Wednesday’s 6-pack, Quote, Quiz of the Day

Wednesday’s 6-pack
Six top prospects for the Arizona Diamondbacks:
1) Corbin Carroll, OF
2) Jordan Lawlar, SS
3) Druw Jones, OF
4) Brandon Pfaadt, P
5) Deyvison de los Santos, 3B
6) Ryne Nelson, P

Quote of the Day
“People have gotten used to going from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night; that doesn’t mean that they like it. This year, we could be flexed to Monday night, which I think is really inconsiderate to our ticket holders. To flex a game back to Thursday night, to me, is just abusive. I am adamantly opposed to it. Fortunately, it didn’t get enough votes today, but it will probably be revisited in May.”
New Jersey Giants’ owner John Mara

Wednesday’s quiz
Nolan Ryan pitched for 27 years in the big leagues; who did he start his major league career with?

Tuesday’s quiz
Tony Gwynn was once the point guard for San Diego State’s basketball team.

Monday’s quiz
In the movie Rounders, John Malkovich played Russian mobster Teddy KGB.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

NIT semifinals
— North Texas 56, Wisconsin 54
Wisconsin didn’t score in last 9:08 of this game.
Badgers led 41-29 at half; they scored 13 points in 2nd half.
Two guards on North Texas played all 40:00 (61 possessions, slow pace)

— UAB 88, Utah Valley 86 OT
UAB won despite its best player shooting 5-23 from the floor.
Ty Brewer scored 30 points, had 12 rebounds, five steals.

— Conference USA is now 17-1 in postseason games this month; Charlotte won the CBI, FAU is in the Final Four, and the NIT final is two C-USA teams. 17-1 is freakin’ impressive.

— NIT Final Four has traditionally been in Madison Square Garden, but this year it is in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and next year, it is at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indiana, where they shot the finale scenes in Hoosiers.

— College coaching stuff:
Penn State hired VCU coach Mike Rhoades
VCU then hired Utah State coach Ryan Odom

— Happy 79th birthday this week to Rick Barry, one of the best basketball players of all-time; he was Larry Bird before Larry Bird. Famous for shooting free throws underhanded, Barry led the Warriors to the 1975 NBA title. He also has five sons who all played pro basketball. 

Had Barry played during the ESPN era, he would get a lot more credit for how great he was.

— Baseball’s new rules this season are giving umpires a lot of discretion, especially where the pitch clock is concerned. Hopefully at the end of close games, they’ll let players decide the outcomes. We’ll see what happens.

By the way, after last season, 12 umpires retired, which seems like an awful lot for one season, so in a year when umpires have more discretion, there will be 12 new umpires.

— Cleveland Guardians signed 2B Andres Gimenez a 7-year, $106.5M contract extension; 24-year old Gimenez hit .297 last year, with 17 home runs.

— Cleveland P Tristan McKenzie is out 6-8 weeks with a strained back.

— Cubs signed 2B Nico Hoerner to a 3-year, $35M contract extension; Hoerner hit ,281 last year with 60 runs scored, 55 RBI.

— Where do various major league teams get their top prospects from? My book came in the mail Tuesday, which lists each team’s top 30 prospects.

18 of the Astros’ top 30 prospects played college baseball, more than any team; Cardinals/Giants have 16 college players in their top 30.

Reds, Mets, Red Sox have only six college players in their top 30 prospects. 

Rangers have 13 high school players in their top 30, Red Sox 10, Pirates 9. Bronx has only one high school player in their top 30; Dodgers have only three.

Bronx (15), Mets (14), White Sox/Toronto (13 each) have the most international players in their top 30; Orioles/Rays have only four each.

Cincinnati acquired 11 of its top 30 prospects via trade; A’s/Rays acquired 10. White Sox are only team in major leagues whose top 30 prospects are all home grown.

— Atlanta Falcons named Desmond Ridder their starting QB for the coming season, probably so people will stop asking them about Lamar Jackson. Ridder split four games as Atlanta’s starting QB during his rookie season last year.

— Was watching the XFL game Monday night when I was reminded of something from 40 years ago, the night I was part of the chain gang at a semi-pro football game here in Albany.

Metro Mallers played at Bleecker Stadium in Albany for a long time; it was pretty good football, a fun night out. I went to the game but didn’t feel like paying to get in; saw a friend of mine’s dad who worked for the Mallers, asked him to get me in for free. 

He smiled and said “I’ve got just the job for you”

I’m 22-23 years old, just out of college; lot of the guys on the Mallers played ball at UAlbany— my work study job in college was doing stats for football/basketball games, so when I went out on the field for a measurement in the first quarter, Donnie Hyde, who was a really good linebacker, looked at me and said “What the hell are you doing here?”

I laughed and said “Just like college; you’re playing and I’m watching”

The other team had uniforms just like the Cowboys; I’m standing on their sidelines with the chains, and during the third quarter of a close game, I’m standing next to their head coach.

He has his play chart in his left hand, and is sending plays in via messenger; then I realized he has a freakin’ can of beer in his right hand- the guy is drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon while he is coaching the game, calling plays.

That was the epitome of semi-pro football; guys playing because they loved to play, just having fun on a Saturday night. Think I did OK with the chains too; no one complained. 

Tuesday’s Den: XFL trends, and other football stuff in March……..

— Opening Day of baseball season is Thursday, so of course the NFL owns the headlines today, because the NFL doesn’t have much of an offseason anymore.

— I’m told that quarterback is an important position in football; right now the Baltimore Ravens have a QB who wants a boatload of guaranteed $$$, the Ravens don’t want to guarantee a whole lot of that money and since the QB is acting as his own agent, things have gotten personal.

Lamar Jackson has a career W-L record of 45-16 in the regular season, which is really good; in the playoffs, he is 1-3, with Baltimore scoring 13.5 ppg in those games. Not so good. 

Here’s the thing: Jackson didn’t play in the Ravens’ last six games last year, he didn’t play in their last four games the year before. Leg injuries for a running QB aren’t good. Ravens are 18-17 the last two years; expectations are higher than that.

One of the best abilities is availability/dependability; good QB’s make $35-$40M a year in the NFL, with the expectation that he is your leader, the face of your franchise. He is expected to play and play very well, not to mention being a leader.

Schedule comes out in a few weeks; would be a lot easier to sell those season tickets if your quarterback/leader isn’t at odds with the team. 

So there is a standoff; this is bad for the NFL, bad for the Ravens, bad for Jackson. 

Ravens can come out of this smelling like a rose if they trade Jackson for a couple of first round picks and then land another QB (Carson Wentz, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan???) to back up Tyler Huntley, who has a 3-6 record in nine NFL starts.

If the Ravens trade Jackson to the Colts, they could use the Colts’ draft pick they’ll get back to draft their QB of the future, which buys them time with their fans.

What happens if Jackson refuses to budge on his contract demands? Does he simply not play? How is this good for him? Who is advising him? Do you want to put your entire franchise in the hands of someone who may be being advised by sketchy people?

— NFL schedule comes out in a month or so; there is a lot of $$$ involved with which games are on in primetime. Would be nice to know who each team’s quarterback is going to be.

Indianapolis Colts, who used to call Baltimore home, visit the Ravens this season; if Jackson is traded to the Colts, guaranteed that is either a Monday night game or a Thursday Amazon game.

— Jets/Packers are still at odds over the Aaron Rodgers trade. Just let me know when they make a decision. This whole debacle has become exhausting.

