Thursday’s List of 13: Things I’m thankful for……..

I’m a lucky person; lot of good things have happened for me over the years. Here are 13 things I’m grateful for on Thanksgiving Day……..

13) First things first; I’m lucky that I had parents who taught me right from wrong. Its a lot easier to get thru life when you are shown a roadmap on how to do things the right way. I haven’t always followed their roadmap, but I haven’t strayed too far from it, either.

12) Given the state of modern affairs, I’m thankful to whoever invented the mute button. There are so many mouthy, obnoxious people now; you see them, you hit the mute button and their voice goes away.

Younger people may not realize that there was a time when you had to get up and change the channel EVERY TIME you changed channels. Nowadays, our thumbs get a solid workout from working the remote control— I’m also thankful to whoever invented the remote.

11) To whoever invented the Internet, whether it was Al Gore or someone else, thank you!!! There is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips now that wasn’t there when we were kids. Myself, I spend lot of time on Twitter- there is so much information there. Lot to learn.

10) I’m thankful to live in an area where I’m not too far from NYC, Boston, Philly, Montreal; an underrated thing is taking the train from Albany to Manhattan- what a beehive of activity Penn Station is. If you’ve never visited New York City, do it sometime— very busy place. Best time to visit, for me, would be from now until Christmas— its a lot friendlier around Christmas.

One thing about living in Albany that I’m not thankful for— snow. Hate snow.

9) Having the chance to travel has been a joy; when I was in college, took a trip to Sweden one summer- that was fun. There is so much to see in this country; the beaches in California and Florida, the Alamo in San Antonio and my personal favorite, any casino in Las Vegas.

8) I’m thankful to a man named John Connolly who was my high school principal who hooked me up to be a student manager for our high school basketball team— that started me on a path where I did the same thing in college, going basically for free.

Being manager of a basketball team isn’t glamorous, it wasn’t good for your social standing, but it was great fun and educational—you learned how an organization works from the inside, how it takes doing the little things to make the big things happen.

7) Thank you to whoever invented the cellphone— there was a TV show in the 60’s called Get Smart where special agent Maxwell Smart had a phone in his shoe. Mel Brooks wrote the show and it was genuinely comic genius, really coming up with the cellphone before it existed.

I can remember going to Saratoga racetrack and there were no phones- you were completely off the grid while you were there. Nowadays, probably 90% of people there have phones in their pockets. There weren’t even payphones at the track- they were banned.

6) I’m thankful to my teachers in grade school who taught me that reading/writing/math were all important things. I have no idea what kids learn in school now, but I once got a $10,000 raise at work, all because I could do math in my head without a pen or calculator— seriously.

Then there was Sister Catherine Greene, one of my teachers in 7th grade. I wasn’t paying any attention in a religion class one day and she knew that, so she calls on me, asking “Who is your favorite saint?” I was a quiet kid and it was embarrassing that I had no idea what she had been talking about- she was talking about religion, I had been daydreaming about football.

Now this is maybe 1972 or so, and I’m 12 or 13 and I wasn’t trying to be a wiseass, but I also was not paying attention, so when she asked who my favorite saint was, I just looked her and said:

“Archie Manning”

Sister Catherine was not amused; my classmates were.

5) I’m thankful that someone invented fantasy sports; since free agency doomed the A’s to being a second-tier franchise, being in a fantasy league has kept baseball season consistently fun.

Quick story about being an A’s fan— this was in 1978, I’m lying in bed late at night listening to an A’s-Red Sox game on the radio. When I was a kid, listening to baseball games on the radio was a big thing.

A’s send a pinch-hitter up to the plate, but the guy had just been called up from AAA and didn’t have his name on his jersey. Red Sox announcers had no clue who the guy was and because the low-budget A’s had very little front office help, no one in the press box did, either.

Turns out the guy’s name was Mark Budaska, who wound up playing in only 13 big league games. Nowadays, stuff like that would never, ever happen.

4) In the late 80’s, I found myself writing a daily picks column in the Albany Times-Union; did it for four years,- it was a much smaller version of what we do here every day. Picked games most every day all year round and I had to sink or swim, because it was out there for everyone to see, and I took a good share of grief during the inevitable slumps.

3) I’m very lucky that I wound up as an assistant coach at Schenectady High School in the mid-90’s; my eight years there were filled with fun and laughter, and I made good friends there.

What a learning experience; a suburban guy finds himself coaching at an inner -city high school, where the basketball team was horrible the first year, but four years later, we were state champs. I learned so much about dealing with people and how to get things done.

2) I’m very thankful to all my friends who’ve made my life a lot more fun. We all get caught up in our own lives and don’t stay in contact as much as I’d like to, but we’ve shared experiences that have made life a lot more enjoyable.

1) We’re all very lucky to live in this country, despite the hijinx of the past couple years. Few years from now, we’ll emerge from this mess a stronger/healthier country.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

Occasionally I take some grief from readers for not picking enough college basketball games on this site, but to me, this time of year has almost become like spring training in baseball; there is no way to gauge teams anymore without seeing them a play a little bit first. Have to study before you begin taking tests…….

Cal has a whole new team? There were up 18 on Wichita State, when they were a 19-point dog. Stuff happens this month that makes no sense, but I’m doing my best to sit here and make some sense of it, so when the picks do start showing up, they’re successful.

13) UNLV was 47-51 the last three years, but they’re 4-0 this season, with 15 points their closest win. Rebels haven’t been in NCAA’s since 2013- they play Utah tonight at T-Mobile Arena, a big game in Las Vegas, a big step up in class for the Rebels. Interesting game.

12) Missouri Valley Conference lost Creighton/Wichita State the last few years, and it has hurt them nationally. Right now, four teams are tightly bunched as the top-rated team in the Valley, but they’re all ranked between 92nd and 105th nationally.

Looks like a one-bid league, which will make their conference tournament— Arch Madness, the most important weekend of the season.

11) Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas are 3-0 this season, against teams ranked 324-280-332. Hoyas have eight games left before Big East play starts- they host Richmond Saturday, play Syracuse Dec 16, but their other six pre-conference games are all against teams outside the top 300 in the country. Very, very soft pre-conference schedule for Georgetown.

10) Best 3-point shooting teams so far this young season:
Providence 54.4%, Tex-Arlington 51.1%, Arizona 50.9%, Portland 50%

9) Sun Belt Conference is on the rise; currently ranked as the #13 league, Sun Belt hasn’t finished a season this high since 2003, when they were ranked #11 in America. Lot of good teams, lot of really good athletes.

8) Siena lost 115-92 to 0-4 Bucknell Monday; Siena fans aren’t happy about this, but a closer look at Bucknell’s schedule explains some stuff:

Bucknell has played the #26 schedule in the country- they lost 93-81 at North Carolina, 80-78 at Maryland- they can play, and will be a big favorite to win the Patriot League this season. Bison are also the #64 team in America in terms of experience.

7) Similarly, Vermont lost 73-69 at Kentucky, an impressive loss for an America East team. two of Catamounts’ three wins are against teams in top 125, both on a neutral floor. Vermont, Albany figure to battle it out for the America East championship.

6) Wake Forest/Pitt figure to trail the field in the ACC— Deacons are 1-4, with losses to Liberty and Drake. Pittsburgh is 1-4 with losses to Navy/Montana.

