Tuesday’s Den: A sampling of Super Bowl prop bets…….

Super Bowl prop bets (from oddshark.com):
13) How long will It take Demi Lovato to sing the national anthem?
Over 2:00, -$260
Under 2:00, +$175

12) Patrick Mahomes passing yards:
Over 305.5 yards: -$150
Under 305.5 yards: +$115

11) Jimmy Garoppolo passing yards:
over 239.5 yards: -$115
under 239.5 yards: -$115

10) Patrick Mahomes completed passes:
over 24.5 completions: -$135
under 24.5 completions: +$105

9) Jimmy Garoppolo completed passes:
over 18.5 completions: -$135
under 18.5 completions: +$105

8) Patrick Mahomes longest completion:
over 44.5 yards: -$130
under 44.5 yards: even

7) Jimmy Garoppolo longest completion:
over 35.5 yards: -$120
under 35.5 yards: -$110

6) Emmanual Sanders receiving yards
over 44.5 yards: -$125
under 44.5 yards: +$105

5) George Kittle receiving yards
over 70.5 yards: -$135
under 70.5 yards: -$105

4) Sammy Watkins receiving yards
over 49.5 yards: -$120
under 49.5 yards: -$110

3) Tyreek Hill receiving yards:
over 79.5 yards: -$115
under 79.5 yards: -$115

2) George Kittle longest reception:
over 22.5 yards: -$120
under 22.5 yards: -$110

1) Tyreek Hill longest reception:
over 28.5 yards: -$110
under 28.5 yards: -$110

Saturday’s Den: Ranking the months of the year, and some other stuff…….

These days, there are no bad months, but some are better than others.

12) January— Living in upstate NY, 31 days of potentially horrendous weather; Sundays are lot slower once the NFL regular season is over. If I ever get smart and move to Las Vegas, then January would move up a few spots on the list.

11) February— Ranked ahead of January because it is three fewer days (this year, only two fewer days). Spring training starts in February, never a bad thing.

T9) April/May— Baseball season starts, NBA/NHL playoffs, NFL Draft, weather gets normal, a good time of year.

8) December— I’m in Las Vegas for Christmas most years; NFL regular season bowl games, college hoop, lot of good stuff, offsetting the potential for cruddy weather.

7) October— Good time for a trip to Las Vegas; baseball playoffs, football season, the college basketball magazines come out.

6) September— When I was a kid, September was by far the worst month of the year- back to school. Now? Not so much. Football season starts and the weather is still warm.

T4) June, July, August— Nothing bad about these three months in upstate New York; warm weather, lot of baseball to watch.

3) November — Busiest month of the year; college football/basketball, NBA/NFL, lot of research and studying to do. When I had an actual job, this was a great month— three days off— Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving. Now, every day is a day off. 🙂

1) March— Weather is getting better, lot of college basketball to watch and I try to throw a trip to the desert onto the schedule. Daytime TV’s best month; exhibition baseball every day.

Elsewhere on a winter Friday night……
a) Butler 89, Marquette 85 OT— Tremendous game to watch; Butler plays without its PG and wins, snapping a 3-game skid.

There was a weird moment in this game; tie game with 0:20 left, and Marquette fouls a Butler player who is shooting 85% on line- it looked intentional, and it looked like Wojciechowski told the kid to foul— why????? The SCORE WAS TIED!!!

b) Suns 103, Spurs 99— Phoenix is 10-10 on the road, a much-improved team

c) Bucks 116, Hornets 103— This game was played in Paris..

d) Siena 70, Marist 57— Saints are 8-0 at home, 0-9 on road; this was their first MAAC cover this season (1-8 ATS). 

Saturday’s Den: Doing some studying for the NCAA tournament……

Did some research today, which means:
a) It was really cold out.
b) There weren’t any good movies on TV.

I looked at the 40 teams who made the Elite 8 over the last five years, trying to find any common threads to teams who got to a regional final.

I’ll pull this list out the day after the brackets come out and see if we can identify a team or two that could surprise and make the Final Four. Here is what I found:

13) 2017 South Carolina is one of the weirdest Final Four teams ever; they started season 8-0, but went 12-6 in the SEC, lost their first SEC tourney game. On Selection Sunday, Gamecocks had lost six of their last nine games, but they got a 7-seed, so they were comfortably in the field of 68, but no one was picking them to advance very far.

Carolina’s eFG% was #304, which is bad (there are 353 teams); their experience was #233, but they played great defense (#15 eFG%) and were #5 in forcing turnovers.

It is South Carolina’s only NCAA appearance since 2004, and they made the Final Four. 

12) Over the last five years, 16 of 40 teams (40%) who made the Elite 8 won their conference tournament; 8 of the 40 teams (20%) lost their first conference tourney game.

11) 32 of the 40 teams (80%) were in the KenPom top 20 on Selection Sunday; last year, all eight of the Elite Eight were in the top 15.

10) Strong defense is important; 24 of 40 teams (60%) were in top 50 in top 50 of eFG% rankings (FG% where a 3-pointer counts as 1.5 hoops).

9) Forcing turnovers? Not as important. Only 8 of 40 Elite 8 teams (20%) were teams that ranked in top 50 in forcing turnovers. Teams that do well in that category are generally bully teams who beat up on stiffs, but in March, there aren’t too many stiffs still playing.

8) Three of last four years, a team that went 9-9 in conference play but made the Elite 8:
— 2016 Syracuse, a 10-seed
— 2017 Xavier, an 11-seed
— 2018 Florida State, a 9-seed

7) Getting easy baskets is important; 22 of 40 Elite 8 teams (55%) ranked in top 50 in eFG% on offense; 53 of 60 teams (88.3%) were in the top 100. 


