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02/27/2013 08:59 AM
Wednesday's six-pack

-- Minnesota 77, Indiana 73-- Gophers had 17 offensive rebounds in its upset over the top-ranked Hoosiers.

-- Heat 141, Kings 129, double OT-- You watched this game and wonder; how the hell is Sacramento 19-39????

-- Tennessee 64, Florida 58-- If you play in Tennessee's band, do you hear Rocky Top in your sleep every night until you die?

-- Towson State 85, George Mason 81 OT-- My vote for national Coach of the Year is Pat Skerry; 17-13 Tigers were 1-31 LY. 1-31!!!!

-- Air Force 72, Wyoming 66-- Not often the Falcons sweep a conference opponent, but this Air Force team is good. Bad loss for Wyoming.

-- Xavier 64, Memphis 62-- Tigers are unbeaten in C-USA, but this loss is going to hurt their perception nationally.
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02/27/2013 09:01 AM
Wednesday's List of 13: Going thru some NBA numbers...........

Here are some numbers that explain how NBA teams stack up:

13) FG% defense is a telling stat at any level of basketball; top three NBA teams are Pacers (41.3%), Thunder (43%), Bulls (43.3%). That’s how Chicago has stayed relevant without Derrick Rose—playing great defense.

Worst teams in that important category? Cavaliers (47.7%), Kings (47%), Suns (46.9%).

12) Who defends against 3-pointers the best? Pacers (31.4%), Spurs (32.5%), Bulls (33.6%), again all good teams. Teams that defend 3-balls the worst? Suns (39.1%), Hawks (38.3%), Cavaliers (38.1%).

11) Point differential; Thunder have an average 9.1-point differential, followed by the Spurs (8.5), Miami (7.1).

Worst teams in this category? Charlotte (-9.0), Sacramento (-7.2), Orlando (-6.0), Phoenix (-5.6).

10) Irrelevant stat, but I was curious: Clippers (76), Thunder (70) have by far the most technical fouls, with the Knickerbockers (55), Bulls (53) lagging well behind in 3rd/4th place.

9) Knicks (+3.1) lead NBA in turnover differential, followed by Miami (2.1), Milwaukee (1.8), Clippers (1.7).

Worst teams in this category? Orlando (-2.5), Lakers (-2.0), Warriors (-1.8).

8) What teams force most turnovers? Clippers (16.7), Bucks (16.2), Memphis (16.0), Celtics/Cavs (15.7).

7) Pacers allow 89.4 ppg, least in NBA, followed by Memphis (89.6), Bulls (91.3), Clippers (94.1).

6) Who scores most points? Thunder (106.6 ppg), followed by Houston (106.3), Denver (105.4) and the Spurs (104.3).

5) Miami makes 49.5% of its shots, best in league; Spurs (48.6%) are next, followed by Thunder (48.3%) and Denver (47.4%). Again, all of this is pretty basic. Make shots yourself, prevent the other guys from doing it, and you’ll win. All you need are really good players and a sound approach.

4) Which teams are best from the foul line? Thunder makes 83.3% from the stripe, Warriors make 79.8%, Dallas 79.7%, Spurs 79.0%.

Worst teams? Lakers (thanks, Dwight) 69.0%, Denver, 69.2%, Detroit 69.6%, Atlanta 70.4%.

3) What teams take the most 3-pointers each game? Knicks average 29.0 tries per game, followed by Houston (28.7), Lakers (24.0), Atlanta (23.8).

Which teams try the fewest? Memphis (13.6/game), Chicago (13.9), Charlotte (16.6) and Utah (16.7).

2) Which teams make the highest percentage of their 3’s? Thunder (39.2%) lead league, followed by Golden State (39.0%), Miami (39%) and the Hawks (38.4%). Minnesota trails NBA, making only 30% behind the arc.

1) Oklahoma City is +484 points with Kevin Durant on floor this season, which leads league; they’re +436 with Russell Westbrook (3rd).
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02/27/2013 09:36 AM
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02/28/2013 11:53 AM
Thursday's six-pack

-- Penn State 84, Michigan 78-- Wolverines look tired, especially when they're playing defense. Penn State hadn't won a Big Dozen game.

-- Akron 88, Ohio 81, OT-- Zips sweep season series from Ohio, score at half was 41-30, Ohio. Akron might have to beat 'em again to win MAC tourney and make NCAAs. MAC is likely a one-bid league.

-- Georgetown 79, UConn 78, double OT-- Hoyas outscored UConn 8-0 over last 2:03 of game to steal a game it looked like they had lost.