5) VCU has two players who were there when Shaka Smart was coach of the Rams three years ago; they’re on their third coach in four years, after Will Wade bolted to LSU last spring.

Has to be a little awkward in Maui this week, with VCU/LSU both there, and Wade coaching the Tigers now. VCU’s kids helped Wade get a pretty steep pay increase.

4) Nation’s most inexperienced teams, of leagues that we follow:
Kentucky-Duke-Alabama-VMI-Bowling Green.

3) Nation’s most experienced teams, of leagues that we follow:
Tex-Arlington, Drake, Tennessee Tech, Idaho, Missouri State

2) DePaul is in Chicago, where there are a ton of really good high school players, but the Blue Demons haven’t been able to cash in on their location.

Over last ten years, DePaul is 27-153 in conference games. 27, and. 153. Not good. Prognosis for this season isn’t a whole lot better, but the Blue Demons have a new arena, which hopefully can help persuade some local kids stay at home for college.

1) Texas A&M and Florida figure to challenge Kentucky at the top of the SEC; Aggies play Kentucky Jan 9, Feb 10- they play Florida Jan 2. The two Kentucky-Florida games are Jan 20 and March 3rd. If you took the school’s names off the uniforms, A&M seems like the best team, as of right now.

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

13) Denver Broncos fired OC Mike McCoy Monday; no idea what happened behind closed doors, but it ain’t McCoy’s fault the Denver GM stocked the Broncos’ roster with lousy QB’s. Of course, the GM is John Elway, who fired McCoy.

12) I have this college basketball debate with myself, every now and then, comparing different head coaching jobs, as to which one is the better job to have.

Will Wade left VCU for LSU; now I’m 99% sure the $$$ is way better at LSU, but VCU’s coach still makes serious money, and VCU doesn’t have football, so basketball is king on their campus. Rams have sold out 100 straight home games, and they play in a league that gets multiple bids to the NCAA tournament.

Football will always be king at LSU; they’ve been in NCAAs in basketball twice in the last 11 years. Shaquille O’Neal, Pete Maravich and Ben Simmons played there, but despite those great players, LSU hasn’t won a whole lot at the national level.

If a friend of mine was a coach and was at VCU, think I’d tell him that it is better to be a big fish in smaller pond than the other way around.

11) Best way to know which players a basketball coach trusts the most: the five guys who are on the floor in the last 2:00 of close games. Much more telling than who starts.

10) Pac-12 North champ is 6-0 vs the Pac-12 South champ in the Pac-12 football title game.

9) Interesting conversation on a college football TV game the other night about the differences in high school football between Florida and Texas.

In Texas, coaches start coaching kids up in 6th or 7th grade, preparing them for the roles they’ll play for that high school— it is much more structured.

In Florida, there are much better athletes for the most part, with lot less coaching until they get to the high school level, or so these TV guys were emphatically claiming.

8) South Florida has 106 kids on its football team; 97 of them are from Florida, three are from Georgia. Six other kids are from six other states.

7) Robert Covington of the 76ers just signed a $62M contract; when he was a high school senior, he had only two scholarships offers, and went to obscure Tennessee State. He kept working hard on his game, had some good coaching along the way, and now is a very wealthy person.

Thats what can happen when you work hard and get some breaks along the way.

6) You know those Peloton commercials that are on all the time, the exercise bike commercials? What exactly is their advertising budget? How many bikes do they have to sell to break even?

5) Alex Rodriguez was the guest analyst on ESPN’s college football GameDay ten days ago, from the Notre Dame-Miami game; he went 12-0 with his picks.

4) Kid named Rashaad Penny is a running back for San Diego State; he had 429 total yards the other night against Nevada, scoring TD’s on both a punt return and a kick return. Quite a game for the young man, whose grandmother passed away earlier that morning.

3) They imploded the Georgia Dome Monday, the stadium that Falcons used to play in, but more importantly, the stadium where the Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV. No bueno.

Weather Channel set up a remote camera to broadcast the implosion, across the street from the site, but at the exact moment when the implosion was going to happen, a city bus stopped at a red light and blocked the camera’s view.

All you could see was the top of the bus and all you could hear was the camera guy cursing; the bus then pulled away, but the stadium had already been imploded.

2) In their first seven games, Buffalo Bills were 5-2 with a +14 turnover ratio; in their last three games, all losses, they’re -9 in turnovers, and lost field position by 13-18-22 yards.

1) In their last five games, Cincinnati Bengals ran a total of 244 plays; their opponents have run a total of 381 plays- thats 27 plays a game less than their opponents. Hard to win that way, but the Bengals did win two of those five games.

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Saints 34, Redskins 31 OT— Washington led 31-16 with 3:10 left to play, but then gave up two TD’s in 1:48, and screwed up a chance to win game at the end of regulation, getting intentional grounding called on them when they were in Saints territory.

Saints have now won eight games in a row (6-2 vs spread); Redskins were first team since Week 2 to pass for more than 5.0 yds/pass attempt against them (8.2). New Orleans has run ball for 150+ yards in five of their last six games. Over is 5-1 in Washington’s last six games.

Vikings 24, Rams 7— Rams scored on their first drive of the game, never scored again; they lost a fumble on 1-yard line when game was 7-7 in 2nd quarter- they’ve done that in two of their three losses. LA is -6 in turnovers in their three losses, +12 in their wins.

Minnesota has won six games in row, covered last five; they were held to 9-7 points in their two losses. Vikings only went 3/out once in this game, which helped their field position.

Giants 12, Chiefs 9 OT— KC has now lost four of its last five games after a 5-0 start, this one in dismal fashion- they didn’t score a TD against a Giant team that had given up 13 TD’s on its opponents’ last 32 drives. 6-4 Chiefs are still in first place in AFC West, but only because their division stinks this year.

Alex Smith threw three INTs, which led to Giants having an 8-yard advantage in field position; there will now be murmurs about Patrick Mahomes taking over at QB next year, when Smith is a free agent— the rumor mill thinks Kansas City will let Smith walk.

Texans 31, Cardinals 21— Houston’s 2nd-string QB beats Arizona’s 3rd-string QB; Cardinals scored three TD’s, but on drives of 17-15-51 yards, all set up by the Arizona defense. Redbirds lost despite a 13-yard edge in field position, which doesn’t happen much- they’re 1-6 when they allow more than 15 points.

Jaguars 19, Browns 7— Three NFL teams turned ball over five times Sunday; all of them played at home, including the God-awful Browns, who are now 0-10, 2-8 vs spread.

If you were optimistic (dumb) enough to bet on the Browns in this game, you were on the wrong side of the Bad Beat of the Week. Jaguars were sleep-walking their way to a 13-7 win— Cleveland had the ball on its own 20 with 1:24 left, but Kizer was sacked/fumbled and Jacksonville covered the 8-point spread on a defensive TD with 1:14 left.

Jacksonville has won four games in a row and is in first place in the AFC South.

Lions 27, Bears 24— Prater kicked a 52-yard FG with 1:35 left as Detroit won its third game in a row, scoring 31.7 ppg in those games; they’re 3-1 on the road. Having a kicker who makes long FG’s outdoors in November is a huge plus. Lions are 8-1 in their last nine games with Chicago, which had ball up 10-0 in 2nd quarter, before Detroit scored a defensive TD on a fumble return that helped turn the tide in their favor. Bears lost their last three games, are now 3-7.