6) How important is experience? Not so much. Talent means more.

Only 6 of 40 Elite 8 teams (15%) were in the top 100 in experience; the most talented teams have kids who bolt school early.

5) You can make the case that continuity is more important than actual experience; maybe a team has a nucleus of sophomores who played together for two years.

12 of 40 Elite 8 teams (30%) were in top 100 in minutes continuity.

4) Does playing a hard non-conference schedule help you in March, Unless your name is Mark Few, not really.

Only 5 of 40 Elite 8 teams (12.5%) had a non-conference schedule that ranked in the top 50 nationally. Teams from the bigger leagues pad their power ratings with conference games; they pad their W-L record with pre-conference wins.

8 of 40 Elite 8 teams (20%) had a non-conference schedule outside the top 200.

3) As for overall strength of schedule, 33 of 40 teams (82.5%) ranked in the top 40- teams like 2019 Auburn, 2018 Kansas State, 2017 Oklahoma made the Elite 8 from Power 5 leagues, with Big East being the 6th Power 5 league.

2017 Xavier had a 5-game losing skid in February; 2018 Texas Tech had a 4-game skid.

2) How about teams who get a lot of their points outside the arc?

Only 10 of 60 Elite 8 teams (16.7%) ranked in the top 100, as far as getting their points on 3-point shots. 21 of 40 teams (52.5%) ranked outside the top 200 in that category.

1) Depth seems to be incredibly overrated; TV timeouts are longer in March and while I can’t prove it, I’m pretty sure refs call fewer fouls in March.

Only 6 of 40 Elite 8 teams ranked in the top 100 in bench minutes; 10 of 60 teams (16.7%) ranked outside the top 200.

Like I said, we’ll put this article out on March 16 as we examine the brackets.

Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here……

13) Pelicans 138, Jazz 132 OT— Utah’s 10-game win streak ends in New Orleans, where the Jazz franchise started out a long time ago. Brandon Ingram scored 49 points for the Pelicans.

12) Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is first cousins with the great David Thompson, who led NC State to the national basketball title in 1974.

11) Mets gave manager Carlos Beltran the boot, before he ever managed a game in New York. Never knew that banging on garbage cans could be such an expensive activity.

10) Tim Hudson pitched in the major leagues for 17 years, winning 222 games; now he is going back to his alma mater Auburn to be the Tigers’ pitching coach.

Guys like Hudson made a fortune playing ball (Hudson made $121M+), but now they need something that gets them out of bed every day. Coaching college kids should be fun.

9) Western Kentucky 71, Old Dominion 69— Hilltoppers trailed by 12 with 3:30 left but rallied for the unlikely win; WKU outscored the Monarchs 24-11 on foul line.

8) Colorado 68, Arizona State 61— Solid road win for the 14-3 Buffaloes; this was Colorado’s first win in last seven visits to Tempe.

7) Washington State replaced Mike Leach as football coach with Hawai’i coach Nick Rolovich, who went 28-27 in four years coaching the Rainbow Warriors.

6) College basketball upsets:
— High Point (+13.5) 68, NC-Asheville 66
— Washington State (+9.5) 72, Oregon 61
— Northern Arizona (+8.5) 75, Southern Utah 72
— Charleston Southern (+7.5) 77, Campbell 62
— Charlotte (+6) 77, Marshall 75
— Stetson (+6) 54, North Alabama 49
— Detroit (+6) 90, Milwaukee 84

5) Laurent Hurtubise, who was born with one arm, got a hole-in-one on the 151-yard par-3 4th hole at the pro-am event at the PGA West Stadium Course in La Quinta, CA. Pretty cool.

4) Win a bar bet: Comedian Bob Hope hosted the Academy Awards 16 times, more than anyone else has. Hope also owned a small part of the Cleveland Indians.

3) If Kellen Moore is still going to call plays for the Cowboys, why did they fire Jason Garrett?

2) Baylor Bears hired former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda as their new head coach, so in three days, LSU has already lost its DC and QB coach, not to mention Joe Burrow and seven undergraduates to the NFL.

In other words, LSU’s coaches aren’t getting to enjoy the national title yet; they’re working their butts off recruiting for the next three weeks.

1) I-AA Missouri State hired Bobby Petrino as its  football coach this week; Petrino is a very good coach, but some off-field decisions have sabotaged his career.

He is 160-65 as a college coach, but while at Arkansas he wrecked his motorcycle while his girlfriend was riding it with him, which didn’t sit well in the conservative south, or more importantly, with his wife.

He was 3-10 coaching the Atlanta Falcons, and quit before this first year there was over, so he can’t go back to the NFL, but he was also Lamar Jackson’s college coach, which carries some weight. 

Thursday’s List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud……

13) The Mike Miller who coaches the Knicks these days isn’t the Mike Miller who played in the NBA; he’s taken a much more circular route to being an NBA head coach:
1989-90— ass’t coach, Western Illinois
1990-91— ass’t coach, Sam Houston State
1991-94— ass’t coach, Texas State
1994-2000— head coach, Texas State
2000-05— ass’t coach, Kansas State
2005-12— head coach, Eastern Illinois
2012-13— ass’t coach, Cal-Riverside
2013-15— ass’t coach, Austin Spurs (G-League)
2015-19— head coach, Westchester Knicks
2019-20— ass’t coach/interim HC, New York Knicks

Miller’s 1997 Texas State team made the NCAA tournament.

