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

13) Tony Romo banks $17M a year to stay as a football analyst at CBS. He is very, very good as a game analyst, better than he was as a quarterback.

12) Texas State 87, Tex-Arlington 85, 3 OT’s— Great game on ESPN2; teams combined to go 10-42 on the arc, but they both fought like hell. Bobcats won 5th game in a row, they figure to finish as the #2 seed in Sun Belt tourney, which means a bye into the tourney semi-finals.

I’ve said this before; when ESPN first started 40 years ago, Sun Belt was one of the first leagues to give them games to broadcast. ESPN should have some loyalty and give Sun Belt a regular slot in their game schedule, not just ESPN+. This game was fun to watch,

11) Dayton 82, Davidson 67— Last year, Dayton star Obi Toppin was the first freshman named to the A-14 first-team in 20 years, since a guy at Rhode Island named Lamar Odom.

10) Yale 76, Penn 73— Bulldogs were down by 10 with 1:43 left, outscored Penn 13-0 the rest of the way to send their fans home happy.

Yale stays a game ahead of Harvard/Princeton in Ivy League; they host the Tigers tonight.

9) Wright State 64, Northern Kentucky 62— Raiders clinch regular season title in the Horizon League. Hard to tell how good they are; they’ve played schedule #332 this year, very weak.

8) NC State is on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, with a 17-11 record, 8-9 in ACC games; if they don’t make the tournament, they can look at their two games with North Carolina.

Tar Heels are terrible this year, in last place in the ACC, but they beat NC State twice this year; in between those two wins, North Carolina went 0-7.

7) Solid move by the San Diego Padres, going back to brown/gold uniforms.

6) Arizona Cardinals will give up a home game this fall and play a game in Mexico, against an unnamed opponent. Dolphins are giving up a home game, will play in London.

If you want to host Super Bowls, which is a financial bonanza, then you have to go out of the country and play games now and then, thats part of the deal.

5) During the Arizona-USC game Thursday night, they had one of ESPN’s NBA experts on for a couple segments, because all ESPN does now is relentlessly promote the NBA/NFL. But this guy said something that every young athlete should pay attention to…….

NBA teams monitor the social media accounts of prospects, searching for red flags. This likely goes for many lines of work, where being an imbecile on social media can cost you a job, or a promotion. Be careful what you post, it can haunt you.

4) MLB made umpire Kerwin Danley a crew chief this season, which is amusing, because Danley is a lousy umpire. He is a walking advertisement for people who want robot umpires, and I’m not one of those, but I’d rather have Chuckles the Clown umpire an A’s game than Danley.

3) San Francisco Giants have 40 pitchers, seven catchers in camp; in other words, they’re scrambling to put together a representative roster.

2) Red Sox P Chris Sale (pneumonia) will miss the start of the baseball season.
1) Today is February 29, undoubtedly the worst day to have a birthday, since you only have your birthday once every four years. If your birthday is today, when do you celebrate it the other three years? March 1? Feb 28? The closest weekend? 

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

13) Most important part of the NFL Combine are the interviews teams do with prospective draft picks. The running and workouts and measurements have their value, but game tape means more than any workout ever will. Workouts can trick people into making draft mistakes.

That said, Arizona State punter Michael Turk beat all 33 WR’s and all the tight ends but one in weightlifting Thursday at the Combine. Very, very unusual.

12) USC 57, Arizona 48— Our Bill Walton non-basketball facts of the night:
— Thursday was the great writer John Steinbeck’s birthday.
— USC has more graduate students than non-graduate students.
— USC’s campus is 226 acres, smallest campus in the Pac-12.

11) Purdue 57, Indiana 49— This was an awful game to watch, tons of effort, no offense, but the most interesting thing here was Hoosiers coach Archie Miller having a VERY animated talk with assistant coach Bruiser Flint on the bench, during the game.

Rough night for the Miller family, with neither Arizona/Indiana scoring 50 points.

Indiana is only 8-9 in conference and they got swept by their rival here, but it is very unusual to see coaches jawing at each other during a game.

10) North Dakota State 71, South Dakota State 69 OT— These teams are now tied for first place in Summit League, clearly best teams in league; league tournament is at a neutral site, so not a huge deal, but sharing the regular season title means something.

9) Wichita State 72, Temple 69— Shockers ended game on a 14-4 run, giving coach Marshall a win on his 57th birthday; they’re 21-7 and a bubble team.

