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

College basketball knowledge is on the Hoops page
NFL knowledge is posted on the NFL page
NBA stuff is on the Golf page

Sunday’s 6-pack
Six best college basketball teams, at 2-point FG% (W-L record)
41.2%— Saint Peter’s (13-10)
41.7%— Michigan (19-2)
42.1%— USC (21-6)
42.4%— Jackson State (11-5)
42.6%— Houston (20-3)
42.9%— Cal-Irvine (16-8)
Americans who have died from COVID-19: 520,518
PLEASE wear a mask (over your nose/mouth) when you go out.

Quote of the Day
“There are no ongoing discussions. The (NBA’s) logo is iconic. … It doesn’t feel to me that this is the appropriate moment (to change it).”
NBA commish Adam Silver

Sunday’s quiz
What actor who was a star in Animal House also played the Vice President in the old TV series, The West Wing? 

Saturday’s quiz
In the movie Little Big League, Ken Griffey Jr makes a game-saving catch to end the Minnesota Twins’ season.

Friday’s quiz
Terry Francona has managed three major league teams; the Indians, Red Sox and the Phillies.  

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) OVC tournament: Morehead State 86, Belmont 71
This game started at 8:00pm ET; these players had their COVID tests at 8:30 or 9:30am, 11 or so hours before the game, then had shootarounds, then went back to their hotels for the rest of the day. Not the ideal way to prepare for the biggest game of the year.

Last six years, Belmont is 91-15 regular season OVC games; they’ve only won the OVC tourney once in those six seasons, going 6-5 in OVC tournament games.

Morehead State is in the NCAA’s for the first time in ten years.

12) Tough day for #1-seeds in low/mid major tournaments: Texas State, Wagner, Navy, UMBC all got beat Saturday. Play-in games in Dayton in 10 days are going to have some odd teams playing. NCAA Tournament is more fun when higher seeds win the smaller leagues.

11) Oklahoma State 85, West Virginia 80:
— Cowboys won even though their star player (Cunningham) didn’t play (ankle).
— Oklahoma State won six of its last seven games.
— ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla may be campaigning to be the agent for OSU coach Mike Boynton; the last couple times he worked Cowboy games, he made Boynton sound like a combination of Dean Smith/John Wooden.
— Seeing how Boynton hired Cunningham’s brother as an assistant coach, paying him a reported $200,000/year, comparing him to Larry Brown would be more accurate.
— 30+ years ago, Kansas hired Danny Manning’s dad as an assistant coach; couple years later, Brown’s Jayhawks won the national title, led by Danny Manning. It is legal, and it happens a decent amount, but it doesn’t make you Dean Smith.

10) St John’s 81, Seton Hall 71:
— Pirates led this game, 18-0. Eighteen to nothing.
— Seton Hall lost its last four games (hello NIT??)
— St John’s won nine of its last 12 games.

9) Purdue 67, Indiana 58— Boilermakers have beaten Indiana nine times in a row; Archie Miller’s seat keeps getting hotter.

People on social media scoffed at me (imagine that???) for suggesting that Steve Alford would be a good coach for Indiana. He obviously played there; he’s been a good coach at five other D-I schools. He’d energize the fanbase, then all he’d have to do is win. A lot.

8) Notre Dame 83, Florida State 73— This score clinches the ACC regular season title for Virginia. Couple weeks ago, I was prepared to declare the Seminoles as my dark horse choice to win the national title, now I’m queasy. Florida State doesn’t have a star, that one guy who is a 100% cinch to get a basket/free throws, anytime they need one.

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Morehead State (+7) 86, Belmont 71
— Oklahoma State (+7) 85, West Virginia 80
— Appalachian State (+5) 76, Texas State 73, OT
— UAB (+4.5) 65, North Texas 61
— Providence (+4) 54, Villanova 52

6) MVC tournament:
— Loyola 65, Indiana State 49— Ramblers won 16 of their last 17 games.
— Drake 71, Missouri State 69— Drake is down two starters to injury; they split a pair of games with Loyola three weeks ago. Bulldogs didn’t have to play Friday because Northern Iowa had COVID issues, and that helped them in this difficult game against Missouri State.

5) Southern Conference tournament:
— #2/#3-seeds both got upset Saturday, leaving NC-Greensboro a clear path to their 2nd NCAA bid over the last 20 years.
— Either VMI/Mercer is going to be in the SoCon final; neither finished over .500 in conference games during the regular season.

4) Summit League tournament:
— South Dakota State 84, Omaha 71—
— South Dakota 86, Western Illinois 69— Finally, a league where the better teams win.

3) Sun Belt tournament:
— Appalachian State 76, Texas State 73 OT— Last September, Texas State fired Danny Kaspar, because of he was accused of using racially insensitive language toward his players. Kaspar had been at Texas State for seven years, going 45-22 the last two years.

This season, assistant Terrence Johnson led the Bobcats to an 18-7 record, 12-3 and top seed in the Sun Belt, but they stumbled in this game and now appear headed to the NIT.

2) WCC tournament:
— Saint Mary’s 52, LMU 47— James Naismith was turning over in his grave during this game; not a very good exhibition of offense.
— Pepperdine 78, Santa Clara 70— Waves play BYU Monday night; WCC smartly takes Sunday off, but mostly it is because BYU isn’t allowed to play games on Sundays.

1) America East tournament:
— UMBC/Vermont tied for the regular season title; they both lost Saturday, leaving Hartford and Mass-Lowell to play for the conference title next Saturday. Hartford is ranked #199, Lowell #217; winner will obviously go to Dayton for a play-in game. This is only second time in last six years the regular season champ didn’t win the conference tournament. 

Saturday’s Den: NBA trends at the halfway point…….

Atlanta:
— Won both their games since changing coaches.
— 1-4-1 ATS in last six road games.
— 3-5 ATS in last eight home games.
— Over is 6-3 in their last nine road games.

Boston:
— Won their last four games (2-2 ATS), all at home.
— 0-6 SU/ATS in last six road games.
— 3-4 ATS if they played the night before.
— Five of last six home games went over.

Brooklyn:
— Won/covered 10 of last 11 games.
— Won/covered last seven home games.
— 5-8 ATS as a home favorite.
— Over is 13-3 in their last sixteen road games.

Charlotte:
— 7-5 SU in their last dozen games.
— 9-5 ATS in their last 14 road games.
— 5-3 ATS if they played the night before.
— Over is 12-1 in their last 13 road games.

Chicago:
— Won six of their last nine games.
— 10-2 ATS as a road underdog.
— 5-2 ATS if they played the night before.
— Over is 8-4 in their last dozen road games.

Cleveland:
— Won four of their last five games (5-0 ATS)
— 4-11 ATS as a road underdog.
— 8-6 ATS in their last 14 home games.
— Over is 5-2 in their last seven road games.

Dallas:
— Won nine of their last 11 games.
— 4-10 ATS as a home favorite.
— 2-4 ATS if they played the night before.
— Under is 5-1 in their last six games.

Denver:
— Won/covered their last four games.
— 4-8 ATS as a home favorite.
— 9-6 ATS in their last fifteen road games.
— Under is 3-1 in their last four home games.

