Monday’s Den: Wrapping up the weekend in college basketball

13) Baylor 84, Auburn 72:
— Baylor/Gonzaga are clearly the best two teams in the country.
— Baylor is #4 in country at forcing turnovers, #1 at shooting 3’s; they can beat you many ways.

12) Oklahoma 66, Alabama 61:
— Great week for the Sooners, beating Texas/Alabama.
— Loss ends Alabama’s 10-game win streak; they still lead SEC by three games.
— Oklahoma has won five in a row, is 11-4 this season.

11) Ohio State 79, Michigan State 62:
— Spartans are 2-6, in 13th place in a 14-team league.
— Last time Michigan State missed the NCAA’s? 1997.

10) Virginia Tech 65, Virginia 51:
— Hokies outscored Virginia 36-12 over the last 15:28 of the game.
— Tech was 12-14 on foul line, Virginia 3-4
— Virginia was only 9-24 inside the arc.

Virginia is 7-1 in the ACC, Tech 7-2, the top two teams. 

9) Tough year to be a young team:
— Kentucky (#341) is 5-10, 4-4 in SEC
— Duke (#343) is 7-5, 5-3 in ACC
— Kansas State (#334) is 5-13, 1-8 in Big X.

8) Tennessee 80, Kansas 61:
— Tennessee allowed 61 or fewer points in its last four wins.
— Jayhawks are 3-5 in their last eight games; they don’t look good. 

7) SEC won their challenge with the Big X, 5-4, with Kentucky-Texas cancelled. Those results could be influential on Selection Sunday. 

6) Utah 77, Colorado 74:
— Buffs are #30 experience team, but have bad losses to Washington/Utah in last four games.
— Colorado is 0-3 in games decided by 6 or fewer points. 

5) Loyola Chi 72, Missouri State 46:
— Ramblers won their last seven games, giving up 50 ppg.
— Loyola gave up 77-75-76 points in their three losses; they’re 14-3 overall. 

4) Drake 78, Illinois State 76 OT
— Drake is now 16-0, the most obscure 16-0 team ever??
— Drake trailed by 11 early on; they were only 4-30 on the arc. 

3) Hawai’i 62, Cal-Irvine 61 OT:
— First Big West loss for Anteaters (5-1); they’re just ahead of UCSB atop Big West.
— These teams split a pair in paradise; games were decided by total of 3 points.
— Irvine is the #339 experience team with the #298 eFG%.

2) 7 of 12 teams in the Sun Belt are within two games of first place; three teams have three conference losses- one of them (Texas State) has an interim coach. 

1) Siena 63, Marist 50:
— Saints split last four games, after a 6-0 start.
— Siena has #28 eFG% defense in country.
— Marist is 3-6 in its last nine games, after a 6-1 start. 

Sunday’s Den: Early thoughts on a blockbuster trade

Was all set to write a fascinating summary of Saturday’s college basketball action, then around 10pm, news broke of a blockbuster trade in the NFL, and it involved the Rams, so I opened up a cold bottle of Sierra Mist as my head spun around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. 

I could write about this for the next two days, but you’d probably get bored reading it, so I’ll try and keep it to the essential points. I won’t succeed, but I’ll try.

— November 1, 2008 I was at a Tennessee-South Carolina game in Columbia; we tailgated in a field and watched college games all afternoon on big-screen TV tucked in luggage compartment of a Winnebago- it was a very excellent day, an hour of which was spent debating the merits of Matthew Stafford as a quarterback— he was in his last year at Georgia.

My friend didn’t (probably still doesn’t) like Stafford as a QB; I was in his corner, and now, 12 years later, he is the Rams’ QB, my team’s quarterback. Hope I was right back then.

— By the way, we had Church’s Fried Chicken that day, the absolute best fried chicken I’ve ever had. They have a couple Church’s stores in Las Vegas; it is worth a cab ride to get some.

— Stafford-for-Goff is the first player-for-player trade this century involving players who were both taken first overall in an NFL Draft, Stafford in 2009, Goff seven years later.

— Detroit’s new GM is Brad Holmes, who had been the Rams’ director of scouting. Because Holmes is a minority, the Rams got two 3rd-round picks when he was named Detroit’s GM— one of those now goes back to the Lions, as part of this deal.

— Six other teams were trying to acquire Stafford; the Rams didn’t have a first round pick this year, so they kicked in two 1st-round picks (2022, 2023), plus that 3rd-round pick.

— Remember this phrase: salary cap relief. Goff’s contract is way heavier than Stafford’s, and the Rams have several other (good) players they’d like to keep— this deal will let them do that.

— A summation of the QB’s records:
— Stafford is 74-93-1 as an NFL starter, 0-3 in playoff games.
— Goff is 44-30 as an NFL starter, 2-3 in playoff games, but he also won the Seattle playoff game a few weeks ago, in relief.

— Only 14 QB’s have started a Super Bowl in their first three years in the NFL; Goff was #13.

— Lions visit SoFi Stadium next fall; I’m guessing that’ll be a Monday night game.

— Last time the Rams had a first round pick was 2016, when they took Goff. Now, the next first round pick they have is 2024; they traded for Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Ramsey and now Stafford. GM Les Snead likes to trade picks for known quantities— seeing how the Rams are 46-27 the last four years, I’d say Les Snead is doing a damn fine job, and so is coach McVay.

— Speaking of which, think about this: the quarterback has a radio in his helmet, and that voice is in his ear every play, until the play clock hits 0:15, For the last four years, the voice in Goff’s ear was McVay, who is known as a quarterback guru.

The last time McVay wasn’t in Goff’s ear, things didn’t go so well, but he was a rookie back then, and now he has a good body of work behind him. Former Chargers’ coach Anthony Lynn is Detroit’s new offensive coordinator.

— Goff doesn’t like cold weather, and Chicago/Green Bay (Lions’ NFC North rivals) have outdoor stadiums, where it gets cold late in the season. Really cold.

— Stafford’s 0-3 career playoff record raises eyebrows: here are the games:
2011— L45-28 @ New Orleans. Was 28-43/380 passing, with 3 TD’s, 2 INT’s.
2014— L24-20 @ Dallas. Was 28-42/323 passing, with one TD, one INT in his hometown.
2016— L26-6 @ Seattle. Was 18-32/205 passing. Game was 10-6 after three quarters.

— Hopefully next December, I’ll be worrying about his playoff record, because that’ll mean the Rams made the playoffs.

— An obscure and hopefully irrelevant detail: Goff’s father played major league baseball, and Jared Goff is a big SF Giants fan, which means he dislikes the Dodgers, which isn’t a really great thing for LA’s quarterback. Now he isn’t LA’s quarterback anymore.

When Matthew Stafford was a high school QB in Texas, the center he took snaps from was a kid named Clayton Kershaw, who is now a great pitcher for the Dodgers. So at least now the Rams’ quarterback will throw out the first pitch at a Dodger game. 

