superior to that in the collegiate game.  Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot has made that argument in the past; my counter-argument has always been that too often there are NBA players on the court who are “playing nonchalantly” (if I am being polite) or who are “dogging it” (if I am saying what I really believe).  We have agreed to disagree on this point.

However, Professor Molinaro had a comment in a recent column that makes me think he might be open to considering my point of view slightly more favorably:

“Hoop du jour: I’m not sure when this phrase began appearing in the NBA lexicon, but the all-too-prevalent trend of teams sitting down their healthy stars is called ‘load management.’ For fans who buy tickets expecting to see the absent stars, it’s a load of something.”

You don’t see any “load management” in college basketball and when you tune into the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games this weekend, you will not see any players “dogging it” on the court either.

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



MLB Opening Day Is Tomorrow…

Notwithstanding the “Early Opening” series between the A’s and the Mariners in Tokyo, the “real” MLB Opening Day is tomorrow.  So, I guess that means it is time for a prognostication as to what will happen once the 30 teams have played out the 2,430 regular season games.  As I wrote here before, there are a bunch of teams that really have no shot at the playoffs, but they do have the potential to impact who does and does not make the playoffs.  So, let me begin in the American League.

AL East:

  • This is a two-horse race.  Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox have holes in their starting lineups; both teams will score plenty of runs.  The Sox have better starting pitching; the Yankees have the better bullpen.  Both teams will make the playoffs.  The oddsmakers in Las Vegas like the Yankees to win the division; the win totals here are Yankees at 97 and Red Sox at 94.  Your mileage may vary…
  • There is one other certainty in the AL East.  The Orioles will finish last; the O’s have just begun the tear-down process to reshape the team; that is going to take some time and this year could be butt-ugly.
  • The Rays and the Blue Jays will “fight it out” to see which of them can finish third here.  I will try to contain my exuberance…

AL Central:

  • The Indians should win this division on cruise control from the time of the All-Star Game in July.
  • The team that might still be chasing the Indians come August would be the Twins – although it is just as likely that the Twins will be fighting to get north of a .500 average for the season.
  • The other seeming “mortal lock” here is that the Tigers will finish last in the division.  They should not be as bad as the Orioles in the AL East, but they will not keep up here.
  • If you make me care enough, I would take the White Sox to finish third in this division and the Royals to finish fourth.
  • Only the Indians sniff the playoffs…

AL West:

  • The Astros won this division last year by 6 games; they should win it again this year by an even bigger margin.  I think the A’s overachieved in 2018 by winning 97 games; I think this year is a regression to the mean; it would not shock me if the A’s finished third in this division.
  • The Mariners won 89 games last year; that did not put them anywhere near the top of the division, but it is not commonplace to see a team win 89 games in a season and then start a rebuilding process – which is what seems to be underway in Seattle.  I think they will flirt with a .500 average this year and probably fall a bit short of that mark.
  • I do not think the Rangers pose any threat to any team in this division.
  • Ergo, by default, the most interesting team in this division is the Angels.  They won 80 games last year; might they be the AL team that overachieves this year and sneaks into the second wild card slot in the AL?  Using last year as a yardstick, the Angels have a 17-game gap to close on the A’s to make it to the playoffs.  I’ll go out on a limb and say the Angels will be in the post-season this year…

NL East:

  • This is the most interesting division in MLB.  We all know that the Marlins will finish dead last here; they lost 98 games last year and given that they will play 76 games against the other teams in this division, they could replicate that record again in 2019.
  • The other four teams here all aspire to win the division in 2019.  The Braves won it last year with a young team that looked as if it might be a dominant team for a while.  The Braves’ concern has to be that the rest of the division made major moves.
  • The Mets acquired Robinson Cano and created some clubhouse goodwill reaching a contract extension with Jacob deGrom.  Might that vault the Mets over the Nats and Phillies up to the point where the Mets challenge – or overtake – the Braves?
  • The Phillies acquired Bryce Harper, David Robinson and Andrew McCutcheon in free agency; they also traded for Jean Segura and JT Realmuto.  That is the biggest lineup overhaul in MLB.  The Phillies won 80 games in 2018; they obviously intend to do better than that in 2019.
  • The Nationals lost Bryce Harper to free agency but acquired another starting pitcher – Patrick Corbin – in that process.  The Nats must hope that Juan Soto does not suffer a “sophomore slump” while also looking to get significant contributions from rookie Victor Robles.  The Nats won 82 games last year as the biggest underachievers in MLB.
  • My guess here is that the Nats win the division and the Phillies finish second and make the playoffs as a wildcard team.  But this is indeed a four-horse race.

NL Central:

  • This is the next most interesting division in MLB; there are three teams that finished last year within 8 games of one another and the Cardinals – the team at the bottom of that trio – acquired Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason.  I think the Cards, Cubs and Brewers will duke it out all season long.  I like the Cubs to win the division with the Cards a very close second.  That will leave the Brewers on the outside looking in regarding the playoffs.
  • Neither the Reds nor the Pirates are going to finish north of .500 this season.  If I had to guess which team to finish at the bottom here, I would say the Pirates are the team supporting the rest of the division.

NL West:

  • Given the lineup depth of the Dodgers, they should win this division comfortably.  The return of Corey Seager from injury makes last year’s division winner even stronger.  Trading away Yasiel Puig to acquire two prospects is something a rebuilding team might do; my guess is that Puig had worn out his welcome in the clubhouse and the Dodgers chose to use their depth to bid him goodbye.
  • The Rockies are the “best of the rest in the NL West.  Last year, it looked as if the D-Backs were going to be a serious threat to the Dodgers until the middle of August when the D-Backs came apart at the seams.  Any hope for putting the magical part of last year back on the field in 2019 evaporated when the D-Backs traded Paul Goldschmidt away.  [Aside:  I would not be shocked if Goldschmidt won the NL MVP Award]
  • The Padres’ acquisition of Manny Machado via free agency gives them hope to make a significant improvement in 2019.  Since the Padres lost 96 games last year, improvement is not a high hurdle to cross; they will be better this year but no threat to the Dodgers.
  • The Giants have shrunk; for 2019 you can consider them the Midgets.  Last year they won 73 games and they should be happy to repeat that performance in the upcoming year.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times provided this MLB-themed “Q and A”  recently:

“Q: How do MLB apologists try to spin it when a player vanishes for half a season because of a marijuana suspension?

