Tuesday’s Den: Random stuff on a snowy day……..

Atlantic Sun tournament
— Bellarmine 76, North Florida 74— Knights lost by 12 at North Florida three days ago, but won this game on a neutral court, scoring a hoop with 0:00.4 left. Bellarmine now plays at Liberty on Tuesday night, quick turnaround for the lower seed.

— Queens 61, Florida Gulf Coast 55— This is first season in Division I for the Queens Royals; they had lost five of last six games before this win. Queens plays at Kennesaw State Tuesday in the next round of the A-Sun Tournament.

This was the first conference tournament to start; a few more start tonight.

— ACC is having a down basketball season; going into Monday night’s games, Duke (#34), Miami (#37) were the two highest-ranked teams on KenPom.com.

Every year since at least 2002, ACC has had 2+ teams finish in KenPom’s top 20, so they’ve got some work to do for that to happen this year.

— Patriot League tournament is played on higher-seeded teams home courts, but home teams are 47-43 SU in Patriot League games this season, worst home court record for any league in the country.

— Mountain West tournament is in Las Vegas; funny that even though they’re the host school, UNLV hasn’t won the Mountain West tournament since 2008.

— Atlanta Hawks signed Quin Snyder to a 5-year deal to be their new coach; the Duke alum replaces another ACC alum, NC State’s Nate McMillan. Hawks are 31-30, the #8-seed in the East as I type this. McMillan was 110-92 in three years coaching Atlanta.

This is my annual reminder to you that the Hawks’ owner is Tony Ressler, a hedge fund guy and obviously a billionaire. Ressler has been married to actress Jami Gertz for 34 years; she was in Less Than Zero, a terrific movie with Andrew McCarthy/Robert Downey Jr. Funny how a really rich guy has a beautiful wife. Go figure.

Couple years when the Hawks missed the playoffs, Jami Gertz represented them at the NBA’s Draft Lottery. Atlanta is trying for its third straight winning season; we’ll see if the coaching change makes any difference. Snyder was 393-294 coaching the Jazz, only 21-30 in playoff games.

— Milwaukee Bucks got sold this week, to the Haslam family that also owns the Cleveland Browns. Haslam’s paid $3.5B for the Bucks, that’s billion, with a B.

— I watch a ton of college basketball on TV; to me, the TV analyst I learn the most from is Dalen Cuff on ESPN. He isn’t a shill for anyone; he’ll speak the truth and not everyone does that. 

— Super Bowl champion Chiefs did the expected, promoted Matt Nagy to offensive coordinator, replacing the departed Eric Bieniemy, who left to be OC at Washington.

— Charger-Bronco games should be interesting next year; Denver hired Joe Lombardi as their new offensive coordinator, six weeks after the Chargers fired him from the same job. Chargers quickly hired former Dallas OC Kellen Moore to replace Lombardi.

— Washington Commanders cut QB Carson Wentz, who went 2-5 as Washington’s starter this past season. Wentz will be on his 4th different team in four years next season; could a reunion with former Colts’ coach Frank Reich happen in Carolina?

— There was a story in The Athletic last week saying at this time last year, Russell Wilson was trying get Pete Carroll fired as coach of the Seahawks; the whole thing ended with Seahawks trading Wilson to Denver, where the Broncos floundered, but now they have Sean Payton as coach, so 2023 should be better for them.

Carroll has coached Seattle for 13 years; he is 138-90-1 there, with a Super Bowl title in 2013.

Week 2 XFL:
Battlehawks 20, Seattle 18
St Louis won its first two games by a combined 5 points.
Seattle lost its first two games by a combined 6 points.
St Louis kicked a 44-yard FG as time expired for the win.

Defenders 18, Vipers 6
Las Vegas led 6-0 at half, didn’t score in 2nd half on a rainy night in desert.
Vipers completed only 11-23 passes, for 93 yards.
Defenders outgained Las Vegas, 319-177

Brahmas 30, Guardians 12
Total yardage was only 210-175, but San Antonio won going away.
Former Wisconsin QB Coen was 16-24/165 passing, with TD throws to 3 different guys.
Orlando is hurting at QB; Paxton Lynch got benched again. Backup Francois was 6-13 passing for 8 yards.

Roughnecks 23, Renegades 14
Wade Phillips’ team won first two games, by 21-9 points.
Total yardage was 242-125, Houston.
Thru two weeks, favorites are 4-4 ATS, over is 5-3.

— You realize you watch too much TV when you’re sitting there are 5am watching re-runs of The Jetsons on HBO Max; loved that show when I was a kid, but that was also 50 years ago.

— After three days of spring training games, baseball is winning the public relations war with the new pitch clock rules; games have been 20-25 minutes shorter this spring, and announcers on broadcasts are selling the rule changes pretty well. 

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

— College basketball conference tournaments start this week; I like to study history, but the history of these tournaments is a little odd. The results are somewhat random. For instance…….

Last seven years, seven different teams have won the Atlantic 15 tournament

Last five years, five different teams won in ACC, CAA and Conference USA.

10 of last 11 years, Big Sky tournament was won by the #1 seed or team that tied for 1st. 

When I say “last seven years” I’m not counting 2020, the COVID year, where no tournament was played in most conferences. 

Check out our Hoops page for college basketball tournament info all thru March, starting on Tuesday night.

— Atlantic Sun conference tournament tips things off tonight; Florida Gulf Coast-Queens and Bellarmine-North Florida, with both games available on ESPN+. 

— Lindenwood Lions are in their first year of D-I basketball; they struggled thru a 2-11 skid, are 11-20 overall, 6-12 in the OVC, but they won their last two games, both in overtime, as they snuck into the OVC Tournament— they’ll play SE Missouri State in the first round Wednesday.

— Atlantic 15 is ranked as the #12 league right now, their worst ranking since 2007; the league is going to get only one team in the NCAA’s for the first time since 2005, when George Washington was the only A-15 team to make the NCAA’s.

— Since Randy Bennett has been their coach, Saint Mary’s has had 23 Australian players on their roster- they have four this season. Lot of mid-majors are loading their rosters with more foreign players. Siena has players from six different countries, six guys who will be brushing snow off their cars Tuesday, when we get hit with a snowstorm here in Albany.

— Ole Miss fired basketball coach Kermit Davis this week; Rebels are 24-37 the last two years, 7-27 in SEC games. Davis won 332 games in 16 years at Middle Tennessee before coming to Ole Miss; he’s a very good coach.

Not sure how good a basketball job Ole Miss is; you really want to recruit basketball players to a school where a decent amount of the fans run around waving the Confederate Flag?

SEC is a tough enough league on its own; Ole Miss is a difficult job.

— San Diego Padres/Manny Machado agreed on an 11-year, $350M deal, as ownership in San Diego goes all-in to unseat the Dodgers in the NL West.

— Washington P MacKenzie Gore is wearing number 1 this season; can’t remember another pitcher wearing number 1, so I hit the Interweb.

My research indicates Matt Young also wore number 1 for the Mariners in 1990

— New York Mets won 78.9% of their replay challenges last year, by far the best replay record in the big leagues. Next-best record on replay challenges was 64%.

— Miami Marlins were 24-40 in one-run games last year; they’re likely to have four guys in their lineup this year who are normally second basemen. Jazz Chisholm is going to play CF for the first time in his career, Jean Segura will play 3B and Joey Wendle SS, with newly-acquired Luis Arraez at second base. We’ll see how that works out for them.

— This will be the first season ever where every major league team will play every other major league team during the regular season. Batters are going to see pitchers fewer and fewer times, which figures to hurt offense some.

Back in the old days, in 1960, Dodgers-Giants played 22 games against each other. This season, divisional rivals will play each only 13 times. 

— Lakers 111, Dallas 108— Mavericks led by 27 points midway thru second quarter, but let the game slip away, their fourth loss in five games.

— Portland 131, Houston 114— Damian Lillard scored 71 points against a team that has made tanking an art form. Victor Wembanyama is the guy everyone wants to draft in June; Rockets are 13-47, half-game “ahead” of San Antonio for the top spot in the draft lottery.

— Golden State 109, Minnesota 104— Warriors are 20-18 when Steph Curry plays, 11-12 when he sits out. I was surprised by that; thought the difference would be bigger.

— Kings 176, Clippers 175 2OT— Friday’s game was 2nd-highest scoring regular season game in NBA history; Malik Monk played 41:00- Sacramento was +22 during that time, which means in the 17:00 he was on the bench, the Kings were minus-21.

— Nuggets 134, Clippers 124 OT— LA’s airplane got struck by lightning on their way to Denver; rough couple of days for the Clippers. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college basketball Saturday…….

