Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

13) Oral Roberts 81, Florida 78:
Long time ago, on Oral Roberts’ home court, this was stamped on each baseline:

“Expect a miracle”
Not sure if it’s there anymore; they’re not on TV much.

Well, a 15-seed making the Sweet 16 is pretty darn close to a miracle.

— Florida Gulf Coast (2013) was only previous #15-seed to make Sweet 16.
— ORU shot 59.3% inside arc; their two stars never came out of the game.
— Golden Eagles prepped for this; they played 3rd-hardest non-league schedule in country.

Ironically, when Florida Gulf Coast finally lost in 2013, they lost to Florida in the regional semifinals. Today, the Gators were the victims.

12) Loyola, Chi 71, Illinois 58:
— Loyola’s big man Krutwig had 19 points, 12 boards, 5 assists.
— Loyola was +6 in turnovers (17-11); they got most of the loose balls.
— Not only did the #1-seed lose, they never led in this game.

11) Loyola is a #8-seed in the Sweet 16. Since 1990, here is how 8-9 seeds have done in the Sweet 16:

— 10-8 SU in regional semifinal
— 10-7-1 ATS in those games; 1-2 ATS when favored, 9-5-1 otherwise.
— Loyola plays in O State in the regional semi-final this coming weekend.

10) This is the first NCAA Tournament ever to have at least four teams seeded #13 or lower make it into the second round.

9) Arkansas 68, Texas Tech 66:
— Hogs held Tech to 29.3% inside arc; they denied MacClung the ball a lot- he only took six shots.
— Arkansas basically played six guys; a 7th guy played only 3:00.
— Arkansas plays #15-seed Oral Roberts in their next game.

8) Baylor 76, Wisconsin 63:
— Baylor got seven games in after a 21-day COVID pause, before NCAA tourney.
— Bears turned ball over only four times, scored 1.19 ppp.
— Wisconsin started four seniors; if all those guys came back next year, and they can if they want, Badgers would have older starters than some NBA teams.

7) Houston 63, Rutgers 60:
— Cougars outscored Rutgers 13-2 over the final 4:33.
— Houston had 43-29 rebounding edge, with 16 offensive boards.
— This was first NCAA Tournament for Rutgers since 1991, so an excellent season for them.

6) Syracuse 75, West Virginia 72:
— Syracuse made 14-31 on the arc, shot 61.9% inside arc.
— Orangemen led 30-16 early; West Virginia led 53-52 with 9:15 left.
— Mountaineers ended season losing four of their last six games.

5) Villanova 84, North Texas 61:
— North Texas pulled big upset Friday, didn’t have much left here.
— Wildcats shot 15-30 on the arc, scored 1.42 ppp.
— Villanova had lost in this round four of last six years, so had to be a relief to get to the Sweet 16, especially with their point guard out for the year.

4) Shaka Smart’s NCAA Tournament resume:
at VCU:
2011— Won five tournament games, lost national semi-final (11-seed).
2012— Won one, lost one (12-seed).
2013— Won one, lost one (5-seed).
2014— Lost in 1st round (5-seed)
2015— Lost in 1st round (7-seed)
at Texas:
2016— Lost in 1st round (6-seed)
2018— Lost in 1st round (10-seed)
2020—Lost in 1st round (3-seed)

3) Oregon State 80, Oklahoma State 70:
— Oregon State only got in because they won Pac-12 tourney; they’re red-hot now.
— Lot of whistles: Beavers were 32-35 on foul line, Oklahoma State 26-38.
— Loyola-Oregon State is the rare 8-12 seed game next weekend. 

2) Since 1997, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton is 14-9 SU in NCAA tournament games.; underdog was 18-5 ATS in those games.

He was 3-10 ATS when favored, 8-2 when the underdog.

1) Think the Houston Texans regret not trading Deshaun Watson already? They could’ve gotten a huge haul for him last month, but now Watson seems to be facing an off-field legal battle, which at least will be a big distraction. Do other teams still want to trade for him? 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping a sports Saturday

Abilene Christian 53, Texas 52:
— 23 turnovers for Texas, in a low-possession game.
— Abilene Christian leads country in forcing turnovers.
— Under Smart, Texas is 0-3 in NCAA Tournament games. 

Ohio 62, Virginia 58:
Virginia’s last three NCAA tournaments:
— 2021- Lose in first round as a 4-seed (7.5-point favorite)
— 2019- Won national title
— 2018- Lost in first round as a 1-seed (22.5-point favorite)

— Two guys on Ohio U played the whole game.
— Virginia team got to Indiana Friday; they were 8-31 on the arc.
— Ohio-Creighton is an odd 2nd round game on Monday.

Colorado 96, Georgetown 78:
— Colorado made 16-25 on arc, scored 1.32 ppp.
— Four years at Georgetown, Patrick Ewing is 62-59, 26-44 in league games. 
— Colorado plays Florida State in second round Monday. 

Florida State 64, NC-Greensboro 54:
— Not often a team goes 0-9 on arc and wins, but Florida State did that here.
— This game was 51-50 with 4:52 left; UNCG played well.
— Seminoles played nine guys 10:00+; not many teams do that.

Kansas 93, Eastern Washington 84:
— EWU Eagles led by 10 with 17:58 left in game.
— Jayhawks made 12-30 on arc, scored 1.24 ppp.
— Jayhawks won nine of last ten games, after a 12-7 start.

LSU 76, St Bonaventure 61:
— LSU won five of its last six games, after a 4-6 midseason slump.
— Bonnies shot only 33.3% from floor.
— LSU gave up 78+ points in all their losses; Bonnies didn’t have enough firepower.

Michigan 82, Texas Southern 66:
— Game was 42-24 at halftime, stress-free day for the Wolverines.
— Livers missed another game for Michigan; they didn’t need him here.
— Monday’s game with LSU should be interesting. 

Creighton 63, Cal-Santa Barbara 62:
— Kid on UCSB missed a putback at rim with 0:01 left.
— Gauchos led by 6 with 5:24 left; they outscored Creighton 13-4 on foul line.
— Creighton’s subs played total of 27:00, scored two points.

Alabama 68, Iona 55:
— Game was 33-32 at halftime; Alabama wore them down in 2nd half.
— Iona goes 12-6 in Pitino’s first year, with a 52-day pause; the man can coach.
— Alabama-Maryland will be an interesting game Monday.

Oklahoma 72, Missouri 68:
— Sooners won for only second time in last seven games.  
— Mizzou shot only 35.5% inside arc in this game.
— Cuonzo Martin made Sweet 16 at Tennessee in 2014; since then, he is 0-3 in tourney games.

USC 72, Drake 56
— Game was 40-37 at halftime; Drake was 2 for its first 23 in 2nd half.
— Bulldogs had a great year, going 26-5 with a win in First Four Thursday.
— USC plays Kansas Monday, which should be a prime time game.

Maryland 63, UConn 54
— Maryland’s starters all played 33:00+; they held UConn to 32.3% from floor.  
— Huskies lost their last two games, scoring 56-54 points.
— Since 1998, Maryland won 14 of 15 first round games. 

Iowa 86, Grand Canyon 74:
— Iowa made 10-22 on arc, scored a whopping 1.37 ppp.
— Antelopes started four seniors, made NCAAs for first time, a terrific season.
— Iowa plays Oregon Monday; Ducks got a bye Saturday because of COVID.

Oregon advanced after VCU couldn’t play because of COVID issues.

Gonzaga 98, Norfolk State 55:
— When better team makes 14-27 on the arc, it’ll be an ugly game.
— Game was 43-23 at halftime, then it got worse.
— #1-seeds were 2-2 ATS, #2-seeds 1-3 this weekend.

UCLA 73, BYU 62:
— Surprisingly easy win for the Bruins, who play Abilene Christian Monday.
— Since 2003, WCC teams other than Gonzaga are 3-9 ATS in first round.
— Pac-12 teams are 5-0 SU so far this week. 

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up the first full day of March Madness

West Virginia 84, Morehead State 67:
— Bob Huggins wins his 900th game as a head coach.
— Morehead State made 10-19 on the arc, still didn’t cover as 12-point dogs.
— Sunday will be like a 2012 Big East reunion- West Virginia-Syracuse. 

North Texas 78, Purdue 69, OT:
— Mean Green won its last five games, giving up 57 ppg.
— This was Mean Green’s first NCAA Tournament win in school history.
— Purdue is now 3-3 in their last six first round games. 

