Friday’s Den: Random stuff on a snowy night…….

13) Eagles traded QB Carson Wentz to Indianapolis, for a 3rd round pick in April’s draft and a 2nd round pick in 2022, which could become a 1st round pick if Wentz plays well.

Eagles won a Super Bowl since drafting Wentz, but he got hurt late in the Super Bowl season and Nick Foles led the team to their playoff wins. Wentz went 14-26 ATS the last three years; he will be reunited with Frank Reich, one of his OC’s in Philadelphia.

12) Colts’ starting QB’s over the last three years, and next year:
2018: Andrew Luck
2019: Jacoby Brissett
2020: Philip Rivers
2021: Carson Wentz

11) From 2009-2016, there were 22 quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft; of those 22 QB’s, none of them are still on the team that drafted them. Zero.

10) This list will grow: NFL teams that will have a new starting QB in September:
— Rams (Stafford)
— Lions (Goff)
— Colts (Wentz)
— Eagles (Hurts)
— Saints (????)

9) Phillies catcher JT Realmuto signed a five-year, $115M contract this winter, then broke his right thumb on the first day of spring training. Not good. He is expected to miss a month, could be ready for Opening Day.

8) They’re really going to have the dunk contest at halftime of the All-Star Game? How long does the freakin’ dunk contest take? Has to be close to an hour, yes?

You’re going to tell the highest-paid players in the NBA that they have to sit around for an hour, then play ball for another half? What if one of them gets hurt? How is this a good idea? Have the dunk contest after the game- people who care about it will still watch.

7) When I’m watching basketball this season and coaches are wearing masks, if the guy has a suit and tie on, it looks weird. Like it better when coaches wear casual clothes.

6) Caesars Sportsbook posted the Dodgers’ win total this season at 104.5, the highest total for any team over the last 32 seasons. 

Pittsburgh’s total is 58, the lowest total since the 1993 Marlins.

5) Minor league baseball teams will play 6-game series this season, to reduce travel and save money. Season will also last 2-3 weeks longer, ending in late September, which will reduce the amount of late season call-ups.

4) Weird moment in the Kentucky-Vanderbilt game Wednesday night; Kentucky had the ball out of bounds under, but just before the ref hands the kid the ball to start play, they realize Kentucky has six guys on the court. Technical foul, not good. Doesn’t happen very often.

The benches in Vanderbilt’s arena are on the baseline, which is weird and probably added to the confusion, but it still wasn’t good. Kentucky led by 17 early, hung on and won by 3.

3) Klay Thompson finished 9th in All-Star voting among Western Conference guards; he’s played as much as I have this year. How do you vote for a guy to make the All-Star team who hasn’t played a second this season?

2) I had forgotten that Tony LaRussa is managing the White Sox this season; they’ve improved their roster and big things are expected. LaRussa is 76 years old; he hasn’t managed in 10 years.

1) Second day of spring training was a better one for my Oakland A’s; they signed 1B/DH Mitch Moreland, P Trevor Rosenthal. After trading DH Khris Davis, they needed another bat. 

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

13) San Diego Padres gave 22-year old SS Fernando Tatis Jr. a 14-year, $340M contract last night, a lot of $$$$ to give to a young man who has played in 143 big league games, over two years. Tatis has .301 with 39 homers, 98 RBI over those two seasons- big production.

I have to remind myself that San Diego is the 8th-biggest city in the country, so even though they’ve never won much, they are a big market team.

12) Do casinos post fake bets for publicity? The other day, BetMGM posted that a $10,000 bet was made on the Washington Wizards to win the NBA title this season. The bet would pay off $5M if hit it, but it ain’t going to hit. There are people who are rich/stupid enough to just throw away serious money?

Right now, Washington is 9-17, three games out of a playoff spot; I have a better shot at dating Gina Gershon than the Wizards have at winning the NBA title this year (stop laughing).

11) While I wait for Ms Gershon to contact me, the Baseball America Prospects Handbook came in the mail Tuesday, so I have a lot of reading to do. Each team’s top 30 prospects are profiled, it helps me a lot during fantasy baseball season.

Had to be tougher boo to put together this year, since there was no minor league season last year. Prospects who played at the teams’ site last summer did so under a cloud of secrecy.

10) The way it stands now, Ben Roethlisberger is a $41.2M salary cap hit for the Steelers next fall; they’re expected to re-do his contract somehow. Seems like March is going to be a wild time for the league and a lot of its quarterbacks, even some famous ones.

If they release Big Ben, he would still be a $21M+ cap hit; who could they get that is better?

9) Nebraska-Illinois football game was supposed to be played in Ireland August 28; they’ll play in Champaign instead.

8) Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder is going to coach the West All-Stars in the March 7 All-Star Game; he’ll be the first Jazz coach since Frank Layden in 1984 to coach an All-Star team.

7) Bulls 105, Pistons 102:
— In his last six games, Chicago’s Zach LaVine is 52-94 inside the arc, 29-50 outside the arc.
— LaVine is scoring 28+ ppg; he had 37 in this game. This is a young man who scored 9 ppg in his only year of college, at UCLA. He has worked really hard to become a skilled scorer.

6) VCU 68, Richmond 56— Spiders hadn’t played a D-I game in 22 days, and it showed. These two local rivals meet again on March 6.

5) USC 89, Arizona State 71— Trojans have won 7 in row, 13 of last 14 games; the Mobley brothers work great together inside. Plus, the Trojans made 11-20 3-pointers.

4) NC State 74, Pitt 73
— To borrow a hockey term, this was a chippy game, several technical fouls.
— Both teams shot 60%+ inside the arc.
— Pitt star Champagne was 3-11 from floor, 11-16 on foul line.
— Wolfpack has won 11 games in a row over Pitt.

3) Kentucky 82, Vanderbilt 78
— Wildcats’ last three games were decided by 1-2-4 points.
— Calipari is milking every drop he can out of a sub-par roster; they led this game 25-8 and were still life-and-death to win.
— Vanderbilt fired Bryce Drew after he went 16-38 in three SEC seasons; Jerry Stackhouse is now 5-24 in SEC play in his 2nd season at Vandy. Winning at Vandy is a tough job.

2) Apparently, some of the NBA’s best players are queasy about participating in NBA-sponsored public service announcements to people accepting the coronavirus vaccine.

This is above my salary grade, but for the love of Pete, listen to the scientists; they’re really smart people who are a very diverse group of people. They won very hard to find medicines that will help us stay healthy.

Lot of people might go get a vaccine because an NBA player endorses it, and those people would then have a better chance of staying healthy, and so would the rest of us.

1) First day of spring training was a rough day for my Oakland A’s; P Frankie Montas tested positive for COVID, C Sean Murphy has a collapsed lung. Other than that, things were great. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) Nets 128, Suns 124:
— Brooklyn was down 24 at one point, trailed 75-54 at the half.
— Durant, Irving didn’t play; Harden scored 38 points.
— Loss snaps the Suns’ 6-game winning streak.