Big 14
— Iowa 112, Michigan State 106 OT— Hawkeyes outscored MSU 23-10 in last 1:34 of regulation to force overtime. 23 points in 1:34; hard to do. Iowa made 17-36 on the arc. 

Spartans are 5-7 in their last 12 games; Iowa split its last six games.

— Indiana 79, Purdue 71— Purdue loses for fourth time in six games, after a 22-1 start. Their guards aren’t good enough to win a national title with. Other than big guy Zach Edey, Purdue shot 30.4% from the floor. Indiana is 10-3 in its last thirteen games.

— Gonzaga 77, Saint Mary’s 68— Zags shot 63% inside arc, finish tied for first in WCC with the Gaels. Gonzaga had four players score in double figures; Saint Mary’s had one guy score more than 10 points. Chances are these teams will have their rubber match at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas a week from Monday.

— Florida State 85, Miami 84— Hurricanes led 56-31 early in 2nd half; they lose on 25-footer at the buzzer, which ends their 7-game win streak. Loss drops Miami into a 3-way tie for second in ACC with Virginia/Clemson, game behind Pitt in loss column.

— Clemson 96, NC State 71— This was 55-29 at halftime; impressive win for the Tigers, who are on the bubble and need wins like this. Tigers made 10-22 on arc, scored 1.37 points/possession, which is almost a perfect day on offense.

— North Carolina 71, Virginia 63— Tar Heels get their first Quad 1 win over struggling Virginia, which scored 57.3 ppg in splitting their last four games. 

— Pitt 99, Syracuse 82— Natives are restless in central New York; Syracuse lost six of its last nine games, is 9-9 in a down year for the ACC and Jim Boeheim is 78 years old.

Big X
— TCU 83, Texas Tech 82— Horned Frogs led by 12 with 7:39 left, blew the lead but pulled the game out at the end, just their second win in last seven games. Mike Miles is back for TCU; he scored 24 points- he was out for most of their 1-6 skid.

— Kansas State 73, Oklahoma State 68— Damaging loss for OSU, which is squarely on the bubble; they led by 8 with 11:39 left. Cowboys have now lost four games in a row, K-State snapped a 4-game road losing streak; they’re 10-6 in Big X, after going 13-41 the previous three seasons. 

— Mississippi State 69, Texas A&M 62— Bulldogs won seven of their last nine games, are right on the bubble; they shot 65% inside arc in this game. Chris Jans is a good coach; he made the NCAA’s three of four years at New Mexico State, was 21-12 in his only year at Bowling Green.

— Alabama 86, Arkansas 83— Arkansas led by 9 at halftime, but Alabama scored 58 points in second half. Brandon Miller is probably the best player in the country, as a freshman; he had 24 points in this game, after scoring 41 the last game.

Mountain West
San Diego State 73, New Mexico 71— Lobos led by 13 early in second half, but after being the last unbeaten team in country, they’ve now lost seven of their last nine games. Aztecs have a 2-game lead in Mountain West, with two games left in regular season.

— Arizona State 89, Arizona 88— Kid on Sun Devils drained a 55-foot desperation heave at the buzzer as ASU pulled the upset; Arizona led by 10 with 6:30 left. Wildcats were only 23-34 on foul line; ASU was 6-10.

Big West
— Hawai’i 72, Cal-Irvine 67— Anteaters led by 9 with 14:27 left, but lost their second straight game; they’re in a 3-way tie for first with Riverside, UCSB; Fullerton/Hawai’i are a game behind them.

Upsets of the Day
Florida State (+14.5) 85, Miami 84
George Mason (+11) 74, Dayton 69
Eastern Michigan (+7.5) 75, Ball State 68
Indiana (+7.5) 79, Purdue 71
Oklahoma (+7) 61, Iowa State 50
Tex-San Antonio (+7) 95, FIU 91
Clemson (+6) 96, NC State 71

Big Sky
Idaho State 71, Eastern Washington 63— First conference loss for the Eagles, who hadn’t lost since December 13th. Doesn’t really matter; EWU needs to win Big Sky Tournament to make NCAA’s anyway, but a red flag since Idaho State is 11-19.

Conference USA
— UAB 72, Western Kentucky 60— Blazers won five in row, nine of last ten games; star guard Walker is back from an injury, and a UAB-Florida Atlantic showdown in C-USA Tournament seems likely to happen.

— FAU 75, UTEP 49— Owls are 26-3, having a great season; their subs play 10th-most minutes in country, which figures to help them in the C-USA Tournament.

Horizon League
Milwaukee 81, Cleveland State 72— Vikings’ loss gives Youngstown State the regular season title; Cleveland State, Milwaukee and Northern Kentucky all tie for 2nd.

Ivy League
— Yale, Princeton, Penn are in a 3-way tie for first with one game left. The Ivy tournament is four teams; Brown leads Cornell by a game for 4th place, but Brown plays Yale and Cornell plays Columbia next week, so a tie for 4th and one-game playoff is likely.

— Conference tournaments start next week; Atlantic Sun tournament starts on Monday, as one of the best times of the year is about to begin. 

Saturday’s Den: Baseball questions, with spring training underway

— Baseball changed lot of rules this year; going to be interesting to see how that impacts play this season. No more shifts, a play clock to quicken pace of play, bigger bases, a limit to how many times a pitcher can throw to first base. I think they’ve made good rule changes.

— Watching the first spring training games Friday with the pitch clock, TV broadcasts will be changing; lot of fewer replays of action right after it happens, because there is a 0:30 clock until the next pitch is thrown. Lot less small talk between pitches.

— San Diego Padres spent lot of $$$ this year, trying hard to unseat the Dodgers in NL West, but then star 3B Manny Machado said he will opt out of his contract after this season, hoping to make more than the $30M/year he was scheduled to make thru 2028. 

Will that be a distraction for the Padres, or is is just business as usual?

— I’ve mentioned this here before, but my dad grew up in New York City, was.a big Brooklyn Dodger fan. When I was a kid, I learned quickly to never say the name “O’Malley”— Walter O’Malley was the Dodgers’ owner who moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. My dad didn’t like Walter O’Malley, not one bit.

San Diego Padres are now owned by Peter Seidler, who is Walter O’Malley’s grandson. Wish my dad was here to get his reaction to that; chances are he wouldn’t like the Padres very much.

— Highest current projected payrolls for this baseball season:

$300M— New York (NL)
$261M— New York (AL)
$241M— Phillies
$225M— Braves
$212M— Angels
$205M— Padres

— Lowest current projected payrolls for this baseball season:

$40,925,000— A’s
$45,025,000— Orioles
$59,262,500— Pirates
$64,451,211— Rays
$48,624,500— Reds
$75,010,000— Guardians

— Mets’ owner Steve Cohen has raised a lot of eyebrows by also spending a boatload of $$$ to make his team a winning team. Hell, wish he owned the A’s, but now they’re just as despicable as the other New York team. It is no fun rooting for a team that doesn’t try to win.

Cohen loosely inspired the character Bobby Axelrod on the Showtime series Billions.

— The A’s situation will be interesting; will they move to Las Vegas? Portland? Doesn’t sound like they’ll get a new stadium in Oakland. Would be nice if their cheapskate owner would try to win— what a novel idea.

If they move to Las Vegas and are still cheapskates, someone might wind up like Joe Pesci’s character in Casino.

— Tampa Bay Rays also have a stadium issue; will they stay in Florida or move to Montreal? Charlotte? Nashville?

— Once the two stadium issues are resolved, MLB will move ahead with expanding to 32 teams; the expansion fees will recoup $$$ owners lost during the shortened 2020 season. Having 32 big league teams will make scheduling a lot easier.

— Texas Rangers are paying SS Corey Seager/2B Marcus Semien a combined $57M a year, but they went 68-94 last year, so they hired future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy as their new skipper, added Jacob deGrom as a mound ace. We’ll see if that makes Texas a contender; they’ve had six straight losing seasons. 

— Angels have two of the game’s great stars, Trout/Ohtani, but they were 73-89 last year.

Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2014- their last winning season was 2015, and all that with a payroll of $212M for this year. Pitching is kind of important; the Angels need more of it.

— Speaking of Ohtani, he can be a free agent next winter; going to be quite a bidding war for his services. Would the Angels consider trading him this summer?

— Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs last year; what does he do for an encore? Teammate Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 homers in 2017, but hasn’t ht more than 38 since then.