Saturday’s List of 13: NFL teams with big QB questions for next season

13) Dallas— Dak Prescott and the Cowboys couldn’t come to an agreement on a deal last year, and had to resort to a franchise tag for 2020; if Prescott plays in 2021 under a franchise tag, he is likely to play somewhere else in 2022- would they trade him now, to avoid that scenario? If he leaves as a free agent, Dallas gets nothing in return.

In five years, Prescott is 42-27 in regular season games, 1-2 in playoff games.

— Jerry Jones is 78; he probably doesn’t want a rookie QB playing, who will take years to develop.
— Matthew Stafford went to Highland Park HS in Dallas

12) Miami— Dolphins have two QBs now; will either one be their QB in 2021?
— Player A was 4-3 as a starter LY, threw for 2,091 yards, with 13 TD’s, 8 INTs
— Player B was 6-3 as a skater LY, threw for 1,814 yards, with 11 TD’s, 5 TD’s.

Player A is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 38, the only player EVER to throw a pass for eight different NFL teams. Player B is Tua Tagovailoa, who was a rookie last year, but has shown an inability to stay healthy, in both college and the NFL.

Will either guy be the starter for Miami next fall?

11) Carolina— Panthers have the wealthiest owner in the NFL; he is worth $13B, that’s billion, with a B. Really rich people aren’t patient; Carolina is 17-31 the last three years; their QB right now is Teddy Bridgewater, who at age 28 has already started for three NFL teams (26-24).

As far as the really rich owner being impatient, Carolina is rumored to be aggressively trying to trade for Deshaun Watson, who played college ball in the ACC, at Clemson.

10) New Orleans— Saints go into the offseason expecting to be $100M over the salary cap, so they ain’t trading for any of the big name QB’s. Will they go into 2021 with Taysom Hill/Jameis Winston as their QB’s? Will they draft a QB and depend on Sean Payton to develop his skills?

Would New Orleans trade for Sam Darnold, if the Jets trade for Watson? 

9) New England— Patriots went 7-9 this season, their first losing season in 20 years, and with Tom Brady playing in the Super Bowl, you figure New England will be aggressive in trying to move back up the standings in an improving AFC East.

Cam Newton ain’t the answer; he looked look his arm was shot this past season, and if he was playing ahead of Jarrett Stidham, what does that say about Stidham? Brian Hoyer figures to hang around as a backup, but who will he be backing up?

There are rumors about a trade for Marcus Mariota, who is 30-33 as an NFL starter. 

8) San Francisco— Last four years, 49ers are 24-9 with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, 7-27 with anyone else. As a wise man once said, the greatest ability is “avail-ability”; if you don’t play, what good are you? Will the 49ers move on from Garoppolo? 

7) Philadelphia— With the hiring of QB guru Nick Sirianni as head coach, it appears that Carson Wentz will be staying in Philly; Wentz signed a 4-year, $128M contract, which would be really cumbersome to unload. Cumbersome, but not impossible.

Problem is, they drafted Jaylen Hurts in the 2nd round last year; Hurts threw for 1,061 yards in losing three of four starts as a rookie. Coach Sirianni has his work cut out for him. 

6) NJ Jets— When a team goes 2-14, there are a lot of problems, not just the QB; Sam Darnold had mono at the start of last season, and things got worse from there. Darnold is 13-25 as an NFL starter, but was 7-6 in 2019. If the Jets want to add draft picks and draft a rookie QB, trading Darnold would net them several draft picks.

Or they could keep Darnold, use the #2 pick on other positions, and keep building. Their new coach is a defensive guru; the owner is back from his stint as ambassador to Ireland, so 2021 figures to be an interesting year for the Jets.

5) Washington— They went 5-1 with Alex Smith at QB this past year, but Smith’s leg is held together with nuts/bolts, and he will be 37 in May. Highly unlikely he is ever playing 16 games in a season again, and remember, the regular season will likely increase to 17 games sometime soon. Washington needs to develop a young quarterback.

Where does Washington look for a QB? Deshaun Watson is the first domino in all of this. If Carolina gets Watson, Teddy Bridgewater could wind up playing for Washington.

Taylor Heinicke/Kyle Allen will battle for the backup job, but who will they be backing up? 

4) Jacksonville— Jaguars hired Urban Meyer as their new coach, which will be interesting, seeing how he has zero NFL experience. How will he deal with losing? If the Jaguars go 9-7 next year, fans will want to throw Meyer a parade, but Meyer might have a nervous breakdown if he loses seven games in a season— he went 187-32 as a college coach.

Jaguars will likely draft Trevor Lawrence in April, then the question becomes how long before he becomes the starting QB? Teams aren’t as patient with QB’s as they used to be. 

3) Indianapolis— Philip Rivers has retired to become a high school coach, where he will coach his two sons eventually (he also has 7 daughters!!!). Jacoby Brissett is the Colts’ QB right now, but Jim Irsay spoke out this week about the Colts needing a veteran presence at QB.

Speculation has centered on Matthew Stafford or Carson Wentz. Brissett is 12-20 as a starter in the NFL, for Patriots/Colts. Doesn’t sound like he’ll be starting in Indianapolis next season. 

2) Detroit— Matthew Stafford will turn 33 on Super Bowl Sunday; he is 74-90-1 as a starter, has played 16 games in nine of last ten seasons. Problem is, Stafford has played 12 years in the NFL, but is 0-3 in playoff games. Detroit’s last playoff win was in 1991.

Stafford has thrown for 45,109 yards and 282 TDs, with 144 INTs; he and the Lions mutually agreed to a separation last week. 

1) Houston— Wonder what it is like to turn on the TV every day and hear all the sports channels speculating about where you’ll be living next year?

If Deshaun Watson really wants to be traded, he needs to lay low for a while, so the Texans will have a little more leverage in making a deal- they’re not just going to give him away. Watson is the first domino in whaat could be a wild winter of quarterback movement in the NFL.

Watson is 28-25 in 3+ years as a starter; his job in Houston would’ve bit a lot easier last year if they hadn’t traded their best receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. He has a 4-year, $140M contract that he signed last September. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with weekend here…….

13) In December alone, State of New Jersey banked $7.6M in tax revenue from sports betting; for all of 2020, they collected $50M in tax revenue. But what happens when New York State gives the OK for mobile sports betting? How much will New Jersey’s share of the pie shrink?

New York has dragged its feet on mobile sports betting, but the COVID pandemic has created a money crunch, so this is probably the year New York gets mobile sports betting, and gamblers in the Big Apple can stop trudging across the George Washington to place their bets. Finally.

12) Masahiro Tanaka packed up and went back to Japan, after pitching in the Bronx for the last seven years. Tanaka was 78-46, 3.49 in 173 regular season starts, 5-4, 3.33 in 10 playoff games.

11) Baseball stuff:
— Cardinals gave veteran P Adam Wainwright $8M for one year.
— Nationals signed C Alex Avila
— Detroit signed C Wilson Ramos

10) Long time ago, back when I actually had a job, couple friends of mine were looking at Super Bowl prop bets, and there was an over/under on the length of the national anthem— the singer that year was Harry Connick Jr.

