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SPOOKY'S CHANGING IT UP FOR THE WEEKEND NBA EXPRESS
Friday's List of 13: The best times to be in Las Vegas.......
First of all, there are no bad days to be in Las Vegas. None, not even when its 113 degrees in mid-July (its usually only 98 or 100 after the sun goes down). With that in mind, here are 13 of my favorite times to be in America’s Favorite City:
13) Super Sunday—There is so much gambling going on, almost every play in the Super Bowl causes money to change hands somehow. People bet on the coin toss and the length of the national anthem. For the action junkie, it doesn’t get much better than this.
12) NBA Summer League in July—OK, so its 113 outside, but for $28, you can sit in the Thomas & Mack Center and watch NBA rookies try to impress their new teams all day long, while also getting a chance to talk with celebrities as they enter/leave by same doors you do. Underrated fun. Did I mention its air conditioned?
11) Eating pancakes in a casino coffee shop at 5am— pinnacle of people watching, if you’re into that, and who isn’t? Plus, I’m convinced that food tastes better in the middle of the night.
10) First day of World Match Play golf tournament; Mini-version of March Madness; 64-golfer bracket means 32 matches to invest in on a Wednesday afternoon. Some of these guys no one has heard of, Some of the ones you’ve heard of get upset early on.
Lot of action for a Wednesday in February.
9) Bowling at South Point at 4am, going to the indoor go-kart track, or to the shooting range, all good stuff.
8) Any weeknight during baseball season—Six hours of baseball goes by quickly in a sportsbook, where the Royals or Pirates get as much attention as the big market teams, as long as a group of guys bet on them. Always fun to figure out which game is involved when you hear random screaming from a corner of the room.
7) Watching World Series of Poker at Rio—Very large room, convention center-size, packed with poker players, with no noise except for poker chips clicking together and the occasional yell of “All In!!!” when someone puts their tournament life on the line.
Not as much fun as on TV, because you can’t see percentages of winning, obviously, but still lot of fun to see once.
6) UNLV basketball—Lot of history in Thomas & Mack Center; Tark the Shark still goes to the games, and the Rebels are good. They have good hot dogs in the arena, too.
5) Any football weekend—13 hours of action on Saturday, 11 more on Sunday. I recommend the South Point for watching football; there was always room when I was there, it wasn’t a ripoff for food/drinks and the people who run the place act like they want you there. Did I mention they sell 75-cent hot dogs?
4) Lounging by the pool at Bally’s—Had never done this but its excellent, very relaxing I hear. Weather in April was perfect for sitting by pool, doing some reading while you lounge in the sun, taking in the sights, and believe me, there are some interesting sights. .
3) Championship Week of college hoop, especially Thursday/Friday: 40-something games on Thursday, a few less on Friday, but every game packed with meaning, as Selection Sunday is only 2-3 days away.
2) New Year’s Eve—I haven’t done this one yet, but they shut down the Strip to traffic for a while, and there are lots of fireworks, even more than usual. Hotel rates are steep, but what better way to bring in a new year?
1) First weekend of NCAA tournament—Its almost too crowded in sportsbooks for this weekend, but again an off-the-strip place like South Point is probably the best idea. This is my favorite weekend of the year, no matter where I am, but if you’re in the desert and can go bowling at 4am after watching the games, its just that much better.
Some thoughts on Knicks' newcomer Jeremy Lin, who had 38 points, 7 assists in New York's win against the Lakers Friday night.......
-- First things first; Lin is excelling because he sees the whole floor and gets the ball to the place it needs to be. Simply, and with zero flash.
-- As Hubie Brown said last night, once the ball starts getting passed, it becomes contagious and the team has more cohesion and plays better, more together. The Knicks were unwatchable until the last week.
-- Lin excels in twisting layups around the rim; he has to have worked on this for hours. You don't see many guys who are so good at that.
-- His high school team won a state championship, beating Mater Dei in state final. Laker coach Mike Brown's son plays for Mater Dei now; if you beat Mater Dei, you have good players who are well-coached.
-- Despite that, Lin was offered zero college scholarships; keep in mind the entire Big West is California schools; six WCC teams, Sacramento State, San Diego State, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Cal. How do none of these schools offer the kid a scholarship? Seriously......how?????
-- Lin had 30 points, nine rebounds in a game against UConn two years ago, back when UConn was really good. Do scouts even watch games?
Saturday's List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud........
13) Now that Murray State has lost a game, curious to see how they finish the regular season; have feeling that if Racers lose to St Mary’s in the Bracket Busters game, they’re going to need the OVC tournament to make the field of 68. Hard to envision the OVC getting two teams in the tournament.
12) Air Force fired its basketball coach in-season? For real? Whats that about? School said the players weren’t having any fun. Guess the military academies are so demanding academically that sports have to be at least a little bit fun. No truth to the rumor that Air Force will interview Carrot Top and Chris Rock for the head coaching job- they don’t want kids having that much fun.
11) Maryland QB Danny O’Brien is transferring, after playing two years for the Terps, with his first year better than the second. Someone’s going to get themselves a pretty good player.
10) Big Dozen football coaches have a “gentlemens’ agreement” when it comes to recruiting, where once a kid declares verbally for one school, that ends the kid’s recruitment.
As basketball coaches and SEC football coaches will tell you, all a verbal commit tells you is who your competition really is; Urban Meyer’s recruiting machine isn’t impressed by verbal commits, a fact that annoys some of his new rivals. In the SEC, when it comes to recruiting, gentlemen wind up unemployed.