“A: Tommy Chong surgery. “

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



Operation Varsity Blues

The college admissions/bribery scandal has attracted a lot of attention and more surprise and righteous indignation than it deserves.  I am not suggesting that bribing the sailing team at Stanford to give your kid an edge in gaining admission to Stanford is a good and proper thing for anyone to do.  I am suggesting that the shock and horror expressed by many folks is out of proportion.  I prefer to live in the reality of the moment and here is reality:

  • Rich people can – and do – use their wealth at times to influence the decisions of other folks in ways that are beneficial to the rich people or the spawn of those rich people.

If you want to decry that element of the human condition, please have at it.  When you have finished your one great moment of resentment, please come back and join me in the reality dimension.  If I am surprised at anything that has come to light so far in this scandal is that somehow, people donated more than $700K to the Stanford sailing team and no one noticed that.  Some of the schools named in the scandal have scrambled to make it look as if they are “taking action here”.  Let’s hear from the folks in charge at Yale:

“The ongoing federal investigation has publicized wrongdoing by one Yale coach who participated in this scheme; however, I have decided that we must conduct our own searching review in order to learn whether others have been involved in activities that have corrupted the athletic recruitment and admissions process.”  [Yale President, Peter Salovey]

There is a footnote here.  That “searching review” to look into who and what may have “corrupted the athletic recruitment and admissions process” will be conducted by – – you guessed it – – the Yale Athletic Director.  I believe the fashionable term of art for this sort of situation is “bad optics”.

At UCLA, they are doing another internal investigation to examine “every aspect of the student-athlete admissions process.”  The UCLA Athletic Director said that the existing processes for such things at UCLA “among the most demanding and thorough in collegiate athletics but, as the recent news illustrates, it is not foolproof.”

  • Memo to UCLA Athletic Director:  Evidently what you thought was “most demanding and thorough” was neither.  Good luck with whatever changes you make; they too will not be foolproof.

And at Stanford, they have already implemented a “fix” for this problem.  They did what any ossified organization would do under the circumstances; they added another level of review to the existing process.  Here is a description of that new level of review:

  • An official – not specified – in the Athletic Department will in the future “review and confirm” the athletic credentials for recruits in all men’s and women’s varsity sports.

That added layer of review must mean that such “review” and “confirmation” was not done in the past which might make one wonder what all those functionaries do for a living.  But that’s just me…

Look, might we deal with a tad of authenticity here for a moment?  First, rich people have avenues of influence not available to us mere mortals – – and they use those avenues of influence.  I am not shocked by news that confirms that statement.  Let me give an example here:

  • Phil Knight – the kingpin of Nike – is a major supporter of athletics at the university of Oregon.  Reports say he contributed $100M to the construction of the new arena there and that he and his wife donated $500M to the school to build a science campus.  I don’t know if those numbers are correct, but let’s assume they are close to correct.  Now ask yourself this question:
  • If Phil Knight’s granddaughter applies to the University of Oregon, will her application be treated exactly the same as every other application?
  • The answer is of course it will not and there is no procedural step that can be inserted into the admissions process that will assure that it would.  The bottom line here is that if Knight’s granddaughter (this is purely hypothetical; I don’t know if he has a granddaughter) has a high school diploma and has an IQ greater than a stove bolt and is not currently serving time in a penitentiary somewhere, she will be admitted to the University of Oregon.
  • Such is life at the intersection of “Reality” and “Like it is” …

There is another aspect to this scandal that has not attracted any attention so far and I find it very interesting.  Once again, Federal law enforcement resources have been used to bring the hammer down on people who violate NCAA regulations – and in this case violate collegiate admissions regulations and procedures.  Once again, our tax dollars have been used to uncover wrongdoing(s) that one might think the NCAA bloodhounds might have picked up on.

  • Would it be too much to ask of Dr. Emmert that he thank the taxpaying citizens of the US for doing what his minions should have been doing all along?
  • The answer is that it is indeed way too much to ask down here at the intersection of “Reality” and “Like it is” …

Finally, Brad Dickson summed up all of this mess in a recent Tweet:

“The scandal continues to grow. It’s now alleged that Lori Loughlin & her husband bribed an official $250,000 to get their not-so-bright dog into obedience school.”

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



Weekend Tournament Notes …

The first four days of March Madness are behind us; the Sweet Sixteen is set; we can exhale – – at least for the moment.  Today’s rant will focus on the 32 games from Friday through Sunday, the matchups in the Sweet Sixteen and general commentary about college basketball.

General Comment #1:  Going into this year’s tournament, there had been 136 games between teams Seeded 8 and 9.  The record in those games was 68-68.  This year all four “9-Seeds” beat the “8-Seeds” in the first-round games and none of the four games was particularly close or compelling.  However, it is commonplace at this time of year to dismiss the NCAA Selection Committee as a bunch of boobs who would not know a worthy mid-major from a saxophone or who makes up the seedings in the brackets by drawing straws.  Well, if you look at history and think about it, the “8-and-9 games” should be evenly matched and over a sample size of 136 games leading up to this year’s tournament, it was perfectly even.  Maybe those guys know something after all?

General Comment #2:  It seems as if the latest announcing fad is to say that Joe Flabeetz is playing/has been playing “at a high level”.  What does that mean?  Is he on stilts?  Or maybe a ladder?  What is wrong with saying that good ol’ Joe is playing very well today?

Friday game note:  UC-Irvine and Kansas St. are more closely matched in terms of physical talent that a “13 Seed vs. 4-Seed” would imply.  The game was tied at halftime and the second half was very competitive down to the final buzzer.  This is the first tournament victory ever for UC-Irvine.

Friday game note:  Colgate could not possibly match up with Tennessee physically nor could they run with them.  So, they set a defense that was designed to give up as little as possible inside and to force Tennessee to shoot 3-point shots.  That worked for a while, but Tennessee built a lead and even though Colgate cut that lead to 1 point, they expended so much energy doing it that they could not finish things off.  Brawn beat brains in this game…

Friday game note:  Arizona St. and Buffalo should have been called the “Bobby Hurley Game”.  Many of the players on the Buffalo roster are guys he recruited to go there when he was the coach there.  In the end, Hurley’s “former players” beat his “current players” pretty handily.  Two observations from this game:

  1. Arizona St. has a guard named Remy Martin.  How did I miss including him in the “What’s In A Name” rant last Monday?
  2. If an NBA team has a second-round pick and wants to take a flyer, Nick Perkins (Buffalo) has the same body type as Zion Williamson.  He does not have the same skills; but Perkins is big, strong and can push back if someone pushes him.  Just an observation…

Friday game note:  Duke shot poorly for the entire first half against North Dakota State.  My note said, “Don’t know yet who they will play next, but if they shoot like that for half the game, they are going to lose.”  Well, the Sunday Duke win over UCF could not have been closer…

Friday game note:  For the Liberty/Mississippi St. game, my note from about midway in the first half was, “for a “12/5 matchup, the athleticism here is pretty close”.  The game was close until Mississippi St opened up a 10-point lead with about 7 minutes left in the game.  Then, Liberty rallied and won its first NCAA tournament game ever.  There was an unusual occurrence in this game:

  • After wondering last week if the 3-second rule had been rescinded since it was never called, there were TWO 3-second violations called in the Liberty/Mississippi St. game.