We worked with another guy who was a musician; he still played out in clubs on weekends, and apparently had been a fairly big-time musician before he worked with us. He knew his music, so those guys go up to Frank and say, “National anthem, Harry Connick Jr; over or under 2 minutes, 6 seconds?” (I may have the exact time wrong; this was 25-30 years ago)

Frank thinks about it for like 10 seconds and says, “Definitely over”

Those guys bet the over and won; never knew if they tipped Frank for winning them the money. 

9) Hottest team in the NBA? Utah Jazz won/covered their last ten games.

8) Brooklyn Nets are 5-2 with James Harden in their lineup; Houston Rockets are 5-3 since they traded Harden.

7) NBA teams playing 2nd night in row:
— Road teams who played at home night before: 7-7-1 ATS
— Road teams who played on road night before: 15-13 ATS
— Home teams who played at home night before: 18-10 ATS
— Home teams who played on road night before: 9-8 ATS

6) NC State’s leading scorer Devon Daniels tore his ACL, is out for the year.

5) Rutgers 67, Michigan State 37— This is the same thing that happened to Louisville when they had their long layoff. There is really no way of knowing how much these teams are practicing while they wait to be cleared to play— maybe they’re not practicing at all.

Heard one story on TV where all the players on one team got exercise bikes in their hotel rooms where they are sequestered, and that is the extent of their exercise- they weren’t even allowed to go outside and do any running.

If you’re wagering on basketball this winter, I’d stay away from teams coming off a layoff; let them get their legs with a couple games. 

4) Arizona State 72, Cal 68— Sun Devils snap a 6-game losing streak; the players looked like the weight of the world was off their shoulders when this game ended. They weren’t happy, just very relieved. Cal outrebounded them 43-29, but ASU shot 59.5% inside the arc. 

3) UAB 70, Middle Tennessee 59:
— Blazers (-9) were down 51-41 with 9:54 left; they didn’t just win, they covered. 

2) Green Bay Packers fired their special teams coach this week, and replaced him with the guy who was the assistant special teams coach this past season. Not sure how much of an upgrade that will be, seems like change for the sake of change. 

1) There were seven NFL head coaching openings this offseason; Chiefs assistant coach Eric Bieniemy interviewed for six of them, but didn’t get hired as a head coach.

Coaching Patrick Mahomes for the next several years will be a good consolation prize; winning is always fun.

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

13) Houston Texans hired 65-year old David Culley as their new head coach; he spent the last two years in Baltimore, working with Lamar Jackson, which probably enhanced his hopes of getting this job. Will be interesting to hear how Deshauin Watson reacts to the news.

— Not many guys get their first head coaching job at age 65
— Culley has been an NFL assistant coach for 27 years, but he has never even been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level.
— He was mostly a WR’s coach (lot of years with Andy Reid) until he became a QB coach for Buffalo in 2017.
— Because Culley is a minority, Baltimore gets a 3rd-round draft pick, both this year and next.

12) CBS has to be sick that Auburn is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament this year; freshman guard Sharife Cooper is one of the best players in country, must-see TV. Auburn has scored 86.8 ppg in the six games Cooper has played since becoming eligible.

11) Reader named Andy sent in this info:

Over the last 11 years, NFL referees enforced an average of 297 more offensive penalties per season than defensive penalties. This year, though, they called 52 more defensive penalties than offensive penalties, which is a big reason why scoring was up this season.

10) Tennessee Vols hired former Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel as their new football coach.

Heupel went 28-8 (19-5 in AAC games) at Central Florida, where the AD was Danny White, same guy who is Tennessee’s AD now. 

9) Danny White’s father Kevin has been an AD at six different schools, the last three being Arizona State, Notre Dame, Duke. They were telling a story on TV the other night how every time the White family moved to a new city, they had a new house built, using the exact same floor plan every time, so they were mostly living in the same house, albeit in a different city. 

8) Tennessee recently fired coach Jeremy Pruitt; he quickly re-surfaces as a defensive assistant with the New Jersey Giants.

7) Northwestern gave their football coach Pat Fitzgerald a 10-year contract extension; he is 106-81 as the Northwestern coach. Back when I was a college kid, Northwestern was a terrible team, and it was Fitzgerald who was part of the team that led the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl in 1995, one of the great rebuilding jobs ever done in college football, by coach Gary Barnett.

6) SEC announced their football schedule Wednesday; hopefully, things will have progressed enough that fans will be going to those games. Here are some of the highlights:

Sept 4— LSU @ UCLA
Sept 11— Texas @ Arkansas
Sept 18— Alabama @ Florida
October 16— Ole Miss @ Tennessee

5) Drake Bulldogs are 15-0 this season, 6-0 in MVC play; they’re one of a handful of unbeaten teams left in the country. Bulldogs have played schedule #244- -they haven’t played a top 100 team yet, and they were down 41-24 at Missouri State Tuesday, before rallying to a 68-61 win.

Drake beat Missouri State 78-73 again last night, despite being outscored 28-10 on foul line. Bulldogs are making 41.5% of their 3’s (#5), are having one hell of a season.

4) Virginia Tech indefinitely suspended starting G Tyrece Radford; he is a key player for the Hokies and will be sorely missed. 

3) Creighton 85, Seton Hall 81:
— Bluejays trailed 68-52 with 10:53 left in the game.
— Creighton made 17-35 3-point shots.
— Seton Hall starts 3 seniors, 2 juniors; bad loss for them. 

2) Colorado State 78, Boise State 56:
— Loss snaps Boise’s 13-game winning streak
— Broncos still lead Utah St/Colorado St by game in Mountain West. 

1) Highlight of Saturday’s college basketball card will be the SEC/Big X crossover games, which will get lot of national coverage.

Kansas-Tennessee, Florida-West Virginia, Auburn-Baylor highlight the late of games.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Phillies finally came through and gave catcher JP Realmuto a 5-year, $115.5M contract; this is the 3rd-biggest contract for a catcher in MLB history (Mauer, Posey)

12) No one got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Tuesday; you need to be named on 75% of the ballots to get in the hall. Top three candidates this year all had off-field issues which hurt their cause. Next year is Alex Rodriguez’ first year on the ballot; will be more of the same.

There will still be an induction ceremony in Cooperstown this July, because they didn’t have one last summer, so the 2020 inductees will get honored this summer.

11) 26-year old guard Caris LeVert was probably surprised when he got traded from Brooklyn to the Indiana Pacers January 13, but getting traded might’ve been the best thing that ever happened to him.

During his physical with Indiana, doctors discovered a problem, and this week he had surgery to treat renal cell carcinoma in his left kidney. He is expected to make a full recovery, with no further treatment needed, which is excellent news.

10) Toronto Blue Jays are going for it this year; they gave SS Marcus Semien a 1-year, $18M deal, which leaves the A’s without a major league shortstop. I mean, right now if they had a game and a grounder was hit to short, no one would catch it, because no one would be there. They need to make a deal, find a guy who is at least a dependable fielder.