-- Texas 92, Oklahoma 86 OT-- Sooners led 67-45 with 7:38 left, somehow lost in OT, in an epic collapse.

-- LSU 65, Arkansas 60-- Nice coaching job by Johnny Jones; Tigers won seven of last nine games, winning lot of close ones. This game wasn't quite as close as the final score indicates. Arkansas is terrible on the road.

-- Knicks 109, Warriors 105-- Steph Curry played whole game, scored 54 points, but it wasn't enough. Tyson Chandler had 28 rebounds for Knicks; how did the Mavericks let him go?
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02/28/2013 11:55 AM
Thursday's List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind.........

13) Duke plays good teams outside of the ACC but seldom in that team’s gym; they did not play one true road game before ACC play started this season. Blue Devils are 4-3 on the ACC road, 4-0 vs teams ranked outside top 100, 0-3 vs teams ranked in top 60, which makes their visit to #17 Virginia tonight a very interesting game.

12) Enjoyed the article on SI.com this week about how a kid at San Diego State started the fad of making very large cutout heads of people to be used in student sections at basketball games, to distract opposing shooters. First one they did was one of Michael Jackson.

11) Its not supposed to be announced until March 12, but apparently the 49ers have dealt QB Alex Smith to the Chiefs, not sure for which draft picks. Curious to see what pick they'll get for Smith, since they obviously had to get rid of him, so they didn't have much leverage.

10) Detroit Tigers had a 58-34 record in spring training games; Angels are 76-48 over last four years.

9) When it snowed in Arizona last week, A’s let the Diamondbacks share their spring training facility for a day; in exchange, Arizona agreed to let the A’s use a DH in one of their spring training meetings next month. Normally, DHs aren’t used in interleague games in NL parks.

8) Took Bracket Buster format to get Idaho to play Idaho State in basketball this season; why would these teams not play every year? You’d think they’d play, just to save money on travel.

7) NBC finished 5th in January sweeps ratings period, behind a Spanish-speaking network named Univision.

6) Did I see it right on TV, that a high school coach in Florida has his 4th-grader son on the varsity basketball team, and the kid isn’t bad? He’d be like 10 years old, right? How is that allowed?

5) No sport loses as much in translation from in person to TV as hockey; if you like sports, go see a pro hockey game in person. I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it.

4) I’m not sure if ESPN had the crowd mikes turned way up for the Indiana-Minnesota game Tuesday, but it was loud on TV for that game; when they switched to Florida-Tennessee, a game with similar circumstances attended by 19,000+ in Knoxville, it sounded like a damn library, and Tennessee came in playing better than Minnesota had been playing. Was amazing how quiet that crowd seemed to be.

3) Surprised that Steve Novak has Knicks’ 3rd-best plus-minus rating, then I realized something; his and Iman Shumpert’s numbers are skewed, because when Mike Woodson platoons offense/defense, Novak plays offense, Shumpert defense, so Knicks can only score when Novak is on the court, can pretty much only be scored upon with Shumpert out there.

2) When I was doing basketball stats, if our team was subbing offense/ defense, I wouldn’t count sequences like that in the plus/minus for players involved; it was unfair to the two players subbing in and out, but I think the NBA does count them, which skews the figures.

1) What would happen if President Obama let it be known that he wanted to be Commissioner of the NBA after he left the Oval Office? Would Adam Silver have to give the job up?
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03/02/2013 04:20 PM
Things I'm looking for in March........

March is one of the best months of the year; tons of college basketball, spring training, the weather gets better for many, lot of good stuff going on. We’re approaching this March with a sense of optimism….here are some things I’m looking for this month.

13) Just the sound of ball meeting bat means winter is almost over; so what if #98 is pitching to #87, in a matchup of two prospects destined to spend the summer in the California Penal League? Its baseball, and its always good when spring training starts up. And being here in Florida its great to see all the spring training games.

12) College basketball is one of my favorite sports when it comes to March Madness, which makes March one of our favorite months; Championship Week is almost as much fun as the NCAA tournament itself, since for some teams, just getting in is the main thing. Love to see teams celebrate when they win their conference tournaments.

11) Teams that will be very, very nervous until they win their conference tournament: Northeastern-Louisiana Tech-Belmont-Long Beach.

These teams won their regular season in their leagues, but won’t be going to the NCAAs unless they win the league tournament, too. Tech is unbeaten in the WAC; would be a shame if they got upset out west.

10) VCU’s old league, the CAA, will only have seven teams in its conference tournament, as four of its 11 schools are ineligible for the tourney this year. Northeastern gets the #1 seed and a bye, so they’ll have to win two pressure-packed games to make the NCAAs.