General Comment #3:  There were a lot of wins by “the chalk” on the first weekend; two of the brackets for the Sweet 16 are Seeds 1 thru 4; one other bracket is Seeds 1 thru 3 and then a 5 Seed.  However, there were some upsets out in San José.  That is the venue where Liberty beat Mississippi St. and where UC-Irvine beat K-state and where Oregon beat Wisconsin.  Must be something in the water out there…

            Friday game note:  If you want to see what a hot 3-point shooting team can do, check out the first half of the Iona UNC game.  Iona hit 7 3-point shots in the first 14 minutes and led by 5 at halftime.  Then if you want to see what happens to an outmanned team when they are not shooting the lights out from 3-point range, watch the second half.

Saturday game note:  The LSU/Maryland game was awfully “low-wattage” in the first half but the final 8 minutes were exciting.  LSU advanced with a basket with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.

Saturday game note:  Wofford is outmanned by Kentucky, but Wofford is so disciplined and fundamentally sound that they made a game of it.  Wofford suffered the same problem I described for Ivy League teams last week; their best scorer – who holds the record for most 3-point shots made in a career in college basketball – shot 0 for 12 from 3-point range and Wofford had no way to make up for that.

Saturday game note:  Ja Morant was not enough to beat Florida State on his own.  He had 18 at the half and the rest of the team had 16.  Florida St. was just too big and too physically superior.

Saturday game note:  Baylor was efficient on offense and defense beating Syracuse but not here against Gonzaga.  This was no contest.

Saturday game note:  Auburn led Kansas 51-25 at the half.  It was “not that close”.

Sunday game note:  Tennessee led by 21 at the half.  Iowa sent the game to OT.  Tennessee dominated the OT to win by 6.  Highly unusual game…

Sunday game note:  Duke survived UCF.  That is the only way I know how to describe that victory.

Sunday game note:  VA Tech is the better and deeper team versus Liberty.  When Liberty hit a cold spell in the second half, they had no recourse to overcome that.

Finally, This Tweet from Brad Dickson puts into perspective the American propensity to have National Something-or-Other Day:

“It’s National Cereal Day. Is there anything that doesn’t have its own day yet? Lint? Meth? Ear-wax?”

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



Tournament Notes – – Day One

Yesterday, I spent a little over 12 hours in front of the TV set.  Other than answers to the call of Nature, brief excursions to refill a coffee cup or a wine glass and a moment or two to chow down dinner, I was watching the first-round tournament games.  That is precisely what I am going to do again today and on Saturday and on Sunday.  I had my note pad within easy reach and today’s rant will simply be a compilation of those notes – – at least the ones I can decipher.


  • This game might have matched Richard Pitino coaching against his father Rick Pitino had not the “Adidas Bribery Scandal” intervened.
  • This game is like old-time basketball; the teams send the ball inside on most trips down the court; the reason for that is that neither team shots very well from outside.
  • Lots of frenetic action here but with only a few positive results.
  • First tournament game outcome was an “upset” (10-Seed over a 7-Seed).  Omen?

[Aside:  Orange Vanilla Coke?  Are you serious?  I would not drink that with your mouth…]


  • Glad to know that Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel are back together as a broadcast team.  For me, they are the best college basketball announcing team.  Period.
  • Stands looked empty at tip-off.  This was a “late-arriving crowd”.
  • LSU starts off with a 9-0 run; Yale looks out-manned.  LSU is bigger, faster and better shooters than Yale.  That is a nice trifecta to start with.
  • Yale tried to rally in the early part of the 2nd half but this game was never seriously in doubt.
  • Yale shot 8 for 37 from 3-point range.  That is hardly a good day, but they were worse than it looks.  At one point, Yale was 4 for 30 from beyond the arc; they shot 4 for seven from there in the final couple of minutes.

[Aside:  I have seen this script with Ivy League Champions in the tournament before.  When their best player has an off-day, as did Miye Oni yesterday, they do not have sufficient supporting players to keep up with a major college team.  I have seen this happen to Harvard, Penn and Princeton over the years.]

New Mexico St./Auburn:

  • Both teams are long and lean.
  • Looks like a possible upset early on.  Then Auburn makes a big run late in the 1st half.
  • Auburn had game in hand until the final 4 minutes where they were “undisciplined” to be very kind.
  • They made “bad decisions” on offense and on defense. Dumbest one was fouling a 3-point shooter with 2 seconds to play and leading by 2 points.
  • Aggies missed two of the three fouls shots but got the ball back anyway and missed the last-second shot.  Auburn won in spite of itself.

Florida St./Vermont:

  • Vermont leads early.  My note says “not sustainable
  • In the first 17 minutes, Vermont scored 25 points and 21 of them came on 3-point shots.  That is about one every two-and-a-half minutes.  If that is your offense, that is not enough.
  • Anthony Lamb is smaller and slower than everyone in the Fla St. frontcourt but he out-works all of them.  Problem is there are 4 big guys for Fla St. and only 1 Anthony Lamb.

[Aside:  Glad to see Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Charles Barkley back in ads for Capital One.  These are always some of the best ads of the year and I love the “Chucksedo”.  Another great line: “The Final Four is the prom of basketball.”]

Bradley/Michigan St.:

  • Michigan St. outweighs Bradley by 20 pounds per man – – at least.
  • Bradley keeping it close because Michigan St. is missing a ton of shots inside 5 feet.
  • Michigan St. shot 25 for 26 from the foul line today.  A 9-0 run late in the game won it for Michigan St.


  • There is “no juice” in this game even though Belmont as an 11-seed led for the entire first half.
  • Maryland offense is much more disciplined in 2nd half; this is a 5-point game with 12 minutes to play.  Now the game has some “juice”.
  • The game was tied with 3:38 to go.  Maryland wins – – better description is Maryland survives.


