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

NBA, college hoop information is posted daily

Tuesday’s 6-pack
— Cincinnati Reds signed OF Nicholas Castellanos to a 4-year contract worth $64M
— Diamondbacks acquired OF Starling Marte from Pittsburgh for two prospects
— North Carolina 75, NC State 65— Wolfpack is 4-31 in last 35 games vs UNC.
— Iowa 68, Wisconsin 62— Hawkeyes ended game on a 23-5 run.
— Kansas 65, Oklahoma State 50— Cowboys fall to 0-7 in Big X.
— Tuesday’s Clipper-Laker game was postponed due to Kobe Bryant’s death. 

Quote of the Day:
“I learned a ton from Alex Smith. I attribute a lot of my success, especially so early in my career, to him.”
Patrick Mahomes

Tuesday’s quiz
Which two major league players combined to hit the most home runs while teammates?

Monday’s quiz
Sacramento Kings GM Vlade Divac was once traded for Kobe Bryant.

Sunday’s quiz
Lions’ coach Matt Patricia went to college at RPI, an engineering school in Troy, NY. 

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

Monday’s List of 13: Random thoughts on a winter day……

13) Was talking baseball with a friend the other day; he’s a lot younger than me. I was telling him about a 1987 trade between the Braves and Detroit.

Back then, Atlanta was a bad team, the Tigers were contenders, so Detroit sent a prospect to the Braves for 35-year old P Doyle Alexander, who was 5-10, 4.13 in 16 starts for the Braves that year. Alexander had a fine career (194-174, 3.76); he found a spark in Detroit after the trade and went 9-0, 1.53 in 11 starts, leading the Tigers to the playoffs.

Problem is, the prospect Detroit traded? A guy named John Smoltz.


12) If you finish lower than 8th in a conference, you should NOT be in the NCAA tournament, unless you win the conference tournament. No at-large bids, though.

These big $$$ leagues with their own TV networks (ACC, Big 14) jacked up their conference schedules to 20 games, which inflates their teams’ power ratings. Its an unfair game.

If you can’t finish in the top 8 in a league, how the hell can you compete for a national title? 

11) It is conceivable that the 9th-place team in the Big 14 (Penn State, as I type this) is better than maybe the 2nd best-team in OVC or 3rd-best team in WCC, but too bad.

Mike DeCourcy is a fine sportswriter who also works on the Big 14 Network; he has 11 of their teams in his bracket. Well, of course he does, they pay him. You finish 11th in a 14-team league, your coaches should be recruiting in March, not preparing for the NCAA’s. 

10) Sounds like robot umpires are going to be calling balls/strikes in the major leagues in the next couple years. I’m not in love with this idea, mostly because I don’t trust whoever it is who will be programming the robots. Too easy to screw over the small market teams. 

9) If the NFL goes to a 17-game schedule, then each team could get two byes, and the Super Bowl could be the Sunday night of Presidents’ Day weekend, when everyone has Monday off.

Daytona 500 early in the day, Super Bowl at night; big sports day. 

8) Former 5-star recruit Kahlil Whitney is transferring from Kentucky after playing 18 games, starting eight of them. Looking at his shooting stats (4-16 on arc, 10-23 on foul line), he needs to spend most of his free time over the next year working on his shooting.

7) Basketball upsets:
— California (+8) 52, Stanford 50
— Tulsa (+4.5) 79, UConn 75 OT

6) Oregon 96, UCLA 75— Bruins made 10-24 on arc, still lost by 21; they were down 22 at the half. Oregon forced 22 turnovers (+8), shot 63.6% inside arc. UCLA lost seven of its last ten games; they’re 10-10, 3-4 in the Pac-12, and will be lucky to make the NIT.

5) Tulsa 79, UConn 75 OT— Golden Hurricane wins its fifth game in a row; they outscored UConn 24-12 on foul line, were lucky that the Huskies made only 9-33 on arc. UConn lost six of its last seven games; losing last four games, two of them in OT.

4) Virginia 65, Wake Forest 63 OT— Deacons led by 12 in second half; they outscored Virginia 21-11 on foul line, but shot only 25.7% inside arc and couldn’t finish the job.