12) There has been lot of debate on social media about ballplayers quitting on their college teams, to get ready for the NBA Draft. Here is a quick summation of my thoughts on this:

— I firmly believe kids should be able to go straight to the NBA, from high school.
— The rule is the NBA’s, has little to do with the NCAA.
— Once you start a season with a team, you should finish the season with that team.

— The transfer epidemic is damaging college basketball; loyalty is obsolete.
— I’m not sure how Jalen Johnson quitting Duke now helps him; the season only has 3-4 weeks left. What will he do now, in those 3-4 weeks, that will be more productive than practicing and playing for Duke? (I’m not a Duke fan, not at all, but still…..)

— He could get hurt playing for Duke, he could get hurt working out or playing pickup.

Everyone wants to get rich quick; it ain’t that easy.

11) Trevor Lawrence had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, will be on the shelf for 4-6 weeks, which doesn’t really matter, seeing how training camp starts in July. Jacksonville is going to take him, then sell a lot of tickets, then we’ll see who Urban Meyer hires to coach the offense.

10) I rarely look at NFL Mock Drafts anymore; they’re busywork, once you get past the first one, plus I’m a Rams fan- they haven’t had a first round pick since 2016 and don’t have another one until 2024.

Every writer should only be allowed to do one mock draft, not just constantly change them to attract more clicks.

9) Miami Dolphins gave kicker Jason Sanders a 5-year contract extension, apparently for $22M, with $10M of that guaranteed.

8) St John’s 93, Xavier 84:
— Red Storm won seven of its last eight games.
— St John’s coach Anderson wins his 400th career game.

7) Arkansas 75, Florida 64:
— Razorbacks won four in row, seven of last eight games.
— Eric Musselman has coached two NBA teams (Warriors/Kings)

6) I enjoy watching Florida State play; Leonard Hamilton plays a lot of guys (they’re #24 in bench minutes) and he doesn’t have lot of hotshot recruits, so they pass the ball willingly and root for each other and look like they’re having fun playing. That isn’t always the case.

5) Purdue 75, Michigan State 65— Spartans lost their last four road games, six of last eight games overall; they’re #329 in country at forcing turnovers. Unusual season for them.

4) Rhode Island 91, Dayton 89, 2OT:
— Dayton led 58-40 with 9:44 left in the game.
— Teams combined to take 75 foul shots.
— Flyers lost despite shooting 61% inside the arc.
— Win snaps URI’s 4-game losing streak.

3) Toronto 124, Milwaukee 113:
— Bucks lost their 4th straight game, have slipped to 16-12, #3-seed in East.
— Toronto won six of its last nine games, has improved to 13-15, #7-seed.

2) A US District Court judge ruled that Citibank won’t be allowed to recover $500M or so it accidentally wired. Citibank filed a lawsuit in August seeking the return of its money, but so far, no luck.

How would you like to be the person responsible for that screw-up? They were supposed to send Revlon $8M, but sent them around $500M instead. Whoops.

Apparently, the law usually punishes people who spend money accidentally deposited in their accounts, but not so in this case, thanks to the judge’s ruling.

1) Spring training starts today, which seems odd, given all the ice in my driveway, but pitchers and catchers report today. Exhibition games start in 10 days; they’re oddly entertaining. Our fantasy draft has started, always a good thing, a sign that warmer weather is on the way. 

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

13) Florida State 81, Virginia 60:
— Seminoles were up 20 at the half; they played nine guys 14:00+
— Florida State made 13-24 on the arc.
— Very curious where they’ll be seeded next month.

12) North Carolina’s basketball team actually advertised on Twitter this week for a home game and they got one, Wednesday against Northeastern.

We’re going to see more of that over the next 2-3 weeks, teams adding games to the schedule on the fly, to juice up their resume some, and also keep their players sharp.

11) Was listening to Hubie Brown analyze a game on ESPN the other night; guy is one of the best analysts ever, and he is still sharp, even at age 87. Had the pleasure of meeting coach Brown way back in 1984, when he was coaching the Knicks. Good guy, very smart.

10) Duke’s freshman Jalen Johnson “opted out” of the rest of the season, a nice way of saying he quit and will enter the NBA Draft. This news created mixed reactions on social media.

“Start what you finish” is probably an antiquated concept, but today is February 16. Duke isn’t going to make the NCAA’s, and even off they did, they wouldn’t last long. Would practicing and working out for an extra month be such a bad thing for him?

He could get hurt, that is true, but “opting out” has to hurt his perception with at least some of the NBA teams who might draft him. He is going to have to work out anyway in preparation for the NBA Combine, and he could get hurt there too. I’m thinking the kid got bad advice.

9) One of the great strategic debates that doesn’t have a right answer is whether a team should foul intentionally, when they’re up 3 points in the last 0:15.

If you foul on purpose, the opponent can’t hit a game-tying 3, but they could rebound a missed foul shot, and that has happened. If you play it out and the opponent makes a 3, the game is still tied and you play overtime.

I watch a lot of games on TV and there is a very mixed opinion on what the right strategy is.

8) Central Florida hired former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn as its next football coach, to the tune of $2.3M a year. Not bad for a guy who, as recently as 2005, was a HS coach in Arkansas.

Malzahn was 9-3 in one year as Arkansas State’s coach, then went 68-35 at Auburn, 39-27 in SEC games. He had the misfortune of being at Auburn while Nick Saban was at Alabama.

7) Boston College fired basketball coach Jim Christian, who went 26-94 in ACC games; moving from the Big East to the ACC has been a debacle for BC’s athletic department.

Christian went 101-37 in eight years as a MAC coach at Ohio/Kent State, but he also went 18-44 in Big X games at TCU. BC is a tough job.

6) Hovering over every open coaching job is former Michigan coach John Beilein, whose brief stint in the NBA was a disaster. He went 63-15 his last two years at Michigan; I’m guessing a lot of AD’s would fire their coach, if they knew they could get Beilein to replace him.

5) Clippers 125, Heat 118: Since Patrick Beverley has been a Clipper:
— Clippers are 101-47 when Beverley played
— Clippers are 17-18 when Beverley didn’t play
— Beverley was one of four Clipper starters who sat this game out. 

4) Baseball stuff:
— Mets signed OF Kevin Pillar
— Twins signed P Matt Shoemaker
— Braves signed 2B Jason Kipnis

3) I watch a lot of movies late at night; you know its an old(er) movie if someone uses a payphone, or doesn’t have a cellphone. We used to always to carry a quarter in our pocket in case you needed to make a quick phone call.

2) Why is Jeremy Lin in the G League? There are 30 NBA teams, 15 guys on a team; Jeremy Lin isn’t one of the best 450 basketball players in the world? That is nonsensical.