8) Wisconsin 81, Michigan 74— Badgers won five of seven games since starting G Kobe King quit the team; there is such a thing as addition by subtraction. Badgers scored 76.3 ppg in their last three games.

7) California 76, Colorado 62— Red flag for a veteran team like Colorado, getting squashed on the road by a scrappy but sub-par Cal squad.

6) Upsets:
— California (+9) 76, Colorado 62
— Towson (+7.5) 76, Hofstra 65
— Cleveland State (+7) 70, Milwaukee 68
— Wisconsin (+6.5) 81, Michigan 74
— SIU-Edwardsville (+5) 90, Tenn-Martin 75

Some notes on NBA teams playing back/back nights:
5) Best teams ATS when playing for 2nd night in a row:
Thunder 8-0, Bucks 7-1, Lakers/Wizards 6-1

4) Worst teams ATS when playing for 2nd night in a row:
Pistons 2-8, Hawks 2-7-1, Wolves 1-5-1, Knicks 1-5-2, Pacers 1-4-1

3) Milwaukee is 7-1 ATS if they played the night before, but they won all eight games; their only non-cover was a 137-129 (-14) win over Portland November 29.

2) New Orleans hasn’t had any back/backs since Zion Williamson started playing; am curious how they’ll handle that when they play next Tuesday/Wednesday.
1) League-wide, road dogs who played at home the night before are 27-21-2 ATS.

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

13) Maryland 74, Minnesota 73— Terps have won 10 of their last 11 games; they were down 16 at halftime in this game. Maryland outscored Minnesota 5-0 over final 0:31. Terps led this game for all of 0:24, but they were the right 0:24.

Richard Pitino has been Minnesota’s coach for seven years; they’re 125-106 under Pitino, but only 47-80 in conference games, 1-2 in NCAA tourney games.

If Minnesota/Pitino part ways, the Gophers have to hire Louisville assistant Luke Murray, just so his father, the great comedian Bill Murray, would finally have to root for the Gophers.

12) I think ESPN’s work has mostly gone downhill the last several years, but one thing that remains a quality product is when Scott Van Pelt does the late SportsCenter; his “Bad Beats” segment is an  one, especially if you enjoy handicapping.

Couple of years ago, I’m waiting for a friend to finish work at a sportsbook in Las Vegas; it is just before midnight on Christmas Eve, so there were maybe ten of us scattered about sitting there, watching the late SportsCenter, when Bad Beats came on.

When you’re sitting by yourself in a casino on Christmas Eve, it ain’t exactly the highlight of the social season, but the next few minutes were filled with laughter and a few groans as Van Pelt went over some agonizing wagering losses from the past few days. One guy starting yelling about the coach who cost him one big wager; his buddies laughed at him. Good stuff.

11) Arkansas 86, Tennessee 69— Razorbacks have Isaiah Joe back in lineup; they went 0-5 when he was out hurt. Joe scored 22 in this game, going 12-12 on foul line.

10) Penn State 65, Rutgers 64— Nittany Lions blew a 21-point lead, then won the game on a 3-pointer with 0:28 left. PSU was only 14-22 on foul line; Rutgers was 6-11. Scarlet Knights lost six of their last eight games, look like they’re headed to the NIT.

9) South Carolina 94, Georgia 90 OT— I once walked past Gamecocks’ coach Frank Martin at an AAU tournament in Florida; the guy looks like he has a set of NFL shoulder pads under his skin, he is that big. Very large, strong-looking person.

During games, Martin has a scowl that makes me straighten up in my chair sitting at home in my living room. I would not want Frank Martin to be mad at me. Ever.

South Carolina won this game, despite going 23-37 on foul line, which made Martin frown a few times; Gamecocks are 9-4 in their last 13 games- they can see the bubble from where they are, but they’re not quite there yet.

8) Much like the swallows returning to Capistrano each spring, Giancarlos Stanton is hurt again, and will likely miss Opening Day. He has a calf strain now. Oy.

Stanton is making $26M this year; he played in 18 games LY. He’s played in 130+ games four times in his 10-year major league career.

Does he train properly? Does he lift weights too much? One of the great abilities is availability, and Stanton is unavailable way too often.

