Friday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind…….

13) Astros 6, Rays 1— Clock strikes midnight for the Cinderella Rays, who took Houston to the brink in this series, but Astros scored four runs in the first inning and that was that. ALCS will be New York-Houston, which should be very interesting. 

12) Astros’ ace Gerrit Cole had struck out at least one batter in 73 consecutive innings before he didn’t get a strikeout in the third inning last night; not only is that the longest such streak in the majors since 1961, the next highest streak was only 40 (Pedro Martinez, 1999).  

11) Patriots 35, Giants 14— New England scored TD’s on a blocked punt and a fumble return; Giants also scored a TD on a fumble return. Game was 21-14 with 9:00 to play.

Total yardage was 427-213 NE; Giants had 10 first downs, four turnovers (-2).

10) South Point Casino in Las Vegas has interesting prop bets; what college team scores the first TD of the day, and then which team scores the most points. 

Favorites for first TD:
7-1: Georgia, Oklahoma, Toledo
8-1: Indiana, Michigan

Favorite to score the most points Saturday: Louisiana Tech 8-1

9) Steph Curry scored 40 points in an exhibition game Thursday; Golden State has a much different roster as they open their new arena this fall- no Klay Thompson, Durant is gone, so there will be nights where Curry will have to go off for the Warriors to win. 

8) Villanova/Seton Hall are the favorites to win Big East basketball this winter. 

UCLA is picked to finish 8th in the Pac-12, which seems weird to type. 

7) Over last 12 years, unbeaten NFL teams who are an underdog from Week 6 on are 7-6 ATS. 49ers fit that bill Sunday. 

6) Pittsburgh Steelers apparently had a full-contract practice Wednesday, with the team 1-4 and sinking fast; that is unusual in the NFL. Looks like their #3 QB gets his first NFL start against the Chargers Sunday, in a game between two struggling franchises. 

5) Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler after two mediocre seasons where his players went in the tank on him in September both years. Oddly, the Phillies fired both trainers and their pitching coach, but invited all the other coaches back for next season. 

If a new manager doesn’t get to pick his own coaches, that usually signals a bad job. 

4) No idea why, but the last three years, San Jose State’s leading scorer has transferred out of the program all three years, which is why the Spartans are 9-45 in Mountain West games during that time. 

Over the last 22 years, San Jose State has never won half its conference games, though they were 17-16 overall in 2010-11. Seems like a school in California should have at least some success. 

3) UL-Monroe 24, Texas State 14— 3-3 WarHawks clinched the win/covered the spread with a TD with 1:46 left; Texas State completed 20-39 passes, but for only 92 yards. 

2) 30 or so years ago, had some problems with my teeth and as a result I gave up Snickers bars, switching to the softer Three Musketeers candy bars. 

This week, I had my first Snickers bars since then; they still taste great!!! 

1) One of the best parts of coming to Las Vegas is meeting new people/making new friends, from all over the country. Thursday was a good day/night for that, making new friends from Ohio, New Jersey, Georgia and a few who live here in the desert. Overall, an excellent day.  

Thursday’s List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud……

I had a good writeup all set for this spot today, then I watched the Dodgers’ game Wednesday night and had to start all over again…….

13) Nationals 7, Dodgers 3 (10)— Tough night for LA fans; Dodgers blew a 3-1 8th inning lead, giving up back/back home runs. Howie Kendrick hit a 10th inning grand slam for the win. 

Clayton Kershaw has never allowed home runs on consecutive pitches in the regular season; it has happened to him twice in playoff games.

12) There have been two extra inning grand slams in playoff history; Howie Kendrick last night and Nelson Cruz in Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS. 

Max Scherzer was at both games; he was the starter for the losing Tigers in that 2011 game. 

Twins exercised Cruz’ $12M team option for 2020; the way he hit this year, that is a bargain. 

11) Kendrick has played 14 years in the major league and has hit two grand slams, both of which came in extra innings. 

10) Road teams are now 4-9 all-time in winner-take-all games that went to extra innings, with three of the four wins coming in the last four years.

9) Cardinals 13, Braves 1— St Louis is fourth team ever to score 10+ runs in an inning in a playoff game:

1929— Philadelphia A’s Game 4 of WS vs Chicago (B7)
1968— Detroit Game 6 of WS vs St Louis (T3)
2002— LA Angels Game 5 of ALCS vs Milwaukee (B7)
2019— St Louis Game 5 of NLDS vs Atlanta (T1)

8) Atlanta Braves hold a dubious major league record; they’re the only team to be eliminated from the playoffs at home for five consecutive seasons (2000-04).

7) Home teams in winner-take-all playoff games:
MLB— 56-60 (48.3%)
NHL— 133-91 (59.4%)
NBA— 177-62 (74.1%)

6) San Antonio Spurs have gone over their season win total 11 of the last 14 years. 

5) Someone at the Westgate SuperBook wagered $5,000 at 8-1 odds this week that New England will finish the regular season 16-0. 

4) Since 2016, teams coming off a loss are 5-21-1 ATS when playing the Patriots. 

3) When Oregon trailed the Cal Bears 7-0 at halftime Saturday, it was the first scoreless 1st half for the Ducks since a 30-24 home loss to Indiana in 2004. 

2) Why did the Houston Rockets used to be the NBA franchise worth the most money? Because Yao Ming played for Houston, and the Rockets’ resulting lucrative connection to China was worth a boatload of cash. Notice I said “was”

One critical tweet from Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey has turned the Chinese government against the NBA and it is unclear whether the damage can be undone, which is going to cost everyone associated with the league a lot of money. A lot. Mucho dinero. 

1) There were reports Wednesday that NBA teams preparing for the 2020-21 season are thinking the salary cap could drop as much as 15% after this season, all because of one 6-word tweet. 

Wednesday’s Den: Notes on all the NFC teams…….

Arizona:
— Cardinals have only one takeaway in their last four games (-2 in TO’s for year).
— Arizona is 14-10-1 ATS in last 25 games as a home underdog.
— Road team covered their last four games. 

Atlanta:
— Falcons allowed 12 TD’s on their opponents’ last 25 drives.
— Atlanta averaged 8.1+ yards/pass attempt in four of their five games.
— Falcons covered only four of their last 19 road games.  

Carolina:
— Panthers are 3-0, scoring 32.7 ppg, with Kyle Allen at QB.
— Carolina has nine takeaways (+5) in its last three games.
— Panthers ran for only 39 yards in Week 2’s 20-14 home loss to Tampa Bay. 

Chicago:
— Bears allowed total of 45 points in Weeks 1-4, then gave up 24 points to Oakland Sunday.
— Chicago was 8-13 on 3rd down vs Washington; other four games? 15-53
— Bears are 0-5 SU/ATS in their last five post-bye games. 

Dallas:
— First three games: 18-31 on third down. Last two games: 6-19.
— Cowboys were outscored 26-3 in first half of their last two games.
— Dak Prescott: 35-18 as an NFL starter; 24-5 vs losing teams, 11-13 vs winning teams.

Detroit:
— All four Detroit games have been decided by 4 or fewer points.
— Lions have nine takeaways but also six giveaways in four games this year.
— Detroit won/covered six of its last seven post-bye games.

Green Bay:
— Packers are +7 in turnovers, won/covered four of first five games.
— Green Bay is 22-13-2 ATS in last 37 games as a home favorite.
— Packers scored 88 points in first half of games, 37 in second half. 

LA Rams:
— Rams scored 69 points in last two games, but lost both of them.
— Under McVay, LA is 13-7 ATS away from home.
— Average points scored in 2nd half of Ram games this year: 34.8

Minnesota:
— Vikings ran ball for 172+ yards in 4 of 5 games; Bears held them to 40.
— Under Zimmer, Minnesota is 24-7-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— Under is 4-1 in Viking games, only one of which was decided by less than 10 points.