— Not sure what the Red Sox/Cubs are doing; big market teams that aren’t spending much $$$. Red Sox won World Series in 2018; they’ve made playoffs once since then. Boston finished last in AL East last year, 21 games out of first place.

Cubs missed the playoffs in three of last four seasons; their prospects for this year aren’t great. 

— Detroit Tigers moved their fences in this year, mostly in CF; will that help their hitters/hurt their pitchers?

— Cleveland Guardians won AL Central by 11 games last year; they were only team in the division to finish over .500. Will they be challenged more this year? White Sox let Jose Abreu go, Minnesota re-tooled some but not a lot. Cleveland made playoffs five of last seven years, but has not made it to the World Series since losing Game 7 to the Cubs in 2016.

— Seattle Mariners made playoffs last year for first time since 2001; at this time last year, I had three Seattle hitters on my fantasy team, but their ballpark isn’t conducive to scoring runs— got rid of two of the three, and the third guy got traded to Milwaukee. 

— My baseball TV experience will be better this season; couldn’t watch the World Series last year. The local FOX station was/is at war with DirecTV, so that station was off my TV, so no World Series. I’ve dumped DirecTV for YouTube TV. Looking forward to this season. 

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

— I’m watching the XFL game last week, whatever the first game of the weekend was, and they ask one of the head coaches why he chose a play they used.

“Analytics” he replied, because that’s what every coach says now to shut up reporters. No one ever questions you when you say “Analytics”

My problem is this; it was the FIRST freakin’ game of a new season in a new league; there AREN’T ANY analytics. You can’t use NFL or college trends; this isn’t the NFL or college. It is something different, something very different. 

— Los Angeles Dodgers’ over/under win totals the last few years:
2019— 92.5— over by 13.5 games
2020— 37.5— over by 5.5 games
2021— 102.5— over by 3.5 games
2022— 97.5— over by 13.5 games

— Los Angeles Angels’ over/under win totals the last few years:
2018– 84.5— under by 4.5 games
2019— 82— under by 10 games
2020— 31.5— under by 5.5 games
2021— 83.5— under by 6.5 games
2022— 84.5— under by 11.5 games

— Mississippi State has a pitched named Jurrangelo Cijntje who pitches with both hands; he has to declare before each hitter which hand he will pitch with— can’t change during an at-bat.

Few years ago, there was a reliever Pat Venditte who pitcher in 61 games for five teams; he also threw with both hands. In an era where the pitcher has to stay in a game for three batters, there is a distinct advantage platoon-wise to being able to pitch with both hands.

— Last four years, in the First Four play-in games when the NCAA Tournament narrows from 68 teams to 64, the favorites are 11-4-1 against the spread.

— Davis Webb started at QB for the Giants in their meaningless Week 18 loss to the Eagles; it was his first and only NFL start. He retired after the season; Thursday, he was named QB coach for the Denver Broncos, at age 28.

— 70-year old Rick Pitino is 57-21 in three seasons coaching Iona College; there are rumors that some big $$$ programs might be looking to hire him as their next coach (Texas? St John’s?).

Pitino is 704-289 as a college coach; he also coached six years in the NBA. He is a great coach; would he be willing to take one more shot at the big time? Will be interesting to see.

— St Louis 20, Seattle 18
St Louis kicked a FG on last play; they won their first two games by 3-2 points.
Thru the first five games of the XFL season, underdogs are 4-1 ATS, over is 4-1

Game was broadcast on FX; I had forgotten that channel even existed. I used to watch shows like Nip-Tuck and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX.

— Illinois 66, Northwestern 62— Visiting Wildcats led 37-19 at halftime, but got run out of the building in the second half. Loss snaps Northwestern’s 5-game win streak.

— Lindenwood 105, SE Missouri State 102, 2 OT— Visiting Redhawks led by 20 with 14:36 left in game, wound up losing in double OT, to a team that is 10-20, 5-12 in its first season playing at the D-I level. Kid on Lindenwood scored 26 points, and he didn’t even start.

— Cal-San Diego 99, Cal-Irvine 91— Not often the Anteaters give up 90+ points; they damn near got run out of their own gym in this game- they trailed by 22 with 12:38 left. Irvine now leads UCSB and Riverside by a game atop Big West standings- their conference tournament is in Las Vegas, so seeding doesn’t mean as much as in leagues where they play on home courts, but I’m thinking teams still value winning a regular season title.

— UCSB 78, Long Beach State 73— Gauchos played only seven guys; they snap a 3-game losing skid after they started the season 20-4. Long Beach plays the fastest tempo in America, they take the fewest 3’s in the country, but they’ve lost four of last five games, with three of the four losses by 5 or less points.

— Charlotte 55, North Texas 49— Two teams that play the slowest tempos in America played a 54-possession game here that was reminiscent of games before the shot clock and ESPN even existed. UNT’s loss gives Florida Atlantic a 2-game cushion atop the C-USA standings.

— Washington State 67, Stanford 63— Wazzu played all five starters 31:00+; you get closer to March, rotations get tighter. Coogs made 12-25 on the arc; they’ve won four games in a row. Stanford has lost five of its last six games.

— Eastern Washington 89, Weber State 82— Eagles made 13-23 on the arc, are now 16-0 in the Big Sky Conference, only two games away from a perfect conference season. Then the pressure really builds; they still need to win the Big Sky Tournament to get in the Field of 68.

Eastern Washington was 4-7 at one point in December, with losses to FIU/Yale and South Dakota State- their last loss was December 13th. They’re shooting 64.2% inside the arc in conference games, getting a lot of easy shots. 

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

— Alabama 78, South Carolina 76 OT— Freshman Brandon Miller scored 41 points and pretty much single-handedly won this game, despite being in the news for off-court reasons. Miller made 6-13 shots on the arc; only one other Alabama player scored in double figures. 

— Belmont 89, Indiana State 88— Sycamores led by 19 in first half, by 17 at half, by 9 with 3:16 left in game, but they lost. Belmont is now in a 3-way tie for 3rd with Indiana State, Southern Illinois. Two of those three teams are likely to play each other in MVC quarter-finals.

— When you miss a 3-point shot, the rebounds are longer/more scattered than a rebound of the typical 2-point shot. Because of that, one of the most underrated skills in today’s game is getting loose balls— knowing angles, being quick to react, then being tough enough to get the loose ball, even if it means diving on the floor to get it.

It is a little harder to measure that skill, but it is there.

— There is a receiver for the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL, Jontre Kirklin; he caught five passes for 71 yards and a TD last week, and looked good doing it. You figure he is a guy who could get a look in an NFL training camp this summer.

Kirklin was on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad last year, but was cut before the season started. Turns out he got a DUI and if you’re a practice squad guy, that Is something that will end your employment. Quickly.

Hopefully he learned his lesson and will get another chance.

— In case you were wondering, underdogs covered three of four games in Week 1 of the XFL; three of the four games went over the total.

— Remember the movie Little Big League? The guy who owns the Minnesota Twins (Jason Robards) dies and wills the team to his 12-year old grandson, who winds up naming himself manager of the Twins. Pretty good movie, but not the most realistic one.

Anyway, the mom in that movie (Ashley Crow)…..her son in real life is Pete Crow-Armstrong, an outfield prospect for the Cubs— he hit .312 in A ball last season. The kid got drafted in our fantasy league Wednesday night.

— Last season, major league home runs were hit at the lowest rate since 2015.

— Has anyone ever had Marco’s Pizza? Am seeing lot of commercials for it on TV, but I’ve never seen a Marco’s pizza place. The Interweb indicates their locations are mostly in the midwest, but it looks like there are several in Las Vegas. May have to check one of them out next month.

— Former UCLA/NBA star Marques Johnson posted a video on Twitter this week, showing him dunking on an outdoor hoop…….at age 67. Good for him.

— Elvis Andrus signed a one-year, $3M deal with the White Sox; he is expected to play second base for the first time in his career. This will be Andrus’ 15th year in the big leagues; he hit 17 homers last year, for A’s/White Sox.

— Texas A&M is 11-3 against the spread in SEC games this season; Buzz Williams is a good coach.

— Boston College 63, Virginia 48— Cavaliers are struggling; they shot 32% from floor in this game, after beating Louisville/Notre Dame by 2-3 points in their previous two games.

— Old Dominion 69, Southern Miss 64— Sun Belt is a weird league; teams from Virginia to Louisiana. This is one of the worst shooting conferences; rebounding is very important.

Southern Miss had won nine in a row, but now they’ve lost their last two road games, are tied for first with Marshall.

