Tuesday’s 6-pack, Quote, Quiz of the Day

Tuesday’s 6-pack
College basketball teams with best 3-point shooting %age:
40.7%— Utah State
40.6%— Sam Houston State
40%— Youngstown State
40%— Xavier
39.8%— Belmont
39.5%— Stephen F Austin

Quote of the Day
“Have a good sense of humor— winning (poker) players have learned to tolerate bad beats that happen. A gallows’ sense of humor may help them endure the bad times.”
Pro poker player Barry Greenstein

Tuesday’s quiz
Who was UCLA’s basketball coach the last time the Bruins made the Final Four?

Monday’s quiz
First time Minnesota Vikings played in a Super Bowl, Joe Kapp was their QB, in Super Bowl IV

Sunday’s quiz
First time the Philadelphia Eagles played in a Super Bowl, Ron Jaworski was their QB.  

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but……..

— College basketball referee John Higgins has been busy the last week:
January 24— Penn State @ Rutgers
January 25— Utah State @ San Diego State— Long plane ride for a back/back
January 26— Utah @ Oregon State
January 28— California @ Stanford
January 29— Michigan State @ Purdue— Day game after long plane ride.
January 30— Baylor @ Texas— Six games in seven days, that’s a lot of running.

— Didn’t take long for Kellen Moore to find a new job; fired by the Cowboys Sunday night, Moore quickly landed as the Chargers’ new offensive coordinator.

Speaking of the Chargers, QB Justin Herbert recently had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

— 49ers’ QB Brock Purdy tore the UCL in his elbow Sunday, the injury is expected to keep him out for six months, so he’ll probably miss the start of training camp.

— Chiefs-Eagles last met in Week 4 last season, with Kansas City winning 42-30; Tyreek Hill caught 11 passes for 186 yards and three TD’s. Hill is in Miami now, of course. Jalen Hurts threw for 387 yards and two TD’s in that game.

— NFL salary cap is expected to go up to $224.8M next year, an increase of $16.6M per team.

— Virginia 67, Syracuse 62— Not sure why, but Jalen Hurts was in the Carrier Dome for this game. Virginia wins its 7th game in a row; they trailed by 4 with 8:22 left to play.

— Texas Tech 80, Iowa State 77 OT— Red Raiders were down 59-36 with 12:38 left in this game; they outscored Iowa State 26-12 on the foul line, rallied to get their first conference win after an 0-8 start in Big X play. Cyclones were only 12-21 on the foul line.

— Texas 76, Baylor 71— 30+ NBA scouts watched the Longhorns snap Baylor’s six-game winning streak; Sir’Jabari Rice scored 21 points in 24:00 off the bench for Texas.

— Wizards 127, Spurs 106— Washington had lost its previous 22 visits to San Antonio; their last win in the Alamo was December 11, 1999.

— College QB Sam Huard transferred from the Washington Huskies to I-AA Cal Poly; Sheldon Cross, Huard’s high school coach at Kennedy Catholic HS was recently hired as the offensive coordinator of the Mustangs. Huard’s dad is former NFL QB Damon Huard, who started four games for the Seahawks in 2000.

— College hoop teams who get highest %age of points on 3’s:
44.9%- Chattanooga
43.7%- Penn State
41.7%- Detroit Mercy
40.9%- San Francisco

— College hoop teams who get highest %age of points on foul shots:
28.4%- Saint Peter’s
25.6%- North Texas
25.4%- UConn
24.5%- Portland State

— College hoop teams who force the most turnovers:
26.8% of possessions- Iowa State
26.5%- UNLV
25.3%- Stephen F Austin
25.3%- Missouri

— College hoop teams that are best teams at offensive rebounding:
38.6% of their misses- Duke
38.5%- Tennessee
38.2%- Houston
38.1%- Purdue

— College hoop teams with most experience:
Penn State
Fort Wayne
Notre Dame
Virginia
UAB

— College hoop teams with most continuity:
Tulane
TCU
Pennsylvania
Fort Wayne
Stanford

— College hoop teams with least continuity:
St Bonaventure
Georgetown
New Mexico State
LSU
Milwaukee

Monday’s Den: Clearing out a cluttered mind……..

— I’ve said this many times here the last few years, but it bears repeating:

NFL teams need to have THREE quarterbacks active for EVERY game, to protect the quality of the league’s product. Quality of the product is kind of an important thing.

San Francisco had two QB’s injured Sunday; they had zero chance once that happened— they put the first QB back in, even though he couldn’t throw a football more than 5-10 yards. This was the worst NFL game I’ve seen in a long time, and I watch a lot of games. 

NFL franchises are worth $4B or so; they can afford an extra $500,000 a year to pay a #3 QB who can try to save their butts in games like this one. It is worth the additional expense- think about how much the TV ratings must have gone down in the second half of this game. 

Eagles 31, 49ers 7
Total yardage was 269-164, Eagles; San Francisco completed only 11 passes the whole game.
49ers’ only touchdown drive was 46 yards.
San Francisco was an underdog twice this year; they lost those games 44-23/31-7.
I’m a Rams’ fan; this result is fine with me, but the game wasn’t fun to watch.

— San Francisco’s last five playoff appearances:
2012: W-W-L34-31 in Super Bowl
2013: W-W-L23-17 in NFC title game at Seattle
2019: W-W-L31-20 in Super Bowl
2021: W-W-L20-17 in NFC title game at LA Rams
2022: W-W-L31-7 in NFC title game at Philadelphia

Chiefs 23, Bengals 20
Butker kicked a 45-field goal with 0:03 left for the win.
Late hit on Mahomes out of bounds on previous play set up the winning FG.
Mahomes threw for 326 yards and two TD’s-  he was the 10th pick of the 2017 Draft.
Bears took Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd pick in that draft, which explains a lot.

Chiefs’ first three drives: 27 plays, 175 yards, 13 points.
Chiefs rest of the game: 39 plays, 182 yards, 10 points.
Bengals had nine penalties for 71 yards, Chiefs 4 for 55 yards.
Kansas City is now 3-2 in AFC title games the last five years. 

— Super Bowl losers who get to the conference title game the next season are now 8-6.

— This is the first time in five years that two #1-seeds are playing in a Super Bowl; last five times two number 1 seeds met in the Super Bowl, the underdog won four times.

— Opening Line on the Super Bowl: Chiefs opened at -1.5, with a total of 49.5, but soon after that money moved the line to Eagles -2.5.

— Was thinking about this tonight, I’m going to do it next year (2024) because I already have my vacations planned for this year: I want to be in Las Vegas the week the NFL schedule comes out, so I can sit in a sportsbook and watch people bet into the first odds that are posted after the schedule comes out. Just think it would be aa fun thing to do.

— Dallas Cowboys told offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to take a hike Sunday; there have to be scapegoats when teams lose playoff games. 

Dallas had a top-five scoring offense this season.
Cowboys averaged 27.5 ppg this year, 4th-most in NFL.
Dallas averaged 27.7 ppg in Moore’s four years as OC, #2 in the NFL.

But by all means, fire the offensive coordinator. Head coach Mike McCarthy will now call plays, which should be interesting.

— Miami Dolphins are going to hire former Broncos’ coach Vic Fangio as their new defensive coordinator. Miami will be the fifth defense Fangio has coordinated. He is very good at it.

— LA Rams hired former Jets’ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur as their new OC; LaFleur spent the last two years with the Jets, after spending four years with the 49ers.

— Atlanta Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen as their new defensive coordinator, replacing Dean Pees, who retired. Nielsen spent the last six years with New Orleans, the Falcons’ arch-rival.

— Random trivia: Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni and NFL commish Roger Goodell both grew up in Jamestown, NY.

— Mets signed 2B/OF Jeff McNeil to a 4-year, $50M contract; McNeil hit .326 this past season. He is a .307 career hitter with a .370 career on-base %age.