Oral Roberts 75, Ohio State 72, OT:
— Four Oral Roberts starters played 42:00+
— Buckeyes shot 5-23 on arc, 9-18 on foul line. No bueno.
— If you care about such things, #15-seeds are 1-7 SU in next round, 2-5-1 ATS

Oregon State 70, Tennessee 56:
— Tennessee’s center Fulkerson (eye injury) didn’t play; Beavers’ 7-1 Silva was 8-8 from floor.
— Oregon State wins NCAA Tournament game for first time since 1982.
— Since 1987, #12-seeds are 31-18 ATS in 2nd round, 3-6 since 2014.

Florida 75
, Virginia Tech 70, OT:
— Tech led by 10 early, by 8 with 15:03 left, let it slip away.
— Hokies sent game to OT with 3-pointer with 0:01 left.
— Florida G Appleby needed stitches for cut to forehead, played only 22:00.

Oklahoma State 69, Liberty 60:
— Liberty led by 3 at half; OSU outscored them 42-30 in second half.
— Cunningham was 3-14 from floor; he tends to coast in first half of games.
— Cunningham is obviously going to the NBA next year; how long does his brother keep his six-figure job as an assistant coach? 

Arkansas 85, Colgate 68:
— Colgate played their butts off, led 31-17 early.
— Colgate made 12-27 on arc, but turned ball over 22 times (-12)
— Razorbacks won 12 of their last 14 games.

Loyola Chi 71, Georgia Tech 60:
— Tech got up 13-3 quickly, but missed Moses Wright, ACC player of year.
— Loyola was 11-27 on arc, outscored Tech 10-3 on foul line.
— Since 2013, MVC teams are 11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS in NCAA games.

Rutgers 60, Clemson 56:
— Clemson led by 5 early in 2nd half;
— Rutgers held Tigers to 35.6% from floor, outrebounded them 41-32.
— Favorites went 10-6 ATS in Friday’s games.

Villanova 73, Winthrop 63
— Villanova shot 57.7% inside arc, win for only 2nd time in last five games.
— Winthrop finishes season 23-2; they were in NCAA for only 2nd time in last decade.
— Villanova plays #13-seed North Texas Sunday.

Syracuse 78, San Diego State 62
— Syracuse made 15-27 on the arc; its easier shooting outside the dome.
— Buddy Boeheim had 30 points; he’ll be in the NBA in two years.
— San Diego State started four seniors; will their coach bolt for Minnesota? 

Wisconsin 85, North Carolina 62:
— Only time Badgers scored more points this year? November 27, vs Ark-Pine Bluff.
— Wisconsin made 13-27 on arc, scored 1.29 points/possession.
— North Carolina was 2-5 this year when they rebounded 33.3% or less of their own missed shots; they grabbed 30% of their misses in this game.

Texas Tech 65, Utah State 53:
— Aggies shot 58% inside arc, but turned ball over 22 times (-14)
— Texas Tech forces turnovers 24.1% of time (#6).
— Arkansas-Texas Tech is a matchup from the old Southwest Conference.

Illinois 78, Drexel 49:
— This looked a 1-16 game; not competitive.
— Dragons have to be proud of making NCAAs for first time since 1996.
— Illinois took only eight foul shots, seven 3-pointers; they steamrolled Drexel.

Baylor 79, Hartford 55:
— This was a stress-free win for Baylor; they play Wisconsin-UNC winner Sunday.
— Baylor is shooting 41.4% on arc this season, best in country.
— America East teams are now 6-2 ATS in last eight tournament games; Hartford was +26. 

Houston 87, Cleveland State 56:
— Cougars led by 8 at half, then coasted home; one of the day’s worst games.
— Last eight years, Horizon teams are 0-9 in NCAA’s (2-7 ATS)
— Houston has won 8 in a row, has #1 eFG% defense in country. 

 

Friday’s Den: Welcome to the best weekend of the year

13) UCLA 86, Michigan State 80 OT
— Spartans led by 11 at halftime- they scored 3 points in last 6:20.
— Michigan State lost four of its last six games.
— UCLA breaks a 4-game skid, plays BYU Saturday.

12) Drake 53, Wichita State 52
— Drake scored 25 points in first 28:36, 28 points in last 11:24.
— When they were MVC rivals, Wichita beat Drake the last 14 times they played.
— Bulldogs move on to play USC Saturday.

11) Texas Southern 60, Mount St Mary’s 52
— Mount St Mary’s led by 10 at half, scored only 22 points in 2nd half.
— Texas Southern has won 15 of its last 16 games.
— Tigers move on to play #1-seed Michigan Saturday.

10) Norfolk State 54, Appalachian State 53:
— Norfolk led by 19 in second half, blew the lead, rallied from down 6 with 5:22 left.
— App State missed their first 19 3-pointers, finished 6-36.
— Norfolk State moves on to play #1 Gonzaga Saturday.

9) Jalen Wilson, leading rebounder for Kansas, is out for the Jayhawks’ first round game with Eastern Washington.

8) Gonzaga is the 20th team to be unbeaten heading into the NCAA Tournament; of the previous 19, seven of them won the NCAA title, with Indiana in 1976 the last one. Lot more teams in the tournament since the mid-80’s; have to win six games to win a title now.

7) 12 of the last 32 national champs won their conference tournament.

6) In the NFL, Buffalo Bills signed former Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky to be their backup QB. Wonder how the Bears’ GM explains away trading 3rd and 4th-round picks to move up to draft Trubisky, when Patrick Mahomes was sitting there in the same draft. Oy.

5) Las Vegas Raiders want backup QB Marcus Mariota to take a pay cut, from $10.725M to $3M a year. If Mariota declines, Raiders are expected to release him. Dallas needs a backup QB, so Mariota could land there if the Raiders release him.

4) According to the Boston Globe and Andy, who reads this website, New England Patriots were “uncharacteristically extravagant in NFL free agency Monday, essentially buying a new team” for ’21, awarding contracts to seven free agents with a “maximum value” close to $200M and nearly $100M in guarantees.

Of the previous five NFL teams who spent that much dinero on free agents, none of them made the playoffs the following season.

3) In baseball, hitters seem happy that in-game video is back in dugouts this season; there are lot of hitters who became dependent on seeing their at-bats when they got back to the dugout, so they could make adjustments for their next turn at the dish.

2) When I was in high school, a long time ago, the mid-70’s, ESPN didn’t exist yet and I didn’t have control of our family’s remote control anyway, so I spent lot of nights in my room, listening to ballgames on the radio. Lot of nights.

My parents had this battery-powered radio that was the size of a shoe box; at night, it could get any station between Albany and Detroit and as far south as Baltimore, St Louis on a good night.

For 2-3 years, I spent a ton of time listening to Cleveland Indians games on WWWE in the summer and Cavaliers’ games in the winter. Joe Tait was the play-by-play guy for both teams; he was enthusiastic but fair, smart as hell and he taught me a lot about sports, he helped fuel the passion for sports that I still carry today.

Mr Tait passed away last week at age 83; I was watching the replay of an Indians’ spring training game the other night and they paid tribute to him. He was so much fun to listen to, yelling “Bingo!!!!” when Bobby Smith would nail a jumper; his banter with baseball partner Herb Score taught me a lot about baseball.

RIP sir, you were freakin’ great at your job.

1) Somewhere upstairs in this house of mine, there is a cassette tape with the last inning of a 1977 Indians-Angels game, Dennis Eckersley’s no-hitter. I had this genius idea that I could be a broadcaster, so I would tape broadcasters and try to learn how they did it. That plan never got too far off the ground.

This afternoon, I looked up the boxscore of that 1977 game, 44 years ago and it downed on me; of the 10 guys who started for the Indians that night, four of them are still baseball broadcasters:
— Dennis Eckersley (Red Sox)
— Ray Fosse (A’s)
— Duane Kuiper (Giants)
— Rick Manning (Indians)

Enjoy the basketball games this weekend; if you see a pizza delivery guy wandering around lost, send him to my house.

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

13) NCAA updates:
— Oklahoma’s #2 scorer De’Vion Harmon is out for this week, after testing positive for COVID. Sooners play Missouri in their first round game. Harmon is averaging 12.9 ppg.
— Georgia Tech star Moses Wright, the ACC player of the year, will miss the Yellow Jackets’ first-round game against Loyola-Chicago.

