Saturday’s Den: Notes on college basketball conference tournaments, and some other stuff

— For the first time since 1978, a reigning batting champion was traded in the offseason; Minnesota traded IF Luis Arraez to the Marlins, for P Pablo Lopez and two prospects.

Arraez hit .316 last year, scored 88 runs; he is expected to play second base for Miami. Lopez was 10-10, 3.75 in 32 starts last season.

Marlins plan to move Jazz Chisholm to CF, Juan Segura to 3B, Joey Wendle to SS; Arraez mostly played 1B last year, so spring training is going to include a lot of ground balls and work on defense. I have Miami’s star P Sandy Alcantara on my fantasy team; this makes me queasy.

By the way, Rod Carew was the last batting champion traded the following winter.

— If you like college basketball, ESPN+ is a must; they have games from all over the country, and you can watch replays of games. Have your remote handy though; some of the guys who broadcast these games aren’t exactly Jim Nantz or Mike Breen quality-wise. The mute button can be useful for some of these guys, but they’re all fun to watch.

I like watching games from the Big West or Conference USA, leagues that the main cable channels ignore.

— How come a lot of NBA players don’t play games on back/back nights, but there are college basketball refs who work 4-5 games a week? 

College basketball season runs roughly from November 10-March 15, when pairings for the NCAA Tournament come out. That would be 126 days; I’m looking at referee stats from a few years ago, and there were 16 officials who worked 90+ games that season. 

90 games in 126 games means that roughly, you work a game three out of four days for four months, and most referees are older than the average NBA player. 

— Florida Gators released QB Jaden Rashada from his Letter of Intent; this ends a recruitment that reportedly went south because of a botched $13M NIL deal offered by the Gator Collective, a third-party group that furnishes NIL deals for Florida.

— Michigan fired co-offensive coordinator and QB coach Matt Weiss, who was put on leave recently amid an investigation by university police into a report of computer access crimes. 

Industrial espionage in college football? Who knew?

— I’m wondering how much Danny DeVito gets paid for those Jersey Mike’s commercials, which seem to be on TV every half hour or so.

— We getting into late January, the conference races are heating up in college basketball. Here are some trends that deal with how teams do in conference tournaments:

— Gonzaga has won the WCC tournament nine of the last ten years; the one time they lost, it was to Saint Mary’s.

— Clemson is 15-4, 7-1 in ACC this season; since 2003, they’re 8-19 in ACC tournament games, with 2008 the only time during that time that they’ve won more than one game in an ACC tournament.

— Richmond won the Atlantic 10 tournament LY; before that, from 2012-21, Spiders were a combined 5-9 in A-10 tourney games. League seems to be wide open this season. 

— In the Sun Belt, Texas State was 37-13 in conference games the last three years, but only 1-2 in Sun Belt tourney games; they won a game in the ’20 tournament before COVID ended things, then they lost in the first round the last two years. Bobcats are 10-10, 3-4 this season; curious to see how they’ll do in a league that is very wide-open this year.

— Houston Cougars are 10-2 in last four AAC tournaments, winning the title the last two years with five of those six wins by 13+ points.

— Villanova is down this year with Jay Wright gone; they’re 10-10, 4-5, not looking like an NCAA Tournament team, but the Wildcats are 17-2 in last seven Big East tournaments, winning it five times.

Last five years, Xavier is 2-5 in the Big East tournament; four of the five losses came in overtime. Sean Miller has the Musketeers at 15-4 in his first season back in Cincinnati; maybe this is their year to turn that stat around. 

— Surprising stat: Last time Indiana finished over .500 in the Big 14 was seven years ago, when they went 15-3 in conference play. Since 2004, Hoosiers are only 9-18 in the conference tournament. 

Sunday’s Den: Happy New Year, everyone……

I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Hopefully, 2023 will be an excellent year for all of us. Let’s try to be nicer to each other this year. Seriously. 

TCU 51, Michigan 45
— TCU led 21-6 at halftime; Michigan scored 39 points in 2nd half, and still lost.
— TCU was 8-16 on third down, Wolverines were 3-13.
— Both teams turned the ball over three times.
— Horned Frogs scored 34+ points in 11 of 14 games this season.  

— Michigan lost its last six bowls (they were favored in 4 of the 6)

Georgia 42, Ohio State 41
— Ohio State led 38-24 after the third quarter.
— Dawgs drove 72 yards, scored game-winning TD with 0:54 left.
— Both teams averaged over 10 yards/pass attempt.
— Georgia gained 533 yards, converted only 2-10 on third down.
— Buckeyes were 11-0, then gave up 45-42 points in losing last two games.

— This game ended just after midnight; damn near had a heart attack when some of my neighbors shot off fireworks as midnight struck.

Iowa 21, Kentucky 0
— Iowa scored two defensive TD’s; their offense scored once.
— Neither team scored in the second half.
— Iowa was 0-11 on third down, Wildcats were 2-18 (3-5 on 4th)
— Hawkeyes won five of last six games, after a 3-4 start. 
— This game had lowest total of any game in last 25 years, still stayed under.

Alabama 45, Kansas State 20
— Alabama QB Young was 15-21/321 passing, with 5 TD’s.
— Crimson Tide ran 55 plays for 496 yards (9.0 yards/play)
— Alabama won its last four games, scoring 30-34-49-45 points.
— Alabama has 75 players who were 4 or 5-star recruits; K-State has 3.
— Crimson Tide won five of its last seven bowls. 

Xavier 83, UConn 73— Huskies lost their first game this year; they were 4-9 on the foul line, Xavier was 23-28. UConn led by 7, early in second half.

Arizona 69, Arizona State 60— Arizona was 24-28 on foul line, Sun Devils were 7-10.

Rough day with the referees for the two Hurley brothers.

Marquette 68, Villanova 66— Villanova was 12-33 on the arc, 12-24 inside arc. Harder to win consistently shooting so many 3’s. Marquette is shooting 60.3% inside the arc (#4).

New Mexico 76, Wyoming 75— Wyoming led by 11 early on, but Lobos get good road win and improve to 14-0. New Mexico/Purdue are the only two unbeaten teams in the country.

— Watched The Natural on TV the other night; no idea how many times I’ve seen that movie, has to be more than 50-60 times, but until the other night I had no idea that Randy Newman did the music in that movie. You learn something every day.

— 3B Evan Longoria signed a one-year, $4M deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. 37-year old Longoria hasn’t played 100+ games in a season since 2019; he hit .244 with 14 HR’s for the Giants last year.

— Say you owned the Baltimore Ravens; you’re really, really rich, the Ravens are usually a good team, but you have this pivotal decision to make in a couple months.

Lamar Jackson’s contract is up; do you shell out huge money for a QB with a 46-19 career record (1-3 in playoffs)? Jackson missed five games last year, including weeks 15-18; he also missed the last four games this season— he’s missed nine of the Ravens’ last 32 games.

Interesting decision; earlier this season I said I’d pay Jackson the big bucks, but now I’m queasy about that. The best ability is availability, you know what I mean?

— David Blough is starting at QB for Arizona Sunday; he’ll be the 64th different QB to start an NFL game this season, the most of any season since the 1987 strike season.

— Early line on the college football national title game: Georgia (-13.5) vs TCU