NY Giants:
— Giants scored 32-24 points in their wins, 17 or less in their losses.
— Big Blue is 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games as a road underdog. 

— Giants covered 10 of their last 13 games on natural grass. 

New Orleans:
— Saints are 18-8 ATS in their last 26 road games.
— NO opponents converted only 17 of last 49 third down plays.
— Saints won all three of Bridgewater’s starts, scoring 33-12-31 points. 

Philadelphia:
— Eagles are 3-0 when they score 31+ points, 0-2 when they do not.
— Philly is 5-3 ATS in its last eight games as a road underdog.
— Eagles have converted 37-70 third down plays this year. 

San Francisco:
— SF ran ball for 702 yards in their last three games.
— 49ers have 11 takeaways in four games, but also eight turnovers.
— Last time SF was NFC’s last unbeaten team was 1984. 

Seattle:
— Seahawks scored 27+ points in each of their last four games.
— Seattle is just 21-59 on 3rd down, but scored 98 points on 16 red zone drives.
— Seahawks are 8-4-1 ATS in last 13 games as a road underdog. 

Tampa Bay:
— Buccaneers allowed 31+ points in four of their five games.
— Tampa Bay has eight takeaways (+6) in its last four games.
— Average total in Bucs’ last three games: 71.0. 

Washington:
— Redskins didn’t score in second half of their last two games.
— Washington is 0-5, with last four losses all by 10+ points.
— Would expect them to run ball with Callahan the new coach.

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but……

13) 49ers 31, Browns 3— Monday at the Mirage Casino here in Las Vegas, someone wagered $120K to win $52K on the 49ers’ money line in this game. Good night for that guy. 

— Mayfield completed 8-22 passes for 100 yards; a WR did drop an easy TD that turned into an INT when game was 14-3, but still, he had a miserable night.
— Total yardage was 446-180; luckily for TV networks, only one more primetime game for the overrated Browns. 

12) Patrick Mahomes tweaked his ankle Sunday night when one of his own linemen stepped on the ankle while he was pass blocking. 

Colts’ defense blitzed on 41.9% of Kansas City’s dropbacks, and they were effective. 

11) Redskins fired coach Jay Gruden early Monday morning, which won’t help anything; he was 35-49-1 in Washington, with one playoff appearance. 

Washington’ problem is that their owner is horrendous and he meddles; here are the Redskins’ head coaches since Daniel Snyder bought the ball club in 1999:

1994-2000: Norv Turner 50-60-1
2001: Marty Schottenheimer 8-8
2002-03: Steve Spurrier 12-20
2004-07: Joe Gibbs 31-36
2008-09: Jm Zorn 12-20
2010-13: Mike Shanahan 24-41
2014-19: Jay Gruden 35-49-1

Bill Callahan is the Redskins’ interim coach; he also replaced Jon Gruden as the Raiders’ coach when Gruden jumped to the Buccaneers. 

10) Steelers kicked off to start overtime Sunday, which is very unusual, since a TD on the first possession ends the game. Ravens punted on their first drive, so it didn’t come into play, and Mike Tomlin was celebrating like they won the game when Baltimore punted, but Steelers fumbled and lost the game anyway.

Will be interesting to see how the Pittsburgh media deals with Tomlin if he has his first losing season as a head coach- they’re 1-4 right now, with the 3rd-string QB starting for a while.

9) Oregon State executed a drop kick/onside kick against UCLA Saturday; was pretty cool to see, and it worked like a charm. Beavers led 21-0 before first quarter was half over. 

8) With Devlin Hodges expected to start at QB for the Steelers in LA Sunday, Paxton Lynch, a former 1st round draft pick of the Broncos, is going to be Hodges’ backup.

7) Quote of the Day, part II:
“I (bleep)ing love this!!!!”
Younger guy sitting in front of me the other night in the Aria sportsbook; he was just sitting there taking in all the action, when a couple of his bets won, he started yelling. Good stuff. 

6) Blue Ribbon Basketball’s preseason top 6 teams:
Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Florida, Louisville

5) Tampa Bay 10, Astros 3— Rays drew 32,251 for a 1:00 playoff game, and the TV guys were raving about what a great crowd it was. These teams play Game 4 at 4;30 tomorrow, will be interesting to see what they draw for that game. 

4) Cardinals 5, Braves 4 (10)— Molina tied game with an 8th inning single, then won it with a sac fly in the 10th. Decisive Game 5 is Wednesday in Atlanta.  

3) Tennessee Titans cut kicker Cairo Santos Monday, after he went 0-4 on field goals in their ugly 14-7 home loss to Buffalo Sunday; they’re expected to sign former Bears’ K Cody Parkey to replace Santos. 

2) Kansas Jayhawks fired their offensive coordinator Sunday after only six games; you wonder what thats all about. The new OC has a small-college background- the NAIA team he coached LY averaged 55 ppg and 540.3 yards/game. 

Jayhawks rank 101st nationally in scoring, 102nd in yards gained, 104th in passing and 116th in first downs per game. 

Remember that college assistant coaches are equal parts tacticians/recruiters; players win games, and Kansas is obviously behind its Big X opponents in talent level. 

1) Michael D. Smith posted this on Twitter Sunday:

2004 draft class ranked by career passing yards: 
56,545 Ben Roethlisberger 
56,537 Eli Manning
56,121 Philip Rivers
24,887 Matt Schaub
6,271 JP Losman
2,370 Luke McCown
929 Jim Sorgi
718 Craig Krenzel
342 John Navarre
195 Cody Pickett
136 Matt Mauck
53 Larry Fitzgerald

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday…….

Ravens 26, Steelers 23 OT:
— Ravens tied game on a FG with 0:10 left, won it on a FG in OT.
— Lamar Jackson’s passing numbers were ordinary, but he also ran for 70 yards.
— Ravens’ first 3 drives: 27 plays, 140 yards, 17 points.
Baltimore’s last 9 drives: 50 plays, 144 yards, 9 points. 

— Pitt QB Rudolph got knocked out; rookie Hodges was 7-9/68 in his NFL debut.
— Steelers started 3 drives in Raven territory: FG-FG-FG.
— Pitt still hasn’t run the ball for more than 81 yards in a game this year; they’ve converted only 15-53 third down plays. 

Raiders 24, Bears 21:
— Oakland led 17-0 at the half, needed a 97-yard TD drive to win, scoring GW TD with 1:57 left. 
— Total yardage was 398-236 Raiders; they lost a fumble on the Bears’ 1-yard line.
— Raiders are now 10-17-2 ATS in last 29 games as a underdog.

— Chicago’s 1st five drives: 19 plays, 29 yards, zero points.
— Chicago’s last five drives: 29 plays, 204 yards, 21 points.
— Bears flew to England Friday, Raiders on Sunday nite; did that matter? 

Cardinals 26, Bengals 23:
— Arizona gained 514 yards: 266 running, 248 throwing.
— Murray threw for 253 yards, ran for 93 more; he is this generation’s Michael Vick.
— Cardinals drove 62 yards in six plays, kicked GW 31-yard FG at the gun. 

— Bengals trailed 23-9 with 5:00 left, tied game with 2:00 left on a 42-yard pass.
— Last four games, Cincy has been outscored 61-19 in first half.
— Bengals are 4-9 ATS in last 13 games as a home favorite.

Panthers 34, Jaguars 27:
— Jaguars gained 507 yards but lost, losing three fumbles (-3 TO’s)
— Minshew threw for 374 yards, averaged 7.8 yards/pass attempt.
— Jaguars’ last five drives: 40 plays, 264 yards, but only 10 points. 