In other shortstop news, Minnesota gave Andrelton Simmons $10.5M for one year. 

9) Alabama 70, Kentucky 59:
— Crimson Tide sweeps Kentucky for first time since Eddie Sutton’s last year in Lexington, way back in 1989.
— Alabama won its last ten games, is 9-0 in the SEC.
— Kentucky is 5-10, 4-4 in SEC games; they’ve lost four of last five games. 

8) When did North Dakota State become a quarterback factory? First Carson Wentz, then Easton Stick, who is a backup with the Chargers, and now Mel Kiper Jr has Trey Lance as a top 10 pick in this April’s draft, even though he played in only one game last fall, and has played in only 17 college games, none against a I-A team.

Most of the highlights I saw of him were of him running, so he may be more of a project. 

7) Sometimes late at night, I look up weird stuff. Was watching the 1966 Batman movie the other night, and decided to research actors/actresses who were in both the Batman TV series and also in Magnum, PI. I found five people:

— Elisha Cook— Was Icepick in Magnum, Professor Isaacson in Batman
— Howard Duff— Was Magnum’s grandfather, was Cabala in Batman
— Alan Hale— Best known as the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, he was actually a character named Gilligan on Batman, was Russell Tate in one episode of Magnum
— Barbara Rush was Nora Clavicle in two Batman episodes; she was in two very different episodes of Magnum, playing his aunt Phoebe in one of them.
— Jill St John played Molly in two episodes of Batman; she played designer Jan Kona in an episode of Magnum. 

6) Auburn 88, Missouri 82:
— This kid Sharife Cooper on Auburn is really good; he had 28 points, made 18-21 on the foul line. College players ALMOST NEVER take 20 foul shots in a game, not in the shot clock era.
— Auburn was 36-44 on the line, Mizzou was 18-27.
— Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilman was 3-11 on the line, is at 50.7% for the year. 

5) Would it kill MLB Network to show replays of old baseball games? Have a day for each team all winter, show their 2-3 best games from last year. I freakin’ love watching random games, and they don’t have to be playoff games.

I mean, no one got elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday, yet they still replayed the damn show where they reviewed how no one got elected. Who would possibly watch that? 

4) Fordham fired basketball coach Jeff Neubauer, who went 25-73 in conference games with the Rams. Neubauer previously had a good 10-year run at Eastern Kentucky.

Fordham isn’t necessarily a great job; oldest gym in the country, tough league- their last winning season was in 2007, when Dereck Whittemberg was the coach, and that’s their only winning season since at least 1997. 

3) Whats up with the postal service? Got my mail delivered at 8:25pm the other night. Have read a lot of things about how slow mail delivery has been the last few months. No bueno. 

2) I wish I knew a Chargers’ fan, don’t know any. Would love to ask him/her who they thought was a better QB, Dan Fouts or Philip Rivers. I have my opinion, but hearing from someone who lives and dies with the team would be way more interesting.

1) My hands are cold as I type this; been shoveling show tonight, which isn’t good. It also snowed in Las Vegas Tuesday, which is a little weird. Their snow won’t last as long as our snow, of that I am not uncertain.

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) Football players are really tough; Buffalo Bills’ WR Cole Beasley played the last 3.5 games this season with a broken fibula in his leg.

In his last four games, Beasley caught 17 passes for 162 yards. With a broken leg.

12) Why some teams don’t win very much. This is the 2010 MLB Draft:

1st pick- Bryce Harper, Washington— Really good player, excellent pick
2nd— Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh— Went 29-24 in 82 starts; has had two Tommy John surgeries. Got traded to Bronx last week.
3rd— Manny Machado, Baltimore— Hell of a player; Orioles made playoffs 3 times with him.
4th— Christian Colon, Kansas City— Hitting .249 in 418 career plate appearances.

Pirates passed up Manny Machado for a high school pitcher; no bueno.

By the way the 23rd pick that year? Christian Yelich; he’s pretty good, too.

11) Brooklyn 98, Miami 85:
— Nets are 4-2 since acquiring James Harden.

Harden gets lot of criticism, but in his 12-year NBA career, he’s never played on a losing team. Five years ago, Houston was 41-41, the only team Harden has been on that finished a season with less than a .549 winning percentage.

Harden led the NBA in assists four years ago, is leading again this year. He’s a winning player, even if some people don’t like the way he plays— he does have the ball a lot.

10) West Virginia 88, Texas Tech 87:
— Tech led by 12 with 7:11 left in game.
— West Virginia made 12-19 on arc, making up for going 16-27 on foul line.
— Tech had only two turnovers (+10)
— Both teams scored over 1.2 points/possession, which is unusually good offense. 

9) This is Archie Miller’s 4th year coaching Indiana; when his Hoosiers lost 74-70 at home to Rutgers Sunday, it made Indiana’s record 2-9 in games that followed Indiana beating a top 25 team. Hoosiers are having a hard time handling success. 

8) They’re announcing the Hall of Fame inductees tonight; how do you vote for someone to be inducted into Cooperstown, and not include Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens? I’d vote for them.

If you tell me that they used steroids, I’d ask you for a complete list of who did/did not cheat back in that era. That list does not exist, so who gets to be judge/jury? Not me.

7) Curt Schilling’s Hall of Fame credentials:
— 19 postseason starts, 11-2, 2.23 for three different teams.
— He went 3-0, 3.00 in four postseason starts in 2007, at age 40.
— Regular season record: 216-146 in 436 starts.

His politics may be alarming, he may be a terrible businessman, but that stuff isn’t supposed to be relevant. A 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts should carry a lot of weight tonight.

6) Remember Jimmer Fredette, the BYU sharpshooter? He is still playing pro ball over in China, and scored 70 points in a game last week, for the Shanghai Sharks. The man can shoot.

5) Last week, I stayed up all night one night watching four high school basketball games on ESPNU- they were played in Virginia somewhere, these basketball factory high schools that are still traveling all over the country, when most public high school teams aren’t even playing.

Juwan Howard’s son was on one team; all in all, 10 teams from nine states played in the event, with 30 players involved who are ranked by ESPN’s experts.

Was fun to watch the games, but kids moving away from their families when they’re still in high school seems like a bit much. 

4) UNLV 59, Utah State 56:
— Rebels played only six guys more than 5:00- four starters played 34:00+.
— Hard to win road games in a league where lot of schools are in high altitude, when you don’t have any depth. But this game was in Las Vegas, and they held on.
— This is a really good win for the Rebels; was very surprised by this score. 

3) Back in 2017, in my fantasy baseball league, I picked up a Padres’ utility guy named Jose Pirela— he hit .288 with 10 homers in 83 games, showed a lot of promise, especially if he wound up at second base, where it is harder to find guys who hit .288.

Well, that was the highlight; four years later, Jose Pirela is playing in Korea this year, for the Samsung Lions— he played in Japan last year. Spring training in the KBO starts Sunday. 

