Wednesday’s Den: Lets get the college hoop season started

13) 11am Wednesday morning, East Tennessee State vs Abilene Christian kicks off this year’s college basketball season, live from Estero, FL. McNeese-Nebraska is the noon game on Big Ten Network- they have games on that channel all day/night.

Things are very fluid; games are being dropped from the schedule because of COVID, others are being added. It’ll be an unusual season, just like this whole year has been unusual, everywhere.

We’ll do our best to stay on top of things, but its a work in progress. Hopefully by the time the NCAA tournament rolls around, there will be a vaccine and things will be calming down some. Hopefully. 

12) 68-year old Rick Pitino is the new coach at Iona, which made six of the last eight NCAA tournaments, but was just 12-17, when their last coach was on the sidelines with health issues.

Iona had nine open scholarships when Pitino got to New Rochelle, so the Gaels won’t have a lot of experience, though their two returnees are senior guards, which helps. Iona has four big men who are all from other countries; Pitino is following the Gonzaga model; get quick guards, bring in quality transfers and get your big guys from other countries.

Iona will be an interesting team to follow. 

11) UConn is back in the Big East, after seven years in the AAC; Huskies never won an AAC title, but they did win the national championship in their first year in the AAC. Huskies were 19-12 under Danny Hurley last year, and they have four starters back, but they’re moving up in class. 

10) Speaking of the AAC, Wichita State fired Gregg Marshall after former players complained about Marshall’s coaching style, which they claimed was abusive. Six players transferred out of Wichita last season, which lit the fuse for his dismissal. 

Marshall was 331-121 in 13 years at Wichita and made a Final Four; not often a coach with a record like that is told to take a hike. 

9) Top six teams in America this season, according to KenPom.com:
— Gonzaga
— Duke
— Baylor
— Villanova
— Kansas
— Texas Tech

8) San Diego State poached grad transfer Terrell Gomez from Cal-Northridge to be its point guard; Aztecs lost three starters from LY’s 30-2 team that was probably going to be a 1-seed in the NCAA’s- eight of their 12 players this year are juniors/seniors. Thats a good thing. 

7) Cal-Oregon State is a late addition to Wednesday’s schedule; this will be a non-conference game between Pac-12 rivals. Both teams needed a game, so they hooked up on short notice. 

6) SEC will play an 18-game conference season, starting December 29-30. There will also be a set of games between SEC and Big X teams in there somewhere, too.

5) 7-foot-3 big man Matt Haarms left Purdue, then chose BYU over Kentucky as his next stop, which raised eyebrows. BYU is picked 2nd in the WCC by Blue Ribbon, and that’s because Gonzaga is picked #1 in the country. 

4) MAC is changing how its conference tournament works; only 8 of 12 teams will make it this year, which eliminates the on-campus first round games in Championship Week.

3) Big West has two new teams this year; UC San Diego and Cal-Bakersfield; Bellarmine is new to the Atlantic Sun and Division I. Tarleton State joins D-I and the WAC. 

2) South Dakota State is the heavy favorite in the Summit League, which is down to eight teams; Jackrabbits have all five starters back from LY, and also have three subs back who played 11+ minutes a game.

1) Memphis-Saint Mary’s in the 2:00 game on ESPN2, live from that basketball hotbed of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Excellent early season matchup. 

This should be a fun, interesting, odd season. Let’s get started.

Answer to yesterday’s trivia question: Cal Golden Bears have had five of their QB’s start a Super Bowl, more than any other college program:
Joe Kapp, Craig Morton, Vince Ferragamo (started at Cal, transferred to Nebraska), Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff

Notes from the NBA Draft.

I accidentally deleted Tuesday/Wednesday’s articles; whoops. Too bad, they were beautifully written (kidding) so I’m doing a 2nd Thursday list, thoughts on last night’s NBA Draft. 

— Tyler Herro was really good for Miami Heat last year, but he was only the 13th player taken in last year’s draft. How hard will players work from this point on?

— Rece Davis hosted the telecast; he is, by far, the best host ESPN has. Davis is mostly a football guy, but he is like a great point guard— he sets up his teammates very well. Thats the job.

— Golden State’s Klay Thompson hurt his lower right leg in a pickup game Wednesday, he hurt his left leg last year. No word yet on the severity; he is getting an MRI Thursday morning, but from what people on TV are saying as I type this, it might be another severe injury.

— Minnesota took Georgia’s Anthony Edwards with the #1 pick; when a kid says “To be honest, I can’t watch basketball. I’m still not really into it. I love basketball, yeah, it’s what I do”, I wonder if he’ll love the gym enough to do the work to become great.

Being great doesn’t just happen; it takes hours and hours in gyms, working your butt off on skills, agility, strength. If you’re the #1 pick in a draft, the expectations are that you’ll become a great player. We’ll see what happens.

— From 2020-26, Oklahoma City has 26 draft picks, as they rebuild their roster.

— I feel old; Orlando took North Carolina PG Cole Anthony, whose dad Greg was the point guard on the great UNLV teams 30 years ago.

— Dallas Mavericks took Arizona’s Josh Green, who grew up in Australia until his family moved to Phoenix six years ago.