12) Watching lot of exhibition baseball this month, was wondering who has hit the most home runs ever in exhibition games? I’m guessing this information isn’t available and I know it isn’t important, but it would be fun to see.

Searched the Interweb but couldn’t find anything; I did see that in 2000, five Boston pitchers combined to throw a perfect game against Toronto in an exhibition game, but that’s just more useless knowledge.

11) This spring, San Diego Padres’ pitchers are going to the plate with a bat in their hands, but they’re not hitting; they just take three strikes and go back to the dugout, to avoid injury. This is something Oakland’s pitchers did a few years ago, eliminates the risk of a costly injury.

Spring training games have become like basketball scrimmages, where coaches control some scenarios. Pitchers can re-enter, innings were stopped early for the first 10 days of games. It is all about getting pitchers some work, on the mound, not at the plate.

10) Francisco Lindor says he is opening to signing a contract extension with the Mets, but if it isn’t done before the season starts, then he will not discuss a contract extension during the season. This is probably a negotiating ploy, but Lindor does have leverage to get a deal done.

9) Miami Heat traded Meyers Leonard and a 2nd-round pick to Oklahoma City for Trevor Ariza. Miami will be the 35-year old Ariza’s 10th NBA team.

Weird trade; Ariza hasn’t played yet this season, but Miami announced on Twitter that it is hopeful he’ll be available to play this weekend.

As for Leonard, the Thunder said Leonard “will not be reporting to Oklahoma City and will not be an active member of the organization.” When you’re marginal player and you yell out anti-Semitic stuff on the Interweb, your career spirals downward. Quickly.

In other words, he’ll have a lot more time to play video games, now that he is retired.

8) Chicago Bears tried really hard to trade for Russell Wilson; they offered Seattle three 1st-round picks, one 3rd-round pick and two starting players, one of whom was Khalil Mack. Seattle apparently turned them down.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the trade isn’t dead until the NFL Draft happens, but the Bears trading for Andy Dalton says otherwise.

7) With Drew Brees retiring, New Orleans paid its two QB’s this week; they gave Taysom Hill a four-year, $140M deal where the last three years are voidable, and they paid backup Jameis Winston $12M for 2021. Very unusual quarterback room.

Hill has played in 53 NFL games, is 3-1 as a starting quarterback; he’s thrown 134 career NFL passes, run ball 151 times, caught 30 passes. Am curious to see how this plays out.

6) NFL has a great skill of staying in the news 365 days a year, 366 in leap years. Today is March 18 and NFL is in the news as much as March Madness and more than spring training games. Part of it is because the people who run baseball are arrogant imbeciles who won’t market their sport the right way, but that’s another discussion for another day.

5) Thoughts/prayers to former NBA center Shawn Bradley, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury which left him paralyzed, after a car crashed into his bicycle. Bradley is 7-foot-6; he played 12 years in the NBA, scoring 8.1 ppg.

Since retiring from NBA in 2005, Bradley has been a counselor at a private school in Utah.

4) Couple weeks ago, Rams DT Michael Brockers declared that Matthew Stafford was an upgrade at quarterback for Los Angeles, over the departed Jared Goff. His actual quote:

“Is it a level up? In my heart, deeply, just understanding what he brings, it’s a level up. It’s a level up.”

Since then, the Rams wanted Brockers to re-do his contract, to help get the Rams under the salary cap. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, so Brockers is now a Detroit Lion, where one of his new teammates is…..Jared Goff.

Awkward.

3) Iowa State paid former basketball coach Steve Prohm $5.5M to take a hike, after a hideous 2-22 season. Prohm’s Cyclones had made three of previous four NCAA tournaments, but were also a combined 18-54 in conference games the last four years. 18-54 gets you fired. 

Less than 24 hours later, word is out that TJ Otzelberger is bolting UNLV to take the Iowa State job; Otzelberger worked as an assistant at Iowa State from 2006-2013, and again three years later. Unnamed sources claim this deal has been done for a month or so.

Here’s the thing; Otzelberger was 28-29 in two years at UNLV and was showing zero signs of any progress. Rebels had very little depth this year; when you play in a league where lot of teams play in higher altitude, you need some depth and UNLV didn’t have much.

Rebel fans can’t be that sad to see Otzelberger go, but the program is now mired in mediocrity— next year they’ll have their fifth head coach in eight years. Richard Pitino just got hired by New Mexico, so UNLV can forget about hiring Rick Pitino as a bombshell replacement, since UNLV and New Mexico are in the same league.

Iowa State will also have to pay $4M or so to UNLV, as part of Otzelberger’s buyout.

2) Richmond 76, Toledo 66— Spiders win their NIT opener, despite being down couple of starters. Richmond had lost their last three games coming in, were down 8 with 15:43 left in this game, but they stormed back for the win and will play in the next round March 25.

1) Western Kentucky 69, Saint Mary’s 67— Big man Bassey had 19 points, 11 rebounds; Hilltoppers blew an 11-point lead, but pulled it out on free throws with 0:03.3 left and move on to the second round. 

Saint Mary’s finishes 14-10 after starting out 8-1; first time in 14 years they didn’t win 20 games. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) Pretty cool moment on the Mariners-Rockies’ telecast the other night; the broadcast had announcers from both teams, a great idea because you learn more about both teams.

Anyway, early in the game they have a Colorado coach miked in the dugout for a half-inning, the Rockies’ pitching coach at AA Hartford. Why, you ask? Seattle’s pitcher at the time was Marco Gonzales; the Rockies’ pitching coach is Frank Gonzales, Marco’s father. 

He can’t root for his son, he doesn’t want to root against him; it was good TV, and had to be a really proud moment for the dad.

12) Interweb says that LeBron James will become a part owner of the Boston Red Sox; he became a partner with Fenway Sports Group, a deal that also also increases James’ ownership stake in an English soccer team. Apparently it is fun to be really, really rich.

11) There was a surprising moment in the Cardinals-Mets game Sunday which drew national attention; Cardinals’ P Jordan Hicks came in relief to pitch, faced Luis Guillorme leading off an inning. The at-bat lasted 22 pitches, longest AB I can ever remember seeing, before Guillorme walked. 

Sunday was the first day this spring where you couldn’t pull the plug on an inning, and there is that 3-batter rule now, so when St Louis wanted to change pitchers, apparently the umpires quietly told them that they had to bring the trainer out and pretend Hicks was hurt, if they wanted to remove him, and that’s what happened.

10) Grand Canyon made their first NCAA Tournament this year; I’m especially happy for coach Bryce Drew, who got hosed when Vanderbilt fired him two years ago.

Drew’s first two Vandy teams went 31-36, 16-18 in SEC games, but then he recruited a really good freshman point guard, Darius Garland. Vandy started out Year 3 with a 4-0 mark, but Garland got hurt 2:00 into Game 5, and the Commodores went in the ashcan when he never came back to play that year.

Vandy’s AD seemed anxious to fire Drew and hire Jerry Stackhouse; the Commodores are 20-37 in two years under Stackhouse, 6-28 in SEC games.

Garland has scored 13.5 ppg in his first 88 NBA games (for Cleveland); had he not gotten hurt, Vandy would’ve had a good season, Drew would probably still have his job and Grand Canyon would have a different coach. Maybe Vanderbilt did Drew a favor by firing him.

9) Padres’ catcher Austin Nola broke the middle finger on his left hand, which makes his availability for Opening Day a ????

Nola hit .273 for Seattle/San Diego last year.

8) When the season starts, Oakland A’s better hit the ground running; they open with seven games against Houston, three against the Dodgers. Yikes.

7) College basketball stuff:
— Indiana fired Archie Miller. Hoosiers have been over .500 in the Big 14 once in the last eight years.
— Minnesota fired Richard Pitino, who was then hired by New Mexico.
— Penn State hired Micah Shrewsberry, who has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens and Matt Painter.
— George Mason fired Dave Paulsen.
— For some reason, Utah fired Larry Krystkowiak. Maybe the Utes should’ve stayed in the Mountain West Conference.

6) I’m going to repeat this one last time; Louisville has an assistant coach named Luke Murray, who is Bill Murray’s son. Luke Murray is going to be a head coach soon.

Minnesota GOPHERS have a head coach opening; it would be tremendous if Bill Murray’s son became coach of the GOPHERS (Caddyshack reference).

Minnesota needs Luke Murray to be their next basketball coach. In Caddyshack, Bill Murray played a groundskeeper named Carl Spackler who was at war with the gophers who lived underneath Bushwood Country Club.