7) UCLA fired football coach Jim Mora Jr on his birthday Sunday, which was the bad news. Good news for Mora? He gets an $11M severance package. Birthday cake is on him!!!!

Rumor mill has UCLA going heavy after former Eagles/Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

Buccaneers 30, Dolphins 20— Miami is awful; they turned ball over five times, were called for 17 (accepted) penalties for 133 yards- they threw an INT on three of their first four drives.

Down 20-7, Dolphins battled back to tie game 20-all, before Bucs won it on a FG with 0:04 left; Tampa Bay had an 11-yard edge in field position- their two TD drives were only 5-37 yards, as Miami’s turnovers were their undoing. Dolphins have now lost four games in a row.

Ravens 23, Packers 0— You know it could be a long day for a team when a score graphic comes on at 1:25 and that team’s QB already has two INT’s. Baltimore had a ridiculous 27-yard edge in field position in this game- five of their 13 drives started in Green Bay territory.

Packers have lost four of their last five games; Ravens are 13-3 in last 16 post-bye games. Four of Baltimore’s five wins have come against backup QB’s, Andy Dalton being the exception.

Chargers 54, Bills 24— Buffalo benched QB Tyrod Taylor despite a 5-4 record and started rookie Nathan Peterman in this game, who then threw four INT’s on his first nine passes, as Chargers jogged to a ridiculously easy win.

Bills have lost three games in a row; coach McDermott has to be careful he doesn’t lose his locker room, putting in an incompetent rookie QB when Buffalo was 5-4 and in possession of the last playoff spot. Taylor played the second half of this game, figures to start going forward.

Patriots 33, Raiders 8— New England won its last six games (5-1 vs spread); they outscored last four opponents 76-16 in first half. Oakland lost six of its last eight games, as AFC West suffers thru one of its worst seasons ever. Raiders have only two takeaways (-11) in their last seven games- they allowed 121 points in their last four games.

In college basketball Sunday, Ohio U beat Indiana State 96-94 in four OT’s; must’ve been a fun game to watch.

Bengals 20, Broncos 17— Denver lost its last six games (0-6 vs spread), thanks to a -14 turnover ratio in those games; they lost last three home games. Cincy ends a 10-game losing streak in the Mile High City, but in their last three games, Bengals have run 140 plays, their opponents 241- the Cincinnati offense needs to give the defense a break now and then.

Cincinnati had a 100-yard INT return in this game that wasn’t a TD— the guy dropped the ball while he was running and fell on it, on the 1-yard line.

I’m guessing its not a lot of fun being around John Elway these days.

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9— Dallas led this game 9-7 at the half; in second half, Eagles had ball four times before they ran clock out the last time they had ball- Philly ran 29 plays for 271 yards three TD’s, just in the second half. Eagles have a three-game lead in NFC East with six weeks left to play.

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

13) Texas 28, West Virginia 14— We talked earlier this week about players stretching the ball towards the goal line, trying to score a TD, but then getting hit and fumbling. West Virginia QB Grier did this when game was 0-0, fumbled for a touchback, and also broke the middle finger on his throwing hand, ending his day and likely his season. Not good.

In the ESPN studios later on, Booger MacFarland showed his hand to the camera; MacFarland played defensive line for LSU and then for nine years in the NFL. The pinky on one hand points almost straight out to the right; the middle finger on that hand looks like a dogleg left on a golf course. Apparently he didn’t ice his hand after it was splinted and it didn’t heal properly.

12) Purdue 24, Iowa 15— Hawkeyes scored TD with 1:04 left to cut lead to 24-15; instead of kicking PAT to get within one score, they went for 2 points and failed, ending the game. Unsure why they did that— just kick the PAT and put more pressure on Purdue to close the game out.

As for Purdue, they’re 5-6, making the Old Oaken Bucket game next week against rival Indiana for a bowl bid.

11) Miami 44, Virginia 28— Cavaliers led 14-0 early, 21-14 at half, 28-14 early in third quarter, then Miami stormed back and won going away. Virginia gained 439 yards but turned ball over three times and had a failed onside kick when they led 14-0.

10) Upsets of the Week:
Kansas State (+20) 45, Oklahoma State 40
Akron (+14.5) 37, Ohio U 34
Tulane (+9) 20, Houston 17
Purdue (+7) 24, Iowa 15
Coastal Carolina (+7) 13, Idaho 7
Duke (+6.5) 43, Georgia Tech 20

9) Alabama 56, Mercer 0
Clemson 61, Mercer 3
Florida State 77, Delaware State 6

To paraphrase Nancy Kerrigan, why? why? why? These games cheat the fans out of watching a competitive contest. Go play a Sun Belt team like Auburn did, or a MAC or C-USA team. Don’t play I-AA teams, its ridiculous.

8) Kansas State 45, Oklahoma State 40— 20-point underdog Kansas State led 42-13 late in 3rd quarter, but they wound up with their 4th-string QB in game in last 4:00, trying to preserve a 45-40 lead- they ran the Wildcat, went 3/out., but the defense preserved the win, making Bill Snyder’s team bowl eligible for the 8th year in a row.

K-State WR Byron Pringle caught four passes for 166 yards and three TD’s; he also ran a kickoff back 89 yards for a touchdown. Pretty good day.

7) LSU 30, Tennessee 10- Next year Vols will have their 7th head coach since Nick Saban has been at Alabama. LSU has had five coaches since Saban has been in Tuscaloosa.

6) Penn State 56, Nebraska 44— Cornhuskers allowed 50+ points in consecutive games for first time since 1945. I’m guessing Nebraska’s next coach will have from defensive side of the ball.

5) Texas A&M 31, Ole Miss 24- Shane Tripucka is A&M’s punter; his uncle is Kelly Tripucka, who played in the NBA for 10 years, scoring 12,142 points (17.2 pts/game).

4) Michigan State 17, Maryland 7— On a snowy day in East Lansing, the WINNING quarterback completed 2-14 passes for 20 yards. For the whole game. And they won.

3) Warriors 124, 76ers 116— Philly led this game 47-28 after the first quarter, led by 22 at the half, then Golden State went off in third quarter, outscoring the 76ers 47-15. Last time Sixers scored 47+ points in the first quarter of a game? March of 1990. They won that day.

2) USC 28, UCLA 23— Was surprised to hear Kirk Herbstreit say that he wouldn’t be surprised if QB Sam Darnold goes back to USC next season. Only a cynic would translate that as meaning: “I don’t want to play for Cleveland”

Herbstreit later said that right now, Rosen is clearly ahead of Darnold as an NFL prospect. Very unusual to hear that kind of candid analysis. Agree or disagree, but we need more of that.

1) Wake Forest 30, NC State 24— Freshman WR for NC State had ball on one-yard line with 2:00 left, tried to lunge forward to get the ball over the goal line……and fumbled. No bueno.

Maybe it is what Phil Jackson calls “heightened awareness”, I notice it more because it bugs me so much, but it does seem like lot of ballcarriers are fumbling near the goal line.

NC State was 14-23 on 3rd down in this game; pretty sure I’ve never seen a team convert 14 third down plays for first downs in one game. Wolfpack ran 94 plays, Wake Forest ran 56, but the Deacons won. Go figure.

Saturday’s List of 13: Things I’m looking for this weekend…….

13) Saints won their last seven games after an 0-2 start, only second time that has happened in the NFL (’93 Cowboys). Washington comes calling to the Superdome Sunday; they’ve won four of last five games against New Orleans.

