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. 

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.