He scored 11.6 ppg in nine NBA seasons, dishing out 4.3 assists/game. This season in his four G League games, he is scoring 17.8 ppg, dishing out 7.3 ppg. He should be on an NBA roster.

1) Young lady named Jessica Pegula is a tennis pro playing in the Australian Open this week; her parents own the Buffalo Bills/Sabres, so she is a rich kid but she has worked very hard at playing tennis and is now at an elite level. Good for her. 

Monday’s Den: Going thru college basketball conferences

Selection Sunday is less than four weeks away; no one even knows yet how Championship Week is going to play out; will every conference have a tournament this year, or just a lot of makeup games, so the better teams can jack up their power ratings?

Here is what I think/know about how teams look heading into the season’s stretch run:

AAC— Houston is 17-2, the AAC’s only sure bet to be in the field of 68; Cougars beat Texas Tech on a neutral floor in November, will be a popular sleeper pick in people’s brackets.

Cincinnati is 4-0 since their 25-day COVID pause; the four wins were by a total of nine points. Memphis, SMU still have a shot to play their way into at-large bids.

ACC— When ESPN’s announcers openly talk about the ACC being down this year, you KNOW the league is down. kenpom.com has ACC as the #4 league, tied for its lowest ranking since 2013. Right now, Virginia/Florida State look like the only sure things for the NCAA’s.

ACC will wind up with 2-3 other teams in the field, but it’ll be dependent on who wins lot of games from now on. Louisville is on a pause; Virginia Tech and UNC should get in if the wheels don’t fall off for them. Duke is 8-8, 6-6 in league; they’re a bubble team.

A-14— Some teams in this league have been hit hard by the pandemic; Davidson hasn’t played in three weeks, Saint Louis went 34 days between games, Fordham didn’t play a game until December 30, then fired its coach.

Their conference tournament will be one of the better ones; the winner might be the only A-14 team in the field of 68.

Big East— Villanova/Creighton are in, Seton Hall is mostly in. Rest of the league better get hot, or they’ll be in the NIT. KenPom has the Big East at #5, as low as they’ve been since 2002.

UConn lost lost four of its last six games; Xavier just had a 2-week pause. Under Patrick Ewing., Georgetown is 23-42 in regular season conference games; how does he get to fix things?

Big 14— One of the most interesting parts of Selection Sunday will be how many teams from this league get in the field of 68. Pundits on the Big 14 Network would have you believe that every team in the league is tournament-worthy, but we know thats not true. Why should a team that finishes 9th or 10th in a 14-team league get to play for a national title? 

Michigan came off a 23-day layoff Sunday and had a terrific comeback win at Wisconsin; Ohio State has won 9 of its last 10 games, Illinois has won five in a row (with two OT wins). One of the things I’ll be looking at is if Iowa gets in the same bracket as a real athletic underdog, a team like VCU or Loyola or Oregon.

Big X— Baylor hasn’t played in three weeks; my thing is that teams will need 3-4 games before the tournament to get their sea legs back. Oklahoma won its last won 7 of its last 8 games, and has a coach who has taken two other schools to a Final Four. They’re going to get six teams in the tournament unless Oklahoma State gets hot and makes it seven.

Texas was 11-2 before their 10-day COVID pause; they’re 3-2 since, but won their last couple games- they’re a team to watch between now and Selection Sunday.

Big West— I enjoy watching Big West games on my laptop late at night; its a good league, not a great league, but highly competitive. Adding Cal-Bakersfield made their conference tournament a hell of a lot harder- they’re a tough defensive team that doesn’t score points early, a lot like Cal-Irvine, another one of the league’s frontrunners.

Cal-Santa Barbara hasn’t lost yet in 2021 (10-0); this is the best team Cal-Riverside has ever had, and with a first-year head coach. Bottom part of the league has been on pause a lot; the semi-final doubleheader at the Big West tournament will be must-see TV.

Conference USA— North Texas/Western Kentucky seem like the two best teams; Mean Green hasn’t made the tournament since 2010, WKU hasn’t made it since 2013. UAB, Louisiana Tech also have a legit shot to win the tournament; this is a one-bid league.

Last three NCAA tournaments, C-USA had three different teams repping it, and none of those three were North Texas/Western Kentucky. Hilltoppers have an NBA big man in Bassey and three senior starters; this is Rick Stansbury’s time to shine.

Mountain West— Utah State, Boise State, San Diego State figure to battle it out in Las Vegas; Aztecs can get an at-large bid even if they lose in Vegas- they beat UCLA, Arizona State back before Christmas. San Diego State plays Boise State twice in a couple weeks; Aztecs got swept by Utah State. All three of those teams shouldo be in the Mountain West Final Four.

Bottom half of this league is really bad; the bottom three teams are a combined 6-35. Aztecs will sweat some on Selection Sunday if they lose in the MW tournament, but they’re likely the only team in the league that rates an at-large bid.

Pac-12— Contrary to what Bill Walton talks about on ESPN every week, league is a little down- Arizona’s being ineligible because of recruiting violations is a big part of that. I’m thinking four teams from Pac-12 get in. Right now, USC is clearly the best team, but Andy Enfield won more NCAA tourney game at Florida Gulf Coast (2) than he has with the Trojans (1).

UCLA lost three of its last five games; Mick Cronin hasn’t had a great record in March. Oregon usually gets stronger as time goes on; they’re likely to make some noise next month. Colorado has a veteran team, but they play one good game, then have a stinker- their last three losses are to Washington, Utah, Cal, all bad losses. 

SEC— The most 2020 thing in college hoop is that Kentucky is 6-13, 6-7 in conference; curious to see if John Calipari is in the CBS studio during the first round of the tournament. With the league’s perennial frontrunner out of the picture, that leaves Alabama as the best team- they’re fun to watch, play a very fast pace, but they don’t have a great basketball pedigree (one win in NCAA’s, since 2007).

SEC figures to get five other teams in the field of 68; Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee. Would expect all six teams to win their first round game; not sure any of them, other than Alabama, will get to the Sweet 16.

Southern— Much like the Big West, I’m looking forward to the semi-finals of this tournament; this is a one-bid league, so when East Tennessee, Furman, NC-Greensboro and Wofford likely face off in the semi-finals, it’ll be very entertaining.

WCC— Gonzaga is in this league; they’re this generation’s version of Jerry Tarkanian’s great UNLV teams from 30-40 years ago. Big fish, small pond, strong national footprint. Gonzaga is going to be favored to win a national title; that springs added pressure.

BYU is only other WCC team that has a shot at an at-large bid; they have wins over San Diego State, Utah. BYU probably needs to get to 20 wins for that to happen; they’re a mature team in terms of the players’ ages, which has to help in a weird season like this one. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) A word of caution:

Friday afternoon, I got a text from my credit card company; someone tried to charge $458 on my credit card, and they were checking to see if it was me, which it wasn’t, so they shut down my credit card and will send me another one. No harm done, but no bueno.