Three Cavaliers played 42:00+; Virginia won for only second time in their last six games, as they try and avoid falling off the NCAA bubble.

3) Maryland 77, Indiana 76— Terrapins blew a 14-point first half lead, but then scored the last seven points of game to sweep the season series. Both teams shot 55%+ inside the arc; there were a total of only 11 turnovers in this slow-paced (59 possessions) game.

2) Northern Iowa 67, Loyola 62 OT— Panthers blew an 11-point lead with 8:56 left, but won in OT and improve to 6-2 in Valley, tying the Ramblers for first place.

1) Obviously Sunday was a sad day, nine people dying in a helicopter crash in California, with Kobe Bryant and his daughter two of the victims.

Moral of the story, at the risk of being preachy: appreciate every day, because we’re not guaranteed anything. Lets be nicer to each other, and appreciate what we have. 

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

13) Illinois 64, Michigan 62— First game of the day might’ve been the best; Ayo Dosunmu hit a tough jumper from just inside the foul line for the game-winner. Hard-fought game, but 5th loss in six games for the Wolverines- they’re 4-8 in last 12 games, after a 7-0 start. 

12) Saturday was the 32nd anniversary of the night Pitt’s Jerome Lane dunked a ball and broke the backboard in a TV game, prompting analyst Bill Raftery to exclaim “Send it in Jerome!!!”

Raftery said on CBS yesterday that Lane once thanked him “….for making me famous”

The guy who threw Lane the pass before he dunked? Arizona coach Sean Miller.

11) SEC-Big X Challenge— Leagues split the ten games; hone side won six of ten. Good job by the matchmakers; six of the ten games were decided by 6 or fewer points. 

10) SMU 74, Memphis 70— Mustangs ended the game on a 15-0 run, improved to 5-2 in the AAC. When you’re young as Memphis, stuff like this happens- they led by 12 with 7:08 left. SMU took 34 3’s (11-34), only 21 2’s (14-21) in this game.  

9) Kentucky 76, Texas Tech 74 OT— Wildcats were 7-15 on arc, Tech 3-19. Richards had 25 points, 10 rebounds, made 11-14 on foul line for the winners. 

8) Austin Peay 86, Belmont 78— Rough week for the Bruins, visiting Murray State, Austin Peay on same weekend. Semi-finals of OVC tournament should be very interesting. 

7) Upsets:
— NC-Wilmington (+13.5) 72, Charleston 70
— Stetson (+12.5) 48, Liberty 43
— IUPUI (+8.5) 89, Oakland 85
— Delaware (+7.5) 76, Northeastern 74
— Central Connecticut (+7.5) 86, Wagner 76
— Ole Miss (+7) 70, Georgia 60
— Hartford (+7) 62, Albany 48

6) 3-point shooting %age is down this year; longer missed shots create longer rebounds, so players who are quick/scrappy and get loose balls are more valuable than ever. 

About 10-12 years, I was at an AAU tournament, talking to Brian Beaury, who was a great coach at D-II St Rose here in Albany. I asked what he looked in players for at tournaments like the one we were watching.

Coach told me he identified what a player’s “college skill” was, whether it be passing, shooting, defending, rebounding. He said “…..getting loose balls is also a college skill.”

5) LSU 69, Texas 67— Longhorns were outscored 16-3 on foul line at home; they were 8-26 on arc, 3-6 on foul line, and lost fifth time in their last seven games.

4) Rutgers 75, Nebraska 72— Scarlet Knights outscored Nebraska 9-0 over final 3:07, as their march to the NCAA tournament continues- their last NCAA bid was in 1979.

3) Best new college basketball analyst: former Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. He speaks his mind, has some humor, fun to listen to. Listening to the best announce teams is like listening to two friends while they watch a game. Kennedy and Tom Hart fit that bill. 

2) San Francisco 83, BYU 82— Middle of the WCC has improved; St Mary’s/BYU have taken some hits, and both are now bubble teams unless they can upset Gonzaga at some point.

1) Colorado 76, Washington 62—  I’d like to tell you more about Saturday’s Pac-12 games, but three of the four Pac-12 games Saturday were on the Pac-12 Network, which DirecTV doesn’t carry. Not sure why, but they don’t.