— Phillies signed 2B Josh Harrison to a one-year, $2M contract.

— TCU’s best basketball player, Mike Miles, hurt his knee in Saturday’s loss at Mississippi State; the Frogs got a promising injury update after Miles had an MRI- the injury is not season-ending. Miles is averaging 18.1 ppg this season.

— Temple Owls are 8-2 in the AAC, after a 6-7 pre-conference mark; Temple has the best eFG% defense in AAC games- they won at Houston, an impressive win. Their rematch with Houston is Sunday in Philadelphia.

— Providence 70, Villanova 65— Villanova is 3-6 in its last nine games; they’re 4-9 in games decided by 8 or less points.

— Purdue 77, Michigan State 61— Boilermakers are 21-1; they’re looking like a #1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. TV guys are praising coach Matt Painter left-and-right; one guy actually mentioned that he is a future Hall of Famer. Seth Greenberg said he is one of the five best coaches in America. Yikes.

Painter is a good coach, but he ain’t one of the five best coaches in America.

— Painter has made 15 of last 18 NCAA Tournaments, counting this year. That is very good.
— He is 10-4 SU/ATS in first round games. Pretty good, not great.
— He is 6-4/7-3 ATS in second round games. That approaches very good.
— 17-7 against the spread in first weekend games is impressive.

But then…….

— His record in Sweet 16 games: 1-5 SU, with the only win in overtime in 2019.
— His Sweet 16 losses came as a 2-seed, 3-seed, 4-seed (twice) and a 5-seed.
— Purdue lost a Sweet 16 game last year as a 13-point favorite against Saint Peter’s. He lost a second round game as a 9-point favorite to VCU in 2011.
— He lost his only Elite 8 game to Virginia in overtime in 2019. 

In short, Painter’s career record in 2nd-weekend NCAA games is 1-6 SU/ATS, not exactly the stuff of Hall of Famers.

He has a solid chance to get to the Final Four this year, with a 7-4 center who is really good. Will be interesting to see if the Boilermakers can live up to expectations.

— Charles Barkley was at the Auburn-West Virginia basketball game Saturday; he did a brief stint on ESPN, where he uttered the phrase, “stupid-ass transfer portal” As usual, Charles spoke the truth.

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college basketball Saturday

— Big X went 7-3 against the SEC Saturday in the last Big X-SEC Challenge; SEC will get the last laugh when they poach Oklahoma/Texas away from the Big X down the road, but for this year, there is no doubt that the Big X is the best league in the country.

— West Virginia 80, Auburn 77
Texas Tech 76, LSU 69
Oklahoma 93, Alabama 69

West Virginia/Texas Tech/Oklahoma have a combined Big X record of 4-20, so of course they went 3-0 against the SEC Saturday.

— Oklahoma 93, Alabama 69— Lot of people were touting Alabama as the best team in the country, and they may still be, but they played their worst game here. Sooners scored 1.27 points/possession, led by 17 at the half in a shockingly easy win.

— West Virginia 80, Auburn 77— Mountaineers’ senior guard Erik Stevenson is a 23-year old senior who has seen the country as a college ballplayer:
2018-20— Wichita State, 68 games
2020-21— Washington, 26 games
2021-22— South Carolina, 30 games
2022-23— West Virginia, 21 games

Stevenson scored 31 points in this game; he takes difficult shots, but he made them in this game, going 10-17 from floor, 7-10 on arc. West Virginia is a bubble team; they’ll need Stevenson to be very good down the stretch to make the Field of 68.

— Baylor 67, Arkansas 64— Bears were 21-24 on foul line, Arkansas 6-11. Razorbacks have lost six of last nine games, have some injury issues- they used a 7-man rotation in this game, and only two of the seven guys scored more than 7 points.

Hogs led by 8 early in second half; Bracketology has them listed as an 8-seed, Eric Musselman is a very good coach— he’s coached two NBA teams, but they need to start winning some games pretty soon.

— Kansas 77, Kentucky 68— Jayhawks snap a 3-game losing skid; Bill Self is a great coach, he’s never had a 4-game losing skid at Kansas. He has experienced losing as a head coach, though.

Self’s first head coaching job was at Oral Roberts; he went 6-21 his first year there, in 1993-94, with a 16-game losing streak. He went 10-17 the second year, but then 39-16 the two years after that, and he starting climbing the coaching ladder, all the way to the top of the college game.

— Western Illinois 81, South Dakota State 73, OT— Rob Jeter has the Leathernecks headed for their first winning season in 10 years; they’re 14-8, 7-4 in the Summit League, after going 36-104 in Summit games the previous nine years.

Western Illinois trailed the Jackrabbits 39-17 in this game; they were down 18 with 8:48 left in the game. They out-rebounded South Dakota State 45-28.

— Oral Roberts 73, Omaha 64— Golden Eagles are 19-4, 10-0 in Summit League; they’re four games ahead of everyone else in the league, but Bracketology has them listed as a 12-seed, so they better win the Summit tournament if they want to make it to the NCAA’s.

— Milwaukee 75, Northern Kentucky 74— Norse led this game by 23 at one point, 47-27 at halftime, but Milwaukee stormed back for the road win. BJ Freeman was 3-10 from the floor, but 17-17 on foul line for the victorious Panthers.

— Louisiana 94, Georgia Southern 87— Ragin’ Cajuns were down 19 at the half, but they wound up shooting 31-40 on foul line and improved to 8-2 in the Sun Belt, tied with Marshall for first place. All five Louisiana starters scored in double figures. 

— Clemson 82, Florida State 81— Clemson led this game 16-2 early on, but they were down 3 in last minute and needed a 3-point play from Chase Hunter with 0:04 left to nip the Seminoles, who made 13-30 3-pointers.

Clemson is having a dream season; they’re 18-4, 10-1 in ACC games, and only play one senior. Pat Riley called this type of season The Innocent Climb, when players first develop a trust that everyone is working towards the same goal and that greatness can be achieved, without anyone caring who gets the credit. Tigers are 8-2 in games decided by 8 or less points.

— Saint Mary’s 57, BYU 56— Grinding, slow game (only 58 possessions) but the Gaels prevail and have now won nine D-I games in a row- they’re 8-0 in WCC, a game ahead of Gonzaga.

Bracketology has them listed as a 7-seed, but they also haven’t played the Zags yet- they play in Moraga next Saturday.

— Hofstra 85, Charleston 81— We talked about this the other day; this was Charleston’s first CAA loss, their first loss anywhere since November 11, but now they probably need to win the CAA tournament to make the NCAA’s. A loss in the CAA tourney would be another bad loss; Hofstra is hovering around the #100 mark— five of their top seven players are seniors, though.

— Creighton 84, Xavier 67— Bluejays have won four in row, seven of last nine games; they shot 66.7% inside arc in this a game, a game with only 13 foul shots taken the whole day.

Creighton is shooting 56.2% inside arc, their opponents 46.2%; they’re still only 6-7 against top 100 teams, but they’ve played really well the last couple weeks.

— St Bonaventure 61, VCU 58— Bonnies are 11-11, 5-4 in A-15, despite having a whole new team this year; they’re #358 out of 363 teams in continuity. Mark Schmidt is an excellent coach; how some big $$$ program hasn’t gobbled him up is beyond me.

Draw a 100-mile circle around Olean, NY; tell me how many big-time high school players live in that circle, then explain to me how St Bonaventure is 100-49 in conference games the last nine years. 

Saturday’s Den: College hoop teams/leagues I need to see in February

Little more than a month until the college basketball conference tournaments start; having ESPN+ on my TV now gives me a good chance to watch a lot of games from smaller leagues, so why you’re sleeping, I’ll be watching mid-major basketball.

