Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

— UConn 77, Illinois 52
Game was 23-23 with 1:49 left in first half.
At that point, UConn went on a 30-0 run.
Huskies shot 65.1% inside the arc.
Last two years, UConn is 10-0 SU/ATS in NCAA Tournament.

— Alabama 89, Clemson 82
Alabama scored 1.25 ppp, grabbed 16 offensive rebounds.
Crimson Tide is in the Final Four for the first time.
Alabama shot 16-36 on the arc.
Clemson was 8-26 on the arc, 8-16 on foul line.

— Favorites were 2-0 ATS in Saturday’a basketball games; since 2013, underdogs are still 24-18 ATS in regional final games.

— Birmingham 27, Arlington 14
First UFL game of the season was 11-11 at halftime.
Stallions outgained Arlington, 409-262.
Birmingham converted 8-12 on third down.

— Michigan 18, St Louis 16
Bates kicked a 64-yard field goal with 0:08 left for the win.
St Louis led 3-0 at halftime.
Battlehawks were 5-15 on third down, Michigan 2-9.
Under was 2-0 on the first day of the season.

— In-game betting is popular here in Las Vegas; have listened to people talk about it all week. One guy the other night was chirping for about an hour, trying to hit middle on the Alabama-North Carolina total; he was convinced he was going to hit it, but he don’t.

In the sportsbook here at SunCoast, they have betting windows and they have kiosks and very comfortable chairs. The snack bar off to the side has good sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches.

— Famous birthdays for March 31:
Shirley Jones, 90
Christopher Walken, 81
Gabe Kaplan, 79
Rhea Perlman, 76
Ed Marinaro, 74
Mick Luckhurst, 66
Ron Brown, 63
Steve Smith, 55

— Cardinals 6, Dodgers 5 (10)
Yamamoto allowed only two baserunners in his five IP, but LA’s bullpen blew a 2-0 lead in the 7th inning. Good bounce back start for Yamamoto.

This game had the first rain delay at Dodger Stadium since 2015. 

— Braves 12, Phillies 4
Atlanta starter Fried threw 43 pitches, didn’t finish first inning.
Braves scored 21 runs in winning their first two games.

— Pirates 9, Marlins 3
Pittsburgh scored 22 runs in its 3-0 start.

— Brewers 7, Mets 6
Hoskins went 3-4 with a home run and four RBI.

— Did I mention the sportsbook here is next to a movie theater, and they sell Orville Redenbacher popcorn there? Tremendous!!!

— Guardians 12, A’s 3
Cleveland scored 26 runs in its 3-0 start.

— Twins 5, Royals 1
Kansas City led 1-0 after seven innings.
Twins scored four runs in the top of the 9th.

— New York 5, Houston 3
Astros are 0-3 for the first time since 2011.
Houston led this game 3-1 after six innings.
Season is three days old; Astros’ bullpen is 0-3.

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

My suggestion for a new rule in baseball; think about it for a minute before you scoff:

Guy hits a home run, he crosses the plate, is handed his bat and gets to hit again.

I’d like to see a minor league try that rule out for a year or two. 

— NC State 67, Marquette 58
Wolfpack lost seven of its last nine regular season games.
Wolfpack is 8-0 in postseason games; they start four seniors.
Marquette shot only 4-31 on the arc.
This year is 50th anniversary of NC State beating Marquette in the national title game.

— Duke 54, Houston 51
Houston star Shead sprained his ankle, sat out the second half.
Houston lost by 3; they shot 2-8 on the arc, 9-17 on the foul line.
Duke has allowed 51 ppg in its three NCAA Tourney wins.

Since 2000, there have been eight regional finals between conference rivals; the underdogs went 5-3 SU/6-2 ATS in those eight games.

— Tennessee 82, Creighton 75
Creighton led 35-34 at halftime.
Tennessee is in Elite 8 for second time, first time since 2010.
Teams combined to shoot 22-47 on the arc.

— Purdue 80, Gonzaga 68
Boilers beat Gonzaga by 10 points in November, by 12 here.
Zach Edey scored 27 points, had 14 rebounds. 

In 2018, Virginia was the first #1-seed to lose to a #16-seed.
In 2019, Virginia won the national title.
Last year, Purdue was the second #1-seed to lose to a #16-seed.
Boilers are three wins away from duplicating Virginia’s feat.

— Was sitting next to a guy in the sportsbook during the Creighton-Tennessee game; big guy missed a layup and the guy says “Hell, I would’ve made that one.”

He was on at least his third Corona; I was skeptical.

— Sitting in a sportsbook for last four days, with ton of TVs around, it is obvious that ESPN cares very little about baseball; there was more talk about NFL prop bets for the fall than there was about the first couple days of baseball season.

— Anyway, why would you bet on NFL season win totals before the draft, especially since there might be some big trades happening in the next 3-4 weeks?

— Famous birthdays for March 30:
John Astin, 94
Jerry Lucas, 84
Eric Clapton, 79
Celine Dion, 56
Richard Sherman, 36
Chris Sale, 35
Alex Bregman, 30

— RIP to the great actor Louis Gossett, who passed away this week at age 87; he won both an Oscar and an Emmy. I remember him best as a priest in Blue Chips; he taught at the school where Penny Hardaway’s character played ball. All the famous coaches were recruiting him.

RIP, sir.

— Braves 9, Phillies 3
Phillies led 2-0 after six innings. 

— Brewers 3, Metgs 1
Freddy Peralta allowed one hit in six IP.

— Giants 8, Padres 3
Matt Chapman hit two homers, knocked in five runs.

— Dodgers 6, Cardinals 3
Teoscar Hernandez homered twice for the Dodgers.

— Mariners 1, Red Sox 0
George Kirby got 20 outs, didn’t allow a run.

— There was a great article in The Ringer this week, about TV announcer Ian Eagle, who will be calling his first Final Four next week.

Eagle is the son of a comedian and a singer; when he was 6, he was on stage at a club in the Catskills, doing imitations of celebrities.

Back in the late 70’s, there was a very popular Xerox commercial, about a monk who copied his precious documents, instead of copying them by hand. Brother Dominic was the monk; the actor who played him was Ian Eagle’s father.

This article made it clear that Ian Eagle is universally respected/liked, an unusual combination these days. It was encouraging to read it. 

Friday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Thursday…….

— Alabama 89, North Carolina 87
Tar Heels led 54-46 at halftime.
Alabama outscored UNC 43-33 in second half.
North Carolina star Davis was 0-9 behind the arc.
Crimson Tide is in Elite 8 for first time since 2004.

— Clemson 77, Arizona 72
Clemson is in the Elite 8 for the first time since 1980.
Tigers are 9-1 ATS as an underdog this season.
Since 2009, Arizona is 3-5 SU in Sweet 16 games.
Under coach Lloyd, Arizona is 88-18, but only 4-3 in NCAA Tourney games.

2022- was #1-seed, lost to #5-seed Houston
2023- was #2-seed, lost to #15-seed Princeton
2024- was #2-seed, lost 77-72 to #6-seed Clemson

— Illinois 72, Iowa State 69
Illini never trailed; they led by 13 early in game, then hung on.
Illinois survived going 15-29 on the foul line.
Illinois is in Elite 8 for first time since 2005.
Underdogs were 3-1 SU Thursday; they were 1-15 SU in second round.

— UConn 82, San Diego State 52
UConn is 23-1 since Christmas.
Huskies had 21 offensive rebounds, Aztecs 17 defensive boards.
UConn won/covered its last nine NCAA Tournament games.
San Diego State shot 36.2% from the floor, 5-22 on arc.

Famous birthdays for March 29:
Denny McLain, 80
Walt Frazier, 79
Earl Campbell, 69
Billy Beane, 62
Brain Jordan, 57
Matt Olson, 30

— Pirates 6, Marlins 5 (12)
Miami led 5-2 after six innings.
Jake Burger was 3-4, with 3 RBI.
Pittsburgh batters struck out 17 times.

