Category Archives: College Basketball

Orange and blue makes me blue

I am not dead. However, I went into yet another Howard Hughes phase during the last three weeks. Inexcusable.

March Madness is over. I was ready for it to be over before the first game was played. It was a miserable time in the Sunflower State, with Kansas State losing its first game to 13-seed UC Irvine and Kansas getting dump trucked by Auburn in the second round.

I couldn’t complain about LSU. I had a bad feeling my alma mater would have lost to Lipscomb had it held on to beat Maryland. Then the Bayou Bengals almost blew the game with the Terrapins but survived.

I confess I watched zero seconds of the Sweet 16 game with Michigan State. Had a bad feeling. The final score–Spartans 80, Bayou Bengals 63–validated that feeling. Now LSU is losing Naz Reid, Skylar Mays and Tremont Waters to the NBA. Will Wade may somehow keep his job, but I fear next season might be a long one in Baton Rouge.

I was angry Auburn made the Final Four, because one of their jackass fans who lives in Baton Rouge, Tex Morris, called Sean Payton a “crybaby” on social media following the NFC Championship Game, then told me he’d block me when I disagreed. I was angry Virginia made it, because it is the definition of an elitist school. After all, Thomas Jefferson founded the place.

Since last Saturday’s Auburn-Virginia game couldn’t end in a double forfeit, I was glad the Cavaliers won. The lesser of two evils in that case. Right now, Auburn is at the top of my hate list in the SEC. I never thought a school would eclipse Alabama and Ole Miss as to how much I hate them, but Auburn has, thanks to Mr. Morris’ asinine comments about Mr. Payton. What, Tex, was Sean supposed to be happy and let it go? The Saints got screwed out of a Super Bowl berth. Yeah, let it go. Easy for you to say.

Auburn was not my favorite stop on the SEC circuit. It ranked barely above Oxford and about on the same level as Tuscaloosa and Gainesville. No thanks. Auburn and Kansas State are a lot alike–agriculturally-dominated universities in small towns 50 miles from the state capital with horrendous traffic on football game days and a inferiority complex. The only difference is Auburn is a football school with occasional success in basketball and K-State is a basketball school with occasional success in football, the beatification of St. William of Snyder notwithstanding.

Candace Rachel, the outstanding editor of the Plainville Times, texted me during Monday’s game saying the announcers were biased towards Virginia. I agreed.

College basketball announcers love the ACC. Greg Gumbel and everyone who was on the CBS selection show March 17 drooled over the ACC getting three #1 seeds. I’m sure many were crying when North Carolina lost to Auburn in the Sweet 16 and Duke lost to Michigan State after the Spartans ousted LSU.

I did not watch much of the game. And no way in hell I would watch One Shining Moment. It was nice at the beginning, but it’s played out now. And don’t get me started on Jennifer Hudson’s version following the 2010 tournament (the one where Duke barely beat Butler in the final). If I had watched it live, I might have melted down. It sucked. BIG TIME.

CBS had the right idea in 1983 when they used Christopher Cross’ All Right for the highlight package following North Carolina State’s stunner over Houston. I don’t care what happens between now and the end of time, but Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack taking down Phi Slamma Jamma in Albuquerque will never, never, NEVER be surpassed. Too bad it was too late for me to watch.

The first final I watched from beginning to end was Louisville over Duke in 1986. That year, LSU made the Final Four as an 11-seed before losing to the Cardinals in Dallas. The Blue Devils eliminated Kansas in the other semi. The last final I watched from start to finish was Kansas’ win over Memphis in 2008, although I did see Josh Hart’s game-winner for Villanova over UNC in 2016 after missing most of the first 30 minutes.

College basketball is done, at least as far as games go, for seven months. I’m not counting down the days.


LSU’s eastern rerun

I was in Buffalo Wild Wings when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket was announced on CBS. However, I have not filled out a bracket for a contest, nor will I do so.

I admit I made an erroneous post about LSU being placed in the East region.