Washington lost five of its last six games; they should’ve gotten their point guard a better tutor, because the squad fell apart when he became ineligible. 

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). 

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

13) Indiana 67, Michigan State 63— Spartans missed a point-blank putback to tie game with 0:01.5 left but they missed and lose their second straight road game. Hard-fought game.

12) Murray State 85, Belmont 75— Racers win their 8th straight game, making 12-21 on arc. Belmont made made 12-29 on arc, only 5-12 on foul line. Murray and Austin Peay are both unbeaten in OVC play, Belmont is a highly-competitive 5-2.

11) Minnesota 62, Ohio State 59— Buckeyes led by 11 early in 2nd half, crumbled down stretch and lost for sixth time in seven games.

10) Florida International 83, Old Dominion 80— Panthers are 14-6, 5-2 in C-USA; they’re #89 experience team in country playing pace #14. Interesting team. They’re also the worst team in the whole country on the defensive boards.

9) Utah 67, Washington 66— Huskies lost lost six of last eight games, are 1-4 since their PG became academically ineligible. They’re likely headed to the NIT.

8) Wm & Mary 88, James Madison 75— Tribe has never been to NCAA tournament; they’re 7-1 in CAA, with halfway point of conference schedule coming up Saturday.

Wm & Mary is coached by Dane Fischer (no relation); good for him. 

7) College basketball upsets:
— Southern Miss (+9) 84, UAB 77
— Eastern Kentucky (+8.5) 81, Jacksonville State 77
— Minnesota (+7.5) 62, Ohio State 59
— UCLA (+7.5) 62, Oregon State 58
— Delaware (+7) 73, Hofstra 71
— North Florida (+6.5) 71, Liberty 70

6) Houston 63, UConn 59— Cougars came close to an epic collapse in this game; up by 4 with 0:07.4 left, a Houston player got a technical for jawing at UConn coach Hurley, then Houston couldn’t inbound the ball, but Huskies missed a game-tying 3-pointer.

5) North Florida 71, Liberty 70— Ospreys tie Liberty atop Atlantic Sun standings at 5-1. 

4) Merrimack 74, FDU 71 OT— Warriors lead NEC at 7-1; they’re in their first year of D-I basketball, don’t think they’re eligible for NCAA tournament. Four of their last six wins were by 4 or fewer points.

3) Neb-Omaha 87, Western Illinois 82 OT— Mavericks are one of four teams tied for first place in loss column in Summit League; they outscored WIU 22-13 on foul line in this game.

2) Shareef O’Neal is transferring away from UCLA: Shaq’s son averaging 2.2 ppg and 2.9 rebounds/game for the Bruins— he was sidelined with a heart issue LY.

1) A guy died after getting attacked by his rooster on their way to a cockfight in India this week. Its true; I’m not creative enough to make stuff like that up.

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

13) Dallas Cowboys hiring a new coach could help fast track Dak Prescott’s contract situation, because Prescott can’t participate in an off-season workout program unless he is under contract, which he isn’t right now.

When you have a new coach, the off-season program is more important than usual. Helps to have the quarterback there, ya think?

12) Suspensions after the Kansas/K-State fracas Tuesday:
Kansas: Silvio De Sousa 12 games, David McCormack 2 games
Kansas State: James Love 8 games, Antonio Gordon 3 games

11) New York Mets are expected to name Luis Rojas their next manager; Rojas was originally set to be the Mets quality control coach, same job he had last year. 38-year old Rojas is Felipe Alou’s son, so he has excellent bloodlines to be a major league skipper.

10) Disappointed that Showtime hasn’t committed to another season of the terrific show Ray Donovan; its very well done, good entertainment. If they’re smart, they’ll sign up for Season 8.

9) Phillies added four veterans to bolster their roster:
— P’s Francisco Liriano, Bud Norris, Drew Storen
— IF Neil Walker

8) Philadelphia police are investigating Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot Gritty for allegedly punching a 13-year-old kid at an event for season ticket holders. Seriously, they are.

