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

— So far this offseason, 30 college football teams have changed head coaches, the most in the last 12 years.

Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott quit this week to become the tight ends’ coach at South Carolina, on the surface an odd move; he led the Panthers to five bowl games in seven seasons, winning four of them.

This situation seems to be unique; Elliott’s family still lives in Columbia, SC from his previous job with the Gamecocks (2010-16), and apparently he promised his daughter that he would be there for her senior year of high school, which is this coming year.

— In the NBA, Memphis Grizzlies-Houston Rockets have made 16 trades with each other over the last 29 years, making them the most frequent trade partners in the league.

— Wednesday night in San Francisco, Detroit Pistons F Isaiah Stewart was arrested after a scuffle with Phoenix Suns’ Drew Eubanks that happened before the game. The two men were separated by police; the investigation is ongoing as to what actually happened.

— So far this season, BYU’s basketball team has taken 774 3-point shots (36%), 762 2-point shots (58.4%). Very unusual for a team to take more 3’s than 2’s for a whole season, but BYU has the #13 eFG% in the country, plus they’re 18-6, 6-5 in the Big X, so it is working for them.

— The last four years, DePaul’s basketball team is a combined 33-84, 11-53 in Big East games; last time the Blue Demons had a winning season in conference play? 

Try 2007, when Jerry Wainwright was the coach; DePaul hasn’t made the NCAA’s since 2004. Isn’t Chicago supposed to be a high school basketball hotbed? Why are they always so bad?

— Thursday night in Brooklyn, Fairleigh Dickinson’s basketball team got stuck in an elevator before their game at LIU; FDU wound up winning 84-82 in overtime, but not before they were stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes, with the lights out. 

Baseball Note of the Day: Baltimore Orioles already have injury issues:
P Kyle Bradish (elbow strain) is on the IL
3B Gunnar Henderson (oblique)
P John Means (elbow) is behind in his recovery from a previous injury
Rookie C Samuel Basallo (stress fracture in elbow) is also going to the IL

Movie of the Day: Runaway Jury (2003)- A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer.

Excellent cast: John Cusack is a corrupt juror, Gene Hackman works for the plaintiff’s lawyers as a consultant, Dustin Hoffman is the winning lawyer, Bruce McGill is the lawyer.

John Grisham wrote the book this movie is based on; Brian Koppelman/David Levien wrote the screenplay- they’ve also written Rounders, Billions.

— North Texas 76, Memphis 66
Mean Green made 16 of 28 shots on the arc.
Jason Edwards was 1-7 inside the arc, 7-9 outside the arc.
Memphis is 3-5 in last eight games, after a 15-2 start.

— Purdue 84, Minnesota 76
Zach Edey had 24 points, 15 rebounds.
Golden Gophers led 43-35 at halftime.
Minnesota covered its last seven games, is 11-2 ATS in Big 14 games.

— UCLA 64, Colorado 60
UCLA was +9 in turnovers (14-5).
Bruins have won 8 of last 9 games, after a 6-10 start.

— Drexel 79, Hofstra 77
Hofstra led by 13 in first half, scored 1.20 points/possession, but still lost.
Drexel starts four seniors; they’re 9-4 in the CAA.

— Middle Tennessee 76, New Mexico State 69
Aggies led 44-27 early in second half.
Blue Raiders were 19-23 on foul line, New Mexico State 6-11.

— Tarleton State 80, Texas-Arlington 78
Tarleton shot 61.3% inside the arc.
Texans have won six in row, are 11-3 in the WAC.

— It is February 16, and already, three guys on my fantasy baseball team are on the injured list. Season doesn’t start for six weeks!!! No bueno.

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

— San Francisco 49ers fired defensive coordinator Steve Wilks Wednesday, three days after the 49ers lost the Super Bowl in overtime. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had said Tuesday that he expected all of his coaches to be back next year, which tells you it wasn’t his decision to fire Wilks.

49ers were #8 in NFL in yardage allowed this year, #3 in points allowed; obviously they won a lot of games, damn near won the Super Bowl. Surprising to see a coordinator from a very good team get fired.

— Ohio State is 9-25 in its last 34 conference games; they fired basketball coach Chris Holtmann Wednesday. Holtmann was in his 7th year at Ohio State; his team made four of last five NCAA Tournaments, but only went 4-5 in those events.

Buckeyes have to pay Holtmann $12.5M to go away.

— One of the quirks of the college basketball season is that bubble teams need the teams they beat to do really well, so their wins look better to the Selection Committee.

For example, Gonzaga is a bubble team right now; they beat Kentucky, so they need the Wildcats to finish strong, so that win impresses people next month.

— Why are Central Florida and BYU in the same league? Teams played Tuesday night in Provo; according to MapQuest, the schools are 2,324 miles apart. It is nonsensical for these schools to be in the same league, not to mention very expensive.

— JJ Redick is replacing Doc Rivers on ESPN’s NBA broadcast team, after Rivers left three months into his first season of a 3-year contract to return to coaching with the Milwaukee Bucks.

— Retired P Adam Wainwright is going to work games for both MLB Network and FS1 this coming season, after an excellent 18-year career on the mound. 

Baseball Note of the Day: Michael Wacha is pitching for Kansas City this season, his 6th team in the last six seasons; he’s done really well the last two years, but he keeps moving around.

Word of the Day: Prognosticate- predicting the outcome of a future event.

— Detroit 81, IUPUI 66
Detroit was favored by 5.5 points, despite being 0-26 coming into the game.
Detroit only played seven guys; four of them are seniors. Not much hope for the future.

— Auburn 101, South Carolina 61
Auburn shot 61% inside arc, 12-20 on the arc.
Auburn is 6-0 SU/ATS in SEC home games.
Loss ends South Carolina’s 7-game winning streak.

— Michigan State 80, Penn State 72
Malik Hall scored 29 points, had 10 rebounds.
Penn State made 12-23 on the arc, still got beat at home.

— Milwaukee 71, Cleveland State 68
Panthers won despite being minus-11 (19-8) in turnovers.
Cleveland State led by 11 points late in first half.

— UMass 69, Richmond 59
UMass held Richmond to 33.3% from the floor.
Only second loss in last 14 games for the Spiders.

— Northern Kentucky 58, Green Bay 57
Loss ends Green Bay’s 5-game winning streak.
Teams combined to shoot 13-54 on the arc.
Green Bay is 12-4 in the Horizon, but NKU swept their two meetings.

— Wednesday was supposed to be a really happy day in Kansas City, with a parade to honor the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Instead, a person was murdered, and 21 others injured, 11 of them children, in this country’s 48th mass shooting in the first 45 days of 2024.

The people who make the laws in this country suck at their jobs, to allow things like this to keep happening. 11 kids got shot Wednesday!!! at a freakin’ parade……..horrendous.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— This is the age of transfers in college sports; of the top 20 scorers in the Big 6 conferences, 14 of them started their college careers at another school.

— When I was in high school, I took Spanish for three years, but apparently, I didn’t maintain a lot of the stuff I learned. Was watching the Caribbean World Series on ESPN+ last week- they broadcast it in Spanish. Couldn’t understand a freakin’ thing they said, except that izquierda is left. At least they had good graphics, so it was easy to follow what was going on.

— Total of $185.6M was wagered in Nevada on the Super Bowl this year, beating the previous record by $6M. Sportsbooks posted a profit of $6.8M on the game.

This year’s Super Bowl was also the most-watched TV show ever.

— Orlando Magic retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number 32 Tuesday night; O’Neal played the first four years of his career for the Magic- they went 208-120 in regular season with Shaq, losing 4-0 in the 1995 NBA Finals, to Houston.

— Two things I’m curious about:
How much $$$ does Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter make?

How much $$$ did Christopher Walken get for that BMW commercial during the Super Bowl?

— Since 2018, major league teams who spent the most draft bonus $$$ on pitchers:
Royals, Pirates, Rangers

Since 2018, major league teams who spent the least draft bonus $$$ on pitchers:
Red Sox, Astros, A’s

— San Francisco Giants signed OF Jorge Soler for three years, $42M. Soler hit 36 homers for Miami last year, had an .853 OPS.

Baseball Note of the Day: There were 16 times last year when a player had 7 plate appearances in one game; Jose Altuve is the only guy who had two of those.