12) Alabama 83, Auburn 64— Crimson Tide hands its rival their first loss of the season, which leaves San Diego State as the last unbeaten team in the country. Auburn shot 31.7% from the floor; Alabama went 29-37 on the foul line.

11) Whoever manages the Red Sox this coming season will be their fifth manager in ten years; for a team thats who two World Series with only two losing years during that time, why do they change managers so much?

10) Rutgers 59, Indiana 50— Scarlet Knights haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991; they’re 13-4 right now, are ranked in top 30 and appear headed to being a great story a couple months from now. Rutgers has the #6 eFG% defense in country.

9) Colorado State 105, New Mexico 72— Rams made 18 of their first 27 3-pointers.

New Mexico is down two players, one of whom got tossed for a DUI, another who has been suspended but not charged with anything— he is suing the school. No bueno.

8) Stanford 74, UCLA 59— Bruins lost six of their last seven games; they got ripped on the radio postgame show, by their coach, Mick Cronin. Stanford is one of the quietest 15-2 teams in the history of the world- they were picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 last fall.

7) UCLA also has 12 football players in the transfer portal; that seems like a lot.

6) College basketball upsets:
— Northwestern State (+12.5) 73, Nicholls State 72
— Hartford (+7.5) 68, Stony Brook 65
— South Carolina (+6.5) 81, Kentucky 78
— Seton Hall (+5) 78, Butler 70
— Temple (+4.5) 65, Wichita State 53

5) Seton Hall 78, Butler 70— Pirates were down 10 at the half, outscored Butler 48-30 in second half, as they won their 7th game in a row, handing Butler their 2nd loss of season.

4) NFL stuff:
— Chicago Bears hired Bill Lazor to serve as their next offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo as their new QB coach.
— Washington Redskins named Ken Zampese their new QB coach.
— Las Vegas Raiders fired DL coach Brenston Buckner, replaced him with 70-year old Rod Marinelli, who had been the DC in Dallas.

3) Air Force 85, Boise State 78— Boise coach Leon Rice got tossed in the first half; that doesn’t happen a lot in college ball. Boise lost three of its last four games, allowing 83+ points in all three losses.

2) Florida State 54, Virginia 50— Seminoles won their last eight games, are 5-1 in ACC, while slumping Virginia lost its third game in row, scoring 52.7 ppg. Cavaliers are 11-5, dropping like a rock, and look like a bubble team, at best.

1) Orlando 119, Lakers 118— Markelle Fultz had a triple-double as the Magic ended the Lakers’ 9-game win streak. Orlando stays in LA and faces the Clippers tonight. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings……

13) It is mid-January; usually MLB Network has to stretch to find interesting things to talk about. This week? Not so much. 

Tuesday night, Red Sox told manager Alex Cora to take a hike, as a result of sign-stealing that has gone on the last few years. Apparently Cora was involved, both in Houston and Boston.

12) So right now, the Astros/Red Sox managing jobs are open, less than a month before spring training starts. Houston also needs a general manager.

11) Minnesota Twins signed 3B Josh Donaldson to a 4-year, $92M deal, which surprised the hell out of me. Donaldson turned 34 last month, had major injury issues two of last three years.

Where do the Braves go for a 3B now? Riley? Camargo? Trade for Kris Bryant? Arenado?

10) Cleveland Browns introduced their new coach Kevin Stefnaski Tuesday; he mentioned that he already talked to Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham.

Stark contrast to Dallas, where Mike McCarthy said at this press conference that he hadn’t talked to Dak Prescott yet. Why? Isn’t that kind of important? 

9) Best college football teams against the spread this season (all 10-3 ATS):
Kentucky, Navy, Oklahoma State

8) More baseball stuff:
— Phillies claimed outfielder Nick Martini off waivers from Reds, DFA’d OF Odubel Herrera.

7) SEC football teams went 9-2 in postseason; LSU led the country in scoring, first SEC team to do that since Florida in 1996.

6) This didn’t take long: LSU’s passing game coordinator, 30-year old Joe Brady, is off to the NFL- he’ll be the new offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. 

5) Joe Burrow’s dad Jimmy was a 2-time CFL All-Star as a DB, playing mostly for the Montreal Alouettes; he was also c0-defensive coordinator at Iowa State, in 1994. 

4) This showed up on my Twitter feed Tuesday night; pro wrestler George (the Animal) Steele was also a Math teacher in Detroit. Just thought you’d like to know

3) Clemson 79, Duke 72:
— Clemson beat UNC over weekend, now this.
— Why do the BLUE Devils were black uniforms?
— Duke played on ESPN but Jay Bilas did the Kansas game? Wow. 

2) Decent amount of people worked overtime Tuesday:
— Louisville 73, Pitt 68 OT— Cardinals scored last 7 points in regulation.
— Villanova 79, DePaul 75 OT— DePaul ended regulation on a 12-1 run.
— LSU 89, Texas A&M 85 OT— Been a happy week so far in Baton Rouge.

1) Only one player was mentioned by name in the commissioner’s report on the Astros’ sign stealing: Carlos Beltran.

Beltran spent the last year of his career with the ’17 Astros and won a World Series ring; he was named manager of the Mets this winter, but now may never get to manage a game. Hard to believe he gets to keep his job, with Hinch/Cora already hitting the road. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) LSU 42, Clemson 25:
— Joe Burrow was the 3rd-string QB at Ohio State, then transferred.
— I was 100% wrong when I criticized LSU for hiring Ed Orgeron as head coach.
— Clemson QB Lawrence is 70-2 in his last 72 football games, going back to high school.

12) LSU gained 269 yards…….in the second quarter. One of the greatest offenses in college football history.