2) Arizona 80, Arizona State 67:
— Sean Miller’s Wildcats are 12-3, 6-3 in Pac-12
— Arizona was 32-43 on foul line; ASU was 9-11. 

1) Time flies; 33 years ago last night was the night that Pitt’s Jerome Lane dunked on a fast break and shattered the backboard, live on ESPN, inspiring Bill Raftery to yell into his mike, “Send it in Jerome!!!”

The guy who passed Jerome Lane the ball? A guard named Sean Miller. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend

13) Opening line for the Super Bowl: Chiefs -3, total of 57

12) Buccaneers are the first team other than a #1 or #2-seed to make the Super Bowl since the #4-seed Ravens won the Super Bowl eight years ago. Last time a #5-seed made the Super Bowl was 2007, when the Giants won the Super Bowl.

11) Why do NFL studio shows have five people? Halftimes are 12-15 minutes; there isn’t enough time for everyone to make valid points. Should have a host, two former players/analysts on for halftimes and add a gambling/fantasy guy for pre-game shows.

10) Rutgers 74, Indiana 70:
— Scarlet Knights win for 2nd time in last eight games.
— Indiana made 10-16 on arc, only 14-40 inside arc. 

9) Detroit Lions hired former Chargers’ coach Anthony Lynn as defensive coordinator.

8) I had Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Sunday, first time in a long time; Pretty, pretty good. 

7) More disappointing TV news: Weeks before the planned start of spring training, MASN is reportedly going to cut back their Orioles and Nationals TV coverage this season, getting rid of pre-game and post-game shows. MASN also plans to slash studio coverage for both teams, and greatly reduce spring training broadcasts.

6) Boston Red Sox gave P Garrett Richards $10M for one year; in 2014-15, he went 28-16 as one of the Angels’ best pitchers, but has had a lot of physical problems since then, going 8-12 the last five years combined.

Bronx acquired P Jameson Taillon from Pittsburgh, for four prospects; Taillon has had two Tommy John surgeries, hasn’t pitched since July, 2019.

Reliever Brad Hand agreed to 1-yr, $10.5M contract with Washington. 

5) CNN has a weekend anchor named Pamela Brown; her mom is Phyllis George, who was on the NFL Today for three years in the Brent Musburger days, in the mid-70’s. Phyllis George was Miss America in 1971.

Pamela Brown’s father is John Y Brown, who built KFC into a multimillion-dollar restaurant chain; he was also governor of Kentucky from 1979-83. When the Browns got married, the ceremony was performed by Norman Vincent Peale, a minister/author who was best known for writing The Power of Positive Thinking. 

4) John Y Brown owned the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA, who were really good- Hubie Brown was their coach, but John Brown took $3M to fold the Colonels when the NBA absorbed four ABA teams in 1976. Brown later became owner of the Buffalo Braves, then traded the Braves for the Celtics (this is just before Larry Bird got to Boston), so the Braves’ new owner could move the team to San Diego, where they became the Clippers. 

3) Tampa Bay 31, Green Bay 26:
— Buccaneers advance to Super Bowl for first time since 2002.
— Both teams converted over half their 3rd down plays.
— Brady will be starting his 10th Super Bowl
— Tampa Bay will be first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field.

2) 1979 Rams played the Super Bowl in Pasadena, which is basically LA but it wasn’t the Rams’ home field. 1984 49ers played the Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium, again right in their home area, but not their home field- that was the year they beat Dan Marino’s Dolphins. 

1) Chiefs 38, Bills 24:
— Buffalo led this game 9-0 early on.
— Chiefs’ first drive: 3 plays, 6 yards, punt.
— Chiefs’ next 6 drives: 53 plays, 420 yards, 5 TDs, one FG

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Michigan Wolverines are 13-1, a top 5 team in the country, but they’re not going to play for the next two weeks; the state health department in Michigan paused the Wolverines’ athletic department for two weeks, which will cost Michigan at least four games.

It is still up in the air whether there will be conference tournaments or not; there is so much money involved in the NCAA Tournament, you figure that will be played, but things are very fluid right now. Strange times we live in.

12) Matthew Stafford will be 33 in two weeks; he’s been the Detroit Lions’ QB for 12 years, going 74-90-1 as a starter, but now he and the Lions have come to an agreement that will find Stafford moving elsewhere next season. Where? Who the hell knows!?!?!?!

Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991; Stafford has started/lost three playoff games, but he is still a quality passer and his contract is team-friendly. Someone will trade for him, and the Lions will begin yet another rebuilding program.

11) Stanford 73, UCLA 72 OT:
— Down 72-71, Stanford had ball OB under the UCLA basket with 0:00.8 left; their best player cut to the hoop and wasn’t covered- he scored a layup as time expired.
— This was UCLA’s first loss in nine Pac-12 games, but six of their eight wins are by 6 or fewer points, so they haven’t been as dominant as the standings suggest.

10) Louisville 70, Duke 65:
— Blue Devils fall to 5-5, 2-5 vs top 100 teams.
— Duke has #257 eFG% defense in country; they’re very young (#343 experience)

9) Oklahoma 75, Kansas 68:
— Kansas has lost three games in row, for first time in eight years.
— Jayhawks are 4-4 in Big X, tied for 4th in a 10-team league. 

8) College basketball upsets:
— LaSalle (+14.5) 84, Richmond 78
— San Jose State (+9.5) 83, New Mexico 71
— Oregon State (+9) 75, Oregon 64
— DePaul (+9) 68, Marquette 61
— Missouri (+7.5) 73, Tennessee 64
— Maryland (+5.5) 63, Minnesota 49

7) Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky are all unranked; last time that happened was 1961. 

6) ACC notes:
— Virginia is 6-0, Florida State 5-1
— North Carolina is 5-3, Duke 3-3; bubble teams.
— Clemson lost its last three games, after a 9-1 start. 

5) Big 14 notes:
— Michigan leads at 8-1, but they’re off for two weeks now.
— Iowa is 6-2; Illinois/Wisconsin are 6-3.
— Big thing on Selection Sunday will be how many of these teams make the field of 68. 

4) Pac-12 notes:
— UCLA leads at 8-1, followed by USC at 6-2.
— Colorado is experience team #28; they’ll be a problem for someone in first round, if they get in.
— Arizona is ineligible this year, and Oregon seems to be stumbling. Ducks are #306 in continuity, not a good thing in this strange season.  

3) Big East notes:
— Villanova is back after a 26-day pause; they’re 5-0 in league
— Creighton is 7-3, Seton Hall is 6-3; they appear to be NCAA-bound.
— Xavier hasn’t played in a couple weeks; how are these leagues going to handle it when teams don’t play the same amount of games? 

2) Colorado 70, Washington State 59:
— Buffs were down 23-5 early, then their best player Wright got hurt. Things looked bad.
— Wright came back in 2nd half; Buffs’ bench outscored Coogs’ bench 25-2.
— Dennis Rodman’s son plays for Wazzu. 