  • With 15:42 left in the 1st half, this was my note: “Northeastern will have to shoot lights out from 3-point range to keep this game close.  Kansas is bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled at every position.”
  • Dedric Lawson (Kansas) blocked a shot with both of his feet solidly on the floor…

Murray St./Marquette:

  • Must see this game to watch Ja Morant.  Anyone who watches SportsCenter has seen his highlights this year.  If Zion Williamson were a year older and playing in the NBA, Morant would be the face of college basketball.

[Aside:  I only saw Morant play one full game this year; it was the final game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.  Morant scored about 35 points and led Murray St. to a win over Belmont in that game.]

  • Morant got a triple double here.  Dominated the game by setting the pace and distributing the ball – not hogging it and scoring a ton of points.
  • Check this note: “Morant is what Lonzo Ball was supposed to be; great passer and set up guy PLUS he can score.”
  • Press guide lists Morant as 6’3” and 175 lbs.  He may or may not be 6’3”, but it looks to me that if he weighs 175 lbs, he has a bowling ball in each hand…
  • He WILL be an early lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
  • Another “upset” here as 12-seed Murray St. eliminates 5-seed Marquette.

Abilene Christian/Kentucky:

  • This is first time in the tournament for Abilene Christian.  Based on the first 6 or 7 minutes, they are not going to enjoy the experience.
  • Kentucky totally dominant here.  This is a “boring game unless you went to Kentucky”.

Florida/Nevada: [Aside:  I had Nevada going deep in the tournament…]

  • Florida’s defense contests every shot.  Nevada averages 80 points per game; they have 28 at halftime here.
  • Nevada is trying too many “SportsCenter highlight plays” and is playing 1-on-1 basketball.  That obviously worked in the Mountain West Conference, but Florida is better than those guys.
  • Game got close after Florida started trying to “milk the clock” with about 12 minutes to play.  Way too early …  Allowed Nevada to get back in the game …  Florida having trouble getting started again.  Coaching error or player error???
  • Another “upset” here as Florida as a 10-seed beats a 7-seed…

St Mary’s/Villanova:

  • Early on, this game looks like it will go to the wire.  Nova’s big man, Eric Paschall cannot buy a basket for the first 10 minutes of the game.
  • This was the best combination of skill + smart play + close game so far in the tournament.  Villanova wins a close game that was in doubt until the final moments.

[Aside: Here is how close the game was.  Neither team led by more than 8 points from start to finish.]

Fairleigh Dickinson/Gonzaga:

  • The score was Gonzaga 20 and Fairleigh Dickinson 6 with 13:21 left in the 1st half.  Here is my note at that time “Thanks for playing; what lovely parting gifts do we have for Fairleigh Dickinson, Johnny?”

Seton Hall/Wofford:

  • If you like 3-point shots, this is your game.
  • Seton Hall played sloppily in the 1st half and will have to dig itself out of a deep hole.  Their pressure defense at the end of 1st half might give them confidence.
  • Seton Hall had the game tied with about 10 minutes left to play and took the lead with 7: 30 left in the game.
  • Wofford ran off a 17-0 run in the final 4 minutes to make the result look worse than it was.

[Aside:  I am beginning to like the AT&T ads with the clueless color commentator.  I like the look on his face when the play-by-play guy tells him that color commentary is not about commenting on colors…]


  • Michigan is clearly faster, and their defense is more tenacious than Montana.
  • I did not see as much of this game as I might have because the Seton Hall/Wofford game and the Syracuse/Baylor game were much more compelling.

Purdue/Old Dominion:

  • ODU is competitive for the first 10-12 minutes and then missed their last 11 shots in the 1st half.
  • ODU players never let up; that is a testament to their coaching and their commitment.  They cut a 20-point lead in half in the 2nd half but the problem is that they were fighting out of their weight class.


  • This was a back-and-forth game for 40 minutes.  Both teams played a lot of zone defense in the 1st half (Syracuse plays zone exclusively) and both teams were lighting it up from 3-point range.
  • Syracuse committed its first foul of the game with 8:03 to go in 1st half.  The ball was not going inside very much where fouls might happen.
  • Technically, this is an “upset” since Baylor prevailed as a 9-seed over an 8-seed.  Whatever…

[Aside:  Has the 3-second rule been rescinded?  Saw one sequence where I had a guy in the lane for 7 seconds with no call.  I thought someone had nailed his shoe to the floor…]

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times about one of the Nevada basketball players:

“Frustrated Nevada basketball star Jordan Caroline punched a fire-extinguisher case after his team’s upset loss at Utah State, shattering the pane.

“In Caroline’s defense, though, his coaches did tell him to attack the glass more.”

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



Filling Time Until The Tournament Starts Today …

Several weeks ago, the powers that be at ESPN escorted Adnan Virk out of the building and off the campus alleging that he leaked inside information about ESPN plans related to MLB-related programming.  Virk had about two years to go on a recent contract he had signed with ESPN for significant money; the firing was in the category of “termination for cause” and Virk was not going to be on the air nor was he going to be paid.  Virk denied all that and filed suit alleging unjust termination; ESPN counter-sued for something or other and I figured this would go on for at least 6 months while lawyers on both sides amassed billable hours.  Then, all of a sudden, the problem(s) went away.

Adnan Virk was hired by DAZN (pronounced “Da Zone” of course) which is a “digital platform” that has some stature in Europe but is just now trying to gain notoriety here in the US.  [For the record, I could not explain to you what a “digital platform” is any more than I could convince you to believe much of anything contained in a “political platform”.]  According to reports, DAZN hopes to use baseball programming/reporting as one avenue into the American marketplace; and they see Virk as an important part of their strategy there.  Whether you like Adnan Virk or not, you must concede that he is an avid baseball fan.

The thing that is surprising in all of this is that both sides agreed to drop their legal actions at the same time DAZN hired Virk and Virk agreed not to pursue any legal avenues to get any of the ESPN money that was in his contract there.  I have to say, this is not the way I expected that kerfuffle to end…

A couple of weeks ago, Pacman Jones was arrested at an Indiana gaming casino on charges of disorderly conduct, public intoxication, intimidation and resisting arrest.  This was not your run-of-the-mill confrontation in a bar somewhere; this behavior allegedly happened when “gaming agents” at the casino went to investigate “possible cheating at a table game”.  [Aside: the folks who regulate gaming in Indiana said at the time of the arrest that there could be other charges filed later.  I have seen no such reports in the last couple of weeks.]

I have lost count of the number of times that Pacman Jones has been arrested for a wide variety of improprieties to include things like disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and – my favorite one – “felony assault with a bodily substance” which was a result of him spitting on a police officer.  To date, none of those charges have resulted in any significant spans of jail-time because Jones has been available to play in the NFL since 2005 – save for one year when he was suspend ed and made a cameo appearance in the CFL for about an hour-and-a-half.  Time will tell what happens to these pending charges.