7) Upsets:
— Binghamton (+9) 76, UMBC 74
— Hartford (+7.5) 65, Stony Brook 54
— UMass (+5.5) 60, VCU 52
— Lehigh (+5) 57, Boston U 55
— Duquesne (+4.5) 81, St Bonaventure 77 OT
— Furman (+4.5) 81, NC-Greensboro 67

6) Florida 81, LSU 66— Florida’s coach is Mike White, whose dad is the AD at Duke. White’s family moved around a lot when he was a kid, as his dad kept getting better jobs. They said on this broadcast that when he was a kid, Mike White lived in 14 different states!!!!

I’ve lived in four houses/apartments my whole life, all within 20 miles of each other.

5) UNLV 76, Boise State 66— Rebels are hot, winning last four games, including giving San Diego State its only loss of the season. You watch UNLV play; their players are moving well without the ball, creating easy baskets. A much improved team that is now in 4th place in the Mountain West.

By the way, they moved the Mountain West tournament up a week this year; it is next week, possibly to avoid competition with the Pac-12 tournament at T-Mobile Arena.

4) Furman 81, NC-Greensboro 67— Road team won both series games this year; these teams are likely to meet again, in SoCon semi-finals. SoCon is an underrated league that needs more TV time.

3) Cavaliers 108, 76ers 94— Joel Embiid (shoulder) left this game early; with Ben Simmons already out, going to be.a rough few weeks for the Sixers if Embiid’s injury is serious.
2) One sportsbook posted an over/under of 83.5 for Astros hitters getting drilled by pitches this season; in their first five spring training games, seven Houston batters were plunked.

Take the over.

1) Mets have a minor league OF named David Thompson who wears #44; am wondering if #44 has anything to do with the great college basketball player David Thompson, who wore #44 when NC State won the college hoop national title in 1974.

Thompson wore #33 as a pro in the ABA/NBA for the Denver Nuggets. 

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

13) Flash back to October 20, 1991—Rams lose a tough game 20-17 to the Raiders; I wasn’t happy about the loss, which dropped the Rams to 3-4 at the time.

I announce right then that I will not have another soda, piece of cake/pie or candy/chips until the Rams win again, which I assumed would be the next week. Wrong. 

Rams lost their last 11 games of the season, finished 3-13, and didn’t win another game until September 13, 1992. Not my finest moment.

12) You have to realize; when I worked for New York State, I’d usually be good for three 16-ounce Cokes a day, plus lot of Doritos or Fritos; I freakin’ loved Doritos, but for 11 long months, I didn’t have any. Drank a lot of water, ate lot of pastries. No bueno.

11) I remember on Thanksgiving 1991, I’m at a family dinner with my future ex-wife’s family, and one of her nieces, a 5 or 6-year old girl, walks in the room and hands me a piece of pumpkin pie on a plate. It looked really good, but I explained to her how the Rams hadn’t won yet so she had to bring the pie back to the kitchen. She gave me a strange look.

10) When the Rams finally won the next year, I was 26 pounds lighter than I was 11 months earlier. Learned my lesson; no more stupid statements when I’m ticked off.

9) King McClure is a TV analyst on ESPN; he is only 23 years old, having quit basketball at Baylor because he has the same heart condition that wound up killing Hank Gathers 30 years ago. McClure is a good analyst no matter what his age, but for age 23, he is really, really good.

8) New baseball rule:
— Disabled list is still 10 days for position players, but 15 days for pitchers.
— Same thing with the minor leagues; a position player has to stay in the minors for 10 days, and pitchers have to stay down for 15.

7) Upsets:
— Wake Forest (+10.5) 113, Duke 101, 2OT
— Northern Illinois (+3.5) 73, Eastern Michigan 71
— Oklahoma (+3) 65, Texas Tech 51

6) If the people who run college basketball really want more scoring, a simple way to do that would be to put the NBA’s continuation rule into play. Makes the game more exciting, creates more highlights, and there really isn’t a downside to it.

5) Bronx P Luis Severino needs Tommy John surgery, will miss all of 2020.

4) Wake Forest 113, Duke 101 2OT— Blue Devils led by 9 with 1:21 left, but blew the game, as Demon Deacons end an 11-game losing streak against Duke.

Wake Forest became first Division I team in 19 years to have all five starters score 15+ points and grab 5+ rebounds in the same game.

3) Steph Curry will be back on the court when Golden State plays Washington this Sunday; Curry has been out since October 30 with a hand injury.
2) New Jersey Giants are talking about trading down from the #4 slot in the NFL Draft; since 1967, they’ve traded down in the first round once, so not real likely.