Word of the Day: Callous- someone who does not feel or show any concern about the problems or suffering of other people.

— Syracuse 86, North Carolina 79
Tar Heels have now lost three of their last five games, after a 10-0 run.
Syracuse shot 71% inside the arc.
Three players in this game played all 40:00.

— Illinois State 80, Indiana State 67
Sycamores get in top 25 for first time since 1979, then lose as 17-point favorites.
Indiana State had won 10 games in row; they still lead MVC by a game.

— San Diego State 71, Colorado State 55
Colorado State led 44-30 at half; they got outscored 41-11 in 2nd half.
Aztecs are 5-1 ATS as a Mountain West home favorite.
Bill Vinovich was a ref in this game; he was the referee in Super Bowl Sunday,

— Pitt 74, Virginia 63
Panthers made 14-32 shots on the arc.
Loss snaps Virginia’s 8-game winning streak.

— Kentucky 75, Ole Miss 63
Kentucky snaps their 3-game home losing streak.
Wildcats played nine guys 13:00+; unusual depth for this era.

— Baylor 79, Oklahoma 62
Jayden Nunn scored 27 points, on only 12 shots from floor.
Baylor made 11-21 shots on the arc.

— Drake 78, Evansville 75
Atin Wright banked in a 40-foot runner at the buzzer for the win.
Drake made 13-27 on arc; they’re 21-5, 12-3 in the Valley. 

— New Mexico 83, Nevada 82
Lobos outscored Nevada 6-2 over the final 1:43.
New Mexico led this game 45-35 at halftime.
Both teams scored over 1.2 points/possession. 

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

— If you want to bet on next year’s Super Bowl, the AFC team is -1, with a total of 48.5. 

Next year’s Super Bowl is in New Orleans, the 11th Super Bowl on Bourbon Street.

— Patrick Mahomes is 3-1 in Super Bowls; Chiefs trailed by 10+ points in all four games.

— San Francisco 49ers have now been in the postseason six times since 2012; all six times, 49ers went WWL in the playoffs.

Was little surprised to read that the 49ers’ players didn’t know the new overtime rules for the playoffs; Kansas City’s players had gone thru the new rules during training camp.

— Dallas Cowboys are hiring Mike Zimmer as their new (old?) defensive coordinator; Zimmer was the Cowboys’ DC from 2000-06. He was the Vikings’ head coach from 2014-21. 

— Pittsburgh Steelers told QB Mitch Trubisky to take a hike, saving them $3M on next year’s salary cap, leaving Kenny Pickett as the only QB on their roster, fueling speculation that they might trade with Chicago for Justin Fields.

— UCLA hired Deshaun Foster as its new football coach; he had just taken a job as running backs coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. Foster played at UCLA, then played seven years in the NFL, before working the last 10 years as an assistant with the Bruins; he’ll help as far as keeping the current roster intact. 

Baseball Note of the Day: Pittsburgh Pirates signed C Yasmani Grandal for one year, $2.5M.

Word of the Day: Prescient- having knowledge of things or events before they exist or happen. A good handicapper needs to be prescient.

Tennessee Vols are 17-6 this season, 7-3 in the SEC; last 3.5 years, Tennessee is 87-34, 42-21 in SEC games. 

Rick Barnes has been a college head coach since 1987. Here is some of his March resume:

15-12 SU in first round games, 8-18-1 ATS. 8-18-1 es no bueno.
8-7 SU in second round (7-8 ATS)

3-5 in Sweet 16 games (3-5 ATS)
1-2 in Elite 8 games, 0-1 in national semifinals (2003, with Texas)

Breaking down his first round record, Barnes is 7-0 SU if a #3-seed or better, 8-12 if he isn’t.
Overall, he is 15-28-1 ATS as an NCAA Tournament favorite, 4-6 as an underdog.

— Indiana State is in the top 25 this week, for the first time since 1979, when Larry Bird played there.

— Duke 77, Wake Forest 69
Duke shot 63.3% inside the arc.
Teams combined to shoot 13-51 on the arc.
Duke has won 14 of its last 16 games.

— Texas Tech 79, Kansas 50
Tech was 10-26 on the arc, Kansas 3-16.
Jayhawks are 1-5 in Big X road games.
Kansas coach Self got ejected with about 6:00 left. 

— Charlotte 49ers named Aaron Fearne their full-time basketball coach, taking the interim tag off his title. Fearne was hired as interim coach last June, when Ron Sanchez quit as head coach to become an assistant at Virginia.

Charlotte is 15-8 this year, 9-2 in the AAC. Fearne has been at Charlotte for five years, after spending 17 years with the Cairns Taipans of the Australian Basketball League.

— A basketball hoop is exactly two basketballs wide.

— Only three weeks until the first college basketball conference tournament gets started.

— Spring training starts this week; never a bad thing. 

— There are two outdoor hockey games at Giants Stadium in New Jersey this weekend; Devils play Philadelphia Saturday night, Rangers-Islanders play Sunday afternoon.

— Monday was Abraham Lincoln’s 214th birthday; always enjoyed February 12 when I was working, since it was a day off. Happy birthday, sir. 

Monday’s Den: Super Bowl knowledge and other stuff…….

Chiefs 25, 49ers 22, OT
Second overtime game in Super Bowl history; Kyle Shanahan was the OC for Atlanta in the other overtime game, when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead and lost to New England.

Chiefs’ first four drives: 15 plays, 89 yards, no points.
Chiefs’ last four drives: 37 plays, 224 yards, 15 points.

Chiefs are first team in 20 years to win back/back Super Bowls.

49ers were 0-6 this season when they scored less than 24 points.

Chiefs were 9-19 on third down, San Francisco 3-12.

Over the last 23 Super Bowls, #1-seeds are 2-10 when playing an opponent who wasn’t a #1-seed.

Mahomes threw for 333 yards, ran for 66 more; he is 89-25 SU as an NFL starter, 15-3 in playoff games.

AFC won seven of the last ten Super Bowls.

Underdogs are 9-4 ATS in last 13 Super Bowls.

This was the 15th Super Bowl with a scoreless first quarter.

There has never been a punt returned for a TD in a Super Bowl.

49ers’ WR Jauan Jennings joins Nick Foles as the only two players with a TD pass and a TD catch in a Super Bowl.

Word of the Day: Pinnacle- the most successful point, the highest point of a person’s career.

Not to be confused with pinochle, a card game for 2+ players using a 48-card deck.

— Seattle Seahawks are hiring Ryan Grubb as their offensive coordinator; he was supposed to have that job at Alabama next season, but now that isn’t happening. Grubb is expected to being offensive line coach Scott Huff with him from Tuscaloosa.

— Tom Brady is expected to own 7% of the Las Vegas Raiders fairly soon; my calculator tells me that his share of the team will be worth $406M.

Baseball Note of the Day: Tampa Bay Rays signed manager Kevin Cash, MLB’s longest-tenured manager, to a contract extension. Cash is 754-636 managing the small-market Rays, going 15-19 in playoff games.

Movie of the Day: The Rainmaker (1997)- An underdog lawyer takes on a fraudulent insurance company; Matt Damon is the lawyer, Danny DeVito also works for the firm. Jon Voight is the opposing lawyer in a wrongful death suit; Danny Glover is the judge.

John Grisham is a great story teller; this movie is no exception.

— Here are the 11 Big East teams, and their national rankings, as far as the %age of their points they get on the foul line. Apparently there aren’t a lot of fouls called in Big East games. 

#85- DePaul
#88- Georgetown (#333 on 2-point shots)
#143- Seton Hall
#157- Xavier
#190- Villanova
#209- UConn
#214- Butler
#224- Providence
#300- St John’s
#345- Marquette
#347- Creighton (there are 362 teams in Division I)

Weird thing is, top two teams on the list are the two worst teams in the league.

— Georgia Tech has beaten both Duke/North Carolina in ACC games this season, but despite that, Yellow Jackets are 3-10 in the ACC- they beat Clemson in a double overtime game.

— Creighton is 4-1 ATS as a Big East road favorite; they’re 0-6 ATS as a home favorite.

— In his last five games, Virginia senior Jake Groves is 16-22 on 3-point shots.