11) In a classic news dump that is designed to have this news buried in the headlines by the football game, MLB suspended the Astros’ GM and manager for a full year because of the sign-stealing scandal. Big news, at least for a little while.

Shortly after that announcement, Astros owner Jim Crane held a news conference and went one better, firing the two guys and clearing the way for his organization to be rebuilt.

10) This whole thing would’ve been a whole lot more awkward had the Astros won the World Series last year, which would’ve given them two World Series titles in three years. 

9) Astros also lost 1st/2nd round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021, and were fined $5M.

8) For me, there are two good aspects of the Astros’ problems here:
a) Astros figure to regress some, which helps the A’s.

b) Bronx baseball fans have been whining about this for weeks now; here is a team that has had every economic advantage in the sport for the last 45 years, crying like babies because another team skirted the rules to beat them. Too bleeping bad.

7) I saw this on Twitter and it is weird:

79 minus (your age) plus 40 equals the year you were born.

Worked for me. 

6) NC-Wilmington fired basketball coach CB McGrath Monday; Seahawks have lost their last 11 games, were 26-58 under McGrath, after they went 72-28 under Kevin Keatts, who is now the coach at NC State. 

5) New Mexico Lobos threw their best big man off the team Monday; Carlton Bragg was averaging 12.6 ppg and 10.3 rpg, but off-court issues became too much. Bragg had gone to both Kansas, Arizona State before landing in Albuquerque.

4) Patrick Mahomes is the first player ever to have a playoff game with 300+ passing yards, 5+ TDs, and 50+ rushing yards.

3) Good news; the great Showtime series Billions returns for season #5 on May 3rd. 

2) #6-seeds in NFL conference championship games (all on road):
— 2005: Steelers (+3) W34-17 @ Denver
— 2008: Eagles (+3.5) L25-32 @ Arizona
— 2008: Ravens (+6) L14-23 @ Pittsburgh
— 2010: Packers (-3.5) W21-14 @ Chicago
— 2010: Jets (+4) L19-24 at Pittsburgh
— 2019: Titans (+7.5) @ Kansas City 

1) I don’t give a rat’s ass about the royal family, unless they’re talking about some relative of Whit Merrifield.

Monday’s List of 13: Looking at Hall of Fame NFL coaches……

13) Pro Football Hall of Fame and CBS made a big production Saturday night out of surprising Bill Cowher on air, announcing that he’s been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was emotional and it made for good TV.

Then the same thing happened on FOX Sunday with Jimmy Johnson getting the good news.

Cowher coached the Steelers for 15 years, going 149-90-1 in regular season, 12-9 in playoffs, winning two AFC titles, and also Super Bowl 40 (I’m not great with Roman numerals).

Johnson went 80-64 in only nine years in the NFL, winning Super Bowl in consecutive years (1992-93). His win %age in Miami (.563) was actually better than it was in Dallas (.550), but he won his titles and made his name with the Cowboys.

Johnson was 81-34-3 as a college coach at Oklahoma State, Miami, which is irrelevant to what we’re talking about today.

12) But the underlying question is this; are Cowher/Johnson deserving of this honor? I’m not saying they are or they aren’t, but we’re going to look into it a little right now.

Here are four other NFL coaches, none of whom are in the Hall of Fame, who all won two Super Bowls (Johnson won two, Cowher won one):

11) Tom Coughlin: 170-150 in 20 years, won two Super Bowls with the Giants, but his best coaching was done in Jacksonville, where he led the expansion Jaguars to a 45-19 record in a stretch from 1996-99, Jacksonville’s 2nd thru 5th years in the NFL.

Coughlin was 12-7 in playoff games.

10) Tom Flores: 97-87 in 12 years, nine years with the Raiders; 8-3 in playoff games. Flores won Super Bowls 15 and 18.

He was in Seattle for three years after the Raiders- that didn’t go well (14-34). 

9) George Seifert: Took over the powerhouse 49ers after Bill Walsh left, went 98-30 in eight years there, winning Super Bowls 24, 29. He was 10-5 in playoff games. 

Seifert coached Carolina for three years after that, going 16-32; no bueno. He also coached Cornell in the Ivy League for a couple years in the 70’s.

8) Mike Shanahan: 170-138 in 20 years, 8-6 in playoff games, winning Super Bowls 32-33 in John Elway’s last two years as a player. Also worked as a head coach for Al Davis, Daniel Snyder; neither of those tenures went well, but he was 138-86 in his 14 years in Denver.

I’m thinking that Coughlin and Shanahan will both eventually get in the Hall of Fame.

7) Chiefs 51, Texans 31— Houston led this game 24-0 with 10:58 left in 2nd quarter, then KC scored three TD’s in a span of 3:18; by halftime, the Chiefs led, 28-24. Chiefs went on to score TD’s on seven consecutive drives- they scored so much, the team ran out of fireworks that they shoot off after touchdowns.

First six playoff games this year went under the total; this one didn’t. 

6) Packers 28, Seahawks 23— Green Bay led 21-3 at half; Adams caught eight passes for 140 yards and two TD’s. Packers visit the 49ers in Santa Clara next Sunday. 

5) Thursday night, Nashville Predators’ goalie Pekka Rinne scored a goal, the 15th time that has happened in he NHL, by 12 different goalies. It was the first time in six years an NHL goalie scored.

Retired goalies Martin Brodeur scored three goals, Ron Hextall twice. 

4) A guy in Hillsboro, OR bought a Boeing 727 passenger jetliner for $100,000, propped it up on two massive concrete pillars in the woods, and made it his home. Hillsboro is a suburb of Portland, and apparently, this guy is pretty rich.