— Kentucky 82, Florida 74— Kentucky was 10-6 on January 10; nitwits there were calling for Calipari’s head. Wildcats are 9-3 since then; Bracketology has them as an 8-seed now, so they are off the bubble for now. The nitwits have been quiet.

— Boise State 82, New Mexico 77— Broncos won 12 of their last 14 games, are game behind San Diego State atop the Mountain West. New Mexico has lost six of its last eight games, after an 18-2 start; they’re sliding off the bubble. 

Wednesday’s Den: NBA trends at the All-Star break

NBA trends (thru All-Star break)

Hawks (29-30):
— won/covered their last six games.
— 3-6 ATS as a road favorite
— 7-3 ATS last ten as a road underdog.
— under 5-1 last six games

Celtics (42-17):
— won last seven games SU (5-2 ATS)
— 5-1 ATS last six games as a home favorite
— over 7-3 last ten home games
— 5-2-2 ATS if they played the night before

Nets (34-24):
— 3-5 SU last eight games.
— 7-3 ATS last 10 as a home favorite
— over 6-2 last eight games
— playing 2nd nite in row: 4-1 ATS on road, 1-4 at home

Hornets (17-43):
— 4-2 ATS last six home games.
— 1-6 ATS last seven road games. 
— under 4-1 last five road games
— 0-8 ATS first night of a back/back

Bulls (26-33)
— 0-6 SU/ATS in last six games.
— 9-7 ATS home favorite; 2-6 ATS road favorite.
— under 8-2 last ten games
— 7-4 ATS first night of a back/back

Cavaliers (38-23):
— 7-1 SU/6-2 ATS last eight games.
— 7-2 ATS last nine games as a favorite.
— 4-7 ATS as a road underdog.
— under 5-2 last seven road games

Mavericks (31-29):
— 0-3 SU/ATS last three games.
— 0-5-1 ATS last six as home favorites.
— 4-10 ATS as road favorites.
— over 5-1 last six road games

Nuggets (41-18):
—won/covered four of last five games.
— 15-0 SU/12-2-1 ATS last 15 games as home favorites 
— 4-10 ATS as a road favorite.
— over 4-1 last five home games

Pistons (15-44):
— 2-7 SU/4-5 ATS last nine games.
— 2-7 ATS last nine home games
— over 9-3 in their last dozen road games.
— 5-2-1 ATS on second night of a back/back

Warriors (29-29):
— lost three of last fouir games SU
— 3-9 ATS last 12 games as a home favorite
— 4-9 ATS as road favorite.
— over 17-2 last 19 road games.

Rockets (13-45):
— 0-7 SU/3-4 ATS in last seven games
— 2-11 ATS last thirteen road games
— over 5-2 last seven games 
— 2-5 ATS if they played the night before

Pacers (26-34):
— 1-5 SU/2-4 ATS last six games
— 1-8 ATS last nine as a road underdog
— under 5-1 last six home games
— 6-3 ATS first night of a back/back

Clippers (33-28):
— 1-3 SU/ATS in their last four games 
— 8-4 ATS last 12 games as a home favorite.
— 3-6 ATS as a home underdog.
— under 22-7-1 in Staples Center. 

Lakers (27-32):
— lost four of last six games SU.
— 6-1-1 ATS last eight games as road underdogs.
— 5-3 ATS second night of a back/back
— over 12-7 last 19 road games

Grizzlies (35-22):
— won three of last four games SU.
— 3-7 ATS last 10 games as a favorite.  
— under 5-1 last six road games
— 1-3 ATS on road, 3-1 ATS at home if they played night before.

Heat (32-27):
— 3-4 SU/1-6 ATS in last seven games.
— 4-10-1 ATS last 15 games as a home favorite.
— 6-8 ATS as a road underdog.
— under 6-2 last eight home games.

Bucks (41-17):
— 12-0 SU/8-4 ATS last 12 games
— 7-0 ATS last seven games as a road favorite.
— 2-7-1 ATS as a road underdog.
— over 14-5 last 19 home games.

Timberwolves (31-30)
— 4-5 last nine games SU.
— 4-9 ATS last 13 games as a home favorite.
— 6-3 ATS last nine games as a road underdog.
— under 6-2 last eight home games

Pelicans (30-29):
— 4-2 SU in their last six games.
— 10-5 ATS last 15 games as home favorite.
— 3-11-1 ATS last 15 games as a road underdog.
— 3-6 ATS if they played the night before.

Knicks (33-27):
— 5-1 SU/ATS last six games
— 6-1-1 ATS as a road favorite.
— 12-8 ATS as a road underdog. 
— over 5-2 last seven road games 

Thunder (28-29):
— 4-2 SU/ATS last six games. 
— 7-4 ATS as a home favorite.
— 8-1 ATS last nine as a road underdog.
— over 8-3 last 11 road games

Magic (24-35):
— 5-4 SU/ATS last nine games.
— 16-9 ATS as home underdog
— 5-2 ATS last seven as a road underdog
— under 5-2 last seven road games. 

76ers (38-19):
— won/covered six of their last eight games. 
— 5-1 ATS last six games as a home favorite.
— over 10-3 last 13 home games
— back-to-backs: 6-2 ATS first night, 6-2 ATS 2nd night

Suns (32-28):
— 5-2 SU/4-3 ATS last seven games
— 2-5 ATS as a home underdog, 7-9 as a road dog.
— 6-3 ATS last nine games as a home favorite.
— under 9-3-1 last thirteen home games

Trailblazers (28-30):
— 2-4 SU/ATS last six games
— 2-10 ATS last dozen games as underdogs.
— 3-8 ATS last 11 games as road underdogs.
— over 6-3 last nine home games

Kings (32-25):
— 6-7 ATS their last 13 games
— 1-4 ATS last five as a home favorite. 
— 8-5 ATS as a road favorite.
— five of their last six games went over.

Spurs (14-45):
— 0-14 SU/2-12 ATS last 14 games 
— 1-8 ATS last nine road games. 
— under 7-2 last nine games
— 3-6 ATS if they played the night before.

Raptors (28-31):
— 5-1 SU/3-3 ATS last six games.
— 6-3 ATS last nine games as a home favorite
— 1-7-1 ATS as a road favorite.
— over 9-3-1 last 13 road games

Jazz (29-31):
— 2-5 SU/3-4 ATS last seven games.
— 3-7 ATS last 10 games as a home favorite.
— 5-2 ATS last seven games as a road underdog.
— over 17-6 last 23 road games

Wizards (28-30):
— won/covered four of last five games.
— 4-1 ATS last five games as a home favorite.  
— 7-2 ATS last nine road games.
— over 7-3 last ten home games.

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

— Sitting here at 2am and I just struck TV gold; found re-runs of all the old Odd Couple TV shows, the Jack Klugman/Tony Randall shows from the 70’s. Tremendous.

When the Odd Couple ran its course on network TV, the re-runs aired on local stations for years. I’d watch them all the time; lot of times my dad would come home from work and sit there and shake his head/laugh watching it with me. Those were fun times.

— West Virginia 85, Oklahoma State 67— Mountaineers won easily, snapping a 3-game losing skid- they’re 16-12, 5-10 in Big X, somehow still a bubble team. West Virginia has a road trip to Kansas/Iowa State Saturday/Monday; they need to win one of those games to get off the bubble.

— While we’re here, my opinion is that a team that is 5-10 in its conference shouldn’t be allowed in the NCAA Tournament. You want to play for a national title, the team should have to finish at least 8-10 to get in the tournament.

If I made the rules, two games under .500 in conference play would be a minimum requirement to make the NCAA’s, unless you win the conference tournament.

— Duke 79, Louisville 62— Never thought I’d see the day when Louisville is 4-24, but here we are. They actually led this game 18-9, but the Cardinals are turning the ball over 22.7% of the time (#355), shooting 46.9% inside the arc (#309). Louisville is experience team #338, and it shows.

— Cal-Fullerton 74, UCSB 60— Surprisingly easy win for the Titans, who improve to 11-6 in the Big West. UCSB drops into a 3-way tie for 2nd in the Big West, two games behind Cal-Irvine.

— Cal-Irvine 69, Cal Poly 56— Anteaters have won five games in a row, but haven’t looked good doing it; they beat Cal Poly 55-54/59-56, and Cal Poly is horrible- they’ve lost 16 games in a row. 

Irvine is almost always a good defensive team; Big West teams are shooting 42.6% inside the arc against them, the best defense in the league.

— Kansas 63, TCU 58— Jayhawks have won five in a row, are 23-5 and talking heads on ESPN is falling all over themselves saying they’re the best team in the country. We’ll see.

TCU shot 30.3% from the floor they’ve lost five of their last six games.