— 17 of the top 25 teams in last week’s college basketball poll lost this week.

— Clemson G Joe Girard played in 125 games in his four years at Syracuse; had to be weird for him when the Tigers visited the Carrier Dome Saturday. Girard scored 18 points in Clemson’s 77-68 win Saturday.

This season, Girard is making 43.9% of his 3-point shots; Clemson is 16-7 and is likely headed to the NCAA’s for the first time since 2017, and third time since 2012.

— Referee Doug Shows’ itinerary so far this month:
2/1- Appalachian State @ Georgia State
2/2- St Bonaventure @ Dayton
2/3- Tennessee @ Kentucky
2/4- UAB @ Southern Methodist

2/6- Ole Miss @ South Carolina
2/7- Alabama @ Auburn
2/10- Mississippi State @ Missouri
2/11- UAB @ Tulsa

Shows worked eight games in the first 11 days of February; he’s in his 50’s. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

— Gonzaga 89, Kentucky 85
Kentucky has lost 3 in row at home, for first time since 1966.
Wildcats led by 6, with 12:30 left in game.
Zags shot 56% inside arc; this is a huge win for their NCAA resume.

Alabama 109, LSU 92
Bama starts four seniors; they were 18-44 on the arc.
Crimson Tide has won 11 of its last 13 games.
This was a 78-possession game, NBA-level tempo. 

Florida 81, Auburn 65
Riley Kugel scored 22 points in 29:00; he didn’t start.
Gators have won five of their last six games.
Auburn never led; they were only 14-26 on foul line.

Texas A&M 85, Tennessee 69
Aggies were 11-28 on arc; for year, they’re shooting 27.2% on arc (#357)
A&M had 14 offensive rebounds; they’re #1 in country on offensive boards.

Big East
Marquette 86, St John’s 75
There were 59 3-pointers taken in this game, only 15 foul shots
Tyler Kolek scored 27 points, dished out 13 assists.
St John’s led by 15 late in first half.
Marquette shot 59.4% inside arc, made 14-27 on the arc.

Big X
Kansas 64, Baylor 61
Jayhawks star McCullar didn’t play.
Kansas was +13 (21-8) in turnovers, only won by 3.
Baylor was 8-26 on the arc, 11-20 inside the arc.

Houston 67, Cincinnati 62
Cincinnati led this game 32-29 at halftime.
J’Wan Roberts was 10-15 from floor; rest of Cougars were 17-54 (31.5%)
Houston has the best eFG% defense in the country.

UCLA 61, California 60
UCLA won, despite shooting 36.2% from the floor.
Bruins won 7 of their last 8 games, after a 6-10 start.

South Florida 69, Rice 65
Bulls made 12-27 shots on the arc.
USF has won nine in row, 15 of last 16 games.
Last 3 years, Bulls were 21-47 in AAC play; they’re 10-1 this year.

Horizon League
Green Bay (+11.5) 84, Youngstown State 83
Green Bay made 14-29 on arc; they were down 8 early in 2nd half.
Green Bay is 12-2 in its last 14 games; last 3 years, they were 16-71.

Upsets of the Day:
UNLV (+12.5) 80, New Mexico 77
Green Bay (+11.5) 84, Youngstown State 83
Arizona State (+11.5) 85, Utah 77
Cal-Riverside (+8.5) 88, Cal-Irvine 78
Buffalo (+8.5) 82, Georgia Southern 81 OT
Pepperdine (+7.5) 72, LMU 63
Tarleton State (+7.5) 82, Seattle 77
Kansas City (+6.5) 65, North Dakota 47
Canisius (+6.5) 73, Iona 69

Baseball Note of the Day: Last year, Blake Snell was the first Cy Young Award winner in 64 years to lead the major leagues in walks allowed.

Movie of the Day: The Big Short (2015)- In 2006-07, a group of investors bet against the United States mortgage market, because they discovered how flawed and corrupt the market is. They wound up making a lot of $$$.

Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Christian Bale lead a stellar cast; the guy who wrote the book, Michael Lewis, is same guy who wrote Moneyball.

— Appalachian State 109, Toledo 104, 2OT
App State was down 9 with 2:19 left in regulation.
Four Toledo starters played 41:00+.
Sun Belt went 9-2 against the MAC in their inter-league challenge Saturday

— Yale 80, Cornell 78
Cornell led by 15 with 4:53 left in first half.
Yale was 21-27 on foul line, Cornell 8-11.
Both teams entered the day 6-0 in Ivy League games.

— UNLV 80, New Mexico 77
Rebels swept New Mexico this year, 83-73/80-77
UNLV won its last four games, after a 9-9 start.

— Cal-Riverside 88, Cal-Irvine 78
Ben Griscti, a 6-11 Australian, hit 6-10 on arc, scored 26 off bench.
Cal-Davis also lost, so Anteaters still lead Big West by a game.

— Vermont 72, UMBC 70
UMBC led this game 25-5 with 9:40 left in first half.
Vermont started week 8-0 in league, lost by hoop Thursday.
Catamounts’ win keeps them a game ahead of Bryant in America East.

— Lehigh 94, Lafayette 90, 2OT’s
Lafayette led 33-12 midway thru first half.
Lehigh was 28-33 on foul line, Lafayette 10-14
Lafayette is 9-3 in Patriot League, 1-12 in non-conference games. 

— Rutgers 78, Wisconsin 56
Scarlet Knights made 10-17 on the arc.
Wisconsin has lost four in a row, after a 16-4 start.
Badgers are 4-8 when they allow 72+ points, 12-0 when they allow less than 72. 

Saturday’s Den: Random stuff on a winter night……

— We start today with a TV recommendation: Rolling Along, with former NBA player/US Senator Bill Bradley talking about his life from Missouri childhood to Princeton basketball fame, the NBA, and his 18 years in the Senate.

Rolling Along is on HBO Max; it is like listening to a college History class, taught by someone who was there.

— Purdue’s basketball team is 21-2 this season, 10-2 in conference play; they’re on their way to being a #1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Will they get there?

Let’s take a look at coach Matt Painter’s March resume:

In Purdue’s last two NCAA tourney games, things didn’t go well:
2022- lost 67-64 to Saint Peter’s in Sweet 16, as a 13-point favorite.
2023- lost 63-58 to FDU in first round, as a 23-point favorite.

Not good, but a small sample size; here is his whole March resume:

1st round- 10-5 SU/10-5 against the spread
2nd round- 6-4 SU/7-3 ATS. He’s been a good first weekend coach, except for last year.

Sweet 16- 1-5 SU/1-5 ATS. No bueno. Purdue was an underdog in 4 of those 6 games.
Elite 8- 0-1 SU/ATS

Overall, Painter is 10-8 ATS in NCAA’s as a favorite, 7-6 as an underdog. I’m not sure why Zach Edey hasn’t gone to the NBA yet, but this will be Painter’s best chance to get to a Final Four.

— I’m guessing the Las Vegas Raiders aren’t thrilled that the arch-rival Chiefs are using their facilities to practice for Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes, by the way, is 10-1-1 ATS as an underdog in his career. He made $37M this season; 49ers’ QB Brock Purdy is on a 4-year contract, worth a total of $3.73M ($932,000/year)

— Chiefs/49ers both get 16% of the tickets for the Super Bowl; the host team Raiders get 4% of the tickets to sell.

— NFL is going to have a regular season game in Brazil next year, one in Spain in 2025.

— Netflix is going to do a Hard Knocks-type show on the Boston Red Sox this season; not sure exactly when it will be on TV, but it will be about the 2024 season. This is something that is long overdue; baseball needs all the TV exposure it can get.

— With spring training starting next week, interesting to note that the Atlanta Braves have won the NL East six years in a row, and they’re favored to win it again this season.

Baseball Note of the Day: Active career leaders in strikeouts:
3,367- Max Scherzer
3,342- Justin Verlander
2,944- Clayton Kershaw
2,189- Chris Sale
2,152- Gerrit Cole

Movie of the Day: The Intern (2015)- A 70-year old retiree becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site. Robert DeNiro is the intern, Anne Hathaway is the person who owns the fashion site. She doesn’t intend to give him much work, but he proves to be quite useful, a source of support and wisdom. Good movie.