Detroit:
— Lost seven of their last nine games.
— 9-5 ATS as a home underdog.
— 5-2 ATS if they played the night before.
— Last three road games went over the total.

Golden State:
— Lost last three games, by 26-2-22 points.
— 7-3 ATS as a home favorite.
— 4-8 ATS as a road underdog.
— Last six road games stayed under the total.

Houston:
— Lost their last thirteen games (1-12 ATS)
— 1-7 ATS as a home underdog.
— 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games.
— Under is 11-2-1 in their home games.

Indiana:
— Lost five of last six games (0-6 ATS)
— 6-12 ATS at home.
— 4-2-1 ATS if they played night before.
— Over is 5-0-1 in their last six road games.

LA Clippers:
— Lost four of last five games, all on the road.
— 7-5 ATS in last dozen home games.
— 6-0 ATS if they played the night before.
— Under is 5-2 in their last seven games. 

LA Lakers:
— Lost six of their last eight games.
— 3-7 ATS in last ten home games.
— 1-3 ATS if they played the night before.
— Under is 6-3 in their last nine games.

Memphis:
— 8-5 SU in their last thirteen games.
— 5-3 ATS in their last eight home games.
— 7-4 ATS as a road underdog.
— Last eight games stayed under the total. 

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

13) Creighton suspended basketball coach Greg McDermott for Sunday’s regular season finale, after he used racially insensitive language in a postgame talk at Xavier last weekend.

According to a story on the Interweb, McDermott said this: ”Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.” Ummmm……not an outstanding choice of words.

When a head coach gets suspended for Senior Day, it is conceivable that McDermott won’t be back in Omaha next season. Imagine him recruiting on the heels of this?

12) Multimedia sports brand Overtime will be starting a professional basketball league that will offer high school basketball players an alternative to college in preparation for the NBA.

Overtime Elite will begin in September 2021 and will feature 30 of the nation’s top prospects from ages 16-18. The athletes will be given a guaranteed minimum salary of $100,000, in addition to bonuses and equity in the league.

Players will also have access to healthcare and disability benefits. If an Overtime Elite athlete chooses not to pursue an NBA career, the league will pay them up to $100,000 to go towards college tuition, that’s assuming they graduated high school.

Carmelo Anthony is on Overtime Elite’s board of directors.

11) 39-year old Ben Roethlisberger will be the Steelers’ QB again next fall, after agreeing to a deal with the team— it is assumed he took a large pay cut to remain a Steeler.

10) Baylor 81, Oklahoma State 70— Bears held OSU star Cade Cunningham to four points in first half, then survived Cunningham’s 20-point explosion in the second half.  Cowboys lost despite shooting 63.6% inside the arc.

Baylor is 20-1 after beating West Virginia/Oklahoma State within 48 hours, which kind of sounds like an NCAA Tournament weekend.

9) Kansas 67, Texas-El Paso 62:
— This was supposed to be a glorified workout for the Jayhawks, but they trailed 34-20 at the half, 48-33 with 13:46 left to play.
— UTEP is 12-11, 8-8 in Conference USA; they’re ranked #135.

8) Texas 69, Oklahoma 65— Sooners were on an 8-1 roll in this strangest of seasons, then they lost their last four games, likely putting them in a play-in game at the Big X tourney next week.

7) Vanderbilt 78, Cincinnati 64— This score doesn’t bode well for the AAC; Cincy had won six of its last eight games, then gets whacked at home by an SEC doormat. Memphis/SMU are near or on the NCAA bubble; they had to cringe when they saw this score.

6) Stetson 73, Bellarmine 70— Upset in the A-Sun: Bellarmine went 10-3 in the Atlantic Sun this year, their first season in Division I, but they got upset here by the gritty Hatters, who had lost to Bellarmine twice during the season.

5) New Orleans Saints cut Thomas Morstead, their punter for the last 12 years.

4) OF Jackie Bradley Jr signed a 2-year, $24M contract with Milwaukee.

3) Arizona OF Kole Calhoun hurt his knee, is out for six weeks.

2) Since 2015, Astros’ C Martin Maldonado has thrown out 37.7% of runners trying to steal a base, the best %age of any catcher with 200+ attempts against him in that timespan.

1) Wizards 119, Clippers 117— Good coaching job by Scott Brooks; Wizards are 8-3 in their last 11 games, after starting the season 6-17. They’re within two games of the #8-seed in the East. 

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

13) If the month of March goes anything like the Horizon League tournament, this could quite an interesting month. Here’s a summation of Tuesday’s quarterfinals:

— Milwaukee 94, Wright State 92, OT— #1-seed Raiders led by 24 with 6:26 left, but lost.
— Cleveland State 108, Fort Wayne 104, 3OT— Vikings were down 5 in second OT.
— Northern Kentucky 70, Detroit 69— Norse scored last six points of the game.
— Oakland 89, Youngstown State 83, OT— Four Oakland starters played 40:00+.

Three overtime games; the fourth game ended 70-69.

12) Villanova 72, Creighton 60— Villanova star Collin Gillespie suffered “a serious knee injury” and is likely out for the season. Huge blow for a team whose bench plays minutes #329. Not a lot of depth there.

As for Creighton, coach Greg McDermott urged his players to “stay on the plantation” in a postgame locker room talk after a 77-69 loss at Xavier Saturday. People in the Creighton program were offended by the word “plantation”

Deeply offended.

11) Oregon State 75, Utah 70— For the first time in 18 years, Beavers have won three consecutive Pac-12 road games. Picked for last in preseason polls, Oregon State is in 6th place.

10) Oregon 82, UCLA 74— Things I learned from listening to Bill Walton:
— The city of Eugene, OR was founded by a guy named Eugene Skinner
— Mr Skinner was born in Essex, NY, a long way from Oregon.
— His brother was assistant postmaster under President Andrew Johnson.

9) St John’s 81, Providence 67:
— Friars led by 11 at the half, but scored only 26 points in 2nd half.
— St John’s hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2000; they’ve only made the tournament four times since then. They probably won’t make it this year, either.

8) Northwestern 60, Maryland 55— This is NOT the way to impress the Selection Committee. Terps have a win over Illinois, one over Wisconsin and not much else. They’re 4-10 in games against teams ranked in the top 50.

7) Mississippi State 63, Texas A&M 57— Aggies didn’t play a game in February; they ended their 32-day pause here and shot 4-25 on the arc.

6) Spring training means preparing for fantasy baseball; got queasy last night when I read that over the last two years, Giancarlo Stanton has played in 41 of his team’s 226 games. Not good.

Then I remember that Stanton knocked in 13 runs in seven playoff games last year, and I feel a little better. My team needs Stanton to be healthy; can only imagine what the people who pay his $30M+ salary are thinking.

5) Astros’ starting P Framber Valdez broke the ring finger on his pitching hand when fielding a comebacker Tuesday. Valdez was 5-3, 3.57 in 10 starts LY, striking out 76 and walking 16 in a team-high 70.2 IP.  

4) 76ers 131, Jazz 123, OT: Quote of the Day, part 2, from Utah star Donovan Mitchell:

“Now, I’m never ever one to blame a ref, to blame an official — I can say I could have done more — but this is getting out of hand. There have been games like this that we’ve won; there have been games like this that we’ve lost. But this whole refereeing stuff. … We’re nice, we don’t complain, like, we don’t get frustrated, we fight through things, and the fact that we continually get … screwed, in a way, by this. You know?”