The pictures I saw online looked pretty nice. 

3) According to one tax professional, a New York couple filing their tax return jointly with $5M in taxable income would save $394,931 in taxes by moving to Florida. 

2) New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry says he wants his team to take 40 3’s a game; Pelicans’ last eight games went over the total- they’re lot of fun to watch.

1) Since 2010, nine NFL teams started a season 8-0; none of them won the Super Bowl that year; last 8-0 team to go on to win a Super Bowl? The ’09 Saints.

This year’s 49ers are the ninth of those teams.

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday……

13) Titans 28, Ravens 12: This was a Titan-ic upset; Baltimore outgained Tennessee 530-300, but the Ravens were 0-4 on 4th down conversions (11-18 on 3rd down) and became only 2nd #1 seed in last seven years to lose in this round.

Tennessee wins consecutive road playoff games when throwing for less than 100 yards in both games, which is really weird, in this pass-happy day and age.

12) 49ers 27, Vikings 10: Minnesota hasn’t won two playoff games in same season since 1987.

Vikings were held to 147 total yards, seven first downs. San Francisco will host the NFC title game next Sunday. 

11) Baylor 67, Kansas 55— Is Baylor the best team in the country? This was the Bears’ first-ever win in Lawrence and it was decisive.

My way-too-early Final Four: Baylor-Butler-Auburn and either Louisville/San Diego State, or maybe Seton Hall. It is still pretty early in conference play, but it is good to get the brain working a little. 

10) Seton Hall 69, Marquette 55— Pirates won their sixth straight game; they’re 4-0 in Big East play, with eight points the closest of the four games. Last time Seton Hall was 4-0 in Big East play? 1992-93.

9) Clemson 79, North Carolina 76 OT— Tigers had been 0-59 in Chapel Hill, and that is not a misprint. Zero wins, 59 losses. Now they’re 1-59. Rough year for the Tar Heels, who were up by 10 at the half in this game. 

8) Indiana 66, Ohio State 59— Buckeyes lost their 4th game in a row after an 11-1 start; they haven’t scored 60+ points since their Dec 21 win over Kentucky. 

7) Upsets:
— Long Beach State (+13) 55, UCSB 52
— Santa Clara (+13) 67, Saint Mary’s 66
— NJIT (+11) 78, North Florida 66
— Tulane (+9.5) 65, Temple 51
— Rhode Island (+8.5) 65, VCU 56
— East Carolina (+8.5) 71, SMU 68
— Idaho State (+8) 71, Northern Arizona 67
— Syracuse (+8) 63, Virginia 55
— Baylor (+7.5) 67, Kansas 55

6) UNLV 78, Wyoming 69 OT— Rebels were down six with 1:26 left, rallied to improve to 4-1 in Mountain West. A very thin UNLV team has already played five OT games this season (2-3), winning the two that were conference games. 

5) St John’s 74, DePaul 67— When I saw the Blue Demons before Christmas, they looked like a team we’d be talking about in March; now they’re 0-3 and it looks like just another season of the same old stuff- they’ve made only 22.8% of their 3’s in Big East play, and two of the three games were at home. Not good. 

4) Texas A&M 69, Vanderbilt 50— Aaron Nesmith of Vanderbilt, leading scorer in the SEC, is out for six weeks or so with a stress reaction in his right foot. Big loss for the Commodores. 

3) Dayton 88, UMass 60— Dayton’s star Obi Toppin left this game with a sprained ankle.      

2) Stanford 88, Washington State 62— Cardinal was picked 10th in preseason Pac-12 poll, but now they’re 14-2, with only losses to pair of top 5 teams (Butler/Kansas). Stanford is a very young team (experience #338) that is making 38.3% of their 3’s- their next three games are on the road, which will be telling. 

1) Santa Clara 67, Saint Mary’s 66:
Last three games for the Gaels;
— Lost in four OT’s at Pacific.
— Beat BYU at home in OT
— Lost this game by a point.

If Saint Mary’s is a bubble team in March, this week will haunt them. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind……

13) Most underrated sports story of this century so far:

Chris Correa was a St Louis Cardinals scouting director; he hacked the Houston Astros’ database illegally and not only was banned from the sport, he was given a 46-month prison sentence.

Almost four years in jail, thats a big deal.

Now the Astros are awaiting their penalty in this sign-stealing debacle; it sounds like GM Jeff Luhnow and maybe even manager AJ Hinch are going to be suspended, possibly for a decent amount of time. Pretty big mess on MLB’s hands.

12) One way around future problems with teams stealing signs electronically; just make it legal. Leave it up to teams to find a better way to pass signs along. 

11) Eight years ago, Clemson lost its bowl game 70-33 to West Virginia; since then, they’re 9-2 SU in playoff/bowl games (10-1 ATS), despite being an underdog in nine of the 11 games.

10) LSU’s defensive coordinator Dave Aranda makes $2.5M a year; Clemson’s DC Brent Venables makes $2.2M- thats $4.7M a year for two guys who aren’t head coaches!!!! 

9) By the way, the strength coach at Iowa makes $800,000 a year; very important position- the strength coach may have more contact with the players in off season training than the coaches do, but $800K seems a bit excessive. 

8) When Golden State Warrior rookie Ky Bowman was in high school, he was such a good football player that he was offered football scholarships by both Alabama and Auburn. He played basketball at Boston College instead, and now it is paying off. 

7) Apparently, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David once called the Jets’ front office before the 2018 NFL Draft and advised them to take Lamar Jackson.

David says he got former Jets GM Mike Maccagnan on the phone and passed along his advice, which obviously was ignored. Must be nice to have enough clout to get the GM on the phone.