12) USC hasn’t had a week off this season, but they’ll have one next week, before the Pac-12 title game. Trojans beat UCLA 36-14/40-21 the last two years, figure to make it three in a row here.

11) Huge trap game for the 6-3 Jaguars, who head to Cleveland after one of the Jaguars picked the Browns to finish 0-16 this season. Cleveland has couple of offensive linemen banged up, are unsure if they’ll play. Browns are not only 0-9, they’re 2-7 against the spread this year.

10) Wake Forest allowed 1,321 yards the last two weeks, but they outscored Syracuse 40-5 in the second half LW, and now the Demon Deacons are bowl eligible. Wake plays NC State this week; they’ve lost three in a row to the WolfPack, allowing 36.7 ppg.

9) Buccaneers-Dolphins play their re-scheduled game from Week 1; Tampa Bay is on the road for the next three weeks; they scored total of 28 points in their last three games. Dolphins are on a short week after their dismal performance in Charlotte.

8) Arizona ran the ball for 310+ yards in five of their last six games; they’re 3-1 on road, scoring 47 ppg. 7-3 Wildcats are playing Oregon Saturday for the first time since 2014.

7) How will Seattle’s defense be with Richard Sherman out for the season? 5-4 Falcons lost four of last six games (1-5 vs spread); they’re on road for fourth time in last five weeks.

6) Miami Hurricanes have been getting slapped on back all week after whacking Notre Dame last week; now they’re a 19-point favorite over a Virginia team that lost three of its last four games, with all three losses by 17+ points. Hurricanes beat Virginia 27-21/34-14 the last two years.

5) Eagles-Cowboys on Sunday Night Football should be interesting. Key point for me is how the Cowboys protect QB Prescott, who was sacked eight times in Atlanta? Philly had last week off; they went south after their bye last year, but that was in Week 4 after a 3-0 start.

4) Wisconsin is unbeaten; their basketball team lost before the football team. Badgers covered four of last five games with Michigan, are already in Big 14 title game. Underdogs are 7-3 vs spread in last 10 Michigan-Wisconsin games; Wolverines lost last three visits to Madison.

3) The Nathan Peterman era begins for the Bills in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson, CA, home of the Chargers. Buffalo doesn’t think Tyrod Taylor goes thru his progressions quickly enough, so Peterman gets the nod, a year to the day after Jared Goff made his NFL debut in the Coliseum for the Rams.

2) Florida Atlantic scored 47.5 ppg in winning its last six games; underdogs are 7-1 vs spread in last eight FAU-FIU games. Is Lane Kiffin headed to another big time job? This is a rivalry game, with both teams having first-year coaches.

1) Rams-Vikings pits pair of 7-2 teams against each other in a nice warm dome in Minneapolis. Wish the Vikings had a dome back in the 70’s, when the Rams use to regularly lose playoff games in the frozen climate of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here……..

13) UCLA is on the hook for a lot of money, regarding the housing/feeding for a week of the three nitwits who stole stuff in China- they also have to check with the NCAA to make sure that paying for all of that won’t be a violation of NCAA rules, as far as the special benefits rules are concerned.

Next year’s China game is Yale vs Cal; you think those kids will get sick of hearing lectures about how they represent their families, school and country while overseas?

12) If it was my choice, I’d cap Roger Goodell’s salary at $32M a year, $1M from each team. If he can’t live on that and buy health insurance for his family, then go find another bleeping job.

11) Joel Embiid went off Wednesday night— 46 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 7 blocked shots. Quite a performance; 76ers are fun to watch on the NBA League Pass.

10) Speaking of the 76ers, Robert Covington got a 4-year, $62M extension this week; not bad for a guy who playing in the D-League four years ago.

9) Mets said they may restrict most of their starting pitchers to two trips thru the lineup next year, the exceptions being deGrom/Syndegaard.

Two times thru the order is obviously 18 hitters; average pitches per at bat is around 3.9, we’ll round up to 4.0, so that is only 72 pitches per start for starting pitchers 3-5, which is going to put a huge amount of stress on bullpens. Will be an interesting experiment, if they try it.

8) Roy Williams is the first college basketball coach to win 400+ games at two different schools, Kansas and North Carolina.

7) Charleston junior F Jarrell Brantley is out 4-6 weeks wth a knee injury, bad mews for a Cougar squad that was picked to win the CAA this year. Brantley was a first-team CAA pick, so this is a big deal for them……….Rhode Island loses EC Matthews for 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist. This poor guy missed the whole season two years ago with an injury, too.

6) Arkansas fired AD Jeff Long, meaning that football coach Bret Bielema is just about out the door. Boosters want to go after Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, but why would Malzahn leave a better job in the same league?

5) Titans’ tackle Taylor Lewan, on Tennessee’s powder blue uniforms for Thursday’s game:

“When you look at us, it’s pretty self-explanatory – we look like Smurfs. But the Smurf look is solid. I don’t mind it. I think it is a pretty rad deal. Hey, it’s fun to switch it up every once in a while and have those funky uniforms. I think it’s pretty cool, I really do. I think you’ll find some guys love them, and other guys hate them. Personally, I don’t really care too much about what I am wearing during the game, but I do think it’s fun.”

4) Every time I see Grayson Allen play for Duke, I think he is somehow related to Ted Cruz, the guy who ran for President last year. They could easily be father/son, they look that much alike.

3) Celtics 92, Warriors 88- Boston is 14-0 since an 0-2 start, despite Gordon Hayward blowing his ankle out 5:00 into the season. NBA season is a marathon, but this is a remarkable streak Celtics are on, seeing how Kyrie Irving was also hurt during part of the streak.

2) Steelers 40, Titans 17— Mariota threw four INT’s, Steelers had five sacks, outscoring Titans 17-0 in 4th quarter. 19 of Pittsburgh’s 25 first downs came thru the air.

1) So Kevin Durant is upset because the Oklahoma City Thunder gave his old #35 jersey to undrafted rookie P.J. Dozier last month. Let him explain:

“I didn’t have that perspective at first. I didn’t have it when I went back to OKC. I was like, ‘F— all of them. I didn’t have it when they gave my number away. I was, ‘F— all of them.’ My best friend works for the team, I told him, ‘F— all y’all. That’s f—ed up.’ Then I had to get out of my head, tell myself, ‘It’s not that serious, it is what it is.’

“I understand it’s not my number anymore, they can do whatever they want with it, but you hand that number to a two-way player, you’ve got to be, like, ‘Nah, we’ve got too many good memories with this number, man.’ But at some point, that thing’s going to be in the rafters anyway; it’s all good. I did something they didn’t like. They did something I didn’t like. S— happens.”

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

13) UCLA had a news conference Wednesday, with the three geniuses who got caught stealing stuff from Chinese stores last week. Public relations spins at their finest. Kids read statements that were written for them, they were contrite, and it all went well enough.

How long is “indefinite”? When Duke really needed Grayson Allen a couple of years ago, his “indefinite suspension” was one whole game. One of these kids was expected to start, another to be a key guy off the bench. That shouldn’t matter, but fact of the matter is, it probably will.

I’m guessing the three players will be back Dec 19, when the Bruins host South Dakota. UCLA plays Kentucky on Dec 23, then Pac-12 plays the week after that. I’m guessing they’ll want all this BS behind them before conference plays begins.