1) Larry King, a longtime CNN host who became an icon through his interviews with countless newsmakers, died this weekend, at age 87. King hosted “Larry King Live” on CNN for over 25 years, taping more than 6,000 episodes. What started out as a popular radio show on Mutual radio became a very famous TV show on CNN.

He also has 65 acting credits on, most of the time just being himself; he was a broadcaster for the Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League in the 70’s, was also briefly an announcer for the Miami Dolphins. A huge baseball fan, King could often be seen sitting behind home plate at Dodger games.

Research can be fun; just realized he was married eight times, to seven women- damn!!!

His parents emigrated here from Belarus in the 50’s; Larry King was elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame, and also the Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. A very full life; RIP, sir. 

Saturday’s Den: Clearing out a cluttered mind……..

13) RIP to the great Hank Aaron, who passed away at age 86; despite hitting 755 home runs and knocking in 2,297 runs (most ever) he is probably still the most underrated player ever. 

— If you took away his 755 homers, Aaron still had 3,016 other hits.
— Aaron and Willie Mays were teammates in 22 All-Star games.
— Aaron hit 755 homers, despite never hitting more than 47 in one season.

12) Including postseason games, Hank Aaron ht 72 home runs off of Hall of Fame pitchers; no one else has more than 62 (Willie Stargell).

11) When Aaron hit 715th homer on April 8, 1974; a Braves’ reliever named Tom House caught the ball in the bullpen. House pitched in the majors for eight years, won 29 games, saved 33 more. 46 years later, he is still prominent in the world of sports. 

House is considered by many to be the “father of modern throwing mechanics.” Not only does he help baseball players, NFL quarterbacks work with him on their throwing motions.

10) When his time came to be elected to the Hall of Fame, nine writers didn’t vote for Aaron, which is pretty amazing.

9) Hank Aaron won the NL MVP two years before I was born; when I was 12 years old, he led the National League in slugging %age and OPS. What a great player he was. RIP, sir. 

8) Houston Texans raised some eyebrows when they interviewed 41-year old QB Josh McCown for their head coaching position; McCown was on the Eagles’/Texans’ practice squad this year; he appeared in three games for Philly in 2019.

Last time an NFL player became a head coach as soon as he retired was 1961, when Norm Van Brocklin became coach of the expansion Vikings, the year he led the Eagles to an NFL title.

7) If the Texans ever hired an active player as their head coach, Deshaun Watson’s head might blow off; he’s already mad as hell the team isn’t consulting him about who they hire. 

5) Was watching South Carolina-Missouri basketball the other night; was concerned when I saw this guy with a shaved head coaching South Carolina, assuming that Frank Martin was still under the weather from COVID, which he’s had twice. I was hoping he would feel better soon.

Few minutes later, I realized, that is Frank Martin!!! He looked 100% different with a shaved head, another unusual aspect of this pandemic. Just glad that he feels well enough to coach. 

4) TV play-by-play guy Rich Waltz was working a hoop game from UNLV the other night; some major league baseball team would do their fans a big favor if they hired Waltz as their play-by-play guy, he is very good. He worked for the Marlins for several years. 

3) Disappointing TV news; NBC Sports Network is shutting down at the end of this year, with USA Network picking up lot of their NHL/NASCAR broadcasts. Starting next year, NBC’s new streaming service Peacock will also carry some of the NBC Sports programming. 

2) Baseball stuff:
— Red Sox signed IF/OF Kiké Hernandez to a 2-year, $14M deal; he is a career .240 hitter in seven big league seasons, but he can play all over the field.
— Padres retain Jurickson Profar for three years, $21M
— Ryan Zimmerman re-signs with Washington for one year, $1M
— Miami Marlins signed reliever Anthony Bass for two years, unknown $$$. 

1) Nuggets 130, Suns 126 OT:
— Suns were up by 14 at halftime.
— Jokic had 31 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists.
— Nuggets’ subs were a combined +30.
— Suns’ star Booker didn’t play last couple minutes; he either hit his minutes limit (they play again tonight) or he got banged up in a scramble for a loose ball. 

Friday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here…….

13) Stability is important in pro sports; its a lot easier to win when you don’t have to learn a new program every year.

Gary Kubiak retired Thursday as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, which means that next year, Minnesota will have its sixth offensive coordinator in six years. Not exactly the ideal scenario.

12) College coaches move around more than NFL coaches; Alabama signed two new assistant coaches this week, two guys with pretty good resumes.

— Former Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien is the new offensive coordinator
— Former Jaguars’ coach Doug Marrone is the new offensive line coach.

Makes recruiting a lot easier when you have NFL head coaches on your staff.

11) Rams signed Raheem Morris to be their new defensive coordinator; he was a head coach in Tampa Bay a while back, and was the interim head coach in Atlanta this past fall.

Rams also signed a new special teams coach, Joe DeCamillis. Rams will be the 6th team he’s coached special teams for in his 33-year NFL career.

10) Knicks 119, Warriors 104:
— Draymond Green got tossed for his 2nd technical, which he got when the ref thought Green was yelling at him, but was actually yelling at a teammate.
— Much-improved Knicks won their last three games, are 8-8. Tom Thibodeau is a good coach. 

9) Arizona 64, Arizona State 62:
— Arizona outscored ASU 7-0 over final 1:58 of the game
— Arizona made 11-20 3’s, still needed a tip-in at the buzzer for the win.
— Arizona State drops to 4-7, 1-4 in conference. 

8) Indiana (+10) 81, Iowa 69:
— Hoosiers are only 4-4 in conference, but they snapped Iowa’s 5-game win streak.
— Indiana won by 12 and they were only 21-35 on the foul line. 

7) UCLA 61, California 57:
— Bruins improved to 8-0 in Pac-12, but they struggled.
— UCLA outscored Cal 7-2 over 3:32 of the game.
— Cal made 10-22 3-pointers, only 11-31 shots inside arc. 

6) Colorado State 84, Utah State 76:
— Loss snaps Utah State’s 11-game win streak.
— Mountain West standings:
9-0 Boise State
9-1 Utah State
8-2 Colorado State

5) Penn State 75, Rutgers 67:
— Rutgers hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1991; they were going to make it last year, but there was no tournament.
— Now they’ve lost five games in a row and six of seven; they scored 63.5 ppg in last four games. 

4) BYU 95, Portland 67:
— BYU won seven of its last eight games, will be an interesting bubble team.

3) Jazz 129, Pelicans 118:
— Utah won/covered its last seven games.
— Every Jazz starter was at least +15 in this game. 

2) It appears that retired NFL QB Philip Rivers will become the football coach at St. Michael Catholic HS in Alabama; Rivers has two sons (and 7 daughters!!!);  he wants to coach his sons, much like he played for his father in high school. 

1) Philadelphia Eagles hired Nick Sirianni as their new head coach; Carson Wentz played his best ball with the Eagles under Frank Reich and Sirianni has been Reich’s OC in Indianapolis the last three years. Fixing Wentz is Sirianni’s #1 job. 

