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Tuesday's Top Ten: Nobody asked me, but...........
10) Three weeks ago, if I had told you that Michigan, NC State and Butler would all miss out on byes in their leagues, you’d have called me nuts, but it happened. At one point, I thought Michigan was best team in the country, but now they’re the #5 seed in the Big Dozen. Go figure.
9) Pet peeve: The term “student-athlete”. This annoying phrase is most always spoken by bureaucrats who makes hundreds and thousands of dollars off of kids, who are way more athletes than students, though many are both. Just call them “kids” or “athletes” or “players” or more accurately “athlete-students”.
8) UTSA-San Jose State are playing in first round of WAC tournament this week in Las Vegas; they were supposed to play last weekend in San Jose, but game got rained out because the roof in San Jose leaks and it was raining out-- since both teams are awful, they didn’t bother rescheduling it.
7) Over last two years, Western Kentucky is 17-19 in Sun Belt regular season games, 8-0 in conference tournament games- they beat Mississippi Valley State by a point in a First Four game in Dayton LY, then got beat by Kentucky by 15 in the next round. They could be going back to Dayton.
6) So I’m watching the Dodger-Rockies game Sunday and Colorado brings in a pitcher named Parker Frazier, whose dad George happens to be Rockies’ TV analyst. Tough gig for George when his kid gives up two runs on his first three pitches. Thought he might make a joke, but he just said, “I’m not going to lie to you, its tough seeing your kid give up a home run.”
5) Score a victory for common sense; New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling overturned the un-American ban on 20+-ounce sodas put in by New York City's billionaire Mayor Bloomberg. When you start to restrict the civil liberties of people that much, where do you draw the line?
4) Weird story about Miami Hurricanes’ basketball star Shane Larkin, whose dad is baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
When was a little kid, Shane went to baseball practice and tried to bat like Tony Perez, another former Reds’ great. Whatever genius he had for a coach ripped young Larkin, saying whoever taught him to hit didn’t know what he was talking about. Um, OK.....
Shane went home in tears, and both elder and younger Larkin claim that to this day, Shane has never picked up a bat since then.
Miami hoop coach Jim Larranaga probably likes that story.
3) Not sure this is good news, but when David DeJesus won Cubs’ bunting tournament at spring training last week, guy named Nate Halm finished second. Don’t pick Halm up for your fantasy team; he’s an assistant in the Cubs’ video department who once played college ball at Miami, OH.
Maybe the Cubs should just play for big innings this year.
2) Bizarre graphic of the year: Oakland scored the first hoop in its game against Fort Wayne Sunday night; a small graphic appears on the bottom of the screen: “Oakland is 9-3 when it scores first.”
Now, kudos to a dedicated soul who researched that tidbit, but its basketball people, who cares?!?!?! When does scoring first matter in basketball? Not since the shot clock came in. Yikes.
1) My advice to any college basketball teams who aren’t in the top 25; don’t assume you have an NCAA bid locked up. Win as many games as you can. Take nothing for granted. Play with a sense of urgency.
Some of the longest days of your life are the days between losing in the conference tournament and waiting to see if you got an at-large bid. No one is going to be listening to the teams who are wailing Sunday night when they’re a top seed in the NIT instead of one of the 68 happy teams in the country. Its very simple: keep winning, and you’ll wind up grinning.
-- Buffalo Bills cut starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, leaving Tarvaris Jackson as their current #1 guy. Curious to see where Buffalo goes from here.
-- Siena fired basketball coach Mitch Buonogaro, a very nice man who did not win nearly enough games to keep the natives happy.
-- Notre Dame got its way, will be playing ACC basketball next winter. Wonder if they paid the $2.5M to bolt, or if NBC paid it for them.
-- South Dakota State wins Summit League for the second year in a row, beating North Dakota State 73-67. Jackrabbits won at New Mexico, are a capable offensive team.
-- LIU won the NEC title for third year in a row. Its hard to win a league tournament three years in a row, and they were the #3 seed this time.
-- Lakers 106, Orlando 97-- Dwight Howard was fouled a lot in his return to Orlando; he was 25-39 from foul line, 16-20 in second half. Lot of folks paid a lot of money to watch a guy shoot 39 foul shots.
Wednesday's Dirty Dozen: Doing some thinking out loud......
12) This question dawned on me today: Is Rick Pitino the greatest all-time coach of other coaches? Billy Donovan-Travis Ford-Marvin Menzies-Jim O’Brien-Richard Pitino-Herb Sendek-Tubby Smith-Reggie Theus-Jeff Van Gundy- Ralph/Kevin Willard-Sean Woods all worked for Pitino.
Its an interesting question, but I think the answer is yes.