The TV commercials would be epic; imagine Carl Spackler rooting FOR the Gophers?

5) Word out of Anaheim is that Matt Vasgersian will be the Angels’ new play-by-play guy on TV, with Darin Sutton filling in at times. Angels’ analyst is Mark Gubicza, who is great- upbeat, smart so they’re going to be fun to listen to late at night on the baseball package.

4) Chicago Bears signed QB Andy Dalton to a $10M, one-year deal, with another $3M possible in incentives. Dalton started nine games for Dallas LY; Bears now have him, Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky at QB— sounds like Trubisky will be moving on.

3) New England Patriots signed eight free agents Tuesday, as they prepare to bounce back from missing the playoffs last year- they also re-signed QB Cam Newton last week.

2) QB Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with Washington; they’ll be his 9th NFL team. He is already the only quarterback ever to start a game for eight different teams. 

Houston Texans added QB Tyrod Taylor, who has a 24-21-1 record as an NFL starter, but has started only four games the last three years, with Bills/Chargers. 

Taylor was the Buffalo QB before Josh Allen, the Chargers QB before Justin Herbert- he lost his starting job when a doctor punctured his lung with a needle while giving Taylor a pain-killing injection just before a game last fall.

1) Colgate is playing Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament; Red Raiders are 14-1 this season, but the schedule they’ve played has been, by modern standards…….unique?
— 13 of the 15 games were against Boston U (5), Army (4) or Holy Cross (4)
— Only other teams they played were Bucknell, Loyola MD, in Patriot League tourney.
— Their first game was January 2nd.
— Colgate has made 40% of their 3-pointers, #3 in country.
— #189 Army is only team they’ve played ranked higher than #210 in country. 

Tuesday’s Den: Conference trends for the NCAA’s first weekend

Conference trends for the first weekend of the NCAAs:

ACC
— Last three years (we’re not counting 2020 as a year, since there was no tournament), ACC teams are 7-17 ATS in the first round.
— Since 2013, ACC teams are 35-13 SU in first round
— Last five years, 16 of 37 ACC teams (43.2%) made the Sweet 16.

American
— UConn was 2014 national title out of the AAC.
— Last five years, AAC teams are 7-8 in first round, 1-6 in 2nd round.
— During that time, 2019 Houston is only Sweet 16 team they’ve had.

A-14
— Last five years, A-14 teams are 6-10 in the first round.
— A-14’s last Sweet 16 team was Dayton, back in 2014.

Big East
— Last three years, Big East teams are 18-14 in first round.
— Last three years, Big East teams are 5-13 in 2nd round.
— Thats 5 of 32 teams (15.6%) making the Sweet 16.

Big Sky
— Big Sky teams lost their last 13 first round games.
— Big Sky teams are 1-7-1 ATS in last nine first round games.
— You’re reading armadillosports.com 
— Montana in 2006 was last Big Sky team to win an NCAA game.

Big West
— Since 2014, Big West teams are 4-4 in play-in/first round games.
— Since 2003, Big West teams are 0-6 ATS in their 2nd tournament game.

Big 14:
— Last three years, Big 14 teams are 16-3 in first round (11-8 ATS)
— Last three years, Big 14 teams are 8-8 in 2nd round
— Thats 8 of 19 teams (42.1%) teams in Sweet 16.

Big X
— Last three years, Big X teams are 12-7 in first round games.
— Last three years, Big X teams are 8-4 on 2nd round games.
— Thats 8 of 19 teams (42.1%) teams in Sweet 16, same as the Big 14.

CAA
— Since VCU left the CAA in 2012, things haven’t gone well.
— Last seven years, CAA teams are 0-7 in NCAA games (5-2 ATS)
— Last eight years, six different teams have represented the CAA

Conference USA

— C-USA teams won five of their last seven first round games.
— Those five C-USA teams that won went 0-5 ATS in second round.

Horizon League
— Butler made the Final Four in 2010/2011 out of the Horizon.
— Since then, Butler jumped ship to gr$$n$r pa$ture$.
— Last eight years, Horizon teams are 0-8 in NCAA’s (2-6 ATS)

MAAC
— Siena was last MAAC team to win an NCAA game, in 2009.
— Since then, MAAC teams are 0-11 SU, 2-9 ATS.

MAC
— Buffalo won its first round game in 2018/2019, ending the MAC’s five-game losing skid in first round games. 

— MAC teams covered their last four first round games.
— Since 2003, MAC teams are 1-4 ATS in second round.
— Since 2003, Ohio U in ’12 is MAC’s only Sweet 16 team.

Missouri Valley
— Since 2013, MVC teams are 9-1 SU, 8-2 ATS in NCAA games.
— Those nine teams went 4-5 ATS in 2nd round games.

Wichita State-Drake is a first round game, old MVC rivals.

— Last eight years they were in the MVC, Wichita went 122-16 in Valley games; they totally dominated.
— Last five years Wichita was in the Valley, Drake went 26-64 in MVC games.
— In four years since Wichita (and also Creighton) bolted, Drake is 45-27.

Mountain West
— Since 2014, Mountain West teams are 3-8 in play-in/first round games.
— Those teams went 2-4 ATS when favored, 2-3 as an underdog, 4-7 overall.

Ohio Valley
— Since 2009, OVC teams are 8-2-1 ATS in NCAA tourney games, but they’ve lost seven of last eight SU.
— When Murray State whacked Marquette two years ago, it snapped a 7-game losing skid for the OVC in NCAA tourney games.

Pac-12
— Since 2013, Pac-12 teams are 19-13 in first round games.
— Since 2013, Pac-12 teams are 13-6 in second round games.
— Thats 13 of 32 Pac-12 teams (40.6%) that made the Sweet 16— that will surprise some people.

SEC
— Last four years, SEC teams are 17-6 SU in NCAA games, 11-12 ATS
— Thats 7-10 ATS when favored, 2-2 as an underdog, 2-0 when pick ‘em.
— Last four years, SEC teams are 10-7 in 2nd round games
— Thats 10 of 23 SEC teams (43.5%) that made the Sweet 16

Southern
— Wofford’s win in 2019 snapped So-Con’s 0-10 skid in NCAA games.
— That said, SoCon teams are 7-4-1 ATS in last dozen NCAA games.

Summit
— Summit teams lost 16 of last 17 first round games (6-9-2 ATS)
— Summit teams covered four of last six first round games.
— Summit teams are 2-0 SU in play-in games.

Sun Belt
— Since 2003, Sun Belt teams are 6-14 in NCAA Tournament games.
— You’re reading armadillosports.com
— Since 2010, Sun Belt teams are 4-8 ATS in NCAA Tournament games.
— Over last 20 years, Sun Belt has changed a lot, as schools jumped conferences.

WAC
— WAC teams lost their last 13 NCAA Tournament games.
— WAC teams are 3-6 ATS in last nine NCAA Tournament games.
— New Mexico State won this league seven of last eight years, so Grand Canyon winning WAC tournament is different— this is their first NCAA bid.

WCC
— Last time someone other than Gonzaga/BYU/Saint Mary’s repped the WCC? 2008, when the San Diego Toreros made the tournament.
— Gonzaga won its last 11 first round games (6-5 ATS)
— During that time, Gonzaga is only 3-7-1 ATS in 2nd round games.
— Gonzaga won its last five second round games SU- they’re expected to do a lot more than that this season. 

Monday’s Den: Random stuff on a Sunday night……..

Every year (except last year) when I see the field of 68 after watching wall-to-wall college basketball for four days, my brain gets scrambled for a few hours. There is a lot of info to go thru before I post knowledge on the first round games later this week.

For today, here are random, scrambled thoughts/information that crossed my mind at various times today:

13) Gonzaga is the fifth team since 1977 to enter the NCAA tournament unbeaten:
1979— Indiana State, lost in finals
1991— UNLV, lost in semi-finals
2014— Wichita State, lost in 2nd round
2015— Kentucky— lost in semi-finals

12) Over the last 16 years, the overall #1-seed in the country has won three national titles; they also failed to get out of the first weekend four times. 2013 was the last time the overall #1-seed won the national title, when Rick Pitino’s Louisville team won it all.

11) Speaking of which, Iona is the fifth program Rick Pitino has led to the NCAA Tournament; 31 of his assistant coaches have gone on to become head coaches. Iona plays Alabama in the first round, so they probably won’t be around very long, but they had a 51-day pause this season – they didn’t play a single game in January. Just getting here is a big accomplishment.