Here are teams/leagues I need to see more of before then:

— Charleston is 21-1 vs schedule #286, Florida Atlantic is 20-1 vs schedule #198; ESPN has FAU as an 8-seed, so they might be able to survive a loss in the C-USA tournament, but Charleston is listed as an 11-seed, so they’ll probably need to win the CAA tournament to make the NCAA’s.

Both teams had their only loss way back on November 11.

— Towson has won seven of last eight games; they’ve got best continuity number in CAA, so they figure to be Charleston’s biggest threat.

— UAB is 14-7, 5-5 in C-USA, but their star G Jordan Walker missed their last four games; they are a threat in C-USA tourney if they Walker back, but only if. North Texas would be the other team that could make FAU squirm- they lost 66-62 to the Owls couple weeks ago.

— VCU, Saint Louis and Dayton are the three best teams in the A-15; this could be the first time since 2002 that the A-15 only gets only one team in the NCAA’s.

VCU won 11 of its last 12 games; they have sketchy losses to Duquesne, Jacksonville; a 63-59 loss to fellow bubble team Arizona State won’t help any.

Saint Louis beat Memphis/Providence, but lost to SIU-Edwardsville.

— I haven’t seen any Big Sky games yet this season; I’ll fix that today by watching a couple. Right now, Eastern Washington is 15-7/9-0; they’ve won their last 11 games, but lost to Texas Tech, which is winless in the Big X, and FIU, which is 4-6 in C-USA.

Montana State has best continuity number in Big Sky; they’re 7-2 in league games, but their non-league resume is pretty dismal.

Whoever wins the Big Sky tournament better enjoy it; they won’t last long in NCAA’s.

— There are 13 teams in the WAC this year, as schools migrate in/out of the league for mostly football-related reasons. Southern Utah has most experienced team; Seattle is the contender with best continuity number, while Sam Houston State has wins over Oklahoma/Utah to boost its resume. Bearkats are shooting 40.6% on arc, #2 in country.

Traditional WAC power New Mexico State has been in NCAA’s 8 of the last 10 years, but Aggies have had lot of off-court problems this year- they’re 0-8 in WAC games this year, which leaves the door ajar for someone new to represent the WAC in March.

— Missouri Valley Conference is #14 league so far this year, its 2nd-lowest ranking in the last 20 years. This is a one-bid league no matter what; Drake/Southern Illinois have best experience, continuity numbers, while Belmont is 9-2 in its first season in the Valley.

One thing about conference tournaments is that you need depth to win three games in three days. Belmont/Salukis have more depth than Drake does.

Northern Iowa is 8-3 in MVC games; they were 4-6 in pre-conference games.

— Sun Belt has 14 teams, stretching from Virginia to Texas; Marshall/James Madison have most experienced teams, Louisiana/Marshall have best continuity numbers. Mike D’Antoni’s brother has been the coach at Marshall for nine years; they play fast, #30 tempo in country. 

With four top 100 teams, need to watch some Sun Belt ball in February. Every team in league has already lost 2+ conference games, so their conference tournament should be interesting.

— I’ve watched decent amount of Big West games already; looks like there are five teams with a legit shot at winning their league tournament. Cal-Davis has won six of its last seven games; along with Cal-Santa Barbara, they’re two teams with best experience/continuity numbers.

Cal-Riverside has the best team they’ve had since moving up to D-I; they’ve won eight of their last ten games. Cal-Irvine/Hawai’i are also good teams; Anteaters are little less experienced than usual, but they’re shooting 3’s better than they have since 2015, when they made the NCAA’s. 

— ESPN needs to get some Southern Conference games on TV; this is a pretty good league, the league Steph Curry played in. This year, Samford, Furman, NC-Greensboro will be the favorites to win the league tournament; Greensboro has best experience/continuity numbers, Samford has #43 eFG% in country, so they can score the ball.

Furman is the team to watch; they’re 7-2 in SoCon games this year, 86-30 the last seven years, but they haven’t won the SoCon tourney during that time, losing the final in OT last year, also getting bounced in OT the year before. Paladins last made the NCAA’s in 1980.

— ESPN carries lot of Mid-American Conference games on TV, mostly Friday nights; Toledo and Kent State are the favorites this year, along with Akron. 

Toledo is 14-6, 5-2 this year; they’ve got an older, experienced team with good continuity. Last three years, Toledo is 37-9 in MAC games, but they haven’t won the MAC tournament- their last NCAA appearance was 1980, just like Furman.

— MAAC tournament used to be here in Albany, but now they play it in Atlantic City, because they have casinos there. Not sure the league makes more $$$ this way, but some teams didn’t like playing the tournament on Siena’s home court every year.

Siena whacked Iona Friday night; they’re 8-2 in MAAC, just ahead of Rider, the team with the best experience/continuity numbers in the league. Iona has made five of last six NCAA’s, but they’re not as experienced this year, are 2-3 in their last five games. 

Quinnipiac has won six games in a row; they’re 15-5 as they try to make the NCAA’s for the first time. Mike Dunleavy’s son is the Bobcats’ coach. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here……..

— Happy 89th birthday to the great Bob Uecker, a baseball legend who became a way bigger star after he stopped playing and became a TV personality. He used to be on The Tonight Show just because Johnny Carson thought he was funny, which he is.

Uecker was also in a TV series (Mr Belvedere) and in the classic baseball movie Major League, as well as countless beer commercials. He made himself a fortune by not taking himself too seriously.

Uecker still broadcasts some Milwaukee Brewer games; there is a statue of him in the upper reaches of Miller Park. Happy birthday sir!!!

— Five actors who appeared in both M*A*S*H and The Sopranos:
Bruce Kirby
Burt Young— Best known as Rocky Balboa’s brother-in-law
Peter Riegert— One of the guys from Animal House
Val Bisoglio
Joe Pantoliano— Guido the Pimp from Risky Business

— Carolina Panthers hired Frank Reich as their new coach, which raised some eyebrows around the NFL. Reich went 40-33-1 coaching the Colts, despite having a different starting QB every year.

Carolina is 29-53 the last five years; their owner David Tepper is NFL’s wealthiest owner, and rich people tend to be impatient.

Tepper fired Matt Rhule when the Panthers started this season 1-4; interim coach Steve Wilks led Carolina to a 6-6 record— there was some thought that he would get the job, but he didn’t, which is what raised the eyebrows.

— New Jersey Jets hired Nathaniel Hackett as their new offensive coordinator; Hackett had a lot of success as a coordinator in Green Bay, raising speculation that QB Aaron Rodgers could be headed to the Jets, but they said that when he got hired in Denver too, and that didn’t work out very well.

— Oakland A’s traded P Cole Irvin and a prospect to the Orioles, for minor league IF prospect Darell Hernaiz, who hit .305 in the Class A South Atlantic League, but then went 6-53 in a cameo appearance in the AA Eastern League.

A’s have added a lot of pitching prospects because they’ve traded all their good players, so now they’re trying to find new position players so they don’t go 60-102 again.

I’m not optimistic, in case you haven’t noticed.

— Houston Astros won the World Series last year, then they fired their general manager, which was genuinely odd. Astros hired a new GM this week; Dana Brown, who was a longtime scouting executive with the Braves.

No pressure here; your predecessor just won the World Series and got fired, because the Astros’ owner listens more to former players than the GM.

— When USC/UCLA leave the Pac-12 in couple years, what will the Pac-12 do? Will they go back to being the Pac-10 or will they add San Diego State and either UNLV/Boise State and stay with a 12-team format?

— Auburn Tigers had their 28-game home winning streak snapped this week, leaving UCLA (19) and Kent State (16) with the longest home winning streaks in the country.

Speaking of UCLA……..
— USC 77, UCLA 64— Bruins have won 19 in a row at home, but they got outscored 52-27 in the second half of this game against their crosstown rivals. USC is a bubble team; this is a very big win for them.