12) Weasel agent Scott Boras was whining this week because teams like the Mets, Marlins plan on reducing payroll his winter. it does suck for the sport, but it sucks worse for an agent, who rakes in 3% of his client’s salary. Curious to see who Boras suckers into signing Eric Hosmer, the overpriced free agent 1B from Kansas City.

Also curious to see how many of the Marlins’ stars get traded this winter.

11) A’s traded 1B/3B Ryon Healy to the Mariners for a minor league SS and a rookie reliever; Healy figures to play 1B in Seattle. Emergence of Matt Olson in Oakland made Healy expendable.

10) Buffalo Bills will start rookie QB Nathan Peterman Sunday in Carson against the Chargers. Reading on the Interweb, Bills weren’t thrilled with how slowly previous starter Tyrod Taylor was going thru his progressions, causing him to miss some open receivers.

9) Only fifteen major league pitchers threw 200+ innings this past year; as recently as five years ago, 31 pitchers threw 200+ innings.

8) They broke ground on the Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas this week, a stadium that will house the Raiders and UNLV football. I’m saying UNLV moves up to the Big X once they get their fancy new domed stadium, probably with BYU joining them.

7) Davidson Wildcats are 39-86 outside the arc in their first two games; they were an astounding 26-53 on 3-pointers in their opener vs Charleston Southern. Wildcats scored 110-108 points in their first two games; curious to see if they keep playing this fast as their competition improves, and then when conference play starts.

6) In the NFL, forcing an opponent to go 3/out improves your field position and keeps other team’s defense on field longer- here are teams who’ve forced highest %age of 3/outs:
Steelers 38.3%, Cardinals 37.5%, Saints 37.4%, Seahawks 37.1%,

Teams who have forced the lowest %age of 3/outs:
Packers 21.8%, Giants 23.2%, Patriots/Chiefs 24.4%

5) Likewise, avoiding 3/outs on offense takes stress off your defense, improves field position:
Teams with lowest %age of 3/outs:
Steelers 21.3%, Patriots 21.7%, Saints 23.0%, Rams 23.5%

Teams who’ve gone 3/out the most this season:
Colts 41.6%, Titans 39.8%, Raiders 35.9%, Jets 35.7%

4) Seton Hall 84, Indiana 68— Pirates shot 59% inside arc, 9-17 outside arc. Indiana is off to a rough start, also losing to Indiana State at home.

3) Maryland 79, Butler 65— Bulldogs are on their 4th head coach in six seasons, which is weird for a Big East team that usually does well- they’re 38-34 in Big East conference games.

2) Creighton 92, Northwestern 88— If you like good defense, you would’ve switched channels to a different game, but this was entertaining. Bluejays push ball very well. Wildcats’ bench was 0-6 from floor in this game, a red flag.

1) I flip back and forth between college/NBA games a lot and the difference in skill level is drastic; you watch NBA Summer League games in July and you see guys who were really good college players who wind up playing in Europe or the G-League. It is tough to make an NBA roster.

Too many kids leave college for the pros too soon— work on your games, so when you leave for the NBA, you’re ready.

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) Carolina Panthers are on their bye week; injured TE Greg Olsen is going to Minnesota on Sunday to work the Rams-Vikings game on FOX TV. The Vikings aren’t happy about it.

Carolina plays Minnesota in three weeks; Olsen is likely to be playing by then. FOX has said Olsen won’t be in production meetings or meet with the coaches during the week, but he will be in the booth with Kevin Burkhardt-Charles Davis Sunday.

I’m not sure what to think of this; I’d have a bigger problem about a production meeting with Jon Gruden if my team had a Monday night game with Washington, seeing how his brother coaches the Redskins, but no one seems to have an issue with that.

12) The three nitwits from UCLA’s basketball team who got caught stealing from stores in China were sent home Tuesday. Next step is up to UCLA’s administration; how long do these geniuses get suspended for? They embarrassed their families, the school, our country; they’re lucky they aren’t stuck in a Chinese jail for a year to two- it could’ve happened.

11) Duke-Michigan State game Tuesday; five freshman starters, four sophomore starters. Part of why November games are a handicapping minefield- so many players/teams you just don’t know a lot about.

10) Duke’s freshman Marvin Bagley got poked in his eye by a teammate in the first half Tuesday and sat out the rest of the game. I’m thinking the next time we see Bagley play, he’ll be wearing goggles.

9) Kid named Geno Crandall from North Dakota scored 41 points in a game vs Troy over the weekend; he only had four points at halftime— he scored 37 in the second half!!!

8) Bad news for Central Florida’s hoop team; BJ Taylor is out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. He is UCF’s best player.

7) Common sense scored a rare win Tuesday when NC State’s Braxton Beverly was declared eligible by the NCAA. Beverly was taking summer classes at Ohio State when Thad Matta was fired by the Buckeyes- young Beverly then bolted to NC State.

6) So much money goes into scouting in pro sports; then you remember that Jimmer Fredette was taken one spot before Klay Thompson and you realize it is still an inexact science, and always will be.

5) New Mexico is favored  over UNLV in football Saturday, the first time they’ve been favored over the Rebels since 2008. Hard to believe UNLV’s football team has been favored over anyone six times in a row.

4) Washington Nationals hired Chip Hale as their bench coach, bad news for my A’s, who now have to find a new third base coach. I’m not sure why the Nationals didn’t just hire Hale as their manager; they hired Dave Martinez, who has never managed in the big leagues.

3) Milwaukee 74, Iowa State 56— Stunning score from earlier this week; Cyclones are in a total rebuild, but losing by 18 at home to Milwaukee? Oy.

2) How did Joe Girardi get fired as manager in New York, wth no replacement immediately hired? They still haven’t hired anyone— managing a team in New York isn’t an entry-level job.

1) If you think Roger Goodell is overpaid as NFL commish, here are four CEO’s who are also breaking the bank— why do these people make so much money?
a) Thomas Rutledge. Charter Communications $98M in 2016
b) Les Moonves, CBS $68.6M
c) David O’Connor, Madison Square Garden $54M
d) Fabrizio Freda, Estee Lauder $47.7M

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

13) I’m going to rant for a minute or two about ballcarriers who don’t protect the ball near the goal line; instead, they get selfish and try to stretch the ball over the line, so they can score the touchdown, when exposing the ball to contact opens up the possibility of a fumble/touchback.

Happened to Bennie Cunningham in Chicago Sunday; happened to Corey Davis in Nashville and that was just one day. Bears lost by 7 points, by the way. Tennessee won despite Davis’ miscue, but they were losing in the last 2:00. When the Rams lost 16-10 at home to Seattle, Todd Gurley fumbled on the 1-yard line, stretching the ball towards the pylon.

The level of selfishness with this kind of stuff is debatable; scoring TD’s is obviously good, but with lot of incentives in players’ contracts, it behooves the player to score the TD himself rather than set up a fairly easy TD for a teammate on the next play.

It should be about WE, not ME; if that is hokey, so be it.

12) In a related subject, on the Titans’ game Sunday, they showed the list of goals one of the Titan defenders had for this season- nine items. None of them were team-related.

“Make all-pro”, “x number of INTs” “x number of tackles”- nowhere did it say “Help my team make the playoffs” or “Help my defense lead league in points allowed/game”

If I sound like an old guy protecting his lawn, thats fine- football is a team game, and helping the team win (Tennessee is 6-3) should be one of those goals, not just getting your numbers.