— Illinois 78, Minnesota 69— Gophers have lost 10 games in a row, are 7-18, 1-14; I’m not sure if the coach’s job is in jeopardy, but I do know that Luke Murray is an assistant coach at UConn. If Minnesota does make a change, they should hire Luke Murray as their new head coach.

Could you imagine Bill Murray’s son coaching the Gophers? The commercials they could make with clips from Caddyshack thrown in— it would be excellent.

— Cal-Riverside 96, Cal-Northridge 76— Highlanders are shooting 38.6% on the arc in Big West games, #1 in league; this will be Riverside’s 4th straight winning season- they haven’t been in the Division I NCAA Tournament yet. We’ll see what happens next month.

— Hawai’i 61, Cal-Bakersfield 50— Rainbows are 20-8, are in a 3-way tie for second in Big West; they’ve got the #6 eFG% defense in country.

— Cal-Davis 76, Cal-San Diego 66— Aggies were +8 in turnovers (16-8); they were 22-34 on the foul line. Cal-Davis is a good defensive team, forcing turnovers 21.3% of time (#41).

— Was watching Cleveland State play the other night; the school’s athletic director also plays the trumpet in the band at home games.

— Siena Saints are 17-10, 11-5 in the MAAC; they’ve got players from six different countries on their roster. Siena is three miles from my house; I’m wondering what the two kids from Iceland on their team think about living in the Albany suburbs?

— Tulsa is 5-21 this season, 3-21-2 against the spread; they’ve lost eight games in a row, all by 10+ points. Opponents are shooting 57.5% inside the arc against them; no bueno.

— Indianapolis Colts are going to hire Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator; the new head coach Shane Steichen is going to call plays, but Cooter will be the OC— he worked for the Lions from 2014-18. I’m wondering what Matthew Stafford thinks of him?

In his playing days, Cooter was Peyton Manning’s backup at Tennessee, which I’m guessing helped him land a job with the Colts.

— NFL free agency starts in less than a month; Giants’ QB Daniel Jones has changed agents. Supposedly negotiations between Jones’ people and the Giants got off to a rough start, and now Jones fired those people, and has new people.

The average salary in 2022 for NFL starting QB’s on a veteran contract was $32,036,681.

If you were an NFL GM and your job depended on the team winning, would you pay Daniel Jones $32,036,681 a year to play quarterback? It is an interesting question. 

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

— NC State 77, North Carolina 69— Tar Heels have now lost five of their last six games; they were outscored 29-15 over the final 9:10 of this game. Carolina is a bubble team; they still have to play Virginia/Duke before the ACC Tournament.

With an 0-9 record against Quad 1 teams, North Carolina needs to beat a quality team. 

— Northwestern 80, Iowa 60— Wildcats had two players poached last summer; one went to Duke, the other North Carolina, so they lost two good players they didn’t think they were going to lose. After going 60-90 the last five years, expectations were low this year. Very low.

Despite that, Northwestern has won five games in a row; they’re 20-7, 11-5 in conference, and they appear headed to the Field of 68, a magical season for coach Chris Collins. Wildcats are 8-3 in games decided by 7 or less points; they’re a very good defensive team. 

— Houston 72, Memphis 64— Tigers are 20-7, just above the bubble according to Bracketology; they can’t afford a bad loss in the AAC Tournament, or Selection Sunday becomes a very long day. Memphis-Houston have a rematch in Memphis in two weeks; they could use a win there to lower everyone’s blood pressure. 

— Nebraska 70, Maryland 66 OT— Nebraska won its last three games, two of them in OT; they are 7-10 in conference, their best Big 14 record in five years. 

— Georgetown 68, Butler 63— Hoyas end a 22-game road losing streak; they’re now 2-35 in their last 37 conference games, but they’re also 9-1 ATS in their last ten games, so if you’ve been betting on Georgetown, you’ve been cleaning up.

— Quinnipiac 90, Rider 88, 2OT— Rider led by 16 with 12:11 left in game, blew the lead; they lost last two games by 3-2 points, after an 8-game win streak. Quinnipiac was 29-41 on foul line, 11-22 on arc. Rider was 11-17 on the foul line.

Rider is now tied for 2nd in the MAAC with Siena, two games behind Iona.

— Washington State 68, Oregon 65— Ducks lost their last three games by a total of 11 points, as they slip off the bubble. 

— Last Sunday, Eagles won the Super Bowl; seven days later, Arizona hired Eagles’ DC Jonathan Gannon as their new head coach, and he has already hired his two coordinators, one of whom is 29 years old, younger than 11 players on the Arizona roster.

Cleveland Browns’ QB coach Drew Petzing is the Cardinals new OC; his job is to coach Kyler Murray, a QB who makes $46M a year, has a 25-31-1 career record and is coming off a serious knee injury. No pressure there.

Cardinals hiring 29-year old Eagles LB coach Nick Rallis as defensive coordinator; he worked for the Vikings under Mike Zimmer, before moving to the Eagles.

— Major league teams went 13-6 in arbitration hearings against players this winter; those hearings are one side or the other; there is no middle ground.

— Actor/comedian Richard Belzer passed away this weekend at age 78; for 23 years, he played Detective John Munch, first on Homicide, then on Law and Order SVU.

A long time ago, I think it was 1978, my cousin took me to Catch a Rising Star, a comedy club in Manhattan. The place was famous for being a launching pad for the careers of many famous singers/comedians. Richard Belzer was the MC; funny, profane; this was a whole new world to me. I was 18; I enjoyed watching comedians on TV; all this was fascinating.

Johnny Carson used to visit this place and put the better comedians on the Tonight Show; that is how prominent it was. A young lady came on stage to sing; she was REALLY good; turns out it was Pat Benatar, who became really famous shortly thereafter.

When Homicide was first on TV, I took an interest because Mr Belzer played John Munch, who was a wise-cracking detective. He was very good in that role, for a long time.

It sucks that Richard Belzer passed away this weekend; he entertained a lot of people for a long time. RIP, sir.

XFL season started this weekend:
— Battlehawks 18, Brahmas 15— Trailing 15-3 with 2:00 to go, St Louis scored two TD’s and won the game, behind QB AJ McCarron, who started four games in the NFL from 2015-20. The new onside kick rule is how the Battlehawks got the second drive in the last 2:00.

Instead of an onside kick, the team that is kicking off has a 4th-and-15 from its own 20-yard line, and the game continues from there. St Louis converted the 4th-and-15, then drove 80 yards for the game-winning TD.

Brahmas outgained St Louis 324-235; they ran 77 plays to 46 for St Louis, but they lost.

— Defenders 22, Sea Dragons 18— Sea Dragons have great helmets; they also fumbled on the 3-yard line in the last minute, losing a game they led 9-0 early on. Defenders scored on a pick-6;

Interesting matchup here; June Jones is Seattle’s OC, Gregg Williams is the Defenders’ DC. Defenders completed only 9-21 passes, were outgained 331-177, but the pick-6 turned the tide in their favor.

— All in all, a good first weekend for the league; the games were competitive, fun to watch (except for Houston’s helmets, which are awful), The league announced their championship game will be in the Alamodome in San Antonio in May. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday……..

— Kentucky 66, Tennessee 54— Wildcats are 8-3 in their last 11 games; they swept Tennessee this year, look like they’ll be going to the NCAA’s. Kentucky led 39-19 at halftime; Vols are 2-4 in their last six games, after an 18-3 start. 

When you see the brackets in three weeks and start filling them out, think about this: in his long and successful career, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is 25-26 in NCAA Tournament games. His team was favored in 18 of the 26 games they lost. His teams are 19-31-1 ATS in tournament games; they’re 9-16 SU in tournament games decided by 6 or fewer points. 

Big 12
— Kansas 87, Baylor 71— Baylor led by 17 at one point; they led 45-32 at halftime. Kansas outscored them 55-26 in the second half.

— Kansas State 61, Iowa State 55— Cyclones led 31-23 at halftime, were outscored 38-24 in the second half. 

— TCU 100, Oklahoma 75— TCU star Miles returned, scored 15 points; Horned Frogs shot 74% inside the arc. That is how a fragile a lot of teams are; TCU went 1-4 in the games Miles missed, but they looked great here, with him back in lineup. 

With two weeks left in regular season, Kansas/Texas are tied for first place, with a Baylor a game behind them in third place.

— Miami 96, Wake Forest 87— Miami has won five games in row; they’re 22-5, 13-4 in ACC, but somehow, when the selection committee unveiled its top 16 teams on the Bracket Preview Show, they left Miami out. There is no freakin’ way there are 16 teams better than the Hurricanes.