— Boston College hired Bill O’Brien as its new football coach; O’Brien was 54-52 as coach of the Houston Texans from 2014-20. He was 15-9 in two years at Penn State (2012-13) and spent the last three weeks as Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator, after working with the Patriots this past season.

— Ohio State filled the OC opening by hiring UCLA Chip Kelly, who once upon a time, went 28-36 coaching in the NFL (Eagles/49ers). Kelly was 46-7 in four years coaching Oregon, 35-34 in six years at UCLA.

UCLA has to act fast to replace Kelly, because in today’s bizarre world, UCLA’s players will get poached by other schools if the Bruins don’t name a new head coach soon.

— Michigan Wolverines hired former Ravens/Giants DC Wink Martindale as its new defensive coordinator, where his biggest job will be how to stop Kelly’s offense next November.

— Amazon Prime Video is going to have a Wild Card playoff game on TV next season

— Guard named Ish Smith holds the NBA record for most teams; he’s played on 13 different teams in his career.

— There are eight sets of twins playing college basketball this season.

— Last defending champion to make the Sweet 16 in the NCAA basketball tournament was Duke, way back in 2016.

— VCU 49, Dayton 47
Only 2nd loss in last 18 games for the Flyers.
Teams combined to shoot 9-38 on the arc.
Dayton was only 9-18 on foul line.

— Nevada 70, San Diego State 66, OT
Teams combined to shoot 6-32 on the arc.
Wolf Pack won four of its last five games.
San Diego State lost four of last five road games. 

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

— “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Ferris Bueller

If you had told me two months ago that on National Signing Day for college football, Nick Saban would be playing in the pro-am at the Phoenix Open golf tournament, I would’ve scoffed at you, but here we are, with Saban hacking away in Arizona, the same day it is announced that he is now part of ESPN’s GameDay, the Saturday morning pre-game show for college football.

I’d rather hear him do analysis on games, but Lee Corso will be 89 in August, so Saban figures to take that spot, eventually.

Blind resumes for two QB’s who aren’t in the Hall of Fame:
Player A: 72-72 in regular season, 8-2 in playoffs, won two Super Bowls.
Player B: 117-117 in regular season, 8-4 in playoffs, won two Super Bowls.

Which guy are you putting in Hall of Fame? Both? Neither?

— 34 of 57 Super Bowls have been decided by 10+ points.

Over the last 22 Super Bowls, #1-seeds are 2-9 when playing an opponent who wasn’t a #1-seed.

— Eliot Wolf is going to be the mew personnel guru in New England; he was the Patriots’ director of scouting the last two years. Wolf has spent most of his career with the Packers.

— Philadelphia Eagles are only NFL team ever to start out 10-1 two years in a row, and not win a championship in either season. 

— I’m looking forward to next April’s NFL Draft; the Rams will actually have a first round pick. Last time they had a first round pick was 2016, when they drafted Jared Goff.

— In case you were wondering, Riddler was the villain on the first episode of the old Batman TV series, back when I was a little kid. Frank Gorshin was great in that role.

— Before Thursday’s game in New York, Dallas Maverick star Luka Doncic had played 42+ minutes in five of his last six games; no player in the last six seasons has played that many minutes, without playing in an overtime.

Doncic played 40:00 Thursday, scored 39 points (with 11 assists) in a 122-108 win against the Knicks. Dallas was +18 with Doncic on the floor, minus-4 with him on the bench.

— Utah Jazz outscored Milwaukee 40-13 in the 4th quarter of Sunday’s 123-108 win; they’re the only team in the last 25 years to outscore an opponent by 25+ points in a quarter, while using the same five guys for the entire quarter. 

Baseball Note of the Day: Dodgers re-signed lefty P Clayton Kershaw, bringing him back for his 17th major league season. Kershaw won’t be available until sometime next summer; he had surgery on his left shoulder after last year’s playoffs.

— Famous people who were born on February 9:
Joe Pesci
Carole King
Vince Papale
Bill Veeck
Mookie Wilson

— Arizona 105, Utah 99, 3OT’s
Arizona led by 16 with 17:21 left to play.
Utah was only 10-21 on the foul line.

— UAB 76, Florida Atlantic 73, OT
FAU shot only 33.8% from the floor.
Blazer big guy Lendeborg had 17 points, 21 rebounds.

— Samford 78, NC-Greensboro 69
Greensboro led by 7 points at halftime.
Samford made 12 of 25 3-pointers.
Samford is quietest 21-3 team in the country; they started out 0-2.

— Oregon 85, Washington 80
Ducks led by 20 at one point; Washington cut the lead to one.
Huskies lost four of last six games; they’re 4-8 in Pac-12.

— Horizon League
Three of the four Horizon games Thursday went to overtime.

Wright State 92, Detroit 85- Titans are now 0-25, 0-14 in Horizon games (4-10 ATS)

— NJIT 63, Vermont 61
Loss ends Vermont’s 9-game winning streak- they’re 8-1 in America East now.
NJIT had only 4 turnovers; they didn’t have any offensive rebounds. None.

Blind resume QB’s: a) Jim Plunkett b) Eli Manning

— Lamar Jackson won his second MVP award Thursday night; problem is, he also has two playoff wins (2-4). 

Thursday’s Den: A small sampling of Super Bowl prop bets……..

Super Bowl Sunday is a gambler’s paradise; ton of stuff to bet on- one casino puts out a 40-page document on bets you can make. Here is a small sampling……

— 49ers are 2-point favorite; total is 47.5

— first team to call timeout (both teams -115)

— first team with a replay challenge (both teams -115)

— opening kickoff result
Returned +285
Touchback -360

— opening kickoff returned for TD: +5000

— will the first play from scrimmage result in a first down?
Yes +340
No -500

— Total yards gained on first play over/under 3.5 (both teams -115)

— who will have more receiving yards?
Deebo Samuel +6.5 yards
Brandon Aiyuk -6.5

— fumble lost by either team in first half?
No -158
Yes +128

— Christian McCaffrey anytime TD? -220

— Nick Bosa to record 2+ sacks? +350

— Travis Kelce to have 11+ receptions? +550

— Will Patrick Mahomes throw an interception?
Yes -130
No +100

— Will Brock Purdy  throw an interception?
Yes +100
No -135

— Will there be a touchdown from the 1-yard line?
Yes -170
No +138

— over/under for McCaffrey’s longest rush:
18+ yards: -120
Under 18 yards: -110

— Famous people who were born on February 8:
Nick Nolte
Mary Steenburgen
Alonzo Mourning
John Grisham
Klay Thompson
Robert Klein
Mary McCormack
Marques Johnson

— over/under for Reba McEntire’s national anthem: 89.5 seconds

— will a kickoff go out of bounds?
Yes +935
No -1500

— 2-point conversion made by either team?
No -325
Yes +275

— will game have a scoreless quarter?
No -450
Yes +360

— over/under for Patrick Mahomes’ passing yards: 261.5

— over/under for Brock Purdy’s passing yards: 245.5

— who will have more receiving yards?
Travis Kelce -13.5 (-115)
Deebo Samuel +13.5 (+105)

— will Travis Kelce score a TD and the Chiefs win?
No -320
Yes +265

— will Christian McCaffrey score a TD and the 49ers win?
No -145
Yes +125

— color of Gatorade bath:
+225- purple
+275- blue
+450- yellow/green
+450- red/pink
+500- orange
+1000- clear/water
+2000- no Gatorade bath

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— Something to think about when filling out brackets next month.
Marquette is 17-5 this year, 8-3 in Big East; in 2.5 years under Shaka Smart, Marquette is 65-25, 36-14 in conference games. Very good.

In his career, Smart has done really well; he had VCU in the Final Four in his second year as their coach. Getting a CAA team to the Final Four is a tremendous accomplishment. But……

Since VCU lost to Butler in the national semifinals in 2011, Smart’s record in the NCAA tourney is 3-9, 3-6 in first round, 0-3 in second round- in those three years when they lost in the second round, they were a 12-seed, a 5-seed, a 2-seed.

Smart’s team are 2-6 in the NCAA’s when they’re the higher seeded team. Three of his six first round losses came in overtime.

Right now, Bracketology has Marquette as a #2-seed.