7) Baseball stuff:
— Kansas City Royals re-signed LF Alex Gordon to a one-year, $4M deal. Gordon apparently waived his no-trade clause, which could become interesting in July.

6)  Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald bought a small piece of the Phoenix Suns, joining Aaron Rodgers as NFL players who own part of an NBA franchise.

5) Hawai’i hired former Arizona State coach Todd Graham as its new football coach. 

4) Eli Manning retired from the NFL Wednesday, with a career record of 117-117, 8-4 in playoff games, with two Super Bowl titles.

3) When LSU won the national title in college football, coach Ed Orgeron banked $1.775M in bonuses……..Oregon coach Mario Cristobal earned $1.175M in bonuses, and his Ducks didn’t even make it to the national playoff.

2) There have been 10 kickoff returns for TDs in the Super Bowl, no punt return TD’s.

1) Is it me, or does 397 people voting on the Hall of Fame seem excessive? If its not excessive, then I’d like a vote too— guaranteed I watch more baseball than most of the voters. 

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

13) LSU 84, Florida 82— Almost an epic collapse by the Bayou Bengals, who led 79-69 with 1:15 left in the game. Florida ran an out-of-bounds under play with 0:00.5 left and got an easy layup that would’ve tied the score, but it was ruled to come a split-second too late.

12) 2017 draft:
— Chicago Bears traded up to the #2 spot, giving up two 3rd-round picks an a 4th-round pick to move up one place to take QB Mitch Trubisky with the #2 pick. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes was picked #10, Deshaun Watson was picked #12.


11) Most people seem eager to bet the over in the Super Bowl. So if you like the under, wouldn’t it be a good idea to wait a while, hoping the total goes up and you get a better number?

10) LF Marcell Ozuna signs a one-year, $18M deal with the Braves, who also signed Felix Hernandez to a minor league deal. Ozuna went 9-for-21 against Atlanta in the playoffs LY, while he was playing for the Cardinals.

9) Sounds like the Jaguars are going to hire Jay Gruden as their next offensive coordinator; lot of former Redskin coaches all over the NFL.

8) There is a woman named Red Panda who performs at halftime of basketball games; she balances plates on her head while riding a unicycle. Her act is very popular nationwide.

How do you start doing that? How long do you have to practice before you’re good at it? Have other people tried and given up because they broke too many dishes?

7) Basketball upsets:
— Texas  A&M (+9) 66, Missouri 64
— Illinois (+5.5) 79, Purdue 62
— Northern Illinois (+4) 76, Kent State 69
— TCU (+2.5) 65, Texas Tech 54

6) Evansville fired basketball coach Walter McCarty after a sexual misconduct investigation; this comes two months after the Purple Aces won at Kentucky.

Evansville announced Todd Lickliter as its new head coach; he signed a multi-year deal and will coach the Purple Aces against Drake tonight. Good move to hire a new coach quickly, or else the current players might jump ship to other programs.

5) ESPN’s obsession with Zion Williamson is baffling; he seems like a good kid, but he played at Duke last year, they didn’t make the Final Four. He gets treated like he is this generation’s version of Kareem, Jordan or Lebron. Not really sure why. 

4) Random fact: former NFL QB Elvis Grbac is the football coach at Villa Angela-St. Joseph HS  in the Cleveland area. It is interesting to see what retired players in their post-playing lives.

3) Quote of the Day part 2, from Texas alum TJ Ford:
“It’s very disappointing and disheartening to watch the direction Texas Longhorn has now taken. I’ve never witnessed a blowout of this magnitude in BIG12 play like tonight.”

He was talking about the Longhorns getting drubbed at West Virginia Saturday.

2) Was considering going to Las Vegas for the NFL Draft, but decided against it; draft is better on TV, where you can see everything. Draft will be far flung all over the Strip and downtown; will be ton of extra people in town. Hotels are jacking prices up; and since I’m not a great people person to begin with, I’ll take a pass.

Having the red carpet on a stage on the lake in front of Bellagio should be quite a sight.

1) My only comment on the baseball Hall of Fame voting is that I am amazed more than half the voters (52.6%) picked Omar Vizquel as a Hall of Famer. Very good player, not a great player. To get in the Hall of Fame, think you had to be a great player. 