Jones’ most infamous brush with the law involved his presence at a Las Vegas strip club where he proceeded to “make it rain”.  That evidently created a scuffle that resulted in gunfire that resulted in multiple people being wounded.  Jones got a suspend ed sentence out of that mess and lost a big civil suit to two of the wounded individuals.  Believe it or not, that was more than a decade ago.  Time flies when you are having fun…

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times put a punctuation mark on this latest incident and the latest charges for Pacman:

“New Denver DB “Pacman” Jones was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication, intimidation and resisting arrest at an Indiana casino.

“In other words, Chargers 4, Broncos 0.”

The AAF is going into its 7th week; the games continue to be competitive and interesting; the quality of play has improved as teams have gained experience playing with one another; the TV ratings are not spectacular, but they are not dismal either.  Right now, the worst record in the AAF belongs to the Memphis Express (1-5).  Much of the lack of success for the Express can be attributed to their lack of QB competencies.

For the first three games, Express coach, Mike Singletary, played Christian Hackenberg at QB.  To say that ploy was unsuccessful would be like saying Manute Bol was tall.  Finally, Zach Mettenberger took over at QB; while he did not make everyone involved with the AAF stare in wonderment at his performance, he was a big step up from Hackenberg.  Then Mettenberger got hurt and had to be replaced by Brandon Silvers.  [FYI, Brandon Silvers is not the son of Phil Silvers.]  Silvers played 4 years at Troy as the QB there and was invited to minicamp by the New Orleans Saints.  Looking purely at stats from college days, Mettenberger and Silvers would seem to be comparable prospects.

But now, the Memphis Express has yet one more QB to develop and consider as its starter.  Johnny Manziel signed an AAF contract and was assigned to the Memphis Express.  His arrival in Memphis after being released by the Montreal Alouettes and subsequently banned from the CFL is interesting.

  • The AAF seeks to “regionalize” its teams by having players from area colleges and universities play together on AAF teams.
  • Manziel played at Texas A&M which is about 150 miles from San Antonio where the AAF has a franchise.
  • The San Antonio Commanders are in first place in the AAF West and chose to pass on obtaining Manziel to keep Logan Whiteside as its starting QB.
  • The Express – with the worst record in the AAF – had first pick on this “waiver candidate” and snapped him up.

It is still not clear what Manziel did to earn him his release in Montreal and then the CFL’s announcement that it would not recognize any contract that any other CFL team might reach with him.  Whatever it was, it must not have been sufficiently sordid to keep him out of the AAF.  The Johnny Football saga is not over yet…

Finally, in light of the news that celebrities and other rich folks have bribed college coaches to get their kids preferential admissions treatment at various top-shelf colleges and universities, consider this Tweet from Brad Dickson:

“The scandal continues to grow. It’s now alleged that Lori Loughlin & her husband bribed an official $250,000 to get their not-so-bright dog into obedience school.”

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



Mike Trout Breaks The Bank

Well, Bryce Harper’s time atop the baseball world in terms of total contract value and annual contract return lasted about 2 weeks.  Compared to the historical span of MLB, two weeks seems like a minute and a half.  Mike Trout just signed a 12-year deal with the LA Angels worth a total of $430M eclipsing the total value of Harper’s contract by a cool $100M.  Some folks are trying to portray Bryce Harper as some sort of “loser” as a result of Trout’s new contract.  That is a new fad in sports commentary today; every event has to generate winners and losers.  Somehow, I find it difficult to paint Bryce Harper as a loser here since he is in possession of a guaranteed $330M contract.

[As a point of reference, there are 8 countries/territories according to United Nations’ stats whose annual GDP is less than $330M.  That is not “per capita GDP”; that is TOTAL GDP.]

If someone demanded that I find a loser – or losers – as a result of the Angels/Mike Trout accord, here is my pick:

  • Scott Boras

Until this week, the common wisdom was that Scott Boras could squeeze the most money out of MLB owners and that he was the master negotiator.  His tactic of holding his clients out until the last moment was regarded as his signature move and it almost always landed an eye-popping deal.  As of this morning, Scott Boras himself is in second place on the “big-money list” and the tactic that got Mike Trout his deal is the antithesis of everything that Boras has done in any of his negotiations.  Mike Trout had two years left on his current deal; if Scott Boras had been his agent, the chances that Trout would have even begun to negotiate an extension would have been zero.

Until yesterday when I learned that Mike Trout’s agent is Craig Landis, I would not have known Craig Landis nor his occupation any more than I could tell you how Ish Kabibble rose to “fame”.  [Google is your friend…].  Landis surely comes out as a golden boy as a result of this deal.

Let me shift gears here and talk about a situation where there is a real “loser”.  About a week ago, I wrote here that the LA Lakers are a certified mess.  Since then, it has only gotten worse.  NBA pundits have tried to boil it down to reveal the essence of the hot mess and some of the potentially guilty parties include:

  • LeBron James:  He is the best player in the world, but he brings drama and distractions with him wherever he goes, and the young Lakers’ core players are unable to deal with all of that.  James is aloof and has demonstrated he does not respect his teammates and their performance continues in decline.  This is a part of the problem.
  • Luke Walton:  He may have had a great run in Golden State when Steve Kerr was out recovering from surgery, but the Warriors were on cruise control so his “coaching cred” was inflated beyond reality.  He was not prepared to deal with the sturm und drang surrounding this team in this season.  This is a minor part of the problem.
  • Team injuries:  Of course, playing without LeBron James for almost 20 games did not help the Lakers – – but when James returned to the lineup and the Lakers on the brink of playoff eligibility, the team stunk out the joint and faded into oblivion.  This is an excuse not an element of the Lakers’ problems.

I think there has not been nearly enough critical commentary aimed at the Lakers’ front office.  Indeed, the front office there took some flak over the abortive trade negotiations involving Anthony Davis where just about every player on the team was reported to be in one or more of the trade offers put on the table by the Lakers.  As the story goes, the young Lakers mentioned in those trade rumors were disheartened by those reports; I guess they did not feel loved; pardon me while I wipe away a tear shed in their honor.

However, the problem goes beyond that single incident – – even though it surely appears as if the Pelicans played the Lakers like a fiddle throughout that “negotiation”.  I think the problem is rooted in the roster that was put together by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka last summer in the wake of their acquisition of LeBron James in free agency.