9) With the NCAA field expanded to 68 teams, no one who is excluded has that much of a gripe, but whomever #69/#70 are will whimper for a while, then limp off to the NIT. Question is, can any of the First Four teams make a run through the brackets, the way VCU did two years ago? VCU’s run was a God-send for the NCAA, silencing any complaints about those first four games in Dayton. Can it happen again?

8) No #1 seed has ever lost to a #16 seed; is this the year? Who will those four #1 seeds be? This season, #1 teams have been getting bounced left and right, so it figures that this could be a year where a #16 seed pulls a shocker, but the talent different between those teams is so big, a lot of things will have to fall into place for the big upset to happen.

7) This time of year, you don’t want to see the name of any the guys on your fantasy baseball team in the news; its almost always bad news.

6) They’re selling hats from World Baseball Classic teams for $35 a pop; not good. Do people watch the WBC? I’m not sure if I’ll watch it or not, I guess I will if its on when basketball isn’t. Just hope Jose Reyes doesn’t pop a hammy running out a grounder.

5) Speaking of which, Dodgers can’t be real happy that Hanley Ramirez is playing 3B at the WBC so Reyes can play short; LA needs Ramirez to gets used to playing a solid shortstop. Tom Gordon killed them with sloppy defense at short LY.

4) Pac-12 tourney is in Las Vegas for first time, at MGM Arena; with Bill Walton calling games on ESPN, this could replace Big East as the premiere conference tournament on TV.

Walton is capable of saying anything at any time; he really is fun to listen to, especially if it’s a good game- conference tournaments produce good games.

3) First major league baseball game that counts is March 31, Astros-Rangers, Houston’s first game as an AL team.

Opening Day is the next day. Interleague play will be every day now, with 15 teams in each league for the first time.

2) For every winner there is a loser, and in big-time college sports, losers get fired. The coaching carousel will start spinning faster in March; right now USC is the #1 job that could be open, but Old Dominion has a strong history too and that job is already open. By the time the Final Four rolls around, a lot more jobs will be open.

1) Common wisdom I’ve heard on TV is that around 20 teams have a legit chance to make the Final Four; that’s a lot. People’s brackets are going to have some diversity to them this year. Enjoy your March and good luck with your brackets!!!

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03/03/2013 11:19 AM
Sunday's six-pack

With smaller conference tournaments on the horizon, here are some trends with regards to how teams perform in these end-of-season events.......


-- Either #1 or #2 seed has won CAA tourney ten years in a row; UNCW was last non-Virginia winner, back in 2006.

-- Same thing in MAAC; nine of last ten winners were either #1/#2 seed; '11 St Peter's (11-7, #4 seed) being the exception.

-- Wichita State hasn't won MVC tourney since 1987; over last six years, they are only 5-6 in Arch Madness games. This could be their year.

-- Montana has severe injury issues, so Weber State will be favored to win the Big Sky, but Wildcats have won it only once in last seven years-- they blew a 20-point halftime lead in the '10 final, haven't won it since. Top seed has won Big Sky last two years, after winning it only once in previous six tournaments.

-- Last four times top seed won OVC tourney, that team won by 2+ games in regular season; this year's #1 seed? 12-4 Belmont, two games better than Eastern Kentucky, which lost at Tennessee State last night.

-- Davidson won SoCon tourney four of last seven years, but lost in first tournament game two of other three years.
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03/03/2013 11:21 AM
Sunday's List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday........

13) Ryan Kelly was stellar with 36 points as Duke held off Miami 79-76, but if Kelly is just coming back from a foot injury, how smart was it to play him 32 stressful minutes in what was basically a meaninglesss game?

12) As much as Dick Vitale gushes over Duke, my lasting impression of this interesting, high-level game was this:

Sometimes the better team doesn't win. Miami is better than Duke.

11) VCU 84, Butler 52-- Bulldogs' first conference loss by 30+ points since 1986, against Oral Roberts. Lot of water under the bridge since then.

10) Angels renewed Mike Trout's contract at $510,000 for this season, $20,000 over the major league minimum, which annoyed agent Craig Landis, as it should have. Don't the Angels want to keep Trout long-term, or does it not matter in the long run? Trout will clean up later on no matter what.

As for Landis, will be interesting to see if Trout fires him. Scott Boras goes to most of the Angel home games, sits right behind the plate.

9) Creighton coach Greg McDermott said he has no voice in whether his Bluejays bolt the Missouri Valley Conference for the Big East; its going to be a basketball-driven league and you don't ask the coach, whose star player is also his son? Just seems odd.