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

13) Georgia 63, Kentucky 62:
— Wildcats went 1-13 on arc, lost third game in a row- they’re 4-9.
— Georgia scored on an OB under play in last 0:03 for the win.
— Kentucky led by 6 with 1:50 left. 

12) They take college basketball very seriously in the state that somehow elects Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell all the time. To illustrate this, I’ll flash back to 1979:

In my college days, I was student manager for the Albany Great Danes; we were a D-3 team back then. We made the NCAA Tournament in ’79, but we get sent out of the region, to Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Four teams at each regional site; normally, the home team plays the nightcap, but Centre played the first game, and we played Savannah State in the nightcap. Centre had a high school-like gym, seated at most 1,000 people, but it was packed for Centre’s game.

Why did Centre play the first game? Kentucky had the 8:30 game in the SEC tournament that night, so when we came upstairs for our game, there were like 20-25 people left in the stands. Everyone went home to watch the Wildcats play on TV. 

11) Other random items from that weekend, 42 years ago:
— Danville was in a dry county; the drinking age was 18 back then. There were some disappointed people in our traveling party.
— We lost to Savannah State in OT;l their best player, Harold Hubbard, would up playing for the Harlem Globetrotters.
— Watching TV in the hotel Saturday afternoon, we saw Larry Bird play for the first time, in the Missouri Valley tournament. This was just before ESPN started, so lot fewer games on TV. 

10) NCAA Tournament schedule was announced today; it’ll be a little different, no idea if these changes will be permanent, or if they’re just trying something new this year:

Thursday, March 18— First Four games
March 19-20— First round
March 21-22— Second round, so there will be 8 games on a Monday
March 27-28— Sweet 16 games, Saturday and a Sunday
March 29-30— Elite 8 games on a Monday/Tuesday
April 3, 5— Final Four

9) Colts’ QB Philip Rivers retired Wednesday, after a 17-year career where he went 134-106 in regular season games, 5-7 in playoff games, with 66,435 passing yards, 421 TD passes. He is a lock for the Hall of Fame, though it may/may not be in his first year of eligibility. 

8) Still unclear if Drew Brees will retire; his wife posted something on Instagram Wednesday, saying how this season alone, he played with a torn rotator cuff, a torn fascia in his foot, and half his ribs broken. Tough freakin’ guy. 

7) Astros signed OF/DH Michael Brantley to a 2-year, $32M deal, but not before it was rumored that Toronto had signed him- FanGraphs even had Brantley listed in Toronto’s lineup when I was looking on my phone at lunch yesterday. 

6) NFL playoffs trend; last seven years, #1-seeds are 10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS in conference finals. Both #1 seeds lost at home in two years ago, when the Rams/Patriots both won. 

5) Odd fact that I learned this week; Once you’re President of the United States, you’re not allowed to drive anymore, ever, for security reasons. Secret Service guys drive you around. 

4) People were actually betting on how long Joe Biden’s inaugural address would last; 20-25:00 was the winning wager, at +$200. 

3) When teams get fined by a league, where does that money go? NHL’s Washington Capitols were fined $100,000 this week; who benefits from that? A charity of the Caps’ choice? 

2) Cavaliers 147, Nets 135, 2OT:
— Hey, Kyrie Irving showed up and played- he scored 37 points (15-28 FG)
— James Harden only took 14 shots, Kevin Durant took 25.
— Collin Sexton torched the Nets for 42 points.
— Cavaliers played only eight guys in a 58:00 game. 

1) Arkansas 75, Auburn 73:
— Tigers led by 19 at one point. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Toronto Blue Jays signed OF George Springer to a 6-year, $150M contract Tuesday night; Springer played with Houston for seven years, has a .852 career OPS.

Blue Jays also signed reliever Kirby Yates to a 1-year contract. 

12) Baseball America published its list of the top 100 prospects; Vladimir Guerrero Jr is younger than 55 of the 100 guys on that list, and he already has 757 plate appearances in the big leagues. 

11) New York Mets acted quickly and fired GM Jared Porter, who held the job for 37 days or so; Porter lost his job when it became public that he had sent sent explicit pictures to a female reporter back in 2016, when he worked for the Cubs. Mets said they probably won’t replace Porter this year, just split up his responsibilities between the rest of the front office.

Mets’ president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson did a Zoom news conference Tuesday; he had a Sean Spicer-level of discomfort answering reporters’ questions. What had been a super winter for Met fans was, for now, derailed by this debacle. 

10) They were talking on MLB Network Tuesday, saying that lot of teams are likely to use a 6-man starting rotation this season, since pitchers didn’t throw as much last year, so they won’t to jump up their workload all in one year.

Spring training starts four weeks from today, by the way. 

9) We still don’t know if there will be a designated hitter in the National League this season; like I said, spring training starts in four weeks, would be nice if they figured it out soon.

Free agents Marcell Ozuna, Nelson Cruz, Mitch Moreland will bank lot more $$$ this season if the DH is in both leagues. 

8) Baltimore Ravens cut backup QB Robert Griffin III this week; RGIII was the #2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, after the Redskins paid a ransom to the Rams for that pick.

Washington went 10-6 in Griffin’s rookie year, losing 24-14 to Seattle in their first playoff game, but it was all downhill from there. After going 9-6 as a starter that year, Griffin went 7-20 as a starter the rest of his career, a career that is now likely over. 

7) Northwestern Wildcats picked up a QB Tuesday; Ryan Hilinski will transfer to the Wildcats after bolting South Carolina. Hilinski started for the Gamecocks as a true freshman in 2019, throwing for 2,357 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he lost his starting job last fall and wound up as the #3 QB on the roster. 

6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers are first #5-seed to reach a conference final since the 49ers seven years ago; Tennessee made the AFC title game as a #6-seed last year.

5) Tennessee Titans WR AJ Brown had surgery on both knees Tuesday; Brown caught 70 passes for 1,075 yards and 11 TD’s— he is the first Tennessee WR with back-to-back seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards since Derrick Mason did it in 2003-04.

4) Not sure what it is about Staples Center, but Steph Curry has made only 6 of his last 32 3-point attempt in Staples, whether he was playing against the Lakers/Clippers. Curry has a career 3-point percentage of 43.3%, so 6-32 is quite a slump. 

3) Alabama 105, LSU 75:
— Crimson Tide made 23-43 3-pointers; they’re up to 35.9% on the arc for the season.
— Alabama has won eight games in a row; if their uniforms said “Kentucky” on the front, they’d be a top-5 team in the country. 

2) Pittsburgh 79, Duke 73:
— Duke is 5-4; their best win is over the #86 team.
— Duke is a thin team that is #344 in experience; they appear headed to the bubble and a nervous Selection Sunday. 

1) Villanova 76, Seton Hall 74
— Wildcats hadn’t played in 27 days; this was a good game.
— Villanova led by 9 with 7:21 left; game was decided a foul with 0:00.9 left that I’n guessing the ref wishes he hadn’t called.
— Seton Hall shot 65.6% inside the arc; both teams shot 40%+ on the arc. 