1) ESPN suspended a radio host in Cleveland after the guy called Baker Mayfield a “bleeping midget” when he didn’t know his mike was live on the air.

Apparently “midget” is now an offensive term; not really sure which one got the guy some time off, dropping an f-bomb on the air or insulting a really short person, but he is suspended. 

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

13) Major League Baseball needs to promote its product better; they’ve become arrogant/entitled and don’t promote their great sport to younger people.

They also need to get rid of TV blackouts, so more people can see the game and learn to enjoy it.

12) Another thing baseball needs is a Hard Knocks-type program in spring training, where HBO would focus its cameras on one team every year during exhibition games, the way an NFL team does it every year. For the first year, I’d pick the Astros as that team, as part of their punishment for the whole sign-stealing thing.

11) Wisconsin Herd (G-League) head coach Chase Buford was suspended for two games after his epic rant about the officials Saturday night. After posting his quote in this space yesterday, I became curious who Buford was, where he came from.

I mean, his team is 28-9, as the best record in the league; why was he so mad?

10) Buford is 30, went to high school in the San Antonio area:
— He scored 9.2 ppg in his junior year of HS, as a 6-3 guard
— He didn’t play as a senior; he had mononucleosis. 

— Despite that shaky resume, he landed at Kansas as an invited walk-on, where he almost never played for three full seasons.


9) Turns out that Buford is the son of RC Buford, GM of the San Antonio Spurs, who was a Kansas assistant in the Larry Brown era. His mother played college golf at Kansas.

8) Young Buford has worked his way up the ranks in his pro coaching career:
— 2012-14— Regional scout, video intern for the Atlanta Hawks
— 2015-17— Coordinator of player development, Chicago Bulls
— 2017-18— Assistant coach, Erie BayHawks, G-League
— 2018-19— Assistant coach, Delaware Blue Coats, G-League

His dad got his foot in the door, but he is earning his stripes the right way.

7) Florida State 82, Louisville 67— Seminoles are 24-4, 14-3 in the ACC; they’ve got a legit chance at making the Final Four. Louisville lost three of its last five games after 21-5 start; they don’t play again until Sunday, which helps at this time of year.

6) Scott Cochran is joining Kirby Smart’s staff as Georgia Bulldogs’ new special teams coach; he had been the strength coach at Alabama since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa in 2007.

Cochran was making $595,000 at Alabama; I’m assuming he makes more now, plus this will be his first job as an on-field coach. Alabama-Georgia meet on September 19.

5) ESPN televises cornhole tournaments, which isn’t compelling TV. I’d much rather watch guys play poker or bowl than play cornhole.

4) You watch NBA games and guys travel and lot of times it doesn’t get called, partly because they have a different, more liberal interpretation of what traveling is.

What is traveling everywhere else in the world isn’t always a travel in the NBA; I think it hurts their product, but no one asked what I think.

3) 76ers star Ben Simmons is out with lower back tightness, and is expected to miss an extended period of time.
2) Kansas 83, Oklahoma State 58— OSU is 4-11 in Big X, in 9th place in a tough 10-team league. Cowboys were 10-3 out of conference, beating Houston, Syracuse, Texas A&M, but they’re not good enough to beat the big guys in one of the country’s best leagues.

1) Orioles have 69 guys on their roster right now, Red Sox have 66. Part of the HBO series they should have would be showing the logistics of getting all these guys at-bats, innings on the mound, as teams pare their rosters down to 26 before Opening Day.

Sending guys down to the minors wouldn’t be as emotional as cutting guys the way NFL teams do, but it would still be good television.

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

13) Is this the weirdest rule in pro sports?

At every NHL game, an emergency goalie is available to either team, should both their goalies get hurt in that game. It is actually possible for the emergency guy to play for both teams in the same game.

Saturday, both of Carolina’s goalies left the game with injuries, so 42-year-old Dave Ayres came in as the emergency backup goaltender — and stopped 8 of 10 shots to get credit for the Hurricanes’ 6-3 win over the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Ayres was paid $500 for the game and was allowed to keep his game-worn jersey.

Ayres is a Zamboni driver and arena maintenance worker for the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. Now he is a celebrity with a great story to tell.

12) Chicago Cubs are starting their own TV network this season, the Marquee Sports Network, which signed on for the first time Saturday afternoon.

The Cubs owning their own TV channel has been a cornerstone of the Ricketts family’s plans to improve the Cubs’ revenue flow since they acquired the ballclub, Wrigley Field and associated properties in 2009.