3) There is going to be a lot of cost-cutting in the NFL the next few weeks, as teams try to stay below a salary cap that may be going down some this season. New Jersey Giants cut WR Golden Tate

2) Was eerie seeing Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego getting dismantled last week; lot of history in that stadium- Super Bowls, the Holy Roller play, lot of Padres/Aztecs games. Dan Fouts became famous in that stadium, and now it doesn’t exist.

1) Get well soon to Aaron Boone, who took a medical leave of absence after having surgery Wednesday to get a pacemaker. The 47-year-old Boone had open-heart surgery in 2009; he is expected to be back with the team in a few days. 

In his absence, Carlos Mendoza is the interim manager. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Baylor 94, West Virginia 89, OT— If any of the games in the NCAA Tournament are as good as this one was, it’ll be surprising. This was a tremendous game between two really good teams, as Baylor clinches the Big X regular season title, their first league title since 1950.

Baylor was 13-31 on the arc; they were outscored 28-9 on the foul line.

12) Georgia Tech 81, Duke 77, OT— Tech choked away a 64-56 lead with 3:23 left; seriously, been a while since I’ve seen a team that won an overtime game play worse than they did, but they did win, snapping an 0-14 skid against Duke.

Tech started three seniors, two juniors; Duke started three frosh, two sophs.

Duke is now 11-10; will they even be one of the first four teams outside the field of 68?

11) Underrated fact: since 1976, Michigan State has had only two basketball coaches. Two!!!

10) Football is a game, but it is also a business, and businesses can be cold:
— Washington is going to release QB Alex Smith, who made a great comeback this year.
— Dolphins cut LB Kyle Van Noy, who was a team captain, one of their defense’s leaders.
— Vikings cut TE Kyle Rudolph, after he played 10 years in Minnesota.

These are salary cap-related moves, for the most part. I’m very curious to see who the QB will be in Washington next fall. I’m told quarterback is an important position.

9) JJ Watt gets $23M guaranteed from the Arizona Cardinals, where he re-unites with former Houston teammate DeAndre Hopkins. NFC West just got a little more difficult.

8) AAA baseball is going to start a month later than expected; now it will start the first week in May, when all the other minor league teams start. Spring training is weird this year, with very few 9-inning games so far— the rosters are so much thinner, with no minor leaguers to plug holes in the lineup late in games.

7) NIT is going to be a 16-team tournament this year, held totally in Dallas/Fort Worth area. Guess their first big question is whether or not Duke will trek to Texas and play there, since they do not figure to make the NCAA’s.

6) Good news for major league hitters; in-game video will be allowed in dugouts again this season. They said last summer that some hitters suffered because they were so used to seeing their at-bats right after they happened, so they could make adjustments the next time up.

Once the videos were banned, there were guys who were lost without it, so seems like a good common sense move to reverse that decision.

5) My quick plan to improve the NBA All-Star Game this year:
They’re going to have the dunk contest at HALFTIME of the game, which should make halftime very, very long (90 minutes?) You think older players are going to want to sit out for 90 minutes, then gear up to play again? I think not. 

Here is my plan: have four All-Star teams, 8 or 9 guys on a team. Play two shorter All-Star Games, one before the dunk contest, one after, then no one has to play after a 90-minute break.

4) Happy 90th birthday to Gavin MacLeod, who played Murray on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and was Captain Stubing on The Love Boat. He was also in Kelly’s Heroes, a 1970 war movie with Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland and many other stars.

3) It is March 3rd and there are already 14 head coaching jobs open in Division I

2) March is the month when we obsess over the NCAA Tournament, but on the other side of the street, the teams who don’t win a lot often change coaches- those coaches have friends, families- losing your job can be a traumatic thing. Sometimes we forget coaches are people too.

Was reminded of that when my alma mater, the Albany Great Danes, fired their coach this week, a guy who had been the Albany coach for 20 years.

Will Brown made the NCAA’s five times in his 20 seasons, not too shabby, especially since he inherited a dumpster fire 20 years ago, a program that had just joined Division I, a program that was going nowhere, and fast.

Last few years, Albany got caught up in the transfer epidemic; they were supposed to have two senior guards three years ago, but both of them bolted to big $$$ programs for their senior year, and Albany never recovered- they went 33-47 the last three years, 20-24 in America East.

The AD seems intent on pushing the “mutual parting of ways” angle, but when the coach’s son is on the team, there is no freakin’ way the coach wanted to leave. He is a good coach, a better person; he made me proud to be an Albany alum. Will Brown will be missed.

1) Also saw that Northern Illinois fired their coach; several years ago out in Las Vegas, I’m sitting outside a gym, waiting for the doors to open to an AAU tournament, and I talked to Mark Montgomery for maybe 15-20 minutes. I picked his brain and he couldn’t have been nicer; he is smart, had worked for Tom Izzo at Michigan State. Learned a lot in our conversation.

For him to be as nice as he was to a total stranger, some older guy just hanging out and watching games, it made me sad when I saw he got fired. Hopefully he’ll bounce back and get another chance. When one door closes, another one often opens. 

Tuesday’s Den: 13 of my most memorable NCAA Tournament games:

13) Georgetown 50, Princeton 49— 1989 first round. It would be another 29 years before a #1-seed lost to a 16-seed, but Pete Carril’s Tigers came damn close in this game.

Dick Vitale was in the ESPN studio with Bob Ley that night; he says on the air if Princeton wins the game, he’ll stand on his head on the set, on the air. He damn near had to do it. Georgetown had Alonzo Mourning that year; they wound up losing in the regional final.

12) Villanova 77, North Carolina 74— 2016 national title game. I’m sitting in the Westgate SuperBook watching this game, guy sitting next to me has Villanova and the under. From the sound of his voice and his tension level, he had a lot of money on both.

Guard on North Carolina (Marcus Paige?) hits a tough shot to tie the game and put the game over the total; the guy next to me slumped in his chair, but when Kris Jenkins drained a long shot to win the national title, the guy cheered up, a lot. That night, splitting his bets was a very good thing.

11) Kansas 83, Oklahoma 79— 1988 national title game. Over the last 35 years, this was only time the underdog won all three games at the Final Four. Kansas was a #6-seed; it would be another 26 years before a lower seed (#7-seed UConn in 2014) would win a national title.

Billy Tubbs coached Oklahoma back then; I loved watching his teams, they played and with great confidence. This game was 50-50 at halftime, two conference rivals going at it, but the Jayhawks had Danny Manning, and he led them to a surprising national championship.

10) Vermont 60, Syracuse 57 OT— 2005 first round. Back then, group of us would gather at an Off Track Betting sports bar, hunker down for four days and watch games for 12 hours a day. Lot of fun, lot of bantering back/forth. Wish the casino in Schenectady was around back then.

This was the year Tom Brennan coached Vermont to a big upset in the first round; they were a 9-point underdog in this game. Brennan later became a talk radio star, after he retired from coaching- his Catamounts lost their next game by 11 to Michigan State.

9) Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67 OT— 2010 2nd round. I was at the MGM Grand watching this game; lot of Kansas fans were around, very cocky that their team was headed to the Sweet 16- they were the #1-seed in that region. 

Problem is, no one told Northern Iowa; they hit a 3-pointer late in the game, pulled the big upset and made a lot of Jayhawk fans very sad.

That was the week I’m watching a game, kid scores a basket very early in the game and the three guys next to me start hugging each other and yelling. I ask them if that was their brother who scored that basket— they said no, they had Wake Forest in their “first to 15” bet.

I had no idea that MGM offered a bet where you picked which team got to 15 points first.

8) North Carolina 77, Oregon 76— 2017 national semifinal. Watched this game in Las Vegas with a friend of mine who had a very, very large bet on Oregon. He had both underdogs that day, and over the last 35 years, that day was the only time in national semifinals where both underdogs lost, but both covered, so he had a really good day.

South Carolina was a #7-seed that surprisingly made the Final Four that year; since then, Gamecocks are 32-36 in SEC games, and haven’t been back in NCAAs. Tough place to win.

7) North Carolina 71, Gonzaga 65— 2017 national final. This was two nights after the two dogs had covered the semi-final games. I’m at the SouthPoint sportsbook, and I sit next to three younger guys, all from San Diego. It was also opening night of baseball season.

For the next 3-4 hours, we shot the breeze about everything, mostly sports, but some other stuff too. They told me that Steve Fisher needed to retire at San Diego State (he did, right after that). First time I ever had a quesadilla (they’re good!!). Living proof that all Americans have more in common than what separates us.

6) Georgia Tech 93, Minnesota 91— 1990 regional final. I had the Gophers +3.5. Minnesota has the ball at the end, no chance to win, kid drains a 3 from the right corner at the buzzer, to send me home happy.

Long, long time ago, went to the NIT Final Four in New York City. This is 1984 or so, when I had just started working. All I remember about that night:
— Fresno State had really pretty cheerleaders who threw small boxes of raisins into the stands. Apparently, they grow a lot of raisins in Fresno.
— Someone scored a basket late in the game to cover the spread; these three guys in front of us starting yelling and hugging each other. Winning money makes you happy.
— Long busride back to Albany, then I went right to work— I was on the midnight-8am shift back then, looking at fingerprints. That was a long freakin’ night.

5) Murray State 83, Marquette 64— 2019 first round. Not a pleasant memory; I picked this game over the total, should have had Murray and the over. Marquette had no answer for Ja Morant and the Racers were going to hang 100 on a Big East team, the game was going to go way over the total, but the Marquette coach retreated his team into a zone defense and refused to try and win, to avoid embarrassment. No bueno.

Gamer stayed under the total; lets just say…….I wasn’t happy 🙁

4) UNLV 103, Duke 73— 1990 national title game. Wish I was in Las Vegas for this game, the night Jerry Tarkanian won his first national title. What a team that was; Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon. Lot of midnight games on ESPN for that crew.

Back then, Big Monday was a tripleheader: Big East at 7, Big 10 at 9, Big West at midnight, after SportsCenter. UNLV was in the Big West back then; they were like Gonzaga is now, a very big fish in a fairly small pond. Lot of fun to watch.

3) Northwestern State 64, Iowa 63— 2006 first round. This was a 3-14 game; Demons were a 7-point underdog. I had gone on a local radio show when the brackets came out and predicted an outright win for Northwestern State, so I was pretty excited when it happened.

Couple years later down in Orlando, I’m watching an AAU game down in Florida and the Northwestern State coach sits next to me. I told him the story, thanked him; he told me how one of his former players was going to graduate school at Iowa that year, had given him a great scouting report on the Hawkeyes. Luckily for me.

2) Loyola Marymount 111, New Mexico State 92— 1990 first round. LMU’s first game since the tragic death of Hank Gathers during the WCC tournament, 12 days earlier.

Game was tied at halftime; Bo Kimble, LMU’s best player, had four fouls at halftime but the Lions exploded in the second half and won going away. Kimble shot his first foul shot lefty to honor his fallen teammate. LMU won two more games before losing in the regional final.

1) NC State 80, UCLA 77, 2OT— 1974 national semi-final. I was in 9th grade back then, a big NC State fan (friend of our family lived in Raleigh), used to listen to their regular season games on WBT, a radio station out of Charlotte.

David Thompson/Tom Burleson/Monte Towe were the guys for NC State- they had lost to UCLA the previous December, were expected to lose here too, seeing how UCLA had won the previous seven national titles, but after getting down 7 in overtime, they rallied back and handed Bill Walton his only loss in an NCAA Tournament game.

Years later, I’m at an AAU tournament in Orlando, sitting by myself, when Monte Towe comes in the gym near where I was. Talked to him for 5-10 minutes, good guy. Hell of a passer for a guy who was 5-foot-6 at the most. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend

13) Quick piece of advice: don’t bet on spring training games this year.

They have some unusual rules this year; one of the weird ones is if a pitcher throws 20+ pitches in an inning, his manager can simply end the inning, just by saying so.

Up 5-2 in top of 6th Sunday, Angels had bases loaded, but the SF pitcher had reached 20 pitches that inning, so Gabe Kapler just told the umpire the half-inning was over. MLB is trying to prevent pitchers from overworking themselves this spring.

Some games are 5 innings, some 7, others 9, at least until March 13, when they’re expected to go back to all nine-inning games.

12) If you were born on February 29, when do you celebrate your birthday? The 28th? March 1? Must be odd having a birthday once every four years.

11) There is a basketball player at South Alabama named Kayo Goncalves: here are his shooting stats for this year, his senior season:

— 2-point shots: 7-19, 36.8%
— foul shots: 9-14, 64.3%
— 3-point shots: 65-168, 36.7%

He mustn’t dribble very much, just catch/shoot. Jaguars are 16-10 overall this season, 23-14 in Sun Belt play the last two seasons. Sun Belt basketball is fun to watch.

10) Knicks 109, Pistons 90— Knicks are 18-17, first time since 2013 that they’ve been over .500 after 35 games. Tom Thibodeau is a very good coach.

9) QB Allen Bowman is transferring from Texas Tech to Michigan; Jim Harbaugh had a young QB play for him last year and it didn’t go well, so he grabs another transfer. Bowman threw for 2,600+ yards the last two seasons.

8) It was great to watch actual baseball games Sunday, even meaningless exhibition games. Regular season starts April 1st, four weeks from Thursday.

7) Marcus Semien got $18M to play for Toronto this season, but he is also moving from SS to second base, and he’ll play most of his home games on artificial turf.

Blue Jays will stay in Florida for their first two homestands, and they’ll play it by ear from there, as far as COVID protocols go. Blue Jays played their home games in Buffalo last year, but you don’t want to play outdoors in Buffalo in April.

6) Butler 73, Villanova 61— Villanova shot 2-27 from the arc; they’re shooting 36.1% for the season behind the arc. This is the kind of game teams will have to avoid in the tournament; you lay an egg there and your season ends quickly.