11) Then there is Ole Miss, where there are rumors that Andy Kennedy will be gone if the Rebels don’t make the NCAAs. Are you serious?
You try competing in same league as Kentucky/Florida in basketball at a school where one of the primary mascots is still an old white dude carrying the Confederate Flag. Seriously.
If Kennedy gets canned, his agent’s cellphone will blow up with job offers from other schools. Good jobs, too.
10) Holly Madison is taking heat for naming her daughter Rainbow Aurora; maybe she’s just a fan of the knuckleball, and is naming her daughter after Toronto pitcher RA Dickey. Or maybe she just likes unusual names.
9) Sometimes its fun to grade the conferences during Championship Week by who announces the championship game of their tournament; for example, Bob Valvano did Summit League game, which puts them ahead of the MAAC, who had some guy I hadn't heard all year doing Manhattan-Iona Monday night. Bill Raftery used to do the MAAC game every year.
8) There is a TV show called Robot Combat League, kind of a life-sized version of Rock ‘em/Sock ‘em Robots. It is hosted by pro wrestler Chris Jericho, and its on the list with Amish Mafia of shows I’ll never watch.
7) Its that time of year; someone took an ad out in the Wake Forest student newspaper calling for the ouster of basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik, who is regarded as a superior tactician, but hasn’t recruited well. Can’t win without good players.
6) I truly enjoy the NFL, but how does an ESPN talkshow devote its whole show to NFL free agency in March, where there is March Madness, the NBA/NHL and spring training going on? I can see doing it the day the 2013 schedule comes out, but the few hours before free agency? No thanks.
5) One college AD was complaining over weekend that out of 31 basketball conferences that get an automatic bid, only one not concerned with some form of realignment is the Ivy League. Tough time to be an AD; you don’t want your school to lose out in this high stakes game of musical chairs. Even the Patriot League added Loyola, Md and Boston U for next season.
4) In case you were wondering, Saturday is National Meatball Day. Just thought you’d like to know.
3) The more I observe Indiana coach Tom Crean, the more I wonder: Do coaches ever get drug tested? He acts like he sucks down a gallon of Red Bull before every game. His outburst at end of the Michigan game was odd.
2) If you had Iona -4 Monday night, my condolences; Gaels led by 8 with 0:06 left over Manhattan; Jaspers go length of court, stick a 3 from left corner, clock stops with 0:00.1 left, and some combination of Iona players/ fans come on the court to celebrate, because they thought the game was over.
Now none of the celebrants made it onto the TV shot, so how far onto the court could they have gotten?
Refs called a technical, Jaspers made both foul shots, lost by 3 and covered the spread, scoring five points in less than a second. Very hideous way to lose a bet; seems like given the circumstances, common sense would’ve dictated just clear them off the floor and play the last 0:00.1, but that’s not what happened, maybe partly because the refs had given Manhattan coach Masiello a technical for being out of the coaches’ box earlier in second half.
1) “Someone is going to win the national title, but is any team capable of playing six good games in a row?”
Read someone ask that on Twitter this week, and its another fair question. Every team has a significant flaw; the eventual champ will probably have to grind out at least one game in the tournament, when they don’t bring their A game, which makes filling your bracket out so interesting.
Since its that time of year and madness is here lets start posting some stuff and see how it works out this year. As is always the case and probably more so in basketball I will always buy the point and never lay the half. Lines are just too close to risk losing in a crazy kind of way.
-- Georgetown (+4) won 62-55 at Cincinnati Feb 15, holding Bearcats to 4-24 from arc, while UC was just 17-30 from foul line. Hoyas won 12 of last 13 games overall, beating Syracuse by double digits twice- last four Big East tourneys, they're just 4-4, but won first tournament game six of last eight years. Bearcats weren't overly taxed yesterday, jumping out to 18-point lead. 16 of last 18 Cincinnati games stayed under the total.
-- Syracuse played four starters 37+ minutes but beat Seton Hall by 12 after trailing by 10 in first half, just their second win in last eight games; Orange (+4) lost 65-55 at Pitt Feb 2; Panthers turned ball over 20 times but shot 60% inside arc. Pitt was 12-4 in Big East tourney from 2003-8, is just 1-4 last four years; Panthers won four in row, 11 of last 14 games overall. Syracuse is now 7-6 in Big East tourney since last title ('06).
-- Villanova has gone W-L in Big East tourney six of last eight years; last night was the win. Wildcats (+11) outscored Louisville 31-19 over final 10:00 to upset Cardinals 73-64 January 22 in Philly. Cardinals are 9-2 in this event last four years, but is just 2-3 in this round since joining Big East, winning by 6-11ot. Last time Villanova won two games in Big East tourney was '04. Nine of last 12 Louisville games stayed under total.