— Arizona 73, Washington State 68— Arizona never trailed, but they only played seven guys and they won by 5 points against the 9-13 Coogs. Wazzu outscored Arizona 16-3 on the foul line; I’m unsure if this is a red flag for Arizona, but it sure could be.

— Purdue 75, Michigan 70— Wolverines are 11-9, 5-4 in conference; they’re heading straight towards the NIT. Michigan is 4-8 in games decided by 7 or less points, or in OT.

— Cal-Fullerton 62, Cal-Irvine 61— Titans outscored Irvine 8-2 over the final 2:02, draining a 3-pointer with 0:03 left for the win. Fullerton won despite shooting 35.4% from the floor. Big West tournament is going to have a lot of close games.

ESPN+ is a lot of fun; can watch all these games and learn about the teams to get ready for March. One of the small down sides of ESPN+ is that some of these leagues have announcers who aren’t………how can I say this? ……..who aren’t good.

This game had at least one student announcing; he seemed to know a lot about baseball and the NFL and well, gambling— he quoted the line on this game before the last possession.

— Cal-Santa Barbara 65, Hawaii 64— Gauchos were down by a point on last possession; they gave the ball to Ajay Mitchell and didn’t really run a play, he just went 1-on-1 and banked in a leaner with 0:01.5 left to give UCSB a dramatic win, which kept them in first place.

— Washington 69, Arizona State 66 OT— Sun Devils led 12-0 early, then trailed 32-20 at the half; Arizona State shot 30.7% from the floor in their third straight loss, which is bad for a bubble team.

— Louisiana-Monroe 86, Marshall 82, 2OT— Warhawks were a 16-point underdog; their bench played a total of 18:00 in a double overtime game. Two of their guys played all 50:00.

Sun Belt is a wide-open league; every team has lost 2+ games.

— RIP to basketball icon Billy Packer, who passed away at age 82; Packer was the lead college basketball TV analyst for 34 straight Final Fours. He was blunt and smart- he played ball at Wake Forest, helping the Deacons make the 1962 Final Four.

When Packer was in a 3-man TV booth with Dick Enberg/Al McGuire, it was great TV; you could learn so much about basketball listening to them.

Billy Packer taught me a lot about basketball; I appreciate that. RIP, sir. 

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

— Xavier 82, UConn 79
Xavier played seven guys; they led by 17 early in second half.
UConn was 1-13 on arc in first half, 9-15 in second half.
Huskies are 2-6 in last eight games, after a 14-0 start.

— Pitt 81, Wake Forest 79— Pitt was 18-37 on arc, 10-21 inside arc; their two leading scorers were 14-23 from the floor, with every shot a 3-pointer.

— Tulane 95, Wichita State 90 OT
Shockers led by 18 in first half, by 8 with 2:42 left in game.
Tulane has won six of its last eight games.

— Alabama 66, Mississippi State 63
Miss State led by 10 with 16:19 left in game.
Teams combined to shoot 8-43 on the arc.
Alabama has won nine in a row; Bulldogs have lost 8 of last 9.

— Texas A&M 79, Auburn 63
Aggies snapped Auburn’s 28-game home winning streak, which had been the longest in the country.
Texas A&M won eight of its last nine games.

— Furman 91, Samford 84 OT
Paladins were 27-34 on foul line, Samford 13-19
Samford led by 5 with 2:00 left in regulation.
Samford slips into a tie for first in SoCon with NC-Greensboro

— Rhode Island 75, Dayton 70
Scores like this are why the Atlantic 15 will be a one-bid league for first time since 2002.
URI coach Miller went 139-63 as Dayton’s coach from 2011-17.

— George Washington 92, St Joe’s 91 OT— Colonials have their first 3-game winning streak in five years. 

— Odds to win the Super Bowl:
+260— Bengals, Eagles
+280— Chiefs
+320— 49ers

First time in 40 years that none of the final four teams is 4-1 or better to win the Super Bowl.

— Last time the spread for both conference championship games was less than 3 points was 1997, when Denver-Pittsburgh, Green Bay-San Francisco were the matchups.

— Last nine times the conference championship game was a #1-#2 seed game, like 49ers-Eagles this weekend, the #1-seed was 7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS.

Since 2003, when a #1-seed is playing a #3 or lower seed in the conference title game, the #1-seed is 6-4 ATS in those games.

— Conference championship games are the NFL’s Final Four; Dallas Cowboys haven’t made the Final Four since 1995. Dallas won Super Bowls in 1992, 1993, 1995, but nothing close since.

— New England Patriots did a smart thing and hired former Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien as their offensive coordinator; O’Brien worked for New England from 2007-11- he was most recently an assistant coach at Alabama.

— Tennessee signed football coach Josh Heupel to a contract extension worth $9M a year thru 2028. Heupel is 18-8 in his first two years coaching the Vols.

— There are ten teams in the Ohio Valley Conference; six of them are tied for first place, with 5-3 conference records. No one in the OVC is in the top 200; could be that the winner of the OVC tourney will make an appearance in Dayton, at the play-in games.

— It bothers me a little when people don’t say “thank you”. You do something nice, doesn’t take much to say “thank you”

— Tampa Bay Rays signed P Jeffrey Springs to a 4-year, $31M contract extension; Springs was 9-5, 2.46 in 33 games (25 starts) last year. 

— Oakland A’s signed 1B Jesus Aguilar to a one-year, $3M deal; Aguilar had good seasons in 2018 and 2021— he hit .235 for the Marlins/Orioles last year.

— RA Dickey and Mike Napoli each got a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Go figure.

— Don Mattingly played 14 years in the major leagues; he hit six grand slams, all of them in 1987, which was the most grand slams ever hit in one season. But he never hit a grand slam in any other season.

— Most career touchdown passes by a QB with 0 or 1 career playoff wins:
291- Carson Palmer (1-3 playoff record)
255- Sonny Jurgensen (0-0)
252- Kirk Cousins (1-3)
244— John Hadl (0-2), Andy Dalton (0-4)
227— Jay Cutler (1-1)

— I’m sick of the Manning family; Peyton, Eli, Archie, all of them. They do more commercials than Jennifer Garner and Kevin Hart. Eli Manning never said boo when he was playing; now he is everywhere on TV. Just go away.

— For some misguided reason, West Virginia is in the Big X Conference. Here is how far they are from their nine conference rivals:
Iowa State— 867 miles
Kansas— 903 miles
Kansas State— 984 miles
Oklahoma State— 1,089 miles
Oklahoma— 1,141 miles
TCU— 1,236 miles
Texas— 1,400 miles
Texas Tech— 1,470 miles

What genius thought this was a good idea? 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— Here’s a question to start the day with:
If you were a Division I college basketball coach, would you try and recruit Bronny James to play for your team?

Plusses:
He is a 6-3 G who is a good shooter, an unselfish player.
He’s played at a high level in high school, against good competition.
He is Lebron James’ son; he’ll increase your visibility. Maybe by a lot.

Minuses:
He isn’t his father, who is one of the 2-3 best basketball players ever.
He’s only going to play one year in college, then go to the NBA to play on the same team as his father, before Lebron Sr retires.

Is it worth all the effort to recruit the kid? It is an interesting question.

— Illinois 69, Ohio State 60— Buckeyes lost six of their last seven games; they’re shooting 43.4% inside the arc in conference games, which isn’t good.

— North Carolina 72, Syracuse 68— Tar Heels were 14-23 on the foul line, Syracuse 2-3. North Carolina scored the last five points of the game, after blowing a 10-point lead.

— Iowa State 80, Kansas State 76— Cyclones shot 69.7% inside the arc in a high-level game between two teams who will be fashionable picks for the Final 4 in March.

— Kentucky 69, Vanderbilt 53— Wildcats won their last four games, have Kansas visiting Rupp Arena Saturday. They win that game, they’re off the proverbial bubble.