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

13) This from VISN, the terrific Las Vegas-based radio station, with regards to betting on over/under win totals in baseball:

If you add up all the season win totals for MLB teams at William Hill books, it comes to 2,457 wins.

One small problem; there are only 2,430 baseball games in a season, so they’ve basically inflated each team’s total by one win.

Sharp bettors turn this in their favor by emphasizing under plays. Just a thought.

12) Rutgers is ranked 24th in the AP basketball poll this week, first time the Scarlet Knights have been in the top 25 since 1979, when ESPN didn’t exist yet and I had a full head of hair.

11) CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein said something over the weekend that was probably true, and also a little disappointing; “The day of mid-majors building programs is over”

Someone in the game he was covering was a transfer from North Texas, usually an also-ran in Conference USA; when a team like North Texas gets its players poached by the bigger $$ teams, all they can hope for is to catch lightning in a bottle now and then to make the NCAA’s, and that is too bad.

10) You know the NFC title game sucked when Las Vegas oddsmakers posted Super Bowl odds at halftime of Sunday’s game in Santa Clara. Not many conference title games are 27-0 at the half.

9) Golfer Andrew Landry won the PGA event in LaQuinta this weekend, after blowing a six-stroke lead on the back nine Sunday; it was his second PGA Tour win.

In Landry’s five outings prior to this weekend, he won $0, as in five missed cuts in a row; now he is exempt thru 2022, and will be in the tournament of Champion at Kapalua next January, plus The Masters in April.

91 golfers have already qualified for The Masters; 87 players were in LY’s field.

8) Interesting bit of strategy for Villanova Saturday; coming out of a TV timeout with 7:42 left in a 43-43 game with UConn, Villanova came out with five guards on the floor, in order to defend better. Wildcats eventually won a sluggish game 61-55 against a UConn team they’ll be Big East rivals with once again next season.

7) There will be scapegoats; Houston Texans lost 51-31 in the playoffs at Kansas City, and now word comes that DC Romeo Crennel is done with the Texans.

72-year old Crennel has been a football coach for 50 years, the last 39 in the NFL; he’s been head coach in Cleveland, Kansas City. Now his career may be over after one cruddy game. Go figure.

6) Miami Hurricanes landed transfer QB D’Eriq King from Houston.

Former Florida Gators QB Feleipe Franks transfers to another SEC team, Arkansas.

5) Home teams won 41 of the first 48 Big 14 conference games this season, but ACC home teams are only 22-29 SU. Go figure. 

4) When UNLV beat New Mexico 99-78 Saturday night, Marvin Coleman became the first Rebel player in 21 years to post a triple-double. Mark Dickel got the last one one against Mississippi Valley State on November 19, 1999. Coleman came to UNLV as a walk-on, but has a scholarship now. UNLV started Mountain West play 6-1, but their schedule has been soft do far.

3) Pelicans 126, Grizzlies 116— Last 11 New Orleans game went over the total; Wednesday is their next game, with Zion Williamson making his NBA debut. Is Williamson going to slow the Pelicans down? He is going to take 20:00 or so away from someone; will they run as much?

2) Baylor 61, Oklahoma 57— Bears improve to 16-1, 6-0 in Big X play.

1) Celtics 139, Lakers 107— This was the 29th time Kemba Walker played against Lebron James, but the first time his team won. Longest-such streak in NBA history? Sherman Douglas went 0-30 against Michael Jordan. 

Bonus List of 13: College knowledge on a winter day

13) Big 14:
— Michigan State leads at 6-1; surprising Illinois is 5-2
— Ohio State lost five of its last six games.
— Home favorites of 5 or less points are 7-3-1 ATS

12) Big X:
— Looks like four teams in NCAAs, with Oklahoma off the bubble a little.
— In five years at Texas, Shaka Smart is 33-40 in conference games.
— Home favorites of 4+ points are 13-3 ATS

11) Big East:
— Seton Hall leads at 6-0, Villanova is 4-1
— In his third year at Georgetown, Patrick Ewing is 16-26 in conference games.
— Home favorites of more than 5 points are 5-2 ATS

10) ACC:
— Louisville, Florida State are both 6-1; Duke is 5-2.
— North Carolina lost 8 of last 9 games, is 1-5 in ACC.
— Single digit home favorites are 7-16 ATS.