11) Virginia Commonwealth lost its last four basketball games, is 17-10, 7-7 in A-14 and has slid off the NCAA bubble, for now. This is VCU’s first four-game losing streak in 20 years.

10) Arizona Diamondbacks must be thrilled about this; newly acquired pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeo events under the alias Mason Saunders and even won $26,560 in a team-roping competition in December.

What could possibly go wrong?

Bumgarner agreed to an $85M, five-year contract with the Diamondbacks in December; he injured his pitching shoulder in 2017 in a dirt bike accident and missed three months of San Francisco’s season. He hasn’t been quite the same since then.

9) An 84-year old lady at an Ole Miss basketball game made a 94-foot putt the length of the basketball court during a timeout in the Rebels’ basketball game, and won herself a new car in the process, as part of an auto dealer’s promotion in the arena.

Was cool how excited the other fans in the arena were for her.

8) One unexpected by-product of the longer 3-point arc in college basketball; decent amount of kids step out of bounds on the sideline as they try to stay behind the arc to catch a pass, or drive to the basket.

7) Upsets:
— Wagner (+6) 75, St Francis 71 OT
— Loyola Md (+4.5) 70, Lafayette 68
— Canisius (+3.5) 57, Manhattan 56

6) Best wishes to Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who had a knee replaced recently and won’t be at the NFL Combine this week.

5) I’ve said this before, but when you listen to really good announce teams, it is like you’re eavesdropping on two friends having a conversation.

In the case of ESPN’s NBA broadcasts with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, that would be three friends having a conversation. The three pf them are great together.

4) Colorado Buffaloes hired Karl Dorrell as their new football coach; The 56-year old Dorrell was an assistant for the Buffs for six years back in the 90’s, under Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel.

3) XFL teams have both white/dark jerseys, unlike the AAF last year, where teams had only one color, which made the league seem like a cheapskate league, which it was.

The point-after conversion options continue to be fascinating; no one knows what the right thing to do is. I’m thinking that going for three points from the 10-yard line is the right play, unless you have a QB who is a good runner, then I might prefer the 2-point option from the 5-yard line.
2) XFL trend; Over is 3-0 in Houston games, 1-8 in all the other games.

1) Was listening on TV the other night and Wally Szczerbiak was talking about when he played in the NBA All-Star Game; he mentioned how guys on the winning team make more money than guys on the losing team.

Turns out that guys on the winning team make $100,000 each; guys on losing side make $25,000 each. I did not know that.

Saturday’s Den: Trends that could help you fill out your brackets…….

13) Over last decade, 40 teams made the Final Four; 19 of those won their conference tournament that year. Four of the 19 teams had to win more than three games to win the conference tourney:
2011— UConn 5-0
2012— Louisville 4-0
2018— Michigan 4-0
2019— Auburn 4-0

12) Only four of the 40 teams lost their first conference tourney game:
2010— Michigan State
2016— Syracuse
2017— South Carolina
2019— Texas Tech

7 of 40 teams went W-L in their conference tournament.

11) Seven of last ten years, a #1 seed won the NCAA Tournament.
— In 2016, Villanova won the title as a 2-seed.
— UConn won as a 3-seed in 2011, as a 7-seed three years later.

10) The last seven years, eight teams ranked lower than a 4-seed reached the Final Four; in 2014, UConn was a 7-seed, Kentucky an 8-seed.

9) Last team to win the national title after going unbeaten in conference play? Kentucky in 2012, one of four teams over last decade to make Final Four after going unbeaten in conference games.

8) Last eight years, 27 of 32 Final Four teams were ranked in KenPom’s top 20 before the NCAA Tournament started. 2014 UConn was only one of the five to win the national semifinal; they also won the national title- they were #23.

In 2011, the Final Four had seeds 3-4-8-11, only time in last decade there wasn’t a #1 or #2 seed in Final Four.

7) Only nine of 40 Final Four teams were in top 100 in experience; 12 of 40 teams were outside top 200. Talent outweighs experience.

6) Looking at continuity instead of experience, only 12 of 40 teams ranked in top 100; 14 of 40 teams ranked outside top 200.

5) 14 of 40 Final Four teams ranked in top 100 in forcing turnovers; another 14 ranked outside the top 200.

4) eFG% defense seems like an important category; 33 of last 40 Final Four teams were in top 100 in eFG% defense. 21 of those 33 teams were in the top 50.