Jets by the way, have nine home games this year (all AFC teams have 9, NFC teams 8) plus one of their “road” games is against the Giants in the stadium they share, so the Jets really only have seven road games this coming season. 

If/when Rodgers becomes a Jet, Jets will gain 2-3 more primetime slots, you can bet on that.

— Detroit Lions’ over/under win total this season is 9.5, the highest it has been in the last 30 years. 

Let me say right here that I think it is foolish to bet on season win totals before the schedules come out. As the great Bud Grant used to say, “Its not who you play, it is when you play them”

— Texas Longhorns did the right thing Monday and signed basketball coach Rodney Terry to a 5-year, $15.3M contract. Good for everyone; for once, sanity prevails.

— North Carolina’s leading scorer Caleb Love is in the transfer portal, will bolt Chapel Hill after UNC went 20-13 this season, turning down a chance to play in the NIT. When you see a team choose to end their season like that, you can assume they had internal issues, and Love’s going into the transfer portal seems to confirm that.

— Here are trends for all eight XFL teams, six weeks into a 10-game regular season. 

Arlington Renegades (3-3)
Last five games stayed under the total.
All three wins were by 6 or less points.
Allowed 15 or fewer points in three of last four games.
0-3 ATS as a favorite.

DC Defenders (6-0)
Won/covered all six games.
Five of those six games went over the total.
Last four games, Defenders scored 32.8 ppg.

Houston Renegades (4-2)
Lost last two games, after a 4-0 start.
3-0 SU/ATS at home, winning by 21-9-9 points.
Favorite covered five of their six games.

Las Vegas Vipers (1-5)
Only win was 35-32 over 0-6 Orlando.
Vipers are 0-5 ATS in their last five games.
Last four games, Las Vegas allowed 30.8 ppg.
Three of their last four games went over total.

Orlando Guardians (0-6)
Orlando beat spread in three of last four games.
Five of their six games went over total.
Guardians are giving up 29.7 ppg.

St Louis Battlehawks (4-2)
Both their losses are to 6-0 Defenders (34-28/28-20)
St Louis allowed 18 or less points in its wins
Battlehawks covered both times they were favored.

San Antonio Brahmas (2-4)
Brahmas were held to 15 or less points in five of six games.
Five of their six games stayed under the total.
Average total in their last three games: 22.3. 

Seattle Sea Dragons (4-2)
Seattle won its last four games, after an 0-2 start.
Their three road games all went over the total.
Last three games, they allowed only 13 ppg. 

Monday’s Den: Random thoughts with the Final Four set

— 18 years ago, 11-seed George Mason (+8) upset #1-seed UConn 86-84 to get to an unlikely Final Four; coach of that team was Jim Larranaga. Then yesterday………

— Miami 88, Texas 81— Larranaga is back in the Final Four, in his 12th season at Miami; his Hurricanes tied for first place in the ACC this season, still only got a #5-seed.

Texas led 64-51 with 12:51 left in the game.
Miami’s Jordan Miller was 7-7 from floor, 11-11 on foul line.
Miami was 28-32 on foul line, Longhorns 11-15.

Larranaga is 73 years old; he was an assistant to Terry Holland at Virginia during the Ralph Sampson era in the early 80’s. This is the cherry on top of a freakin’ great career.

— Texas needs to do the right thing now and make interim coach Rodney Terry the full-time coach. Terry did a great job this year; I’m trying to remember why he left Fresno State for UTEP five years ago, after going 66-34 his last three years in Fresno. 

Terry went 37-48 in three years at UTEP, then signed on to be Chris Beard’s assistant at Texas. When Beard got fired in November for off-court reasons, Terry took over and now he deserves to be the full-time coach. This is a no brainer. 

— San Diego State 57, Creighton 56
Creighton shot 35.4% on the arc this year;; they were 2-17 in this game
Bluejays led 41-34 with 13:14 left to play.
Coming into this month, Mountain West teams were 0-8 in the last three NCAA Tournaments; now they have a team in the Final Four.

— Early lines for the Final Four games:
UConn -5 vs Miami
San Diego State -1.5 vs Florida Atlantic

— This is the first time ever the Final Four won’t have any #1, #2 or #3 seeds in it.

— Final Four teams have earned $8,330,000; the teams get half that amount, their leagues split the rest of the money. FAU gets $4,165,000; other ten teams in Conference USA get $416,500 apiece. Big payday for those schools, especially the mid-major teams.

This past season, Florida Atlantic’s entire operating budget for basketball was $1,627,839.

— Back in December, a gutsy gambler wagered $500 on Florida Atlantic to get to the Final Four, at 400-1 odds; dude cashed the ticket for $200,000 Saturday. 

— VCU’s Mike Rhoades is expected to bolt for the Penn State job, at $3.5M a year; I’m really doubting if Penn State is a better basketball job than VCU. Penn State is obviously a football school; they had the most experienced team in the country this year. VCU is a basketball school, close to an East Coast version of Gonzaga. 

— New Mexico State hired Sam Houston coach Jason Hooten this weekend; Aggies had an awful season, cancelling it after starting 2-10 in the WAC- there were numerous off-court issues with a first-year coach, but New Mexico State also has a winning tradition— they’ve been in eight of the last 11 NCAA Tournaments.

Hooten was at Sam Houston State for 13 years, going 26-8 this past season.

— In case you were wondering, Boise State has the most appearances in an NCAA Tournament without ever winning a game (0-9).

— Cincinnati Reds are paying 53-year old Ken Griffey Jr $3.59M this season, a deferred payment on a contract he signed in 2000. Only three Reds this season will earn more than Griffey.

— 49ers acquired kicker Zane Gonzalez from Carolina; their last kicker Robbie Gould is a free agent. Gonzalez was hurt last year, didn’t kick; he is 91-113 one field goals in a six-year career with the Browns, Cardinals and Panthers. 

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

Florida Atlantic is in the Final Four; let that sink in for a minute.

— Florida Atlantic 79, Kansas State 76
K-State led 57-50 with 12:00 left in game.
#9-seed Owls survived being minus-10 in turnovers (22-12)
UCLA made Final Four two years ago as an #11-seed, but this was only the second time ever that FAU was even in the freakin’ tournament. Totally amazing achievement.

— UConn 82, Gonzaga 54
Huskies won their four NCAA Tournament games, by 24-15-23-28 points.
UConn is 29-8; they’re 1-5 in games decided by 6 or less points.
Gonzaga shot 33% from the floor, an ugly end to an excellent 31-6 season. 

— Did some work Saturday, trying to identify which stats work best to identify teams that are going to prosper in the NCAA Tournament. There are no absolutes, but some things stand out:

Things that seem not to matter too much:
— Deep benches— longer TV timeouts in the tournament
— Reliance on 3-point shooting— hard to shoot it well six games in a row
— Continuity

Different teams succeed for different reasons; some teams just get cobbled together in the summer and they click, like Kansas State. K-State was an older team, #30 in experience, but #316 in continuity, but they defended well, their 5th-year PG had a monster year and they did great. No one would have predicted that back in November.

Defensive eFG%— Four of the top 10 in the country made the Sweet 16; the two worst teams in this category that made the Sweet 16 are Miami/Gonzaga- they were both in the top 25 in eFG% offense. So, teams that score easy baskets and/or prevent their opponents from getting easy baskets.

Forcing turnovers— UCLA, Texas, Tennessee were strong in this category; Creighton is terrible, but they’re still playing.

— Teams that rank high in eFG%, both offense and defense, those are the teams we need to focus on. That is what I’ll be searching for next March.

— Charlotte Hornets (+16) won in Dallas Friday night, the biggest upset in NBA this season.