— McCaffrey had 25 touches for 237 yards, three TD’s.
— Carolina is 3-0 with Kyle Allen starting QB; what happens when Newton gets healthy?
— Panthers scored a defensive TD early in 2nd quarter to go ahead, 21-7. 

Vikings 28, Giants 10:
— Minnesota scored two TD’s, four FG’s; they punted once.
— Vikings ran ball for 211 yards, outgained Giants 490-211.
— Minnesota is 11-6 ATS in last 17 games as a road favorite.

— Giants covered once in their last eight games as a home underdog.
— Big Blue was 8-16 on 3rd down, are 22-42 in Jones’ three starts.
— Vikings had 12 penalties for 112 yards; Giants five for 45. 

Patriots 33, Redskins 7:
— New England has allowed two TD’s on 61 drives; four of their five wins are by 16+ points.
— Patriots held Washington to 75 passing yards.
— Over last 20 years. favorites are 6-2 ATS in Week 5 games if an unbeaten team plays a winless team.

— Redskins had a 65-yard TD run, gained 155 yards on their other 52 plays.
— Washington converted once on their 11 third down plays.
— Last three games, Redskins were outscored 57-13 in the first half. 

Eagles 31, Jets 6:
— Jets are 7-13-2 ATS in last 22 games as a road dog, 1-1 this year.
— When NYJ offense was on field, they were outscored 14-6 by Eagle defense.
— Jets lost nine of last 11 post-bye games (3-8 ATS).
— Jets are impossible to evaluate until Darnold gets healthy 

— Eagles had ten sacks, held Jets to 1.7 yards/pass attempt.
— This was only 3rd cover for Philly in last 11 games as a home favorite.
— Eagles are first team this year not to allow a play of 20+ yards in a game. 

Saints 31, Buccaneers 24:
— Bucs were held to 252 TY, after they gained 499-464 the last two games.
— Fourth time in five games Tampa Bay allowed 31+ points.
— Winston was sacked six times, averaged only 4.8 yards/pass attempt. 

— Saints outgained Bucs 457-252, averaged 9.6 yards/pass attempt.
— NO is 13-21-1 ATS in last 35 games as a home favorite.
— Saints are now 3-0 in Bridgewater’s starts. 

Texans 53, Falcons 32:
— Scores like this get coaches fired; Falcons are 8-13 SU in their last 21 games.
— Atlanta actually led this game 17-16 at halftime.
— Falcons are 1-9 ATS in last ten games as a road underdog, 0-13 ATS in last 13 games vs AFC opponents.

— Fuller caught 14 balls for 217 yards, three TD’s; he was started in only 11% of ESPN fantasy leagues this week.
— Watson threw for 426 yards, averaged 12.9 yards/pass attempt.
— Houston scored 37 2nd half points, converted 10-13 3rd down plays.

Bills 14, Titans 7:
— Buffalo is 4-1, would be the #1 Wild Card if the playoffs started today (they don’t).
— Only second win for Bills in their last six visits to Nashville.
— Under McDermott, Buffalo is 9-6-1 ATS as a road underdog, 7-4-1 in games wth spread of 3 or fewer points.

— Tennessee was 0-4 on field goals, which was a problem.
— Mariota threw one TD pass that was called back; he ran over the line before he threw.
— Under Vrabel, Tennessee is 1-4 ATS as a home favorite.

Broncos 20, Chargers 13:
— Denver’s first two drives: 12 plays, 156 yards, 14 points.
— Denver’s last nine drives: 45 plays, 164 yards, six points.
— Broncos held Chargers to 35 yards on 16 running plays. 

— Chargers didn’t score an offensive TD; their only TD was a punt return.
— LA had ball in red zone four times, scored total of only three points.
— Chargers are 2-8 ATS in last ten games as a home favorite, 0-3 this year.

Packers 34, Cowboys 24:
— Green Bay led this game 31-3 in third quarter, then hung on for dear life.
— Packers won both their road games, quality wins at Chicago/Dallas.
— Green Bay won eight of last nine series games, winning last four visits here, scoring 34+ points in all four games.

— Dallas outgained Packers 563-335, but was -3 (0-3) in turnovers.
— Prescott threw for 463 yards; Cooper caught 11 balls for 226 yards.
— Dallas is still 5-3-1 ATS in its last nine games as a home favorite.

Colts 19, Chiefs 13
— Indy ran ball for 180 yards, ran 74 plays, to 57 for Chiefs.
— Colts covered six of last eight games as a road underdog.
— Colts have now won eight of last ten visits to Arrowhead.

— Chiefs ran the ball for only 36 yards on 14 carries.
— KC’s last seven drives: 35 plays, 150 yards, three points.
— Mahomes tweaked his ankle, was hobbling in the second half. 

 

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a college football Saturday…….

13) Virginia Tech 42, Miami 35— Hokies led 28-0 when Miami scored a 44-yard TD on the last play of the first half; Hurricanes tied game 35-all when they scored a TD with 3:16 left in the game, but missed the go-ahead PAT. 

Tech then drove 63 yards on five plays for a TD and their first ACC win in three tries. 

Miami is 1-3 vs I-A teams, with all four games decided by 7 or fewer points. 

12) Navy 34, Air Force 25— Trends are fun and all, but under is now 33-9-1 in the last 43 games between the service academies. This game went over by a decent amount. 

11) Speaking of the academies, Army (23-1) scored the first TD of the day, so if you bet them to score the day’s first TD, a prop bet at the SouthPoint, your day started out very well. 

10) Texas (-11) 42, West Virginia 31— Mountaineers scored with 0:48 left, pushing the spread; over last 11 years, Texas is now 0-10-1 ATS the week before playing Oklahoma. 

This game was closer than the score indicates; WVU outgained the Longhorns 463-407, but they were only 4-14 on 3rd down, Texas was 10-18— Mountaineers turned ball over four times (-3). 

9) Florida 24, Auburn 13— Rough day for Auburn’s freshman QB Nix, who was 11-27/145 passing with three INT’s. Florida kept the Tigers in the game by losing five fumbles (-2 in TO’s). Gators outgained Auburn 382-241, teams combined to convert only 6-29 on third down. 

8) Iowa State 49, TCU 24— Cyclones have covered their last eight October games. 

7) Upsets:
— Virginia Tech (+14) 42, Miami 35
— Stanford (+13) 23, Washington 13
— Texas Tech (+10) 45, Oklahoma State 35
— Georgia State (+7) 52, Arkansas State 38
— Central Michigan (+6) 42, Eastern Michigan 16
— Oregon State (+6) 48, UCLA 31
— Ball State (+5) 27, Northern Illinois 20

6) SMU 43, Tulsa 37 OT— Mustangs were down 30-9 after the 3rd quarter, but won in OT after tying the game with 1:02 left in regulation. Rough night for Tulsa’s kicker, who missed three FG’s and an extra point.  

5) Louisville 41, Boston College 39— Total yardage was 664-563, Louisville; they kicked a 41-yard FG with 1:13 left for the win. BC QB Grosel completed only 9-24 passes, but threw three TD’s. Eagles lost three of their last four games— they lost last two by total of five points. 

4) Arizona 35, Colorado 30— Total yardage was 496-487 Colorado, but they kicked three FG’s and scored three TD’s, while Arizona scored five TD’s. 

Not sure why Colorado fired Mike MacIntyre as coach LY, but they did; I’m thinking they made a mistake, but thats their business, not mine. 

3) Oregon State 48, UCLA 31— Beavers led this game 21-0 after 6:01 of play; UCLA is now 1-4, and they trailed 49-17 in the one game they won. 