— Rangers 4, Cubs 3 (10)
Pinch-hitter Jankowski tied game with 9th inning home run,
Jonah Heim’s walk-off single ended the game in the 10th.
Cubs’ P Steele left game with a hamstring injury.

— Bronx 5, Astros 4
Houston led 4-0 after two innings.
Juan Soto threw out game-tying run at the plate in 9th inning.
Astros had 13 hits, were only 3-9 with runners in scoring position.

— Diamondbacks 16, Rockies 1
Arizona scored 14 runs on 13 hits…….just in the 3rd inning.
Lourdes Gurriel was 3-5, with three runs scored, 5 RBI
Arizona was 12-15 with runners in scoring position.

— Tigers 1, White Sox 0
Only run of game scored on a 3rd inning sac fly.
Tarik Skubal allowed only 3 baserunners in six IP.
White Sox had three hits, never got a runner to second base.

— Reds 8, Nationals 2
Cincinnati led 7-0 in the third inning.
Reds’ DH Martini hit two homers, knocked in five runs.
Frankie Montas tossed six shutout IP in his Cincinnati debut.

— Padres 6, Giants 4
Trailing 3-2, Padres scored four runs in 7th inning.
Xander Bogaerts had the g0-ahead single.
Yu Darvish allowed one run in 5 IP.

— Dodgers 7, Cardinals 1
Dodgers led 5-0 after three innings.
Tyler Glasnow allowed 3 baserunners in 6 IP in his Dodger debut.
Freddie Freeman was 2-3 with 2 runs scored, 3 RBI

— Orioles 11, Angels 3
Baltimore led 7-0 after four innings.
Corbin Burnes struck out 11 guys in 6 IP, in his Orioles debut.
Trout/Rengifo had the Angels’ only two hits.

— Blue Jays 8, Rays 2
Game was 1-1 after the fifth inning.
Springer, Biggio, Guerrero homered for Toronto.
Zach Eflin was tagged for six earned runs in 5.2 IP.

— Guardians 8, A’s 0
Shane Bieber struck out 11 batters in six shutout IP.
David Fry was 3-4, with two runs scored.
Attendance in Oakland’s last-ever home opener: 13,522

— Twins 4, Royals 1
Pablo Lopez allowed only four baserunners in 7 IP.
Royce Lewis homered, later left game with a leg injury.
Carlos Correa was 3-4, with two RBI.

— Red Sox 6, Mariners 4
Tyler O’Neill homered on Opening Day for 5th year in a row, an MLB record.
Rafael Devers was 2-4 with a homer and two RBI.
Mitch Haniger hit a home run for Seattle. 

Thursday’s Den: Happy Opening Day!!!

— Happy Opening Day, everyone; they played couple of games in Korea last week, but today is the real Opening Day, except in NY/Philly, where those games have already been rained out.

I’ll be posting statistical knowledge on the baseball page every day starting next week sometime, after the teams have some games under their belt.

— They have a restaurant at my hotel, Du-Par’s, a 24-hour place that is very good, but tonight, they had this little robot/cart delivering the meals to the tables. I’m sitting there looking at my phone, and the cart pulls up next to me— its a little spooky.

  Seton Hall 91, UNLV 68
Pirates never trailed; they shot 11-25 on the arc.
Seton Hall shot 64.9% inside the arc, scored 1.30 points/possession.
Pirates play Georgia in the NIT semi-finals next week.

— Utah 74, VCU 54
Utes jumped out to a 16-2 lead; Rams were 5-26 on the arc.
Only one guy on VCU scored more than 8 points.
Utah plays Indiana State in the NIT semi-finals, at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse.

— Seattle 77, High Point 67
Seattle wins the CBI championship.
High Point led by 3 with 11:23 left in the game.
Redhawks finish season with the #12 eFG% defense in country.

— Norfolk State 75, Fort Wayne 67
Norfolk State wins the CIT championship.
Fort Wayne led 41-23 late in the first half.
Norfolk State put four guys in double figures; two of them were subs.

— If you’re in Las Vegas, check out the sportsbook at the MGM Grand; good place to bet on and watch games, with an excellent pizzeria around the corner to the left.

Famous birthdays for March 28:
Rick Barry, 80
Len Elmore, 72
JK McKay, 71
Glenn Davis, 63
Jason Garrett, 58
Vince Vaughn, 54
Chris Long, 39
Stefani Germanotta, 38 (Lady Gaga)
Derek Carr, 33
Christian Walker, 33
Will Smith, 29 (Dodgers catcher)

— Purdue is 5-0 this season against the other teams in the Sweet 16.

— 7 of the teams in the Sweet 16 played in the Maui Classic, either this year or last year.

— College basketball coaching stuff:
Louisville hired Charleston coach Pat Kelsey (70-27 in three years there)

Florida Atlantic hired John Jakus as basketball coach; he was an assistant coach at Baylor, and has also worked at Gonzaga.

Long Beach State hired San Diego State assistant Sam Acker as its new head coach; had was with the Aztecs for five years, at Hawai’i/Boise State before that. 

Belmont hired Tennessee-Martin coach Ryan Ridder (40-25 the last two years) as its new coach.

Tennessee-Martin hired Jeremy Shulman, who was 346-107 in 14 years coaching at Eastern Florida State, a junior college.

Siena hired Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara as its new coach.

— NFL’s Detroit Lions re-signed QB Nate Sudfeld, who played in six games over four seasons with the Eagles/Lions. He’s never started an NFL game, completing 25-37 passes, for 188 yards.

— Of all the active baseball players, Mike Trout/Jose Ramirez are the only two with five 20-20 seasons; 20+ home runs, 20+ stolen bases.

— Red Sox OF Tyler O’Neill has hit a home run on each of the last four Opening Days.

— Chicago White Sox have only one pitcher on their roster this year, who was also on the White Sox’ roster last year.

— Only five major league franchises have been sold in the last 12 seasons, Orioles being the fifth; it would be nice if some really rich person bought the A’s this year, so they can go to Las Vegas and compete for playoff spots.

— I was wearing my A’s cap in the sportsbook tonight; a guy comes up to me and asks how I think they’ll do in Las Vegas. He told that he had a friend who was Al Davis’ chauffeur back in the day, when Davis owned the Oakland Raiders. The guy has been to 33 Super Bowls, including 20 in a row at one point.

He is retiring from his job now and is moving from San Diego to Las Vegas; good guy. I’ve had some excellent conversations with total strangers in sportsbooks here; this was one of those. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……

Greetings from Las Vegas, America’s favorite city. This was a long day, was in airplanes/airports all day, but the world doesn’t stop because I’m on vacation. Lot of stuff happened Tuesday.

— You’d think being in an airport at 4:45am on a Tuesday morning would be quiet, but today was anything but; they’re doing construction at Albany Airport, and the lines at the security checkpoint were long, very long. 45 minutes worth of long.

— Somehow, my luggage got to Las Vegas before I did; for a few minutes, I thought they lost my suitcase, but they paged me and told me it got to Las Vegas on a different flight than the one I was on, so that was a relief. 

— Lakers-Bucks NBA game was the feature attraction in the sportsbook tonight; guys yelling for both sides in a double overtime game. It was fun to listen to.

— Sportsbooks take bets on everything; they had soccer scores up on the board between countries I’ve never heard of.

— In Las Vegas hotels, if you put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door three days in a row, turning down housecleaning, they do a wellness check on you, to make sure you’re not dead, I guess. They actually told me that today when I checked in.

— Vancouver Canucks are 15-1 to win the Stanley Cup, even though they have 98 points, tied for most in the NHL. Vegas Golden Knights are 6-1, even though they only have 86 points, but they are the defending champs.

— New England Patriots are 150-1 to win the Super Bowl next season, which just seems wrong, but times change quickly.