— Kansas State is 15-8 this year, 5-5 in Big X, nothing special, but they’re 6-0 in overtime games. In two years under Jerome Tang, K-State is 11-0 in overtime games, an amazingly good record.

Wildcats are turning ball over 22.9% of time in Big X games, which is bad; they have the #16 eFG% defense in country, which is very good. 

— Clemson 80, North Carolina 76
Tigers have now won two of last three visits to Chapel Hill, after losing their first 59 (yes, 59!!!) visits to UNC.
Joseph Girard scored 21 points for Clemson.
It was a trap game for North Carolina, coming three days after they beat Duke.

— South Florida 72, Charlotte 69
Bulls have won eight games in a row, lead the AAC.
Charlotte led by 17 points late in first half.
Selton Miguel scored 22 points for USF; he didn’t start.

— Toledo 91, Eastern Michigan 87
Toledo was 22-29 on foul line, EMU 3-9.
Rockets stay a game behind Akron in the MAC standings.

— Indiana 76, Ohio State 73
Buckeyes led by 12 with 7:27 left to play.
Ohio State has lost five in row, eight of last nine games.

— Minnesota 59, Michigan State 56
Spartans are 1-4 in conference road games.
Michigan State was 7-17 on the foul line.

— Five teams are still unbeaten in conference play:
Ivy- Cornell
Ivy- Yale (they play this Saturday)
Big South- High Point
WCC- Saint Mary’s
America East- Vermont

Baseball Note of the Day: Most career stolen bases, active players:
333- Elvis Andrus
317- Starling Marte
314- Billy Hamilton
296- Jose Altuve
260- Trea Turner

— Famous people who were born on February 7:
Matthew Stafford
Steve Nash
Chris Rock
Garth Brooks
James Spader
Ashton Kutcher

Super Bowl Fact of the Day: Five QB’s who started a Super Bowl against the Chiefs:
Bart Starr
Joe Kapp
Jimmy Garoppolo
Tom Brady
Jalen Hurts

— Houston Astros signed star 2B Jose Altuve to a 5-year, $125M contract extension; he hit .311 in only 90 games LY, with 15 homers, 51 RBI after he broke his thumb in the WBC last spring.

— Random NHL stat: When a team is playing at home for the second consecutive night, the over is 16-8 in that game.

— UFL starts on March 30, with eight teams. Birmingham at Arlington kicks this off, with the second game that day St Louis at Michigan. Spring football is a good thing.

— Philadelphia Eagles will open the 2024 season by playing a Friday night game in Brazil, the NFL’s first-ever game in Brazil.

— New Jersey Giants signed Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen to replace Wink Martindale.

Cleveland Browns hired Ken Dorsey to be their new offensive coordinator.

— Does Dan Quinn’s move from Dallas to division rival Washington mean that a Commanders-Cowboys game will be on the docket for Monday Night Football next year?

— Colleges with most players in this week’s Super Bowl:
6- Oklahoma
5- Clemson, Florida, Georgia
4- Michigan, Middle Tennessee, USC, TCU

— Unusual NBA fact- Over the next seven drafts, Oklahoma City Thunder has 35 draft picks, 14 in first round, 21 in the second. Thunder is already 35-15 this year, they’re really good. They’re probably going to package those picks to acquire a star player or two (or three). 

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

Back-to-back trends in the NHL

Road teams that won at home night before: 7-14
Road teams that lost at home night before: 9-4

Road teams that won on road night before: 14-17
Road teams that lost on road night before: 21-32

Home teams that won at home night before: 7-6
Home teams that lost at home night before: 5-4

Home teams that won on road night before: 13-13
Home teams that lost on road night before: 14-7

— Last two nights in the NBA, favorites are 15-0 SU, 12-3 against the spread.

— In 2017, Chiefs took Patrick Mahomes with the 10th pick in the NFL Draft; since then, Kansas City is 99-34, winning two Super Bowls.

That same year, Chicago Bears traded up from the 3rd pick to the 2nd pick so they could draft QB Mitch Trubisky; since then, the Bears are 49-68, 0-2 in playoff games.

— In his career, Mahomes is 10-1-1 ATS as an underdog.

— Carolina Panthers’ new head coach is Dave Canales, who has never been a head coach:
2004-05- offensive coordinator, Carson HS
2006-08- special teams coach/TE coach, El Camino College
2009- assistant strength coach, USC

2010-17- WR’s coach, Seahawks
2918-19- QB’s coach, Seahawks
2020-21- passing game coordinator, Seahawks
2022- QB’s coach, Seahawks
2023- offensive coordinator, Buccaneers

— I like watching the VCU-Richmond basketball games; underrated crosstown rivalry, always pretty intense. Teams are both pretty good, too.

— There will be seven Kentucky alums playing in the NBA All-Star Game this year.

When was the last time Kentucky/Kansas were home underdogs on the same day? They were on Saturday.

— If you go to a basketball game at Ole Miss, one of the fans in the front row opposite the benches is Morgan Freeman. That has to be pretty cool.

— SEC has five of the top 17 teams in this week’s top 25.

— Baseball Note of the Day: Royals signed SS Bobby Witt to an 11-year, $288.8M contract extension; good to see a team spend some $$$ to try and improve. Royals are also campaigning for a new ballpark in their downtown area, so that is a part of this move.

— Other baseball stuff:
Twins signed 1B Carlos Santana
Mets signed P Shintaro Fujiyami

— Football coaching stuff:
Liam Coen is the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay; he was the OC at Kentucky the last couple years, after working for the Rams before that.

Kliff Kingsbury is the new OC in Washington, fueling speculation that Caleb Williams will wind up as Washington’s 1st round pick. Kingsbury/Williams worked together at USC this past year.

Raiders were expected to sign Kingsbury, but instead former Bears’ OC Luke Getsy is the new offensive coordinator in Las Vegas.

Bill Callahan is the new OL coach for the Titans; his son is Tennessee’s new head coach. Bill Callahan had been the OL coach in Cleveland.

Leslie Frazier signed on as a defensive assistant with the Seahawks; he sat out 2023, after being the defensive coordinator in Buffalo.

Miami Dolphins’ new defensive coordinator is Anthony Weaver, who comes to Miami from the Ravens. Weaver is from Saratoga, NY, half-hour north of Armadillo World HQ. Remember seeing him play high school basketball; he set very good screens.

— Bill Walton was on the USC-Oregon game on ESPN Thursday night in LA; he and Dave Pasch sat right near the USC bench. It was interesting to hear them say how coach Andy Enfield and guard Boogie Ellis were having a running dialogue while the game was going on, apparently not a very pleasant one.

They went on to say how USC’s players “weren’t on the same page” which is a euphemism for a team with bad chemistry. Trojans need injured guard Isaiah Collier back soon; they snapped their 6-game losing skid Saturday vs Oregon State, but they’re 9-13 this year, 3-8 in their last year in the Pac-12.

— Former NFL QB Teddy Bridgewater retired this year, he will be the new football coach at his alma mater, Miami Northwestern HS. Bridgewater played nine years in the NFL for six teams, with a 33-33 career record as a starter.

— Bad Beat of the Month: Temple (+10.5) lost 92-80 at Tulane Sunday. In OVERTIME!!!

— Steph Curry has scored 20+ points in a quarter 40 times in his career; Golden State went 34-6 in those forty games.

— Magic 111, Pistons 99— Franz Wagner scored 38 points for Orlando, without taking a foul shot; someone scores 38 without taking a foul shot, that means the other team isn’t being as physical as they should be on defense.

— Celtics were favored by 19.5 points against Memphis Sunday; it was the biggest spread in any NBA game this season. Boston won 131-91.

— They were telling a story on TV this weekend, about a guy applying for a job as an assistant for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo; the guy bought a mannequin in a store, chopped off the right hand and mailed the hand with his application to Izzo, with a note: “I’ll give my right hand to be your assistant coach.”

It worked. Go figure. 