In an unrelated rant, does the Big East need a team in Nebraska?

8) Oklahoma 86, Iowa State 69-- Sooners went 34-34 from foul line, tying all-time record for most FTs without a miss, a mark also held by Cal-Irvine ('81) and Samford ('90).

7) Virginia Cavaliers are doing well at 20-8, 10-5 in ACC, but they're 0-3 vs CAA teams, including a loss to a dreadful Old Dominion squad that fired its coach already. Trap game for Cavaliers against Boston College Sunday.

6) They have pitch counts in the World Baseball Classic, just like Little League; if you throw 50+ pitches, think you have to sit the next three days, but you do get a free freeze pop at the concession stand.

5) Not only do the Miami Marlins have a rookie manager, they've got 73 players in camp; seeing as only 25 make a big league roster, they've got their major league team, AAA team and AA team in major league camp. Sometimes you wonder if they know what they're doing.

4) Watching Arizona-UCLA Saturday night, and one thing was very clear; Wildcats' coach Sean Miller has very little faith in his guards. He called one timeout when his point guard had ball in transition going full-tilt towards the basket. Arizona is 3-4 in its last seven games after a 20-2 start.

3) Three years ago, Erick Green scored 2.6 ppg in 12.6 mpg as a freshman at Virginia Tech; this year, Green is leading the country in scoring at 24.9 ppg. The lesson: Work on your game, improve your skills, and it'll pay off.

I'm convinced kids play too many games in the summer and do not work as much as they should on improving their skills. I sound old, I know.....

2) Saturday was the 51st anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in an NBA game, which for some reason, was played in Hershey, PA. How much money would the Big Dipper be getting paid in today's game?

1) Gonzaga has a certain amount of pressure on them this month; over last 11 years, Zags are just 2-6 in NCAA second round games, with one of those wins against a #12 seed that had posted a big first round upset. If you like to invest in basketball, know that Gonzaga covered only twice in its last nine games as an NCAA tournament favorite.

Sometimes its easier to be the hunter rather than the hunted; Gonzaga will be the hunted later this month, thats for sure.
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03/04/2013 10:05 AM
Monday's List of 13: Wrapping up a sports weekend.....

13) UCLA coach Ben Howland put an end to the Shabazz Muhammad era in Westwood this weekend, saying the kid was going to the NBA next year. Muhammad has played well, UCLA is 23-8, for Howland to quickly send a star player on his way tells us one of two things.......
a) The kid is a pain in the butt, but considering UCLA had Reeves Nelson a couple years ago, this option is less likely than........
b) Had Muhammad returned, the NCAA would've come calling, and when the NCAA comes calling, often times the coach loses his job.

Either way, Howland has to recruit like a junior college coach; tremendous amount of turnover in his program.

12) Sunday night at 11pm, replay of a White Sox-Padre spring training game, with the great Dick Enberg on the mike. Thats quality entertainment.

11) Erik Compton is one of my heroes; guy has had two heart transplants, and he still plays on the PGA Tour. Compton finished T5 at Honda Classic this weekend in Florida, his first top 10 finish. Will somebody please make a movie about this guy?

10) Bookmaker posted 43.5 as the over/under for any major leaguer hitting home runs this season, the lowest such total since 1996. The bet is whether or not you think any hitter will hit 44 HRs this season. Anyone.

9) MAAC basketball tournament is next weekend in Springfield, MA, but there are no MAAC teams in Massachusetts, only one in Connecticut. What genius came up with this idea?

Geographic breakdown of the MAAC:
-- two teams in eastern NY (Marist/Siena)
-- two teams in Buffalo area (Niagara/Canisius)
-- two teams in New Jersey (Rider/St Peter's)
-- two teams in Westchester/Bronx (Iona/Manhattan)
-- Fairfield is in Connecticut, Loyola is in Maryland.

I am sure Springfield is a terrific place, but who is going to go to watch the MAAC tournament, when there are no local teams in it?

8) Further examination of Joe Flacco's contract show a $29M payment in 2016, which means the contract will get re-done after 2015, making it, in effect, a 3-year deal. Still a very lucrative deal.

7) There are bitter defeats, then there is Baylor's loss at home to Kansas State Saturday night. Game was tied with 0:01 left, Baylor had the ball out of bounds, 95 feet from the basket. Worst they can do is overtime, right?

Baylor throws a baseball pass length of court, but it goes out of bounds with no one touching it, so K-State gets it under their offensive basket- they set up a play, McGruder drains a 3 at the buzzer, and Baylor might be headed to the NIT as a result. Horrendous way to lose a game.