Let me go through a few bullet points regarding what Johnson and Palinka and what the failed to do last summer:

  • They did not sign free agent Paul George.  He chose to stay in OKC rather than go to LA and play with LeBron.  Perhaps that was foretelling…?
  • They did not trade for Kawaii Leonard.  In fairness, maybe they never had a shot to make a trade there since Greg Popovich was motivated to trade Leonard outside of the Western Conference.
  • They ignored “Boogie” Cousins and let him go to Golden State.  Reports say that Cousins is playing there on a 1-year deal worth $5.3M.
  • They were not involved in the movement of either Jimmy Butler or Kristaps Porzingas or Tobias Harris in mid-season.  Instead they signed a bunch of guys to 1-year deals so that the Lakers can be active in free-agency this summer.  Compare the players they did not sign or try to trade for with the guys they did sign to include Michael Beasley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stevenson.  Shameful…

Looking back, the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball ahead of Jason Tatum in the draft.  If you re-do that draft, the only person on the planet taking Lonzo Ball ahead of Jason Tatum would be LaVar Ball.

LeBron James, Luke Walton and “the injury bug” can absorb some of the deflected blame for the sorry state of the LA Lakers.  Nevertheless, I think Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are the root causes of the problems there.  At least a half-dozen quality NBA players will be free agents this summer; the Lakers’ front office needs to get two of them to choose the Lakers as their new “home”.

Finally, since I began today with Mike Trout’s record setting contract, let me close with a Tweet from Brad Dickson about Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets:

“Brooklyn Nets guard wants to spend $100 million building a fully functional Iron Man suit. And they ask why so many ex-pro athletes go broke.”

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



The NCAA Takes On Sports Betting



After yesterday’s frivolity, it’s time for something different…

For years, sports gambling was as welcome a topic at an NCAA gathering as Beelzebub.  NCAA support was important in the original creation and passage of PASPA and no sports entity was more fervent than the NCAA in defending PASPA until the Supreme Court figuratively called a technical foul on PASPA for being unconstitutional.  The NCAA was also a primary motive force behind a bill introduced by then-Senator John McCain in 2001 that would have banned wagering on collegiate sports everywhere including Nevada; that bill never got a floor vote in the Congress.  Now, the NCAA has tried to plant its pivot foot and change directions – – so to speak.  Here is what Dr. Mark Emmert had to say at a recent NCAA convocation:

“Sports wagering is going to have a dramatic impact on everything we do in college sports; it’s going to threaten the integrity of college sports in many ways unless we are willing to act boldly and strongly.”

I’ll give Dr. Emmert points for recognizing reality.  However, if there were ever a human institution with a lesser history of “acting boldly and strongly” than the NCAA, it does not come quickly to mind.  FIFA and the IOC might be candidates here…  So, what does the leader of the NCAA consider bold and strong action?  Be sure you are sitting down as you read this; I don’t want to shock you into a fugue state.  The NCAA is going to form a new group- within the NCAA structure whose mission will be to figure out:

  • “… how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”

If there were a Richter Scale for boldness and strength, this would register at about 0.2.  Even when sports betting was illegal in just about every State in the Union, wouldn’t you think the NCAA would have some sort of internal entity paying attention to all those issues?  Did game integrity and expansion of educational efforts become important issues only after the Supreme court struck down PASPA?  Bull-cookies!

  • Memo to Dr. Emmert:
  • You and your minions in Indianapolis need not expend a lot of effort on “monitoring betting activity”.  The sportsbooks that take the wagers are doing it for you and have done it despite you for decades.
  • The fact that you list as two separate items things like “monitor betting activity” and “protecting game integrity” indicates clearly that you do not understand that those two things go hand-in-hand. By monitoring betting activity, you will gain insight as to threats to the integrity of your games.

Let me short-circuit some of the rhetorical posturing here.  If you held a referendum asking who favored “pure competition” versus “corrupted game outcomes”, I think “pure competition” would be the clear winner.  The NCAA has demonstrated over the 109 years of its existence that it is neither a “nimble” nor an “agile” organization.  The NCAA is ill-equipped to be the focal point for a massive data stream that may or may not contain information regarding “game integrity”.  If there is a role for college athletic departments in this matter outside the efforts of the sportsbooks themselves who will act quickly for their own financial benefit, then the most logical place to look is elsewhere in the colleges and universities that abut the athletic departments.  If schools think that the NCAA in Indianapolis is their first line of defense against point-shaving/game-fixing, they need to recognize that the NCAA equivalent to the Maginot Line in this battle.  When they get pronouncements and guidance from Indianapolis, it should come with this warning:

  • Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…

For the record, last year’s NCAA Tournament created a handle of approximately $300M in Nevada.  This year, 8 states will offer wagering on the 67 games in the tournament.  I saw one estimate that said this year’s total handle in the US will be $750M.  That is a lot of cheese to attract and tempt some rats – – and the NCAA is not the house cat I want to protect my cheese.

Switching gears…  One of the NFL free agent signings that drew attention was Landon Collins leaving the Giants and signing on with the Skins.  He got a big contract number so that he and his agent can bask in the glory of that total contract value even though he has only a minuscule chance of ever seeing all that money.  However, that chatter paled into insignificance in the DC area sports radio orbit the minute that Landon Collins said that his childhood hero was Sean Taylor and that he would like to wear Taylor’s number “21” when he took the field as a Skin.  You might have thought that Collins had suggested putting aluminum siding on the Lincoln Memorial.

Let me summarize a few of the general reactions that callers had to Landon Collins’ statement:

  1. Sean Taylor was the greatest safety in the history of the NFL.  Landon Collins cannot carry his jockstrap.  How dare he suggest that he should wear #21.  [Sean Taylor was a big-hitting headhunter of a safety who gave up loads of yards when he went for the “big hit” and missed.]
  2. Landon Collins is a nice player, but he never won anything with the Giants.  Maybe if he takes the Skins to the Super Bowl, he might be worthy to wear #21.  [Sean Taylor played 3.5 seasons for the Skins.  I must have been in a coma the year Taylor’s team made it to the Super Bowl.]
  3. Hundreds of Skins’ fans at every game wear #21 with Taylor’s name on it.  It would be confusing and insulting to those fans who are there to honor Taylor’s memory.  [Anyone confused by such a situation is dumb enough to believe that “bacteria” are the rear door entrances to cafeterias.]

Finally, I got an email recently from #2 son with a fun fact he ran across regarding the Washington Federals of the old USFL:

“In 1984, the Federals offered free T-shirts to the first 10,000 fans through the turnstiles for a game against the Oklahoma Outlaws. Only 6,075 showed up.”