I said this would be the first time LSU would play in the East region since 1988, when the Bayou Bengals lost 66-63 to Georgetown in Hartford when the Hoyas’ Charles Smith banked in a 35-footer at the buzzer. That Georgetown team featured a freshman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known as Zaire in 1988) who would make his mark on basketball over the next two decades. His name: Dikembe Mutombo.

I did not realize the Bayou Bengals were in the East region in 2015, their last tournament appearance. That year, LSU lost a close game to North Carolina State in Pittsburgh. The Wolfpack followed that by ousting top seed Villanova, which bounced back just fine, as evidenced by the Wildcats’ national championships in 2016 and ’18.

The “pod” system, where first and second round sites are not tied to a specific region, sometimes makes it very easy to forget which region a team is assigned to. However, I should have done my homework. Not that it’s going to cost me anything, but I have to do better.

That I didn’t know LSU was in the East region four years ago shows my interest in March Madness has waned. A lot. I seriously doubt I’ll be watching at 1140 Thursday when the Bayou Bengals face Yale.

I listened to the end of the LSU-NC State game in 2015 driving around Overland Park. I watched the LSU-Georgetown game of 1988 in my old house in Arabi with Jason Malasovich, who was over to visit.

The Hoyas’ win over LSU was their last of 1987-88. Georgetown was no match for Temple in the second round. The Owls, the top seed in the East in 1988, lost in the East regional final to Duke, a disappointing end, but certainly better than the previous season, when John Chaney’s team entered the second round of the NCAAs 32-3, only to be easily defeated by the #10 seed in the Midwest, LSU.

Duke lost to Kansas in the Final Four at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. Two nights later, the Jayhawks avenged three losses to Oklahoma, which ousted Arizona in the other semifinal, by defeating the Sooners 83-79 for their first national championship since 1952.

Two very interesting notes came from the LSU-Georgetown game of 1988 in 1989.

While Mutombo and Smith could not carry Georgetown alone in 1987-88, they got a huge assist the next season with the arrival of Alonzo Mourning from Virginia. The Hoyas won their first nine games of 1988-89 to rise to No. 5 in the AP poll, but lost their first game of 1989 to Seton Hall in the Meadowlands.

As it turned out, that was no sin. The Pirates would be one of the two teams left standing at the very end, losing in overtime to Michigan in one of the best championship games since the NCAA men’s tournament began in 1939.

Following the loss to Seton Hall, the Hoyas won their next six and were ranked No. 2 in the AP poll of January 24, 1989.

On January 26, top-ranked Illinois lost at Minnesota. That meant Georgetown would rise to the top of the polls if it won its January 28 game.

The opponent that Saturday was none other than LSU, which was enjoying a much better than expected season, thanks to the prowess of freshman sensation Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and the fiery leadership of fifth-year senior Ricky Blanton, who played on LSU’s 1986 Final Four team.

Georgetown came to Louisiana as the return game after the Bayou Bengals played the Hoyas in Washington (actually Landover, Maryland, where the Bullets played at the time), but instead of playing in Baton Rouge, the game was moved to New Orleans and the cavernous Louisiana Superdome.

LSU coach Dale Brown and the entire athletic department attempted to set a new attendance record for a college basketball game, and sure enough, over 68.000 packed the “world’s largest room” on Poydras Street, more than attended the Saints’ season finale one month prior.

Nobody gave LSU a chance, but lo and behold, the Bayou Bengals kept it close. Blanton, who was on the floor in Baton Rouge when Anthony Wilson hit a shot at the buzzer vs. Memphis in the secound round of the 1986 NCAA tournament, played the hero this time, laying it in after Dennis Tracey’s airballed 3-point attempt was tipped to him by Wayne Sims.

LSU, which lost 127-100 to Illinois in Baton Rouge three days before Christmas, won 82-80. The Bayou Bengals stumbled at the end, however, losing three of their last four, including the NCAA tournament game vs. UTEP I discussed in an earlier post.

Georgetown sustained road losses to Pitt and Syracuse after the game in New Orleans, but recovered to win the Big East tournament and earn the top seed in the East region. The Hoyas were sent back to Hartford, this time to face another team whose mascot is the Tigers.