— Ben Simmons is hurt again; he is making $35,448,672 this season, will make $88M combined over the next two seasons, talk about a guy who is stealing money.

In six NBA seasons (he sat one out completely), Simmons has played in 317 games; he is a career 56% shooter on the foul line, 5-36 on the arc. Great passer, very good defender, but over the last four seasons, he has played in only 157 out of a possible 300 games.

Not sure why you would want this guy on your team, in a sport with a salary cap.

— Baseball season starts on Thursday, some quick thoughts:

— In Japan, teams play six games a week, most teams use six starting pitchers, so one start per week. Oakland A’s signed a pitcher Shintaro Fujinami; word is that he will pitch every Saturday this season, that’s it, once a week. They’ll fill in with other guys around him.

I’ve seen Fujinami pitch couple times; he’s good. Has control lapses, but didn’t give up many hits in the Cactus League. Think he’ll help the A’s a lot; not sure he’ll be a great fantasy pitcher, not a lot of strikeout in his game.

Angels are also likely to wind up using six starting pitchers, letting Ohtani get extra rest between his starts. Could be a new trend, six-man starting rotations.

— Wonder what interpreters earn who work for major league teams? Pretty important job; Fujinami comes out of the game Saturday, he huddles with his catcher and the interpreter. Pitching coach goes to the mound, interpreter is right there.

— St Louis Cardinals used 14 starting pitchers last year, the most they’ve used in any one season since 2002. 

Cardinals signed P Miles Mikolas to a 2-year, $40M contract extension.

— OF Jurickson Profar has visa issues, hasn’t joined his new team (Colorado Rockies) yet. 

— LB Bobby Wagner went back to the Seahawks, after a year with the Rams; Wagner played 10 years in Seattle, before bolting to LA last season.

— NFC East is the only NFL division, where all four teams have won a Super Bowl. 

Saturday’s Den: Talking about basketball and gameshows

Before we get into the basketball, I watching The Price is Right the other day— I love game shows, think daytime TV should be all game shows, the way it was when I was a kid. These contrived debate/argument shows on ESPN/FS1 are stupid. Our country needs to be less stupid. 

Anyway, the final Showcase is on, and a guy missed the price of his Showcase by $73, just an amazing guess. Showcase was over $42,000 and he missed by only $73; tremendous. 

One problem; his bid was $73 OVER the actual retail price; you can’t go over the price, or you lose— both contestants lost this one. Never saw that happen before.

Price Is Right, Hollywood Squares, Match Game, I grew up watching that stuff (Jeopardy a little bit, too). Stuff like that is a hell of a lot better than watching overpaid morons argue with each other.

On to the basketball………
— My records go back to 1985; this is the first Elite 8 since then with no #1-seeds still alive. 

Fun to watch, very difficult to predict.

— San Diego State 71, Alabama 64
MVP was 5-10 PG Trammell, who played the last two years in the WAC at Seattle.
Alabama led 48-39 with 11:40 left in the game.
Alabama star Miller shot 3-19 from the floor. 

— Miami 89, Houston 75
Miami made 11-25 on the arc, scored 1.27 points/possession.
Nijel Pack was 7-10 on the arc; Houston’s whole team was 9-31.
Miami tied for first in ACC; their uniforms don’t say Duke, so people overlook them. 

— Creighton 86, Princeton 75
Creighton shot 74.2% inside the arc, scored 1.23 points/possession.
Bluejays lost six games in a row in early December; they’re 6-1 in last seven games.
Princeton was just 4th-ever #15-seed to get to this point. 

— Texas 83, Xavier 71
Texas never trailed, led 42-25 at halftime; total butt-kicking.
Longhorns’ 6-9 big man Disu got hurt early on; check status for Sunday
Texas is 16-7 against top 50 teams this season.

— What is the Texas administration doing? How is Rodney Terry still an interim coach? Longhorns are 22-7 since Chris Beard got fired, and Terry replaced him; it is inconceivable they could hire another coach after this run, where they’ve won the Big X Tournament, and now are in the Elite 8.

— Over the last three years, Big 14 teams are:
17-7 in NCAA first round games
4-13 in NCAA second round games
1-3 in Sweet 16 games.

24 teams, four got to the Sweet 16, one got to the Elite 8. No bueno.

— Kansas State PG Markquis Nowell is in his 5th year of college basketball:
2019— Little Rock went 10-21
2020— Little Rock went 21-10, but there was no Sun Belt/NCAA tournament
2021— Little Rock went 11-15
2022— Kansas State went 14-17, lost their last six games, fired their coach.
2023— Kansas State is 26-9 and Nowell is a big star.

He had 20 points, 19 assists in an overtime win Thursday, the most assists ever in an NCAA Tournament game. People are comparing him to Kemba Walker.

Stories like this are why the tournament has been so unpredictable. K-State has two players who played on the team last year, but the new group has bonded and are having a great season.

— Conference USA needs better TV exposure; I watch some of their games on ESPN+, but they have several good teams, teams that play all different styles.

Last eight years, Conference USA teams are 6-2 SU in first round NCAA Tournament games, and they were an underdog in seven of those eight games.

— Which big $$$ school is going to go after Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May? In five years at FAU, with a pandemic in the middle of it, Owls are 100-59, 52-34 in conference games. This is a Florida Atlantic program that is only in its 30th year as a Division I program.

Teams with current coach openings:
California, Temple, South Florida, Penn State, Texas Tech and technically, Texas, but if I was a prospective coach, I wouldn’t go anywhere near Texas- that should be Rodney Terry’s job.

All the other current job openings are below FAU’s level. Valparaiso just fired their coach; May went to college at Indiana, which is close to Valpo, but he can do better than a low-level Missouri Valley job.

— When they started the Big East Conference in 1979, they invited Holy Cross to join; Crusaders had a pretty good team back then, but the Holy Cross administration turned them down, citing the college’s commitment to academic excellence.

Could you imagine that happening today? How much $$$ you think they squandered by joining the freakin’ Patriot League? Holy Cross won four Patriot League titles under Ralph Willard 15-20 years ago, but come on, these big-time hoop schools make some serious cash— rich alumni like it when the alma mater is in the top 25.

— Loved listening to Stan Van Gundy/Kevin Harlan on TV this week; Van Gundy is all ball— I learn a lot every time I hear him describe a game. Harlan is a great play/play guy who sets his analysts up the right way. Van Gundy offers opinions; you may not agree with him all the time, but he’s coached in college and the NBA— he knows his stuff.

— Micah Shrewsberry bolts Penn State to be the new coach at Notre Dame; Nittany Lions were 23-14 this year, but they started four seniors, were the most experienced team in the country. They’re going to regress next year, no matter who the new coach is- it was time for him to jump. 

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

— Gonzaga 79, UCLA 76
UCLA led this game 46-33 at halftime.
Timme scored 36 points, had 13 rebounds for Gonzaga.
Zags blew a 72-62 lead with 2:40 left, hit game-winning shot with 0:07 left.
— Florida Atlantic 62, Tennessee 55
Tennessee’s last 15 games: 0-8 if they allowed 60+ points, 7-0 if they allowed 59 or less.
FAU scored 22 points in first half, outscored Tennessee 40-28 in second half.
Rick Barnes is now 3-18 ATS in his last 21 NCAA tourney games.

— Kansas State 98, Michigan State 93 OT
K-State is 26-9; when Jerome Tang took this job over last spring, he inherited two players from last year’s squad. Two. This is an amazingly great coaching job.