Monday’s Den: NHL trends at the All-Star break

NHL trends (thru All-Star break)

Anaheim 18-30-2
— won three of last four games overall.
— 8-17-1 at home, 10-13-1 on road.
— under 5-1 last six home games
— 6-2 in shootout/OT

Arizona 23-22-3
— lost their last five road games
— 15-9 at home, 8-13-3 on road.
— over 6-2 last eight home games.
— 5-3 in shootout/OT

Boston 31-9-9
— won six of last seven games.
— 16-4-3 at home, 15-5-6 on road.
— under 3-1 last four games
— 6-9 in shootout/OT

Buffalo 22-23-4
— 4-2 in their last six games.
— 11-12-1 at home, 11-11-3 on road.
— under 5-2 last seven games
— 2-5 if they played the night before.
— 2-4 in shootout/OT

Calgary 22-22-5
— lost four of their last five games
— 12-11-1 at home, 10-11-4 on road.
— over 6-4 last ten games
— 0-5 if they played the night before.
— 4-5 in shootout/OT

Carolina 28-15-5
— won 11 of their last 14 games.
— 15-5-4 at home, 13-10-1 on road.
— under 4-1 last five games.
— 6-2 on first night of back/back.
— 5-5 in shootout/OT

Chicago 14-34-2
— lost 11 of their last 14 games
— 10-11-1 at home, 4-23-1 on road.
— under 11-3 last 14 games
— 1-6 if they played the night before.
— 5-2 in shootout/OT

Colorado 32-14-3
— won 10 of last 13 games
— 19-5 at home, 13-9-3 on road.
— over 9-2 last eleven games.
— 3-1 if they played the night before.
— 4-3 in shootout/OT

Columbus 16-24-10
— lost nine of their last 13 games
— 9-13-4 at home, 6-9-5 on road.
— under 6-2 last eight road games
— 5-10 in shootout/OT

Dallas 30-13-6
— won eight of their last eleven games
— 16-8-2 at home, 14-5-4 on road.
— over 19-2 last 21 home games
— 4-2 if they played the night before.
— 9-6 in shootout/OT

Detroit 26-18-6
— won six of their last nine games
— 14-8-5 at home, 12-10-1 on road.
— under 8-3 last 11 games
— 4-1 if they played the night before.
— 6-6 in shootout/OT

Edmonton 29-15-1
— won their last 16 games.
— 16-6-1 at home, 13-9 on road.
— under 10-0 last ten games
— 5-1 in shootout/OT

Florida 31-14-4
— won their last four games.
— 14-7-2 at home, 17-7-2 on road.
— under 16-4 last 20 games
— 3-1 if they played night before.
— 5-4 in shootout/OT

Los Angeles 23-15-10
— lost 14 of their last 17 games.
— 8-9-6 at home, 15-6-4 on road.
— over 4-1 last five games
— 1-5 if they played the night before.
— 2-10 in shootout/OT
— fired their coach last week

Minnesota 21-23-5
— 4-3 in last seven games.
— 12-11-3 at home, 9-12-2 on road.
— over 7-3 last ten games 
— 2-6 if they played the night before.
— 6-5 in shootout/OT

Montreal 20-21-8
— 1-4 in their last five games.
— 10-12-3 at home, 10-9-5 on road.
— over 6-3 last nine home games
— 1-8 if they played the night before.
— 9-8 in shootout/OT

Nashville 26-23-2
— 1-5 in their last six games.
— 13-13 at home, 13-10-2 on road.
— under 7-2 last nine games
— 5-0 if they played the night before.
— 6-2 in shootout/OT

New Jersey 24-20-3
— lost seven of last ten games
— 10-11-2 at home, 14-9-1 on road.
— over 3-1 last four games.
— 1-6 if they played the night before.
— 5-3 in shootout/OT

NY Islanders 20-17-12
— lost nine of last 11 games. 
— 12-6-7 at home, 8-11-5 on road.
— under 3-1 last four games
— 0-6 if they played the night before.
— 6-12 in shootout/OT

NY Rangers 30-16-3
— lost eight of their last 12 games
— 15-7 at home, 15-9-3 on road.
— over 5-2 last seven games.
— 8-0 if they played the night before.
— 5-3 in shootout/OT

Ottawa 20-25-2
— won four of their last six games.
— 13-12-2 at home, 7-13 on road.
— over 8-4 last 12 games.
— 5-2 in shootout/OT

Philadelphia 25-19-6
— lost their last five games.
— 11-12-2 at home, 14-7-4 on road.
— over 5-0 last five home games.
— 5-1 on first night of a back/back.
— 8-6 in shootout/OT

Pittsburgh 22-17-7
— lost five of their last seven games 
— 12-8-3 at home, 10-9-4 on road.
— under 7-2 last nine games
— 5-0 if they played the night before.
— 4-7 in shootout/OT

St Louis 26-21-2
— won five of their last six games.
— 15-9-1 at home, 11-12-1 on road.
— over 7-3 last five games
— 7-2 in shootout/OT

San Jose 14-32-5
— won four of their last six games
— 9-13-2 at home, 5-19-2 on road.
— under 3-1 last four games
— 4-5 in shootout/OT

Seattle 21-19-10
— lost six of their last eight games.
— 11-9-4 at home, 10-10-6 on road. 
— under 12-5 last 17 games
— 0-3 on first night of back/back.
— 4-10 in shootout/OT

Tampa Bay 27-18-5
— won eight of their last nine games.
— 17-5-3 at home, 10-13-2 on road.
— over 3-0 last three games
— 5-5 in shootout/OT

Toronto 25-14-8
— won their last three games.
— 11-9-2 at home, 14-5-6 on road. 
— under 5-2 last seven games
— 1-5 on first night of back/back
— 9-8 in shootout/OT

Vancouver 33-11-5
— 9-2 in their last eleven games. 
— 18-4-2 at home, 15-7-3 on road.
— over 8-3 last eleven games
— 3-5 in shootout/OT

Vegas 29-15-6
— won five of their last seven games. 
— 18-5-2 at home, 11-10-4 on road.
— over 4-2 last six games
— 7-6 in shootout/OT

Washington 22-18-7
— lost their last four games.
— 13-7-4 at home, 9-11-3 on road.
— over 4-1 last five games.
— 4-2 if they played the night before.
— 6-7 in shootout/OT

Winnipeg 30-12-5
— lost their last three games, outscored 9-3.
— 16-7-2 at home, 14-5-3 on road.
— under 11-2 last 13 games.
— 4-0 if they played the night before.
— 3-5 in shootout/OT

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a college basketball Saturday

There were 28 games Saturday, where the winning team trailed by 10+ points at one time in the game.

Tennessee 103, Kentucky 92
Zeigler had 26 points, 13 assists for the Vols.
Kentucky scored 91-92 points in last two games, but lost both.
Kentucky PG Wagner is hurt, didn’t play.

Texas A&M 67, Florida 66
Aggies were 13-24 on foul line, Florida 6-11
Gators led by 13 late in first half.
Florida lost this game by 1; they won their previous two games, both in OT.

Big X
Baylor 70, Iowa State 68
Kid on Iowa State hit a 35-footer at the buzzer, but it was just after the buzzer.
Baylor led 40-28 at halftime.
Bears made 12-23 on the arc, won by two points.

Texas 77, TCU 66
Horned Frogs led this game 16-6 early on.
Longhorns outrebounded TCU, 34-21.
Texas F Cunningham is 25 years old, older than NBA star Luka Doncic.

Mountain West
San Diego State 81, Utah State 67
Aztecs are 5-0 SU/4-1 ATS as a MW home favorite.
Utah State is 19-3, despite having a whole new team. None of their players this year scored a point for the Aggies last season- they’re one of 3 teams in country like that.

UNLV 62, Wyoming 48
Rebels won their last three games, giving up 61 ppg.

North Carolina 93, Duke 84
In a 76-possession game, Tar Heels had only 5 turnovers.
Carolina was 9-24 on the arc, Duke 5-19.

Virginia 66, Clemson 65
Cavaliers have won six in a row, are 8-3 in ACC.
Clemson shot only 35.7% from the floor.

Saint Mary’s 64, Gonzaga 62
Gaels are 15-1 in last 16 games, after a 3-5 start.
Three players in this game played all 40:00.
Three Gonzaga subs played total of only 16:00.

San Diego 70, Santa Clara 59
Good upset win for Steve Lavin’s team; Toreros won 3 of last 4 games. 

Big East
UConn 77, St John’s 64
UConn has won 10 in a row; they’re shooting 59% inside the arc (#5)
Johnnies have lost five of last six games.