Princeton proceeded to win the heart of every basketball fan who did not root for Georgetown. Coincidentally, that game was 30 years ago tonight.

Pete Carrill’s Tigers used their anachronistic offense, centered around back-door cuts and sets which bled the shot clock (then 45 seconds, 15 seconds longer than today) nearly dry and frustrated teams which wanted to play a more up-tempo offense.

Georgetown was one of those teams that got frustrated.

The Hoyas needed Mourning to block a last-second shot to escape with a 50-49 victory. Georgetown’s luck ran out in the regional final when it lost to Duke, who in turn was routed by Seton Hall in the Final Four at Seattle.

While Princeton lost, the NCAA tournament won. Big time. Watch the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about this game and you’ll see how.

This game was not televised on CBS, but rather on ESPN, which had a much lower percentage of households in 1989 than it does today. And it was good fortune Princeton-Georgetown was on ESPN, because many first round games were only televised locally in the markets of the participating teams.

For instance, the LSU-Georgetown game in 1988 was only on in Louisiana and the Capital Beltway, although it may have been picked up by markets in Mississippi, Alabama and east Texas. Two years prior, LSU and Purdue played a thrilling double overtime game in the opening round, but if you weren’t in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Indianapolis, South Bend or another town in Louisiana or Indiana, you were out of luck.

When the NCAA negotiated its next TV contract for the men’s basketball tournament, CBS ponied up the cash and made sure every game would be on The Tiffany Network, an arrangement which lasted 20 years (1991-2010).

Today, CBS shares the tournament with three cable networks, and every game is shown start to finish. Plus with streaming, any basketball junkie should know the final score of every NCAA tournament game right away.

St. Patrick’s Day 2019 is over for the Eastern third of the United States. And it is for me, at least on this blog.

Rambling on at March’s midpoint

Yes, I succumbed to my craving for IHOP’s Swedish crepes last night for dinner. I nearly regretted it.

I left Buffalo Wild Wings at 1730 and immediately got my breakfast for dinner. But I admit I got a little greedy…I added an order of the Nutella crepes and hash browns to my Thursday night/Friday morning order.

I ate all the Nutella crepes, the hash browns, and I started on the Swedish. I also finished half a can of Lay’s Stax plus a small bag of popcorn.

I watched two movies and three episodes of Law & Order: SVU before going to bed. I was starting to fade during the episode which aired on NBC, so I’ll probably watch it again before I leave Kansas City.

At 0400, my gluttony caught up with me. Indigestion. Bad.

I managed to get a little more sleep before I woke up for good at 0610. Some Extra Strength Alka Seltzer helped, and I ate my crepes for breakfast.

God I might wear out the iHOP in Hays when I go back west. Or both in Salina when I’m traveling there.

I was able to order wings from Buffalo Wild Wings today. However, the fish sandwich it is offering during Lent was outstanding. Larry had it when I met him yesterday to play trivia and he liked it, so I said what the heck. Excellent. I’m not a huge fan of beer-battered fish, but B-Dubs doesn’t bury the fish in batter like Long John Silver’s.

FYI, LJS gave me the terrible heartburn in Hutchinson during Norton’s game with Royal Valley last Friday. Never again. However, I don’t foresee myself in Hays in a situation where I would need to eat on a Lenten Friday again this year. Either I’ll be in Russell or somewhere which has more options.

Why am I eating LJS? Come on, I lived in Louisiana for almost 29 years. It’s the same as a chef at Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris eating truck stop steak.

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Huddersfield Town is almost out of the Premier League. Fulham will be joining them. The third relegation spot is up for grabs, with Cardiff City, Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Brighton and Hove Albion, and West Ham not entirely safe.

Liverpool and Manchester City have separated themselves in the title chase. The next four–Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea–are battling for spots in the UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues.

Wolverhampton is having a great first season back in the Premier League after being in the Championship for six seasons. Watford is in good form and could finish in the top half. Bournemouth is somehow afloat despite playing in that bandbox stadium. Everton is again a disappointment. No reason it cannot challenge the “Big Six”.

