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

13) Today is June 30 but we’re going to hear a lot of stuff about the NBA starting tonight, with free agency starting. NBA’s offseason is often more interesting than the season itself.

12) New York 17, Boston 13— Game was 6-6 after the first inning with neither pitcher getting three outs; this game looked more like beer league softball than major league baseball. 

11) At 2:13 Saturday afternoon, after the 6-6 first inning, Dave Cokin posted on Twitter that in live betting, the total on the New York-Boston game was 23.5 (+$130). It went way over that. 

10) Lot of college basketball coaches are over in Greece for the FIBA u19 World Cup, where there are six uncommitted American 5-star prospects playing, as well as several prospects from Canada and Puerto Rico- the tournament runs thru July 7th.

9) Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway makes $850,000 to manage the Mets, and in reality, he is just a button-pusher who is ordered around by the team’s GM. Not a lot of cash for a manager, and in a big market at that. 

What I’m suggesting is that being the Indians’ pitching coach might be a better job than managing the Mets, seeing how the Indians’ pitching coach probably makes around $250,000 with a hell of a lot less stress and a lot more job security than Callaway has now, and he actually gets to coach the pitchers. 

8) Orioles 13, Indians 0— Over last two days, Baltimore outscored the Tribe 26-0. 

Orioles are 24-58 this season, but 10-6 when Andrew Cashner starts. Cashner should be the O’s representative on the All-Star team. 

7) Baseball stuff:
— Cardinals put OF Marcell Ozuna (broken finger) on the IL.
— Cubs DFA’d OF Carlos Gonzalez.
— Red Sox put P Brian Johnson (non-baseball injury) on the IL.
— Twins activated Byron Buxton, Martin Gonzalez from the IL. 

6) Nikola Mirotic signed a contract with Barcelona of the EuroLeague; most people thought he would get an NBA deal for $45-50M, but sounds like he didn’t like the NBA very much. 

5) Hamilton 41, Montreal 10— CFL games don’t often have scoreless first quarters; according to Ralph Michaels on Twitter, this was just the 27th scoreless first quarter in the last 973 CFL tilts. 24 of those 27 games stayed under the total, including this one. 

4) This week is the first time since 2005 that the 54-hole leader at PGA Tour events led by 6+ shots in back/back weeks. Nate Lashley shot a 63 Saturday, is 23-under thru three rounds. 

3) SLS casino in Las Vegas is changing its name back to the Sahara Las Vegas: I stayed there for ten days in 2015. Nice enough casino, small rooms, very tight video poker, good eating places, but no sports book, just a counter in a restaurant to bet on games.

2) Minimum salary for a rookie in the NBA next season: $898,310. 

1) The Mets have won only two World Series:
Jerry Koosman was on mound for the Mets for the last out of the ’69 World Series.

In ’78, he was traded to the Twins for a package including Jesse Orosco.

Jesse Orosco was on the mound for the last out of the ’86 World Series.

Saturday’s List of 13: Happy Armadillo Day!!!!

13) Happy Armadillo Day!!! 18 years ago today, I started this website, not knowing where it would lead, but it has led here. Hope you enjoy reading it. 

12) Have a book recommendation here; “Then One Day” written by Chris Andrews, the sports book director at SouthPoint in Las Vegas, which is an excellent sports book, and is also next to the hot dog cart and the VSIN radio studio. 

Lot of excellent stories that cover Andrews’ long career, starting from when he was a kid growing up in Pittsburgh. If you like sports and betting, you’ll enjoy this book. 

11) Westgate SuperBook released their odds to win the 2020 NBA title:
4-1— Los Angeles Lakers
6-1— Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers
8-1— Houston Rockets
10-1— Toronto Raptors
12-1— Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers
14-1— Golden State Warriors- Sounds like the Warriors won’t get bored next season.

Free agency will change these numbers, maybe drastically. Wagering on the Lakers right now at 4-1 would be an extraordinary leap of faith in their shaky front office. 