Be careful with your personal information; lot of scam artists out there.

12) The Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville is off to a rocky start; the strength coach they hired a few days ago quit already, after complaints about how he left his job at Iowa, with former players at Iowa accusing him of racist behavior. Not the best way for this era of Jaguar football to start.

11) Baseball stuff:
— Seattle gave lefty P James Paxton $8.5M for one year.
— Royals signed IF Asdrubel Cabrera to a 1-year deal.
— Bronx signed OF Jay Bruce to a minor league deal

10) Florida State 92, Wake Forest 85 OT:
— Seminoles won their 11th straight overtime game.
— Florida State tied game with 0:00.5 left on a transition layup.
— Wake was 13-27 on the arc, Seminoles 12-25.
— This was FSU’s first game in 14 days; guys on TV who watched this game said the Seminoles looked exhausted near the end of regulation. They have a few weeks to get their legs.

9) Creighton 86, Villanova 70:
— When Bluejays make 12-26 on the arc, they can beat anyone.
— The thing is, no goes 12-26 all that often; can they make a run to the Final 4?
— Creighton starts three seniors, two juniors; they’re experience team #39.

8) Arkansas 86, Missouri 81 OT— They were telling Eric Musselman stories on this telecast; the son of former NBA coach Bill Musselman, Eric was a coach/GM in the Continental League when he was in his mid-20’s, highly unusual.

The first day he was GM of the Rapid City Thrillers, Musselman made four trades, which sounds like a guy I’d like to have in our fantasy baseball league.

Musselman’s Razorbacks are 16-5, 8-4 in the SEC; they’ve won six of last seven games.

7) Upsets of the Day:
— California (+10) 71, Colorado 62
— Vanderbilt (+7.5) 72, Mississippi State 51
— Valparaiso (+7) 70, Northern Iowa 57
— North Dakota (+6.5) 85, South Dakota 76
— Arkansas State (+6) 67, Little Rock 65
— Illinois State (+5.5) 80, Southern Illinois 55
— Oral Roberts (+4) 103, South Dakota State 86

6) Oklahoma 91, West Virginia 90, 2OT:
— Sooners have won six of their last severn games.
— Lon Kruger is a really underrated coach; he’s led five different schools to the NCAA Tournament, getting two of them to a Final Four.
— He also coached the Atlanta Hawks for a couple years.
— 671 college wins is a lot of wins.

5) Cal-Santa Barbara 81, Hawai’i 74:
— Gauchos win despite blowing a 12-point halftime lead.
— Santa Barbara has a slim lead atop the Big West; two of their last three wins were in OT.

4) Northeastern 76, Towson 67:
— Tyson Walker made 7-12 3-pointers, scored 36 points.
— Walker is a sophomore; Huskies’ coaches better make sure he doesn’t get poached by Duke, or some other big money program.

3) Pundits on the Big 14 Network rattle on and on about how great their league is, but fact of the matter is this: Last time a Big 14 team won the basketball national title was when Michigan State won it all, in 2000. A 21-year drought seems lengthy for such a great league.

2) Candidates for the NFL’s Name Hall of Fame:
— Eagles used to have a kicker named Happy Feller— he kicked in college at Texas.
— Browns used to have a receiver named Fair Hooker— insert your own joke here.

1) Lot of times when I’m writing this site late at night, I put old episodes of The West Wing on my laptop and listen while I write. The other night, I finished up, turned the laptop off and started watching an old episode of Columbo on TV.

1973, back when I was a kid, Columbo was a popular show; Peter Falk is a quirky cop who always gets his man, but there was a familiar face in this episode, a much, much younger Martin Sheen, who I had just watched play President Bartlett on my laptop while I was writing.

What a great career he’s had; that was 48 years ago, and he still does commercials on TV. 

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

13) NCAA Tournament, like everything else for the last year or so, promises to be a bit bizarre; right now, Michigan/Baylor would both be #1 seeds in the Field of 68, but both teams are on pause, because of COVID.

In my mind, teams like that will need to play some games before the tournament, so their players can get their legs back. Teams on pause usually don’t practice, sometimes the players aren’t even allowed to go outside and jog, or shoot hoops.

12) Houston Texans released JJ Watt, who has been a great player and is an iconic figure in the Houston area— he raised $41.6M for victims of Hurricane Harvey a few years ago.

The thing is, Watt will be 32 in March; he doesn’t want to go thru a rebuilding program, and if any team is going thru a rebuild, it is the Texans. He requested the release and he got it.

11) Illinois 77, Nebraska 72 OT— Illini was favored by 15 points in Lincoln; they needed five extra minutes to put away the gritty Cornhuskers.

10) Iona 85, Manhattan 67— Rick Pitino’s Gaels are 6-3; this was their first game in 51 days.

9) Robert Morris 88, Oakland 82 OT— Colonials’ last four home games have gone into overtime; this was the first one of those they won.

8) Utah 129, Milwaukee 115— Jazz won five in row, 15 of last 16 games; they’re 14-1-1 ATS in those 16 games.

7) Lakers 115, Memphis 105— Lakers were down 22-2, but they still won/covered. LA won its last seven games. Lebron James played 34 minutes, down some from their last few games. 

6) Texas State’s football team offered over 100 kids scholarships this year, but none of them accepted. That is zero out of 100, very unsuccessful recruiting.

Texas State has instead brought in 11 transfer students, who will try and improve the fortunes of Bobcat football. They need to do better at recruiting next year.

5) Guy on the Interweb posted a picture of a room in his house, where he had his sneaker collection spread out on the floor. 85-90 pairs of Air Jordans; thats an expensive collection, and a very cool one.

4) Thing I learned from listening to Bill Walton on TV: Arizona is the 6th biggest state in the country, roughly the same size as Italy.

3) Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman has won Coach of the Year in four different leagues.

2) I’ve had two eye operations in the last 16 months, then I saw the Miami Heat’s new uniforms last week and thought my eye fell apart again. Pink on the left side, blue on the right, ugly on both sides. First I checked my eyes, then the TV; they’re all fine. The uniforms are terrible.

1) There is a United States Senator from Rhode Island named Sheldon Whitehouse; this guy has to run for President someday, yes? I don’t even know what party he is in, but if your last name is Whitehouse, he needs to seriously consider running for President. 

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

13) Washington State 81, UCLA 73
— Bruins lose for third time in last four games.
— USC takes sole possession of first place in the Pac-12.
— Wazzu wins for third time in four games.

12) From 2006-08, Ben Howland got UCLA to the Final Four three years in a row; unfortunately for them, Billy Donovan’s Florida team beat them in the Final Four two years in a row, then they lost to Memphis in ‘08. Making the Final Four three years in a row is damn fine coaching, but if your fanbase is spoiled, it leaves a sour taste.