As for Leicester, another mid-table finish is coming down the pike in the East Midlands. It’s been a very hard year at the KP; Leicester’s owner perished in a helicopter crash on the stadium grounds following a match earlier this season, and recently, manager Claude Puel was sacked.

Yes, the expectations for the Foxes have been through the roof since the miracle championship of 2015-16. On the other hand, Leicester doesn’t have the resources nor the deep top-flight tradition of the Big Six. Considering the Foxes were all but relegated at Christmas 2014, to not be in the relegation scrap after Christmas the last two seasons is pretty good.

There will be no new faces in the Premier League for 2019-20. The current top two, Derby County and Sheffield United, have been there before, as are closest pursuers Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa.

Major League Soccer started its season earlier this month. Sporting Kansas City or any other team could lose every game and end with zero points–that’s nearly impossible–but would stay in the top flight. That’s why I don’t watch MLS, among other reasons.

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I wonder if the Vatican knows St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis will play fo rite Atlantic 10 Conference tournament championship tomorrow, with the winner going to the NCAA tournament. Two fine Catholic institutions battling it out, although I am partial to the fellows from Olean, New York. I am still peeved Saint Louis once employed the late Rick Majerus, who, despite being Roman Catholic, opposed the church’s teachings on many issues, including abortion. I’ll leave it at that. Majerus was a heck of a coach, as evidenced by his success at Ball State and Utah, but his personal life was odd to say the least.

St. Bonaventure made the Final Four in 1970, but lost the best player to ever wear the brown and white of the Bonnies (formerly Brown Indians), Bob Lanier, during the East regional. The Bonnies were mortally wounded when they got to College Park for the Final Four, and were no match for Jacksonville and Artis Gilmore. Gilmore’s Dolphins then lost to UCLA, which was in the two-year interregnum between Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton. The Bruins still won titles both years, and would extend their streak to seven before losing to David Thompson, 7-4 Tom Burleson and North Carolina State in the 1974 semis.

There is a debate as to the exact location of St. Bonaventure. I’ve always thought the school was in Olean, but the postal address is St. Bonaventure, New York, and others refer to the borough of Allegeny in Cattaraugus County, New York, southeast of Buffalo. I’ll stick to Olean, since it’s easier to find on a map than the other locales.

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Kentucky blew it. Lost 82-78 to Tennessee, so the Volunteers play Auburn tomorrow in the SEC tournament final. I cannot stand Auburn these days because of a jerk fan from Baton Rouge I knew when I lived there. I am not an Alabama fan in any way, but knowing he’s miserable when the Crimson Tide beat Auburn makes me feel a little better.

Speaking of Alabama, LSU is not a rival of the Crimson Tide. NOT. A. RIVAL. LSU’s rival is now Texas A&M, and that’s that.

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I just played Andy Gibb’s “Everlasting Love” on the jukebox at Buffalo Wild Wings. God, why did you need drugs to make you happy, Andy? If you were still alive today, you and Barry could be touring and raking in $$$$$$ as the new Bee Gees. Instead, poor Barry is all alone. Andy died 31 years ago this month. Maurice and Robin left the realm of the mortal earlier this millennium.

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Okay what have I not discussed? Trump’s emergency declaration? Well, that will have to wait–if I comment on it at all.

Awesomely crepe-y

Eighteen hours ago, I had never tried the Swedish crepes from iHOP.

Now I’m craving them worse than a pregnant lady craves ice cream and pickles.

While I was on the barstool at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek last night, I decided to order pickup from iHOP in Liberty so I could have breakfast in the morning. I figured I’d put them in the fridge in the hotel room then warm them for 90 seconds in the morning.

After getting lost on my way to the restaurant, I decided I couldn’t wait until morning. I tried one.

Wow. I have a new favorite iHOP dish, and one of my favorite restaurant items anywhere, right along with any steak from Outback, the Jumbo Combo pizza from Minsky’s, the Veggie 7 pizza at Old Chicago, the brisket and corn grits at T.J. Ribs in Baton Rouge, the charbroiled oysters at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans and Baton Rouge…you get the idea.