3) NCAA Tournament has longer TV commercials, which means that depth isn’t as important; only four of last 40 Final Four teams had benches in top 100 of minutes played. 26 of 40 teams had teams that ranked outside top 200.

They don’t call as many fouls in the NCAA tournament.
2) Some in-tournament trends about the eventual national champ:
— Last 14 years, national champ was 12-2 ATS in first round
— Last 18 years, national champ was 16-2 ATS in second round.
— Last 12 years, national champ was 10-2 ATS in regional semis.

1) Of the last 20 defending national champs, 2007 Florida Gators were only team to return to Sweet 16; Florida won consecutive national titles.

Since 2004, the defending national champ is 2-8-1 ATS in its first round game, 3-7 in its second round game, 0-5 ATS in regional semifinals. 

Wednesday’s Den: My plan for major league baseball……..

My plan for major league baseball……..
13) Total geographic realignement; no more American/National Leagues.
Northeast- Mets, Bronx, Phillies, Montreal, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals, Toronto

South- Braves, Marlins, Rays, Cardinals. Nashville, Astros, Rangers, Royals,

Midwest- Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Twins, Tigers, Pirates, Indians, Reds

West- Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Mariners, Rockies, Arizona, Portland.

12) You may have noticed four 8-team divisions, which is 32 teams, not 30. We think that the scheduling would be 1,000 times easier with 32 teams. Plus, we like 27-man rosters year-round, so that would be 84 new major league jobs, which the players’ union will like. 

A’s would move to Portland, which is building a 35,000-seat stadium, Montreal, Nashville get expansion teams.

11) Realignment reduces travel costs, invigorates regional rivalries, which gets more people talking about baseball, which is what the sport needs.

10) My playoffs would look like this:
— Four division winners get first-round byes.
— Wild Card round would be best-of-3 series, all at site of team with better record.
— Semifinal round is best-of-5, World Series is best-of-7.

9) Scheduling:
— Play other seven teams in your division 12 times each (84 games).
— Play teams in other division in your conference six times each (48 games).
— Play teams in one of other divisions three times each (24 games). Alternate those divisions every year.

That is a 156-game schedule; shorter regular season is followed by longer playoffs.

8) Get rid of situational lefties; the 3-batter minimum for relievers is a good rule.

7) Every team should play four Sunday doubleheaders; twinbills are great fun, and we’re trying to grow the game with younger fans. Players would go for this, because every doubleheader means an additional day off.

6) No coaches/managers are allowed on the field during the game, except to see to an injured player. No mound visits, just slows down the game.

5) Get rid of TV blackouts; baseball needs more exposure, not less. People need to see what an excellent game it, they need to learn about it. Blacking out replays of games out is antiquated stuff; young people need to see the game, so they can learn to love it like I do.

4) I’ve been to AAA games with the 30-second clock in between pitches; it isn’t intrusive on the game. Put it in.

3) DH would be the rule for everyone. Watching pitchers hit is useless.

2) If you insist on making the All-Star Game more competitive, make it US vs the World, then you’ll quickly realize that format would be TOO competitive, then go back to East vs West.

1) More teams in playoffs would be fine, but 156 games is fine; that is what baseball is, 156 games in 182 days, a test of stamina and execution and depth. Some people are never going to embrace baseball; MLB needs to make sure they don’t tick off people who already love it. 

Tuesday’s Den: My Mt Rushmore for various things…….

These are my favorite things in certain areas; we all have our own favorites, thats what makes life interesting. Make your own lists, see what you come up with. 

13) Las Vegas hotels:
Vdara, Westgate, SouthPoint, MGM

12) TV shows:
Law & Order, Magnum PI, CSI, Odd Couple

11) TV shows on movie channels:
Billions, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ray Donovan, Roadies

10) Sports movies:
— Moneyball
— Blue Chips
— Any Given Sunday
— Major League

9) Non-sports movies:
— Rounders
— A Star is Born
— Leap of Faith
— The Bodyguard

8) Food:
Pizza, spaghetti/meatballs, scrambled eggs/sausage, chicken parm

7) Current college basketball coaches:
— John Calipari
— Mark Few
— Mike Krzyzewski
— Bob Huggins

6) All-time college basketball coaches:
— John Wooden
— Dean Smith
— Mike Krzyzewski
— Jerry Tarkanian