Michigan State made 13-25 on the arc, K-State 11-24. Spartans scored 1.27 points/possession and still lost, which doesn’t happen very much. 

— UConn 88, Arkansas 65— Total ass-kicking; UConn scored 1.26 points/possession, led by 17 at the half, was never challenged. 

— Michigan State’s loss means that the Big 14 still hasn’t won a national title in college hoop since the Spartans won way back in 2000.

— North Carolina F Armando Bacot is returning to play a fifth season for the Tar Heels next year, which is very good news for a Tar Heel squad that missed the NCAA’s, then declined to play in the NIT. Must be some seriously good NIL money floating around Chapel Hill.

— Providence hired George Mason coach Kim English to replace Ed Cooley as its new coach; English went 34-29 in two seasons coaching George Mason. He is a former Tennessee assistant; long time ago (1988), Tennessee coach Barnes went from coaching George Mason to coaching Providence.

— There have now been 43 coaching changes in college hoop this spring, with another 20 or so openings still pending. 

— From 1986-2019, #15-seeds went 8-128 in first round games; the last three years, #15-seeds are 3-9. My thought is that as time goes on, teams at the top of the ratings are getting weaker.

— Longest playoff droughts in the NFL:
12 years- Jets
7 years- Denver
6 years- Detroit
5 years- Atlanta, Carolina

— Over the last five seasons, Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler are the only two NFL players with both 3,000+ rushing yards and 3,000+ passing yards.

— XFL standings halfway thru the regular season:
Defenders 5-0
Battlehawks 3-2
Sea Dragons 3-2
Vipers 1-4

Roughnecks 4-1
Renegades 3-2
Brahmas 1-4
Guardians 0-5

— Phillies 1B Rhys Hoskins tore an ACL Thursday, is out for the year.

— Last two baseball seasons, Seattle Mariners are 67-41 in one-run games, by far the best record in MLB in one-run games. Is that sustainable? Scott Servais is an excellent manager, for sure.

— According to Forbes Magazine, baseball teams with the best 2022, $$$-wise:
Seattle $83.8M profit
SF Giants $74.9M
Red Sox $71.6M
Orioles $64.7M
Oakland A’s $62.2M— WTF????

— Imagine my blood pressure going up when I saw that the Oakland A’s turned a $62.2M profit last year. Would it kill them to try to put a decent team on the field? If not, they should sell the damn team to someone who will try to win. Seriously.

— Was watching a Dodgers spring training game the other night and Rick Monday was doing the analysis; he is 77 years old now, doesn’t look it or sound it. Terrific announcer; he played for the A’s when I first became a fan in the mid-60’s. He played 19 years in the majors, and has been a radio analyst for the Dodgers since then. Quite a career.

— If you live in the Albany area and still have DirecTV, you still can’t watch the FOX channel; it is off the grid. DirecTV has taken the people that own the channel to court now. 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; dump DirecTV and get YouTube TV. It is way cheaper, it has basically all the same stuff- they even show the FOX channel. 

Did I mention that YouTube TV is way cheaper than DirecTV? 

Thursday’s Den: Nine memorable NCAA games, plus my four all-time favorite games

Here are nine of my most memorable NCAA Tournament games, in no particular order, followed by my four all-time favorite tournament games:

Memorable games:
2017 Final Four— I’m in Las Vegas, watching the Final Four with a friend of mine who has a boatload of money on Oregon (+4) vs North Carolina. I’m not going to tell you how much $$$ he had on Oregon, but it was more than $10,000 (I saw the ticket).

I’m a nickel/dime bettor, total small-timer; this was a different world. I remember sitting there munching on Doritos watching the game, I seemed more nervous than he was. Oregon loses but covers, losing 77-76. My friend was very casual about the whole thing.

He also bet the underdog in the other game, but a lot less $$, South Carolina vs Gonzaga and he won that bet too. If I won that much money I’d be strutting around like Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine but serious gamblers are smart and take things in stride.

Funny thing about that night: it was the only time in the last 35 years that both favorites won at the Final Four, but neither one covered the spread.

2016— Yale 79, Baylor 75— It is fun seeing people you know coaching on TV; Yale coach James Jones went to college at Albany, couple of years behind me. He was a good ballplayer, but he is a great coach. Other than Pete Carril, he is the best coach in Ivy League history, and it was a lot of fun to see his team pull a big upset against a basketball blue blood.

2023— Marquette 78, Vermont 61— Same deal here; friend of mine is an assistant coach with Marquette- they had a great season this year. I’m hoping that some D-I program comes to its senses in the next few weeks and gives him a head coaching job. He’s earned it. 

1989— Georgetown 50, Princeton 49— This was back when ESPN had the tournament; Bob Ley was the studio host and Dick Vitale did the analysis. Georgetown was a power back then; they were a 22-point favorite in this game, but they were life-and-death against Princeton.

At halftime, Dickie V says that if Princeton wins, he’ll stand on his head on the ESPN set; it was classic TV, totally unscripted. It was hilarious, but Georgetown escaped by a point, and America took a great sign of relief that no one was standing on his head on live TV.

1998— Valparaiso 70, Ole Miss 69— Scott Drew is the Baylor coach; brother Bruce is the coach at Grand Canyon- their father Homer Drew coached Valparaiso for a long time.

His full-court out of bounds play (to Bryce Drew, I think) got Valpo a walk-off win in this game. To this day, that play is still used all over America. One of the best-ever endings to a tournament game.

2023— Furman 68, Virginia 67— Furman hadn’t made the NCAA’s since 1980, hadn’t won a tournament game since 1974; they made couple foul shots with 0:12 left to pull within 67-65, then the Virginia player tries a full-court pass to kill the clock, but it gets picked off, and Furman sticks a 3 from the right-wing with 0:02 left to pull a very unlikely upset.

The camera shot of CBS’ play-by-play guy Kevin Harlan calling all this, then holding his arms out after the game-winning shot, so neither of his analysts says anything to ruin the moment, was just great to see.

2019— Murray State 83, Marquette 64— Back when I was still picking games on this blog, I took the over in this game, Ja Morant against a Big East team. Game was 42-35 at halftime, a good pace, but then Marquette scored 9 freakin’ points in the first 10:00 of second half and when they fell behind, they refused to press Murray State, and lost meekly to a freakin’ OVC team and the game fell several points under. Had they pressed, Murray State would have hung 90-100 points on them.

I laugh about it now, but that night in my living room, I was NOT HAPPY; probably lucky I didn’t have a damn stroke. How could a Big East team quit against an OVC team? To this day, when I see that fraud Steve Wojciechowski in ESPN”s studio stealing money, it makes my blood boil. Anyway, that night is a big part of why I don’t pick games much anymore.

2016— National title game, Villanova-North Carolina, I’m sitting in the Westgate SuperBook having a Cherry Coke and some pizza. The guy next to me is a younger guy who says he has a lot of money on Villanova and the under. We strike up a conversation but he is very nervous as the game comes down the stretch. Things get quiet.

Kid of North Carolina makes a tough shot to put UNC ahead and puts the game over the total; the guy next to me ain’t happy, but then Villanova hits a shot at the buzzer to win the national title and get the guy a split on his bets.

Never seen someone so happy to break even.

2010— I’m at the MGM Grand sportsbook for the first Saturday of the tournament; me and apparently every Kansas fan west of the Rockies. Jayhawks were a #1-seed, a big favorite over Northern Iowa. Ton of people wearing blue/red in the MGM Grand.

Game is early on, some kid makes a shot— the three young guys next to me start hugging each other. I ask one of them “Is that your brother? Why are you so happy?”