10) Someone posted a pic on Twitter Friday of a 1989 basketball game with Wisc-Green Bay-Northern Iowa. Who cares?, you say, but the guy with the ball was Toronto Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse, and the guy guarding him was U of Virginia coach Tony Bennett. 

30 years later, one guy is a national champ, the other guy a world champ. Go figure. 

9) Raptors are first team ever to win an NBA title with zero players on their team who were picked in the top 14 of an NBA Draft. Kawhi Leonard was the 15th pick of the 2011 draft. 

8) Shin-Soo Choo reached base five times for Texas Thursday night, but he didn’t get a hit; he was hit by pitches twice and walked three times. Scored couple of runs, too. 

7) Baseball stuff:
— Marlins moved P Jose Ureña (herniated disc) to the 60-day IL.
— A’s put OF Stephen Piscotty (ear) on the IL 

6) Tigers’ RF Nicholas Castellanos is a really good hitter, and is a free agent after the season; Detroit wants him to move to 1B, but Castellanos won’t do that unless the Tigers give him a contract extension- that hasn’t happened yet, so Castellanos remains in right field. 

5) Louisville’s football team had a cruddy year last year; their power rating at the end of the season was 22 points lower than it was in August; Florida State’s power rating dropped 18 points during the season last year. 

4) Turns out the Houston Texans didn’t fully understand what was in Nick Caserio’s contract, so they tried to trade with New England to acquire Caserio to be their next GM, but that fell thru too, so Caserio is back in Foxboro, working in the Patriots’ front office. Shouldn’t be awkward at all; Caserio becomes a free agent after next April’s draft. 

3) Idaho fired basketball coach Don Verlin; assistant coach Zac Claus will coach the team this coming season. June 14 is an odd time to fire a college basketball coach. Vandals were 5-27 LY, after being 22-9 the year before, but apparently Verlin has run afoul of the NCAA. 

2) Blue Jays are in Houston this weekend, so Toronto rookie Cavan Biggio gets to spend his first Father’s Day in the major leagues playing in front of his dad, Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. 

1) RIP Pat Bowlen 75, owner of the Denver Broncos, who passed away after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. While Bowlen owned the Broncos, they played in seven Super Bowls, and had only seven losing seasons; he was revered in the Denver community. RIP, sir. 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday’s List of 13: Random Lists of 3……

13) Three favorite dinners:
— Pizza, just a plain cheese thin pizza. Excellent.
— Spaghetti and meatballs
— Scrambled eggs with sausage

12) Three underrated things:
— NHL playoffs
— Taking the train from Albany to NYC (as opposed to driving)
— Pinball Museum in Las Vegas; 250 vintage pinball machines under one roof

11) Favorite TV shows:
— CSI
— Law and Order
— Odd Couple

10) Favorite Bob Seger songs:
— Turn the Page
— Travelin’ Man
— Against the Wind

9) I watch a ton of baseball every day, thanks to the Extra Innings package on DirecTV. These are my favorite announce crews to listen to, if there are no games on that I have rooting interest in:

— Milwaukee Brewers: Brian Anderson/Matt Lepay with analyst Bill Schroeder
— Texas Rangers: Dave Raymond with CJ Nitkowski or Tom Grieve.
— Colorado Rockies: Drew Goodman, moreso when Jeff Huson is the analyst, but Ryan Spilborghs is getting better. 

8) Three movies I’ve never seen:
— Star Wars
— Rocky V, or any of the Rocky movies after that
— Godfather II or Godfather III

7) Three favorite sporting events I’ve been to:
— 2000 NFC title game, Rams-Bucs in St Louis
— 2008 World Series game, Rays-Phillies
— AHL playoff game in Glens Falls that went triple OT, sometime in mid-80’s. Game ended around 12:50am; the concession stand ran out of food. 