9) SEC:
— LSU is 5-0…..Kentucky/Florida are both 4-1
— Vanderbilt fired Bryce Drew LY after his PG got hurt and the team fell apart; this year. Vandy’s best player is hurt, the Commodores are 0-4 in SEC. Is the coach’s job safe?
— Favorites of 3 or fewer points are 4-6 ATS. Road favorites are 5-6.

8) Pac-12:
— Stanford, USC are both 4-1; Oregon is 4-2.
— Washington lost three of four games since its PG became ineligible.
— Home favorites of 7 or fewer points are 8-2 ATS

7) The last six years, Stetson went 22-68 in Atlantic Sun games; this year, under 1st-year coach Donnie Jones, the Hatters are 3-2 in A-Sun- they’ve won their last four road games, including a win at South Carolina. Much improved team. 

6) American:
— Houston/Tulsa are 4-1; Memphis is 3-1, three teams are 3-2.
— UCF was #21 experience team LY, went 24-9; this year, they’re 11-7, 2-4 in AAC
— Favorites of 8+ points are 2-5 ATS; road favorites are 4-7 ATS.

5) Atlantic 14:
— Dayton/Duquesne are both 5-0; could Flyers be an at-large team?
— Why did St Joe’s fire Phil Martelli? They’re 4-14, 0-5 in conference.
— Road favorites are 7-4 ATS.

4) WCC:
— Gonzaga is 6-0; five of the other nine teams are 3-2.
— A 4-OT loss at Pacific will make Saint Mary’s nervous on Selection Sunday.
— Favorites of 7 or fewer points are 9-3 ATS.

3) Mountain West:
— San Diego State is last unbeaten team in the country.
— Utah State lost four of last five games after a 13-2 start; New Mexico lost a couple players for off-court reasons; they stopped trying at the end of the UNLV game Saturday.
— Road favorites of less than 7 points are 6-1-1 ATS.

2) Missouri Valley:
— Northern Iowa is 5-1, Loyola is 4-1, Bradley 4-2.
— Evansville upset Kentucky Nov 12, then they lost their coach for off-court reasons; now they’re 0-6 in Valley games.
— Home favorites are 14-6 ATS this season.

1) Mid-American:
— Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green are all 4-1 in this one-bid league.
— Eastern Michigan is 0-5 in MAC, turning ball over 22.4% of time, making 22.9% of 3’s.
— Home favorites of 6+ points are 1-9-1 ATS. 

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

13) Chiefs 35, Titans 24:
— Mahomes’ 27-yard TD run with 0:11 left in first half is one of the great runs in playoff history.
— Tennessee’s first three drives: 32 plays, 191 yards, 14 first downs, 17 points.
— Tennessee for rest of game: 27 plays, 111 yards, 6 first downs, 7 points.

12) 49ers 37, Packers 20— Ugly, one-sided game; 49ers ran ball for 285 yards, led 27-0 at the half. Garoppolo threw only eight passes the whole game (6-8/77 yards).

11) They said on ESPN2 Friday night that last year, 29.1% of returning college basketball players wound up transferring- thats a staggering number, one that goes a long way to explain why the quality of play in college hoop is way down. Total lack of continuity, lot of kids sitting out.

10) Three of the four NFL teams who played Sunday didn’t make the playoffs last year.

9) Clemson’s star RB Travis Etienne surprisingly passed on entering the 2020 NFL Draft to return for senior year with the Tigers- he must like college. Lot of pundits had him listed as the best running back in this year’s draft.

8) Before Sunday, last time the Chiefs beat Tennessee was six years ago; Alex Smith was Kansas City’s QB, while Ryan Fitzpatrick.started for the Titans.

7) Dayton 78, Saint Louis 76 OT— Had great fun watching this game Friday night, an excellent game with two good teams. Kid on Dayton drained a 3 with less than a second left- the Flyers will be a very, very popular (too popular??) sleeper team in March.