— Louisville 83, Clemson 73— This is a horrific, hideous loss for the Tigers, just the kind of thing bubble teams need to avoid. Bracketology has Clemson as the last team in, but this loss is going to stick out like a sore thumb on Selection Sunday.

Big West
— Cal-Riverside 74, UCSB 61— Riverside sweeps the Gauchos for the first time; they’re 18-10, 11-5 in Big West play, their best-ever season as a Division I team. 

— Cal-Irvine 78, Cal-Davis 76— Santa Barbara got beat in Riverside, so the Anteaters take over first place in the Big West.

Lot of the mid-major leagues only have another week of games before their conference tournaments start. Here is a look at some of those leagues……..

MAC— Kent State/Toledo are tied for first, with Akron a game behind them and Ball State another game back.

Ivy— Yale-Princeton-Penn are in a 3-way tie for first with two games left; more importantly, Cornell/Brown are tied for 4th place. The Ivy Tournament is a 4-team event. Both teams play Yale/Columbia to finish the regular season.

MVC— Drake/Bradley are tied for first place, with three other teams a game behind.

Atlantic 15— Leagues shouldn’t have more than 12 teams; these 14 or 15-team leagues are so freakin’ cumbersome. With two weeks to go in regular season, VCU leads Dayton/Saint Louis by a game each. Fordham is 21-6 and having a great season.

Big Sky— Eastern Washington is 21-7, 15-0 in league games, with a 3-game lead, but there will be a ton of pressure on the Eagles to win the Big Sky tournament; they ain’t getting an at-large bid. EWU is 5-7 in its D-I non-league games; their best non-conference win was over #138 Cal-Davis but they do have the nation’s longest active winning streak, 17 in a row.

— University of New Mexico offers a course called “Sports English” which deals with how athletes interact with print/TV media. Wish they had courses like this when I was in college.

— A high school kid in West Virginia made 20-28 3-pointers in a recent game; he scored 64 points in his team’s easy win. Making 20-28 3-pointers in an empty gym would be impressive.

— Apparently there are only two escalators in the entire state of Wyoming, both in a shopping mall in Casper. They were actually talking about that on TV during the Wyoming-Air Force game Friday night.

— Friday was quite a day for the athletic department at Grand Canyon University; during the day, MLB Network broadcast their baseball game against Cal State-San Diego, then at 11pm, the Antelopes’ basketball game vs Abilene Christian was on ESPN2. They have a terrific student section for their home basketball games.

Former Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew coaches Grand Canyon; they’re 17-10 this season, 8-6 in a pretty good WAC.

XFL season started Saturday:
— Renegades 22, Vipers 20— Las Vegas scored a TD with 0:08 left, but the game-tying 2-point play failed, so the home crowd in Arlington went home happy.

Vipers’ QB Perez threw three TD passes, but has also threw two pick-6’s, which were the only two TD’s Arlington scored. Perez was in training camp with the Rams last summer. Renegades’ QB Drew Plitt was in camp with Cincinnati; he threw for 179 yards. 

— Roughnecks 33, Guardians 12— Wade Phillips coaches Houston; I remember when his dad coached the Houston Oilers way back when. Wade’s son is the OC in Minnesota now. Is there an advantage for teams in this league who have a head coach with experience?

Brandon Silvers is Houston’s QB; he played in the AAF in 2019, the XFL in 2020. He played college ball at Troy State. Orlando used two QB’s, Paxton Lynch, who used to play for Denver Broncos, and Qjuinten Dormady, who played at Central Michigan.

— Best part of leagues like this is that they give the TV viewer better access to what goes on behind the curtain; instant replay reviews, interviews on sidelines, stuff like that. There are different rules including being able to go for 1, 2 or 3 points after a touchdown— I think that rule will one day make its way into the NFL.

By the way, Houston Roughnecks have the ugliest helmets……ever. Worse than the Browns or the Bears’ throwback helmets. 

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

— Do first round results in the NCAA Tournament indicate which teams are mostly likely to win the national championship?

Last 16 national champs went 13-3 ATS in their first round game.
Last 20 national champs went 17-3 ATS in their second round game.

— San Diego Padres’ 3B Manny Machado has a $30M a year contract thru 2028, but he can opt out after this season, which he says he will do. That’s his decision, but……..

Why announce it now? Why is that a good idea? How does that help HIM?

Padres have spent lot of $$$ to be contenders this season; why upstage that optimism by acting like a selfish jerk?

— Sounds like Padres/Angels are going to use 6-man starting pitching rotations, which would be unusual. Angels are probably doing it because Shohei Ohtani is used to that from Japan; no idea why San Diego is doing it.

— There have been eight times in NBA history where a player scored 40+ points while also grabbing 40+ rebounds. In one game.

All eight of those games belong to Wilt Chamberlain. 

— Win/loss record for the Jets’ last 12 starting QB’s:
8-14— Zach Wilson
1-8— Joe Flacco
2-5— Mike White
13-25— Sam Darnold
0-2— Luke Falk
0-1— Trevor Siemian
5-11— Josh McCown
1-6— Bryce Petty
13-14— Ryan Fitzpatrick
1-2— Michael Vick
12-18— Geno Smith
33-29— Mark Sanchez

This helps explain why they’d like to add Aaron Rodgers; Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010.

— Colleges that had the most players in cited to this year’s NBA Combine:
13— Alabama
12— Georgia
9— Florida, LSU, Michigan, TCU
8— Clemson, Ohio State
7— Maryland, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee

— NFL coaching stuff:
Washington Commanders hired Eric Bieniemy as their new offensive coordinator.
Carolina Panthers hired Thomas Brown as their new offensive coordinator.

— Los Angeles Dodgers had a great year last year, they went 111-51, but they were only 16-15 in one-run games. Their record could’ve been a lot better.

Colorado Rockies went 23-24 in one-run games, but they finished 68-94. Could’ve been a lot worse.

— Angels signed P Matt Moore to a one-year deal worth $7.5M.

— It is interesting how leagues do things differently:
NBA has their trade deadline the week before their All-Star Game
NHL has their trade deadline several weeks after their All-Star Game

— Boston Celtics took the interim coach tag off of 34-year old Joe Mazzulla; he is now their permanent head coach. Celtics are 42-17 under Mazzulla.

— Looking at the #1-5 seeds in the NBA’s Western Conference, only one of them has ever won an NBA title and that was way back in 1951, when the Rochester Royals won a championship in the NBA’s third season.

Royals moved to Cincinnati in 1957.
Royals changed their name to the Kings, moved to Kansas City in 1972.
Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985.

— Longest winning streaks in college basketball:
16— Eastern Washington, Big Sky
11— Oral Roberts, Summit
10— Toledo, MAC
9— Hofstra CAA/Northwestern State Southland

— XFL starts this weekend, with four games, as football never rests.

— Get well soon to Richmond basketball coach Chris Mooney, who will have heart surgery soon and miss the rest of this season; Mooney will undergo a procedure to remove an aneurysm in his ascending aorta. Assistant coach Peter Thomas will be the Spiders’ interim head coach. 

Friday’s Den: Identifying trends for this year’s NCAA tournament

Are there any characteristics that can identify teams that will win the college basketball national title? I’ve studied the last six national champs, and came up with some trends:

— Last five national champs were #1-seeds; Villanova was a #2-seed when they won in 2016, Duke was a #1-seed when they won in 2015.

In 2014, 7-seed UConn beat 8-seed Kentucky in the national title game; since that year, six of the seven national champs have been #1-seeds.

The teams that lost the last seven national title games: four #1-seeds, two #3-seeds and a #8-seed (North Carolina last year)

Power conference teams have ruled the tournament, which doesn’t bode well for Houston in this year’s event.

— Tempo/pace of play— Nothing here; last six national champs have been all over the board as far as tempo goes.

— Offensive efficiency— This one is huge; last six national champs were all in the top 10 in this category. As I type this, that would narrow the potential national champs to:


— Defensive efficiency— Last six national champs were all in the top 25 in this category; there are five SEC teams in top 25 defensive efficiency.

— eFG%— This is same as regular FG%, except 3-pointers count as 1.5 baskets made. Five of the last six national champs were in the top 30 in this category.

— eFG% defense— Little bit of a mixed bag; Baylor was #121 two years ago, North Carolina was #71 in 2017. Doesn’t seem to be as important as the offensive end.

— 2-point FG%— Four of last six national champs were in top 50 in 2-point FG%.