10) Arkansas hasn’t been to a Sweet 16 since 1996; since then, 96 different schools have had teams get to the Sweet 16. Razorbacks need to get by Colgate, then either Texas Tech/Utah State to get to the Sweet 16 this year.

9) No team has ever won the national title, after losing their first conference tournament game. Purdue/West Virginia are in that boat this season.                                                                                                                                                  

8) This is the first time since 1976 that neither Duke/Kentucky is in the tournament; 1976 is also the last time there was an undefeated national champ (Indiana).

7) Unusual baseball situation Sunday nite: Dodgers P Julio Urias struck out three batters in the first inning against the Royals, but he only got two outs in the first inning, because of a passed ball after one of the strikeouts. Dodgers took him out after 29 pitches, but because it is spring training, he got to re-enter the game and pitched the second inning.

Dodgers made couple errors in the first inning that led to Urias’ demise, plus the passed ball; not often a pitcher strikes out three guys but doesn’t finish the first inning.

6) I’m optimistic about a new baseball rule that would require teams to have two infielders on each side of the diamond; eliminating shifts will discourage guys from just trying to jack the ball over the fence all the time. Fewer strikeouts maes the game more fun to watch.

5) Add Tampa Bay to the list of teams (Milwaukee) that drive owners in fantasy baseball crazy; in a 9-inning game Sunday, Rays used nine different pitchers. You never have any idea how they are going handle pitchers on a given day— they took Blake Snell out of a World Series last year when he was dominating the other team- they just think differently than most people.

4) Last repeat champion in college basketball; the 2007 Florida Gators. Virginia is the current defending champ; over half their team was in quarantine Sunday for contact tracing. They hope to travel out to Indianapolis on Friday,

3) The great quarterback Drew Brees retired Sunday; when you retire on the day the brackets come out, that means you don’t want any attention. Brees will be in Canton in five years.

2) Sunday night, I’m flipping channels between the shows analyzing the brackets and some spring baseball, and I see that ESPN2 televises freakin’ cornhole!!!! Do people watch this? Please God in heaven, tell me they don’t bet on it (DraftKings is a sponsor). Yikes.

On a personal note, RIP to former town of Colonie supervisor Fred Field, who passed away this weekend at age 88. Mr Field was an industrial engineer for 30 years, served as town supervisor of my hometown for 18 years— he was a good guy, RIP, sir.

1) As the week goes on, I’ll be posting information on all the basketball games; takes some time to organize the information I have, then get the TV schedule, but eventually it gets done.

This is one of my favorite weeks all year; lets hope everyone stays healthy and the tournament is a fun one. Lord knows we could all use some fun. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Last three days have been very excellent; sat around my house in hooded sweatshirts and sweats, watched ball for 14-16 hours a day, ate pizza, took a lot of notes. Life almost seemed normal again.

In most years, this is my favorite week of the year; last year it was a disaster, when everything shut down because of the pandemic. This week, college basketball was everywhere, the way it is supposed to be in March. Filled in the voids with spring training baseball. Good stuff.

Sunday night the brackets come out, something we all missed last year.

Meanwhile, there was other stuff going on besides college basketball:

12) Every summer, HBO does Hard Knocks, a behind-the-scenes look at NFL training camp, usually one team each summer. They do five one-hour shows during the summer; it is fun to learn some things that normally behind-the-scenes. It helps promote the league.

Baseball needs to do this!!! Give HBO access to a team every spring; Lord knows there is enough free time for managers/coaches/players to talk on camera. Let HBO spen six weeks with the Angels so America can learn about Trout, and Ohtani. Next year do the Padres.

Promote the game!!! Young people need to learn how great baseball is; there is so much stuff going on these days, so much competition for the entertainment dollar. Expose baseball to as many people as possible; that would seem like a good business move.

Speaking of which, why do they black out TV broadcasts of games on MLB Network? Let as many people watch games as want to do it— it is STUPID to black games out.

11) Major league baseball now controls the minor leagues;  starting this season, they’re going to use the minors as a laboratory for new rules. Different levels will have different experiments:
— All four infielders will have to have both feet on the infield dirt.
— Teams will have to have two infielders on each side of th einfield.
— 0:15 pitch clock, which seems to be a bit much.
— Throws to first base vs baserunners will be limited.
— Robotic ball/strike umpires (I really dislike this one, maybe even hate it)

10) The motivation for all this is that MLB wants more baseballs put in play; less strikeouts and walks, more game action. If there are only two fielders on the right side of the infield, guys can go to the other way more— hard grounders that are pulled are more likely to be hits. Fewer batters will try to hit home runs all the time.

Batting average in the major leagues the last three years:
2018: .248
2019: .252
2020: .245— In 2000, it was .270. Shifts have badly hurt offense; offense makes the game more fun to watch.

9) Worlds colliding: a guy named Frank McCourt used to own the Dodgers- it didn’t go well. He had to sell the team,  after he spent too much money in his personal life, and his toxic divorce proceedings pushed the Dodgers into bankruptcy. No bueno.

McCourt now owns a soccer team in France, a team previously owned by a guy who was the CEO of Adidas. When the guy passed away in 2009, his wife inherited the team— she is worth $5.9B, according to Forbes magazine, the richest Russian-born woman in the world. She later sold the soccer team to McCourt.

Anyway, it turns out that the Adidas guy was 2nd-cousins with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine on the Seinfeld TV show. Like I said, worlds colliding.

8) Chicago Cubs hired Jon Sciambi as their new TV play-by-play guy, a huge upgrade over the last guy, who moved to White Sox radio. Sciambi is awesome and will team with former big league pitcher Jim Deshaies. The reason I care about this a decent amount is that I have both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant on my fantasy team, so I’m going to be watching the Cubs a lot this season.

7) Was watching the Milwaukee Brewers play in the middle of the night this week, the replay of an exhibition game, and got this sick feeling that I get every March when I watch the Brewers.

They’re analytically-driven, which means their front office guys all went to fancy colleges, and they do unusual things with the team, then use their college degrees to defend them when they don’t work. Translation: I will never have another Milwaukee pitcher on my fantasy team.

6) Random sports trivia; Arkansas hoop coach Eric Musselman is the son of the late coach Bill Musselman, who coached the Minnesota Gophers, also in the NBA and in the CBA, with the Albany Patroons, who played three miles from my house. Musselman’s Gophers won the 1972 Big Ten championship, back before there was a conference tournament.

When Bill Musselman was at Minnesota, one of the subs on his team was this guy who was pretty good in another sport, a 6-6 outfielder you may have heard of. Guy named Dave Winfield, a baseball Hall of Famer.

5) Tip of the cap to Nick Markakis, who retired this week after a 15-year career where he hit .288 for the Orioles/Braves, with a career on-base % of .357. Pretty freakin’ good.

Markakis played in 147+ games in 12 of his 15 seasons; he wound up with 2,388 hits. He was on my fantasy team for several years, was a big help— one of the best “abilities” is dependability.

4) NCAA Tournament schedule is a little different this year:
— Play-in games will all be on Thursday.
— First round games are Friday/Saturday
— Second round games are Sunday/Monday
— Second weekend of the tournament will be Saturday-Tuesday.

3) Georgia Tech 80, Florida State 75
— This was only second time EVER (Georgia Tech-Virginia in 1990) that the ACC title game didn’t have a team from North Carolina in it.
— Georgia Tech wins ACC title for first time since 1993.

2) 12-15 years ago, when I used to go to Florida every summer to watch the AAU national tournament at Disney World, I’d venture to different high schools in the Kissimmee area to watch games. When I went back to work the next week, I’d tell people how I spent my vacation, and more than one person gave me an odd look. Go figure.

One day I’m at Poinciana HS watching games, sitting on a cafeteria table, behind one of the baskets and this young coach sits on the other end of the table. I struck up a conversation with him and picked his brain for a couple hours, learned a lot. Probably asked too many questions, but learned a lot.

Maybe 4-5 years ago, I’m at Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas watching games, and once again I’m sitting next to the same guy, and we had another good conversation. Now I’m a nobody, he had no reason to be nice to me, or answer my numerous questions, but he did.

Josh Pastner is a hell of a nice guy; was so happy to see him win this game and win the ACC title. He was a sub as a player on great Arizona teams under Lute Olson and now has been a head coach for 12 years, seven at Memphis, five at Georgia Tech. Congrats coach!!!