We live in a fickle society; the fanbase got tired of Howland and his defense-first approach, so Steve Alford replaced him, and that didn’t go well enough (three Sweet 16’s in six years), so after butchering the latest coaching search, they eventually hired Mick Cronin, a coach who wins a lot (11 NCAA tourneys, never in Elite 8) but also believes in defense-first.

The last eight years (8 years is a significant trend), Mick Cronin’s teams have finished outside the top 300 in tempo (they are 357 teams in the country). If they thought Howland’s teams weren’t entertaining enough, they’re going to get tired of Cronin pretty soon, once fans are let back in Pauley Pavilion.

Unless, of course, Cronin wins a national title; that would appease the fanbase, for a while.

11) I have a new hero; his name is Mark Daigneault, he coaches the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At age 35, he is an NBA head coach; he began his basketball career as a student manager at UConn, working for Jim Calhoun. He was going to stay in college and get a Master’s degree, but Calhoun and assistant coach George Blaney pushed him to apply for an assistant coaching job at Holy Cross, which he got, because Calhoun/Blaney are influential people.

From there he hooked up with Billy Donovan at Florida and then moved up to become the head coach of Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League team. Last year he became an assistant coach for the Thunder, and now he sits in the first chair, at age 35.

For those of us who were student managers in college, this guy is a hero; there are others who have followed this path— Lawrence Frank, Will Wade, Buzz Williams. I root for those guys.

10) While we’re talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder, lets talk about Kenrich Williams, a 6-6 forward. This is a guy who didn’t get a D-I scholarship offer playing high school ball in Waco, TX. Baylor missed the boat on this guy.

Williams went to New Mexico JC, then to TCU, where he helped the Horned Frogs improve into a contending team, but he wasn’t an All-American or anything.

His persistence is inspirational; for two years, he bounced between the G League and the New Orleans Pelicans. New Orleans traded him to the Thunder last November, and how he is scoring 5.6 ppg in 16.6 mpg for Oklahoma City.

Not bad for a kid with no scholarship offers coming out of high school; it shows kids that if you work your butt off on your game and don’t give up, great things can and will happen.

9) Lakers won their last six games, with last three games all going overtime. In those three games, 36-year old Lebron James played:

46:29, 42:31, 41:03

Lot of minutes for a 36-year old, even if he is one of the five best players ever. At some point, as the playoffs approach, they’re going to have to taper his off playing time a little- they’ll need his legs to be fresh for the playoffs. He is an all-time great, but he’s still a human being.

8) Valparaiso University is dropping their Crusaders nickname, mascot and logos, because they’ve been adopted and embraced by different hate groups. Animal mascots are going to be even more popular as we move forward; I think Valparaiso Armadillos would be a cool name.

Are there armadillos in Indiana?

7) Stanford’s best basketball player is Oscar deSilva; the young man speaks six languages!!!! He can get away with cursing at officials any time he wants, as long as the refs aren’t bilingual.

6) Ivy League will let current senior student-athletes play an additional year as graduate students next season, a one-time deal, since the league didn’t play this season.

Previously, the Ivy League hasn’t let athletic redshirts or graduate students to play sports, which is why lot of them transfer elsewhere to play in their fifth year of eligibility. Right now, there are 20 Ivy League men’s basketball players currently in the NCAA transfer portal.

This spring/summer will be a very active time for transfers/roster poaching in college hoop.

5) Texas State 63, Tex-Arlington 56:
— Bobcats are 14-6, 8-3 in Sun Belt with an interim coach.
— Texas State is #13 at shooting 3’s, #10 at forcing turnovers.

4) From 2004-08, Mike D’Antoni coached the Phoenix Suns; they won 62-54-61-55 games in those years, they were so much fun to watch, they won a lot, but they went 26-25 in playoff games and the new owner sent D’Antoni packing, a large mistake.

They’ve made the playoffs once in 12 years since then, they’ haven’t been fun to watch, they’ve pretty much been a dismal franchise, but hey, the owner is a really rich guy with no patience.

Sacramento Kings have the NBA’s longest playoff drought (14 years); Suns are next, at 10 years. Suns are doing well, look like they’ll make the playoffs this year. Hopefully the jackass owner will leave Monty Williams alone and let him coach a young, improving team.

3) Red Sox gave Marwin Gonzalez $3M to play this season; Gonzalez is a switch-hitter who plays a lot of different positions. He knocked in 90 runs for the world champion Astros in 2017.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars raised eyebrows this week when they hired Chris Doyle as their strength coach; he had that job with the Iowa Hawkeyes for 21 years. Supposedly a good strength coach.

Here’s the thing: in 2019, former players made accusations about institutional racism within the Iowa football program, including specific accusations against Doyle, who was given $1.1M to take a hike. Now Urban Meyer brings him to the NFL? Eyebrows raised.

1) You bring a head coach with zero NFL experience to a franchise that loses a lot; one of the first people he hires is a guy that has been accused of racist activity, at a lower level. What could possibly go wrong?

When I heard that Jacksonville hired Meyer, first thing that popped into my head was this: This won’t be a mediocre hire; it’ll either go really well, or really, really badly. They’re not off to a great start. 

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

13) If the Seahawks trade Russell Wilson, I’ll be doing snow angels on my front lawn and I’m not kidding. As a Ram fan, watching them defend Wilson twice a year (3 times this past year) for the last nine seasons hasn’t been fun.

Send him to Las Vegas, the Jets, Houston— anywhere outside the NFC West!!!

12) Last bet I made in Las Vegas was October 2019, Seattle @ Cleveland. Seahawks won 32-28, I had some great pizza at Bonanno’s (around corner from excellent sportsbook at MGM Grand) and all was well with the world. Rooting for Wilson is more fun than rooting against him.

While you were sleeping the other night, I was watching movies and doing research. Here are some trends on how teams who lost a Super Bowl fared the next season:

11) 37 of 54 Super Bowl losers made the playoffs again the next season.

10) 8 of 54 Super Bowl losers made it back to the Super Bowl the next year, going 3-5.

Three teams that won the Super Bowl the year after losing one:
— 1971 Cowboys
— 1972 Dolphins
— 2018 Patriots

9) Last team to lose the Super Bowl 2+ years in a row: the 1990-93 Bills.

8) From 1974-86, the loser of the Super Bowl made the playoffs the next season every year, but went only 2-12 in playoff games.

7) Overall, Super Bowl losers are 32-34 SU in playoff games the following season.

Elsewhere…….
6) There was a 3-way trade in baseball:
— Royals get OF Andrew Benitendi
— Red Sox get OF Franchy Cordero and P prospect Josh Winckowski
— Mets get OF prospect Khalil Lee

5) From what I read/hear on the Interweb, the Houston Texans are a tremendous mess.