9) One thing I was really wrong about was this past college football season; just had the feeling the new celebration penalties were going to pop up now and then and take away from the game, costing some team a tying/winning TD, but it turns out only two TDs all season got taken away by excessive celebrations, and one of them was scored by the LSU punter, who is from Australia. Go figure.
8) Speaking of LSU, when star QB recruit Gunnar Kiel stiffed the Tigers in favor of Notre Dame, Les Miles just went down his recruiting list and signed up a kid from Mississippi named Cam Lawton, who is 6-3, 280. Supposedly, if he doesn’t play QB at LSU, he could be moved to LB or even DE. Now that doesn’t happen every day, a QB moved to defensive end.
7) Vanderbilt hoop coach Kevin Stallings kept reporters waiting for his press conference after Wednesday’s win over LSU, so he could watch the end of the Duke-North Carolina game. Reporters weren’t pleased.
6) I knew that Duke has won 10 of the last 13 ACC tournaments, but when I read it again this week, it startled me. Most teams don’t care all that much about conference tournaments. Duke always has a target on its back, so doing that well is quite an accomplishment.
5) NC State has three of its recruits playing in the McDonald’s All-Star game next month, a sign that Mark Gottfried has gotten it done on the recruiting trail. His Wolfpack is pretty good on the court too—they’re a bubble team that could a win over Duke or Carolina. Solid first year for Gottfried.
4) Underdogs are 10-2-1 against the spread in San Antonio’s road games this season.
3) Injury-prone pitcher Rich Harden got suspense out of the way early this year; he’s having arm surgery and will miss the entire 2012 season. Harden has been a good pitcher when he’s healthy, but he’s seldom been healthy.
2) NHL is paying Michigan $3M to rent its football stadium for six weeks next winter, so they can play their annual outdoor hockey game in The Big House. The Winter Classic has been a big success for the NHL.
1) I have this discussion with a friend of mine via e-mail now and then; is Dwight Evans a Hall of Famer? My friend swears he is, citing outstanding defense and strong offensive numbers. Evans’ career splits fall this way; he played 18 more games on the road than at Fenway, so that’s just about the same; he scored 104 more runs at home, knocked in 100 more runs, hit 21 more HR’s, 75 more doubles at Fenway.
His OPS was 87 points higher at Fenway, which we know is a ballpark that increases doubles by about 40% over other parks; it’s a HR-neutral park. So maybe if the steroids guys don’t get voted in, it’ll help a marginal candidate like Evans, but as an A’s fan, he was never, ever in my top three of guys I feared on the Red Sox, and stuff like that has to be factored in. Very good player, no doubt. Hall of Famer? I’d say no.
Sunday's List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday........
13) Before we get to college ball, Jeremy Lin scored 20 points with seven assists as the Knicks came from behind to win their fifth straight game by a point at a better-than-we-think Minnesota team. Knicks were -7 in 9:00 Lin was off the court. He's heading to being a Kurt Warner-like figure.
12) Minnesota is fun to watch; Ricky Rubio is a great passer; Kevin Love is a beast (32 points, 21 rebounds). This is a team on the rise. Both Rubio and Lin need to improve their outside shot to approach elite status, but no doubt the Knicks have struck gold picking Lin off the scrap heap.
11) Independent Seattle trailed by 19 at the half at Longwood, but rallied to win in OT; kid named Chad Rasmussen was 6-17 from the floor, with all 17 shots behind the arc. You don't see that every day.
10) Harvard lost at Princeton, its first Ivy League loss, which matters more in a league with no conference tournament. Crimson leads by a game, and they still have to play Yale again.
Bulldogs were down 13 at Columbia with 5:30 left and Lions had the ball, but Yale stole a 69-68 road win and remains in contention for its first Ivy title since 1959. These Ivy teams play lot better when they're underdogs.
9) If you want to bet next year's Super Bowl right now, its NFC -3, with a total of 52.5. Game is in New Orleans.
8) We're in mid-Fenruary; lot of younger teams are hitting the wall, running out of gas, but Louisville got a shot in the arm when Wayne Blackshear got in Saturday's game and scored 13 points in 20 minutes, in his first action of the year after hurting his shoulder last fall. He's a very good player.
7) Tennessee (+12.5) upset Florida for the second time this season, 75-70 in Gainesville; rough week for the Gators, who got waxed in Lexington by Kentucky earlier in the week.
6) Kentucky won a tough game 69-63 at Vanderbilt, taking Commodores' best shot and coming out a winner. 12 of the 40 shots Vandy missed got blocked. Vandy had beaten the last four #1 teams to enter their gym.
5) California is by far the best team in the Pac-12; not sure if Arizona or Oregon is next, and not sure if Pac-12 will get another team in NCAAs if Cal wins the conference tournament. Down year for the league.
4) UNLV beat San Diego State by a hoop, avenging their loss by a hoop at Viejas last month. These two teams play really good games; one of them is going to have to beat a gritty New Mexico team, if there's going to be third meeting in the Mountain West tourney next month.
3) Rice beat SMU 43-39, New Mexico beat Wyoming 48-38, in couple of games that set basketball back a few years. There is a shot clock; how do you score less than 40 points when you give out scholarships?
2) Texas was down 40-27 at the half at home against Kansas State, but had a great second half and won 75-64; J'Covan Brown went 7-15, after going 8-28 in the first meeting. Longhorns will be a tough out in March.
1) I'm 52, so obviously anytime someone dies at age 48, it is very sad; our culture emphasizes wealth and fame. We'd all love to be rich, and I think most of us would like to be famous (at least for a while). There is a down side to being rich; there's a down side to everything. Thats why we need to see the positive sides of our situations, because grass isn't always greener on other people's lawns. Just seems that way some days.
Rest in peace, Whitney Houston. You died way too young.