Dayton led for only 5:18 of this 45:00 game.

6) Jason Garrett signed on to become the Giants’ OC, which adds intrigue to next year’s Dallas-Giant games.

5) There is language in Kyler Murray’s rookie contract with the Arizona Cardinals that forbids him from taking part in any baseball-related activities, but he is talking like he still wants to try it someday. Oy. 

4) Omar Vizquel played in the major leagues for 24 years, for six different teams; he was a good fielder, made it to three All-Star Games, but had a career .688 OPS. Not once in all the times I saw Vizquel play did I think, “Hey, this guy could be in the Hall of Fame someday.”

But now Vizquel is on some writers’ ballots for the Hall of Fame. Amazing.

3) Davidson doesn’t have a graduate school, so they can’t poach grad transfers the way a lot of other D-I basketball programs do.

2) Philip Rivers and his family are moving to Florida; Tom Brady is moving away from Boston, will listen to other teams in the free agent market. NFL could look an awful lot different when next season starts.

1) Opening line on the Super Bowl: Chiefs, -1 (53)

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

13) Oregon 64, Washington 61 OT— Ducks stole this game in Seattle; Payton Pritchard hit a long 3-pointer with 0:03.4 left in OT to win a game that they trailed xx-xx with x:xx left.

Any time Bill Raftery yells “ONIONS!!!” you know it was a hell of a shot.

12) Louisville 79, Duke 73— Six losses this week by the top 5 teams in the country, first time that has happened in 22 years. Louisville was much the best in this game, but David Johnson hurt his shoulder late in the game.

11) USC 82, Stanford 78 OT— Cardinal was up 20 at the half, led by 5 and had the ball with 0:15 left, but they turned ball over on consecutive inbound plays, and game went to OT. Trojans outscored Stanford 27-8 on foul line.

10) Florida State 83, Miami 79 OT— Seminoles were down 9 with 4:46 left, rallied for the win, their ninth in a row. Miami lost for 4th time in its last five games.

9) Kentucky 73, Arkansas 66— John Calipari got tossed with 8:18 left and score tied; Wildcats

8) Arizona 75, Colorado 54— Arizona freshman big man Zeke Nnaji is also a 6-11 concert pianist, an interesting combination of skills.

7) Upsets:
— Northern Arizona (+10.5) 64, Northern Colorado 58
— Eastern Kentucky (+9.6) 92, Tennessee State 88
— Hampton (+9) 88, NC-Asheville 86
— NC-Wilmington (+8) 76, Northeastern 74 OT
— Arkansas State (+8) 80, Coastal Carolina 75
— Stetson (+8) 64, Jacksonville 59
— Troy (+7.5) 75, Georgia State 65
— Louisville (+7) 79, Duke 73

6) Houston 65, Wichita State 54— Cougars won eight of their last nine games, with experience team #285. Kelvin Sampson is one of the best coaches in the country.

5) Florida 69, Auburn 47— Rough week for the Tigers, who lost at Alabama/Florida after coming into the week as one of two unbeaten squads in the country.

4) Alabama 88, Missouri 74— Crimson Tide wins for 8th time in last 11 games; Mizzou shot 31.1% from floor, but went 31-31 on foul line, which deserves a mention.

3) Maryland 57, Purdue 50— Terps ran out to a 25-8 lead, then hung on for dear life, as they break a 2-game skid. Purdue loses for third time in last four games. Teams combined to make only 10-41 on the arc in this brickfest.

2) One of the weird aspects of modern basketball is when a kid gets the ball around the foul line and he isn’t guarded, the kid almost never looks to take that jumper. He might drive, but most times he looks really uneasy, like “…..we haven’t practiced this.”

Because of analytics, 12-15 foot jumpers are frowned upon, lot of teams preach taking only 3’s and layups. and more and more, the 12-15 foot shot is readily available in today’s game.

1) Remember the Mattress Guy from Houston who bet so much money on the Astros to win the World Series last year? He s betting $1M on the Titans’ money line in the AFC Championship game at Kansas City today. Must be nice to be rich.

Earlier this week, another rich guy gave Vanderbilt’s basketball program $5M; wow. 

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.