Team president Jamey Rootes quit Wednesday, at least in part from tensions over the front office’s recent general manager search. I’ve never heard of this freakin’ guy, but they said on TV that the team’s owner ignored the work the search committee did on finding a new GM. Roones has worked for Houston for 20 years, so his quitting is no small thing.

Rootes’ resignation comes a week after the Texans fired Kevin Krajcovic, director of football administration, as well as equipment manager Mike Parson- they also fired a PR person who had been there for years.

Cal McNair has run the Texans since his father passed away; he got thoroughly ripped on an ESPN talkshow Wednesday, by three ex-NFL players. We’ll see if they wind up trading QB Deshaun Watson, but if I was a Texans’ fan, I’d be pretty queasy right now.

4) Over last two NBA seasons, Dallas Mavericks have lost 23 games by 5 or fewer points, the most of any team in the league.

3) Heard a new TV analyst on ESPNU Wednesday; former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty, who was a pleasant surprise. He spoke his mind, gave out some Dean Smith tidbits, and was generally upbeat and candid.

I’ve said this a lot here; the best announce teams are when you feel like you’re eavesdropping on two friends watching a game. Thats what this was like, so a good hire by ESPN.

2) Washington’s NFL team re-signed QB Taylor Heinicke, I’m guessing to be their backup again next season. Heinicke threw for 306 yards in Washington’s playoff game last month; you would think they’ll try to acquire a bigger name to start next year, but Heinicke proved he belongs in the league.

1) Weird season in college basketball; Kentucky is 5-13, Duke is 7-8. Michigan State is 4-7 in conference games. March is going to be a very interesting month. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Big 14 is moving its conference tournament from Chicago to Indianapolis; going to be a lot of basketball played in Indiana next month. Having everything in one state makes it easier, as far as keeping up with all the COVID protocols.

12) Several years ago, I was sitting at an AAU basketball tournament, sitting next to a guy who was a great small college coach, so I picked his brain a little, because thats how we get smarter- you ask people questions who are smarter than you.

I asked him what he looked for when he went to tournaments like this one, with dozens of games  mostly being played by kids we had never seen before.

“What is their college skill?” he replied. What can he do at the college level that will make him an effective college player. I had once recommended a player to him and the kid played really well for his team, so he was generous with his ideas and I learned a lot.

11) Trying to figure out a reason the underdog is 10-4 ATS in last fourteen Super Bowls. There doesn’t have to be a reason, but would be nice to know underdogs are covering so much.

10) Patrick Mahomes is having surgery Wednesday for turf toe, which is a sprain of the big toe joint. More serious than it sounds; it ended the career of the great Steeler LB, Jack Lambert.

9) Missouri Tigers are 13-3 this season, 6-3 in the SEC; their coach is Cuonzo Martin, who was a very good player at Purdue. He’s had an interesting career as a coach.

— 2008-11— Missouri State 26-28 in MVC games, 50-21 overall the last two years
— 2011-14— Tennessee 32-20 in SEC games, made Sweet 16 his 3rd year, then he bolted.
— 2014-17— California 29-27 in Pac-12 games, lost his only NCAA game.
— 2017-now—Missouri 28-35 in SEC games, lost his only NCAA game.

— This is his 4th coaching stop; this year is the first time he’s been at the same school four years in a row.
— He won two state titles as a high school player, teammates with LaPhonso Ellis.
— He played in only seven NBA games; he went to the G-League and to an Italian League- he was later diagnosed with lymphoma, which thankfully went into remission.

— As a college coach, Martin is 8-3 in first game of a conference tournament, 2-6 in the second game, 0-2 in third game. He is 3-3 in NCAA tourney games, partly because Mercer upset Duke in the 2014 first round, which gave his Tennessee team a much easier 2nd round game.

Missouri will be a prominent team when the brackets come out in a month or so; they’re #6 experience team in country, which seems to be an important thing in this unusual season. 

8) I do lot of work with trends when giving out information on games; I’m seriously wondering how much this year’s trends mean? How similar/different is this season to most seasons? How much does having no fans in the stands affect the games? 

7) I mentioned this briefly last week, but it deserved more attention than that; Toronto’s Fred VanVleet scored 54 points in a game last week, the most points EVER by an NBA player who was not drafted.

VanVleet was a really good player at Wichita State, but he is (listed at) 6-1 and doesn’t look like a prototype NBA athlete, but he can really play. He’s in his 5th NBA season, and is scoring over 20.0 ppg this season. Good for him. 

6) Watching a replay of a Golden State-Dallas game Tuesday, was laughing listening to Jeff Van Gundy going off on a tangent about Law and Order: SVU— “Why would any parent send their kid to Hudson University? There was a crime there every week!!!”

Van Gundy is a very good coach, but I hope he stays on TV; he is fun to listen to.

5) In that game, Draymond Green had 13 rebounds, six steals, six assists….before he scored a point. Thats why he was such a great part of the Warriors’ title teams; he did a lot of the hard work that led to Steph Curry/Klay Thompson scoring a ton of points.

All great teams have players who get a lot of loose balls, play tough defense, pass the ball well, make their teammates better players. 

4) Green Bay Packers wanted to hire Jim Leonhard as their defensive coordinator; he has that job at Wisconsin now, but he turned the Packers down. Green Bay then turned to Joe Barry, who was a linebackers coach for the Rams, but left there when they didn’t name him DC.

3) Miami Marlins signed OF Adam Duvall for one year, $4.5M. 

2) RIP to coach Marty Schottenheimer, who passed away this week at age 77; he played in the AFL for six years (Bills/Patriots), was a head coach for 21 years, going 200-126-1 in regular season games, only 5-13 in playoff games.

The last year he coached was 2006; he is the only guy ever to get fired after going 14-2, which he did with the ’06 Chargers. RIP, coach. 

 1) Happy birthday to the great actor Joe Pesci, who turned 78 earlier this week; everyone has different likes/dislikes, but My Cousin Vinny is my favorite Pesci movie.

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

13) Former Raiders/Seahawks’ coach Tom Flores got elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend; he seems like a good guy, won two Super Bowls. Congratulations.

Flores was 83-53 (.610) as coach of the Raiders, but in the nine years before he was their head coach, the Raiders were 91-31-6 (.746). Flores’ had an 8-3 record in playoff games, won two Super Bowls, which got him inducted. Fair enough.

I’ll repeat myself here:
Flores with Oakland 83-53 (.610)
9 years before that, Raiders were 91-31-6 (.746).

He later coached the Seahawks for three years, going 14-34.