5) Iowa 73, Ohio State 57— In reality, NCAA Tournament will have three #1-seeds (Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan) and five #2-seeds, just that one of the five will be named as a #1-seed, but who will it be? Buckeyes had a shot, but they’ve lost three in a row now, so that won’t happen.

4) Victor Oladipo rejected a 2-year, $45.2M contract extension from the Houston Rockets; you know your life is going well when $45.2M isn’t a good deal. He wants a contract that is longer than two years, and if he stays healthy, he’ll probably get it.

3) Charlotte 127, Sacramento 126:
— Sacramento led by 8 with 0:55 left.
— Kings missed five foul shots in the last 1:09.
— Charlotte’s best player, Gordon Hayward, didn’t play.
— Sacramento has lost 10 of its last 11 games.

2) RIP to Irv Cross, 81, who passed away Sunday. Cross was a DB in the NFL for nine years (Eagles, Rams) but was better known as a popular person on the NFL Today pregame show for many years, with Brent Musburger, Phyllis George and Jimmy the Greek. RIP, sir.

1) Sunday was the 38th anniversary of the last episode of M*A*S*H, one of the all-time great TV shows. Spent many an hour watching M*A*S*H re-runs on weekday afternoons; the episodes with MacLean Stevenson were my favorites. 

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

13) Will any of this season’s scheduling oddities become normal in the future? Will playing two games at one site over 2-3 days, which reduces travel, become the new normal, or will things go back to the way they were last year?

Friday nights have always been a slow night for college hoop, but this year, Fridays have been busier than Wednesday/Thursdays. I’m guessing the TV people would prefer leaving Fridays to the NBA and getting college games back to mid-week dates, but that remains to be seen.

12) Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats recently signed a contract extension that will pay him $3.225M/year, not bad for a guy who, eight years ago, was a high school Math teacher and the basketball coach at a Michigan HS. He taught at the school for 11 years; now he’s rich.

Alabama is 19-6 this year, 14-2 in the SEC; they’ll be a high seed in the NCAA’s.

11) Oklahoma State 94, Oklahoma 90, OT— Cade Cunningham scored 40 points for OSU, in an impressive one-man show. Cunningham’s brother was hired as an assistant coach by the Cowboys last year, as an inducement for his brother to come to Stillwater.

Whatever they’re paying the brother, it ain’t enough. Oklahoma State will play in the NCAA’s before they get their probation from the NCAAs. Cunningham will be a walking advertisement for the Oklahoma State program when he plays in the NBA.
 
10) Louisville 80, Duke 73 OT
— Cardinals blew a 12-point lead, but pulled away for the OT win.
— ESPN’s Jay Bilas (a Duke alum) calls most Duke games, but he was at Kansas-Baylor, so ESPN showed they give Duke no special treatment— Chris Spatola was the analyst. He is Coach K’s son-in-law.

Oy.

9) Kansas 71, Baylor 58— Bears lose for first time in 18 games; this was their second game back after a 21-day COVID pause. Selection Sunday is two weeks from today, so their first game in the NCAA Tournament is 18-19 days away. Will they have their legs back by then?

8) North Carolina 78, Florida State 70
— This was Roy Williams’ 900th career win; 482 at Carolina, 418 at Kansas.
— Florida State led this game by 16 in the first half.
— Peaks/valleys: Carolina got hammered at home by Marquette during the week.

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Tennessee Tech (+10.5) 71, Murray State 61
— Northridge (+10) 90, Bakersfield 87
— Rider (+9.5) 78, Saint Peter’s 65
— Vanderbilt (+9.5) 75, Ole Miss 70
— Auburn (+8) 77, Tennessee 72
— Bradley (+8) 67, Drake 61
— Oregon State (+7) 73, Stanford 62
— Boston College (+7) 94, Notre Dame 90

6) Texas Tech 68, Texas 59:
— Longhorns are 4-6 in their last ten games, after a 10-1 start.
— Tech’s win snaps a 3-game losing skid.

5) Morehead State 89, Belmont 82, OT
— Belmont lost twice this week, after starting the season 24-1.
— Morehead was 31-39 on foul line, Belmont 14-19.

4) Auburn 77, Tennessee 72— Tigers pull the upset without star G Sherife Cooper, who is out for the year. Excellent coaching job by Bruce Pearl, but also a disturbing loss for Tennessee, which looked lackluster in defeat. When network TV guys say it on the air, it had to be obvious.

3) Arkansas 83, LSU 75— Razorbacks have won six in row, nine of last ten games. LSU takes lot of quick shots and doesn’t pass the ball so much- they’re 4-6 in their last ten games, after they started the season 10-2.

2) Gonzaga 86, LMU 69— Gonzaga is the last unbeaten team in the country which puts the target right on their backs. Zags have one single-digit win the entire season (December 2nd vs West Virginia); when they have to play a close game in the NCAA’s, will that hurt them?

1) There are a lot of teams who are capable of beating anyone on a given day, but it seems like there are very few teams who are consistently good. Winning a national title takes six wins a row, the last four (or five) over strong teams.

The eventual national champ this year may be a team that gets help from upsets elsewhere in their bracket, not unlike Kansas in 1988. 

Saturday’s Den: NCAA tourney notes, and random thoughts on a winter night

13) Lady Gaga’s two French bulldogs, stolen Thursday by thieves who shot and wounded a dog walker,, were recovered unharmed Friday in Los Angeles. The dog walker is expected to recover from his gunshot wounds; they didn’t say if the woman who returned the dogs banked the $500,000 reward Lady Gaga posted.

12) Georgia State 84, South Alabama 81— When ESPN first started 40 years ago, they showed a lot of Sun Belt games early on. I’m thinking they should give the league a weekly time slot now, either on Friday nights or Sundays:

a) They play good basketball; this game was fun to watch.
b) to show appreciation for helping ESPN get off the ground 40 years ago

This loss snapped South Alabama’s 8-game winning streak.

11) Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan are heavy favorites to be #1-seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but it is totally unclear who the fourth #1-seed will be.

10) Saint Louis 72, Richmond 67— Teams in A-14 are cannibalizing each other; I’m not even sure the A-14 will get more than one team in the tournament. Top six teams in the standings all have either three or four conference losses.

9) New Mexico fired basketball coach Paul Weir, but he’ll finish the season. Lobos are 16-36 in Mountain West games the last three years. Firing a coach after this screwed-up season could be judged as hasty; Lobos are very inexperienced this year, a bad season for that to happen.

8) Wichita State removed the interim tag from basketball coach Isaac Brown’s job title, named him the full-time head coach. Shockers have won five in a row, are 13-4 this season.

7) Random fact: actor Jim Belushi owns a cannabis farm in Oregon.

Some notes to remember for the upcoming NCAA tournament:
6) Last three years, #1-seeds are 5-7 ATS in first round, 4-7 ATS in second round

5) Last four years, #2-seeds are 9-6-1 ATS in first round, 6-10 ATS in second round.

4) Last six years, in 2nd round games in #4-5 seeds’ bracket, favorites are 19-5 ATS.

3) Last four years, underdogs are 11-5 ATS in Sweet 16 games.

2) Last six tournaments (obviously, there was no tournament LY), underdogs are 16-8 ATS in Elite 8 games.

1) Last nine years, underdogs are 10-8 ATS in national semifinals, but favorites covered six of last nine national title games. 