1) Since AFL-NFL merger, most starts for a QB-coach combo without making playoffs:
85— Jim Zorn/Jack Patera, (expansion Seahawks)
59— David Carr/Dom Capers (expansion Texans)
52— Ryan Tannehill/Joe Philbin (Dolphins)
48— Derek Carr/Jon Gruden (Raiders)

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy basketball day

13) Pac-12 tourney:
Oregon State 75, Oregon 64
— Beavers were picked last in pre-season polls, finished a surprising 5th in regular season, now they’re playing for the league title Saturday.
— Oregon State is 20-44 on the arc the last two days.

Colorado 72, USC 70
— Buffs had a 17-0 run in first half, needed a tip dunk with 0:02.3 left for the win.
— Colorado has now beaten USC seven times in a row.

12) Big 14 tourney:
Michigan 79, Maryland 66
— 11:30am opener saw Michigan coach Howard get tossed after he got into a kerfuffle with Maryland coach Turgeon. Michigan is 20-3; Howard should be happier.

Ohio State 87, Purdue 78 OT
— Buckeyes led by 18 at half, needed OT for the win.
— Purdue was only 15-27 on the foul line.

11) ACC tourney:
— Georgia Tech advanced to finals because Virginia couldn’t play due to COVID issues.

Florida State 69, North Carolina 66:
— Florida State has unusually good depth; they’ll be a popular pick to make the Final Four.
— North Carolina shot 34% inside arc, had 21 offensive rebounds.

10) Big X tourney:
Oklahoma State 83, Baylor 74:
— Cowboys outscored Baylor 31-14 over final 7:49.
— OSU star Cunningham tweaked his ankle last week and missed a game, but played 77:00 out of 80:00 the last two days.
— Baylor heads into the NCAA Tournament at 22-2.

Texas advanced to the finals, because Kansas couldn’t play due to COVID issues.

9) Big East tourney:
Georgetown 66, Seton Hall 58
— #8-seed Hoyas are in Big East finals for first since since 2010.
— Seton Hall lost five of last six games, finishes 14-13. No bueno.

Creighton 59, UConn 56
— Bluejays won the MVC tournament last two years they were in that league, but they’ve never won the Big East tournament- they’re favored to do that tonight.
— Creighton outscored UConn 11-3 over final 5:26 of this game.
— Bluejays are #40 experience team; they’re an experienced group.

8) Big Sky tourney:
Montana State 80, Southern Utah 77 OT
— Top-seeded Thunderbirds get upset here.

Eastern Washington 78, Montana 50
— Eagles won 12 of their last 13 games

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Oregon State (+8) 75, Oregon 64
— Montana State (+6.5) 80, Southern Utah 77 OT
— Fairfield (+6.5) 52, Saint Peter’s 47
— Cincinnati (+5.5) 74, SMU 71
— Georgetown (+3.5) 66, Seton Hall 58

6) SEC tourney:
— All four favorites won Friday; I’m hoping Ole Miss gets in the NCAA Tournament- they looked like a tournament team in their 76-73 loss to LSU. Non-conference losses to Dayton/Wichita aren’t going to help their cause any.

Arkansas 70, Missouri 64:
— Razorbacks have won nine games in a row.
— Officials totally dominated this game- the TV guys stopped counting when they got to 17 offensive fouls in this game. Guys were flopping all over the place.
— Underrated thing about Eric Musselman; he’s coached two NBA teams and he also coached in the CBA— the guy is an X’s-and-O’s savant.

5) MAAC tourney:
Iona 70, Niagara 64
— Rick Pitino re-surfaces on national TV Saturday; his Gaels are playing for their fifth MAAC tournament title in last six tries.
— Iona didn’t play a game in January; they had a 7-week COVID pause, and didn’t play for 17 days before this tournament. Gaels have a new coach (albeit a Hall of Fame coach) and #274 continuity team, but they’re favored to win their league title tonight.

4) MAC tourney:
Ohio 87, Toledo 80
— Toledo hasn’t made the NCAA’s since I was in college (1982); they were the top seed here, but got upset here, despite shooting 69.4% inside arc.

Buffalo 81, Akron 74 OT
— Buffalo survived miserable 8-19 shooting on foul line; they were down 5 with 6:32 left.
— Bulls have won seven games in a row; they’re trying for 5th NCAA bid in last six tournaments. 

3) Conference USA tourney
Western Kentucky 64, UAB 60
— Hilltoppers made 10-20 on arc; they also have an NBA-type big man in Bassey, who had 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocked shots.

North Texas 54, Louisiana Tech 48:
— Mean Green won last three nights, giving up 53 ppg. They’re experience team #16 and they play a very slow tempo. North Texas last made the NCAA’s in 2010. 

Friday’s Den: Wrapping up a hectic Thursday

13) Big East tourney:
Georgetown 72, Villanova 71
— Hoyas went 23-for-23 on foul line in a big upset.
— Villanova is #321 in bench minutes; they missed injured PG Gillespie.
— Patrick Ewing is obviously one of the best players in Knicks history; Ewing told reporters after the game that event staff at Madison Square Garden were regularly stopping him to check his passes- they don’t know who he is? His number is up in the freakin’ rafters!!!

Seton Hall 77, St John’s 69 OT— This score could KO the Johnnies from the field of 68; if so, it could be the first year since 1993 that the Big East had only three teams in the NCAA’s.

12) SEC tourney:
Mississippi State 74, Kentucky 73— Bulldogs end a 15-game losing skid vs Kentucky
— This is the first time since 1976 that neither Kentucky/Duke will be in the NCAA’s.

11) ACC tourney:
— Duke-Florida State game was cancelled because of a positive COVID test in the Duke program; that ends Duke’s season, and their streak of 24 straight years in NCAA tourney. 

Virginia 72, Syracuse 69— Freshman Reece Beekman buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Virginia, which trailed by 11 in first half. It was Beekman’s only basket of the game.

10) Big X tourney:
Texas 67, Texas Tech 66:
— Longhorns won four in row, seven of last nine games.
— Tech was only 12-20 on foul line, shot 41.9% inside arc, missed several tips/layups in last 2:00.

Kansas 69, Oklahoma 62
— Jayhawks won 8 of their last 9 games.
— Oklahoma limps into the NCAA’s, on a 1-5 skid.

9) Pac-12 tourney:
Oregon State 83, UCLA 79 OT— Beavers won four of last five games; they were down 16 late in first half.
— With 10:00 left in game, OSU had 40 points; they scored 30 in last 10:00 of regulation.
— UCLA lost its last four games.

USC 91, Utah 85 2OT:
— Three Trojans played 42:00+.
— Lot of foul shots: USC was 29-39, Utah 25-30

8) Big 14 tourney:
Maryland 68, Michigan State 57— Spartans will have a long few days, waiting to see if they’re in the field of 68, or are heading to Texas for the NIT.

Wisconsin 75, Penn State 74:
— Badgers led 68-50 with 7:48 left, hung on for only their 2nd win in seven games.
— Wisconsin made 12-23 on the arc, won by a point. Bit of a red flag.

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Georgetown (+8) 72, Villanova 71
— Montana (+6.5) 80, Weber State 75
— Oregon State (+5) 83, UCLA 79 OT
— Mississippi State (+3.5) 74, Kentucky 73
— Tulane (+3.5) 77, Tulsa 70
— Nevada (+3.5) 89, Boise State 82
— Cal-Davis 58 (+3.5), Cal-Bakersfield 56

6) Big West tourney:
Cal-Davis 58, Cal-Bakersfield 56— 7th win in last eight games for the Aggies.

Cal-Irvine 58, Cal Poly 51— Anteaters jumped out to a 31-9 lead, then held on. Cal Poly shot 29% inside the arc.

5) Conference USA tourney— All four favorites won, three covered; this tournament is being played at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas- they have two games going on at once.

4) MAC tourney:
Toledo 91, Ball State 89 OT:
— Toledo blew a 10-point lead with 5:49 left, then trailed by 5 in overtime.
— Rockets won five of their last six games. 

3) Mountain West tourney:
San Diego State 69, Wyoming 66:
— Top-seeded Aztecs struggled here; Wyoming is going to be good down the road.
— San Diego State won its last 12 games, plays Nevada tonight.

Disappointing that UNLV hasn’t made the semi-finals of this event since 2014; they’re the host team, but the program has slipped into mediocrity.