— Rutgers 65, Penn State 45— Scarlet Knights have won 8 of their last 10 games; they’re forcing turnovers 23.2% of the time, are tied for 2nd place in the Big 14.

— TCU 79, Oklahoma 52— Horned Frogs are 14-3 in their last 17 games; they’re #3 in the nation in continuity, and they pounded Oklahoma in this game, up 44-27 at halftime.

— Drake 70, Indiana State 68— Drake led 44-26 at halftime, blew the lead, then won the game on a 3-pointer with 0:02 left. Drake has won five of its last six games; the Sycamores have lost five in a row.

— Georgetown 81, DePaul 76— Hoyas ended their 29-game Big East losing streak. Since 2008, DePaul is now 52-227 in Big East Conference games.

— San Jose State 82, Air Force 52— Spartans improve to 13-8, 4-4 in Mountain West; as Tim Miles is doing a great rebuilding job. How great?

Since joining the Mountain West ten years ago, San Jose is 73-224, 25-143 in conference games. Their last winning season was 1993-94. Miles is doing a miraculous job in San Jose.

— Toledo 84, Eastern Michigan 79— Rockets were down 11 with 6:46 left; they survived a 43-point explosion from EMU star Emoni Bates, who had scored a total of 34 points in his previous three games. At one point, Bates scored 29 straight points for the Eagles.

— Northern Illinois 86, Kent State 76— Huskies were a 13-point home underdog; they handed Kent State their first MAC loss, dropping them into a first-place tie with Akron.

In non-basketball stuff……….
— Scott Rolen got 76.3% of the votes, joins Fred McGriff as 2023 inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Todd Helton missed getting voted in by 11 votes, which is disappointing.

Here are Helton’s career home/away splits:
Home: .345 batting average, 1.048 OPS, with 227 home runs
Away: .287 batting average, .855 OPS, with 142 home runs

It all adds up; Helton hit .316 with 369 career home runs. Does it really matter where he hit them? He is getting penalized for playing for the Rockies.

— Arte Moreno took his Los Angeles Angels off the market; be bought the team 20 years ago for $180M, was asking $2.5B to sell them this year.

Angels haven’t had a winning record since 2015; they last made the playoffs in 2014, but not because they don’t try. It’ll be interesting to see if they can re-sign Shohei Ohtani next year.

— By the way, in 1980, the Mets were sold for $21.1M; wonder what they’re worth now?  

Tuesday’s Den: Early looks at the NCAA Tournament field……

— Big X— How good is the Big X this season? Bracketology has West Virginia listed as one of the last four teams in the Field of 68; they’re 1-6 in Big X play. Right now, Bracketology has eight of the ten Big X teams in the NCAA’s.

— Big 14— Bracketology has 10 of the 14 teams in the Field of 68:
1-seed– Purdue
5— Rutgers
6– Illinois
7— Iowa, Michigan State
9— Indiana
10— Maryland, Wisconsin
11— Ohio State
12— Northwestern

— SEC— Bracketology has five SEC teams in the field, with fading Arkansas as a 7-seed; they’re 2-5 in SEC games and have injury issues. Alabama/Tennessee are far and away the two best SEC teams this season. 

— Kentucky is a bubble team; they’ve won three games in a row, and play Kansas Saturday in the Big X/SEC Challenge, so a win there would likely get them off the bubble.Their loss to #244 South Carolina, just before they upset Tennessee, is a red flag on their resume.

— ACC— Bracketology has seven ACC teams in NCAA’s, but none higher than a 3-seed:
3-seed— Virginia
5— Miami, NC State
6— Duke
8— Clemson
9— North Carolina, Pittsburgh

— #1-seeds, to this point: Alabama, Houston, Kansas, Purdue— the last Bracketology was done before Houston lost at home to Temple Sunday. We’ll see if losing as a 20-point favorite knocks them out of a #1-seed, for now.

Only one #1-seed has ever lost in the first round of the tournament; after that, there isn’t much difference between play the 8-9 seed winner and the 7-10 winner in the second round. 

— #2-seeds, to this point: Arizona, Iowa State, Tennessee, UCLA— Tennessee/UCLA are best of this group. I’m thinking that UCLA will wind up as a #1-seed.

— Last four teams in; the two play-in games would be:
Ohio State-West Virginia and Northwestern-Oklahoma.

Northwestern had their last two games postponed by COVID-related issues, which complicates their situation.

— Mountain West— San Diego State/Boise State seem like they’re headed to the NCAA’s, with surging New Mexico listed as an 11-seed, which means they don’t have much margin for error.

This league is improved; their #7-rating this year (and last year) is highest league has been rated since 2013. UNLV is 1-6 in Mountain West, tied for last with Wyoming; they’re 11-1 in their non-conference games.

— Big East— Bracketology has five Big East teams in:
3-seed— Xavier
4— UConn, Marquette
6— Providence
8— Creighton

Doesn’t seem to be much bubble activity here; none of the other six Big East teams have a shot at an at-large bid- they’ll need to win the Big East Tournament to get in the NCAA’s.

— Pac-12— Bill Walton won’t like this, but Bracketology has three teams in: UCLA, Arizona and 10-seed Arizona State. They list the first eight teams outside the Field of 68; none of them are Pac-12 teams. Can USC/Utah get hot and out themselves on the bubble?

— AAC— Houston is a big fish in a small pond; they’ll either be a #1 or a #2-seed. Memphis is the only other AAC team that Bracketology has in the Field of 68, and they’re listed as an 11-seed, a bubble team. There are two Houston-Memphis games between now and the AAC tournament; Tigers would be well-served to at least split the pair.

Central Florida is listed as one of the last four out of the field.

— Atlantic 15— Last time this league had only one team in the NCAA’s? 2002, but they appear headed that way this season.

Bracketology has VCU as the lone A-15 team, but as a 12-seed, barely avoiding a play-in game. Dayton just lost to George Washington, the kind of loss that sends you to the NIT, unless you win the conference tournament.

— Championship Week is so much fun because all the other leagues are one-bid leagues, so their conference tournaments are essentially play-in events for the NCAA’s.

KenPom.com has Florida Atlantic ranked as #36, Charleston as #73; they would be the two fascinating teams to watch if they got upset in their conference tournament. Would they get at-large spots, and knock power conference teams out of the field? 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend……..

49ers 19, Cowboys 12
Game was 9-9 after three quarters.
Prescott threw INT in red zone just before halftime, when they trailed 9-6.
Rookie QB Purdy is 7-0 in his first seven NFL starts.
49ers visit Philadelphia next week in the NFC title game.

Bengals 27, Bills 10
Bengals’ first two drives: 16 plays, 151 yards, 14 points.
Mixon ran 20 times for 105 yards and a TD.
Bengals ran ball for 172 yards (5.1 yards/carry)
Cincinnati @ Kansas City is next week’s AFC title game.

— Joe Burrow is now 5-1 in NFL playoff games; all the other QB’s in Bengals’ history are a combined 5-14 in playoff games.

— Chiefs’ backup QB Chad Henne led a 98-yard TD drive Saturday, while Patrick Mahomes was getting his sprained ankle looked at. Henne was 5-7 passing for 23 yards in his brief stint; all season long, he had taken a total of 18 snaps.

The 37-year old Henne is 18-36 as an NFL starter, earning around $40M in his career. He’s started one game since 2014, but he was ready when needed Saturday.

— Odds for the conference championship games next week:
49ers @ Eagles (-2.5, 45.5)
Bengals @ Chiefs (-1.5, 47.5)

— If you’re a Jaguars’ fan, you have to be fired up about this season, going 10-9 and winning a playoff game, especially since they went 4-29 the last two seasons. With Trevor Lawrence at QB and a Super Bowl-winning coach in Doug Pederson, things are looking up.