11) Mark Schlereth was the analyst on Bengals-Titans Sunday; he does a very good job, has some strong opinions and talks football. Hadn’t heard him work a game before.

In the first half, Tennessee TE Delanie Walker was talking to refs during a TV timeout, telling them about how he was being held. Schlereth says, “He is being respectful, and that will get him a call in the second half.”

Sure enough, Walker drew not one but two defensive holding calls in the 4th quarter.

10) Here is how much NFL teams can change in the course of a half-season; the NFL releases its schedule in April. A month later, Las Vegas puts out spreads on every game, except for the Week 17 games. Back in May, the spread for the Week 10 Texans-Rams game was Houston -3, and that was way before Deshaun Watson became a rookie sensation.

Rams were favored by 12 points Sunday, thats how much Sean McVay has improved the Rams.

9) You watch some of these NFL games, and the GM/owner sit next to each other, which has to be terribly awkward if things aren’t going well.

I mean, if you’re down 31-10, what do you say to the billionaire whose money you’ve used to build this team that is losing 31-10 and maybe has lost three of its last four games?

8) In their last two games, Indianapolis Colts have scored four TD’s, on plays of 45-80-60-61 yards, all very big plays. In those two games, Colts have only been in the red zone once.

7) In their last two games, Houston has been in the red zone five times, and hasn’t scored a point, which seems almost impossible. Hard to believe the Texans won’t try TJ Yates under center this week against Arizona— maybe he could spark an offense that has good receivers.

6) Underrated movie: “One More Time” with Christopher Walken playing an aging singer who makes a comeback. It was made in 2015, is worth your time if you’re a Walken fan.

5) Dodgers-Padres will play three games in Mexico next season

4) Missouri’s highly-touted freshman Michael Porter Jr is a vegetarian; I’m not sure if thats a good idea for a young man trying to make the NBA. Young Mr Porter should still be a senior in high school, but they accelerated his college career so he could cash in on the NBA’s big bucks a year earlier than otherwise. He only played 2:00 in Mizzou’s opener; he has a bad back.

3) Tennessee fired football coach Butch Jones, who then apparently got four Tennessee recruits to flip their commitment away from the Volunteers, hoping to land the kids at whereever his next stop might be. Recruiting is a cut-throat, competitive business; Jones is a good recruiter but a lousy game coach. Will be curious to see where he lands next.

2) NFL’s catch rule lacks common sense; this is what the rule should be— “A catch is when a receiver has complete control of the ball and gets two feet inbounds” thats it- this “going to the ground” BS just lacks basic common sense, and creates calls that are just plain wrong.

1) Bill Walton was on the mike at the basketball game from China Friday night; every time I hear Walton’s voice now I think of my late friend Joe, who passed away recently at a much too young age.

When Joe and I worked together, I’d duck into his office and we would laugh about stuff Walton had said the night before, ro talk about life in general. After I retired, we still texted a lot about basketball, but then Joe became ill and left us much too soon. He loved his children and he enjoyed basketball and being a referee and he was just a good guy who is missed now.

Monday’s List of 13: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Vikings 38, Redskins 30— Minnesota won its last five games, covered its last four; Case Keenum was 21-29/304 passing with four TD’s. Keenum played for the Rams LY; LA was 4-5 in his starts before Jared Goff became the starter— Goff and the Rams visit the Twin Cities next Sunday.

Jaguars 20, Chargers 17 OT— If you had the Chargers +3.5, take a big sigh of relief; LA had ball in last 2:00, up 17-14- they fumbled and Jaguars ran ball back for an apparent TD, but replay said the defender was down when he picked the ball up, so the TD was nullified, Jax kicked a FG and the game went to overtime.

Chargers have four losses by 3 or less points; they had 15 drives in this game, ran 67 plays, but never got into the red zone- they were only 3-15 on 3rd down.

Seahawks 22, Cardinals 16— When Russell Wilson gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, they’ll show the 54-yard pass he completed to Doug Baldwin in the 4th quarter of this game, after a scramble that looked a lot like Fran Tarkenton in his early Viking days.

Arizona QB Stanton sprained his knee, may miss next week’s game, which could mean a QB showdown between Blaine Gabbert/TJ Yates. Seahawks were penalized 12 more times for 108 yards, but did enough to stay a game behind the Rams in the NFC West.

Saints 47, Bills 10— New Orleans ran ball for 298 yards, had 32 first downs, also had an 18-yard edge in field position as they won their 7th straight game. Saints allowed 17 or less points in six of last seven games, and in the 7th game, their defense SCORED three TD’s, vs Detroit.

Saints became the first team since 1941 to run for six touchdowns and not punt in that game.

Packers 23, Bears 16— Worst replay challenge ever?  In 2nd quarter, Bears would’ve had a first down around the Green Bay 2-yard line, but they challenged that the ball carrier had scored a TD, when in fact, he fumbled and the correct call was a touchback. Whoops.

Hundley wins his first NFL road start but also tweaked his hamstring- they play Baltimore next.

Titans 24, Bengals 20— Tennessee outgained Bengals 416-308, as once again Cincy ran only 50 plays- they’ve run 87 plays total the last two games.

Score should’ve been more one-sided; Titan WR Matthews dropped a sure TD in 2nd quarter, followed by Succop having his streak of 56 consecutive FG’s under 50 yards end with a miss. Later on, rookie WR Davis fumbled on the 1-yard line for a touchback when the Titans were threatening to pull away for good. Bengals aren’t a good team.

Buccaneers 15, Jets 10— Tampa Bay had a 17-yard edge in field position, as Fitzpatrick beat the team he started for the last two years. Jets still haven’t trailed at halftime since Week 2, but they are 4-6 heading into their bye week. Jets were held to 3 or 7 2nd half points in four of their last five games.

Steelers 20, Colts 17— Indy scored two TD’s, on 60-61 yard pass plays; they led 10-3 at half but let this slip away at end. Steelers tied game with a 10-yard TD drive after an INT, then won game with a FG at the gun. Pittsburgh won its last four games, three by 6 or less points. Four of last six TD’s Steelers allowed came on plays of 57+ yards.

Lions 38, Browns 24— Cleveland led 10-0 early, then 24-17 with 2:23 left in 3rd quarter, but if you took the Browns +13:
a) Don’t bet on the Browns and…….
b) they didn’t cover the spread, despite outgaining Lions 413-345.

Right now, Cleveland has the #1 pick and the Giants #2 pick— will they both take QB’s? Will Giants trade Eli Manning to Denver or Jacksonville?

Rams 33, Texans 7— Houston turned ball over four times (-4), once in red zone when Texans led 7-6 just before halftime. From that point on, it was all Rams, who gained 205 yards in the third quarter and dominated the second half.

Houston won’t make the playoffs this year, but if Deshaun Watson rehabs well, they’re going to be very optimistic about 2018. As for the rest of this year, wouldn’t be surprised if TJ Yates gets the nod under center for their next game, against Arizona.

Falcons 27, Cowboys 7— Atlanta sacked Dak Prescott eight times; turns out Ezekiel Elliott’s absence wasn’t the big deal Sunday, it was LT Tyron Smith- his replacement allowed six of the eight sacks. Cowboys’ only TD drive was 21 yards. Both teams are now 5-4 and Elliott is out for another five games- could be that neither one of these teams makes the playoffs.