Thank God I got two orders. Breakfast was great. Now I want to go back and get some for late tonight and tomorrow morning.

The best thing about the Swedish crepes is they are meatless, meaning I can eat them on Lenten Fridays. If I happen to go to Columbia next month, I guess I’m going there at some point.

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LSU’s basketball saga is over, at least as far as playing in the SEC tournament. The Bayou Bengals, the SEC regular season champion, lost 76-73 to Florida when the Gators, coached by New Orleans native Mike White, hit a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left.

LSU is a lock for the NCAA tournament, but with so much controversy surrounding Will Wade and the wiretap which revealed his willing to do anything to sign Javonte Smart, the three-time Louisiana high school player of the year from Scotlandville in north Baton Rouge, what can LSU reasonably expect?

I don’t think my alma mater will last past the first weekend. I hope I’m wrong, but I see trouble.

Kansas City is now overrun with Iowa State fans in town for the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones play Kansas State at 1800, followed by Kansas vs. West Virginia, which finished last during the regular season but is still alive thanks to wins over Oklahoma and regular season co-champion Texas Tech.

Honestly, I only know what’s going on because I’m at Buffalo Wild Wings. If I were back in the basement in Russell, I would probably not watch.

I won’t watch the selection show Sunday. I can wait until the bracket comes out.

I usually don’t watch the NBA, but with the Bucks heading for the top seed in the East, will I have to?

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The Chiefs are big news this week with the start of the NFL’s business year. Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Eric Berry are gone. Tyrann “Honey Badger” Matthieu is in. Kansas City needs to restructure its defense, but right now, it looks like it will try to win every game 41-38 with Mahomes.

The Saints let Mark Ingram go to the Ravens via free agency. It looks like the Cardinals will draft Kyler Murray first overall after drafting Josh Rosen last year. Great idea, Arizona, to let Murray get beaten up behind an offensive line which is worse than a sieve.

The Cardinals have had a horrendous offensive line since Dan Dierdorf was in his heyday, and that’s when your intrepid blogger was in diapers. Arizona is doing this back-assward, but I can’t help it.

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Swedish crepes at iHOP. Gotta have them again.

To console or not to console

The last day of Kansas’ high school basketball season is upon us. However, it’s all sideshows and consolation games until 1600, when the girls championship games start at six (five too many) sites. The boys games will start at 1815.

I have never been a fan of third place games. Never will be a fan. In Louisiana, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association does not require losers in the semifinals to come back. Kansas, along with Missouri and several other states, do.

The NCAA had a third place game in its men’s tournament from 1946 through 1981. It’s amazing it took 35 years for the NCAA to realize the teams which lost their national semifinals were in no mood to stick around at least 36 more hours to play a meaningless game. The last third place game, Virginia vs. LSU in 1981, was played the same day President Reagan was shot in Washington by John Hinckley Jr. There was serious consideration given to cancelling both the third place and championship (Indiana vs. North Carolina) games, but in the end, the games were played.

If the NCAA had been smart about it, it would have told Virginia and LSU to head for the airport and go home, because the third place game would be cancelled and not played. Then Indiana-North Carolina could be put on hold and postponed to the following day if need be. In the end, it worked out okay, because the president made it through surgery and served two full terms.

To its credit, UCLA won the only third place game it played under John Wooden, defeating Kansas in 1974 after a heartbreaking double overtime loss to North Carolina State, which defeated Marquette for the championship. Two years later, Gene Bartow coached the Bruins to victory in the consolation game against previously undefeated Rutgers. UCLA lost in that year’s semis to Indiana, which completed the last undefeated season in NCAA Division I men’s basketball by defeating Michigan.

I have never heard of a team forfeiting a third place game in Kansas, but I would applaud any coaches who would. It might force the KSHSAA to reassess the worth of third place games.

Basketball isn’t the only sport with a third place game in Kansas. ‘

Volleyball has them, but they go on at the same time as the championship match, which doesn’t add time. I think that’s a big mistake; I would like to see the championship matches played on a center court after completion of the semifinals in both classifications at a site.