6) Favorite three non-sports movies:
— Rounders
— The Bodyguard
— Begin Again

5) Three favorite Billy Joel songs:
— Piano Man
— Vienna
— She’s Got a Way

4) Three favorite basketball movies:
— Blue Chips
— One on One
— Fast Break

3) Favorite Kevin Costner movies:
— For Love of the Game
— The Bodyguard
— Bull Durham

2) Three best Oakland A’s managers:
— Dick Williams
— Bob Melvin
— Tony LaRussa

1) Three best head coaches for the Rams:
— Dick Vermeil
— Sean McVay
— Chuck Knox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 1 NFL spreads

Packers @ Bears (-3.5, 46)
Falcons @ Vikings (-4.5, 47.5)
Redskins @ Eagles (-8, 46.5)
Bills @ Jets (-3.5, 38.5)
Ravens (-3.5, 37) @ Dolphins
49ers @ Buccaneers (-2.5, 49)
Chiefs (-5.5, 52.5) @ Jaguars
Titans @ Browns (-5, 45)
Rams (-2.5, 51) @ Panthers
Lions @ Cardinals (even, 49)
Bengals @ Seahawks (-7.5, 43.5)
Colts @ Chargers (-3.5, 48)
Giants @ Cowboys (-7.5, 46.5)
Steelers @ Patriots (-6, 51.5)
Texans @ Saints (-7.5, 53.5)
Broncos @ Raiders (-2.5, 43)

Thursday’s List of 13: Quick comments on the 2019 NFL schedule

13) 100th season of the NFL starts with league’s oldest rivals (Packers/Bears) opening the season with a Thursday night game in Chicago September 5. 

12) Monday night doubleheader in Week 1: Texans @ Saints, Broncos @ Raiders. 

11) Cleveland Browns have four primetime games:
— Week 2, at Jets (Monday night)
— Week 3, Rams (Sunday night)
— Week 5, at 49ers (Monday night)
— Week 11, Steelers (Thursday night)

10) Reunion games:
— Bears @ Raiders, Week 5 (Khalil Mack against his old team)
— Redskins @ Vikings, Week 8 (Kirk Cousins against his old team)

9) Teams that open with two straight home games:
Panthers-Dolphins-Jets-Raiders

Teams that open with two straight road games:
Bills-Colts-Chiefs-49ers

8) Teams that finish with two straight home games:
Broncos-Vikings-Patriots-Seahawks-Buccaneers.

Teams that finish with two straight road games:
Cardinals-Packers-Saints-Raiders-Steelers. 

7) Thanksgiving Day games:
Bears-Lions, Bills-Cowboys, Saints-Falcons

6) Pittsburgh plays five of its last seven games on road; they play Cleveland twice in three weeks, in Weeks 11, 13. 

5) Teams with three straight weeks on road:
— Eagles, Week 6-8. This appears to be the only one in the whole league. Am guessing Philly brass won’t be happy with this. 

4) Miami plays one road game in the first six weeks; they have four home games and a bye, with only road game in in Week 3 at Dallas. 

3) Divisional games in Week 1:
Packers-Bears, Bills-Jets, Giants-Cowboys, Broncos-Raiders, Redskins-Eagles

2) Earliest byes: Jets, 49ers in Week 4.
Latest byes: Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings in Week 12.

1) No Thursday night game in Week 16-17. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Kentucky 36-12, last in 2-18

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

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

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

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

Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up a full Friday of hoops

Cal-Irvine 70, Kansas State 64— Anteaters’ first-ever NCAA tournament win; they’ve won 17 games in a row, have wins this year at Saint Mary’s, Texas A&M. Very good defensive team. 

Disappointing loss for a veteran K-State team, which made the Elite 8 last year. 

Iowa 79, Cincinnati 72— Bearcats led by 13 early on, but Iowa made 11-22 on arc, shot 58% inside arc and won a game where most of the crowd in Columbus was pulling for Cincinnati. 

Last seven years, Bearcats are 183-59, 95-31 in conference games, but only 3-7 in NCAA tournament games. Three years ago, Mick Cronin pretended he was interested in the UNLV job so he could get financial concessions from the Cincinnati administration. I’m guessing there is a lot of grumbling going on today in Cincinnati. 