49ers 31, Giants 21— Three of SF’s four TD’s came on plays of 33+ yards; only 2 of their 13 TD’s coming into this game were on plays of 20+ yards. 49ers were 8-12 on third down- they gained 474 yards, averaged 11.5 yards/pass attempt.

At this point, you wonder if Giant ownership has begun the search for a new coach/GM, and if so, how far along are they in the process. Losing this game puts the Giants ahead of SF on the draft list for next April; they’d have the #2 pick behind Cleveland right now.

Patriots 41, Broncos 16— Has a special teams coach ever been fired at halftime of a game? In the first 19:40 Sunday night, Denver lost a fumbled punt, had a punt blocked and allowed a TD on a kick return. In the second half, they had 12 men on the field for a punt, giving New England a first down. No bueno.

Sunday was Al Michaels’ 73rd birthday; I hope I’m as sharp as he is when I’m 73.

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

13) Auburn 40, Georgia 17— Tigers outgained Georgia 488-230, handed Dawgs their first loss of the year in convincing style. Georgia can still get to the playoff by winning the SEC title game. Auburn’s win here makes the Iron Bowl very interesting.

12) Alabama 31, Mississippi State 24— This was a really good game; Crimson Tide scored a TD with 0:25 left for the win. Bulldogs played their hearts out, but didn’t have enough. Alabama averaged 12.7 yards per pass attempt.

11) Upsets of the Week:
South Alabama (+11.5) 24, Arkansas State 19
North Carolina (+9.5) 34, Pittsburgh 31
Old Dominion (+9) 37, FIU 30
UAV (+7) 24, Tex-San Antonio 19
Stanford (+5.5) 30, Washington 22

10) Miami 41, Notre Dame 8— You could almost hear Michael Irvin cackling as he watched this beatdown. Game was 27-0 at the half; Miami forced 4+ turnovers for the 4th game in a row, first team to do that since Rutgers in 2011.

9) Oklahoma State 49, Iowa State 42— Cowboys play interesting games; they lost 62-52 last week at Oklahoma; they fell behind 14-0 early here, but they gained 522 yards and picked off a pass in the end zone in the last few seconds to preserve the win.

8) Clemson 31, Florida State 14— Seminoles are 3-6; they play a I-AA team next week, then go to Florida. They also re-scheduled the UL-Monroe game for Dec 2, hoping they win the Florida game— a 6-6 finish would put them in a bowl game- they need the extra practices for next year.

7) Washington State 33, Utah 25— Utes turned ball over seven times (four INTs, three fumbles) yet somehow only lost by 8 points. Wazzu converted 10-21 on third down, but ran ball for only 27 yards on 17 carries.

6) Northwestern 23, Purdue 13— Solid win/cover for Wildcats, who won the previous three games, all in overtime. Northwestern is 7-3, a very shaky 7-3, but 7-3 nonetheless.

5) Oklahoma 38, TCU 20— Surprisingly easy win for the Sooners; it was 38-14 at halftime. Looks like Baker Mayfield will win the Heisman Trophy, since most writers don’t stay up late enough to watch Stanford games.

I’m still trying to figure out why Mayfield never got a scholarship at Texas Tech— pretty good player.

4) South Carolina 28, Florida 20— Gamecocks are 7-3— they’re 5-1 in games decided by 8 or less points. Jake Bentley threw three picks in this game, but did just enough for Carolina to beat the Gators, who have lost five straight games and are coach-hunting as we speak.

3) Boise State 59, Colorado State 52 OT— Horrific loss for Rams, who are now 0-7 vs Boise- they led this game 28-3 in 2nd quarter, 35-17 at half.  Game ended around 2:55am here in the east.

Both teams had 33 first downs. Colorado State is only 6-5, losing their last three games.

2) Wyoming 28, Air Force 14- Wyoming led this game 21-0 in second quarter, then started jerking around with trick plays, flea-flickers and all. On one of the trick plays, star QB Josh Allen took a shot on his throwing shoulder and got hurt- he threw one pass in the third quarter and look himself out, effectively ending Wyoming’s season.

1) Wake Forest 64, Syracuse 43— Deacons trailed 38-24 at halftime, then outscored the hosts 40-5 in the second half, and became bowl eligible. Dave Clawson could easily get on the short list for the Tennessee head coaching job; he used to be OC in Knoxville.

Saturday’s List of 13: Wrapping up Opening Night in college basketball

13) Indiana State 90, Indiana 69— Sycamores made 17-26 (17-26!!!) behind the arc, getting the Archie Miller era off to a very rough start in Bloomington. Shooting is marketable; if you’re a kid who wants to play ball in college, work your butt off on becoming a great shooter.

12) Texas A&M 88, West Virginia 65— Aggies had their PG and their best player sitting out this game, they trailed by 13 early, but West Virginia struggles to score in half-court offense, and they’re not as deep as the past couple years, so they can’t press as much as they have.

Takeaway from this game; Texas A&M is a top 10 team.

11) Upsets of the Night:
Indiana State (+14.5) 90, Indiana 69
Cal-Riverside (+13.5) 74, California 66
Long Beach State (+13) 83, San Francisco 71
Delaware (+10) 76, Richmond 63
Georgia Southern (+9.5) 85, Wake Forest 83
Niagara (+9) 77, St Bonaventure 75
Miami, OH (+9) 55, Fordham 54

10) Missouri 74, Iowa State 59— Tigers got a huge influx of talent, are an NCAA-caliber team, which has invigorated fan support on campus- this was their first home sellout in four years. Iowa State is in rebuilding mode; they got spanked pretty good here.

Missouri’s highly-touted freshman Michael Porter Jr played only 2 minutes after tweaking a hip injury— he is a kid who is in college a year early, so he can get to the NBA and start earning the big bucks a year earlier than otherwise. Missouri hired his dad as an assistant coach- his brother is a player on the team, too.

9) Charleston 68, Siena 60 OT— Cougars have all five starters back, are expected to win CAA; Saints are in a near total rebuild, so closeness of this game was a surprise.

8) Lamar 74, Tulsa 67— Score one for the Southland Conference; Lamar played only 8 guys, but had 14 offensive boards. AAC is improved with addition of Wichita State; could be a long year for the Golden Hurricane.

7) Kentucky 73, Utah Valley 63— Utah Valley led this game by 9 at the half, but Wildcats didn’t shoot 7-32 in the 2nd half, the way they did in the first half.

WAC’s Wolverines play Duke Saturday afternoon, so a rough 24 hours on the basketball court, an excellent 24 hours for the school’s accountants.

Utah Valley is picked to finish 3rd in an improving WAC- they could be a Cinderella team in March- they’re also the first team in at least 68 years to begin a season with road games at a pair of opponents ranked in the top 5 nationally.

6) Off-court news: BYU’s Nick Emery has withdrawn from school; he will not play for this season, which is VERY bad news for the Cougars.

5) VCU 94, Grambling 65— VCU is a prime mid-major job; this game was the Rams’ 100th home sellout in a row. Coaches still jump from VCU to the bigger money jobs, though not sure its a wise move. Wonder if Shaka Smart regrets leaving VCU to go to Texas?

4) South Carolina 73, Wofford 52— Credit to Frank Martin- he went to Wofford for this game, and Terriers sold their gym out. Not lot of Power 5 teams would take on a true road game like this one, against an in-state upstart.