— Point distribution— There seems to be no correlation, none, to how national champs got their points. This especially applies to foul shots; of the last six champs, Kansas last year (#184) ranked in the top 200 of getting their points on the foul line. 

To beat quality teams, you cannot depend on getting the best of the whistles. Fewer fouls are called in March; guys have to play through contact to have success.

— Non-conference strength of schedule— Baylor ’21/Virginia ’19 had terrible non-conference schedules; the other four champs ranked in the top 90, but Kansas LY (#49) had the only top 50 non-conference schedules.

— Overall strength of schedule— This indicates a trend: five of the last six national champs had an overall strength of schedule in the top 25, pointing us towards the power conferences to pick our national champ. Baylor is 2021 (#54) is the lone exception from the last six years.

— Depth— This one is surprising; of the last six national champs, only North Carolina in 2017 (#69) had bench minutes in the top 200. TV timeouts are longer in the NCAA’s; depth doesn’t mean as much.

— Experience— Of the last six national champs, only Baylor in 2021 was in the top 100 in this category; talent is more important than experience, and there is no metric that measures talent.

— Continuity— This category helps some; four of the last six national champs had a continuity in the top 80, with Baylor (#31), Kansas (#45) winning the last two years. In this day and age when kids transfer a lot, talented teams that bond over a period of 2-3 years have an advantage. 

In Thursday’s play……..
— Maryland 68, Purdue 54— Purdue had only two players score more than 6 points; they’ve now lost three of their last four games, after a 22-1 start. Boilermakers scored 54-58 points in their last two games. 

— Gonzaga 108, LMU 65— Zags avenged an earlier loss to LMU; they led 68-28 at halftime.

— Middle Tennessee 74, Florida Atlantic 70— Owls are 3-2 in their last five games, after a 21-1 start; they’ve given up 80 ppg in their last three games.

— Iowa 92, Ohio State 75— Buckeyes are in free fall; they’ve lost seven in row, 12 of last 13 games- they’re shooting 46.1% inside arc in Big 14 games. 

— Memphis 64, UCF 63— Tigers led 43-35 at halftime; they hung on to win, scoring 20 points in second half. Memphis turned ball over 24 times; they’ve won eight of their last nine games.

— NC-Wilmington 72, Drexel 71, 2OT— Drexel led by 15 early, by 4 with 1:16 left in the first OT. Dragons were just 13-21 on foul line in a one-point loss. UNCW won six of its last seven games; the last two seasons, Seahawks are 48-16, 28-8 in CAA play.

— Southern Indiana 82, Little Rock 81— Trojans lost 11 of their last 14 games; five of their last six losses are by 4 or less points.

— South Alabama 85, Southern Miss 54— Golden Eagles had won nine games in a row, but South Alabama shot 74% inside the arc in this game. USM leads Marshall/Louisiana by one game each in Sun Belt standings. 

— RIP Tim McCarver, who passed away at age 81. McCarver caught in the major leagues for 21 years, appearing in four different decades. He then became one of the game’s best TV analysts, working 24 World Series.

McCarver was especially good as a TV analyst for the Mets in the late 80’s; he was great when he worked every day on.a local broadcast, as opposed to only once a week on network TV. I learned a lot listening to him every night.

RIP, sir. 

Thursday’s Den: Over/under win totals for 2023 baseball, plus other stuff

Over/under win totals for the 2023 baseball season:
NL East
Braves 95.5
Mets 95.5
Phillies 88.5
Marlins 74.5
Nationals 60.5

NL Central
Cardinals 89.5
Brewers 85
Cubs 77.5
Pirates 67.5
Reds 64.5

NL West
Dodgers 96.5
Padres 93.5
Giants 80.5
Arizona 75.5
Rockies 67.5

AL East
New York 95.5
Blue Jays 92.5
Tampa Bay 88.5
Red Sox 77.5
Orioles 76.5

AL Central
Guardians 87.5
White Sox 84.5
Twins 82.5
Tigers 69.5
Royals 68.5

AL West
Astros 96.5
Mariners 88.5
Rangers 82.5
Angels 80.5
A’s 59.5

— Marquette 69, Xavier 68— Xavier led 19-6 early; they were minus-10 in turnovers (17-7). Marquette was only 5-22 on arc; they lead Big East by 1.5 games.

— Cal-Irvine 70, UCSB 59— Anteaters are now tied with Santa Barbara stop Big West standings. Since 2013, Irvine is 129-45 in Big West games; they haven’t made the NCAA’s since 2019, but this could be their year.

— Northwestern 64, Indiana 62— Wildcats blew a 19-point lead, scoring winning hoop with 0:02 left; they’re in 2nd place in Big 14, will be in NCAA Tournament for second time ever.

— Tennessee 68, Alabama 59— Vols were +11 on boards, held Alabama to 35.4% from floor. Crimson Tide hadn’t been #1 in country for 20 years; it didn’t last very long.

— San Diego State 45, Fresno State 43— Not often you score 45 points and win; this was an ugly game. Fresno shot 2-25 on the arc. Aztecs have a 1.5-game lead atop Mountain West standings.

— Virginia 61, Louisville 58— Surprisingly tough win for the Cavaliers.

— Washington 72, Oregon 71 OT— Ducks led by 8 with 12:11 left in game; not good for a bubble team to lose games like this. 

— Texas A&M 62, Arkansas 56— Not sure what’s up with the Razorbacks; they led 33-24 at the half, then scored 23 points in second half. Star freshman Nick Smith played 4:00, none in the second half. They keep saying he is a high first round pick in June’s NBA Draft, but he played 4:00 in this game. Not good.

— VCU 55, Rhode Island 54— VCU trailed 44-31 with 11:44 left; they outscored URI 24-10 over last 11:44, win despite going 1-13 on the arc.

— East Carolina 75, Cincinnati 71— Bearcats led by 16 with 9:09 left in game; ECU outscored them 26-6 over the final 9:09. Damaging loss for Cincinnati’s at-large hopes. 

— Our update on college basketball referee John Higgins:
January 24— Penn State @ Rutgers
January 25— Utah State @ San Diego State— Long plane ride for a back/back
January 26— Utah @ Oregon State
January 28— California @ Stanford
January 29— Michigan State @ Purdue— Day game after long plane ride.
January 30— Baylor @ Texas
January 31— Kansas State @ Kansas

February 1— Northern Iowa @ Drake- A double overtime game!!! Eight games in nine nights, and a double overtime game on the 9th night.
February 2— Wisconsin @ Ohio State
February 4— Oklahoma @ West Virginia
February 5— Penn State @ Nebraska
February 7— Nevada @ New Mexico
February 8— San Diego State @ Utah State
February 9— USC at Oregon

February 11— Wyoming @ Boise State
February 13— Texas @ Texas Tech
February 14— Kansas State @ Oklahoma
February 15— TCU @ Iowa State

He’s worked 18 games in 23 days, 73 games since November 7, which is 73 games in 102 days. He is 54-years old; why don’t NBA players play on back/back nights?

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— While writing this tonight, I’ve been watching the movie Uncut Gems; I’ve been waiting to see this movie for three years, finally found it. Not sure why I wanted to see it; I’ve never been a big Adam Sandler fan, but this one looked good. Unfortunately for me, it was not.

Incredible amount of yelling in this movie, lot of yelling. I have a headache right now. Kevin Garnett/Mike Francesa are in the movie; they do pretty well, for non-actors. Eric Bogosian and Judd Hirsch are in the movie; both very good actors. It didn’t help.

The story is about a guy who sells jewelry who has a gambling problem and owes lot of money to the wrong people. They yell at him, beat him up; he yells back, scrambles to win the money he needs with one big wager, kind of like Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler.

I’m glad I finally found the movie, I’m glad I have Showtime Anytime on my TV now, but damn, that was a disappointing movie.

— Less than 36 hours after losing a close Super Bowl, the Eagles lost both their coordinators; Indianapolis hired OC Shane Steichen as its new head coach. Arizona hired Jonathan Gannon as its new head coach; he was the Eagles’ defensive coordinator.

— Super Bowl Sunday night got the 3rd-highest rating of any Super Bowl, ranking behind the Seattle-New England game from several years ago, and the Rams-Bengals game last year (did I mention the Rams won that game??)

— Utah Utes’ offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig turned down a lateral move to Notre Dame; apparently, it would’ve cost $2M to buy out his contract with Utah. Notre Dame’s last OC bolted to Alabama last week, and he is an alumnus; they’re in a bit of a bind to hire a new OC.

Ludwig is 58 years old; he’s been at Utah for four years, which is a long time for an assistant  football coach to be in the same place. College football coaches are nomads; Ludwig has also worked at Oregon, Vanderbilt, San Diego State, Wisconsin, USC.