Oklahoma 95, Ole Miss 72— Sooners made their first eight shots, led 12-0 quickly and jogged home from there. Oklahoma was just stronger, tougher than the Rebels, 

Lon Kruger is the only coach to win an NCAA tournament for five different schools; UNLV, Kansas State, Illinois, Florida, Oklahoma. He also coached the Atlanta Hawks for three years. 

Texas Tech 72, Northern Kentucky 57— Horizon League teams lost their last eight first round games; their last win was when Brad Stevens was coaching Butler and they made the national title game two years in a row. 

Think about that accomplishment; a team from the Horizon League made the national title game two years in a row!!! No wonder the guy is coaching in the NBA now. 

Tennessee 77, Colgate 70— Colgate has a kid named Jordan Burns who was told by his HS football coach that he would never play college basketball— he scored 32 points in this game, as Red Raiders gave Tennessee quite a scare. 

One of Colgate’s best players, Rapolas Ivanauskas had pink-eye and didn’t play in the second half. Red Raiders made 15-29 on the arc in a strong performance. 

Virginia 71, Gardner-Webb 56— Cavaliers were down 14 in first half of this game, as flashbacks from LY’s loss to UMBC were in everyone’s head. 

Reality set in after halftime, when Gardner-Webb led by 6. Has to be a tremendous sigh of relief for Virginia- they play Oklahoma Sunday. 

Gardner-Webb won games at Georgia Tech, Wake Forest; they were a pretty strong 16-seed. 

Buffalo 91, Arizona State 74— Less than six years ago, Buffalo coach Nate Oats was teaching five math classes a day – algebra, geometry and statistics – at Romulus HS in Michigan. Now he is coaching a top 25 college team and making a boatload of money. He s very good at his job, but how long will he stay in Buffalo? 

Buffalo hammered Arizona in the tournament LY, now this; their game with Texas Tech Sunday will be very good. 

None of the play-in game winners won their first round game, which is unusual, first time in nine years. 

Oregon 72, Wisconsin 54— Wooten has developed into an elite rim protector for the Ducks, who have won nine games in a row. They play #13-seed Cal-Irvine next. 

This will be the 13th 2nd round game between a 12 and 13-seed; favorites went 9-3 vs spread in the first 12. 

As of right now, the Big 14 is 6-1 in this tournament, pretty strong showing. 

Washington 78, Utah State 61— Rough week for the Mountain West, with Nevada/Utah State going down meekly. Last three years, Mountain West teams are 1-5 in first round games. 

Great year for the Aggies, though who went 28-7, winning 17 of their last 19 games. It was their first 20+-win season since 2013. 

Duke 85, North Dakota State 62— Friday, a guy with too much money at a Caesars sportsbook placed a $150 money-line bet on Duke at -$15,000. When the Blue Devils won, his profit was $1. One American dollar. 

Watching games all day Thursday, think I only heard Zion Williamson’s name once all day; once you get away from ESPN, coverage of Duke is a little more even-handed. 

Houston 84, Georgia State 55— This game was 15-3 early; teams combined to go 14-52 on the arc. Cougars shot 71.4% inside the arc; last year, Houston lost 64-63 to Michigan in the second round. Now, they play another Big 14 team (Ohio State) in second round Sunday. 

Liberty 80, Mississippi State 76— Bulldogs missed their last eight shots from floor, as Liberty wins its first NCAA tournament game. This is first non-play-in win for the Atlantic Sun since Florida Gulf Coast made the Sweet 16 six years ago. 

This is 5th time that the #12 seeds went 3-1 in the first round, first time since 2014. The four #5-seeds played a total of six non-conference road games during the regular season. 

North Carolina 88, Iona 73— Gaels led this game 38-33 at halftime, little bit of a red flag for the Tar Heels. 

Iona has lost 13 straight NCAA tournament games; last time they got out of the first round was 1980, when their coach was Jim Valvano.

Central Florida 73, VCU 58— At first TV timeout, teams were combined 1-16 from floor; VCU led 3-0. UCF missed its first ten shots from floor, then made their next ten. VCU went over 10:00 without scoring a point midway thru game. 