Those shirts may be collectables today.  Unless they were all shipped off to West Africa the way the NFL gets rid of the shirts it makes up to honor as champions the losing teams in the Super Bowl.

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



What’s In A Name?

While every sports radio station is inundated today with complaints about who got into the tournament and who did not – – or alternatively who got seeded 10th as opposed to some other team who got seeded 8th – – I choose to ignore all that bluster for two simple reasons:

  1. Griping about any of that stuff will change exactly nothing.
  2. It is obviously not all that important because by tomorrow morning the only thing anyone will be gassing about is how to avoid getting one’s bracket busted on Thursday.

In this little backwater of the Internet, I like to use the day after Selection Sunday to have some fun with the team mascots and the names of some of the players who will participate in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

[Aside:  Everyone here knows that I have little positive to say about the NCAA.  However, they do organize and run the single best annual sports event on the calendar starting this week.  What they provide between now and the Championship Game on 8 April justifies their existence.  Without it, I would be joining any group of folks with torches and pitchforks that might come together to storm the NCAA HQs in Indianapolis.]

In this year’s field, mascots of the “feline persuasion” are all over the place:

  • Abilene Christian Wildcats
  • Auburn Tigers
  • Georgia St. Panthers
  • Houston Cougars
  • LSU Tigers
  • Kansas State Wildcats
  • Kentucky Wildcats
  • Prairie View Panthers
  • Vermont Catamounts
  • Villanova Wildcats

Not to worry, canines are well represented too…

  • Gardner-Webb Bulldogs
  • Gonzaga Bulldogs
  • Mississippi St. Bulldogs
  • Nevada Wolfpack
  • Northeastern Huskies
  • Washington Huskies
  • Wofford Terriers
  • Yale Bulldogs

Six of the mascots are aggressive categories of Homo sapiens:

  • Colgate Raiders
  • Michigan St. Spartans
  • Northern Kentucky Vikings
  • Seton Hall Pirates
  • Texas Tech Red Raiders
  • Virginia Cavaliers

There are multiple ursine mascots this year:

  • Baylor Bears
  • Belmont Bruins
  • Cincinnati Bearcats (or … do they belong with the felines above?)
  • Montana Grizzlies

The biological genus, Aquila, has three representatives in the field:

  • Liberty Eagles
  • Marquette Golden Eagles
  • NC Central Eagles

And of course, there are always a few unique mascots that have no ties to any others:

  • Goldy the Gopher  – – Minnesota
  • Otto the Orange   – – Syracuse
  • Peter the Anteater  – – UC Irvine

The placement of teams in the brackets by the Selection Committee allows for some ”mascot themed” Final Fours such as:

All dogs:

  • Gardner Webb, Mississippi St. Nevada Wofford

All cats:

  • Kansas St., Kentucky, LSU, Vermont

All birds:

  • Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, Oregon.

All “States”:

  • Florida St., Kansas St., Mississippi St. New Mexico St.  [If this happens look for Allstate Insurance commercials…]

The Final Four will be in Minneapolis this year.  That being the case, here is the Final Four where the teams would have the shortest trip to the games:

  • Iowa St., Marquette, Minnesota, Wisconsin

And for the sake of symmetry, here is the Final Four with the longest travel distances for the participating schools – – and their supporters:

  • Abilene Christian, Arizona St.  UCF UC Irvine

But enough with mascots and Final Fours, the focus needs to be on the players; they are the ones who will make this year’s tournament exciting.  As usual, I have scanned – – note I did not say “examined thoroughly” – – the rosters of the schools involved and I have found some interesting player names.  The first category of interesting names is a player with a name that might indicate what that player might do for the rest of his life after his college basketball career is over.  The NCAA likes to tell us that players are preparing to “go pro” in fields other than what we see them doing on TV.  So, here are some possibilities:

  • Jack Salt  UVA:  Sailor
  • Preston Cook  Auburn:  Chef
  • PJ Horne  Va Tech:  Musician
  • Joey Baker  Duke:  Obvious
  • Jack Beach  Gonzaga:  Surfer
  • Jordan Poole  Michigan:  Billiards pro
  • Jordan Bone  Tennessee:  orthopedic surgeon  – – or butcher – – or both?
  • Admiral Schofield  Tennessee:  US Naval officer
  • DJ Burns  Tennessee:  Arsonist?
  • Isaiah Livers  Michigan:  Foie gras importer
  • Phil Booth  Villanova:  Toll collector
  • Javonte Smart  LSU :  Professor of philosophy
  • Skylar Mays  LSU:  Airline pilot
  • Marshall Graves  LSU:  Mortician
  • Aundre Hyatt  LSU:  Hotel manager
  • Cedric Alley Jr.  Houston:  Professional bowler
  • Trent Forrest  Florida St.:  Lumberjack
  • Anthony Polite  Florida State:  Miss Manners’ protégé
  • Aaron Wheeler  Purdue:  Interstate trucker
  • Trey Porter  Nevada:  Longshoreman
  • Cartier Diarra  Kansas State:  Watchmaker
  • Nigel Shadd  Kansas State:  Fishing guide
  • Ty Outlaw  Va Tech:  US Marshall
  • Aleem Ford  Wisconsin:  Automotive engineer
  • Storm Murphy Wofford:  Weatherman  Channel 7
  • Mitchel Storm  Mississippi St.  Weatherman  Channel 11
  • Elijah Childs  Bradley:  Obstetrician
  • Dana Batt  Colgate:  Baseball player
  • Brendan Newton  Liberty:  Fig grower
  • Drew McDonald  Northern Kentucky:  Farmer
  • Cameron Lard  Iowa St.  Meatpacker
  • Aaron Carver  Old Dominion  Butcher
  • Rashann London  NC Central  Travel agent
  • Mario Kegler  Baylor  Professional bowler
  • Klay Stall  Utah St.  Horse trainer
  • Abel Porter  Utah St.  Sherpa
  • Anthony Lamb  Vermont  Shepherd
  • Bailey Patella  Vermont  Knee surgeon
  • Max Hazzard  UC Irvine  Insurance agent
  • Amir Coffey  Minnesota  Barista
  • Michael Hurt  Minnesota  Physical therapist

This next group of players has what I call “mirror image names”.  If you put the last name first, it still sounds like a normal name:

  • Markus Howard  Marquette
  • Walker Miller  UNC
  • Kyle Alexander  Tennessee
  • Zach Kent  Tennessee
  • Cassius Winston  Mich St.
  • Aaron Henry  Michigan St. [You surely recognize his mirror image name.]
  • Connor George  Mich St.
  • Jonny David  Kentucky
  • Reid Travis  Kentucky
  • Will Miles  Florida State
  • Lindsey Drew  Nevada
  • Dean Wade  Kansas State
  • Alex Michael  Wofford
  • Jordan Roland  Northeastern
  • Brendan Paul Syracuse
  • Frank Howard  Syracuse
  • Hunt Conroy  Minnesota
  • Brandon Courtney  St. Louis

The “ultimate” mirror image name in this year’s field – – and perhaps in any year’s field – – would have to be:

  • Bol Bol  Oregon  [Yes, he is Manute’s son.]