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

13) Read a good story this week, we don’t hear enough positive stuff these days.

Matthew Berry writes for ESPN, mostly about fantasy sports, but his first job out of college was production assistant for The George Carlin Show. It was uplifting when Berry wrote an article saying what a great guy Carlin was, and how nice the great comedian was to Berry .

There is too much hostility in our world; we need to be nicer to each other. Seriously.

12) NBA TV showed the replay of a 1977 Jazz-Knicks game from New Orleans, when the great Pete Maravich hung 68 points on the Knicks- this was before there were 3-pointers.

I remember watching the game with my dad, who was a big Knicks fan. It was fun watching the replay; Maravich would dribble up the floor and take a lot of quick, pull-up jumpers. Picture Steph Curry time traveling back 44 years; that’s what it was like.

Knicks had some interesting subs that year:
— Phil Jackson obviously became one of the NBA’s best-ever coaches.
— Tom McMillen wound up as a US Congressman for six years.
— Ticky Burden was one of the best-ever basketball players from here in Albany.
— Dean Meminger was the first head coach of the Albany Patroons of the CBA, a team that Phil Jackson would later coach, before his great run in the NBA.

11) Michigan 79, Iowa 57:
— Michigan is 17-1; they’ve won six in a row. Wolverines are very good.

10) Michigan State 71, Ohio State 67:
— Spartans won last three games, are 13-9; imagine the #1-seed who is going to see the Spartans in their bracket, in a potential 2nd-round game? 

— Michigan State scored 65 or less points in six of their last seven losses; they scored 78-81-71 points in their last three games.

9) Cincinnati Bearcats won five of their last six games; none of the five wins was by more than three points. They still don’t shoot well, but they’ve saved their season.

8) Horizon tournament opened last night; three of the four home teams won. Fort Wayne was the only road winner; they won 89-84 in double OT at Green Bay, after trailing by 8 points in the second half. Mastodons made 10-21 3-pointers; they won for only second time in their last 11 games.

7) Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu broke his nose, is out for a while; he’ll probably be wearing a mask when he comes back. Dosumnu is Illinois’ best player, a 40% shooter on the arc; this isn’t great timing for the Illini.

6) Colorado 80, USC 62— Buffaloes are an experienced team with good guards, but they play better against the good teams than weak sisters. Thats not a good recipe for March. Colorado has now won six games in a row over USC, which lost for only second time in their last 10 games.

5) Upsets of the Night:
— Tennessee Tech (+8.5) 81, Austin Peay 76
— Eastern Kentucky (+8) 81, Belmont 67
— SE Missouri State (+6) 94, Eastern Illinois 88
— Fort Wayne (+5.5) 89, Green Bay 94, 2OT
— Northwestern (+4.5) 67, Minnesota 59
— LMU (+4.5) 81, Pepperdine 74

4) Bad Beat of the Night: San Diego State (-6) 78, Boise State 66, OT— Aztecs led by 17 early in the second half, blew the lead, then covered in overtime. Boise was 12-40 on the arc, 12-26 inside the arc.

3) Shin-Soo Choo retired from the major leagues and went home to Korea, where he’ll play for the Wyverns in the KBO this season. Choo had a .377 on-base %age in 16 big league seasons, and now he gets to finish his career at home. Good for him.

2) Sportsbooks in New Jersey banked an $82.6M profit in January; sportsbooks in Nevada raked in $52.4M. Tough times for gamblers; too many variables. I’m not picking games on this site these days because I don’t think there is a realistic expectation of coming out ahead right now, and I like coming out ahead.

1) There is a good program on ESPN2 most weekdays; Daily Wager, that talks about gambling and handicapping. Handicapping is a grind, it is fun, but there are ups and downs, and dealing with those determines who wins and who loses over the long haul. It is well worth watching. 

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

13) Since the AFL/NFL merger 50+ years ago, only one NFL quarterback who has started 50+ games hasn’t thrown at least one pick-6. The answer is surprising; I’ll post it down below.

12) May 17, 1979; Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 in ten innings, with the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field. One of the craziest ballgames ever:

— Neither starting pitcher finished the first inning.
— Cubs’ #3-4 hitters went a combined 7-13, with seven runs scored, 13 RBI and Chicago still lost.
— Cubs’ #3 hitter was Bill Buckner, who was a very good big league hitter.
— For some reason, Larry Bowa hit 2nd, Pete Rose 3rd for the Phillies. Bowa was a good fielder but a less-than-average hitter. Bake McBride batted leadoff for Philly.

—Tug McGraw gave up 7 runs (4 earned) in 0.2 innings; you may have heard of his son, Tim McGraw, the great singer. Tug McGraw saved 180 games in his 19-year MLB career.
— Rawly Eastwick got the win in relief, throwing two perfect innings in a 23-22 game.
— Six different players knocked in 4+ runs.
— Bob Boone (Aaron Boone’s father) was the Phillies’ catcher.
— The game took 4:03 to play; 14,952 fans watched it.

11) Jazz 114, Lakers 89:
— Jazz have played 32 games; they’re had a 20+ point lead in 20 of them.
— In its last 23 games, Utah is 20-2-1 against the spread.

10) NBA will host two 4-team play-in tournaments May 18-21, to determine the last four playoff teams this season, two in each conference:
— #7-seed hosts the #8-seed; winner is in.
— #10-seed visits the #9-seed; loser is out. 
— Loser of the 7-8 game hosts the 9-10 winner; winner of that game gets in playoffs.

9) Arkansas 81, Alabama 66:
— Free throws: Arkansas 27-43, Alabama 3-8. Seems fair.
— One kid on Arkansas was 16-19 on the line; Alabama’s whole team was 3-8.
— Arkansas has won five in row, 8 of last 9 games.
— Alabama is 4-3 in its last seven games, after a 14-3 start.

8) Rutgers 74, Indiana 63— The pundits on the Big 14 Network preach endlessly about how great their league is; I’m a skeptic. FS1’s Doug Gottlieb was saying how fewer kids from the Big 14 jump early to the NBA, so they have an advantage early in the season, their teams have more continuity, an advantage that erodes as the season goes on.

7) ESPN missed the boat when they let Gottlieb walk; he is a way better analyst than Jay Bilas, who somehow is ESPN’s #1 analyst. Bilas played for Duke, which seems to mean a lot at ESPN.

Gottlieb speaks his mind, has some humor and doesn’t bitch about the refs every 90 seconds, the way Bilas does. Always learn stuff listening to Gottlieb.

6) NC State 68, Virginia 61:
— Virginia lost three in row, after a 15-3 start.
— Wolfpack won three in row, after an 8-9 start.
— NC State played seven guys the whole game. Not many teams have depth these days.

5) Wednesday night’s biggest upsets:
— Western Carolina (+14) 81, NC-Greensboro 80
— NC State (+12) 68, Virginia 61
— Marquette (+8.5) 83, North Carolina 70
— St Joe’s (+8) 97, Dayton 84
— Butler (+7.5) 61, Seton Hall 52
— Fresno State (+7) 67, UNLV 64

4) SNY in New York City does it right; they replay a classic Mets’ game every weekday at 3pm. Watching ballgames is the fun thing to do, listening to Cohen-Darling-Hernandez is a fine way to spend a winter afternoon, at least until exhibition games start this weekend.