Softball usually plays simultaneously on different diamonds. The biggest problems are baseball and soccer, where games can and often do go longer than regulation. Baseball is particularly troubling, since most teams have very few pitchers available due to pitch count limits.

If it were up to me, I would award each team which loses in the semifinals a plaque and medals immediately after that game, and that’s it. If the final day were only two championship games, the KSHSAA could make more money by charging two admissions and spacing the games out by four hours, playing one game at 1300 and one at 1700, alternating between boys and girls early/late each year.

If I were forced to coach in a third place game, I would play the seniors who are graduating and the players who rarely played varsity. The players on the end of the bench have worked just as hard as the starters all season. They deserve the opportunity to shine, if only for one day.

For the varsity starters who were returning the next season, I would play them, but not as much. I would explain it to them as gently as I could. Hopefully they would understand.

I remember Osborne’s girls playing in back-to-back third place games in 2007 and ’08. The Bulldogs won in the former year, and looked impressive in doing so. The next year, their hearts didn’t seem to be into it as much, and they lost.

I’m interested to see how Norton and Nemaha Central handle this. There is a trophy at stake. I don’t want a foul fest, and I don’t want a blowout.

LSU’s men’s basketball program is under serious fire for a wiretapped phone call involving coach Will Wade and the recruitment of Javonte Smart, a Baton Rouge native who is a starting guard on this year’s team. Wade is suspended indefinitely, and Smart will not play tonight vs. Vanderbilt. If the Bayou Bengals win, and they should, since the Commodores are 0-17 in the SEC, LSU will win at least a share of the conference championship and be the number one seed for the SEC tournament. Boy what bad timing, but if Wade indeed committed NCAA violations, he has to man up and pay the piper.

College basketball is corrupt. Yet people keep watching. I’m seriously considering taking a pass on this year’s NCAA tournament. I know I’m not filling out a bracket, that’s for sure.

Fourteen and out

Going to bed at a decent hour has led me to wake up at a not so decent hour.

It’s 0330, and I’ve been up for more than an hour. The one good thing it did was allow me to take my contact lenses out and get some drops in my irritated right eye. I fell asleep in my lenses, and now I wish I hadn’t.

When I went to bed last evening, I saw Kansas was losing to Oklahoma in men’s basketball. The first thing I did was check the score when I woke up.

Oklahoma 81, Kansas 68.

The streak is over.

For the first time since 2003-04, Bill Self’s first season in Lawrence, the Jayhawks will not win at least a share of the Big 12 Conference’s men’s basketball championship. Kansas is 11-6 in conference games, meaning it cannot catch either Kansas State nor Texas Tech, both of which are 13-4.

The regular season ends Saturday. The Wildcats host Oklahoma, and the Red Raiders face Iowa State in Ames. If both win or both lose, they tie for the championship. Of course, if one wins and the other loses, the winner is outright champion.

Kansas holds the national Division I record for most consecutive conference championships. The old record of 13 was set by UCLA from 1967-79 in what is now the Pacific-12. When the Bruins began the streak, it was known was the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU), a loose confederation of former members of the Pacific Coast Conference, which had been forced to disband after hundreds of NCAA rules violations by its members. The league officially became the Pac-8 in 1968, then the Pac-10 in the fall of 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State joined from the WAC.

I’m not a Jayhawk fan. Far from it. But finishing first or tied for first in a major conference, one often rated as the best in the country, is quite remarkable, especially when taking a look at another college basketball blue blood.

Kentucky has been a superpower since the game began. Yet the Wildcats have never won 14 consecutive SEC championships, even though there were many years during Adolph Rupp’s reign in Lexington (1931-72) no other team in the SEC could compete on a national level. For many years, many SEC schools did not have a full-time basketball coach; either that person coached another sport, or he had to teach classes in addition to coaching. It wasn’t until after Kentucky lost in the 1966 NCAA championship game to Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) in the famous game where Rupp’s all-white squad lost to a Miner team which started five black players that the rest of the SEC truly got serious about basketball. Sure, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had a good team every now and then, and Mississippi State will be forever remembered for defying the state’s governor to play a desegregated Loyola team in 1963, but basketball in the SEC for too long was the Wildcats and nobody else.