— Peter Marshall, host of the Hollywood Squares and one of the best game show hosts ever, turns 98 years old Saturday; they’re doing a show on YouTube Saturday, some of the old shows from the Hollywood Squares. Should be fun.

Marshall’s son is Pete LaCock, who played in the major leagues for nine years, for the Cubs and Royals, hitting .257 for his career.

Famous birthdays for March 27:
Randall Cunningham, 61
Ed Pinckney, 61
Danny Fortson, 48
Buster Posey, 37
Brandon Nimmo, 31

— Sweet 16 games are where Purdue coach Matt Painter has struggled; in his career, he is 1-5 SU/ATS in Sweet 16 games. Purdue plays Gonzaga; since 2015, the Zags are 5-3 in Sweet 16 games.

— Clemson is 8-1 against the spread as an underdog this year; they’re getting 7.5 points from Arizona Thursday.

— In the Big West, Cal Poly hired Mike DeGeorge as its new basketball coach; DeGeorge led Colorado Mesa to five NCAA Tournaments in his six years as the D-II school. Cal Poly hasn’t had a winning season since 2013; they were 30-117 in five years under the previous coach, 8-77 in conference games. Not good.

— In the NBA, Houston Rockets are 11-1 ATS in March.

— Sacramento Kings C Domantas Sabonis has had 55 games in a row with a double-double, the longest such streak since at least 1977.

— Arizona Diamondbacks signed P Jordan Montgomery for one year, $25M, getting agent Scott Boras off the hook for leaving his clients hanging this spring.

— Monday’s Cleveland-Arizona game got rained out, which is odd- the Diamondbacks play in a domed stadium. Game was called after six innings when an unexpected rainstorm hit Chase Field. Because of ongoing mechanical issues, the retractable roof at Chase Field can’t be opened or closed with fans in attendance.

— Colorado Rockies signed SS Ezequiel Tovar for seven years, $63.5M; if the Rockies exercise their option for 2031, the contract would be worth $84M.

— All the pro teams have social media accounts, but the Oakland A’s Twitter account is different; you can’t respond to their posts, because lot of us A’s fans despise the cheap bastard who owns the team. A’s seem to be a little bit better this year but seeing how they were 50-112 last year, that won’t take much.

— Actor Bryan Cranston is an avid baseball baseball fan, a Dodger fan; he named one of his dogs Vin Scully.

— Back in 1963, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax started 42 games; Dodgers went 36-6 in those 42 games, as Koufax won the Cy Young Award, the MVP and the Dodgers won the World Series. Pretty good year.

Last year, Miles Mikolas started 35 games, Zac Gallen 34, the most of anyone in the big leagues.

— NFL Owners Meetings are going on this week; they changed the kickoff rule, making it more like the one the spring leagues use. It figures to double the amount of kickoff returns next year. 

— Christmas is on a Wednesday nine months from now; NFL will actually have two games that day, with those four teams also playing on Saturday the previous week, the 21st.

— Week 1 Friday night game will involve the Eagles and is being played in Brazil, because the NFL takes money from everywhere; apparently that game will be shown on Peacock, and only Peacock, which is disappointing, but there will be baseball on TV that night, too.

— NFL moved its 2024 trade deadline back a week, until the Tuesday after Week 10. 

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

Lot of activity in the coaching carousel:

— Utah State’s Danny Sprinkle bolts from Utah State to Washington; Aggies were 28-7 this season, in Sprinkle’s first year in Logan. He had to rebuild the entire roster; when he took the job, he didn’t have any players who scored a point for Utah State the previous year. 

Sprinkle is 80-25 as a coach the last three years; 52-18 at Montana State, 28-7 at Utah State.

— Toledo’s Tod Kowalczyk jumps from the Rockets to Utah State; he went 104-37 the last four years at Toledo, but never made the NCAA’s. Rockets haven’t made the tournament since 1980.

— Utah State will have its 4th coach in five years next year, its 6th coach in 11 years, and they had only one losing season during all that time.

— James Madison coach Mark Byington is now the coach at Vanderbilt; he went 82-36 in four years with the Dukes, after coaching Georgia Southern for seven years.

— Washington State is moving to the WCC next year because the Pac-12 doesn’t exist anymore; their coach Kyle Smith bolted to Stanford Monday. Smith went 94-71 in five years coaching the Coogs, after coaching San Francisco for three years, Columbia for six years.

Stanford is moving to the ACC next year (why!?!??), so Smith will get a lot of frequent flyer miles in his new job.

— Missouri State brought an old friend back, hiring Cuonzo Martin as its new coach;; Martin was 61-41 coaching the Bears from 2008-11, then moved on to Tennessee, Cal and Missouri.

Missouri State was 74-49 the last four years under Dana Ford, 45-31 in MVC games, but they haven’t made the NCAA’s since 1999, when Steve Alford was their coach. The rich people who control the purse strings in college sports aren’t very patient these days. 

— William & Mary hired Cornell coach Brian Earl; Big Red went 22-8 this year, winning the Ivy League regular season with a 13-3 mark. 

— Some coaching jobs that are still open: 

Louisville, Oklahoma State, Cornell, Drake, Duquesne, FAU, Fresno State, James Madison, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Saint Louis, Siena, Washington State

Famous birthdays for March 26:
Diana Ross, 80
Marcus Allen, 64
John Stockton, 62
Keira Knightley, 39
Von Miller, 35
Cristian Javier, 27

Word of the Day:
Enthusiastic – having or showing intense and eager enjoyment.

— UNLV is in the NIT, where the schedule has been odd:
Wednesday, Rebels won 84-77 at Princeton, in New Jersey. Long trip.
Sunday, Rebels beat Boston College 79-70 at home. Long trip for BC.
This Wednesday, Rebels play at Seton Hall, again in New Jersey.

Final Four for the NIT this year is in Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where they filmed the last few game scenes in Hoosiers.

— Lon Kruger, father of UNLV coach Kevin Kruger, led five different schools to the NCAA Tournament:
Kansas State, 1987-90
Florida, 1994-95
Illinois, 1997-98, 2000
UNLV, 2007-08, 2010-11
Oklahoma, 2013-16, 2018-21

Kruger also coached the Atlanta Hawks for three years (2000-03)

— Houston’s 100-95 overtime win over Texas A&M Sunday night was unusual:
4 Houston players fouled out; last time a team won an NCAA Tourney game when four of their players fouled out was 1987. 

A&M lost by 5 points; they missed 16 foul shots (29-45)

Aggies’ best player, Wade Taylor, shot 5-26 from the floor.

A&M had 26 offensive rebounds; Houston had 24 defensive rebounds.

Houston led by 13 with 3:49 left, won in overtime. Very unusual.

— Deion Sanders is babbling again, saying how he is going to pull strings to make sure his son plays for a certain NFL team(s). Colorado went 4-8 last year with Sanders coaching and his son playing QB (1-8 in Pac-12). The kid has never played for a coach other than his father.

If you ran an NFL franchise, and your 7-figure salary depended on winning, would you draft the Sanders kid? Seems like too much of a soap opera for me.

— UFL starts this week; the 8-team football league, combining teams from the USFL/XFL, will play a 10-game schedule, with the top two teams in each division making the playoffs. It looks like FOX, ESPN and ABC will be showing the games.

— Since 2000, four baseball players have been hit by a pitch twice in the same inning:
2008- Mike Hessman, Det
2010- Jose Guillen, SF
2012- David DeJesus, Cubs
2014- Brandon Moss, A’s

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

Favorites won 15 of 16 games in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday/Sunday, going 12-4 ATS. Very unusual.

— Clemson 72, Baylor 64
#6-seed Tigers were the only underdog to win in the second round.
Clemson led wire-to-wire, shot 56.7% inside the arc.
Clemson plays Arizona in the Sweet 16.

— Houston 100, Texas Tech 95, OT
Tech hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation to force OT
Houston led by 13 with 3:49 left in regulation.
Tech lost by 5; they missed 16 foul shots (29-45).