Upsets of the Day:
San Diego (+12.5) 70, Santa Clara 59
Penn State (+9.5) 85, Indiana 71
Idaho (+8.5) 81, Montana State 75
Central Michigan (+7.5) 77, Bowling Green 76 2OT
South Florida (+6.5) 60, North Texas 55
Murray State (+6.5) 71, Northern Iowa 43

Word of the Day– Rivalry- When two people/teams often compete for the same thing.

UCLA 71, Oregon 63
UCLA won five of its last six games, after a 6-10 start.
Bruins raced out to 23-5 lead, but trailed 34-33 at the half.
Oregon lost four of its last six games.

Washington State 90, Washington 87 OT
Coogs won six of their last seven games.
Washington led by 11 points in first half.

Sun Belt
Appalachian State 85, Georgia Southern 84 OT
App State trailed by 9 with 10:47 left, by 3 with 0:59 left in OT
App State was 9-16 on foul line, Georgia Southern 2-6.
Georgia Southern is 5-6 in Sun Belt, after an 0-12 pre-conference mark.

Central Michigan 77, Bowling Green 76 2OT
Falcons lost three of last four games, after a 14-4 start.
Bowling Green led by 4 with 0:52 left in first OT.
Chippewas out-rebounded Bowling Green, 52-37

Missouri Valley
Indiana State 75, Drake 67
Drake trailed 24-7 early; they were only 12-23 on foul line.
Indiana State now has a 2-game lead in the conference race.
Jayson Kent had 20 rebounds, only 6 points for the Sycamores.

Atlantic 15
UMass 66, George Mason 65
Mason tied game on a layup with less than 0:02 left, but they fouled a UMass guy on the inbounds pass, thinking they were still behind. UMass made a foul shot, won the game.

George Mason is 2-5 in its last seven games, after a 13-2 start.

Wofford 88, Western Carolina 86 OT
Wofford shot 65.9% inside the arc.
Western Carolina lost 5 of last 6 games; all five losses were by 6 or fewer points.
Only five players on Western Carolina scored in this 45:00 game.

Hawks 141, Warriors 134 OT
Steph Curry scored 60 points in a losing cause; he was 10-23 on the arc, 12-15 inside it. He will be 36 years old next month. The best shooter……..ever. 

Saturday’s Den: Notes on every major league team

A note or two on every major league team:
National League
Arizona lost the World Series last year; in 2021-22, they finished a combined 92 games out of first place.

Adding lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez is a good move.

Atlanta has made the playoffs six years in a row, going 24-21 in playoff games.

Braves drew 3,191,505 fans last year, 5th in major leagues.

Cubs were 83-79 LY, 7th time in last nine years they finished over .500.

Craig Counsell is the new manager; he was 707-625 in Milwaukee, 7-12 in playoff games.

Cincinnati starting pitchers had a 5.43 ERA LY; they need to use their surplus of infielders to add a starter or two in a trade.

Reds were minus-38 in defensive runs saved LY, worst in the National League.

Kris Bryant makes $27M a year; in his first two years with Colorado, he played in 122 of a possible 324 games. He’s expected to play 1B this year; Rockies need him to be productive.

Rockies have had five straight losing seasons, since losing 3-0 to Milwaukee in ’18 playoffs.

Added Ohtani, Yamanoto, Glasnow, are prohibitive favorites to win the NL West. 

Last three years, Dodgers won 317 games, but went 7-12 in the playoffs. They’ve been in the postseason 11 years in a row.

Marlins were 84-78 LY, their first winning year in a 162-game season since 2009 (they went 31-29 in the shortened 2020 season).

3B Jake Burger hit .303 with an .860 OPS after being acquired from the White Sox LY.

Their GM and manager both bolted; they just traded their ace pitcher, Corbin Burnes.

Milwaukee has been in playoffs five of last six years, but regression is expected this year.

Last year’s $346M payroll netted a 75-87 record, so this year, the Mets have a new manager and a new general manager.

Last three years, Starling Marte played in 120-118-86 games; they need more out of him.

Bryce Harper is going to play 1B, so Rhys Hoskins bolted to Milwaukee. Rob Thomson is 174-129 as Phillies’ manager, 19-11 in playoff games.

Last year, Bryson Stott hit .433 (52-120) when the put the 1st or 2nd pitch of an at-bat in play.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been in playoffs since 2015; their last winning season was 2018 (82-79),, their attendance last year was 1,630,624 (25th in MLB), their payroll was $68,945,975 (#29). 

Pirates drafted LSU pitcher Paul Skenes #1 in LY’s draft; how fast will be climb the ladder to the major leagues? Bucs added P’s Marco Gonzales/Martin Perez to fill out this year’s rotation.

Last year was Cardinals’ first losing season since 2007; they still drew 3,241,091 fans (#4 in MLB). They added three older starting pitchers this year: Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn- will it be enough to make them a contender again?

C Willson Contreras had a .754 OPS in first half last year, then had a .959 in second half.

San Diego had a payroll of $256,045,688 last year (#3), they drew 3,271,554 fans at home (#2) but they needed a 20-7 finish to wind up with an 82-80 record. Padres were 9-23 in one-run games; no bueno.

Manager Bob Melvin is in San Francisco now, Juan Soto is in the Bronx, the team’s owner died in November. Expectations for this season are much lower.

Two years ago, the Giants went 107-55, 31-17 in one-run games. The last two years, Giants were 160-164, 47-46 in one-run games. Now, Bob Melvin replaces Gabe Kapler as manager, which figures to be an upgrade.

Giants signed Korean OF Jung Hoo Lee for six years, $113M; he is coming off a broken ankle.

Washington won the World Series in 2019; since then, they’ve won 39.7% of their games, and dumped stars Bryce Harper/Juan Soto.

OF Lane Thomas hit 28 homers, stole 20 bases last year; hopefully they won’t trade him. 

American League
Orioles franchise was sold recently, then they traded for pitching ace Corbin Burnes; coming off a 101-61 season, things are looking up in Baltimore.

OF Cedric Mullins was a 30-30 guy two years in a row, but his OPS the last two years was .721/.721, not very good. He is a great centerfielder defensively, though.

Red Sox
Boston finished in last place three of last four years, despite spending $183M/season in payroll the last three years. Ownership told GM Chaim Bloom to take a hike.

Red Sox had MLB’s worst defense LY (minus-51 runs saved); they added P Lucas Giolito, who had a 6.96 ERA in 12 starts after the White Sox traded him last July. Giolito is thought to be much better than that; we’ll see.

White Sox
Chicago was 61-101 last year; they cleaned out the front office and half the coaching staff, but kept manager Pedro Grifol. If they trade P Dylan Cease, will they reap a haul of prospects?

White Sox brought in Brian Bannister to advise pitching coach Ethan Katz; they added C Martin Maldonado, who helped keep the Astros’ pitchers for years in Houston. White Sox will have their third hitting coach in three seasons.

Terry Francona went 921-757 in 11 years managing Cleveland; he will be missed. Replacing him is Steven Vogt, who has never managed at any level- he was playing in the big leagues as recently as two years ago. Not an ideal situation.

3B Jose Ramirez is still productive, but his OPS has gone down three years in a row, and he’ll be 32 in September. Guardians had the #26 payroll last year, went 76-86. Not much optimism here.

Detroit hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2014, their last winning season was 2016, but they ended last year on an 18-10 run; with Michigan winning the college football title and the Lions making the NFC Championship Game, there is positive energy in Detroit.

Tigers added Kenta Maeda/Jack Flaherty to bolster the rotation; Tarik Skubal had a 2.80 ERA in 15 starts LY, so Detroit’s starting pitching should be solid.

Houston has been in the playoffs seven years in a row,, winning two World Series; now they have a new manager (bench coach Joe Espada) but their roster is basically the same. Yainer Diaz  is the new catcher, which helps the offense, hurts their defense.

Justin Verlander will be 41 soon, but his rebuilt right elbow is only 3 years old; Dusty Baker will be missed- he won consistently as a big league manager.

Kansas City won the 2015 World Series, haven’t had a winning season since; last two years, they went 121-203- their attendance last year was 1,307,052 (28th), their payroll $96,083,853 (#24), but the Royals have added some veteran free agents this winter, trying to improve.