— Here are the nine teams who passed on Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 Draft, the player they took instead, and their records since then:
1) Cleveland- Myles Garrett 39-58-1
2) Chicago- QB Mitch Trubisky 42-56- they traded up to get here
3) San Francisco- Solomon Thomas 53-46
4) Jacksonville- Leonard Fournette 34-65
5) Tennessee- Corey Davis 57-41
6) NJ Jets- Jamal Adams 29-69
7) LA Chargers- Mike Williams 52-46
8) Carolina- Christian McCaffrey 40-58
9) Cincinnati- John Ross 41-55-1

Chiefs are 82-25 since they drafted Mahomes.

— Temple 56, Houston 55— #1 team in the country loses as a 20.5-point home favorite; Cougars were 11-21 on foul line, Temple 20-22.

— Fairfield 62, Siena 52— Visiting Stags scored 15 points in first half, 47 in second half to pull the upset. Siena led 16-4 early on, but had only one player score more than 7 points.

Fairfield has won three in row, is now in 5th place in the 11-team MAAC. Siena’s loss drops them into a tie for first with Iona in the loss column.

— Furman 96, Wofford 82— Paladins scored 1.35 points/possession; they’re shooting 59.6% inside the arc, #3 in country, while getting 36.5% of their points on the arc, #46 in country.

Last eight years, Furman is 83-30 in SoCon games, but they haven’t made the NCAA tourney since 1980. Could this be the year they break their drought?

— Finally found this year’s college basketball referee stuff; figure the season is 77 days old, there are seven officials who’ve worked 56+ games this season, which means they’re working five games a week. Not a lot of load management for referees. 

— One of the amusing things about college basketball is when coaches who don’t like each other shake hands after a game; they blow by each other, barely touching hands as they scoot by.

— Arizona Wildcats have players on their roster from seven different countries. Their coach has three different passports; they showed them on TV Saturday night. 

— Lakers 121, Portland 112— Trailblazers outscored LA 45-13 in the second quarter……and they lost!!! They’re only NBA team since 1955 to win a quarter by 32+ points and still lose the game.

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday……..

One of my boyhood heroes passed away this weekend; Sal Bando, the captain and 3B for the great Oakland A’s teams of the early 70’s, passed away from cancer at age 78.

Bando hit 242 home runs, knocked in 1,031 runs, made four All-Star teams; he later became general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bando was the heart and soul of those great A’s teams. RIP, sir.

Chiefs 27, Jaguars 20
— Mahomes sprained his ankle in 1st half; backup QB Henne led a TD drive. Mahomes played the second half.
— Jaguars turned ball over twice in fourth quarter.
— Jacksonville covered six of its last seven games.
— As a head coach, Pederson is 7-0 ATS as an underdog in playoff games.

— Chiefs’ first three drives: 35 plays, 224 yards, 17 points.
— Mahomes was 22-30/195 passing, with 2 TD passes
— Chiefs lost field position battle in nine of last 13 games. 
— Chiefs are in the AFC Championship game for the fifth year in a row.
 
Eagles 38, Giants 7
— In three meetings TY, Eagles outscored Giants 61-7 in first half.
— Giants in first half: 19 plays, 64 yards, no points.
— Eagles in first half: 42 plays, 260 yards, 28 points.
— Total yardage for game: Eagles 416, Giants 227

— Philly is 8-2 SU/7-3 ATS at home this season.
— Eagles were 10-14 on third down, Giants 5-13.
— Under Sirianni, Eagles are 10-3 ATS as a home favorite.
— Philadelphia will host the NFC Championship game next Sunday.

In college basketball………
There were 13 teams that lost Saturday who at one time led by 10+ points.

Big X
TCU 83, Kansas 60— TCU snaps Jayhawks’ 16-game home winning streak.

Baylor 62, Oklahoma 60— Sooners shot 58% inside arc but were only 3-4 on foul line for the entire game. Baylor has won four in a row, is now 14-5, 4-3 in conference.

Oklahoma State 61, Iowa State 59— Cyclones led 28-12 early on, but wound up shooting 2-9 on arc, 7-12 on foul line. 

Kansas State is 6-1 in Big X, leading three teams by a game. This is the best league in the country this season.

ACC
Duke 68, Miami 66— Miami was 12-42 (28.6%) inside the arc; they slip to 6-3 in the ACC.

Clemson 51, Virginia Tech 50– Clemson outscored the Hokies 5-1 over final 1:28 to stay in first place at 8-1. ACC teams are shooting 42.4% inside the arc vs Clemson.

Clemson is 8-1, Virginia is 7-2; five other teams are 6-3 in the ACC race.
Bottom four in the ACC: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Louisville are a combined 3-31 in conference games.

Pac-12
Arizona 58, UCLA 52— Bruins’ 14-game win streak gets snapped; they shot 31.3% from the floor in this game. Arizona only played seven guys the whole game.

USC 77, Arizona State 69— Sun Devils got swept at home by the LA schools this week; Bobby Hurley tried pretty hard to get thrown out late in this game, but the refs wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Trojans were 14-14 on the foul line.

UCLA is 8-1 in conference; they still lead the league by two games, with five teams tied for second in the loss column. UCLA/Arizona are locks for the NCAA’s; everyone else is on the bubble, at best.

Oregon State made the Elite 8 two years ago; since then, they’re 10-40 overall, 2-27 in Pac-12 games. 

SEC
Alabama 85, Missouri 64— Crimson Tide has won eight games in a row, all by 11+ points; they start two freshman and a sophomore.

If the NCAA Tournament started tomorrow, I’d pick Alabama, UCLA to be in the Final Four. Not sure who else I’d have in there, but I think those are the two best teams.

Alabama is 7-0 in conference; Auburn, Tennessee, Texas A&M all have one loss.
LSU was 11-1 in pre-conference; they’re 1-6 in SEC games.

Big West
Cal-Davis 65, Cal Poly 63— Aggies outscored Cal Poly 15-0 over final 4:29 of this game, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Cal-Davis has won five of its last six games.

Long Beach State 112, Cal-San Diego 110, 3 OT’s— Marcus Tsohonis scored 46 points for Long Beach; they outscored the Tritons 5-0 over last 0:13 of the third OT. Two guys on Long Beach played 54:00 out of a possible 55:00.

This is a one-bid league; the conference tournament should be great fun.

Missouri Valley
Belmont 78, Bradley 76— Belmont outscored the Braves 11-3 over final 4:30; they swept Bradley this year, winning the two games by a combined five points.

Southern Illinois 61, Missouri 57— Salukis never trailed, are now 8-2 and tied for first place in the Valley. Salukis had four guys score in double figures, but they scored 11-10-10-10 points- they start four seniors.

Belmont/SIU are tied for first place; Northern Iowa is 7-3, after going 4-6 in pre-conference games. This is another one-bid league whose conference tournament will be must-watch TV.

Colonial
Charleston 87, Northeastern 61— Cougars have won 20 games in a row; they lost to North Carolina on November 11. They’re far and away the best team in this league but my question is this: if they get upset in the CAA tournament, say they finish 31-2, would they get an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament? 

The CAA has fallen off the cliff; they were the #14 league last year, but after football-related shuffling of schools, now they’re the #24 league. That doesn’t bode well for an at-large spot, so Charleston will have a lot of pressure on them in early March.

Mid-American
Akron 63, Western Michigan 55— Zips have won four in row, eight of last ten games; they’re in second place in MAC, trailing Kent State by a game.

Kent State is 16-3; they’ve lost to Charleston by 2, Houston by 5, Gonzaga by 7, but they don’t have any real impressive wins.

Ball State/Toledo could make the semi-finals of the MAC tournament very interesting.

WCC
San Francisco 82, BYU 74— Dons made 12-29 on the arc, never trailed. BYU has lost four of its last six games; they move to the Big X soon— they’re not going to do well there.