— Marquette 81, Colorado 77
Marquette led 45-34 at half; game was tied with 3:33 left. 

Kolek scored 21 points, had 11 assists; he played all 40:00.
Golden Eagles shot 73.5% inside arc, Colorado 58.3%.

— Alabama 72, Grand Canyon 61
Antelopes led by 3, with 6:03 left to play.
Grand Canyon was 2-20 on the arc, 23-37 on foul line.
Alabama plays North Carolina in the Sweet 16.

— San Diego State 85, Yale 57
Aztecs came into game shooting 31% on arc; they made 13-27 in this game.
Aztecs led 45-21 at halftime of this stress-free win.
San Diego State plays UConn in the Sweet 16.

— Purdue 106, Utah State 67
Aggies led 20-19 after the first 10:00, then it went downhill, quickly.
Utah State shot 35.9% from the floor.
Zach Edey scored 23 points, had 14 rebounds.

— UConn 75, Northwestern 58
UConn won easily; they led 40-18 at halftime.
Huskies won their last nine games, seven of them by 14+ points.
Northwestern made NCAA’s the last two years, first time they ever did that.

— Duke 93, James Madison 55
Duke led the Dukes 47-25 at halftime.
Blue Devils made 14-28 shots on the arc.
Duke plays Houston in the Sweet 16.

Famous birthdays for March 25:
Elton John, 77
Bonnie Bedelia, 76
Lee Mazzilli, 69
Avery Johnson, 59
Tom Glavine, 58
Kyle Lowry, 38

— College basketball coaching hires:
West Virginia hired Drake coach Darian DeVries as its new coach; his son Tucker is expected to follow him to Morgantown. Tucker DeVries scored 21.6 ppg this year, grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game. Darian DeVries was 150-55 in six years coaching Drake.

Rice Owls hired former SMU coach Rob Lanier as their new coach; Lanier has been a head coach for 10 years at three different schools, making the NCAA’s in 2002 at Siena, 2022 at Georgia State. 

— Baltimore Orioles are 23-6 in spring training, which means very little.

— JD Martinez signed a one-year, $12M deal with the Mets; he mentioned how the Giants had offered him more $$$ than the Mets, but because San Francisco’s ballpark is bigger than Citi Field, he thought his numbers would go down with the Giants, and teams would think he was on the decline. 

— In the NBA, Portland Trailblazers started five rookies Saturday night, only the second team since 1971 to start five rookies in a game.

On April 26, 2012, Golden State started five rookies against San Antonio; one of the rookies was Klay Thompson.

— The starting five Grand Canyon used against Alabama Sunday averaged 23.0 years old, starting lineup for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder averages 22.6 years old.

— NBA suspensions after a scuffle the other night:
Utah’s Kris Dunn got suspended for two games, a total of $35,678.

Houston’s Jabari Smith got suspended for one game, $53,601. 

— All eight #1 and #2-seeds made it to the Sweet 16, for the first time since 2019. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a snowy Saturday……

Favorites won all eight games in the NCAA Tournament Saturday, going 6-2 ATS.

Creighton 86, Oregon 73, 2OT
Oregon led by 4 with 0:56 left in regulation.
Only two Ducks scored after halftime.
Creighton was 13-14 on the foul line, Oregon 4-5. 

Since 1994, Creighton has had only two basketball coaches; Greg McDermott and Oregon coach Dana Altman, who led the Bluejays from 1994-2010.

NC State 79, Oakland 73
Wolfpack is 7-0 over the last 12 days (won 5 games at ACC tourney LW)
Oakland sharpshooter Gohlke was only 6-17 on the arc.
All five starters for NC State scored in double figures.

Gonzaga 89, Kansas 68
Gonzaga is in the Sweet 16 for the ninth year in a row.
Zags outscored Kansas 46-24 in the second half.
Kansas lost five of its last seven games.

Weird coincidence; the two coaches in this game, Bill Self/Mark Few, were both born on December 27, 1962.

Iowa State 67, Washington State 56
Game was 27-27 at halftime.
Cyclones shot only 37.2% inside arc, were 7-14 on arc.
Wazzu was only 5-23 on the arc. 

Arizona 78,Dayton 68
Arizona shot 57.1% inside the arc.
Wildcats win their 7th straight second round game.
Arizona plays the Clemson-Baylor winner in the Sweet 16.  

North Carolina 85, Michigan State 69
Spartans led 26-14 early on.
Michigan State is 2-4 in its last six second round games.
North Carolina is 6-0 vs Michigan State in NCAA Tourney games.

Tennessee 62,, Texas 58
Tennessee won despite shooting 33.8% from floor.
Vols allowed 49-58 points in their first two tournament wins.
Tennessee-Creighton is an interesting Sweet 16 game.

Illinois 89, Duquesne 63
Illinois led 50-26 at halftime of this stress-free win.
Duquesne had nothing left after their upset win Thursday.
Illinois starts four seniors; they shot 73.7% inside the arc.

Famous birthdays for March 24:
Garry Templeton, 68
Bruce Hurst, 66
Mike Woodson, 66
Steve Karsay, 52
Peyton Manning, 48
Chris Bosh, 40

— Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May bolted to Michigan Saturday; May was at FAU for six years, getting to the Final Four LY; last two seasons, the Owls were 60-13. 

Speaking of May, when FAU lost to Northwestern Friday, one of the Wildcats’ players was Brooks Barnhizer, whose father was Dusty May’s high school coach.

— Saint Mary’s has won the WCC four times since 2010; in those four years, they went 1-3 in their first NCAA Tournament game.

Indiana Pacers’ F Doug McDermott played college ball for his father Greg at Creighton; the McDermotts have another son, Nick, who is a caddy on the pro golf tour; he caddied for Nate Lashley last week at the PLAYERS Championship.

— Mets signed DH JD Martinez to a one-year, $12M deal. Martinez hit 33 homers for the Dodgers last year, with 103 RBI; unfortunately, he kicked my butt in the finals of our fantasy baseball league.

— Odd Fact of the Day: Only one team in NCAA Tournament history has gone a whole game without taking a foul shot; Illinois, in 1986. 

Saturday night, Oregon didn’t take a foul shot until there was 0:24 left in regulation.

— Former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy is a TV analyst on the NCAA’s; it is great to listen to him analyze games, it is like taking a masterclass on basketball. Always learn stuff listening to him.

— St Bonaventure’s athletic director quit suddenly this weekend, a week after the Bonnies opted out of playing in the NIT, but nobody told the players. Must be an interesting story there.

— Oakland coach Greg Kampe has an unusual dentist; the mom of one of his players is Kampe’s dentist, so I’m guessing that kid plays a lot, especially right before his annual checkup.

— Kind of stunning to hear the grief that John Calipari is getting from disgruntled Kentucky fans after the Wildcats lost in the first round, for the second time in three years.

Last five years, Kentucky is 105-52, 62-27 in SEC games, but only 1-3 in NCAA Tournament. 

Some nitwits want Calipari fired, but that would cost the school/boosters $33M; that’s the buyout on his contract, and who exactly would want to coach there if they ain’t happy with Calipari? 

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up the 2nd day of March Madness…….

If you love college basketball and betting on the NCAA Tournament, get ESPN+ and watch these mid-major teams play all winter long. ESPN only shows the big $$$ schools but ESPN+ has just about all the conferences. The $99 a year for ESPN+ is well worth it.

— Grand Canyon 75, Saint Mary’s 66
First-ever NCAA Tournament win for Grand Canyon.
Antelopes were 28-36 on foul line, Saint Mary’s 7-12.
Grand Canyon-Alabama Sunday should be a fast-paced tilt.
My thought watching this game: GCU is better than a 12-seed.

— James Madison 72, Wisconsin 61
Dukes ran out to a 33-16 lead and had a fairly stress-free win.
JMU has won 14 games in a row, is now 32-3.
Dukes get their first NCAA Tournament win since 2013.