That hasn’t been the case with Kansas in the Big 12. Oklahoma State, where Self played from 1981-85, regained its position as an elite program under Eddie Sutton, even though it has now fallen on hard times. Oklahoma has had great players and great teams, even if few noticed due to the Sooners’ football dominance. Texas has been a consistent big winner. So has Iowa State. Kansas State isn’t where it was under Jack Hartman in the 1970s, but it’s come back a long way from the abyss which was Jim Woolridge’s coaching tenure. West Viriginia’s program has fallen this year, but Bob Huggins has brought the Mountaineers their second golden age, the first being Jerry West’s days in Morgantown.

Kansas will go to the NCAA tournament. That’s all that matters. It won’t add #15 to the billboards across the state proclaiming its conference championship streak, but does it matter that much? Nah.

Hello, I’m David AWOL Steinle

SEVENTEEN DAYS since I last posted to Foots Prints? Unacceptable. If you have been waiting for me to post (you know who you are, wink wink), I am sorry. I am not attempting to hide anything. It’s just I’ve been bone lazy.

Not sleeping properly has been a huge issue. Since my return from Kansas City Jan. 29, I have not been in a regular sleep routine. I’ve stayed up through the night on Sundays and Mondays the last two weeks to make sure my work is done. In turn, on days when I don’t have work to do, all I want to do is sleep.

My laundry is piling up, but since I’ve hardly left the house the last two weeks, it isn’t as bad as it could be. I have not been showering regularly, and the basement at 1224 North Brooks, Russell, Kansas is starting to stink.

The lack of sleep left me so confused last week that when High Plains Mental Health called me for a last-minute appointment with Crista, I forgot what day it was. When Janelle told me 10 am tomorrow, I thought the day was Wednesday and I wouldn’t have time to go. Fortunately, the appointment was for 10 am Wednesday and it was only Tuesday.

I missed my trip to Norton last Friday because of my horrendous sleep habits. I was feeling so awful Friday morning, battling sleep deprivation and heartburn, that when I woke up for a few minutes, I went right back to bed. By time I got up for good, it was already 1600. Another wasted day.

I’m groggy as hell this morning. I’m killing time in Hays between appointments. Got the car serviced, now waiting for another doctor’s appointment.

A lot has gone on since my last post. I won’t bore you with regurgitating some of what’ happened, but here are my thoughts:

Super Bowl LIII–I watched the second half. I did not watch the first half. I should have just kept not watching.

My interest was piqued when I read the push notification from CBS Sports that the halftime score was 3-0 Patriots. So I turned over just out of curiosity.

It only served to anger me even more. I strongly dislike Brady and Belichick, and of course the Rams should not have been in the Super Bowl in the first place. The Saints would have given New England a far better game. Whether Brees and Payton would have taken the Lombardi trophy back to New Orleans, I don’t know.

God, the Rams were pathetic. First team in 47 years not to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl and only the second ever. The other was the 1971 Dolphins, who were throttled by the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. At least in that one, Dallas was heavily favored and Miami wasn’t known for an offense which could crank out yards and points at a breakneck pace.

Jared Goff looked a lot like a couple of other California quarterbacks have in a Super Bowl, Joe Kapp (1969 Vikings) and Craig Morton (1970 Cowboys and 1977 Broncos). Sean McVay barely using Todd Gurley also was perplexing.

Of course, the nauseating talk of Brady being the greatest of all time ramped up as soon as it became obvious the Patriots would win. Yes, Brady has won more championships than any other quarterback in professional football. That is an empirical fact. I cannot deny it because it is true and proven.

To call Brady the greatest ever? Come on. Would Brady have fared so well when Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, Roger Stabauch and Bob Griese were in their heydays? HELL NO. Before 1978, receivers could be hit all over the field, as long as it was from the front or side, and it came before the ball was in the air. Pass blockers had to keep their arms close to their chest, because they could not use their hands, nor could they extend their arms.