2) Cincinnati 27, UCF 24— Knights turned ball over four times (-3); Gabriel was 25-46/297 passing but threw three INT’s- Davis caught 13 balls for 170 yards for UCF, in a losing cause. 

1) There are a few teams that are so terrible you should never even think about wagering on them; UMass, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, UNLV. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Our first look at college basketball for this season

I don’t go grocery shopping much, because I never cook, but while getting some junk food Friday, guess what was there? The Athlon college basketball magazine for 2019-20, already on newsstands on August 30. Here is what I learned from scanning this fine magazine:

13) Top 4 coaching hires:
— Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska— His grandfather was once Nebraska’s head coach. He might be the only person in America who would turn down the UCLA basketball job for this.
— Eric Musselman, Arkansas— My first instinct was that this is a bad fit, but he was great at Nevada and he coached two NBA teams.
— Buzz Williams, Texas A&M— He got Virginia Tech to the NCAA’s the last three years; they had been there twice in the previous 30 years. Va Tech is a football school, too.
— Nate Oats, Alabama— Went 31-5 in MAC last two years; his job is to entertain the locals until spring football starts.  

12) UCLA butchered its coaching search; they wound up with Mick Cronin, who is a solid coach but Bruin fans are going to hate his defense-first style (or lack of style). 

Last six years, Cronin’s Cincinnati teams’ national rank in tempo (out of 351 or 353 teams):
328-339-333-330-330-338

From 2006-08, Ben Howland made the Final Four three years in a row; from that point on, AFTER he made the Final Four three years in a row, UCLA went 58-32 in Pac-12 games, but only 2-3 in NCAA tourney games- they told Howland to take a hike. Why?!?!?!?!?

Cincinnati made the NCAA’s the last nine years, but since 2013, they’re 3-4 in 1st round, 0-3 in the 2nd round, and never made an Elite 8 under Cronin. Uh-oh. 

11) There are 354 Division I teams this year; Merrimack joins the NEC this year, after Cal Baptist  joined the WAC and North Alabama joined the Atlantic Sun. 

10) Keep in mind that the 3-point line has been moved back 16.75 inches, to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches. The NBA arc is 23 feet, 9 inches. 

They used the longer international arc in the NIT last spring; teams shot 2.2% lower behind the arc than they did in the regular season. 

9) Five coaches on the hot seat:
— Dave Leitao, DePaul— LY’s 19-17 mark was their best in 12 years, but then the NCAA came calling. Last 4 years, Blue Demons are 16-56 in Big East games, and they’re cheating. Oy.
— Danny Manning, Wake Forest- Deacons are 24-66 in ACC games under his watch.
— Matt McCall, UMass— When you finish 13th two years in a row in a league called the Atlantic 10 (they have 14 teams), your job is going to be in jeopardy. 

— Shaka Smart, Texas— His Longhorn teams are 31-41 in Big X games, and they don’t play the same fast-paced style his great VCU teams played. Why?
— Patrick Chambers, Penn State— 8 years, 0 NCAA bids; last year, 8 of 14 Big 14 teams made the NCAA’s. PSU is a football school, but Chambers still needs to show progress.

8) Gonzaga is the only team in the country that has made the Sweet 16 the last five years. 

7) Athlon Sports top 6 teams for this season:
6— Memphis Tigers
5— Florida Gators
4— Louisville Cardinals
3— Kentucky Wildcats
2— Duke Blue Devils
1— Michigan State Spartans

6) Brad Brownell has been Clemson’s coach for nine years; in four of those years, Clemson finished .500+ in ACC games but didn’t make the NCAA’s. They need to win more games in December, but they were in the Sweet 16 two years ago. Brownell is a good coach whose job is a tough one- they lost five of their top six scorers from last year’s 20-14 team. 

5) Five most impactful freshmen this year:
5— Nico Mannion, Arizona- Scoring PG whose dad played in the NBA.
4— Anthony Edwards, Georgia- 5-star recruit from talent-rich Atlanta.
3— James Wiseman, Memphis- 7-1 center who needs work on offense.
2— Isaiah Stewart, Washington- Young man from Rochester, NY is long way from home.
1— Cole Anthony, North Carolina- His dad Greg was UNLV’s PG in the Tark glory days. 

4) Some programs win no matter who the coach is.. Check out VCU’s record:
1999-2002— Mack McCarthy, 65-55, 35-32 in CAA
2002-06— Jeff Capel, 79-41, 50-22 in CAA
2006-09— Anthony Grant, 76-25, 45-9 in CAA
2009-15— Shaka Smart, 163-56, 38-16 in CAA, 36-14 in A-14
2015-17— Will Wade, 51-20, 28-8 in A-14
2017-19— Mike Rhoades, 43-23, 25-11 in A-14

3) Five of this year’s better transfers:
— Omer Yurtseven, NC State to Georgetown- Scored 13.5 ppg for the Wolfpack.
— Quade Green, Kentucky to Washington- Will be Huskies’ PG after the 1st semester.
— Malachi Flynn, Washington St to San Diego St— Scored 15.8 ppg for the Coogs. 
— Koby McEwen, Utah State to Marquette— Bolted Logan after they fired the coach.
— Jalen Harris, Louisiana Tech to Nevada— Wolf Pack literally wouldn’t have been able to field a team the day they hired Steve Alford. Harris scored 15.3 ppg his last year at Tech. 

2) Under Chris Beard, Texas Tech is 8-2 in NCAA tourney games; before Beard became Tech’s coach, Tech was 8-16 all-time in NCAA tourney games.

1) Georgetown played the fastest tempo games of any Big East team last year, playing the 25th-fastest tempo in the whole country. I wonder what John Thompson thinks of that?

Patrick Ewing has changed the Hoyas’ program into one that plays fast, which helps recruiting— Hoyas are 34-29 under Ewing, 14-22 in Big East games, but they were 19-14, 9-9 LY. They’ll be an interesting team to watch this winter. 

Tuesday’s Den: 13 of my all-time favorite TV shows…….

13 of my favorite TV shows (in alphabetical order):
— Batman— When you’re six years old, and in the opening credits every week, they show “WHAP!!! POW!!! BIFF!!!” and your name is Biff, this quickly becomes a favorite show. 

The villains were some pretty big stars back then (Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Liberace, Ethel Merman)

I haven’t seen much of the Batman movies that have been made over the years, but the TV show had some humor; one week there was a 3-foot Martian on the loose in Gotham City, and Robin blurts out “Holy interplanetary yardstick, Batman!!!” Good stuff. 

— Billions— Showtime series about a hedge fund manager who pushes the boundaries of the law while his marriage falls apart. His arch-enemy is a prosecutor in NYC who is into S&M and his wife is his dominatrix— the wife is also the psychiatrist for the hedge fund manager’s company. 

Small world. This show is really well-written- the next season will probably run after football season. 

Trivia: Paul Giamatti plays the prosecutor; he is the son of former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti. I suggested a cameo role for Pete Rose, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

— CSI— I spent a good chunk of my work career searching fingerprints and working for the NY State Division of Criminal Justice, so I enjoyed all the CSI shows, but especially the one set in Las Vegas— the actors seemed to have a chemistry working together. 

One of my weirder ideas (a teacher friend of mine scoffed at this) is that CSI should be taught to all high school kids, so they realize how difficult it is to get away with crimes, so maybe there would be fewer crimes. What could it hurt?

— Green Acres— As a kid, I spent lot of hours watching Green Acres re-runs; my dad would walk into the room, say “Why the hell are you watching that?”, but within five minutes, he’d be sitting there laughing harder than me and would leave the room before my mother came in and saw the both of us laughing. She wasn’t a big fan of Hank Kimball or Arnold Ziffel. 

— Law and Order— 20 years, 456 episodes, a great launching point for lot of acting careers, not to mention the spinoff shows that branched off this original show. 