— Utah State 88, TCU 72
Aggies get their first NCAA Tournament win since 2001.
Utah State shot 55% from the floor.
Since 2019, Mountain West teams other than San Diego State are now 2-13 in NCAAs.

— Alabama 109, Charleston 96
Alabama made 13-23 shots on the arc; they led 51-34 at half.
SEC teams went 3-5 in first round of the tournament.
This game had highest total of any NCAA game since 1995.

— Purdue 78, Grambling 50
Game was only 36-27 at halftime.
Zach Edey scored 30 points, grabbed 21 rebounds.
Purdue out-rebounded Grambling, 47-23.

— Duke 64, Vermont 47
Game was only 34-29 at halftime.
Duke was 20-29 on foul line, Vermont 2-6.
Vermont is now 1-9 all-time in first round games.

— Texas A&M 98, Nebraska 76
Aggies came into game shooting 28.4% on arc; they were 13-23 in this game.
Texas A&M led 58-44…… halftime.
Wade Taylor scored 25 points, was 7-10 on the arc.

— Houston 86, Longwood 46
This was a total mismatch, 43-16 at halftime.
Cougars scored 1.39 ppp, shot 66.7% inside arc.
Houston will have a tougher game Sunday, against Texas A&M.

Famous birthdays for March 23:
Ron Jaworski, 73
Jason Kidd, 51
Mark Buehrle, 45
Maurice Jones-Drew, 39
Gordon Hayward, 34
Kyrie Irving, 32

— Yale 78, Auburn 76
Auburn led by 10 with 7:27 left in game.
Yale was 21-31 on foul line, Auburn 15-22.
Last 13 years, Ivy League teams are 10-3 ATS in first round game.

— Colorado 102, Florida 100
Colorado led by 13 with 4:28 left, blew the lead.
Junior G Simpson hit baseline jumper with 0:02 left for the win.
Buffs won 10 of their last 11 games.

— San Diego State 69, UAB 65
Aztecs outscored UAB 14-7 over final of the game.
Jaedon Ledee scored 32 of San Diego State’s 69 points.
UAB shot 37.7% from the floor. 

— Marquette 87, Western Kentucky 69
Marquette outscored the Hilltoppers 51-26 in second half.
Kolek returned from injury, scored 18 points, had 11 assists.
Marquette shot 60.6% inside arc, was +8 (18-10) in turnovers.

— Clemson 77, New Mexico 56
Tigers jumped out to 27-11 lead, had surprisingly easy win.
Clemson is only #6-seed to advance to second round.
New Mexico was 8-7 in its last 15 games, after an 18-3 start. 

— Northwestern 77, Florida Atlantic 65, OT
Northwestern hit jumper with 0:09 left to force overtime.
Wildcats had previously blown a 9-point lead with 6:30 left.
FAU went 5-4 in its last nine games, after a 20-5 start.

— Baylor 92, Colgate 67
Baylor made 16-30 shots on the arc, led 54-34 at halftime.
Baylor is 6-0 SU/5-1 ATS in last six first round games.
Colgate was in NCAA’s for 5th year in row (0-5 SU/2-3 ATS)

— UConn 91, Stetson 52
Huskies jumped out to 23-4 lead, jogged to an easy win.
UConn advances to play Northwestern Sunday.
Stetson’s famous alumni: Jacob deGrom and Ted Cassidy, the guy who played Lurch on The Addams Family. 

2 Dens for Friday; Den #1, Wrapping up the first day of the NCAA’s

— Oakland 80, Kentucky 76
Jack Gohlke was 10-20 on the arc, scored 32 points.
For season, Gohlke is 131-347 on 3’s (37.8%), 4-8 on 2’s.
This is only 2nd time in last seven years a #14-seed won an NCAA game.

— NC State 80, Texas Tech 67
Wolfpack is 6-0 in postseason, after going 2-7 in last nine regular season games.

Oakland-NC State is an #11-14 2nd round game; here are all the #11-14 games, ever:
1989- Minnesota (-3) 80, Siena 67
1991- UConn (-4.5) 66, Xavier 50
1998- Washington (-3) 81, Richmond 66
2014- Tennessee (-7.5) 83, Mercer 63
2016- UCLA (-8) 92, UAB 85
2021- UCLA (-5.5) 67, Abilene Christian 47

— Washington State 66, Drake 61
Drake was only 6-14 on foul line, Wazzu 17-22.
Drake led 59-58 with 2:00 left in game.
DeVries, Drake’s best player, was only 6-18 from floor.

— Gonzaga 86, McNeese State 65
Zags led 48-25 at halftime, had a stress-free win.
Gonzaga has won 10 of its last 11 games.
Last eight years, Zags are 8-0 SU/4-4 ATS in 2nd round games.

— Iowa State 82, South Dakota State 65
Cyclones shot 64.7% inside the arc.
Iowa State won 12 of its last 14 games.
Cyclones force turnovers 25.6% of time, #2 in country.

— Texas 56, Colorado State 44
Longhorns led this game 27-11 at halftime.
Teams combined to shoot 7-38 on the arc.
Longhorns are 7-7 in their last 14 games.

— Kansas 93, Samford 89
Down 20 in second half, Samford fought back, got within two points.
Kansas won despite being minus-11 (18-7) in turnovers.
Jayhawks’ C Dickinson had 19 points, 20 rebounds with a bum shoulder.

— Tennessee 83, Saint Peter’s 49
Vols shot 11-24 on arc in this stress-free win.
Tennessee out-rebounded Saint Peter’s 47-21.
Vols’ next game is against Texas, Rick Barnes’ old team.
Barnes coached the Longhorns from 1999-2015.

Famous birthdays for March 22:
William Shatner, 93
Don Chaney, 78
Matthew Modine, 65
Brian Shaw, 58
Reggie White, 54
Marcus Camby, 50
Reese Witherspoon, 48
JJ Watt, 35

— Dayton 63, Nevada 60
Nevada led 56-39 with 7:39 left to play.
Wolf Pack ended first half on a 16-0 run.
Dayton ended game on a 24-4 run.
Dayton was 13-15 on foul line, Nevada 3-6.

— Duquesne 71, BYU 67
Dukes win in NCAA’s for first time since 1969.
Duquesne is 16-3 in last 19 games, after starting season 9-8 (0-5 in A-15)
BYU was 8-24 on arc; this year, they got 41% of their points on 3’s.

— Oregon 87, South Carolina 73
Oregon shot 67.7% inside arc, was 24-30 on foul line.
Under Dana Altman, Ducks are 8-0 in the first round.
South Carolina split its last 10 games, after a 21-3 start.

— Arizona 85, Long Beach State 65
Arizona’s lead was only 41-35 at halftime.
Wildcats shot 13-35 on the arc, 17-37 inside arc.
Arizona’s next game is against Dayton Saturday.

— Creighton 77, Akron 60
Bluejays made 10-17 shots on the arc.
Akron led 34-31 late in first half.
Creighton wins/covers despite being minus-9 in turnovers (14-5)

— Illinois 85, Morehead State 69
Illinois held slim 39-38 lead at halftime.
Illinois shot 1.33 points/possession (12-26 on arc)
Illini moves on to play Duquesne Saturday.

— North Carolina 90, Wagner 62
Game was 13-13 early on, but then reality set in.
Tar Heels shot 57.1% inside the arc.
North Carolina moves on to play Michigan State Saturday.

— Michigan State 69, Mississippi State 51
Spartans jumped out to 20-8 lead, and never trailed.
Michigan State won six of last seven first round games.
Miss State lost six of its last eight games. 

Friday’s 2nd Den: Some random knowledge…….

— Padres 15, Dodgers 11
Teams split their two games in Korea.
Yamamoto’s LA debut: 1 IP, 43 pitches, 5 runs allowed.
Jake Cronenworth was 4-4 with 4 RBI for the Padres.