3) Blue Jays’ 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr has lost 42 pounds since last season; he turns 22 next month, has hit .269 in his first 183 big league games, over two seasons. Curious to see if being so much lighter will make him a better hitter.

2) I’m amazed that people bet on the NFL Draft; you can wager on how many QB’s will get taken in the first round, what pick in the first round will the last QB be taken, basically anything you can think of. 

Over the last 50 years, Mitch Trubisky is the only NFL quarterback with 50+ starts who hasn’t thrown at least one pick-6.

1) Conference tournaments start tonight; the Horizon League has four first-round games.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) A gambler bet $67,000 Tuesday night at @pointsbetusa that 17-0 Baylor would beat 2-16 Iowa State SU, but Baylor was down 32-15 early, was still down a point with 4:54 left to play- they wound up winning 77-72. 

The gambler risked $67,000, made himself a stresssful $2,914. Very stressful.

12) Baylor 77, Iowa State 72— That was the Bears’ first game in three weeks; they just need to get games under their belt, to get ready for the tournament. Can a team get in midseason form in three weeks? We’re about to find out.

11) March’s college basketball schedule is going to be scrambled this year, but at least they’re going to play tournaments, unlike last year. Some of the conference tournaments start next week; I’ll be posting information on all that I can. Hopefully next season will be more normal.

10) NBA trends on back/backs:
— Road teams who played at home night before: Favorites 4-3 ATS, underdogs 6-10-1
— Teams on road for 2nd consecutive night: F 13-8 ATS, U 19-13-1
— Teams at home for 2nd consecutive night: F 12-9-1, U 14-14
— Home teams who played on road night before: F 2-9, U 10-6
— Home teams 38-38-1………favorites 31-29-1, underdogs 49-43-2

9) I’d be fascinated to know what NBA coaches who also coached in college think about the two sports: Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Quin Snyder. Even Lon Kruger, who coached the Hawks for a few years but who coaches Oklahoma now. 

Recruiting and the transfer epidemic has to make college coaching less appealing; the money is better in the NBA, but lot of coaches like to teach— lot more of that in college.

Would be a fascinating HBO special this summer. Or NBA TV.

8) Lefty pitcher Scott Kazmir signed a minor league deal with the Giants; he has a career record of 108-96, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016. Giants will be his 7th big league team.

7) NBA teams who play the fastest tempo, which could be helpful in betting totals:
1) Golden State
2) Houston
3) Chicago
4) Minnesota
5) Philadelphia

6) Michigan State 81, Illinois 72: Some nights Illinois looks like a Final Four team, then there are nights like tonight. You have to win four tournament games in a row to make the Final Four; is Illinois consistent enough?

5) There are already 110 kids on the college basketball transfer portal; with this year being a free year for college players, meaning that conceivably, everyone playing this year could also come back and play next year, the transfer portal should be fascinating this spring.

Over 1,000 kids transferred last year; I’m guessing this year’s number will be around 1,500.

4) All-Star reserves were announced Tuesday; couple of surprising omissions:
— Phoenis Suns are 20-10; Devin Booker is their best player, scoring 24.7 ppg.
— Domantas Sabonis is one of four players averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

NBA All-Star Game is way harder to make than the baseball/football All-Star Games

3) Michigan’s football team has six new assistant coaches for next season; now all ten of Jim Harbaugh’s assistant coaches are under 40 years old, which is highly unusual.

2) Georgia 91, LSU 78— Dismal effort by LSU, which is now 4-5 in its last nine games. LSU is #329 in the country in assists/FG’s made, meaning they go 1-on-1 a lot and depend on their rebounding for scoring. Not the best recipe for March, especially for experience team #327.

1) Auburn star Sharife Cooper has his foot in a walking boot, Auburn isn’t playing in the postseason and Cooper is likely headed to the NBA this summer, so his college career is pretty much over. So are Auburn’s chances of winning again this season. They’ve lost 7 of their last 8 games, and finish up with Tennessee/Alabama. 

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

13) There could be more of this to come; Western Kentucky will visit Houston Thursday night, in a hastily-arranged game designed to elevate both teams’ resume for the NCAA Tournament.

WKU is 15-4, and appears to be a bubble team at best if they don’t win the C-USA tournament. Houston is 18-3, but a win here would help improve their resume.

12) Oklahoma State 74, Texas Tech 69 OT:

Oklahoma State was 22-32 on foul line, Texas Tech 8-12.

Cade Cunningham was the #1 high school recruit in the country last year; he chose to go to Oklahoma State, which “coincidentally” had just hired his brother as an assistant coach.

All that is perfectly legal, has been done many times before. In the mid’80’s, Kansas hired Ed Manning as an assistant coach, then Ed’s son Danny led the Jayhawks to a national title. Ed Manning played in the NBA, but he was a truck driver when Kansas hired him.

During this game, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla had the onions to say that the brother’s hiring wasn’t a “package deal.” In other words, Oklahoma State would’ve hired the brother as an assistant coach, even if Cade Cunningham was a badminton player. Have to call bullshit on that one.

11) By the way, Oklahoma State will be going on probation soon, just not this year, because the NCAA hasn’t gotten around to hearing OSU’s appeal of the NCAA’s verdict on a previous issue. By the time the Cowboys go on probation, Cade Cunningham will be playing in the NBA.

In June 2020, after an FBI bribery-and-corruption investigation implicated a former OSU assistant coach- he got a three-month prison sentence, the NCAA gave Oklahoma State a 3-year probation, a one-year postseason ban and the loss of three total scholarships over a three-year period.

10) Duke 85, Syracuse 71— There is a phrase called “addition by subtraction” where the group does better when one person leaves. Not necessarily that person’s fault, just that roles become more defined, there are fewer people looking over their shoulders to be subbed out.

Duke, in three games since Jalen Johnson skipped town:
— won 84-60 at Wake Forest
— won 66-65 over Virginia
— won 85-71 over Syracuse

Duke was 5-8 when Johnson played; they’re 6-0 in games he missed. Those are the facts; they are not in dispute. Decide for yourself why those facts are what they are.

9) There have been  Celtic fans on social media bitching about coach Brad Stevens; Celtics are 15-15, lost six of their last nine games. To this point, they’re underachieving.

I’ll say this; of the 357 D-I college teams, how many would fire their coach if Stevens became available? He made the Final Four with a HORIZON LEAGUE TEAM (Butler wasn’t in the Big East yet). If he isn’t appreciated in Boston, someone with deep pockets surely will.

8) West Virginia won six of its last eight games; they’ve won five road games in a row, which is pretty amazing. West Virginia plays in the Big X; of the other nine teams in the league, closest town to West Virginia is Ames, Iowa, which according to Mapquest, is 872 miles away.

Thats their shortest conference road trip, 872 miles. Yikes.

7) South Carolina used to be an ACC school; they bolted the league in 1971, stayed independent in football until 1991, when they joined the SEC.

The basketball Gamecocks joined the old Metro Conference in 1983; that was a pretty good league, with Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, but it was basketball-only.