Gonzaga 99, Pacific 90— Zags are 17-4, 6-1 in the WCC, but they’re not a super team the way they’ve been the last few years. Only two of their six WCC wins were by double figures.

Gonzaga/Saint Mary’s are locks for NCAA’s; can anyone upset them in the WCC tournament? 

Saturday’s Den: Notes on college basketball conference tournaments, and some other stuff

— For the first time since 1978, a reigning batting champion was traded in the offseason; Minnesota traded IF Luis Arraez to the Marlins, for P Pablo Lopez and two prospects.

Arraez hit .316 last year, scored 88 runs; he is expected to play second base for Miami. Lopez was 10-10, 3.75 in 32 starts last season.

Marlins plan to move Jazz Chisholm to CF, Juan Segura to 3B, Joey Wendle to SS; Arraez mostly played 1B last year, so spring training is going to include a lot of ground balls and work on defense. I have Miami’s star P Sandy Alcantara on my fantasy team; this makes me queasy.

By the way, Rod Carew was the last batting champion traded the following winter.

— If you like college basketball, ESPN+ is a must; they have games from all over the country, and you can watch replays of games. Have your remote handy though; some of the guys who broadcast these games aren’t exactly Jim Nantz or Mike Breen quality-wise. The mute button can be useful for some of these guys, but they’re all fun to watch.

I like watching games from the Big West or Conference USA, leagues that the main cable channels ignore.

— How come a lot of NBA players don’t play games on back/back nights, but there are college basketball refs who work 4-5 games a week? 

College basketball season runs roughly from November 10-March 15, when pairings for the NCAA Tournament come out. That would be 126 days; I’m looking at referee stats from a few years ago, and there were 16 officials who worked 90+ games that season. 

90 games in 126 games means that roughly, you work a game three out of four days for four months, and most referees are older than the average NBA player. 

— Florida Gators released QB Jaden Rashada from his Letter of Intent; this ends a recruitment that reportedly went south because of a botched $13M NIL deal offered by the Gator Collective, a third-party group that furnishes NIL deals for Florida.

— Michigan fired co-offensive coordinator and QB coach Matt Weiss, who was put on leave recently amid an investigation by university police into a report of computer access crimes. 

Industrial espionage in college football? Who knew?

— I’m wondering how much Danny DeVito gets paid for those Jersey Mike’s commercials, which seem to be on TV every half hour or so.

— We getting into late January, the conference races are heating up in college basketball. Here are some trends that deal with how teams do in conference tournaments:

— Gonzaga has won the WCC tournament nine of the last ten years; the one time they lost, it was to Saint Mary’s.

— Clemson is 15-4, 7-1 in ACC this season; since 2003, they’re 8-19 in ACC tournament games, with 2008 the only time during that time that they’ve won more than one game in an ACC tournament.

— Richmond won the Atlantic 10 tournament LY; before that, from 2012-21, Spiders were a combined 5-9 in A-10 tourney games. League seems to be wide open this season. 

— In the Sun Belt, Texas State was 37-13 in conference games the last three years, but only 1-2 in Sun Belt tourney games; they won a game in the ’20 tournament before COVID ended things, then they lost in the first round the last two years. Bobcats are 10-10, 3-4 this season; curious to see how they’ll do in a league that is very wide-open this year.

— Houston Cougars are 10-2 in last four AAC tournaments, winning the title the last two years with five of those six wins by 13+ points.

— Villanova is down this year with Jay Wright gone; they’re 10-10, 4-5, not looking like an NCAA Tournament team, but the Wildcats are 17-2 in last seven Big East tournaments, winning it five times.

Last five years, Xavier is 2-5 in the Big East tournament; four of the five losses came in overtime. Sean Miller has the Musketeers at 15-4 in his first season back in Cincinnati; maybe this is their year to turn that stat around. 

— Surprising stat: Last time Indiana finished over .500 in the Big 14 was seven years ago, when they went 15-3 in conference play. Since 2004, Hoosiers are only 9-18 in the conference tournament. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here…….

— LMU 68, Gonzaga 67— 15-point underdog Lions post a big upset; they’re 4-3 in WCC now. Gonzaga had three WCC wins by 5 or fewer points, but they were all on the road. Gonzaga had won 75 home games in a row.

— Indiana 80, Illinois 65— 7-point underdog Hoosiers pull the upset; Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 35 points, with 9 rebounds, 5 assists. Indiana is just 3-4 in conference play. Loss snaps a 4-game winning streak for Illinois.

— Maryland 64, Michigan 58— Terps avenged an 81-46 loss to Michigan on New Year’s Day. Wolverines are struggling, 5-7 in their last 12 games.

— James Madison 89, Troy 87 OT— Troy shot 65% inside arc, but turned ball over 21 times in a foul-fest; JMU was 26-36 on foul line, Troy 22-32.

Sun Belt conference tournament is going to be great; right now, four teams are 5-2, three others are 4-3 atop the Sun Belt standings. Wide-open league.

— Northern Kentucky 57, Cleveland State 56— Marques Warrick hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the fans home happy. Plus, it was Warrick’s birthday, so a big night for him.

— Is it me, or are more NFL assistant coaches getting fired this year? Seems like lot of teams are getting rid of large chucks of their coaching staff:

Dolphins fired DC Josh Boyer and three other defensive assistants.

Ravens dumped OC Greg Roman after four years on the job, adding intrigue to the Lamar Jackson situation. Jackson missed Baltimore’s last six games this year, their last four games last year. Unclear to me how that merits a coaching change.

Baltimore’s GM claims that they don’t want to trade Jackson; we’ll see.

Vikings fired DC Ed Donatell after only one season on the job, one where Minnesota went 13-5

Browns replaced DC Joe Woods with former Lions HC Jim Schwartz.

Chargers fired their OC and their QB coach, after losing a playoff game 31-30.

Rams let six assistant coaches go after a 5-12 season; two others had already left for other jobs.

You get the idea; more coaches will move when all the head coaching openings get filled.

— Read today where someone bid $6B for the Washington Commanders, that’s billion, with a B.

NFL doesn’t want Daniel Snyder around anymore, but if/when if he leaves, he’s going to leave with a hell of a lot more $$$ than he came in with.

— AFC teams will have 9 home games, 8 road games next year; AFC teams will be the “home” teams for the five games to be played in Europe.

Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, Patriots, Titans will have “home” games in Europe next year.

— Seattle Mariners signed 2B Tommy LaStella, who played only 76 innings in the field for the Giants last year, in an injury-riddled season. Giants are still paying the great majority of his $11M salary.

— Kansas City Royals gave P Aroldis Chapman a one-year, $3.75M deal. Chapman had a 4.46 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP last year; not good.

— Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey is leaving the school after this season, his 23rd year at the school. Notre Dame is 9-10 this year, 1-7 in ACC; they were 24-11 last year, 11-15 the year before. They’ve made NCAA Tournament once since 2017.

— NBA teams who do the best/worst ATS on second night of a back/back:
Wizards 6-1
Bucks 5-1-1
Bulls 6-2
Celtics 4-1-2
76ers/Raptors 5-2

Mavericks 2-7-1
Suns 1-5
Knicks 1-3-1
Pelicans 2-4
Clippers 3-5

Thursday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud……..

— Since 2007, there have been six games in this round of the NFL playoffs where divisional rivals faced off: 

2007— Giants (+7.5) 21, Dallas 17
2008— Eagles (+4) 23, Giants 11
2010— Steelers (-3.5) 31, Ravens 24
2010— Jets (+9) 28, Patriots 21
2013— Broncos (-8) 24, Chargers 11
2020— Buccaneers (+7.5) 30, Saints 20

Underdogs were 4-2 SU/ATS in those games.

— Chargers lost 31-30 in Jacksonville Saturday, so of course they fired their offensive coordinator this week, because scoring 30 points in a playoff game isn’t good enough. 