I had no idea you could bet on which team got to 15 points first; that obscure basket won the guys their bet and they were celebrating.

Anyway the game goes on and go figure, Northern Iowa hits a shot from the corner at the end and upsets Kansas, big upset. Lot of sad people were walking around, wearing blue/red.

My four all-time favorite NCAA Tournament games:
2006— When the brackets came out, I went on a local radio show here in Albany and gave my quick thoughts on what would happen. I had decided that Northwestern State would upset Iowa in a #3-14 game and I said so on the radio. Fairly bold prediction.

As luck would have it, Northwestern State does pull the upset, winning 64-63. Now that was a fun day.

1990— Loyola Marymount 111, New Mexico State 90— During the WCC tournament, LMU’s star Hank Gathers collapsed and died on the court during a game. It was horrible; they called off the tournament, and LMU got the automatic bid because they finished first.

When the brackets came out 8-9 days later, LMU had the very last time slot in the first round, the midnight Friday game on CBS. Their opponent was New Mexico State, a team that would run with the hyper-fast breaking Lions, coached by Paul Westhead.

Back then, I picked games in the Albany newspaper and I had done very well that year; I really wanted to risk my entire (fictional) bankroll on LMU in his game— there was no way they were losing this game. I didn’t risk my bankroll, just made the normal pick, but I tried to impress that upon the readers. LMU was going to win.

LMU’s Bo Kimble shot his first free throw lefty, in honor of his fallen friend, but Kimble also had four fouls at halftime, and the game was tied. I was queasy about my pick, but LMU exploded in the second half, won by 21, then won two more games in one of the most famous runs in NCAA history. That team was so much fun to watch.

1990— Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebels dispatched LMU in the West Region final, then they played Duke in the national title game, and they crushed Duke, 103-73. Then the weasel from the NCAA had to hand Tarkanian the national championship trophy, after they had harassed the guy for years (NCAA later wrote Tarkanian a $2.5M check to settle a dispute).

Sweet 16 of the West Region is being played in Las Vegas tonight, 33 years after that great night. The NCAA embraces Las Vegas now because more than anything, they love making money.

1974—NC State 80, UCLA 77, 2OT— When Michael Jordan was growing up, his favorite player was David Thompson, a great player for NC State. I was a big Wolfpack fan; friend of my parents lived in Raleigh, and he told me all about Thompson. I used to listen to their games on the radio on WBT in Charlotte.

UCLA beat the Wolfpack in December; this was when Bill Walton was a senior- they had won seven national titles in a row. Every kid in my school who liked basketball was a UCLA fan, except for me; the rematch in the Final Four.

UCLA led by 7 in overtime, but State rallied and won, then beat Marquette in the national title game and I was hooked for life on college basketball.

Dunking was illegal back then in college ball, which is a tribute to how great a player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was. Had Thompson been able to dunk, we would have some amazing highlights to watch on YouTube these days. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings………

— Thanks to everyone who reached out last week during my absence; things are slowly getting back to normal. Appreciate your thoughts. 

— Japan 3, USA 2— Ohtani got a save; Japan used seven pitchers and they win the WBC.

From looks of things, the WBC was really lucrative; games were packed, fans were enthused, am guessing they made a boatload of $$$ selling merchandise.

Now, can we get on with the baseball season? Regular season games start in eight days. 

— So you own the LA Angels; you pay Mike Trout $37M a year, Sandoval pitched really well for Mexico in the semi-finals and Ohtani is all anyone ever talks about. Pretty good nucleus right there.

So how come they haven’t been in the playoffs since 2014, haven’t won a playoff game since 2009? Ohtani is a free agent after this season; he’s going to get the biggest contract ever— it seems doubtful it’ll be in Anaheim.

So…… the Angels trade him during the season, and if they do, what do they get back? Do they keep him this season and try to make the playoffs? Thing is, if they let him walk, they get bupkis in return— that is stuff cheap teams like the A’s usually do.  

Other than the pennant races, this is going to be the #1 story this baseball season.

— North Texas 65, Oklahoma State 59 OT— Cowboys went 15-25 on foul line at home, losing to a North Texas team that plays the slowest tempo games in America. Mean Green moves on to the NIT semi-finals in Las Vegas next week.

— Wisconsin 61, Oregon 58— Badgers ended game on a 15-6 run, also move on to Las Vegas; a Wisconsin-North Texas semi-final game? Tempo #341 vs tempo #363, the total is going to be very low.

— Eastern Kentucky 108, Southern Utah 106, 2OT— Quite a week for the Colonels, who’ve won three games in a row, all in overtime, and in this case, two overtimes. EKU was down 12 with 9:11 left in this game; they forced 22 turnovers (+13).

— Charlotte 63, Radford 56— Maybe Conference USA needs better TV exposure; Charlotte is still playing, so are UAB and North Texas. Good teams and that is without mentioning the best of the group, Florida Atlantic.

— Wichita State hired Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills, who went 67-28 the last three years, making the Sweet 16 two years ago.

— Arizona State gave Bobby Hurley a 2-year contract extension, bad news for Pac-12 referees. Hurley is the whiniest coach I’ve ever seen; his Sun Devils went 23-13 this year, losing 72-70 to TCU after winning a First Four game.

— FDU coach Tobin Anderson is the new coach at Iona, replacing Rick Pitino; tough act to follow. Iona has been in eight of last 11 NCAA Tournaments.

— Former Notre Dame coach Mike Brey interviewed for the South Florida job, but said he’s going to take a year off and try his hand at TV instead.

  A union representing 30,000 Los Angeles school custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and support staff started a 3-day strike with support from the district’s teachers, effectively stopping classes for more than 500,000 students in the nation’s 2nd-largest school system.

Long time ago, September 1975, when I was a junior in high school, three schools around here had their teachers go on strike at the same time, three of the biggest schools.

First week or two of school, we would pass the teachers picketing by the school, we would wave to them from our bus, then we would go into school, go into class, and have a different teacher in every class every day. Teachers from the other two schools were the subs in our classes, trying to earn back some of the $$$ they were losing by being on strike. It was organized chaos.

Some of the kids we knew organized a walk-out in support of the teachers; they would storm out of school, march to the district offices in protest. Those were the kids who lived near the district offices; they were just skipping school, then walking home. My neighborhood was in the other direction, and it was hot out. No thanks.

Hopefully the situation in LA will get fixed; kids are trying to get ready for college, they need to get smarter. That year our teachers were on strike was a Regents’ year, an important year for grades and all that— the delay put us behind all the other kids that year.

— RIP to former Knicks’ great Willis Reed, who passed away Tuesday at age 80; Reed was an under-sized center with a terrific mid-range lefty jumper. He was the heart of the Knicks’ team that won NBA titles in 1970, 1973.

I was a little kid back then; my dad loved those Knicks, it was fun watching him watch the games. Few years ago in Las Vegas I got to meet Walt Frazier at the NBA Summer League, nicest guy you could meet.

Look up Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals on YouTube; Willis Reed was hurt pretty bad, but he hobbled onto the court, hit two jumpers early in the game and the Knicks pounded the Lakers— they were gods in the Big Apple back then. Willis Reed was the heart of that team. RIP, sir.

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

— Japan 6, Mexico 5— MLB gets what it wants, a US-Japan final in the World Baseball Classic. Japan trailed 5-3 in 8th inning, but scored twice in the 9th to walk it off in dramatic style.

All these games had lot of fans; lucrative event. Everyone seemed to have lot of fun, so in the long run, good for the sport.