Take Billions; there are 32 actors who have appeared in 12+ episodes of Billons; 14 of those 32 actors appeared in at least one episode of Law and Order, and two others were in Law and Order SVU, and that doesn’t count Eric Bogosian, who was in Law and Order: Criminal Intent for 61 episodes, but was only in 10 episodes of Billions (so far). 

— Magnum PI— I’ve never been to Hawai’i, but if I ever went, would like to visit Robin Masters’ estate; I’m told you can visit there, it is kind of a museum or something. 

One of the best episodes was when Frank Sinatra played a retired New York City cop whose granddaughter was murdered— this was near the end of both the series and Sinatra’s career. 

The overriding themes of the show were that great friends will do all kinds of stuff for each other, and if you’re really good looking and drive a Ferrari, women will like you 🙂

— M*A*S*H— Years later, after watching re-runs of this show on our local channel 10 and the Boston channel for hours at a time, it dawned on me that this was actually a very sad show, with humor/jokes masking the grotesque sadness of wartime Korea. 

The McLean Stevenson episodes were the best; he was Colonel Henry Blake for the first 75 episodes, and a lot of them were classics, just funny as hell. 

— Mr Ed— This show ran on network TV from 1961-66, so I never saw it until the re-runs came on at 4:30 weekdays on a local channel in the early 70’s. Mr Ed was a talking horse, but he only talked to Wilbur Post, an architect who worked at home but never actually seemed to work. 

Mr Ed was a big Dodger fan; his favorite player was OF Willie Davis. In one episode, the horse takes batting practice against Sandy Koufax, and hits a ball off the wall at Dodger Stadium, with the bat held in his mouth. A fun show, not necessarily a realistic one. 

— Odd Couple— As a kid, Oscar Madison was one of my heroes; a sportswriter who always spilled food on his clothes but was a good natured guy who somehow dated a doctor or one of the Pidgeon sisters. 

To this day when I see my cousin’s husband, we recite lines from Odd Couple episodes; when they owned a greyhound racing dog , or appeared on Password (a game show), or when Oscar dated a princess from some obscure European country “You bought her a salty pretzel; oh, boy!!!” Great stuff. 

— Ray Donovan— The most violent program on this list; just about everybody on this Showtime series that isn’t related to the Donovans eventually winds up dead. 

Ray Donovan is a fixer for rich people, but he can’t fix his own family; his wife passes away from cancer, and the last time we saw him, he was still struggling with that. 

Live Schreber plays Ray, Jon Voight plays his father (a genuine creep); they’ve had guest stars like Susan Sarandon, James Woods, Wendell Pierce, Hank Azaria. Alan Alda, C Thomas Howell. 

Very good show but also very violent. 

— Suits— This show is winding down its last season on USA Network; it is about a law firm that hired a young guy with a photographic memory who had one small problem— he is a college dropout who never went to law school, but he gets paid to take bar exams for other people. 

The show had to change directions because one of the actresses (Meghan Markle) moved to England after she married Prince Harry in real life. Her character was married to Mike (the fraudulent lawyer) so they got written out of the last couple years of the show. 

— West Wing— Martin Sheen plays the President in this show; his cabinet included Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer— great cast.

Actor Duke Hill was in both West Wing and Suits; Mary Louise Parker was in this and is also in Billions. Alan Alda was in this, Ray Donovan and of course, M*A*S*H

Jimmy Smits, Mary MacCormack, Tim Matheson, Gary Cole, just a ton of excellent actors. 

In one episode, President Bartlet has to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles’ game, but he never played ball, so one of his aides has to teach him how to throw a baseball in a hallway in the White House, where an errant toss breaks an expensive vase. 

— White Shadow— Ken Howard plays a washed-up NBA player who becomes a high school basketball coach in Los Angeles. Show only lasted three years, because well, high school kids graduate so they would’ve had to turn most of the cast over every other year. 

The basketball scenes were really well-done; Gwyneth Paltrow’s father was the creator of the show. Lot of the issues they tackled in this show were issues that real high school in the inner city had to deal with. Ken Howard was great as Coach Reeves; he wasn’t some all-knowing guy; he had flaws but he fought for his kids and they respected him for it (most of the time). 

Tuesday’s Den: Random Lists of 3……

13) Three things young people have no idea about………
— Phone booths
— Encyclopedias
— Having to get up to change the channel

12) Three things I’d like to do someday:
— A’s game in the Oakland Coliseum
— LSU home football game (at night)
— New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas (too expensive 🙂 )

11) Three changes I’d make to baseball:
— Managers/coaches wouldn’t wear uniforms
— Geographic realignment
— Split-season format, to invigorate late June/July. 

10) Three changes I’d make to ESPN:
— No daily NBA shows from end of summer league to start of training camp.
— If you must have a daily NBA show, then you have a daily baseball show, too.
— Less hideous talk shows on weekdays; show poker re-runs instead, or NFL Films, or anything that doesn’t include Mike Greenberg or Stephen A Smith. 

9) Three non-sports people it would be fun to have dinner with:
— Steve Martin
— David Letterman
— Bill Murray

8) Three changes I’d make to football:
— Take radios out of players’ helmets
— Get rid of Thursday NFL games, except Week 1 and Thanksgiving.
— 18-game season, with all players getting paid 12.5% more; two preseason games, with Super Bowl the Sunday night of Presidents’ Day weekend. 

7) Three sports people it would be fun to have dinner with:
— Billy Beane
— Dick Vermeil
— Charles Barkley

6) Three most fun events I’ve been to:
— 2000 NFC title game in St Louis (Rams-Bucs)
— 2008 World Series (Phillies-Rays)
— Alabama-Tennessee game in Knoxville, in 2003

5) Three other fun things I’ve been to:
— Tailgating before Tennessee-South Carolina game in 2008
— Watching AAU nationals for 12 hours a day at Disney World in Florida.
— Knicks-Spurs preseason game (Jerry Tarkanian was coaching the Spurs)

4) Three changes I’d make to the NBA:
— Head coaches would all be active players.
— Playoff series would be best-of-3; finals best-of-5.
— Draft lottery would be an hour before the actual draft. 

3) Three things that would be an improvement:
— Baseball expands to 32 teams, making scheduling easier.
— College football playoff expanding to eight teams.
— Reducing NFL preseason games from four per team to two. 

2) Three random observations:
— Pro golf in person is amazingly quiet.
— If you like the NBA, I strongly recommend you heading to Las Vegas some July to watch summer league games. Very affordable, lot of fun and it is Las Vegas!!!
— Watching the World Series of Poker in person was really boring; you need to see the hole card camera for it to be interesting.

1) Back when they had a CBA franchise in Albany, one night I got to shoot free throws for beer at the end of the 3rd quarter. For every free throw I made in 24 seconds, I got a free case of beer:
— The CBA back then was what the G-League is now; very good basketball. Bill Musselman, George Karl and Phil Jackson all coached the Patroons.
— Good news: I made 4 out of 7 shots in 24 seconds.
— Bad news: I very rarely drink beer, and they wouldn’t exchange it for soda. 

Monday’s Den: In a perfect world, where I made all the decisions……

13) Kids could go right from high school to the NBA; going to school for only one year is a farce, so if a kid goes to college, then he is there for at least two years. College baseball has that rule, but I think it is three years for them. 

12) Both leagues would have the DH; this will happen in a couple years. Add a player or two to rosters, to appease the players’ union.


11) NFL would have an 18-game regular season, only two preseason games; Super Bowl would be Sunday night of Presidents’ Day weekend. 