Understood that they blew a 27-0 lead in that game, but Justin Herbert played thru fractured rib cartilage this year and the Chargers made the playoffs. Not sure why a scapegoat was needed, but it’ll be interesting to see who the new OC is.

— Tampa Bay Buccaneers are firing OC Byron Leftwich, two years after they won the Super Bowl; maybe they shouldn’t have had a 45-year old QB playing behind a banged-up offensive line. If Brady retires or bolts to the Raiders, it is unclear where Tampa Bay turns for a QB.

— Kansas City Chiefs are 8.5-point favorites this week over Jacksonville; they’ve been favored now in their last 14 playoff games, a record during the Super Bowl era.

— Tennessee Titans hired Ran Carthon as their new GM, which means the 49ers will get a 3rd round pick in April’s draft, because Carthon is a minority hire. Carthan was San Francisco’s director of player personnel when the 49ers moved up to draft QB Trey Lance; would he trade for Lance now, with Brock Purdy making his case to being the 49ers’ QB going forward?

— Jacksonville Jaguars signed QB Nathan Rourke to a futures’ contract; Rourke went to college at Ohio U— he played in the Canadian League the last two seasons.

— TCU hired Kendal Briles as its new offensive coordinator; he replaces Garrett Riley, who bolted to Clemson last week. Briles had been at Arkansas the last three years.

— LSU QB Walker Howard transferred to Ole Miss; Boise State QB Hank Bachmeier is leaving to play for Louisiana Tech. Bachmeier played in 29 games at Boise; he still has two years of eligibility left.

— Baseball stuff:
Red Sox gave OF Adam Duvall a one-year, $7M contract.
Mets gave OF Tommy Pham a one-year, $6M deal
Brewers gave IF/OF Brian Anderson a one-year, $3.5M deal, which is interesting because the Brewers’ TV play-by-play guy is also named Brian Anderson.

— There are still eight college basketball programs where the most points a player ever scored against them were scored by Pete Maravich.

— Missouri 79, Arkansas 76
Arkansas led by 10 with 5:07 left to play.
Mizzou was 30-40 on foul line, Arkansas 23-26
Razorbacks have lost 5 of last 6 games, after an 11-1 start.

— Seton Hall 67, UConn 66
Pirates scored on a cutback with 0:02 left for the win.
UConn has lost 5 of 6 games, after a 14-0 start.
UConn coach Hurley (COVID) missed this game.
Huskies led this game 37-20 late in first half.

— Marquette 83, Providence 75
Marquette scored 1.26 points/possession, avenging an earlier loss to Providence when the Friars took 49 foul shots.

— Oklahoma State 72, Oklahoma 56— Cowboys outscored Oklahoma 48-26 in second half.

— Nebraska 63, Ohio State 60— Buckeyes have lost five games in a row, after a 10-3 start.

Whats the deal with these teams going in the ashcan this month? Are teams more fragile now because they mostly haven’t been together as long as in previous eras.

— San Diego State 82, Colorado State 76 OT— Colorado State led by 9 with 15:43 left in game, but let it slip away. Aztecs are tied with Boise State atop the Mountain West.

— DePaul 73, Xavier 72— Blue Demons snapped Xavier’s 11-game winning streak

— Pitt 75, Louisville 54— Never thought I’d see the day where Louisville is 2-17 and Georgetown is 5-14, but here we are. 

Wednesday’s Den: NBA trends…….

NBA trends (thru Monday, January 16)

Hawks (22-22):
— won last three games SU.
— 2-6 ATS last eight as home favorite
— under 4-1 last five games

Celtics (33-12):
— won last seven games SU (5-2 ATS)
— 3-6 ATS last nine games as a home favorite
— over 16-6 at home

Nets (27-15):
— 2-3 SU last five games (1-4 ATS).
— 8-3 ATS last 11 as a home favorite
— under 5-0 in their last five road games.

Hornets (11-34):
— 1-8 last nine games SU (2-7 ATS).
— 5-16 ATS at home
— over 9-4 last 13 road games

Bulls (20-24)
— lost three of last four games SU.
— 6-1 ATS last seven home games.
— over 8-3 last eleven home games

Cavaliers (28-17):
— won six of last nine games SU
— 2-5 ATS last seven road games.
— over 5-2 last seven home games

Mavericks (24-21):
— 1-4 SU last five games.
— 4-1ATS last five as home favorites.
— over 4-1 last five home games

Nuggets (30-13):
—won last six games SU (4-1-1 ATS).
— 5-8 ATS as road favorites 
— under 4-1 last five road games

Pistons (12-35):
— 1-5 SU/ATS last six games.
— 4-11 ATS last fifteen games
— over 6-1 in their last seven road games.

Warriors (22-22):
— lost four of last six games SU
— 1-5 ATS last six as a home favorite; 3-8 ATS as road favorite.
— over 12-0 last 12 road games; under 8-2 last ten home games.

Rockets (10-34):
— 0-11 SU/1-10 ATS in last eleven games
— 0-7 ATS last seven road games
— over 4-1-1 last six road games 

Pacers (23-22):
— 1-3 SU last four games; 1-4 ATS last five
— 5-1 ATS last six as a home underdog
— over 8-3 last eleven games

Clippers (23-22):
— 2-7 SU/3-6 ATS last nine games 
— 6-2 ATS last eight games as a home favorite.
— under 20-3-1 in Staples Center. 

Lakers (20-24):
— 1-3 last four games SU/7-2 ATS last nine
— 6-3-1 ATS as a home underdog.
— over 8-3 last 11 road games

Grizzlies (30-13):
— 11-0 SU/8-3 ATS last 11 games.  
— 5-1 ATS last six road games
— over 6-0-1 last seven games

Heat (24-21):
— won three of last four games SU.
— 3-1-1 ATS last five home games
— under 6-2 last eight home games.

Bucks (28-16):
— 8-3 ATS last 11 home games
— 3-6 ATS last nine road games.
— over 10-2 last 12 home games.

Timberwolves (22-23)
— 6-2 last eight games SU.
— underdogs covered 8 of their last 10 home games
— over 5-1 last six road games

Pelicans (26-18):
— 1-4 SU in their last five games.
— 1-8 ATS last nine games as road underdog
— over 6-3 last nine road games

Knicks (25-20):
— 7-2 SU last nine games
— 2-6 ATS last eight home games.
— over 7-2 last nine home games 

Thunder (21-23):
— 5-1 SU/6-0 ATS last six games. 
— 7-2 ATS last nine home games overall.
— over 7-1 last eight games

Magic (16-28):
— 4-1 ATS last five games overall.
— 13-6 ATS as home underdog
— over 5-1 last six home games. 

76ers (27-16):
— won seven of last games SU, last two by one point each.
— 4-0 ATS as home underdog, 3-5 as road dogs.
— over 9-3 last 12 games

Suns (21-24):
— 1-9 SU/3-7 ATS last ten games
— 6-9 ATS as an underdog.
— under 5-2 last seven home games

Trailblazers (21-22):
— won last two games SU, after a 1-6 skid
— 1-6 ATS last seven games as road underdogs.
— over 3-0 last three games

Kings (24-18):
— won/covered their last four games
— 5-1 ATS as a road favorite.
— five of last six home games went over.

Spurs (13-31):
— 1-8 SU/6-3 ATS last nine games 
— 5-2 ATS last seven home games. 
— over 12-2-1 last fifteen games

Raptors (20-24):
— won/covered four of last five games.
— 1-5-1 ATS as a road favorite
— over 4-0 last four road games

Jazz (23-24):
— 3-1 SU last four games/4-1 ATS last five games.
— 1-5 ATS last six as a home favorite
— over 12-3 last 15 road games

Wizards (18-26):
— lost five of last six games SU.
— 3-5-1 ATS last nine home games.  
— over 7-2 last nine home games.