12) I bring this up because if Tom Flores gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, then Dick Vermeil should get inducted, too. Here is Coach Vermeil’s resume:

1976-82— Eagles 54-47 (53.5%), won NFC title in his 5th year
8 years before that, Eagles were: 33-74-5 (30.8%)

1997-99— Rams 22-26 (45.8%), won Super Bowl in his 3rd year
7 years before that, Rams were 34-76 (30.9%)

2001-05— Chiefs 44-36 (.550)
3 years before that, Chiefs were 23-25 (.479)

It is a lot harder to turn around a losing program and make them champs. Coach Vermeil got to the Super Bowl with two franchises that were dumpster fires when he got there. It is time he got his day and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

11) Houston Texans hired David Culley as their new head coach; he was the QB coach for Buffalo in Josh Allen’s rookie year, 2018. He’s never been an NFL coordinator.

Brian Daboll hasn’t gotten a head coaching job yet; he has been Buffalo’s offensive coordinator the last three years.

If you watched Josh Allen play in 2018, then watched him play this year, how on God’s green earth could you hire the QB coach from back then, and not Daboll, who has helped Allen’s skill level progress exponentially? It is nonsensical!!!!

10) Robert Morris College made a pretty big jump up in college basketball this year, moving from the NEC to the Horizon League, jumping from the 29th-ranked league to league #19.

Things aren’t going well; the Colonials are 2-11 vs D-I teams, 2-9 in Horizon League, losing their last eight games in a row. But four of their last seven losses came in overtime; including their last three home games.

Seems like this is a rough year for anything new in college basketball; changing leagues means all new road trips, and it is a much better league, with new, tougher opponents. Robert Morris went 24-12 in the NEC the last two years; sounds like they need to step up their recruiting some. 

9) You look at the college basketball top 25, and none of these teams are ranked:
Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA

Last time these five teams were unranked at the same time? 1961.

8) Tampa Bay RB Leonard Fournette scored a TD in all four of Tampa Bay’s playoff games this year, joining Terrell Davis (1997), Larry Fitzgerald (2008) as only players to score a TD in four playoff games in the same season. 

7) How is Ben Simmons a career 56.4% shooter on the foul line? The guy is one of the best passers I’ve ever seen, he’s a really, really good player but he can’t shoot- go figure. 

6) Speaking of shooting, I heard yesterday that Stephen Curry turns 33 years old next month; time flies, doesn’t it? Can still remember sitting in Graney’s Bar on New Scotland Avenue, watching his Davidson team play in the NCAAs. Hard to believe it was 13 years ago.

Quick aside; if you’re ever in Albany, Graney’s is an excellent sports bar. Lot of TV’s, good food and the bartenders are very attractive. Very good place to watch ballgames. 

5) Baseball stuff:
— Cardinals signed C Yadier Molina for one year, $9M
— Angels signed DH Shohei Ohtani for two years, $8.5M. 

4) Washington State suspended its starting QB after the kid was arrested for DUI; he went thru a stop sign, then drove the wrong way down a one-way street. Not good. 

3) The great basketball scout Tom Konchalski passed away Monday at age 74, after a battle with cancer. He was widely praised as a kind and trusted counselor, a historian of New York-area basketball and he has been remembered by many as a great friend. When you’re from New York City and get praised as being a nice person, you KNOW he was a nice person.

2) On national TV Sunday, Jeff Van Gundy/Mark Jackson were praising Mr Konchalski- Rutgers hired Van Gundy as an assistant coach, largely on Konchalski’s recommendation to Bob Wenzel, who was the Scarlet Knights’ coach back then. Mark Jackson was a great high school player in NYC, and also spoke highly of Mr Konchalski.

1) Long time ago, November 2000, I was.a lucky enough to be an assistant coach at Schenectady HS; our team drove south and scrimmaged Christ the King in the Bronx. Mr Konchalski was there; he was a great gym rat, and he knew the top-flight recruits for sure, but he also studied the D-3 level players. He just loved basketball, and was a basketball encyclopedia. RIP, sir. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up Super Bowl Sunday

13) Coming into this season, in Tampa Bay’s entire franchise history, they had a 6-9 record in playoff games, and they had even won a Super Bowl before.

Summing that up, the Buccaneers had won six playoff GAMES. Tom Brady had six Super Bowl rings, making him a pretty solid upgrade over the previous Tampa Bay starter, Jameis Winston.

12) Tom Brady now has seven Super Bowl rings. Tampa Bay has 10 playoff wins.

11) Buccaneers 31, Chiefs 9:
— Teams combined to convert only 7-25 third down plays.
— Penalties in first half: Chiefs 8 for 95 yards, Tampa Bay one for 5 yards.

10) Tell your statistics to shut up: Chiefs outgained Tampa Bay, 350-340.

Chiefs gained 64-65-48 yards on last three drives, after the issue had been decided.

9) On their first seven drives, Tampa Bay scored four TD’s and were stopped on the 1-yard line on another drive.

8) On the drive where the Chiefs stopped Tampa Bay on the 1-yard line, Bucs threw a pass on 2nd down to OL Joe Haeg- it was broken up by a defender. No offensive lineman has ever scored  a touchdown in the Super Bowl- he could’ve been the first. 

7) Good trivia question: who was Tampa Bay’s backup QB? 

Playing for his 4th NFL team in four years, it was Blaine Gabbert, who has a 13-35 career record as an NFL starter, mostly with Jacksonville. He looked happier as hell on the sidelines near the end of Sunday’s game. Super Bowl rings are hard to find, unless you stumble onto one at a Las Vegas pawn shop, or if you’re Vladimir Putin.

Quick side story: Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft does business in Russia; he met Putin once, and took off his Super Bowl ring to show Putin, who then stuck the ring in his pocket and quickly walked away, never to be seen again. Seriously, that really happened. 

6) Jerry Greene of Detroit News covered his 55th consecutive Super Bowl Sunday; he is the only media member to cover every Super Bowl.

5) Chiefs’ over/under for the game was 3.5 touchdowns; they didn’t score one. Kansas City had three drives in the red zone, scored on only one of those drives, a field goal.

4) If you have a friend/relative who went all in wagering on the Chiefs Sunday, you might want to avoid them for a few days- they could be looking for a loan.

3) We mentioned couple of times over weekend that over the last 27 years, Super Bowl teams who were a #3 or lower seed in their conference were 10-0-1 ATS in Super Bowls; now we can make that 11-0-1 ATS. Not really sure why that is true; guess it speaks to teams gaining a lot of momentum/confidence as they get rolling in the playoffs.

2) Odds to win the Super Bowl next year:
11-2— Kansas City
9-1— Green Bay
11-1— Tampa Bay
12-1— Baltimore, Buffalo

1) Elsewhere, Brooks Koepka chipped in for eagle on the 17th hole to win the Phoenix Open; it was his second eagle of the day, when he shot a 6-under par 65.

Since 1995, #3 or lower seeds in Super Bowls.