I’ll be glad when it is Wednesday and we can point towards the 2023 regular season. 

— Was watching this game and was reminded of an old Harry Caray story.

Harry Caray broadcast Cub games, was a total character; one day out of the blue, during a day game at Wrigley, he blurts out:

“Heyyyyyy!!!! Check out the guy in the som-brerrro” Sure enough, a guy in the Wrigley bleachers was having a cold Bud Light while wearing a sombrero.

Lot of people at Marlins Park had sombreros on Monday night. Harry would’ve been happy. 

— Rick Pitino is the new basketball coach at St John’s; the 70-year old Pitino signed a six-year deal to return to the Big East. Red Storm hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000; that streak should end fairly soon. 

 — Ed Cooley bolts from Providence to Big East rival Georgetown; Cooley was 242-153 while the Friars’ coach, 118-99 in Big East games.

It is unusual to switch jobs within a conference, pretty much a slap in the face to the school that gets left behind; curious where Providence will look when they hire a new coach.

— St Francis (NY) announced it is dropping their entire athletics program in May; the Terriers played in the Northeast Conference- their last game was against Fairleigh Dickinson, the team that later upset Purdue in the NCAA’s, the biggest upset in tournament history.

The way this was done is BS; out of the blue, people losing their jobs, the people who made the decisions running for cover.

My cousin KL Wheat went to St Francis, ran track there; this is personal for him.

Maybe down the road the school will come to its senses and bring sports back, help make the school a little more visible. Sounds like they could use it.

— Memphis Grizzlies G Ja Morant got an 8-game suspensions for his off-court antics; Morant is making $12,119,440 this season.

8 games out of 82 is 9.75%, so his fine figures to work out to $945,316.32.

— Brutal bad beat if you bet Gonzaga (-4.5) vs TCU Sunday night; Zags made couple of foul shots with less than a second left to go up 6, but the TCU kid drained a 45-footer at the buzzer to get the backdoor cover.

If you’re in a casino at moments like that, it is fun to watch; some happy, some (very) unhappy people. If gambling was easy, those casinos wouldn’t have such big signs in front of them. 

— Cuban baseball player Ivan Prieto Gonzalez defected from his home country after he didn’t board the team’s flight back to Havana on Monday following Cuba’s elimination in the WBC; Gonzalez was Cuba’s bullpen catcher during the tournament.

Gonzalez, 26, has played eight years in the Cuban National Series; he’s hit .291 with 13 home runs and 102 RBIs in 257 career games in his home country.

— This was my first NCAA Tournament with YouTube TV in my house; I give them a thumbs-up, which is promising for the upcoming NFL season. They did the screen with three or four games going on at once, which is a good screen to have. Navigating between channels is fairly simple.

— NBA’s Sacramento Kings are 43-28; this will be the Kings’ first winning season since 2006, a great coaching job by Mike Brown.

— If you like baseball prop bets, bet the over in base stealing props; get the feeling that tons of bases will be stolen this season, it is what MLB wants.

Bigger bases, rules against pickoffs, the pitch clock; it all points in that direction.

— Colorado Rockies are signing OF/IF Jurickson Profar to a one-year, $7.75M deal; Profar hit .243 with 15 homers for San Diego last year.

— Auburn Tigers have their Pro Day for NFL scouts today (Tuesday); one of the QB’s throwing there will be 34-year old Cam Newton, an Auburn alum and an NFL free agent. Newton last played in the NFL, going 0-5 in five games starting for Carolina. 

— If you look at the Oakland A’s 40-man roster, they only have two players who were drafted by the Oakland A’s, which seems like a strange way of doing business.

All the good players they’ve drafted/developed have been traded off/sold because the ownership is too freakin’ cheap.

A’s are making noise about moving to Las Vegas; will someone build them a $500M retractable dome in the desert?

Before I agreed to build them a ballpark, we’d get it in writing that the cheap bastards are going to actually try to win ballgames, that’s for damn sure.

— NFL commish Roger Goodell is expected to get a multi-year contract extension at the league’s meetings next week; Goodell makes a boatload of $$$ and he earns it. Denver Broncos just got sold for $4.5B; the league is very profitable, and Goodell steers that ship. 

Monday’s Den: Things I learned this week……..

Good to be back; the last 8-9 days were kind of cruddy, but things are better now, so we can begin again. Here are some things I learned in the last week:

College basketball:
— This year’s Sweet 16 contains teams from 11 different leagues:
3— SEC, Big East
2— Big X
1— from eight other leagues

— Miami’s win Sunday night saved the ACC from not having any teams in the Sweet 16; that, according to my records, hasn’t happened since the Field went to 64 in the mid-80’s.

— Princeton is first Ivy League team since Cornell in 2010 to make the Sweet 16; Tigers held Arizona/Missouri to 55-63 points, very impressive. Princeton never trailed against Missouri, which was kind of shocking; they play Creighton in the Sweet 16 Friday.

— #15 or #16-seeds who have made the Sweet 16:
2023— Princeton
2022— Saint Peter’s
2021— Oral Roberts
2013— Florida Gulf Coast

Had never happened until 2013, now it happened three years in a row. The game is changing.

— Teams are more fragile now; rosters are cobbled together every spring/summer, and the fiber of a team isn’t what it once was. Players transfer A LOT; so when practice starts in October, it takes a while to build some chemistry.

NCAA Selection Committee used to use “last 10 games” as a reason to choose/not choose a team for the tournament. Going back to that criteria wouldn’t be a bad idea; teams get on a roll at the right time, which is where Princeton is where they are.

— Purdue’s last three NCAA Tournaments:
2023— #1-seed, lost 63-58 to #16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in first round
2022— #3-seed, lost 67-64 to #15-seed Saint Peter’s in Sweet 16
2021— #4-seed, lost 78-69 in OT to #13-seed North Texas first round

Purdue had 7-4 Zach Edey this year, who is going to be really good in the NBA; in the last 12:00 against FDU, Edey took one shot. One freakin’ shot, against the shortest team in America.


— Virginia’s last four NCAA tournaments:
2018— #1-seed, lost by 20 to #16-seed UMBC in the first round.
2019— #1-seed, won the national championship

2021— #4-seed, lost to #13-seed Ohio U in first round
2023— #4-seed, lost 68-67 to #13-seed Furman in first round

Talk about peaks and valleys. Jeez.

— Under went 20-4 in Friday/Saturday games; referees weren’t calling many fouls. Players have to play thru contact. Lot of times I watch games with no sound; you see a play, wait for players to stop and shoot foul shots, but not fouls are called. A ton of contact went uncalled this weekend.

— Tennessee flat-out intimidated Duke; they contested every step the Blue Devils took, the much-older Vols forced their will on Duke, pushed them all over the court. Filipowski had a cut under his left eye in the first 5:00 of the game— he probably needed 3-4 stitches afterwards.

This is what FAU coach Dusty May had to say about playing Tennessee next:
“We’re going to study Australian rugby rules and get ready for the Vols.”

— Big X made a lot of noise this this winter about how they were the best league and for the most part, they were, but their teams laid an egg this weekend, going 7-5 overall, 5-2 in first round, 2-3 in second round— only Kansas State, Texas are left. Not good enough.

Creighton played three starters 37:00+ in Denver’s high altitude, still shot 11-24 on the arc, scored 1.21 points/possession, in a fairly easy win. Ugly performance by Baylor’s defense.

— Arkansas is in the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row; surprised Eric Musselman is still the coach there. Thought a bigger $$$ school might’ve scooped him up by now.