2) Big Sky tourney:
Montana 80, Weber State 75
— Montana is 14-12, but five of those wins are against non-Division I teams. This was the 2nd biggest upset of the day nationally.
— Grizzlies can shoot though; they’re shooting 37.5% on arc (#31), 79.8% on foul line (#7)

1) AAC tourney:
South Florida 73, Temple 71— Why did Temple fire Fran Dunphy? Guy went 23-10 his last year, won 21+ games nine of his 13 years there- Owls are 10-22 in AAC games since he left. 

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

13) Butler-Xavier, tied 59-all with 0:24 left at the Big East tournament. FS1 shows how Xavier is on the NCAA bubble and needs to win this game.

FS1 announcer: “This would be a bad loss for Xavier. Not to speak disparagingly of Butler, but this would be a bad loss.”

Hahaha. Can’t have it both ways, chief. If you say losing to Team A is a bad loss, then you’re speaking disparangly of Team A. No way around it.

Butler 70, Xavier 69 OT— Bad loss for Xavier, which lost six of its last eight games. Musketeers blew a 32-13 lead, no bueno for a bubble team.

12) ACC tournament:
— Syracuse 89, NC State 68— Syracuse was 3-0 against the Wolfpack this season.
— Miami 67, Clemson 64— Hurricanes played seven guys yesterday. Seven.
— North Carolina 101, Notre Dame 59— UNC-Virginia Tech is a good game today.

11) Big X tournament:
— Kansas State 71, TCU 50— Wildcats won four of last five games, after an 0-13 skid.
— Oklahoma 79, Iowa State 73— Cyclones didn’t win a conference game this year.

10) Big 14 tournament:
— Minnesota 51, Northwestern 46— Gophers snap a 7-game skid here; they say Richard Pitino’s job is in jeopardy, and San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher would be their target to take Pitino’s place. Dutcher’s dad coached Minnesota in the early 80’s.

Here’s my proposal, and I’ve said this before: Louisville has an assistant coach named Luke Murray, who is Bill Murray’s son. If you’ve ever seen the movie Caddyshack, you remember the tense relationship Bill Murray’s character had with gophers on the golf course.

Having Bill Murray’s son being head coach of the Minnesota Gophers would open up a huge pool of possibilities for great TV commercials. Just an idea.

9) MAAC tournament:
— Iona 55, Siena 52— Rick Pitino gets his Gaels into the MAAC semi-finals, upsetting the top-seeded Saints.
— Fairfield 79, Monmouth 60— Pretty big upset, but Stags have won four of last five games.

8) Mountain West tournament had some sanity; all three favorites won Wednesday and two of them covered the spread. 2-seed Utah State gets to play UNLV on the Rebels’ home court Thursday.

7) Upsets of the Day:
— Rice (+9.5) 72, Marshall 68
— California (+8) 76, Stanford 58
— Miami (+8) 67, Clemson 64
— Fairfield (+8) 79, Monmouth 60
— DePaul (+6.5) 70, Providence 62
— Butler (+6) 70, Xavier 69 OT
— Northern Arizona (+6) 77, Portland State 66

6) Pac-12 tournament:
— Utah 98, Washington 95— Utes led by 19 with 5:08 left, hung on for dear life. Utah made 14-26 on the arc, shot 66.7% inside arc and only won by 3 points. Yikes.
— Cal 76, Stanford 58— Wheels fell off down the stretch for Stanford; they lost their last five games, finishing 14-13 after an 8-3 start.

5) LaMarcus Aldridge will be leaving the San Antonio Spurs; Gregg Popovich had nice things to say about Aldridge the person, but the team had been faring better when Aldridge was off the floor, so they’re going to trade him, and he’ll be away from the team until that happens.

Aldridge is a free agent this summer; he is averaging only 13.7 ppg, the fewest he’s scored since his rookie season, and only 4.5 rebounds/game, a career-low.

4) NFL salary cap is going down 8% next season, first time in a decade the cap hasn’t gone up.

Free agency starts March 17; NFL will be fighting for headlines with the NCAA Tournament.

3) Kansas Jayhawks fired their football coach the other day; they fired their athletic director yesterday. When you hire a new coach and the team goes 3-18 over two years, the wealthy boosters get queasy about coughing up more money. Rich people aren’t patient.

2) Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw will be using a new baseball glove this season for the first time since 2009. Dodgers won the World Series, Kershaw retired his glove. Guess that means he isn’t superstitious.

1) To me, today (Thursday) is the best college basketball day of the year; 15 hours full of games from all over the country. A good to day to relax, eat pizza and watch a lot of ball. Enjoy. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) Gonzaga 88, BYU 78:
— BYU led this game 53-41 at halftime.
— Gonzaga outscored BYU 18-5 on foul line.
— Gonzaga made 12-26 on arc, BYU 11-28.

One of the first questions I’ll be asking myself Sunday night, after the NCAA brackets come out, is whether Gonzaga has been tested enough this season. They haven’t won a game by single digits since December 2 vs West Virginia. The WCC isn’t as good as it usually is, and the Zags have breezed thru this season, while other leagues are way more competitive.

Baylor-Michigan-Illinois have had lot of tough games; it has to make you a better team.

12) Dallas Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott signed a 4-year, $160M deal, $123M guaranteed. By way of comparison, and without any editorial comment, here are some facts:

Prescott: 42-27 regular season record, 1-2 in playoffs
Jared Goff: 42-27 regular season record, 2-3 in playoffs, which doesn’t include his win in relief at Seattle in this year’s playoffs.

11) Interesting discussion on Mets’ TV the other day about whether a team can improve a lot on defense, without changing the players who are in the field.

Was reminiscent of Troy Aikman saying on NFL broadcasts how quarterbacks cannot learn to become more accurate passers. Aikman believes that once you get to the NFL level, you are what you are, though Buffalo Bill fans would bring up Josh Allen and dispute that.

Bottom line is, Keith Hernandez/Ron Darling didn’t paint an optimistic picture of the Mets’ defense for this season.

10) Last Friday, Troy State upset Texas-Arlington 91-86 in the Sun Belt tournament, which on the surface is no big deal, but there is an interesting back story.

From 2007-18, Scott Cross was Tex-Arlington’s coach; the last three years he was there, UTA went 72-33 overall, 37-15 in Sun Belt games. Damn good record, but they fired Cross because he didn’t win make the NCAA tournament— he made it once, in 2008, Cross’ second year there.

Since they told Cross to take a hike, Tex-Arlington is 44-47 overall, 31-26 in Sun Belt games. Not exactly an upgrade.

I’m guessing when Troy State beat UTA last week, their coach took special satisfaction in the win, seeing how that coach was Scott Cross.

9) I watched Hoosiers for the 50th or so time the other day; watching the credits at the end, they thanked the governor of Indiana, who at the time was a guy named Robert Orr.

Bobby Orr was the governor of Indiana? I thought he was a Canadian!!! (Its a joke)

8) Miami Marlins used 61 players in 60 games last year, 37 of them pitchers; their spring training must be a mess this year, trying to whittle down those 61 guys down to a roster of 26 players. Don Mattingly did a great job in a weird season last year; choosing the right guys for a 162-game season is a much different dilemma.

7) Angels’ broadcaster Jose Mota played one of the Detroit Tigers in the 1999 baseball movie, For Love of the Game, with Kevin Costner. Mota’s character makes a great play to preserve Billy Chapel’s perfect game; he and Mark Gubicza were talking about it on the Angels’ broadcast the other night. Mota said it was an easier play to make, since he read the script and knew where the ball was going to be hit.

Looking at the Angels’ website, they haven’t filled Victor Rojas’ play-by-play slot yet; they should choose Mota. He and Gubicza have a good chemistry.

6) Last season, 12 major league umpires opted out of working, because of COVID; at least three of them are back this year. The Athletic did an interesting article, talking to Phil Cuzzi, Gerry Davis and Brian Gorman about coming back to work and sitting out last year.

Davis has umpired 4.957 major league games; only three umps have gotten to 5,000 games, so that’ll be a big deal when Davis gets to 5,000.

Umpire Brian Gorman’s late wife was a Los Angeles Times staff photographer and picture editor who was a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. 

5) Today is Wednesday of Championship Week, and there are already 300+ names in the college basketball transfer portal. People who sell game programs are going to clean up next year. Guys who write Blue Ribbon Yearbook are going to get headaches. Lot of kids jumping from team-to-team.