— Texas Rangers signed P Michael Lorenzen for one year, $4.5M with incentives that could take the contract up to $7M.

— Congrats to Mets P Jose Quintana, who became an American citizen this week.

— Happy 91st birthday to former big league OF George Altman, the only left-handed hitter ever to hit two home runs in a game against Sandy Koufax (two righty hitters did it).

— Oklahoma City Thunder fan banked in a half-court shot during a timeout the other night, and banked a $20,000 check for his efforts.

— Akron’s 6-7 Enrique Freeman was in college on an academic scholarship; he went to an open tryout to play for the Zips’ basketball team, and now he’s their best player.

— Illinois hasn’t been in a Sweet 16 since 2005; if they beat Duquesne Saturday, they’ll end that drought.

— When Duquesne beat BYU Thursday, the best player in Dukes’ history was there. Norm Nixon played 10 years in the NBA, scored over 12,000 points; he was on the last Duquesne team to play in the NCAA’s, back in 1977. He won two NBA championship rings playing for the Lakers.

— Detroit Pistons have used 30 players this year, tied for most players ever used in one season by an NBA team. 

— SMU fired basketball coach Rob Lanier, after the Mustangs went 20-13 this year; they did lose six of their last seven games, but 20-13 is pretty good, especially after they went 10-22 last year.

Rich people run things in college sports, and rich people aren’t patient. SMU moves into the ACC next season; am curious to see who’ll they’ll hire as the Mustangs move way up in class.

— Lady on The Price Is Right Thursday was only $900 off on her showcase bid, which is great, but her bid went over, so she lost to a lady whose bid missed by $11,000.

Some 2nd round trends for the NCAA’s:
— Arizona is 5-1 ATS in its last six second round games.

— North Carolina is a #1-seed; last four times they were a #1-seed, they went 3-1 ATS in their second round game (they went 2-4 ATS in last six 2nd round games, when they weren’t a #1-seed).

— Michigan State is 2-3 SU in their last five second round games. Since 2012, Spartans are 2-2 ATS as an underdog in second round games.

— Since 2017, #11-seeds who posted upsets in the first round, are 9-2 ATS in their second round game. Duquesne/Oregon are #11-seeds who play again Saturday.

— Last six years, #1-seeds are 9-13 ATS in second round.

— Last six years, #2-seeds are 8-12 ATS in second round.

— Last six years, #3-seeds are 7-16 ATS in second round.

Thursday’s Den: Happy March Madness, everyone…….

NCAA play-in games:
— Grambling 88, Montana State 81 OT
Montana State led 55-39 with 14:04 left to play.
Grambling had 13 offensive boards, out-rebounded the Bobcats 41-27.
Grambling advances to play Purdue Friday.

— Colorado 60, Boise State 53
Teams combined to shoot 6-33 on the arc.
Buffs have won nine of their last ten games.
Colorado advances to play Florida Friday.

NIT games:
— UNLV 84, Princeton 77
Rebels shot 67.6% inside the arc.
UNLV was 14-19 on foul line, Princeton 3-6.
Rebels have won 11 of their last 14 games.

— Wake Forest 87, Appalachian State 76
Deacons were 25-31 on foul line, App State 7-8.
App State shot 60% inside arc, 7-27 on the arc.

— Indiana State 101, SMU 92
SMU led 57-42 early in second half.
Sycamores scored 1.36 points/possession- they were 30-35 on foul line.

— Bradley 74, Loyola, Chi 62
Bradley jumped out to 22-6 lead, never trailed.
Braves shot 58.3% inside the arc.

— Fort Wayne 77, Bowling Green 75
Mastodons blew 49-35 second half lead, but they survive/advance.
Bowling Green shot 60.5% inside arc, 5-20 on the arc.

— Seton Hall 75, St Joe’s 72 OT
St Joe’s led by 3 with 0:41 left in regulation.
Seven players in this game played 40:00+.

— Tarleton State 86, Abilene Christian 59
These teams won their first round games Tuesday, played again Wednesday.
Tarleton State shot 61% inside the arc.
Cowboys have won 13 of their last 15 games.

— VCU 70, Villanova 61
Senior G Basimile came off bench, scored 17 points.
Villanova was 6-23 on arc; they lost four of last five games.

— Cincinnati 73, San Francisco 72 OT 
Simas Lukosius made 8-10 shots on the arc.
Bearcats won four of their last five games.

— The last two SEC teams that made the Final Four were #5-seed Auburn in 2019, #7-seed South Carolina in 2017. Last three NCAA tournaments, nine SEC teams were seeded #1-4; none of them made the Final Four.

— Arizona has been a #1 or #2-seed 15 times; they made the Final Four in only three of those 15 tournaments.

Famous birthdays for March 21:
Tom Flores, 87
Manny Sanguillen, 80
Mike Dunleavy, 70
Matthew Broderick, 62
Rosie O’Donnell, 62
Adrian Peterson, 39

— Dodgers 5, Padres 2
Season opener started at 6am here in the East Wednesday, 3am in LA/San Diego.
Dodgers scored four runs in 8th inning for the come-from-behind win.
Ohtani went 2-5 with an RBI in his Dodger debut.

— Speaking of Ohtani, his interpreter got fired by the Dodgers; there are questions about $4.5M in wire transfers sent from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation in California, where sports gambling isn’t legal.

— When the Dodgers/Padres played exhibition games against KBO teams in Seoul earlier this week, different baseballs were used, depending on which team was hitting.

Major League baseballs are bigger than KBO baseballs

— Minnesota Twins have a giveaway on April 4, their home opener; first 10,000 fans there will get a wool ski cap with the Twins logo on it. If they put a damn dome on their new stadium a few years back, their fans wouldn’t need a freakin’ ski cap to go watch a baseball game.

— Buck Showalter is going to be on MLB Network, a wise move; he’s very good on TV. Always good to learn from smart people.

Term of the Day: March Madness- Last week and this week are two of my favorite weeks of the year. Lot of stuff going on. Enjoy the games this weekend.

— New Jersey Jets signed WR Mike Williams, giving Aaron Rodgers a good receiver to throw to. Williams played seven years for the Chargers, catching 309 passes for 15.6 yards/catch, with 31 touchdowns.

— Rams moved from St Louis to Los Angeles in eight years ago; there are still five active players who played for the St Louis Rams:

QB Case Keenum, Hst
T Rob Havenstein, Rams
S Rodney McLeod, Blev
K Greg Zuerlein, NJJ
P Johnny Hecker, Colo

— Bucky Badger is the U of Wisconsin mascot, a pretty popular mascot.

Back in the late 80’s, some enterprising Wisconsin students marketed a line of condoms, with Bucky’s picture on them. Their pitch was: “Get lucky with Bucky!!!”

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

NCAA play-in games:
— Wagner 71, Howard 68
Wagner jumped out to a 21-10 lead, led 38-27 at halftime.
Seahawks advance to lose to North Carolina in their next game.
Wagner is 0-2 vs top 100 teams, losing by 21 to Seton Hall, by 34 to Providence.

— Colorado State 67, Virginia 42
Cavaliers shot 25% from floor, an ugly performance.
This is 7th time this season Virginia lost by 20+ points.
Rams shot 63.6% inside arc, led 27-14 at halftime.

Part of me thinks the four play-in games should be the last eight at-large teams; teams that win their conference tournament should get to play on Thursday/Friday, giving them a couple more days to enjoy the experience.

Another part of me thinks that the national TV exposure they get during the play-in games has to help their recruiting, so that is good, too.

NIT games:
— Ohio State 88, Cornell 83
Cornell was up 10 early, led 81-79 with 1:04 left.
Buckeyes were 13-22 on foul line, Cornell 5-6.

— Minnesota 73, Butler 72
Golden Gophers shot 57.1% inside the arc.
Butler led 70-67 with 1:24 left.

— South Florida 83, Central Florida 77
USF shot 13-24 on arc, led 49-35 at halftime.
Bulls have won 23 of their last 26 games. 