This is the first time since 2001 that all four #9-seeds beat the #8-seeds.

Ohio State 62, Iowa State 59— Cyclones lost six of last eight regular season games, then won the Big X tournament last weekend, then laid an egg here. Teams combined to make 11-42 on the arc; five of the ten starters in this game played 38:00+.

Virginia Tech 66, Saint Louis 52— First NCAA tournament win in dozen years for the Hokies; check status of PG Robinson, who played in this game but may have tweaked a leg when he slipped on a wet spot on the floor in second half.

Billikens turned ball over 18 times (-7), made 4-23 on the arc; their bench was 0-7 from the floor. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus List of 13: College basketball prop bets

13) Will Auburn make the Sweet 16: No -$130, Yes even

12) Will Texas Tech make the Sweet 16: Yes -$180, No +$150

11) Will Buffalo make the Sweet 16: Yes +$220, No -$300

10) Will Villanova make the Sweet 16: Yes +$170, No -$200

9) Will Houston make the Sweet 16: Yes -$115, No -$115

8) Will Virginia Tech make the Sweet 16: Yes -$145, No +$115

7) Will Iowa State make the Sweet 16: Yes +$160, No -$190

6) Will Marquette make the Sweet 16: Yes +$230, No -$310

5) Will Purdue make the Sweet 16: Yes -$135, No +$105

4) #1-seeds to make Final Four: over/under 1.5: Over -$190, Under +$160

3) Will a Big 14 team win the national title? Yes +$325, No -$450

2) Will a #2-seed win the national title? Yes +$325, No -$450

1) Will a #1 seed win the national title? Yes -$170, No +$140

Monday’s List of 13: Quick thoughts on the field of 68……

13) If you look at the last 13 national champs, those teams went 12-1 against the spread in their first round tournament game. Only exception was Kentucky in 2012, who won 81-66 (-26). UConn won its first round game in OT in 2014, but covered 89-81 (-5). 

12) Bobby Hurley coached Buffalo for two years (42-20), then bolted western NY for Arizona State; his Sun Devils have to beat St John’s in Dayton, and if they do, Hurley and Buffalo will be re-united Friday in Tulsa. Buffalo spanked ASU’s rival Arizona by 21 in first round last year. 

Since replacing Hurley, Nate Oats is 95-42 in four years at Buffalo, but before the Bulls get to play Arizona State, the Sun Devils still have to beat St John’s. 

11) Richard Pitino’s Minnesota Gophers playing Louisville, the school that ran his father out of town two years ago, is classic sidebar material. Rick Pitino won the national title with Louisville six short years ago. Lot of stuff has happened since then. 

Rick Pitino is coaching pro ball in Greece now; UCLA, UNLV have jobs open, which lends itself to speculation, but for now Richard’s Gophers vs Louisville is the main event. 

10) Tennessee Volunteers are a #2-seed in the South Region, but they can’t be very happy about the prospects of a second round game against Cincinnati………in Columbus, OHIO. 

9) Montana-Michigan play in the first round for the second year in a row; I’m thinking that could’ve been avoided. 

8) Clemson, NC State and Texas are the highest-rated teams that didn’t get in the NCAA’s; Lipscomb, Furman and NC-Greensboro also have to be pretty disappointed. 

7) No team has ever lost its first conference tournament game, and then gone on to win the national championship. Texas Tech, LSU, Purdue, Maryland fall into that category. 

6) Virginia Tech’s star PG Justin Robinson missed the last 12 games with a foot injury, but he’ll be back for the NCAA tournament. Hokies play Saint Louis in the first round Friday. 

5) If you care about such things, over the last five years, the underdog is 12-8 vs spread in first round 4-13 games. Over last six years, underdogs are 14-10 vs spread in 3-14 games. 

4) Last four years, the 11-seed is 7-5 SU in the first round against the 6-seed; the 11-seed was the underdog in all seven of their wins. 