— Baltimore Ravens hired Todd Monken as their new offensive coordinator; he comes from the Georgia Bulldogs. Monken has previously worked in the NFL, for Tampa Bay/Cleveland.

Georgia replaced Monken with former Georgia QB Mike Bobo.

— Last baseball season, there were only 122 balks called the whole season, the fewest in any season since 1973, but Major League Baseball really, really wants there to be more stolen bases going forward, so there are going to be bigger bases this season, and there is going to be an “emphasis on enforcement of the balk rule”

Less throws to first base, bigger bases, tighter balk rule; sounds like pitchers will have to throw more fastballs with men on base, which could result in more offense this season.

— Michael Wacha signed with the Padres this week; San Diego will be his fifth team in five years:
2019— 6-7, 4.76 in 24 starts with St Louis
2020— 1-4, 6.62 in seven starts with the Mets
2021— 3-5, 5.05 in 23 starts with Tampa Bay
2022— 11-2, 3.32 in 23 starts with the Red Sox

— Providence 94, Creighton 86, 2OT— Quite a night; Creighton’s subs played a total of 15:00 in a 50:00 game- Bluejays got outscored 10-2 in the second overtime. Loss snaps a 7-game win streak for Creighton. 

— Oklahoma 79, Kansas State 65— K-State lost its last five road games; they’re 2-5 in their last seven games overall. Wildcats are 19-7, but they’re #327 in bench minutes; they getting tired?

Penn State 93, Illinois 81— Jalen Pickett scored 41 points for Penn State; he scored 49 points for Siena a few years ago. Not many players have scored 40+ points for two different teams. 

— Auburn 89, Missouri 56— Total wipeout; Auburn had lost five of six games coming in, but they led 26-6 right off the bat, 45-18 at halftime.

— Alabama is #1 in the college basketball poll for the first time in 20 years.

— Wyoming 70, New Mexico 56— Lobos were 18-2 few weeks ago; now they’ve lost five of their last six games, giving up 80 ppg in last four, and have fallen off the bubble.

— Syracuse 75, NC State 72— Syracuse outscored the Wolfpack 16-3 on the foul line.

— St John’s 92, DePaul 83, 2OT— Blue Demons led 69-56 with 6:49 left to play, but they lost, their 7th consecutive loss.

— No preseason #1 team in college basketball has ever missed the NCAA Tournament, but North Carolina is headed that way; Tar Heels has lost four of its last five games; they’re 16-10, with one top 50 win (over #42 NC State). Bracketology has the Tar Heels among the last four teams in, a very tenuous place to be on February 15th.

— New Mexico State ended its basketball season, for off-court reasons; they fired first-year coach Greg Heiar Tuesday- this is a program that has been in the NCAA Tournament eight times the last 11 years. Will be interesting to see who they hire to rebuild the program. 

— Our update on college basketball referee John Higgins:

January 24— Penn State @ Rutgers
January 25— Utah State @ San Diego State— Long plane ride for a back/back
January 26— Utah @ Oregon State
January 28— California @ Stanford
January 29— Michigan State @ Purdue— Day game after long plane ride.
January 30— Baylor @ Texas
January 31— Kansas State @ Kansas

February 1— Northern Iowa @ Drake- A double overtime game!!! Eight games in nine nights, and a double overtime game on the 9th night.
February 2— Wisconsin @ Ohio State
February 4— Oklahoma @ West Virginia
February 5— Penn State @ Nebraska
February 7— Nevada @ New Mexico
February 8— San Diego State @ Utah State
February 9— USC at Oregon

February 11— Wyoming @ Boise State
February 13— Texas @ Texas Tech
February 14— Kansas State @ Oklahoma

He’s worked 17 games in 22 days, 72 games since November 7, which is 72 games in 101 days. He is 54-years old; why don’t NBA players play on back/back nights?

— Spring training starts today, which is never a bad thing. 

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

— Miami 80, North Carolina 72— Miami won its last five games, scoring 84.8 ppg. Hurricanes are 21-5; if their uniforms said “DUKE” on them, people would be touting them as a national title contender.

Tar Heels were 5-31 on the arc; they’ve lost four of last five games, are shooting 29.5% on the arc in ACC play, last in league. Carolina is 1-5 against teams in the top 50. No one is touting them to win the national title. 

— Texas Tech 74, Texas 67— Tech has won four of its last six games, after an 0-8 skid; you watch them play, and you don’t see a 9th-place team, but that is where they are right now.

— Wednesday’s Minnesota-Michigan State basketball game was postponed because the campus in East Lansing has been shut down for a couple days, after an on-campus shooting Monday. 

— Thinking back on the Super Bowl, it seems like having a coach who has been there before is a big deal; think about McVay vs Taylor last year, Reid vs Siranni Sunday. How to deal with the two weeks in between games, the unique halftime situation, all the pre-game hoopla; having experience helps.

— Nevada sportsbooks turned an $11.3M profit on the Super Bowl; they took $153M in bets.

— Advice to Chief fans: wait 4-6 weeks before buying your Super Bowl Champs paraphernalia. You can save a lot of $$$ that way; the prices go down as time goes on. They won’t stop sending you e-mails asking you to buy stuff, trust me on that. 

— Patrick Mahomes’ team has trailed by 10+ points in 24 NFL games; Chiefs went 14-10 in those games.

— Looks like the Las Vegas Raiders will dump QB Derek Carr this week, which will help them save $25M towards next year’s salary cap.

— ESPN quotes Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology like it is gospel, which it isn’t; Lunardi does a good job with his brackets, but no one knows for sure what the Selection Committee will come up with 26 days from now.

This is a weird year; Florida Atlantic is in the Top 25, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are not in the Top 25.

— Last time the Pac-12 won a national title in basketball: 1997, when Arizona won. Last time the Big 14 won one was in 2000, when Michigan State won. 

Since Michigan State’s title in 2000, here are the conferences that won national titles:
ACC— 8
Big East— 6
SEC— 3
Big X— 3 (the last two)
AAC— 1

— Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said Monday that he isn’t retiring, that he still plans to coach, but he won’t be back in South Bend next season. In other words, they fired him.

— In 1996, the Lerner family bought the Washington Nationals for $450M; Ted Lerner passed away this week at age 97, after a bout with pneumonia. Forbes estimates that the Nationals are worth around $2B, that’s billion, with a B.

— Major League Baseball made the “runner-on-2nd” extra inning rule a permanent thing in the regular season. I haven’t hated the rule as much as I first thought I would, but playing regular baseball in extra innings would be better.

— San Diego Padres/Philadelphia Phillies both have 15 players on rosters in next month’s World Baseball Classic. Will that disrupt their spring training? I’m thinking not.

— New Jersey Jets hired former Tennessee Titans OC Todd Downing as their new passing game coordinator. Downing spent three seasons in Oakland with Derek Carr, who is going to a new team next season, but then again, new Jets’ OC Nathaniel Hackett used to work with Aaron Rodgers, so who knows?

— New Orleans Pelicans’ F Zion Williamson is hurt again; in his four NBA seasons, he’s played in 114 of a possible 283 regular season games, that’s 40.3%. The best abilities are availability and dependability. 

Williamson has scored 25.8 ppg in those 114 games, grabbed 7 rebounds a game. Pelicans could use him on the floor……..all the time.

— New Mexico State ended its basketball season, for off-court reasons; the WAC is going to treat the rest of their games this season as forfeits. Seems likely that they’ll be looking for a new coach in April; this is a program that has been in the NCAA Tournament eight times the last 11 years. 

— Our update on college basketball referee John Higgins:
January 24— Penn State @ Rutgers
January 25— Utah State @ San Diego State— Long plane ride for a back/back
January 26— Utah @ Oregon State
January 28— California @ Stanford
January 29— Michigan State @ Purdue— Day game after long plane ride.
January 30— Baylor @ Texas
January 31— Kansas State @ Kansas

February 1— Northern Iowa @ Drake- A double overtime game!!! Eight games in nine nights, and a double overtime game on the 9th night.
February 2— Wisconsin @ Ohio State
February 4— Oklahoma @ West Virginia
February 5— Penn State @ Nebraska
February 7— Nevada @ New Mexico
February 8— San Diego State @ Utah State
February 9— USC at Oregon

February 11— Wyoming @ Boise State
February 13— Texas @ Texas Tech

He’s worked 16 games in 21 days, 71 games since November 7, which is 71 games in 100 days. He is 54-years old; why don’t NBA players play on back/back nights?