— Boston College 62, Providence 57
Eagles have won five of their last six games.
Three guys on Providence played 39 or 40 minutes.

— Georgia 78, Xavier 76
Dawgs led 65-42 with 13:25 left, then held on for dear life.
Georgia’s bench outscored Xavier’s, 35-7.

Word of the Day: Transition- a change from one state or condition to another.

Famous birthdays for March 20:
Pat Riley, 79
Rick Langford, 72
Steve McCatty, 70
Amy Aquino, 67
Kathy Ireland, 61
Mookie Blaylock, 57

— Abilene Christian 73, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 63
Wildcats have won eight of their last 10 games.
Corpus Christi shot 2-24 on arc, 19-30 on foul line.

— Tarleton State 82, Texas Southern 71
Tarleton State put five players in double figures.
Texans have won 12 of their last 14 games.

— North Texas 84, LSU 77
Mean Green had lost 66-62 to LSU back in November.
North Texas shot 11-26 on the arc.

— Iowa 91, Kansas State 82
Payton Sandfort made 7-11 shots on the arc.
Iowa was 22-30 on foul line, K-State 8-16.

— Virginia Tech 74, Richmond 58
Spiders led 22-13 early on, then it went south on them.
Hokies have won four of their last five games.

— Utah 84, Cal-Irvine 75
Utes start four seniors; PG Smith had 13 points, 10 assists.
Utah hosts Iowa in its next game, Sunday.

— Kansas star Kevin McCullar is out of the NCAA Tournament with a bone bruise in his knee.

— Note of the Day: The last 36 NCAA Tournament teams that were seeded #1 or #2, who were unranked in the preseason top 25? None of those 36 teams made the Final Four. Iowa State falls into that category this year. 

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

— Late Monday night, Giants signed P Blake Snell for two years, $62M. Snell has won two Cy Young awards; he was 14-9, 2.25 for the Padres last year.

Here’s the thing about Snell; 32 starts last year, only 180 IP, 17 outs per game. You pay a guy $31M a year, you expect him to finish the 6th inning. At least. 

In 2022, he threw 128 IP in 24 starts, 16 outs/start. He doesn’t give the bullpen a night off.

— A few weeks ago, 3B JD Davis won his salary arbitration case with the Giants, was set to bank $6.9M this year, but contracts won in arbitration aren’t guaranteed. Giants dumped Davis and signed free agent Matt Chapman, paying Davis $1.1M to take a hike. 

Davis then signed with the Oakland A’s for $2.5M, meaning he lost $3.3M and is now on a much worse team, although he’ll play every day now.

— Tampa Bay Rays’ over/under win total this year is 84.5; over the last five years, Tampa Bay has averaged 95.4 wins/season, despite having a small budget.

— In the NBA, Indiana Pacers have scored 120+ points in 45 games, the most times an NBA team has done that in a season since the Denver Nuggets, 40 years ago.
 — In the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins were supposed to have a Jaromir Jagr bobblehead giveaway last week, but had to cancel when the shipment of bobbleheads got stolen. People who had tickets for the giveaway night got vouchers to get the bobbleheads, when they re-appear. 

Some of the vouchers have already surfaced on E-Bay.

— NHL rule I never heard of: If teams are in overtime/shootout, the losing team gets a point, but if a team were to pull its goalie in overtime to try and win the game, they don’t get the point if they don’t win.

— Alabama gave its new football coach Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer a contract worth $10.875M a year. Good luck replacing Nick Saban, maybe the greatest college football coach ever.

Movie of the Day: Autumn in New York (2000)- An aging playboy falls for a sweet, but terminally ill young woman. 

Excellent cast: Richard Gere is the playboy, Winona Ryder is the young woman, JK Simmons is the surgeon who tries to save her. Anthony LaPaglia, Jill Hennessy, Sherry Stringfield are also in the movie, which is a sad movie, but a very good one.

Famous birthdays for March 19:
Glenn Close, 77
Bruce Willis, 69
Mike Norris, 69
Andre Miller 48
Casey Jacobsen, 43
Clayton Kershaw, 36

— On the Hoops page of this blog, we have write-ups on all the NCAA games for the play-in games, plus all of Thursday’s games. I’ll post write-ups on Friday’s games late Wednesday night.

Some other college basketball notes:
— Some prominent college hoop programs passed on playing in the NIT; truth is, no one gives a rat’s ass about the NIT, but there’s another reason, a new reason.

The college basketball transfer portal opened Monday; fact of the matter is, coaches have to make the NCAA’s to keep their jobs, and the transfer portal is a hell of a lot more important to a program than playing in the obscurity of the NIT.

Improving your roster now means that a team can play in next year’s NCAA Tournament, which will help the coach’s job security.

— Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is 8-18-1 against the spread in first round NCAA games.

— The four #10-seeds who are in the play-in games Tuesday/Wednesday are Colorado State, Boise State, Colorado and Virginia.

There have been two teams who won play-in games and then made it to the Final Four: VCU in 2011 and UCLA three years ago.

— 2008 is the only time all four teams in the Final Four were #1-seeds; the last two years, only one #1-seed made the Final Four.

— Last three years, not only did a #15-seed upset a #2-seed, the #15-seed also won their next games and made it to the Sweet 16.

— Last six defending national champs missed the Sweet 16; if UConn gets beat this year, by Stetson, FAU or Northwestern, it would be a huge upset.

— Last time Gonzaga missed the NCAA Tournament was 1998; last time they lost a first round game was 2008, when Davidson beat them- they had a pretty good guard, Steph Curry. 

— Last three years, the team that won the Big 14 Tournament went 1-3 in the NCAA’s; overall, Big 14 teams went 17-7 in first round, 4-13 in 2nd round, 1-3 in Sweet 16, 0-1 in Elite 8. 

Last Big 14 team to make the Final Four was Michigan State in 2019. Last Big 14 team to win the national title? Also the Spartans, in 2000. 

— Last Pac-12 team to win the national title? Arizona, in 1997.

— November 2018, Vanderbilt was off to a 4-0 start, but then their star player Darius Garland got hurt, missed the rest of the season and Vandy finished 9-23. Vanderbilt fired Bryce Drew, who had made the NCAA’s two years earlier, and hired former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse.

Five years later, Garland is a solid NBA player, Vanderbilt just fired Stackhouse, who went 70-92 in five years with the Commodores, with no NCAA bids.

Meanwhile, Bryce Drew is in the NCAA’s with his Grand Canyon team; it is the third time in four years the Antelopes are in the NCAA’s.

Bottom line is, lot of college administrators are over-educated morons. 

Monday’s Den: Quick thoughts after seeing the brackets…….

Some quick thoughts on each of the four play-in games, and the 28 first round games where we know the matchups. After this, I’m off to study………

Tuesday’s games
Colorado State-Virginia
Since 2019, Virginia has been in the NCAA’s four times:
In 2019, Virginia won the national title.
The other three years, Virginia lost in the first round.

NEC teams are 5-5 in play-in games.
MEAC teams are 4-4 in play-in games.
Wagner went 7-9 in the 2nd-worst league in the country.

Wednesday’s games
Colorado-Boise State
All-time, Boise State is 0-9 in NCAA Tournament games, the most tournament games any team has played without getting a win.

Grambling-Montana State
Montana State is in NCAA’s for 3rd year in a row, but this year, they went 9-9 in Big Sky games. The last two years, Bobcats were 31-7 in Big Sky games.

This is Grambling’s first-ever NCAA Tournament game.

Thursday’s games
South Dakota State-Iowa State
Since 2012, Jackrabbits are 0-6 in NCAA Tournament games, 2-3-1 ATS.

From 2017-19, Iowa State coach Otzelberger went 70-33 coaching South Dakota State.

Saint Peter’s-Tennessee
Since 2003, MAAC teams are 6-13 ATS in first round games, but 3-1 the last four years. Peacocks  were in the Elite 8 two years ago, but the coach/players from that team have moved on.