Tuesday’s Den: Random thoughts on a winter night

13) Florida State 78, Louisville 65:
— How the bleep is Florida State not in the top 25?
— Seminoles never trailed, led 40-16 at one point.

12) Baylor 78, Kansas 69:
— 13-0 Baylor has six top 100 wins.
— Bears are #4 in country shooting 3’s, #3 at forcing turnovers.

11) Warriors 115, Lakers 113:
— Golden State was down 19 in first quarter, 17 in third quarter.
— Warriors’ subs were a combined +43 in this game. 

10) Nets 125, Bucks 123:
— This looked a lot like a preview of Eastern Conference finals.
— Harden had 34 points, 12 assists in his 2nd game for Brooklyn. 

9) Portland star CJ McCollum (broken foot) is out for several weeks; he is scoring 26.7 ppg this year. 

8) Tennessee fired football coach Jeremy Pruitt Monday; AD Philip Fulmer was also told to take a hike— oh wait, he “retired” Uh-huh.

Pruitt was 16-19 overall at Tennessee, 10-16 in the SEC- Vols lost seven of their last eight games this season. There are stories that Pruitt got fired after an investigation into potential recruiting violations within the program— he really got fired for being 3-7 last year.

Everyone cheats at that level of college recruiting; if you don’t cheat, you finish last. If you cheat and you still finish last (or close to it), then you get fired.

Two ways to keep your SEC coaching job:
— Don’t go 3-7.
— Don’t get caught cheating after going 3-7. 

7) Oy. New York Mets were having such a good winter, with a new owner and all, “were having” being the operative phrase there.

Turns out that recently hired GM Jared Porter sent explicit, unsolicited photos to a female reporter in 2016, when he was working for the Cubs. This isn’t a good thing.

The woman was a foreign correspondent who had moved to this country to cover baseball; she has left journalism since then, and hadn’t commented publicly until now, because Porter was a nobody until now.

She has a limited grasp of the English language, but an interesting grasp of timing; might be difficult for the guy to keep the best job he was ever going to get. 

6) Porter and the Mets pulled off a 3-way trade Monday:
— Mets get lefty P Joey Lucchesi
— Padres get P Joe Musgrove
— Pirates get a boatload of prospects, one of whom is expected to be Hudson Head, an OF a lot of scouts think highly of. 

5) When the president of the United States leaves office, he gets a pension of $210,700 a year for the rest of his life.

Jimmy Carter was a president who is actually a decent person; he has written 14 books since he left office, as well as helping Habitat for Humanity build homes for people who need them.

4) St John’s 74, UConn 70:
— UConn led this game 21-7 early.
— Red Storm are still only 3-6 in Big East, and UConn’s best player didn’t play, but its an important win for their program. 

3) Other baseball stuff:
— Washington Nationals signed P Jon Lester for one year for undisclosed money.
— Los Angeles Angels signed C Kurt Suzuki for one year, $1.5M. 

2) From the Elias Sports Bureau: New Orleans Saints are first NFL team ever to win 49+ regular-season games in four-year span without reaching the Super Bowl during that time. 

1) This is the first week since December, 1982 that neither Duke/North Carolina is in the college basketball top 25. 

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

13) New Orleans Saints lost a home playoff game Sunday, third year in a row they did that, but they’ve got nothing on the Kansas City Chiefs. From 1995-2017, the Chiefs went 0-7 in playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium, an amazing display of playoff futility.

Over a 23-year period, they went 0-7 in home playoff games. Oy.

Last year’s Super Bowl title quashed those bad memories, but now all Chief fans can stress out this week about Patrick Mahomes’ concussion.

12) They mentioned a cool stat Sunday that I had never heard of before; from 2012-15, Seattle Seahawks led at one point or another in 70 consecutive games, which is the all-time record. Right now, Kansas City has led in 60 consecutive games, so the record is within reach. 

11) When I was a kid, I learned how to do math in my head by doing batting averages; if Sal  Bando went 4-13 for a weekend, I knew that was .308. if Catfish Hunter gave up two runs in seven innings, I knew that was a 2.57 ERA. Stuff like that; decades later, when I was an adult, I actually got a job promotion because of my math skills. For real, a big promotion.

So when I see the Big EAST Conference has five teams in the midwest, it saddens me; how can kids learn geography if they think Nebraska is in the east?

— Xavier is in Cincinnati
— Creighton is in Omaha
— DePaul is in Chicago
— Marquette is in Milwaukee
— Butler is in Indianapolis

None of those cities are close to the east; they’re midwestern cities.

Big East needs to find a better name for the league, for education’s sake.

10) Houston Cougars are 11-1, with a win over Texas Tech; all 15 of their players have already tested positive for COVID at some point this season. They’ve got a shot at going a long way in March/Mask Madness. 

9) Ivy League didn’t play basketball this winter, which means one less automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and one more at-large bid. Not sure what criteria will be used; some teams haven’t played in a while:

— 8-1 Villanova is a top 10 team; they haven’t played since December 23
— 7-1 Saint Louis hasn’t played a league game yet; they haven’t played since December 23.

When the bubble teams come more into focus, it’ll be fun to see how their resumes contrast.

8) College basketball upsets this weekend:
— Northern Arizona (+12) 62, Montana 58
— California (+11.5) 72, Utah 63
— Butler (+9) 70, Creighton 66
— Wm & Mary (+9) 69, Drexel 64 (Sunday)
— Georgia (+7.5) 78, Ole Miss 74
— IUPUI (+7) 65, Northern Kentucky 63

7) There are couple of very bad basketball teams in the Mountain West; so far this season, favorites of 15+ points are 8-1-1 ATS in conference games.

6) Odd Fact of the Day: Starting lineup for the Wisconsin Badgers is older than the starting lineup for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

5) James Harden made his debut for the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night; he put up 32 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists in the Nets’ 122-115 win over Orlando. Not a bad opening act. 

4) Sunday will be Aaron Rodgers’ 5th NFC title game, but the first one played at Lambeau Field; Green Bay lost the conference championship in Santa Clara LY to the 49ers. 

3) Los Angeles Chargers didn’t have to look far for their next coach; they hired Brandon Staley, who was the Rams’ defensive coordinator this past season. Staley is 38, was a coordinator for one season; he comes from the Vic Fangio coaching tree.

Curious who his offensive coordinator will be, seeing how Sean McVay runs Rams’ offense, so he’ll be poaching someone off another coaching staff. 

2) Kansas City 22, Browns 17:
— Mahomes (concussion) was KO’d in 3rd quarter; Chad Henne finished up at QB.
— Browns lost a goal-line fumble with 1:34 in first half, which turned out to be damaging.
— Chiefs outgained Cleveland 438-308; they host the Bills Sunday night. 

1) Tampa Bay 30, New Orleans 20:
— Saints are first team since ’86-’88 Bears to lose home playoff game 3 years in a row.
— Brees threw three INT’s; New Orleans was minus-4 in turnovers.
— Buccaneers go to Lambeau Field for the NFC title game Sunday.