— Apparently St John’s offered Rick Pitino their coaching job, which should attract a lot of the headlines early this week. Once Pitino decides, more coaching dominos will fall.

Coaching changes:
— Ole Miss hired former Texas coach Chris Beard.
— Georgia Tech hired former NBA player/Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire.
— Bowling Green hired former Southern Utah coach Todd Simon
— McNeese State hired former LSU coach Will Wade.
— Western Kentucky hired A&M-Corpus Christi coach Steve Lutz

— Jose Altuve is the best player on my fantasy team; he broke his thumb in the World Baseball thing this weekend, making this week even more joyous. Altuve will be out 8-10 weeks.

— Rams traded DB Jalen Ramsey to Miami for a 3rd-round pick
— Buccaneers signed QB Baker Mayfield.
— Panthers signed WR Adam Thielen, QB Andy Dalton
— New England signed TE Mike Gesicki
— Colts signed K Matt Gay
— Eagles signed QB Marcus Mariota
— Colts signed QB Gardner Minshew
— Commanders signed QB Jacoby Brissett
— San Francisco signed QB Sam Darnold

Regular life:
— You can go online and order groceries and someone will bring them to your house; had no idea this was a thing, it isn’t that hard to get them yourself, but I utilized the service this week and it made things a lot better.

— Postponed today’s trip to Las Vegas, which sucks; UConn-Arkansas, UCLA/Gonzaga would have been great fun Thursday night, but now they’ll be fun to watch on TV. There will be other trips; have to start planning one.

— Red Gatorade is very good; I hadn’t had Gatorade in a long, long time, but I was told to drink a lot of fluids to avoid getting dehydrated, so Gatorade was it (some Vitamin Water, too, but that doesn’t taste as good). 

Tuesday’s Den: Nobody asked me, but……

— NCAA Tournament teams this year who lost their first conference tournament game:
#3-seed- Kansas State
#3-seed- Baylor
#6-seed- Kentucky
#7-seed- Michigan State
#7-s3ed- Northwestern
#8-seed- Iowa
#9-seed- Auburn
#9-seed- Illinois  
#10-seed- USC

In the last 20 years, no team that lost its first conference tournament game won the national championship that season,                                                                                                                                                                                                         

— College basketball coaching hires:
Ole Miss hired former Texas Tech/Texas coach Chris Beard, who has a 237-98 career record but got fired at Texas this season because of a domestic violence issue.

Georgia Tech hired Damon Stoudamire, who had been an assistant coach with the NBA’s Celtics; he was 71-77 in five years coaching Pacific in the WCC (23-10 three years ago). 

— Be careful moving #4-seed Tennessee too far up your brackets; their point guard Zakai Zeigler is out for the season.

— Teams ranked in top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency:
Baylor, UConn, Houston, Texas

Monday’s Den: Some quick thoughts on the Field of 68

— Last three years, only four of the 12 Final Four teams were #1-seeds. 

— Three of this year’s #1-seeds play Thursday-Saturday this week.

— Top-ranked teams who missed the Field of 68: Rutgers (#35), Oklahoma Sate (#38) and Oregon (#41). 

— Arizona State is in the First Four for third time in last five tournaments; they lost 60-56 to Syracuse in 2018, beat St John’s 74-65 the next year. 

Think about it; on February 25, Sun Devils beat rival Arizona 89-88 when they sank a 55-foot desperation jumper at the buzzer. Without that win, Arizona State is in the NT. 

— Speaking of the NIT, North Carolina declined to play in it after being the first preseason #1 team ever to miss the NCAA Tournament. 

Some trends on how some conferences have fared in first round games:
— Lot has been said this year about how the Big X is by far the best conference this year; over the last three years, Big X teams are 14-5 ATS in Round of 64 games.

— Mountain West got four teams in the NCAA’s this year; over the last three years, MW teams are 0-8 SU/ATS in Round of 64 games.

— Charleston is a 5-point underdog vs San Diego State Thursday; Cougars play pace #29, while Aztecs play pace #252, so a contrast of styles here.

Over last nine years, CAA teams are 0-9 SU, but 5-4 against the spread. 

— Florida Atlantic is 31-3, their best season ever; will they be able to keep coach Dusty May? You go 31-3 at a mid-major, a coach usually works his way up to a bigger $$$ job.

Last seven years, Conference USA teams are 5-2 SU in Round of 64 games.

— VCU beat Dayton 68-56 to win the A-15 tournament; Rams are 27-7, but they weren’t getting in the NCAA’s if they lost this game. This was first time since 2005 that the A-15 got one team in the tournament- they had 12 teams in the league back then.

— Big Sky teams haven’t won a tournament game since Montana (+7) upset Nevada 87-79 way back in 2006. Big Sky teams went 3-11-1 ATS in those losses. 

Montana State is this year’s Big Sky team; they’re 22-4 in their last 26 games, are experience team #47. Bobcats play #3-seed Kansas State in their first round game.

— Last three years, SEC teams are 7-4-2 ATS in first round games.

— Kent State-Indiana play in Albany Friday night; Kent coach Ron Senderoff is an Albany alum and he also worked at Indiana, from 2006-08.

Over last six years, MAC teams covered all six of their games in Round of 64. 

— Over last ten years, Horizon League teams are 0-10 SU, 3-7 ATS; Wright State did win a play-in game last year.

— I’ll have a lot more on the tournament as the week goes on. 

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

— Brackets come out at 6:00 tonight; all the speculation ends and we can handicap the actual matchups. Champ Week has been fun, but it is time to move on to the main event. 

— There were five conference tournaments in Las Vegas this week; must be tough living in a place where there are legitimately fun things to do every day.

— Marquette 65, Xavier 51— Surprisingly easy win for Marquette, which has won 14 of its last 15 games. This was Marquette’s conference tournament title since 1997, when they won the C-USA tournament.

— Texas 76, Kansas 56— Longhorns allowed 54.3 ppg in their three wins this weekend. This game had two interim coaches leading the teams, with Rodney Terry taking over for the fired Chris Beard, while Norm Roberts is replacing Kansas coach Bill Self, who has been ill.

— Cal-Santa Barbara 72, Cal-Fullerton 62— Gauchos get to the NCAA’s for second time in three years; before that, they hadn’t been there since 2011. 

I was on the UCSB campus a long time ago, 1990 if I remember right. They should have no trouble recruiting ballplayers; what a beautiful area. More than half the cars in the parking lot had a surfboard on the roof. Had I gone to school there, would’ve taken me about a month to flunk out. Who wants to study when you can go for a walk on the beach?

— San Diego State 62, Utah State 57— Aggies led 26-15 early on, but San Diego State wins this tournament for third time in last six years. Bracketology says Utah State is in the Field of 68, but  they’ll be tossing and turning tonight, waiting for tomorrow’s verdict.

ESPN”s bracket guy has Arizona State in; the CBS bracket guy has the Sun Devils out; CBS has Utah State going to Dayton for a play-in game. ESPN has the Aggies ranked higher than that.

— Arizona 61, UCLA 59— UCLA hasn’t won the Pac-12 tournament since 2014; Arizona won it for fourth time in last six tries. Bruins are banged up; how much does the Selection Committee weigh their injuries into the seedings? 

— Purdue guard David Jenkins should write a book about his experience playing college ball; he’s played all over the place:

2017-19— South Dakota State
2020-21— UNLV
2021-22— Utah
2022-23— Purdue

— New Mexico star Jaelen House is the grandson of former UCLA star Henry Bibby, who also played nine years in the NBA.