Last five years, Tennessee is 4-1 SU/2-3 ATS in first round games. 

Long Beach State-Arizona
From 1983-2007, Lute Olson went 589-187 coaching Arizona, winning a national title in 1997. Olson also coached Long Beach State for a year; he replaced Jerry Tarkanian there in 1973-74, going 24-2; he left after a year to coach Iowa. 

Dan Monson has coached Long Beach State for 17 years (275-272), but got fired last week; he made the NCAA’s at Long Beach one other time, in 2012.

Morehead State-Illinois
Illinois coach Underwood has made NCAA’s seven times, for three different schools; he is 4-3 SU/ATS in first round games.

Oakland is in NCAA’s for first time since 2011; over last 11 years, Horizon teams are 4-7 ATS in first round games.

Under John Calipari, Kentucky is 5-6 ATS in first round games. 

Last seven years, MAC teams are 3-4 SU/6-1 ATS in first round games.

Under McDermott, Creighton is 6-2 SU/4-4 ATS in first round games. This is second time Bluejays have been a #3-seed, tied for best seed Creighton has been under McDermott.

Jayhawks have injury issues: Dickinson/McKullar didn’t play in the Big X tournament. Kansas lost four of its last five games.

14 of the last 15 years, a #4-seed lost in the first round. Is Samford good enough to pull an upset?

McNeese State-Gonzaga
While coaching at VCU/LSU, McNeese coach Will Wade was 3-2 SU in first round games. This season, his first at McNeese, Wade has the Cowboys at 30-3, their first winning season since 2012- they’ve won games at VCU, UAB and Michigan.

Since 2003, Gonzaga is 18-2 SU/9-11 ATS in first round games; last time they lost a first round game was 2008, as a #7-seed, to Seth Curry’s Davidson team. 

Duquesne is in NCAA’s for first time since 1977; their coach is Keith Dambrot, who was Lebron James’ high school coach. 

BYU is in NCAA’s for only 2nd time since 2015; they haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2012.

NC State-Texas Tech
Wolfpack won five games in five days to win ACC Tournament, and get to this point; they went 2-7 in their last nine regular season games.

Texas Tech is shooting 36.5% on the arc (#38), getting 33.9% of their points on 3’s (#84).

Oregon-South Carolina
Much like NC State, Ducks were a surprise winner of their conference tournament. Under Dana Altman, Oregon is 7-0 SU in first round games in the NCAA’s. 

This is South Carolina’s 2nd NCAA bid since 2004; they made the Final 4 as a #7-seed in 2017, when Frank Martin was coach.

Drake-Washington State
Bulldogs have #27 eFG% in country, they get good shots. Their best player is Tucker DeVries, the coach’s son; he is shooting 36.4% on arc. Drake is #1 team in country on defensive boards. 

Washington State is in NCAA’s for first time since 2008; they’ve got the #35 eFG% defense.

Nevada won 7 of its last 8 games; CBS left them hanging a little when they announced the brackets- they have to be relieved to be in the tournament. In his coaching career, Steve Alford is 7-5 in first round games.

Dayton split its last four games, after a 21-4 start; they’re shooting 40.2% on the arc, #3 in the country.

Michigan State-Mississippi State
Spartans got in tournament despite losing five of their last seven games. Coach Izzo won five of his last six first round games.

Mississippi State also lost five of its last seven games; coach Jans is in NCAA’s for 5th time in last six years. Bulldogs are #21 team in country on the offensive boards.

Friday’s games
Northwestern-Florida Atlantic
Northwestern is in NCAA’s for 2nd year in row, 3rd time in 8 years; they went 10-2 outside the Big 14, with a #355 non-conference strength of schedule.

FAU was in the Final Four LY, as a #9-seed; they have wins this year over Arizona, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech- they lost 98-89 to Illinois.

Last 10 years, Patriot League teams are 4-6 ATS in first round games; Colgate went 2-2 ATS the last four years, with losses by 7-17-7-20 points.

Since 2016, Baylor is 5-1 SU/4-2 ATS in first round games.

Alabama-Birmingham-San Diego State
UAB won its last five games; they’re only in because they won the AAC Tournament. Blazers are 8-6 vs top 100 teams this season.

San Diego State lost the national title game LY, after losing in first round the first two years before that.

Western Kentucky-Marquette
Hilltoppers play the fastest tempo of any team in country; they won the C-USA Tournament, after losing their last four regular season games. WKU split two games with #95 Louisiana Tech, the best team they played this season.

Marquette’s star G Kolek (oblique) missed the last six games, which Marquette split. Shaka Smart got VCU to the Final Four in 2011; since 2014, he is 1-6 in first round games (beat Vermont 78-61 last year).

Stetson (Jacob deGrom’s alma mater) is in NCAA’s for first time. Over last 10 years, A-SUN teams are 4-6 SU/7-3 ATS in first round games.

UConn won national title last year, after losing in first round the first two years before that. Last six years, #1-seeds are 10-14 ATS in first round games.

New Mexico-Clemson
New Mexico allowed 76+ points in seven of its eight losses. Last eight years, underdogs are 18-14 ATS in first round games between #6-11 seeds.

Clemson lost three of its last four games; since 1998, Tigers are 1-6 SU in first round games.

Yale was down 6 with 0:27 left Sunday, rallied to pull out the win and the Ivy League title. Bulldogs are in NCAA’s for third time in five years; since 2010, Ivy League teams are 9-3 ATS in first round games. 

Auburn won its last six games, five of them by 14+ points; in his career, Bruce Pearl is 8-4 SU/5-7 ATS in first round games, 3-7 as a favorite. 

Texas A&M-Nebraska
Aggies have #345 eFG% in country; they’re #1 in country on offensive boards. A&M won five of its last six games, after an 0-5 skid.

Nebraska has #15 eFG% defense in country.

This year, SEC teams are 9-4 SU/ATS against Big 14 opponents. 

Vermont is in NCAA’s for 5th time in last seven tournaments; they went 2-2 ATS in previous four NCAA games.

Duke is 4-2-1 ATS in its last seven 1st round games. Last five years, #4-seeds are 6-14 ATS in first round games.

Charleston won its last 12 games; LY, they had won 10 in row before losing 63-57 to San Diego State in first round. CAA teams lost their last 10 first-round games (0-4 ATS last four). 

Alabama lost four of its last six games, giving up 100+ points three times.

Early total on this game is 171.5; Alabama plays pace #9, Charleston #59.

Big South teams haven’t won a first round game since 2007 (Winthrop); since 2008, they’re 4-9 ATS in this round. Longwood went 6-10 in Big South this year; they played #344 non-conference schedule.

Houston has #2 eFG% defense in country; they’re #13 team on offensive boards.

James Madison-Wisconsin
Dukes won their last 13 games, longest current win streak in country; they’ve got #24 eFG% defense, #34 eFG%, but that was against schedule #293.

Under Gard, Wisconsin is 4-1 SU/ATS in first round games. Badgers went 3-1 in Big 14 tournament, after losing 8 of last 11 regular season games. 

TCU-Utah State
TCU won first round games last two years, 69-42/72-70. Horned Frogs are forcing turnovers 20.8% of time (#22); they’re #20 team on offensive boards.  

Utah State won six of its last seven games; they’re 12-1 out of conference, vs schedule #141. Aggies were in three of last four NCAA’s, but lost in first round all three times.

Grand Canyon-Saint Mary’s
Grand Canyon is in NCAA’s for 3rd time in four years; they lost other two games, by 12 points each. Antelopes have #10 eFG% defense in country. WAC teams are 4-2 SU/6-0 ATS against WCC opponents, but none of games were against Gonzaga/Saint Mary’s.

Saint Mary’s is best rebounding team in country; since 2017, Gaels are 3-1 in first round games, winning last two years in first round, by 29-12 points.