10) College football teams wouldn’t play I-AA opponents; SEC teams do this a lot. Last year, Alabama played The Citadel, Ole Miss played Southern Illinois, South Carolina played Tenn-Chattanooga. Seriously? Go play a MAC team or a Sun Belt team, at least. 

9) Online poker would be made legal so the poker companies would advertise on TV and ESPN would start replaying the World Series of Poker again, like they used to. The stuff ESPN puts on in daytime on weekdays is mostly terrible. Mike Greenberg, Stephen A Smith both make around $6M a year, a tremendous waste of money. 

Listening to talking heads in contrived arguments is a waste of electricity. Much rather watch people play cards, or replays of games, actual competition. 

8) As far as college basketball transfers go, if you poach a transfer from a team, then you have to go play a game in that team’s gym. Most of the teams that poach transfers are way better than the teams they poach from anyway, but they often don’t have the onions to play road games. 

By way of explanation, over the last seven seasons, Duke has played only three non-conference road games, all mandated by the ACC-Big 14 challenge. When Duke poached Seth Curry from Liberty, they should have had to go there and play a true road game. 

7) I would take the radios out of NFL players’ helmets; coaches have six days to prepare their teams to play. Gameday should be the players’ day; let the QB’s call their own plays, which would make the game lot more exciting. QB’s calling the plays would make the game more fun. 

6) I’d eliminate the American/National Leagues and go to geographic realignment, which would reduce travel costs and invigorate regional rivalries. Going to 32 teams (which will happen soon) will make scheduling a lot easier. 

5) NBA playoff series would be best-of-3, with finals best-of-5. Less games, more drama; it is more interesting when the best team has a chance to lose. Would the NCAA tournament be at all interesting if a 16-seed played Duke/Kentucky best-of-3? 

4) I’d get rid of the Electoral College in our presidential election; whoever gets the most votes wins, just like in all the other elections. 

3) Would definitely move the NBA Draft Lottery back to a half hour before the actual draft; imagine the drama then? Lot of executives would have to think on their feet. 

2) You want to make baseball’s All-Star Game more interesting? Make it USA vs the World, and it’ll become a serious game fairly quickly. Maybe too serious.

1) Would like to make people happier; nowadays, there is so much anger in the world. There is a lot less tolerance of others than there used to be. You be you, and let others do what they do. Cheer the bleep up!!!!

Monday’s Den: Early Week 1 NFL trends……

NFL Week 1
Green Bay @ Chicago— Packers won last four season openers, but lost five of last seven road openers; over is 11-2 in their last 13 RO’s. Chicago started 0-1 the last five years; they lost four of last five home openers (under 3-1-1). 

Atlanta @ Minnesota— Falcons won three of last four road openers; they split last eight season openers. Five of their last six RO’s stayed under. Minnesota won four of last five season openers; they won/covered their last four home openers- Vikings’ last five HO’s stayed under. 

Washington @ Philadelphia— Redskins snapped a 5-game skid on Opening Day LY; they won last three road openers. Over is 7-3 in their last ten RO’s. Philly started 1-0 in seven of last eight seasons; they won four of last five home openers (under 4-1). 

Buffalo at Jets— Bills are opening on road for first time in five years; they lost last three road openers, scoring 7-3-3 points. Since 2002, they’re 9-7 vs spread as an underdog in their RO. Jets won six of their last eight home openers. 

Baltimore @ Miami— Ravens won last three Week 1 games by combined score of 80-10; they’re 7-4 vs spread in last 11 road openers. Over is 8-3-1 in their last dozen RO’s. Miami covered five of its last six home openers  (4-2 SU). Dolphins’ last ten home openers stayed under the total; nine of their last ten RO’s went over. 

San Francisco @ Tampa Bay— 49ers lost last four road openers (1-3 vs spread), losing by average of 13.8 ppg; four of their last six road openers stayed under. Tampa Bay won its last two Week 1 games, scoring 31-48 points; they didn’t play in Week 1 in 2017 because of a hurricane. Arians was 2-3 in openers while he was Arizona’s coach. 

Kansas City @ Jacksonville— Chiefs won last four season openers; they covered five of last six road openers. Over is 5-3 in last eight RO’s. Jacksonville won its last two season openers, but lost six of last seven home openers- they’re 3-9 vs spread in 12 HO’s. Four of their last five home openers went over. 

Tennessee @ Cleveland— Since re-joining NFL in 1999, Browns are 1-18-1 in Week 1; they tied Steelers in LY’s opener. Cleveland did cover five of last seven home openers. Titans lost last three season openers, but won/covered five of last six road openers. 

Rams @ Carolina— Under McVay, Rams won their season openers 46-9/33-13; since 2000, they’re 4-15 vs spread in road openers (4-5 in last nine). Four of their last five road openers stayed under total. Carolina won its last five home openers, allowing 8-3 point last two years; they won four of last five season openers. Under is 5-1 in their last six HO’s. 

Detroit @ Arizona— Detroit started six of last eight seasons 1-0; Lions covered last three road openers; over is 9-4-1 in their last 14. Cardinals lost last three home openers, scoring 14.7 ppg; six of their last seven home openers stayed under. 

Cincinnati @ Seattle— Seahawks won their last ten home openers (8-2 vs spread); under is 15-2-1 in their last 18 HO’s. Bengals won four of last five road openers; eight of their last nine RO’s went over total. Cincy won four of last five Week 1 games. Seattle 

Indianapolis @ Chargers— Colts lost seven of last nine road openers; they’ve started last five seasons 0-1. Indy’s last three season openers went over. Chargers lost last two home openers and winning six of previous seven; 13 of their last 16 HO’s went over. Bolts started last three seasons 0-1. 

Giants @ Dallas— Giants lost seven of last eight season openers; they’re playing road opener in Dallas for 6th time in last seven years. NY is 2-7 in last nine RO’s overall, 1-4 in last five RO’s here- their last three RO’s stayed under. Dallas won six of last eight home openers; they split last ten season openers, with four of last five staying under.  

Pittsburgh @ New England— Pitt opens on road for 5th straight year. Since 1997, Steelers are 1-8-1 vs spread when an underdog in their road opener; five of their last six RO’s stayed under. Patriots won 15 of last 17 home openers, but are 2-4-1 vs spread in last seven (under 5-2). NE started 13 of last 15 seasons 1-0, losing in ’14/’17. 

Houston @ New Orleans— Saints started last five seasons 0-1; NO lost its last four home openers and were favored in three of them- last three went over total, with Saints giving up 35-36-48 points. Texans lost three of last four road openers (under 4-0); in franchise history, they’re 4-8 vs spread in RO’s. 

Denver @ Oakland— Broncos are opening on road for first time since 2010; they won last seven season openers, but obviously, all of them were in Denver. Broncos are 7-8 in last 15 road openers, with three of last four going over total. Raiders lost four of last five home openers; since 2003, they’re 4-12 vs spread in HO’s, with four of last five going over. 

Friday’s List of 13: Notes from watching the NFL Draft

13) Washington Redskins stayed at pick #15 and got QB Dwayne Haskins without trading up; Haskins is from Maryland, but grew up in New Jersey and was a Giant fan. Most people didn’t think Haskins would drop to the 15th pick; the Giants-Redskins games for the next decade should be pretty interesting. 

This pretty much clinches fact that Case Keenum won’t be a Redskin in 2020; Washington will be his 4th team in four years this season, and 2020 figures to make it five teams in five years. 

12) Bruce Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999. Here is how many head coaches each NFC East team has had since then:
— Washington 7
— Dallas 4
— NJ Giants 4
— Philadelphia 3

When I think of a team with a coach on the hot seat taking a rookie QB, I think of Jeff Fisher getting canned during Jared Goff’s rookie year. Keenum was the Rams’ starting QB before Goff took over in Game 10. You wonder if this is good news for Jay Gruden. 