6) Since 1985, only two teams won the NCAA tournament without having had at least one winning streak of 6+ games during the season: Arizona in 1997, Michigan State in 2000. We'll monitor that later this month.

5) Virginia beats Duke, then loses at Boston College. Of course they did.

4) Providence won six of last seven games, after starting Big East play 2-7; credit to Ed Cooley, who seems to have things going in the right direction with his Friars. Have to win recruiting battles before you can win games, and Cooley is an excellent recruiter.

3) Was watching the European Tour on Golf Channel Sunday morning, and the 4th hole was a 685-yard par 5. 685 yards!!!! Hole wasn't too tough- the scoring average on it was something like 4.48.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers have 24 assistant coaches; three other teams have 23. NFL teams only have 53 active players each week. Seems like overkill, but in fairness, three of the 24 Buc assistants are strength coaches. Still, thats a lot of assistants. What do they do all winter?

1) Pretty good pair of games at Staples Center Sunday, with Thunder edging the Clippers and Lakers beating Atlanta by a point. Impossible to know, but wonder how many people were at both games?
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03/05/2013 08:28 AM
Tuesday's Bowling Dirty Dozen: Nobody asked me, but......

12) Refs for Sunday’s NC State-Georgia Tech game: Brian O’Connell (working 5th day in row), John Cahill (6th game/7 days) and Doug Sirmons (4th game/5 days).

This is not to criticize them, because they’re all good refs and with 347 D-I teams, refs get spread very thin, but no way do NBA refs work this much, and this late in the year, it has to be tough for a guy in his 50’s to do that much running. (O'Connell worked again in Louisville Monday night).

At $1,500 or so for a TV game, it makes it easier, but still…….

11) Sirmons has worked 70 games this year (this data is on statsheet.com, by the way), so if he made an average of $1,000 a game, that’s $70,000 since Veterans' Day, or basically four months’ work. He probably averages more than $1,000 a game. Its not easy, lot of travel and constant limelight, but its very good money, especially for a second job.

10) Three non-athletes who should be in Baseball Hall of Fame: Bill James, who headed the revolution on how baseball views analytics, and two doctors, Frank Jobe and James Andrews, who have kept pitchers' arms in the game for a long time now. Those three people have added a lot to the actual game and how it is played.

9) This is how a lot of coaches feel about dealing with the media: John Calipari skipped this week’s SEC teleconference because he had to go to the dentist. At least at the dentist they give you novocaine, and hopefully don’t ask you about Arkansas.

8) Gonzaga is #1 in AP poll for the first time; some writer posted on Twitter that New Mexico, and not the Zags should be a #1 seed in the NCAAs. Given the chance, if New Mexico played Gonzaga on a neutral court and the game was pick ‘em, that writer would bet on the Lobos? If that’s true, I’d like the guy’s phone number, so I could make a few bucks.

7) Monday was 20th anniversary of the Jimmy V “Don’t Give Up” speech, one of the most memorable speeches ever televised. It does not like seem like 20 years, but ESPN and especially Dick Vitale have done great work since then raising money to fight cancer. Hopefully someday soon, a brilliant researcher will find a cure for cancer. We can only hope.

6) In a not-so-shocking development, the NRA is sponsoring a NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway April 13. We had a NRA rally out in front of the building I work in last Thursday; 7,000 people in a misty, cold rain, a lot of them wearing camo, many holding signs promoting the second amendment. Looked like a lot of NASCAR fans to me.

5) In August, FOX is changing Speed Channel into Fox Sports 1, which it hopes will be a challenger to ESPN as a national sports network. They are expecting to sign the new Big East to anchor their basketball coverage.

4) Chicago Blackhawks are 19-0-3, an amazing start; they've trailed four games in third period, tying one game with 0:03 left. They're 7-3 in OT/SO, 12-0 in regulation time.

3) Florida is only SEC team in AP top 25; Missouri is only other SEC team getting votes. SEC tournament in Nashville is going to be excellent.

2) 20 years ago when I used to go out to watch NFL games on the satellite, remember saying it was worth it, just to watch Barry Sanders run with the ball, as well as being a Lions’ fan. I feel the same way when reading an article written by Bob Ryan in Boston; he is very sensible and he presents a strong opinion based on sound logic. Just a great writer.

1) At noon on Tuesday, Winthrop faces Radford in the first round of the Big South tournament, as March Madness officially gets underway. Should be a fun month. Charleston Southern/High Point are top top seeds there.


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