3) Over the last 23 years, in the West Region final, the underdog is 17-6 against the spread. During that time, when the #1-seed in the West got to the regional final, they’re 4-8 SU in that regional final. 

2) Over the last 16 years, in the Midwest Region final, the underdog is 12-4 against the spread. #1-seeds have fared better in this regional final, going 10-7 SU in their last 17 tries. 

1) My pick for the national title? I’ll take Virginia. 

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) I’m watching the Seton Hall-Marquette game Friday night, and it dawned on me; half the league has to travel halfway cross the country for the conference tournament every year, while the other half of the league? Their fans can drive or take the train to Madison Square Garden. 

This is the sixth year of the “new” Big East; during that time, the midwestern part of the league is 8-19 SU against the eastern part in the conference tournament. 

Creighton lost in finals of the tournament twice, Xavier once, but no midwestern team has won it, and this year is no different. Something to think about going forward. 

12) Houston 61, Memphis 58— This is going to be the last year in the foreseeable future where Memphis won’t go to the NCAA’s; Penny Hardaway did a good job in his first season, and he is crushing it on the recruiting trail. Memphis has a lot of high school talent. 

11) Tennessee 82, Kentucky 78— This is Wildcats’ first loss in SEC tourney since a 61-60 loss to Florida in the finals of the 2014 tournament. Tennessee plays Sunday for its first tournament title since 1979. 

Both of these teams are really good and either could win the NCAA title.

Sometimes it is better to lose in the semi-final of the tourneys that play their final on Sunday; one thing you do NOT want is to play on Sunday, then draw a Thursday game in the NCAA’s, especially if it is Thursday afternoon— not lot of prep time. 

10) Michigan 76, Minnesota 49— Wolverines got swept by rival Michigan State this season; now the teams meet a third time, for the Big 14 title.

9) Utah State 64, San Diego State 57— You could make a legit argument for Chris Smith to be national Coach of the Year. Last three years, Aggies were 22-32 in Big West games; this year, in his first season in Logan, Utah State is 27-6, 18-3 in conference. 

8) Iowa State 78, Kansas 66— Cyclones won Big X tournament for 4th time in last six years; this year, they came into the tournament on a 2-6 skid, but they seem to like Kansas City. 

7) Villanova 74, Seton Hall 72— Wildcats win Big East tournament for fourth time in last five years. For the season, 54% of Villanova’s shots were 3-pointers; thats unusual for a good team. 

6) Oregon 68, Washington 48— Huskies laid an egg here; they scored two points in first 9:30 of second half. Washington is 5-4 in its last nine games, after starting season 19-4.   

5) Chargers signed QB Tyrod Taylor this week, an excellent signing by a team in desperate need of a backup for aging Philip Rivers, who will be 38 in December. Last year’s Chargers’ backup QB’s were Geno Smith and Cardale Jones; Taylor is a huge upgrade from those two.

4) Cleveland Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield took batting practice and then coached first base for the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday. Apparently Mayfield is buddies with Christian Yelich; he hit a foul ball into the stands that broke a woman’s watch.

3) Pittsburgh Pirates honored TV analyst Steve Blass this weekend in Florida, naming the press box in Bradenton after him. Blass has been on TV for the Pirates for the last 34 years- he also pitched for the Pirates for a decade, helping them win the 1971 World Series. 

in 2009, Blass recorded two hole-in-ones in the same round of golf, a pretty cool feat.

2) During that same game, Pirates’ TV guys were insisting that Starling Marte has as much talent as Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, an interesting claim.

1) Way back in 1963, the San Francisco Giants had three Alou brothers on their team: Matty, Felipe and Jesus. All three could hit;
— Matty wound up with a .307 career batting average over 15 years,
— Felipe wound up being a manager, winning more games than he lost over 14 years.
— Jesus hit .280 in 15 major league seasons, winning two World Series rings with the A’s. 

This year, Vermont has three brothers on its team this year; the Duncans- Ernie, Robin and Everett. Never heard of three brothers on the same basketball team before. Now they’re all going to March Madness together, which is pretty cool.