4) Colorado Rockies’ 1B CJ Cron is playing for his fifth team in the last five years; he started his career playing four years for the Angels, then went to Tampa Bay in 2018, Minnesota the next year, Detroit last year, and now Colorado.

He hit 55 homers in 2018-19; curious to see how many at-bats he gets this season.

3) NHL will be back on ESPN starting next season; curious to see if the league gets its own daily half-hour show, like the NBA has now. ESPN had forgotten about hockey since they last showed games in 2004. Good news for Steve Levy and Berry Melrose.

2) Turned on the TV when I woke up the other day, and all they’re talking about it is the royal family in England. I don’t give a rat’s ass about the royal family. Seriously, don’t want to hear one word about them, and I was an avid fan of Suits on USA Network, so I’m familiar with Meghan Markle’s work. She married a prince, good for her. Don’t want to hear about it.

Only Royals I care about are Whit Merrifield and Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals.

1) I was fiddling around on the Interweb at 4am the other night when it dawned on me that in most years, this is my favorite two weeks of the whole year, conference tournaments this week, the NCAA’s next week. Watching basketball and eating pizza, good times.

The last year has seemed 10 years long; things are slowly getting better— several of my friends have gotten their vaccines and that’s a good thing. Watching basketball all week will also be a good thing— we didn’t get to do that last year. Getting back to normal will be the best thing. 

Tuesday’s Den: NBA trends at the halfway mark…….

Miami
— Won seven of last eight games SU.
— 5-8-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— 6-3 ATS in last nine road games.
— Last three games stayed under the total.

Milwaukee:
— Won six of last seven games SU.
— 10-8-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— 6-10 ATS as a road favorite.
— Under is 6-4 in their last ten games.

Minnesota:
— 0-5 SU/ATS since they changed coaches.
— Lost 13 of last 14 games SU, are 0-9 ATS in last nine.
— 6-9 ATS as a home underdog.
— Four of their last five games went over.

New Orleans:
— Lost three of their last four games SU.
— 2-8 ATS as a home favorite.
— 3-7 ATS in last ten road games.
— 12 of their last 14 games went over.

New York
— Won eight of last ten games SU.
— 6-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— 7-5 ATS in last dozen road games.
— Under is 7-0-1 in their last eight road games.

Oklahoma City
— 4-6 SU in their last ten games.
— 5-10 ATS as a home underdog.
— 8-3 ATS in last eleven road games.
— Under is 6-2 in their last eight games.

Orlando
— Lost their last five games SU.
— 5-7-1 ATS as a home underdog.
— 2-6 ATS in last eight road games.
— Last four road games stayed under total.

Philadelphia
— Won six of their last eight games SU.
— 13-6 ATS at home.
— 0-3-1 ATS as a road underdog.
— Over is 7-3 in their last ten road games.

Phoenix
— Won/covered 16 oof their last 19 games.
— 11-4 ATS as a home favorite.
— Covered eight of last nine road games.
— Over is 6-2 in their last eight home games.

Portland
— Won their last four games.
— 6-2 ATS in last eight home games.
— 12-6 ATS on the road this season.
— Over is 5-2 in their last seven home games.

Sacramento
— Lost 11 of their last 13 games SU/ATS.
— 2-6 ATS as a home favorite.
— 9-7 ATS on the road this season.
— 11 of their last 12 games went over.

San Antonio
— Spurs split their last eight games SU.
— They’re 3-6 ATS in last nine home games.
— Covered nine of their 13 road games.
— Under is 6-1-1 in their last eight home games.

Toronto
— Raptors lost four of their last five games.
— 6-10 ATS in Tampa, their temporary home.
— 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games.
— Last four Toronto games went over.

Utah
— Jazz finished with a 1-3 road trip, after a 21-2 run.
— Utah is 13-0-1 ATS in its last 14 home games.
— Covered only one of last five road tilts.
— Over is 9-3 in their last twelve games.

Washington
— Won eight of their last eleven games SU.
— Covered five of last six home games.
— Covered five of last six road games.
— Four of last five series games stayed under. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend……

13) An underrated aspect of this college basketball season is that EVERY SENIOR in the country can come back and play in college again next season. The better seniors will take their talents and try to make money playing pro ball, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Will be curious to see what I think will be a huge amount of player movement this spring/summer.

12) Liberty 79, North Alabama 75— Liberty won the Atlantic Sun title here; they had already clinched the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, because North Alabama just moved to D-I and isn’t eligible yet to play in March Madness.

Liberty has been in the A-Sun three years; they’ve won the league title all three years.

11) Michigan State 70, Michigan 64— This win makes the next week a little easier for fans, players and coaches in East Lansing. Would appear that this win gets the Spartans into the field of 68, but the more they do this coming week the better- playing Maryland Thursday afternoon in the Big 14 tournament is next on Michigan State’s calendar.

10) NCAA Tournament, like everything else, will be different this year; the second weekend of the tournament, usually Thursday-Sunday, will now be Saturday-Tuesday, with the regional finals being played Monday/Tuesday night, March 29-30.

9) USC 64, UCLA 63— Trojans swept their crosstown rivals this year; they’ll be the #2-seed in the Pac-12 tournament. UCLA lost its last three games and is 5-6 in its last 11 games, after a 12-2 start.

8) From 2006-08, under coach Ben Howland, UCLA made the Final Four three years in a row, going 97-17 those three years, but five years later, Howland got fired after a 25-10 season, saying his style of play wasn’t exciting enough. When a team wins seven national titles in a row, like UCLA did under John Wooden, the fanbase has unrealistic expectations.

In those three Final Four years, UCLA ranked #298-251-209 in tempo, but they went 97-17, so no one said anything. Howland’s last year, the 25-10 season, they were #35 in tempo, but they lost in the first round of the NCAA’s, and a change was made. They played faster, like people wanted, but they didn’t make the Final Four.. Some people are never happy.

7) My point is this: Mick Cronin is now UCLA’s coach; he is 36-20 at UCLA, 25-12 in Pac-12 games, solid numbers. But this is a fanbase who didn’t like Ben Howland’s style; here are the tempos that Mick Cronin’s teams have played the last eight years:

2021: #333 17-8 record (13-6 Pac-12)
2020: #325 19-12, 12-6 (no NCAAs)
2019: #338 28-7, 14-4 AAC (0-1 NCAA)
2018: $330 31-5, 16-2 (1-1)
2017: #330 30-6, 16-2 (1-1)
2016: #333 22-11, 12-6 (0-1)
2015: #339 23-11, 13-5 (1-1)
2014: #328 27-7, 15-3 (1-1)

Cronin went 6-9 in NCAA tourney games at Cincinnati, made one Sweet 16. At this time next year, the UCLA fanbase is going to start mumbling, if they aren’t already. Cronin wins a lot, his teams defend well, but fact of the matter is, he is no Ben Howland.

6) St Bonaventure-VCU are going to play in the A-14 championship game, but that game isn’t until Sunday in Dayton. Both teams are expected to make the NCAA Tournament, which will be held entirely in Indiana, and Dayton is close to Indiana, so the teams can get on a bus and go right from Dayton to their hotel where they’ll hunker down for the NCAA Tournament.

5) Florida basketball coach Mike White played college basketball at Ole Miss, where his roommate was  teammate Keith Carter, who is now the athletic director at Ole Miss. Athletic director is a nice way of saying “lead fundraiser”; Carter raised a record $45.6M in cash contributions for the Rebels, in 2015-16.

Couple of very successful friends there; you wonder how many college roommates are both making six-figure salaries these days (White makes seven figures).

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Foxboro next season, which obviously is Tom Brady going back home to face his former employers. Would love to see the backroom negotiating with the TV networks who want to televise that game; it won’t be in Week 1- the Super Bowl champ opens the next season at home. But you know NBC/ESPN/FOX all want that game.

3) Speaking of which, apparently the NFL schedule will be released in May this year, a little later than usual. Schedule usually comes out before the draft, but with the COVID situation still developing, it makes sense to release the schedule a little later.

2) 31-year old Blake Griffin signed on with the Brooklyn Nets, after accepting a buyout from Detroit; Griffin has already earned $255M in his playing career and is due another $29.5M next year, so he is joining Brooklyn for the rest of this year, to try and win a championship.

1) Astros have injury issues in their pitching rotation; they signed Jake Odorizzi this weekend to a 2-year deal. Odorizzi has a 62-56 career record, was 15-7 for Minnesota in 2019- he started only four games LY, because of bruised ribs and a blister.