1997— #4 AFC Denver (+11.5) W31-24
1999— #4 AFC Tennessee (+7) L16-23
2000— #4 AFC Baltimore (-3) W34-7
2003— #3 NFC Carolina (+7) L29-32
2005— #6 AFC Pittsburgh (-4) W21-10
2006— #3 AFC Indianapolis (-6.5) W29-17
2007— #5 NFC NJ Giants (+12) W17-14
2008— #4 NFC Arizona (+7) L23-27
2010— #6 NFC Green Bay (-2.5) W31-25
2011— #4 NFC NJ Giants (+3) W21-17
2012— #4 AFC Baltimore (+4.5) W34-31

Since 1995, #3 or worse seeds in Super Bowl: 8-3 SU, 10-0-1 ATS

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college hoop Saturday

13) Missouri 68, Alabama 65:
— This was Crimson Tide’s first loss in 11 SEC games.
— Mizzou led 58-36 with 13:05 left; Alabama had a layup blocked when they were down by a point in the last few seconds.
— Alabama’s 12-21 shooting on foul line didn’t help.

12) West Virginia 91, Kansas 79:
— Kansas has lost five in a row on road, for first time since 1983.
— Jayhawks are out of top 20 for first time since 2009.
— Kansas lost five of last seven games overall.
— West Virginia made 11-21 3-pointers; they’ve won 4 of last 5 games.

11) Tennessee 82, Kentucky 71:
— Wildcats lost three in row, 6 of last 7 games; they’re 5-12 overall.
— Vols outscored Kentucky 48-29 in second half.

10) Colorado 82, Arizona 79:
— Buffaloes jumped out to a 19-2 lead.
— Colorado made 11-20 3-pointers.
— Arizona lost three of its last four games. 

9) Oklahoma State 75, Texas 67, 2OT:
— Longhorns lost four of last five games; they were 5-35 on the arc.
— Texas was 0-12 from the floor in the two overtimes.
— Longhorns are 0-3 since their 10-day COVID pause.
— Oklahoma State star Cunningham was 5-22 from the floor.

8) Drake 80, Valparaiso 77:
— Drake is the quietest 18-0 team ever; they’ve played schedule #260.
— Crusaders won despite trailing by 10 at the half.
— Drake has trailed by double digits in four of its last ten games.
— Drake plays Loyola twice next week, battle of MVC kingpins. 

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Ball State (+8.5) 81, Toledo 67
— UMass (+8) 75, Rhode Island 63
— Bakersfield (+7) 62, Irvine 57
— Wofford (+6) 75, Furman 67
— Chattanooga (+5.5) 67, East Tennessee State 65
— Fordham (+5.5) 76, LaSalle 68
— UCF (+5) 65, Tulsa 58
— Middle Tennessee (+5) 72, Charlotte 60

6) Wofford 75, Furman 67:
— Wofford snaps Paladins’ 19-game home win streak.
— Furman was 12-40 on arc, 14-24 inside arc, 3-6 on foul line.
— Wofford was down 9 with 10:51 left; they made 10-25 on the arc. 

5) North Carolina 91, Duke 87:
— Blue Devils lost five of last seven games, are 3-6 vs top 100 teams.
— North Carolina made 10 of its 15 3-point shots, scored 1.20 ppp.
— Tar Heels won seven of their last nine games. 

4) Virginia Tech 80, Miami 76 OT:
— Miami hit a 3-pointer with 0:02.1 left to take the lead.
— Hokies hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.
— Va Tech is 14-4, 8-3 in ACC:
— Miami’s five starters all played 38+ minutes. 

3) Ole Miss 86, Auburn 84, OT:
— Auburn led by 14 with 16:43 left in game.
— Auburn lost its last three games, giving up 87 ppg.
— Devontae Shuler stuck an 18-foot jumper at buzzer for the win. 

2) Clemson 78, Syracuse 61:
— Syracuse lost last four road games, giving up 84 ppg.
— Orangemen are worst defensive rebounding team in the ACC.
— Clemson won three of last four games, is 6-5 in ACC. 

1) USC 66, UCLA 48:
— LA rivals are now tied for first in the Pac-12.
— UCLA shot 3-19 on arc, 3-8 on foul line. 

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

13) Dodgers gave P Trevor Bauer a 3-year, $102M contract; Bauer has a $17M option on Year 3  of the contract, so it is really a 2-year, $85M deal, unless Bauer struggles badly and then doesn’t opt out after the second year. If he pitches well for two years, he’ll definitely opt out so he can make a lot more than $17M in 2023.

12) Some random observations from the contract:
— An agent’s take is generally 3%, so that is a minimum of $3,060,000 for the agent.

Two years ago, no MLB pitcher started more than 34 games. Assuming Bauer starts 34 games in each of the next two seasons, for which he will be paid $85M, that means he earns:
— $1,250,000 per start
— If he averages 6.2 innings per start (his average from 2018-20), that is $187,490.643 per inning, $62,496.88 per out.

Not bad for a guy with a 75-64 career record.

11) Braves signed OF Marcell Ozuna to a 4-year, $65M deal; Ozuna knocked in 56 runs in 60 games LY, his first year as a Brave.

10) These two contracts come on the heels of the news that the average major league salary went down last year, for the third year in a row. 

9) Speaking of salaries, Clemson’s offensive coordinator now makes $2M a year, making him the third college coordinator to earn $2M+ a year. Not a bad gig for an assistant coach.

8) Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, widely expected to be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, is going to have surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Lawrence will throw for NFL scouts next Friday instead of on Clemson’s Pro Day, so he can have the operation and his shoulder will have more time to heal.

7) When Duke-North Carolina play tonight, it’ll be the first time since 1960 that the rivals have met, with neither team ranked in the top 25.

6) When he was a GM, Theo Epstein won World Series titles with the Red Sox and Cubs; he’ll probably be in the Hall of Fame someday, but even the great ones make mistakes now and then.

December 8, 2011, Epstein made this trade with Colorado:
— Rockies got DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Colvin
— Cubs got Ian Stewart, Casey Weathers

Not his finest moment, but he also got Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner. Obviously, he’s done a lot more good than bad. 

5) Didn’t take long for a Matthew Stafford 2021 betting prop to show up online:

— Over 28.5 TD passes (-$125)
— Under 28.5 TD passes (+$105)

4) Thru two rounds of this week’s PGA tournament in Phoenix, Xander Schauffele leads by a stroke; since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, this is the 26th time Schauffele has been in the top-10 through 36 holes, most of any player during that time.

3) In 54 Super Bowls, there have been 15 pick-6’s, where a team runs an INT back for a TD. The only team to score a pick-6 in a Super Bowl and lose? Atlanta Falcons four years ago. 

2) Sounds like the NBA is going to have an All-Star Game on March 7, even though not all of the league’s stars are on board with that idea.

Sunday after that is Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament, March should be a fun month. 

1) Over the last 25 years, Super Bowl teams who were #3 or lower seed in their conference are 8-3 SU, 10-0-1 ATS. Tampa Bay was the #5-seed in the NFC this year.