13) An underrated aspect of this college basketball season is that EVERY SENIOR in the country can come back and play in college again next season. The better seniors will take their talents and try to make money playing pro ball, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Will be curious to see what I think will be a huge amount of player movement this spring/summer.
12) Liberty 79, North Alabama 75— Liberty won the Atlantic Sun title here; they had already clinched the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, because North Alabama just moved to D-I and isn’t eligible yet to play in March Madness.
Liberty has been in the A-Sun three years; they’ve won the league title all three years.
11) Michigan State 70, Michigan 64— This win makes the next week a little easier for fans, players and coaches in East Lansing. Would appear that this win gets the Spartans into the field of 68, but the more they do this coming week the better- playing Maryland Thursday afternoon in the Big 14 tournament is next on Michigan State’s calendar.
10) NCAA Tournament, like everything else, will be different this year; the second weekend of the tournament, usually Thursday-Sunday, will now be Saturday-Tuesday, with the regional finals being played Monday/Tuesday night, March 29-30.
9) USC 64, UCLA 63— Trojans swept their crosstown rivals this year; they’ll be the #2-seed in the Pac-12 tournament. UCLA lost its last three games and is 5-6 in its last 11 games, after a 12-2 start.
8) From 2006-08, under coach Ben Howland, UCLA made the Final Four three years in a row, going 97-17 those three years, but five years later, Howland got fired after a 25-10 season, saying his style of play wasn’t exciting enough. When a team wins seven national titles in a row, like UCLA did under John Wooden, the fanbase has unrealistic expectations.
In those three Final Four years, UCLA ranked #298-251-209 in tempo, but they went 97-17, so no one said anything. Howland’s last year, the 25-10 season, they were #35 in tempo, but they lost in the first round of the NCAA’s, and a change was made. They played faster, like people wanted, but they didn’t make the Final Four.. Some people are never happy.
7) My point is this: Mick Cronin is now UCLA’s coach; he is 36-20 at UCLA, 25-12 in Pac-12 games, solid numbers. But this is a fanbase who didn’t like Ben Howland’s style; here are the tempos that Mick Cronin’s teams have played the last eight years:
2021: #333 17-8 record (13-6 Pac-12)
2020: #325 19-12, 12-6 (no NCAAs)
2019: #338 28-7, 14-4 AAC (0-1 NCAA)
2018: $330 31-5, 16-2 (1-1)
2017: #330 30-6, 16-2 (1-1)
2016: #333 22-11, 12-6 (0-1)
2015: #339 23-11, 13-5 (1-1)
2014: #328 27-7, 15-3 (1-1)
Cronin went 6-9 in NCAA tourney games at Cincinnati, made one Sweet 16. At this time next year, the UCLA fanbase is going to start mumbling, if they aren’t already. Cronin wins a lot, his teams defend well, but fact of the matter is, he is no Ben Howland.
6) St Bonaventure-VCU are going to play in the A-14 championship game, but that game isn’t until Sunday in Dayton. Both teams are expected to make the NCAA Tournament, which will be held entirely in Indiana, and Dayton is close to Indiana, so the teams can get on a bus and go right from Dayton to their hotel where they’ll hunker down for the NCAA Tournament.
5) Florida basketball coach Mike White played college basketball at Ole Miss, where his roommate was teammate Keith Carter, who is now the athletic director at Ole Miss. Athletic director is a nice way of saying “lead fundraiser”; Carter raised a record $45.6M in cash contributions for the Rebels, in 2015-16.
Couple of very successful friends there; you wonder how many college roommates are both making six-figure salaries these days (White makes seven figures).
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Foxboro next season, which obviously is Tom Brady going back home to face his former employers. Would love to see the backroom negotiating with the TV networks who want to televise that game; it won’t be in Week 1- the Super Bowl champ opens the next season at home. But you know NBC/ESPN/FOX all want that game.
3) Speaking of which, apparently the NFL schedule will be released in May this year, a little later than usual. Schedule usually comes out before the draft, but with the COVID situation still developing, it makes sense to release the schedule a little later.
2) 31-year old Blake Griffin signed on with the Brooklyn Nets, after accepting a buyout from Detroit; Griffin has already earned $255M in his playing career and is due another $29.5M next year, so he is joining Brooklyn for the rest of this year, to try and win a championship.
1) Astros have injury issues in their pitching rotation; they signed Jake Odorizzi this weekend to a 2-year deal. Odorizzi has a 62-56 career record, was 15-7 for Minnesota in 2019- he started only four games LY, because of bruised ribs and a blister.