6) Georgia QB Jake Fromm declared for the NFL Draft; Mel Kiper Jr has Fromm listed as the #5 QB in the draft. 

5) When giving out assists in basketball, an assist on a 3-point shot should be 1.5 assists; a pass that leads to a free throws taken should also count 0.5 assists for every foul shot made.

4) Scapegoat watch: Philadelphia Eagles fired OC Mike Groh. 

3) Eagles’ QB Josh McCown played in his first NFL playoff game last week at age 40; now it turns out that he played the second half of that game with a torn hamstring, and will have surgery next week. Ouch.               

2) Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke is taking over as the head coach at San Diego State with Rocky Long stepping down as the Aztecs head coach. 

1) There is a movie coming out where John Malkovich plays the Pope; I’ve seen Malkovich in two things- as Teddy KGB, the Russian gangster in Rounders, and Grigor Andolov, a Russian business tycoon in Billions. I’m guessing the collection plate would be pretty full on Sundays if Malkovich became the Pope. Or else. 

Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here……

13) Mississippi State hired Mike Leach as its new football coach; with Lane Kiffin signing on at Ole Miss, the SEC will be more interesting than normal next year, and thats saying something. 

Big week for Miss State football; Bulldog alum Joe Judge was the surprise choice to be the new coach of the New Jersey Giants- he was introduced to the NY-NJ media Thursday.

12) 76ers’ star Joel Embiid will have surgery Friday morning to fix a torn radial collateral ligament in the ring finger of his left hand; he is expected to miss at least two weeks.

11) Oregon 74, Arizona 73 OT— Outstanding, March-like game; Ducks trailed by 11 in the first half, but rallied for win behind Pritchard, who had 18 points, six assists, and played the whole 45:00. Arizona’s Max Hazzard bolted from Cal-Irvine to Tucson, but he played only 8:00 in this game. Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side.

10) Michigan 84, Purdue 78, 2OT— Zavier Simpson scored 22 points, had nine assists; he was on floor for 49 of the 50:00, going 8-8 inside arc. Purdue had 15 offensive rebounds.

Williams had 36 points, 20 rebounds, first time a Purdue player did that since 1971. 

9) Wichita State 76, Memphis 67— Shockers were +8 (18-10) in turnovers, in foul-filled game (both teams took 30+ FT’s). Wichita never trailed in this game, despite shooting only 32.8% from the floor.

8) Saint Mary’s 87, BYU 84 OT— BYU’s star big man Childs got hurt in practice, missed this game; senior G Haws scored 29 in a losing cause here.

Saint Mary’s lost a 4-OT game Saturday, then played another OT game here. If the WCC does not get three NCAA bids, the BYU-Saint Mary’s games become a lot bigger.

7) College basketball upsets:
— Tex-San Antonio (+6.5) 89, Louisiana Tech 73
— Montana (+6) 90, Eastern Washington 63
— Hofstra (+4) 74, Northeastern 72
— Eastern Kentucky (+4) 77, Eastern Illinois 74
— Arizona State (+4) 82, Oregon State 76 

6) Stanford 61, Washington 55— Cardinal ends game on 14-1 run; Washington lost its poise down stretch. Why did they lose their poise?

Huskies’ PG Quade Green is academically ineligible; freshman G Marcus Tsohonis will be pressed into action as a backup. Washington had hoped to redshirt Tsohonis this season. Losing your point guard at midseason is like losing your QB; not good.

Green was scoring 11.6 ppg, giving out 5.3 assists/game while making 44.7% of his 3’s.

5) Northern Colorado 65, Weber State 64— Bears get their first-ever win in 14 visits to Ogden; Kai Edwards scored a basket with 0:03.5 left for the win. 

4) Siena 61, St Peter’s 58— Peacocks were only 4-22 on arc, were outscored 14-4 on foul line. 

3) The last time that a Western Conference team made the NBA playoffs with a losing record was 1996-97, when the 36-46 LA Clippers got in, but that streak could end this year; right now, the 16-20 San Antonio Spurs are holding down the #8 spot in the west. 

2) St Louis Cardinals traded OF’s Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay for lefty pitching prospect Matt Liberatore and a Class A catching prospect. 

1) Cavaliers 115, Pistons 112 OT— John Beilein really needed this week, after a bad week for him and his team, off the floor. Cleveland is 11-27; losing is stressful. Beilein was a great college coach; you wonder if he is regretting his move to the more player-friendly NBA. 

Thursday’s Den: Thoughts on college basketball

13) Big X— Four teams in top 25; is Baylor the best team in the country? If the top 68 teams in the country made the NCAA tournament, Kansas State would be the only Big X team left out. 

12) ACC— 15 teams in a league is too many; North Carolina is down this year, looks like Duke, Florida State, Louisville are by far the three best teams. Curious to see if NC State can play their way into an at-large bid. 

11) Big East— Butler, Seton Hall, Villanova are three best teams; Providence sleep-walked thru a 7-6 pre-conference slate, but started conference play 3-0. Friars are experience team #19, can they keep winning and get an at-large bid? 

10) Big 14— Michigan State is gaining momentum; Ohio State lost four of last six games after a 9-0 start. Nebraska/Northwestern are by far the two worst teams; large cluster of teams in the middle of the pack here- Juwan Howard’s Michigan team is 10-4, but 0-3 in true road games.

9) SEC— Auburn made the Final Four LY, is 14-0 TY. Florida won its first NCAA tourney game the last three years; they’re 10-4 now and headed towards playing in March again. Kentucky is getting better with each game; Eric Musselman has Arkansas at 12-2 in his first year there.