— Unfortunately, this time of year schools fire coaches who didn’t win as much as people hoped:
Buffalo fired Jim Whitesell (45-27 in MAC games in four years)
Georgia Tech fired Josh Pastner (11-29 in ACC games the last two years)
South Florida fired Brian Gregory (32-72 in AAC games)
Wichita State fired Isaac Brown (48-34 in three years). 

Wichita fired Gregg Marshall three years ago, because Marshall hurt people’s feelings— he also went 331-121 with the Shockers, 233-53 his last eight years, with a Final Four in 2013.

Missouri gave hoop coach Dennis Gates a $1.5M/year raise, extended his contract thru 2029; Tigers are 24-9 in Gates’ first season in Columbia.

You fire a guy who was 331-121, you understand why they fired a guy who was 48-34.

— St John’s hasn’t played in the semi-finals of the Big East tournament since 2014, even though they play the tournament in Madison Square Garden, the Red Storm’s second home. 

— Bronx baseball team put P Carlos Rodon on the IL with a strained forearm; Rodon signed a six-year, $162M contract this past winter.

— Teams that won the first four World Baseball Classics:
Japan, Japan, Dominican Republic, United States

— Arizona Diamondbacks gave OF Corbin Carroll an 8-year, $111M contract; Carroll has played in only 32 big league games, hitting .260 with 4 homers as a 21-year old last year.

— Washington Nationals signed C Keibert Ruiz to an 8-year, $50M contract; Ruiz hit .251 with seven homers last season, in his first season as a starter.

— Houston Texans were fined $175K, lost a 5th-round draft pick this year because of a salary cap reporting violation involving Deshaun Watson back in 2020.

Texans also signed WR Robert Woods to a 2-year contract, a smart move. Woods caught 53 passes for 527 yards with AFC South rival Tennessee last year.

— Minnesota Vikings cut WR Adam Thielen for salary cap reasons; Thielen caught 534 passes for 12.5 yards/catch in nine years for Minnesota, 55 of them for touchdowns.

— San Francisco QB Brock Purdy finally had his elbow operation this week; they said it was a six-month rehab for his elbow, so he figures to miss the start of the regular season.

— Random stat: Golden State Warriors are 4-13 as a road favorite this season.

— Remember to turn your clocks ahead an hour!!! 

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy night of basketball……..

WAC tournament
— Southern Utah 89, Utah Valley 88— Thunderbirds trailed by 23 with 15:42 left in game; they scored 37 points in last 10:00, and now advance to play Grand Canyon is finals of WAC tourney tonight. Grand Canyon knocked off #1-seed Sam Houston State 78-75 Friday, making 16 of 30 shots on the arc.

MAAC tournament
— Marist 69, Saint Peter’s 57— Red Foxes came into MAAC tournament on a 3-10 skid, but they’ve won three games this week, giving up only 55.3 ppg. Marist hasn’t been to the NCAA’s since 1987; they play #1-seed Iona today- they’ll be a big underdog.

C-USA tournament
— UAB 76, North Texas 69— Blazers jumped out to a 22-2 lead, coasted home; they play #1-seed Florida Atlantic Saturday. 30-3 FAU is likely in the NCAA’s no matter what, but they’ll sleep better Saturday night if they beat the Blazers. 

I’m not kidding about that; when I was the student manager of our basketball team in college,  one year we were right on the bubble to get into the Division III tournament; waiting for that phone call was a very long Sunday (we got in thankfully).

MAC tournament
— Toledo 82, Ohio U 75— Last three years, Toledo is 48-9 in MAC regular season games, but they haven’t won the MAC tournament since 1980, which was also the first year the MAC had a conference tournament. This is a good team that could give a higher seed fits next week, but first they have to beat Kent State in the MAC final Saturday.

Mountain West tournament
— Utah State 72, Boise State 62— Aggies started this week as a bubble team; they trailed this game 36-28 at halftime, but they outscored Boise 44-26 in second half, and word now on the Interweb is that Utah State will make the NCAA’s- their game with San Diego State Saturday can’t hurt their resume any.

SEC tournament
— Vanderbilt 80, Kentucky 73— On February 1st, Vandy was 10-12; they lost a game to Alabama by 57 points (101-44). Since that loss, the Commodores are 10-1; there are mixed opinions as to whether Vandy will get in the tournament or not. They play Texas A&M today; win that game, and there will be very little doubt they’re getting in.

— Missouri 79, Tennessee 71— Vols are 5-7 in their last 12 games; their point guard is out for the year. Will be interesting to see where they’ll be seeded; they’re struggling right now.

Big East tournament
— Marquette 70, UConn 78— Rough day for the Hurley family; Danny Hurley’s team lost this game, Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State squad lost in the Pac-12 tournament.

Marquette has won eight games in a row, the last three by 2-2-2 points. They started five sophomores Saturday; their subs were three freshmen and another soph. If Shaka Smart can keep all those kids from bolting elsewhere, Marquette will be even better next season.

Big West tournament
Cal-Fullerton 83, Cal-Irvine 80— Titans made 10-17 on arc, knock off #1-seed Anteaters in a terrific game to watch. 70 possessions, lot of pace with good shooting. Fullerton has won the Big West tournament twice in last four years; they play UCSB Saturday. Big West’s level of play has improved a lot this season.

Big 14 tournament
— I have trouble listening to broadcasts on the Big 14 Network; their announcers are such shills. Some guy was touting Ohio State as “the 14th best team in country since February 1st”. WTF???

Ohio State went thru a 1-14 skid this season; they’ve rallied to win three games this week in the conference tournament, but when you’re touting a 16-18 team for postseason play, its time to stop talking, You lose your credibility.

— Penn State 67, Northwestern 65 OT— Wildcats had two players bolt their program last spring, one to Duke, one to North Carolina. What were the odds that Northwestern would make the NCAA’s this season, while North Carolina wouldn’t? Go figure.

AAC tournament
— Houston 60, East Carolina 46— This is the last time Jim Nantz will announce the Final Four;  he is a Houston alum, the Cougars will be a #1-seed and the Final Four is in Houston. Anyone out there think they won’t make the Final Four?

Elsewhere in the world………
— Chicago Bears traded the #1 pick in next month’s draft to Carolina; in exchange, they get:
Carolina’s 1st round pick this year (#9 pick)
Carolina’s 2nd round pick (pick #61)
Carolina’s 1st round pick in 2024
Carolina’s 2nd round pick in 2025
WR DJ Moore

Seeing how Chicago already has a young QB (Justin Fields) and how a lot of pundits don’t think this year’s crop of college QB’s is that good, consensus was that the Bears won this trade.

— This is the 7th time since 1990 that a team traded up for the #1 pick:
2016— Rams traded up for QB Jared Goff
2001— Falcons traded up for QB Michael Vick
1997— Rams traded up for OT Orlando Pace, a Hall of Famer
1995— Bengals traded up for RB Ki-Jana Carter
1991— Cowboys traded up for DT Russell Maryland
1990— Colts traded up for QB Jeff George

— Sad news in baseball; former big league OF Jesus Alou passed away at age 80. One of three brothers who all played in the major leagues— they once started a game in the same outfield for the Giants, in 1963 against the Pirates.

Later on, all three brothers played for the A’s, at one time or another. Jesus Alou helped the A’s win World Series in 1973 and 1974.

On July 10, 1964, Jesus Alou went 6-6 in a game against the Cubs; reader Glen points out that he got the six hits against six different pitchers, which couldn’t have happened very many times.

RIP, sir.