11) New Jersey Giants took Duke QB Daniel Jones with the 6th pick in the draft. Here is what the Giants have done with drafting QB’s the last three years:

2017: Davis Webb, California, 3rd round
2018: Kyle Lauletta, Richmond, 4th round
2019: Daniel Jones, Duke, 1st round

Meanwhile, they keep starting 38-year old Eli Manning, who had the same college coach as Jones (David Cutcliffe). Most draft pundits liked Haskins better than Jones.

Last six years, Giants are 38-59, 0-1 in playoff games. Hard to get better when you waste 3rd and 4th round draft picks on guys you never use.

10) Pittsburgh Steelers traded with Denver to move up ten spots, from #20 to #10 in the first round; this is something the Steelers rarely do. Pittsburgh took LB Devin Bush from Michigan. 

Steelers switched 1st round picks with Denver, and also gave the Broncos a 2nd-round and a 3rd-round pick, so it was expensive- they really wanted/needed a linebacker.

9) Last three years, the draft averaged six first-round trades per year; there were seven trades during Thursday’s first round. 

— Green Bay traded with Seattle to move up seven spots, from #28 to #21. 
— Eagles traded a 4th and 6th-round pick to Baltimore to move up from 25th to 22nd.
— Washington traded to the Colts to move up to the 26th pick.
— Chiefs acquired DE Frank Clark from Seattle, send the Seahawks the 29th pick, plus a couple of other picks. 
— Giants acquired the 30th pick in the draft from Seattle so they could take CB Deandre Baker from Georgia.
— Rams traded the 31st pick to Atlanta so the Falcons could take T Kaleb McGary from Washington.

8) Only six of 22 Seahawks starters remain from when Seattle lost the Super Bowl to New England four years ago. 

7) Only twice in the common draft era (1990, 2008) had the first round ended with no WR’s taken. This was almost the third time. Iowa had two tight ends taken in the first round. Baltimore finally took Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown with the 25th pick. 

This is the longest any NFL Draft has gone with neither a WR or a RB being taken. Oakland took RB Josh Jacobs from Alabama with the 24th pick. 

6) Seven of the top ten players taken were defensive players.

5) As of 1:00 Thursday afternoon, 18 of 32 teams had already traded their 7th-round pick in this draft. Three picks were traded twice; one was dealt three times. 7th-round picks are throw-ins in lot of trades. 

Then again, Marques Colston, Adam Timmerman, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Anderson (the kicker) were all 7th-round picks.

4) Bengals still have 37 of their own draft picks on their roster, most in NFL, six more than any other team; Buffalo has only 12 of its draft picks, least in the league. 

3) People gamble on the NFL Draft, which makes me a little queasy, but thats their business. Haskins was a -$155 favorite to get drafted before Missouri QB Drew Lock. 

Speaking of gambling, a guy on ESPN’s Daily Wager Thursday picked Starlin Castro to homer at 8-1 odds in the Marlins’ game in Philly, and sure enough, Castro homered in the 10th inning. Damn good call. 

2) Not sure why ESPN and NFL Network both broadcast the draft, but they do. Mel Kiper Jr is worth listening to, and Louis Riddick is very good on ESPN. My man Kurt Warner is on NFL Network, but I prefer Trey Wingo to Rich Eisen as a host, so spent most of my time on ESPN. 

The player interviews are generally all terrible, so if one is happening, automatically change to the other station or to a baseball game. 

1) Looked like it might’ve been a good night to be a pickpocket in the streets of Nashville; thousands and thousands of people packed in the streets, lot of jostling. I’m just sayin’……..

Saturday’s List of 13: My favorite non-sports movies……

These are 13 of my favorite non-sports movies. Make your own list. 

Remember, these are my favorite movies, not the movies that are necessarily the best. Of the 50 movies USA Today listed as the best ever, I’ve seen two of them. Seriously. 

13) Runaway Jury— I’m a big fan of the John Grisham books; this was my favorite of the ones that were turned into movies. Gene Hackman plays a jury consultant whose client is a gun manufacturer; John Cusack is on the jury to manipulate the verdict.  

T12) Moon Over Parador— Richard Dreyfuss is an actor who is hired to stand in for the dictator of a Latin American country who suddenly dies. Jonathan Winters is a weird CIA agent whose wife is Polly Holliday, who played Flo in the old TV series Alice. 

T12) Dave— Made five years after Moon Over Parador, this is basically the same movie, just set in Washington, DC. 

Guy who looks just the President runs a temp service in Washington; when the real president has a stroke while screwing around with his mistress, the guy (Kevin Kline) is hired as the stand-in president. Sigourney Weaver is the First Lady. 

11) The Verdict— Paul Newman is a struggling lawyer who is handed a winning case, but winning it is easier said than done. His friend is played by Jack Warden, one of my all-time favorites.

10) The Gambler— Remake of a James Caan movie from the mid-70’s. College professor (Mark Wahlberg) seems to have an excellent life, but he has a huge gambling problem which drags him down. John Goodman plays one of the people he owes money to; he is very good in this.

9) The Bodyguard— Whitney Houston is a famous singer with a contract on her head; Kevin Costner is the ex-Secret Service hired to protect her.

8) A Few Good Men— The last scene, with Jack Nicholson on the witness stand, is tremendous. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, JT Walsh as supporting actors is pretty strong. 

7) Leap of Faith— Steve Martin plays a traveling preacher whose bus breaks down, stranding his crew in a drought-stricken Kansas town. Miracles ensue. Liam Neeson, Debra Winger, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meat Loaf all have supporting roles. 

6) Molly’s Game— Young woman runs high stakes poker games for celebrities/rich guys, but when members of the Russian mob enter the game, things get complicated. This is a true story, and as we’re learning nowadays, real life is often stranger than fiction. 

5) Lost In Translation— Bill Murray plays a washed-up actor who is in Tokyo getting paid $2M to do a whiskey commercial. He meets Scarlett Johansson in the hotel bar and they become friends. 

4) Begin Again— Down-and-out music executive stumbles into a Manhattan bar and discovers a young singer who can resurrect his career. 

3) Good Will Hunting— Janitor at MIT can do complicated math problems better than the professors can, but he also has a criminal record, and has to get counseling for that. Robin Williams is great as the counselor. 

2) Last Vegas— Four old friends get together in Las Vegas for the bachelor party of the one bachelor in group (Michael Douglas) who is marrying a woman 40 years younger than him. It is Douglas, Robert Deniro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline. 

1) Rounders— Law student decides he’d rather play high stakes poker. The scenes with Matt Damon and his law professor (Martin Landau) are excellent. Same guys who wrote this write the great Showtime series Billions now. 

Thursday’s List of 13: Happy Opening Day, everyone!!!!

13) So far this spring. UNLV fired Marvin Menzies and Vanderbilt fired Bryce Drew, both after their third season at that school, after seasons where their best player didn’t play after Christmas. Here are the details:

— Menzies was 48-52 in three years at UNLV, 23-31 in Mountain West.
— Drew was 40-59 in three years at Vanderbilt, 16-38 in SEC.

By way of comparison, here is how another coach did in his first three years at his current job:

— Unnamed coach: 38-47 at School A, 13-29 in conference games.

In other words, if Duke had hired Mike Krzyzewski three years ago, he’d be fired by now. 

12) A person who has money to burn bet $500 on the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series this year at 1,000-1 odds. Orioles were 47-115 last year, so good luck with that.

11) How is it Opening Day and Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still free agents? 