8) Pac-12— Much-improved league this year, with five top 50 teams; Colorado/Washington should both make NCAA’s. Arizona is young, talented, Oregon always gets better as the season goes on. Stanford is a surprise team, UCLA is disappointing.

7) Right now, the NCAA Tournament figures to be missing some familiar faces; North Carolina, Cincinnati, Syracuse, UCLA and Iowa State are likely NIT teams, at best. 

6) American— Memphis is a rising power nationally; Cincy/Temple/UCF are a little down, but SMU, Wichita, Houston are all good. Ron Hunter will make Tulane relevant; UConn is still a year away. Just like last year, AAC has three teams in top 50. 

5) Atlantic 14— Dayton is going to be a fashionable Final Four sleeper on Selection Sunday; VCU will be an interesting team in March. Richmond has rebounded this year; Duquesne is getting better, but Davidson/St Joe’s are down, only half of the league is in the top 100. 

4) WCC is still Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s-BYU, but Santa Clara/Pacific are on the rise, and the bottom half of the league doesn’t have any doormats. Gonzaga’s program now is what UNLV had in the Tark the Shark era 30 years ago; big fish in a small pond that attracts prominent transfers. 

3) Mountain West— San Diego State is 16-0; Aztecs missed NCAAs three of last four years. Utah State lost last three games after a 13-2 start; unclear who the 2nd-best team is. Steve Alford has Nevada at 10-6 with a totally-revamped roster. New Mexico is playing well; UNLV is a year away. Wyoming and San Jose State are terrible. 

2) Missouri Valley— Too bad Wichita State/Creighton jumped to bigger ponds- that really hurt this league. Northern Iowa is the only top 100 team right now, Evansville upset Kentucky, then lost its coach to off-court issues. Missouri State has been little disappointing. Loyola/Drake are in line behind UNI at the top of the standings. 

1) Conference USA— Six teams are 2-0 in the conference; six more are 0-2, with North Texas, Marshall 1-1. Louisiana Tech appears to be the best team; Western Kentucky won its first two conference games, but they lost big man Bassey with a leg injury. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) Carolina Panthers gave Baylor coach Matt Rhule $62M for seven years, which is a lot of money. Giants apparently declined to match that offer. 

12) Giants then signed Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge, who will be the Giants’ third head coach in five years. 

11) Dallas is hiring John Fassel as their new special teams coach; Fassel did a very good job in that capacity with the Rams, but LA’s special teams slipped this year. 

Sean McVay now has to replace his defensive coordinator and special teams coach, which obviously is not ideal. 

10) NBA teams playing a 2nd consecutive night are 27-32-3 ATS on the 2nd night of a back/back, if they won/covered the first night.

Teams that lost the first night are 45-37-3 ATS the second night.

9) Quote of the Day, part 2, from Kansas coach Bill Self, talking about speculation that he will be the San Antonio Spurs’ coach fairly soon:

“I haven’t talked to R.C. [Buford] ever about it, and he was in my wedding and I was in his. I know him pretty well and we’ve never once discussed it (job).”

RC Buford is the Spurs’ GM.

8) Lakers’ star Anthony Davis turned down a 4-year, $146M contract extension; if you’re scoring at home, that would’ve been $36.5M a year. Davis will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Of course, the same day he turns down $146M, Davis leaves the game early with a bruised lower back; Lakers don’t consider the injury to be overly serious. 

7) College basketball upsets:
— Boston College (+9) 60, Virginia 53
— Nebraska (+7.5) 76, Iowa 70
— Providence (+7.5) 81, Marquette 80
— Air Force (+7) 79, Utah State 60
— Tennessee (+5.5) 69, Missouri 58
— Virginia Tech (+5) 67, Syracuse 63
— East Carolina (+4) 62, South Florida 59

6) Rocky Long is the football coach at San Diego State, but apparently is interviewing this week to be he defensive coordinator at Syracuse— why????
a) Why go from being head coach to a coordinator?
b) Why would anyone move from San Diego to Syracuse? Ever?

San Diego State is one of 13 colleges in country to go bowling the last 10 years in a row. 

5) Ohio U’s Frank Solich is 75 years old, the oldest I-A coach in America; Long is the 2nd-oldest- he turns 70 in a few weeks. Being a coordinator must be less stressful. 

4) Texas Longhorns’ QB Sam Ehlingher will be back in Austin for his senior season. 

3) XFL’s unusual rules:
— Double-forward pass. If a team completes a forward pass behind the line of scrimmage, that player has the ability to attempt another forward pass as long as the ball has at no time crossed the line of scrimmage.

— Three options after scoring a touchdown:
a) a 1-point play from the 2-yard line,
b) a 2-point play from the 3-yard line or
c) a 3-point play from the 10-yard line.
There is no option to kick an extra point.

— Overtime: Each team will get five single-play possessions from the 5-yard line, kind of like an NHL shootout. If the game is still tied at that point, the rotating possessions will continue until there is a winner. The XFL hopes that overtimes will be rare, in part because of the multiple options for points after touchdowns.  

— A requirement for only one foot to be in bounds for possession, like in college.

If you plan on betting totals in XFL games, keep in mind that a running game clock won’t stop after incomplete passes or when players go out of bounds, except inside of two minutes in each half. There figure to be less plays in an XFL game than in an NFL game, but we’ll monitor all that once the games begin.                     

2) Rutgers 72, Penn State 61— Scarlet Knights are 12-3 in basketball for first time in 44 years, when a group of players who were mostly recruited by Dick Vitale made the Final Four. Vitale was the head coach at Detroit by then; he was an outstanding coach back in the day. 