Michael Wacha/Seth Lugo should improve their rotation, which got pounded last year. Brady Singer’s ERA went from 3.23 in 2022 to 5.52 last year. Royals used 13 outfielders last year, who combined for the 2nd-worst on-base %age of any outfield.

Ohtani moved 40 miles north, but the Angels never made the playoffs with him anyway; Halos haven’t made the playoffs since 2014- their payroll LY was $230,534,276 (#8). Anthony Rendon makes $38M a year for three more years; he’s played in 148 of the Angels’ last 486 games.

Ron Washington is the new manager; he’ll improve the infield defense. Chase Silseth was 3-0, 3.21 in seven second half starts LY. Angels’ rotation might still be pretty good. 

Minnesota won AL Central with an 87-75 mark LY; they’ve made playoffs in four of last seven seasons, and won a playoff series LY for first time since 2002. Twins have cut their payroll due to their uncertain local TV situation, which could cost them a lot of $$$.

Twins traded 2B Polanco to Seattle for four prospects; Edouard Julien should replace him. Minnesota AL in both walks/strikeouts LY; they’re still the favorite in a weak division.

New York
Bronx Bombers have paid out over $3B in salary since their last World Series title in 2009; that’s billion, with a B. How does the general manager keep his job? New York went 82-80 LY, with a payroll of $278,651,150 (#2). How does the manager keep his job?

They added free agent-to-be Juan Soto this winter; will they pay to keep him long-term? Soto has a career on-base %age of .421. Can they fix Giancarlo Stanton? He hit .202 the last two years.

Just try to win, please? This is their last year in Oakland, then they’re going into exile for three years (Salt Lake City? Sacramento?) before the new stadium opens in Las Vegas in 2028.

Last two years, A’s went 110-214; they figure to be little better this year, adding Alex Wood and Ross Stripling to bolster the rotation. They’ve got a few decent younger position players, l but this figures to be the third dismal season in a row.

Last three years, Seattle won 90-90-88 games, but missed playoffs LY, after ending a 21-year playoff drought in 2022. This winter, Mariners dumped 3B Suarez, RF Hernandez, LF Kelenic, trying to reduce strikeouts. Adding Jorge Polanco/Mitch Garver should fill those gaps.

Mariners’ attendance was 2,690,418 LY, but their payroll was only $134,466,903 (#18); with the Astros/Rangers dominating the division, going to be tough for Seattle to get back to the playoffs.

Tampa Bay has made the playoffs five years in a row, but they got swept in the Wild Card round the last two years. Their payroll last year was $78,354,272; by way of comparison, the Angels paid Trout/Ohtani/Rendon a combined $106M last year.

Over the last three years, Rays have the 4th-most wins in baseball; the players that win games in October are the players the Rays can’t afford to pay, but getting to the playoffs with the #27 payroll is still damn impressive.

Texas won the World Series LY, in their first playoff appearance since 2016; Bruce Bochy is a great manager, a future Hall of Famer. Their 2B/SS make a combined $58M a year, but they earned that $$$ last year. Seager had a hernia surgery this week, is doubtful for Opening Day.

P’s Scherzer/deGrom earn a combined $83M a year; they’re both out until midseason. It is up to Eovaldi/Gray/Dunning to keep the rotation pasted together until the stars get back.

Blue Jays
Toronto made playoffs three of last four years, but went 0-6 in those playoff games; they’re still putting together their 2024 roster, but Justin Turner just signed, they added Yaniel Rodriguez before that, to help fortify their lineup.

Manager John Schneider may be running out of time; Toronto had the #9 payroll last year- you have the #9 payroll, you’re expected to win some playoff games. 

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

— Random knowledge; Brock Purdy will be the 67th different QB to start a Super Bowl.

— Washington Commanders filled the NFL’s last head coaching opening and hired Dallas Cowboys’ DC Dan Quinn; Quinn went 46-44 in 5+ years coaching the Falcons, going 3-2 in playoff games. His 2016 Atlanta team lost Super Bowl LI 34-28, after leading 28-3 in the third quarter. He’s been the defensive coordinator in Dallas the last three seasons.

Five of the eight coaches who’ve been hired come from the defensive side of the ball.

— New England Patriots hired former Browns’ OC Alex Van Pelt as their new OC. 

Las Vegas Raiders are hiring former Cardinals’ coach Kliff Kingsbury as their new OC.

Rams are promoting LB coach Chris Shula to defensive coordinator; he is the grandson of the Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, and also played football at Miami OH with Sean McVay.

— AFC teams won six of the last nine Super Bowls.

— 14 of the first 57 Super Bowls were 0-0 after the first quarter.

— NHL teams with best records in overtime/shootouts:
7-2- St Louis
6-2- Anaheim, Washington
5-1- Edmonton

— NHL teams with worst records in overtime/shootouts:
2-10- Los Angeles
6-12- NY Islanders
5-10- Columbus
4-9- Seattle

— Active leaders in career home runs:
402- Giancarlo Stanton
368- Mike Trout
356- Joey Votto
342- Evan Longoria
340- Paul Goldschmidt

Word of the Day: Cohesive- describing a group of people that is united and working together effectively.

— Milwaukee Brewers are trading P Corbin Burnes to the Orioles for Baltimore’s #5/#6 prospects, one a pitcher, one a shortstop. Last year, Burnes was 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA; he won the 2021 Cy Young Award and is a free agent after the 2024 season.

— Cal Ripken Jr/Grant Hill are part of the new ownership group of the Baltimore Orioles.

— Wednesday night/Thursday morning, I couldn’t sleep and got an idea for something to do for this blog, so I got up, flipped on the TV and got to work at 6am. Put Morning Joe on; I hadn’t watched it in years, and for whatever reason, they start rattling on about the 70’s Atlanta Braves and they flash a picture on the screen of a baseball card of Biff Pocoroba.

Go figure. 

If you don’t know, my first name is Biff and back in 1975, it was very cool for 15-year old me to watch a major leaguer named Biff- I followed his career pretty closely and have an autographed picture on the shelf here in my living room, plus the same baseball card they showed on TV.

By the way, Biff Pocoroba was a switch-hitting catcher who was an All-Star in 1978; he was a good knuckleball catcher for Phil Niekro back in the day.

— NCAA Tournament Stat: Last four NCAA Tournaments, teams from the WAC are 5-0 against the spread, including New Mexico State’s upset of UConn two years ago.

Last year, UConn won the national title; they were a #4-seed, the highest seed that made the Final 4. None of the top 12 seeds made the Final 4, which is unusual. 

— Nebraska 80, Wisconsin 72 OT
Badgers led 43-27 at halftime.
CJ Wilcher scored 22 points in 27:00; he didn’t start.

Before tonight, AP Top 10 teams had won 1,458 consecutive games when leading by 16+ points at halftime; the last loss was January 5, 2002 (Kentucky @ Mississippi State).

— Grand Canyon 95, Seattle 88 OT
Antelopes won despite blowing a 14-point 2nd half lead.
Grand Canyon has won 17 of its last 18 games.

— NC-Wilmington 80, Charleston 74
Charleston led by 6 with 12:24 left.
Trazarien White scored 27 points, had 9 rebounds.
These teams are now tied for 3rd in the CAA, both are 6-3.

— Youngstown State 88, Wright State 77
All five Penguin starters scored in double figures.
Youngstown shot 55.6% inside arc, had 13 offensive boards.
Penguins have never been in D-I NCAA Tournament; they’re 17-6 this year.

— Cleveland State 77, Detroit 65
Detroit starts four seniors and they’re 0-23. Yikes.
Titans are 3-9 ATS in Horizon games.
From 1973-77, Detroit was 79-29; their coach was Dick Vitale.

— Sam Houston 79, Western Kentucky 77
Hilltoppers led by 8 with 7:58 left in game.
Sam Houston is 6-1 in C-USA; this is their 11th winning season in a row.

— Lakers 114, Celtics 105
Boston was favored by 15.5 points; this is first time in at least 30 years that the Celtics lost when favored by 15+ points.

— Knicks 109, Pacers 105
Knicks have won nine games in a row, and 15 of 17.
All-Star Jalen Brunson scored 40 points for New York.