3) Washington 86, Belmont 82— OVC’s Bruins were up 8 at the half, but Huskies’ freshman Nowell scored 32 points to bail the home team out.

2) Bad Beat of the Night: Marshall 102, Tenn-Martin (+8.5) 91, in OT— Skyhawks were up 15 at halftime, and still didn’t cover- ouch.

Runner-up was Omaha (+8.5) losing 89-80 in OT at Montana State.

1) UCLA 63, Georgia Tech 60— Bruins never scored fewer than 74 points in a game LY, when Lonzo Ball was their point guard. I’m guessing Steve Alford will be just as happy to get back to this country and resume normal life.

Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here…….

13) I’m tired of writing about lawyers; Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension finally kicks in this week- he is out for the Cowboys’ next six games, which are against:


Dallas is 5-3, currently tied for the second Wild Card spot in the NFC.

12) Interesting article on Thursday about North Carolina’s Theo Pinson, a senior who is the only top 15 recruit from the Class of 2014 who is still in college.

12 of the other 14 went to the NBA one year after graduating high school; one other played two years of college, another played three years of college.

11) Baseball’s offseason will be fascinating, but what I don’t want to read are articles where the author guesses what will happen. Let us know when real news occurs.

10) 149 ballplayers became free agents this week; they don’t have to file for free agency anymore. Players can start negotiating with other teams next week; they can negotiate with the current team from now until Tuesday.

9) Jeff Van Gundy was saying on ESPN the other night that NBA games are being officiated much better this season than in previous years. Interesting comment- the flow of games is a lot better, this I know from watching games on League Pass every night.

8) Free agent OF Jay Bruce will be asking for a 5-year deal in the $80-90M range; sounds like agent Scott Boras might ask for a $200M deal for free agent OF JD Martinez.

7) Lonzo Ball is struggling with his shooting; he is 11-47 outside the arc (23.4%), 24-70 inside the arc (34.3%), 7-13 on the foul line. Not good.

Ball shot 41.2% behind the (college) arc last year at UCLA, he shot 67.3% on the foul line. Still think he’s going to be a very good NBA player, but the shooting does need to improve.

6) Duke’s pre-conference schedule is a little shaky; they play Michigan State in Chicago, and they go to Indiana in the ACC/Big 14 Challenge, but other than that, here is who they play:

Elon-Utah Valley-Michigan State-Southern-Furman-Portland St-Indiana-South Dakota, St Francis, not exactly a murderer’s row of a pre-conference schedule.

5) The night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962, former Golden State coach Al Attles scored 17 points, the next-highest amount for the Warriors. Attles is 81 years old now and was at the Minnesota-Golden State game in Oakland Wednesday.

4) Sounds like the Bulls will likely choose Bobby Portis over Nikola Mirotic when it comes to getting rid of one of the two players who got into a fight in practice, which resulted in Mirotic breaking his cheekbone. Problem is, Bulls can’t trade Mirotic until Jan 15, and he is expected to be ready to play before then, so much like Eric Bledsoe with the Suns, Mirotic is likely to sit idle for a while after he is healthy, until he can be traded.

3) Wisconsin’s leading WR, Quintez Cephus is done for the season with a right leg injury. Cephus has caught 30 passes for 501 yards and six touchdowns this season.

2) Seahawks 22, Cardinals 16– Arizona scored TD in last 2:00 but PAT was blocked, so spread pushed. Seattle is now 6-3 and half-game behind Rams in NFC West. Cardinals are 4-5 and in deep trouble with an aging roster- they have 11 players who are older than Rams’ coach Sean McVay.

1) RIP to the great actor John Hillerman 84, who passed away Thursday in Houston. The son of a gas station owner, Hillerman appeared in movies like Chinatown and Blazing Saddles, but is best known for playing Jonathan Higgins, major domo of the estate in Magnum, PI. He was nominated for four Emmy awards for playing Higgins— he won one in 1987.

RIP, sir.

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

13) Funny/not funny story of the day:

A Qatar Airways pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after a passenger found out her husband was cheating on her, leading to a violent reaction in midair; the woman reportedly used her sleeping husband’s finger to unlock his phone and discovered his cheating ways.

Officials say she started fighting with her husband, and also fought with crew members who tried to calm her down.

The flight was forced to land in India on the way to Bali; the woman and her family members were escorted off the plane there.

Morals of this story:
a) Don’t cheat on your spouse.
b) Don’t leave your cellphone within reach of your spouse, especially if you’re cheating.

12) Here is a breakdown of where major league ballplayers come from; players used here are from 2017 Opening Day rosters:
4-year colleges: 43.8%
International: 26.5%
High school: 23.9%
2-year colleges: 5.8%

11) Coming into this year, in five NBA seasons, Detroit’s Andre Drummond was 683-1,793 (38.1%) on the foul line— really bad.

So far this year, Drummond is 30-47 (63.8%) on the charity stripe.  I applaud his hard work in the offseason to strengthen his game, but after I added this, he went 0-7 on the line Wednesday against the Pacers, so it is an ongoing struggle.

10) Sounds like Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl is on the way out; one of his assistants (Chuck Person) just got fired because of SneakerGate, and Pearl isn’t cooperating with the school’s internal investigation. That not good.

9) I’m wondering how much Dak Prescott’s success in the NFL helps Mississippi State when they recruit young quarterbacks?

8) DeShaun Watson’s injury figures to help the Cleveland Browns, since they have the Texans’ first-round draft pick in April. Now all Cleveland needs is someone in charge who has a clue on how to draft productive players.

7) Vikings activated QB Teddy Bridgewater and put Sam Bradford on IR; both those guys’ contracts are up after the season, so Minnesota has some decisions to make, especially since they’re 6-2 and Case Keenum has been playing well for them.

6) Our country does a census every ten years; so, you know, everyone knows how many people live here. Apparently the 2020 census will cost $15.6B, which seems a little excessive, but that is just me.

5) Royals manager Ned Yost, 63, broke his pelvis recently when he fell while trying to fix a tree stand on his property in Georgia.

4) Joe Buck has a good interview show called Undeniable, on the Audience Network (channel 500 on DirecTV); he has had an interesting cross-section of guests, but why in God’s name would he have Robert M Knight on as a guest? Knight is a bully, a creep; he was a really good coach at one time, but that time has passed. Now he adds nothing but negative energy.

3) Minnesota’s Taj Gibson is the first NBA player EVER to wear number 67; turns out he went to PS 67 in Brooklyn. Used to be in high school, no digits above 5 could be on a uniform, to make it easier for refs to signal fouls to the scorer’s table.

2) How many college basketball coaches spent time at Wednesday preaching to their teams about how they represent their families, their friends, their school whenever they go on a road trip?

Three UCLA kids are stuck in China now after they got caught shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store. There is no “easy out” for athletes there— this is a foreign country that isn’t real fond of America- they have their own laws, and they’re tougher laws than we have here.

1) Never thought I’d spend an hour in the middle of the night reading up on Chinese law, but that was me at 3am Tuesday night, trying to learn more about the situation the UCLA kids are in. I’m pretty sure Bill Walton is on the mike for UCLA-Georgia Tech game Friday night from China; he is pretty much unfiltered all the time, and he is obviously a UCLA alum, so this broadcast could be interesting, to say the least.