1) Prayers up for the people in Puerto Rico, where they had multiple earthquakes Monday night/Tuesday morning. Been a rough couple of years for those people. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but……

13) Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa declared for the NFL Draft; will be fascinating to see who takes a chance on him and his dislocated hip in the first round. NFL QB’s take a pounding, even in this softer day and age; can he withstand a 17-game season, because the NFL season will become 17 games in a couple years, and thats not counting the playoffs?

Nick Saban has had 29 players drafted in first round since coming to Alabama, but none of them were quarterbacks. 

12) fanatics.com is already making/selling Cincinnati Bengal #9 jerseys with “Burrow” on the back, thats how confident they are that Cincy will draft the LSU quarterback. 

11) Duke freshman Wendell Moore Jr. broke a bone in his right hand doing the Blue Devils’ 95-62 win over Boston College Saturday; he will miss “significant time”. Moore is averaging 7.4 ppg, 3.9 rebounds/game. 

10) Dallas Cowboys hired Mike McCarthy as their new coach; McCarthy went 125-77-2 (.618) in 13 years with the Packers, going 10-8 in playoffs, with one Super Bowl title. 

Former 49ers coach Mike Nolan will be the Cowboys’ DC. 

9) Cowboys Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper are all carrying expiring contracts into the offseason; did that play into Jason Garrett being told to take a hike? 

8) LA Rams will have a new defensive coordinator next year; 72-year old Wade Phillips didn’t have his contract renewed by the club. Ram defense had lot of injuries this year; Dallas/Ravens ran thru them, but otherwise they had a pretty good year.

Rams also parted ways with RB coach Skip Peete. 

7) One more note on the Rams; they drafted Jared Goff in the first round of the 2016 draft; they haven’t made another 1st round pick since, and don’t have another 1st round pick until 2022. 

6) Seattle-Philly Wild Card game late Sunday afternoon was the most viewed TV show in the country since LY’s Super Bowl.

5) Over last five years, #6 seeds are 7-3 ATS on NFL Wild Card weekend

4) Over last four years, #1 seeds are 6-2 ATS this coming weekend.

3) Washington Nationals signed 1B/OF Eric Thames a one-year, $4M deal.                          

2) I’ll be very curious when the XFL starts next month if it is any better than the AAF was; I’m assuming it’ll be better funded, but will the actual football be as good, or better? 

1) Louisiana 27, Miami OH 17— This is a lower-tier bowl for sure, but it has to be an advantage in recruiting to have national TV all to yourself for two hours, yes? There wasn’t any college basketball on TV until 9:00; not really sure why. 

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Sunday……

13) Vikings 26, Saints 20 OT— New Orleans gets bounced from playoffs on last play of game for third year in row, second year in row at home.

Minnesota converted 10-18 on third down; Kirk Cousins gets his first career playoff win as the Vikings advance to San Francisco next weekend. 

12) Seahawks 17, Eagles 9— Seattle beat Philly twice this season, both by 17-9 scores; Philly scored one TD on 20 drives in the two games.

Carson Wentz got clocked in the head, was KO’d in first half; his durability has to be an issue going forward. Seattle plays the Packers at Lambeau Field Sunday night. 

11) Last time the Buffalo Bills won a playoff game was in 1995 over the Dolphins; that was Don Shula’s last game as an NFL coach. Coach Shula turned 90 years old Saturday. 

10) Speaking of the Bills, they said on TV Saturday that Buffalo didn’t throw a pass on 3rd-and-1 all season long, not even once. 

9) Best ACC regular season records the last seven seasons:
Virginia: 92-19 (.828)
Duke: 80-31 (.721)
North Carolina: 80-31 (.721)

8) Watching college basketball and there are two leagues (Big East, Big 14) where their TV guys are obviously coached up to say how great their league is and how there are no easy games. 

In the Big 14, Nebraska/Northwestern stink this year; in the Big East, there are no easy games mostly because there aren’t any great teams in the league. Butler has probably been the best team in the league up to this point; no one is touting them for the Final Four. 

7) Sunday’s basketball upsets:
— IUPUI (+11.5) 93, Green Bay 78
— Oregon State (+8.5) 76, Colorado 68
— Holy Cross (+4.5) 63, Navy 61
— Bucknell (+4.5) 78, Lafayette 66
— Fairfield (+4) 46, Canisius 42

6) Duquesne’s basketball gym is being refurbished this season; the Dukes are playing home games at Robert Morris College, 17 miles away in Coraopolis.   

5) Nevada Wolf Pack football coach Jay Norvell played college football at Iowa; he was on the 1983 Hawkeyes’ team that had five assistant coaches who later became D-I head coaches; Bill Snyder, Dan McCarney, Barry Alvarez, Kirk Ferentz and Bob Stoops, one of the best coaching staffs in college history. 

4) There are currently eight tight ends in the NFL who went to college at either Princeton or Harvard, which is a little odd. 

3) Favorites covered three of four MAAC basketball games Sunday, after being 0-7 ATS up to this point in the season. Big Sky conference favorites are 3-10 ATS so far this season.                               

2) A fan at the Texas-Baylor basketball game Saturday made a 54-foot putt from the backcourt into a hole on a little putting green under one of the baskets, which earned him $5,000. They said it was the first time any fan had holed a putt during the promotion, which they’ve been doing at Baylor home games for 16 years.

1) Early betting lines for next week’s NFL games:
— Vikings @ 49ers (-6.5, 45.5)
— Titans @ Ravens (-9.5, 48)
— Texans @ Chiefs (-9.5, 49)
— Seahawks @ Packers (-3.5, 46)