You wonder if they could do it all over again, if South Carolina would’ve stayed in the ACC.

6) Only one major league team ever has had a player wear 0 and another player wear 00 at the same time; the 1985 Blue Jays had Al Oliver (0) and Cliff Johnson (00).

This season, Marcus Stroman will wear 0 for the Mets; there were rumors that Taijuan Walker was going to wear 00, but he will wear 99 instead, joining Turk Wendell as Mets who wore #99.

5) Reliever Tyler Clippard is going to sign with Arizona; he must be good at packing:
2007— Bronx
2009-14— Washington
2015— Oakland/NY Mets
2016— Arizona/Bronx
2017— Bronx-White Sox-Houston
2018— Toronto
2019— Cleveland
2020— Minnesota
2021— Arizona

4) Since 2000, colleges with the most NFL draft picks:
141— Ohio State
127— Alabama
126— LSU
119— Miami
109— Florida, Florida State, Georgia, USC
101— Oklahoma

3) QB Tyler Shough has bolted Oregon for Texas Tech; Slough started all seven games for the Ducks last year, as Oregon won its 2nd consecutive Pac-12 title, but he was splitting time with Anthony Brown at the end of the season.

2) Albert Pujols’ wife announced on Instagram that this season will be her husband’s last year in the major leagues; Albert Pujols has had a great career, hitting 662 home runs, a career OPS of .924, winning two World Series rings. He also earned roughly $345M in salary.

No word from Pujols himself on his career plans, but five years after he retires, he’ll be going to Cooperstown.

1) Golfer Tony Finau won the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, his only PGA Tour win; since then, he’s finished in the top ten of 37 other tournaments, earned $19.2M, but no more wins.

During that time, 43 other golfers have won 2+ tournaments. $19.2M is damn good golfing, but you’d think he would have more than one tournament win. 

Monday’s Den: Happy birthday, Dad…….

13) I’ve become a fan of listening to podcasts on my phone; if there aren’t any good movies on TV late at night, after the games are over, then I’ll put music on or listen to a podcast.

I’m a little concerned that podcasts have replaced writing in a lot of places, because our society is lazy, and running your mouth is easier than typing out your thoughts, but still, I’ve enjoyed learning stuff from listening to people who are smarter than I am. 

Word of caution: There A LOT OF PODCASTS out there, so pick/choose things that interest you. My main interests are sports and movies; here are a few podcasts I listen to:

— The Moment, with Brian Koppelman (one of writers of Billions)
— Eye on College Basketball, a CBS production which is self-explanatory.
— The Mind of Miles, with former Nebraska hoop coach Tim Miles, who will have himself a nice career on TV if he chooses that option. He is upbeat and can really talk.
— Truth and Basketball, with George Karl and another guy- they get some good guests. Listened to an episode with Julius Erving the other night.
— 6 Ways to Sunday— Rams’ GM Les Snead and his wife, Kara Henderson talk about interesting aspects of being an NFL GM that we might not usually think about.

Sports, politics, movies, music; its all out there. Its like eavesdropping on conversations, so if you choose smart, interesting people, you’ll get smarter while you’re being entertained.

12) Book recommendation: If you love pro basketball and you remember the ABA, then you have to read Loose Balls, which is basically an oral history of the ABA. The author interviewed a ton of people, then cut/pasted their answers and created this book, long before cut/paste was an actual thing. 

Lot of great stories; some of it is obviously dated, seeing how the ABA ended 45 years ago, but the ABA is also highly underrated in basketball history. This book is worth reading.

11) Kid on Florida Atlantic’s baseball team hit two grand slams in one inning the other day, and they were his first two college at-bats. Not a bad way to start your career.

10) I’m in a 14-team fantasy baseball league; it is a dynasty league, so we have a 2-round draft every February, but otherwise keep our teams from year-to-year. This league has been going on since 2005; we’ve finished our draft already and now wait for spring training games to start this coming weekend. Every team gets four drop/adds per month.

I used to offer trades during the spring, but trading can be frustrating; only a couple guys will make deals that are fair exchanges. Few years ago, thought I had a trade wrapped up, but then the guy says, “One more thing……throw in deGrom and we’ve got a deal” Ummm, no bueno.

9) Colorado Rockies are taking grief over dealing Nolan Arenado, and the prospect of Trevor Story also getting traded sometime this year, before he hits free agency. Last time Colorado signed a major league free agent?

December 21, 2018, they signed Daniel Murphy. Are they trying to win?

8) More bad news for the Rockies Sunday; 35-year old 1B/OF Ian Desmond is opting out for the second year in a row, to spend more time with his family. Desmond must’ve taken good care of his money; he has passed on $13.5M by sitting out last year/this year. He is a free agent after this season; why would a hitter willingly leave Denver?

7) One of the pitfalls of wagering on college basketball is that lot of teams have very little depth, and a turned ankle or foul trouble to one guy can cripple a team.

— Notre Dame-Syracuse game Saturday, both teams played 7 guys (Syracuse played an 8th kid, but only for 3:00)
— South Alabama is on a roll, winning 8 in a row; they played six guys Saturday. Six!!!

Lot of work keeping up with who is healthy/who isn’t. It is way worse this year because of teams pausing for COVID and games getting re-scheduled. Hopefully next season will be more normal.

6) When you hear a basketball announcer on TV say “Eurostep” that’s his polite way of saying, “the guy just walked but the ref didn’t call it.”

5) Atlantic 14 tournament has been jockeyed around some:
— Tournament was moved up to March 3-6 in Richmond, all except the final.
— A-14 final will be March 14 in Dayton, which is close to Indiana, where the whole NCAA Tournament will be played. Trying to minimize any possible COVID issues.

4) St Bonaventure 69, Davidson 58:
— Bonnies are 11-3, 9-3 in conference.
— Get a map, and find Olean, NY; it is in middle of nowhere, on Southern Tier of NY.
— How does Bonnies’ coach Mark Schmidt not have a better job? He is a great coach.

Bonnies have 12 players, 2 freshmen, one sophomore, and NINE JUNIORS. They could be a really good team the next couple of years.

3) When I wrote tomorrow NBA’s page just before I started this page, was watching the Minnesota-Knicks game on TV. Knicks won a close game; just heard that after the game, the Timberwolves fired coach Ryan Saunders.

2) As if the last year hasn’t been weird enough, Saturday an NHL game was delayed for eight hours because the sun was out and the ice at the outdoor rink was melting. This was at the same time as the PGA event in Los Angeles being delayed because it was too windy out. Oy.

1) Today would’ve been my dad’s 95th birthday; he passed away six years ago, and I miss him every day. He was a quiet, patient person; somehow the patience didn’t get passed down to his son. 🙂

Back in the day, I wasn’t allowed to watch The Three Stooges on TV: my mother apparently thought I would start drilling people in the head with a wrench if I did, but when she went out, I would put The Three Stooges on (WSBK in Boston) and my dad would come in the room, shake his head at me, but five minutes later, he’d be laughing harder than I was. Every time.

My dad grew up in New York City, was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan; he loved golf, the Mets/Knicks/Giants, going to the racetrack at Saratoga and being around his family, and we loved being around him. Happy birthday dad; wish you were here.