-- Marquette (-5.5) shot 64% inside arc, beat Notre Dame 72-64 at home March 2, but Irish had 17 offensive boards. Eagles won last four games, are 16-4 in last 20- they've won first tourney game five of last six years. Irish are 4-3 in its last seven games since winning consecutive OT games last month; they lost four of last six on road, played three starters 35+ minutes last night. Only once in last decade has Notre Dame won twice in same Big East tournament.
ACC tournament (Greensboro)
-- Florida State beat Clemson twice this year, by 5-3 points, racing out to 24-8 lead in first game, rallying to win second after being down 11 in second half; Seminoles are 3-1 in last four games- they won this tourney LY, but are 4-5 in first game of last nine ACC tourneys. Clemson lost its last six games, scoring 55.3 ppg; they're 3-7 in first game last 10 ACC tourneys, were 9-36 from arc vs FSU (29% from arc in ACC play).
Atlantic 16 tournament (Brooklyn)
-- Butler (-1) shot 60% inside arc, 7-13 outside it Jan 12 in 79-73 win at Dayton, during its 13-game win streak; Bulldogs were 14-7 in Horizon tourney games last decade, but this is deeper water. Dayton (0-3) hasn't won A-16 tourney game in last four years, scoring 60.7 ppg; Flyers won three of last four games, blowing OT game at GW Saturday. In six of its seven losses this season, Butler was held to 61 or less points.
Big X tournament (Kansas City)
-- Iowa State/Oklahoma are both bubble teams, but Sooners' loss at TCU last game may have crippled them; home team won both games between these clubs this year, by wide margins. Oklahoma was 34-34 from line in 86-69 win over ISU March 2 (Cyclones were 14-22). Iowa State is 5-2 in last seven games overall, but are 0-7 in Big X tourney, with last three losses by 7 points or less. Sooners are 1-4 in this event last four years.
-- Oklahoma State won 11 of last 13 games, is in tourney; Baylor is 4-8 in last 12 games, even with home upset of Kansas last game, they need at least one win this weekend to make NCAAs. Teams split two games this year, with home wide winning both; OSU was 5-37 from arc- they won first tourney game nine years in row, with three of last four by 14+ points. Baylor won six of ten games in this tourney last four years.
Pac-12 tourney (MGM Garden Arena, Las Vegas)
-- Arizona State played four guys 43+ minutes, a fifth guy 38 in 89-88 OT win yesterday that kept its NCAA hopes alive- it was first win for ASU in this event in last decade except for when it had James Harden in '09. ASU waxed UCLA by 18 at home, then lost in OT at Pauley Feb 27 in rematch. Bruins are 9-5 in this event last seven years, 3-4 in last four. its been five years since the #1 seed won this tournament. ASU's Carson is one of two best freshmen in country, gives Sun Devils a chance.
-- Arizona hasn't won Pac-12 tourney since 2002; they lost in final last two years, both by a basket. Colorado is now 5-0 in Pac-12 tournament; they split pair of games vs Arizona this year, getting robbed by refs on bad clock call in Tucson, but winning rematch by 13. Buffs' Roberson played 25 minutes yesterday in his return from illness. Arizona is 4-4 in last eight games after 20-2 start, as lack of true PG begins to show up.
-- Oregon is 5-6 in last 11 games after 18-2 start; PG Artis played 16.7 mpg in three games back from foot injury, but hasn't made 2-point hoop (5-11 from arc). Washington is now 5-2 in last seven games after holding on to beat its rival Wazzu last night, winning by basket after leading by 19 with 14:29 left- they won this tourney two of last three years, lost by hoop in first game LY. Ducks lost first tourney game three of last five years, after winning tourney in '07.
WAC tournament (Orleans Arena, Las Vegas)
-- Tex-Arlington went 11-7 in its first year in WAC despite losing twice on road last week; they swept pair vs Utah State this year, winning by 15-6 points, with +17 turnover ratio (33-16) in two games, holding State to 34.5/29.6% inside arc in those games. Mavericks are #12 team in USA in experience. Aggies are 12-4 in WAC tourney as they prepare to leave for MWC; they're banged up this season, losing last three road games.
Big West tournament (Anaheim)
-- Cal Poly won five in row, eight of last nine games; they lost by hoop at buzzer at UC-Davis Jan 10, then won rematch by 15 (led at half by 17). Mustangs lost pair of home games by total of four points last week, blowing 19-point halftime lead in final vs Irvine; they're 2-10 this season vs teams ranked higher than #199 (Cal Poly is #145). Cal Poly won first tourney game in two of three years that Callero has been their coach.