Green is tough; how do I know this? He was also an excellent Aussie Rules Football player, and you have to be really tough to play that sport— he was in the Sydney Swans developmental academy until the family moved.

— People wager on the NBA Draft, not a big surprise I guess, but the total of 4.5 freshmen being taken in the first 10 picks went over easily.

— 76ers coach Doc Rivers traded for his son-in-law, acquiring Seth Curry in a deal with Dallas.

— Knicks hit it big, in my opinion, getting Dayton’s Obi Toppin with the 8th pick.

— In the last three drafts, Villanova has had four kids taken in the first round of the draft, two others in the second round. Has to be good for recruiting.

— Florida State had two players taken in the first 11 picks Wednesday.

— Charlotte took LaMelo Ball with the third pick; mercifully, his father wasn’t interviewed. LaVar Ball once said he could take Michael Jordan 1-on-1; with his son now a Hornet, maybe they can have a game for charity.

— Sacramento took Kenyon Martin Jr in the 2nd round; the kid didn’t play college ball, so he is a developmental player with excellent bloodlines. Tremendous athlete, they say.

— Brooklyn Nets will be a fascinating team this winter, with rookie coach Steve Nash coaching a team filled with some talented players who also have very strong personalities.

— After listening to ESPN’s pundits rattle on for four hours, I’m disappointed to report that while I have decent wingspan, my motor isn’t good and I have very little upside. No bueno.

— Disappointed that, unlike the NFL Draft, we didn’t see any homes of coaches/GM’s. Picks went pretty quickly, they put on a good show, but would’ve been nice to see how fancy the homes are where some of these guys live.

— Kind of weird; usually right after the draft, the Summer League happens in Las Vegas, but this is 2020, so right after the draft, training camp will start, with regular season starting Dec 22.

Not lot of time for these kids to get acclimated to their new jobs. 

Wednesday’s Den: Movies that just missed my all-time favorites’ lists……

Thirteen movies that I really like, but none of these made my favorite 13 lists, either sports or non-sports movies…….if you find them on TV somewhere, they’re worth your time. 

13) Autumn in New York— Richard Gere plays an aging playboy who falls for a much younger, but terminally ill woman (Winona Ryder). Excellent supporting cast: JK Simmons, Jill Hennessy, Vera Farmiga, Anthony LaPaglia. 

12) Ides of March— An idealistic staffer (Ryan Gosling) for a new presidential candidate (George Clooney) gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Supporting cast includes Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti.

11) Little Big League— A 12-year old kid inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather (Jason Robards). Ashley Crow plays the kid’s mom; in real life, her son was a first round draft pick of the Mets last June.

10) Wall Street— A young and impatient stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider (Michael Douglas) who takes the young man under his wing.

Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook, Daryl Hannah, James Spader are just part of a tremendous cast.

9) Shopgirl— A bored salesgirl (Claire Danes) has to choose between a wealthy but much older businessman (Steve Martin) and an aimless young man.

I’m a big Steve Martin fan; not only a great comedian, but a terrific actor.

8) Lucky You— A hotshot poker player does well playing in tournaments in Las Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems. Robert Duvall plays the guy’s poker legend father, Drew Barrymore plays his girlfriend, and lot of real-life poker pros are co-stars.

7) Lincoln Lawyer— A lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) defending a wealthy man begins to believe his client is guilty of more than just one crime. Supporting cast includes Marisa Tomei, William Macy, Josh Lucas, Bryan Cranston.

6) Heaven Can Wait— An NFL quarterback (Warren Beatty), accidentally taken away from his body by an overanxious angel before he was meant to die, returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. Jack Warden, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon are part of an impressive cast.

This movie came out in 1978, when the Rams were in midst of making the playoffs every year, but then failing in the playoffs. Seeing the Rams win the Super Bowl, even in a movie, made an 18-year old me a lot happier— I had the theater poster from Heaven Can Wait hanging in my bedroom. Actually, it may still be up there, have to look.

5) Dave— The US President goes into a coma while having an affair; to avoid a huge scandal in the press, an affable temp agency owner with an uncanny resemblance to the president is put in his place. Kevin Kline, Kevin Dunn, Frank Langella, Sigourney Weaver, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin and Ben Kingsley make up an impressive cast.

4) Random Hearts— A police sergeant (Harrison Ford) and US Representative (Kristin Scott Thomas) lose their spouses in a plane crash, and soon discover that their spouses were having an affair with each other. Supporting cast includes Paul Guilfoyle, Dennis Haysbert, Bonnie Hunt and Charles Dutton.

3) Prince of Tides— A high school football coach from the south talks to his suicidal sister’s psychiatrist in New York City about their family history and falls in love with her in the process. Nick Nolte/Barbra Streisand are the stars; Blythe Danner, George Carlin are supporting actors.

2) Let It Ride— A cab driver/compulsive gambler gets a hot tip on a racehorse and has a very big day at the track. If you’ve ever spent time at the racetrack, this movie will make you laugh. Cast includes Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, David Johansen.

1) The Natural— Robert Redford plays a middle-aged ballplayer who comes out of nowhere to lead the New York Knights to the playoffs. Wilford Brimley, Robert Duvall are terrific in their supporting roles.