10) Coaching carousel:
— Alabama hired hoop coach Nate Oats, who 13 days ago signed an extension with Buffalo.
— Stetson hired former UCF head coach Donnie Jones.
— UNLV hired South Dakota State coach TJ Otzenberger.
— Jackrabbits then replaced Otzenberger with assistant coach Eric Henderson
— San Francisco promoted assistant Todd Golden to replace Kyle Smith as HC. 

9) Alabama guards John Petty, Kira Lewis, Jr. and Dazon Ingram all announced that they’re transferring out of Alabama’s program; this was before the Crimson Tide hired Oats.

8) Eight different major league teams used a 4-man outfield at least once LY, all against left-handed hitters. Hitters that saw it the most? Lucas Duda and Joey Gallo (7 games). Overall, hitters were 10-37 (.270) when the defense had four OF’s. 

7) Last year, 42 different major league players played 5+ different positions. 

6) Random golf stat: 2018 European Ryder Cup golf team went 11-1 Thursday in the Match Play tournament in Texas. The guys on the American team went 4-5-2 (Rickie Fowler isn’t playing this week). 

5) Teams with best win %age in Sweet 16 games (minimum 12 games):
— Michigan 13-3, last in 2018
— Oklahoma State 11-3, last in 2005
— North Carolina 27-8, last in 2017

— Kentucky 36-12, last in 2-18

4) Charlotte Hornets were 2-0 against the Spurs this season, first time they swept the season series with San Antonio since 1996-97. 

3) Oakland A’s traded minor league IF Jesus Lopez, international signing bonus pool space to Toronto for 1B/DH Kendrys Morales. 

2) Fernando Tatis Jr. will be 20 years, 85 days old on Opening Day; if he plays, he will be the youngest player to play on Opening Day since Adrian Beltre in 1999. 

1) Today is Opening Day in baseball, always a day full of optimism- if you can’t be optimistic when you’re 0-0, when can you be? Not every team has realistic hopes of making the playoffs this year, but you never know. At this time last year, I had zero hope of the A’s making the playoffs, but they wound up winning 97 games!!! Enjoy the season. 

Friday’s Den: Wrapping up the first day of March Madness…….

Minnesota 86, Louisville 76— Coming into this game, Gophers scored 22.2% of their points behind arc, 4th-least in country; they were 11-27 on arc in this game, scoring 38.4% of their points behind arc, and that is how upsets happen. 

Bill Murray’s son Luke is an assistant coach for Louisville; his team lost to the Gophers, a bitter pill for Carl Spackler (Caddyshack reference) to swallow. Bill Murray was at this game, too. 

LSU 79, Yale 74— LSU jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, was up 16 at the half, then held for dear life as the gritty Bulldogs fought hard until the end. Yale was only 8-37 on the arc, but four of the makes came near the end, as Yale covered thru the backdoor- they got within 77-74 in last 0:30. 

Auburn 79, New Mexico State 78— Auburn got really lucky here; leading by 3 at the end, they fouled a 3-point shooter with 0:01.7 left, but the kid missed two of three FT’s, then the Aggies missed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer. Huge sigh of relief for the Tigers. 

Tigers led this game 65-52 with 7:54 left; they made only six of their last 13 foul shots. Auburn didn’t handle time/score situations well at all- their point guard fouled on purpose when he didn’t know he had four fouls. No bueno.

Florida State 76, Vermont 69— Spunky effort by the Catamounts falls short; Florida State has won 15 of its last 17 games. If you laid 8.5 points with the Seminoles, it was a bad beat- kid on FSU had the ball by himself under the basket with 0:06 left but dribbled out the clock instead. Vermont made 16-32 on the arc; not many teams shoot that well from the arc and lose. 

Last spring, Seminoles poached grad transfer David Nichols from Albany of America East; kid gets to the NCAA’s and plays against the Catamounts, America East’s best team. Now he and his teammates move on to play Murray State Saturday. 

Michigan State 76, Bradley 65— Final score is misleading; three Spartans played 38:00+, thats how tough this was for Izzo’s team. Bradley led by a point with 6:47 left. Since 2012, MVC teams are 9-2-1 vs spread in first round games. 

Maryland 79, Belmont 77— Its been seven years since an OVC team won a first round game, but since 2005, they’re 11-4 vs spread in this round. Belmont was up 40-34 at halftime, was up six with 6:36 left. 

Kansas 87, Northeastern 53— Except for the championship game, each NCAA tournament win this year will be worth $1.81M to the conference of the school that wins it. The money gets divided up amongst the league’s schools, with team that wins the game getting more $$$ than the other schools.

Murray State 83, Marquette 64— Complete ass-kicking; Marquette didn’t even try to press in the second half, thats how thoroughly beaten they were. Golden Eagles wound up losing six of their last seven games, as Wojciechowski is proving to be a fraud of a coach who got this job because he sat next to Mike Krzyzewski for a few years.

Five years at Marquette, and two NCAA games; losses by 20, 19 points.

Ja Morant had the first triple double by a guard in the NCAA’s since Dwyane Wade. 

Kentucky 79, Abilene Christian 44— ACU threw two starters off the team last month, one was their leading scorer; not sure why they weren’t in a play-in game. This game was awful.

Gonzaga 87, FDU 49— When Gonzaga practices tomorrow, it’ll be more competitive than this was. Zags advance to play Baylor Saturday. 

Is it possible that losing the WCC final to St Mary’s was a good thing? Probably not, but sometimes as a coach, it is easier to teach after a loss- the players are more receptive to knowledge after they’ve been humbled a little bit. 

Florida 70, Nevada 61— Eric Musselman has been in Reno for four years, done a great job with a 110-34 record, but losing this game with five senior starters has to sting. After starting season 24-1, Wolf Pack didn’t play well down stretch, going 5-4 in last nine games. Not really sure why. 

I’ll say this; down 18 in second half, Nevada started pressing and they COMPETED, and got the lead down to one, before falling short. Unlike Marquette, which fell back to a 2-3 zone when they were down 18, instead of pressing- they quit like dogs. 

Next question is this: if the people at UCLA have half a brain, they give Musselman a call, and ask him to revitalize their basketball program. If they call, will he leave Reno? 

Villanova 61, Saint Mary’s 57— Only 15 foul shots total in this game; Gaels led by a hoop at the half. Villanova basically played six kids in this game; a 7th player played only 3:00. 

Funny thing about that 7th kid; he is a grad transfer from Albany, who might’ve wound up as the Great Danes’ all-time leading scorer had he stuck around for his senior year, but he decided to play in the “big-time” and chose Villanova as his new school. Kid said he wanted to play in the NCAA tournament, which he had never done. 

He played 15-18:00 a game most of the season, but when the chips were down, in Big East tournament and NCAA’s, he’s played 5-4-8-3 minutes. Not all decisions turn out well. 

Wofford 84, Seton Hall 68— Leading 67-66 late, Terriers went on a 17-0 run to salt the game away; they made 13-28 on the arc, have lot of guys who can shoot it. Wofford will be America’s Underdog when they play Kentucky Saturday. 

Fletcher Magee of Wofford has now made the most 3-pointers of any college player ever, an impressive accomplishment. 

Michigan 74, Montana 55— When you go 16-4 in the Big Sky Conference and then win the postseason tournament, you need to enjoy Selection Sunday as much as possible, because teams that lose four games in the Big Sky aren’t going to fare too well against Michigan. 

Baylor 78, Syracuse 69— When your point guard gets suspended the day before the game, bad things usually follow; Syracuse had won its last eight first round games, but that ended here. 

Baylor was 16-34 on the arc, took only 18 two-point shots against the Syracuse zone. 

Purdue 61, Old Dominion 48— Predictably ugly game, with two low tempo teams slugging it out. Monarchs shot 28.6% inside arc, 6-25 on arc, took only six foul shots. They win in C-USA because they play the best defense there, but they can’t score when they move up in class.