An artist needs to have many different hues on his palette to create whatever image is in his mind.  Here are players in this year’s tournament whose names might inspire such an artist:

  • Coby White  UNC
  • Jack White  Duke
  • Fabian White, Jr.  Houston
  • Paul White  Oregon
  • Leaky Black  UNC
  • Anthony Green  Northeastern
  • Dominic Green  Washington
  • Gerald Grey Jr. Northern Kentucky
  • Barry Brown K-State
  • Gabe Brown  Mich St.
  • Jordan Brown  Nevada
  • Darrell Brown  Bradley
  • Bryce Brown  Auburn

[Aside:  Bonus points here should go to Bryce Brown (Auburn) since Auburn is also a color.]

If anyone chose to do so, they could find an “All-Presidents Team” among the players in the field this year:

  • Kennedy Kincaid  Gardner Webb
  • Howard Washington  Syracuse
  • PJ Washington  Kentucky
  • Chris Taylor  Northern Kentucky
  • Quinn Taylor  Utah St.
  • Quinn Clinton  St. Mary’s
  • Jorday Ford  St. Mary’s
  • Tyler Jones  Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Jazz Johnson  Nevada
  • Taishaun Johnson  Prairie View
  • Prentiss Nixon  Iowa St.
  • Reagan Lundeen  Washington

Players with names that are clear Biblical references are sprinkled everywhere in the brackets:

  • Zion Williamson  Duke
  • Zion Griffin  Iowa St.
  • Isaiah Wilkins  Va Tech
  • Isaiah Bigelow  Wofford
  • Isaiah Still  Iona
  • Isaiah Ross  Iona
  • Elijah Cuffee, Jr. Liberty
  • Elijah  Elliott  Kansas
  • Elijah Thomas  St. Mary’s
  • Elijah Hardy  Washington
  • Noah Dickerson  Washington
  • Noah Neubauer  Washington
  • Jonah Geron  Washington
  • Ceasar DeJesus  UCF
  • Micah Potter  Wisconsin
  • Messiah Jones  Wofford
  • Christian Turner  Gardner Webb
  • Christian James  Oklahoma
  • Solomon Young  Iowa St.
  • Solomon Ruddell  UC Irvine

Lots of players bring alliterative names to the tournament:

  • Adrian Autry  Syracuse
  • Barry Brown  K-State
  • Brennan Besser  Duke
  • Paul Pennington  Gonzaga
  • Jeremy Jones  Gonzaga
  • David DeJulius  Michigan
  • Jalen Johnson  Tennessee
  • Braden Burke  Mich State
  • Matt Mooney  Texas Tech
  • Darius Days  LSU
  • Courtese Cooper  LSU
  • Breaon Brady  Houston
  • Wyatt Wilkes  Florida State
  • Kyle King  Purdue
  • Sasha Stefanovic  Purdue
  • Makol Mawien  Kansas State
  • Mike McGuirl  Kansas State
  • Devon Dotson  Kansas
  • Kobe King  Wisconsin
  • Michael Manning, Jr.  Wofford
  • Brendan Bailey  Marquette
  • Justin Jenifer  Cincinnati
  • Luqman Lundy  Bradley
  • Bolden Brace  Northeastern
  • Oscar Okeke  Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Obim Okeke  Baylor
  • Payton Pritchard  Oregon
  • Kur Kuath  Oklahoma
  • Chris Clerkley  Georgia St.
  • Trevor Thompson  Arizona St.
  • Harrison Hookfin  Ohio St.
  • Michael Mayernick  Belmont
  • Eddy Egun  Montana
  • Kelby Kramer  Montana

In the category of alliterative names, however, there has to be special mention for two players whose alliterative name is also alliterative with their school:

  • Matt McQuaid  Mich St.
  • Brock Bertram  Buffalo

[Aside:  I continue to look for a “grand-slam” alliterative name such as Tom Terrific  Texas Tech or Ivan Iola  Illinois Institute or  Carl Carlson  College of Charleston.  No luck yet…]

This last assemblage of players’ names is offered here only because there are copy editors at newspapers all over the US who are fervently hoping that none of these players becomes the focal point of a major story that they need to edit.  So, as a tribute to those copy editors and the work they do, consider these players:

  • Mamadi Diakite  UVA
  • Ignas Brazdkeikis  Michigan
  • Saddiq  Bey  Villanova
  • Francesco Badocchi  UVA
  • Norense Odiase  Texas Tech
  • Mfiondu Kabengele  Florida State
  • Nisré Zouzoua  Nevada
  • Goodnews Kpegeol  Kansas State
  • Ochai Agbaji  Kansas
  • Wabissa Bede  Va Tech
  • Chuma Okeke  Auburn
  • Mamoudou Diarra  Cincannati
  • Eliel Nsoseme  Cincinnati
  • Nnamdi Van Dulm  N. Dakota State
  • Nadi Beciri  Fairleigh Dickinson
  • Dominik Olejniczak  Ole Miss
  • Paschal Chukwu  Syracuse
  • Bourama Sidibe  Syracuse
  • Jethro Tshisumpa  Mississippi St.
  • Ivan Aurrecoechea  New Mexico St.
  • Kalu Ezikpe  Old Dominion
  • Ernest Aflakpui  Temple
  • Sedee Keita  St. John’s
  • Roche Grootfaam  Utah St.
  • Neemias Queta  Utah St.
  • Yuat Alok  UCF
  • Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia  UCF
  • Luguentz Dort  Arizona St.
  • Sandro Mamukelashvili  Seton Hall
  • Yagizhan Selcuk  Montana
  • Gorjok Gak  Florida
  • Miye Oni  Yale

Finally,  Tim Kaine is an assistant coach at Murray St.; no, he is not the same guy that ran for Veep in 2016.  And, Ky Feldman is on the team at Syracuse; how did John Calipari miss out on Ky for Kentucky?  However, the most interesting names I could find in this tournament field belong to:

  • Tommy Falls  Montana – – and – –
  • Ty Hands  Florida St.

Both of their names are complete sentences.

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