5) Actresses:
Gina Gershon, Diane Lane., Mimi Rogers, Sela Ward

4) Musicians:
Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, Faith Hill

3) NFL coaches:
Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry

2) In-person events:
— 2000 NFC title game: Rams 11, Buccaneers 6
— 2008 World Series game: Rays @ Phillies
— Frank Sinatra concert in Albany, 1990
— 2008 Tennessee @ South Carolina football game

1) Bucket List:
— Spring training game, preferably in Arizona
— LSU home football game, on a Saturday night
— A’s home game in Oakland Coliseum
— Rams’ home game in new SoFi Stadium

Saturday’s Den: Looking at mid-major college hoop leagues……

13) WCC— Gonzaga is 8-0; they’ll be in the NCAA’s, but will anyone else from this league get in? The middle of the WCC has gotten better, and Saint Mary’s/BYU have been upset by teams in the middle, putting them squarely on the NCAA’s bubble. The conference tournament in Las Vegas could wind up being very interesting, especially a BYU-Saint Mary’s semi-final. 

12) MAAC— Weird league; every team has 3+ losses, and 3+ wins. The last place team is only 3.5 games out of first place. In other words, the conference tournament in Atlantic City figures to be a circus. Iona has been in the NCAAs the last four years, but they’re playing with an interim coach this season and are struggling at 5-11, 3-6 in MAAC. 

11) Horizon— Wright State is 9-1 and leads by two games; Northern Kentucky is the only other team in the league over .500 in league play. Five teams (half the league) are currently 5-5 in Horizon games. 

10) Big Sky— Another wide-open league; Eastern Washington is 6-2, Montana is 7-3, despite being only 11-10 overall. Conference tournament is in Boise this year, should be interesting. The two Idaho teams in the league are in last and second-to-last place. 

9) CAA— William & Mary has never been in the NCAAs, but they’re in first place in CAA right now, and their coach’s name is Fischer, so he must be smart, right? 🙂 Hofstra, Charleston and Towson are only a game behind the Tribe; Conference tournament is in Washington DC this year and as usual, should be solid entertainment.

8) Former NBA player Darrell Walker (10-year vet) has Little Rock at 10-2 in Sun Belt and in first place, four years after Chris Beard won 30 games with the Trojans. Rob Lanier has Georgia State at 7-3 in his first year with the Panthers. Sun Belt tourney starts out at campus sites; the semis/finals are in New Orleans. Having home court edge figures to be a powerful thing. 

7) Southern— Bottom three teams in league are combined 3-25 in conference play, which means the other seven teams are all over .500 in league games. Semi-finals of their tournament figure to be excellent. This is an underrated league whose games should be on TV more. 

6) Missouri Valley— Evansville won in Rupp Arena in November, but they’re 0-9 in Valley games. Northern Iowa leads league at 7-2; three teams are 6-3, so Arch Madness figures to be fun. UNI is 18-3 overall, with a win at Colorado; they’re the clear-cut favorite here.

5) Mountain West— San Diego State is jogging to a league title; doubtful they get another team in NCAA’s, unless Aztecs get upset in conference tourney. Not sure who second-best team is; Utah State has been a disappointment, UNLV isn’t deep enough, Colorado State won six of its last seven games. Steve Alford has done better than expected in his first year at Reno.

4) Atlantic 14— Dayton is in NCAA’s; VCU/Rhode Island are both bubble teams that will be a problem if they make the field of 68. Dayton is going to be a popular pick to make the Final Four, maybe too popular. St Joe’s is 0-8; why the hell did they fire Phil Martelli?

3) American— Any team where Memphis is in 6th place has to be pretty good; Tigers are #353 experience team, the youngest team in country. Kelvin Sampson has Houston in first place, Tulsa is a surprising second, Cincinnati/Wichita State are bubble teams. SMU split its last six games, as they try to stay on the bubble.

2) Conference USA— This league is weird; their schedule after Feb 15 is determined by where teams are in standings, to try and boost league’s power ratings. North Texas is in first place as I type this, followed by Louisiana Tech/Western Kentucky. Half the teams in the league are either 4-5 or 5-4 in conference games.

1) Big West— No teams in top 100, so their tournament in Anaheim will be late night fun during Champ Week. Cal-Irvine/Hawai’i lead the league right now; Riverside/Northridge are much-improved, while Santa Barbara has been a disappointment. Who improves the most between now and the conference tournament? League appears to be fairly wide open.