Brady is fortunate he is playing in an era where quarterbacks are treated more delicately than the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Would he have succeeded 40 to 50 years ago? Can’t say. However, I’m certain Unitas would have lit it up if he could have payed under Brady’s rules.

Six days after Super Bowl LIII mercifully ended, a new football league kicked off.

It’s called the Alliance of American Football. It has eight teams which will play 10 regular season games between now and mid-April, then hold a two-week playoff to determine the champion.

There are no kickoffs in the AAF. The team which was scored upon starts a new possession at its own 25-yard line. The only way the team which scored can keep the ball is by converting a 4th and 12 from its own 28, and the opportunities for those are extremely limited. The only times a team may attempt the “onside kick” play are (a) if it trails by 17 or more, or (b) if a team is behind with less than five minutes remaining.

In other words, Sean Payton wouldn’t like this one bit. Remember, the Saints successfully attempted an onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, and that turned the tide in New Orleans’ favor vs. Peyton Manning’s Colts.

The AAF also does not allow blitzing. A maximum of five players can rush the passer, meaning offenses do not have to keep in backs and/or tight ends to block if they so choose. The idea is not to make the games so low-scoring and dull that it drives off fans. I like low-scoring games, but I’m in the minute minority on that one.

It’s easy to see the level of football in the AAF is below that of the NFL. However, if the league sticks to its idea of being a developmental league and doesn’t try to become an equal to the NFL like the first XFL, USFL and World Football League did, it can find a niche in the American sports scene.

The Milwaukee Bucks have the NBA’s best record at the All-Star break for the first time since 1974. Holy crap. The Bucks? The team Adam Silver wanted to move out of Milwaukee if Wisconsin didn’t build a new arena? In case you don’t know, the Bucks’ starting lineup in 1974 included Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabber. I hear they were pretty good.

The Maple Leafs are trying to plug along without Auston Matthews, and with a leaky defense. Here’s hoping they can turn it on come April. I’m nauseated by the thought of a Tampa Bay-Nashville final.

LSU’s men’s basketball team won in Lexington Tuesday. The Bayou Bengals are alive and well under second year coach Will Wade, who wasn’t born when LSU went 17-1 in the SEC and 31-5 overall in 1980-81. That year, LSU made the Final Four, only to get stomped by Indiana and Isaiah Thomas.

It would be lovely for LSU to come to Kansas City for the Midwest Regional in late March and lay it on a certain team from Lawrence. Or the one from Manhattan. Knowing my luck, LSU will be put in the west.

The designated hitter is coming to the National League. It’s only a matter of time. I am angry as hell. I’ll save that for later.

The United States of America is screwed. Royally screwed. When you’ve got ideological demagogues like Trump, Steve King, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ihlan Omar getting elected, not to mention Maxine Waters spending three decades in the House, it tells you something is totally F***ED up.

Edwin Edwards was corrupt during his four terms as Governor of Louisiana, but he wasn’t a hate monger and he wasn’t incompetent. I’d vote for him over any of the other jackasses we have now.

That’s all for now.

Cajun chicanery

Forty-five years ago today, the National Collegiate Athletic Association had one of its shining moments.

At a special meeting at Chicago’s world-famous Palmer House hotel, Walter Byers’ association shut down the dirtiest college basketball program of the time, and one of the dirtiest to ever disgrace the NCAA.

The University of Southwestern Louisiana, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, saw its basketball program (only the men were sanctioned by the NCAA at this time; the NCAA did not sanction women’s programs until 1981-82) given the death penalty (the term wasn’t used until Southern Methodist’s football program was shut down in February 1987 for one season; the Mustangs self-imposed another season of dormancy before returning in 1989) for two seasons, the only time the NCAA has ever shut down a sport at a member school for more than one season.

The Cajuns were Louisiana’s top college basketball team following Pete Maravich’s departure from LSU in March 1970. Maravich gave LSU respectability for his three seasons on the varsity, scoring 3,667 points, a record which stands 48 years later despite freshmen being ineligible to play in Division I until 1972-73, and the introduction of the shot clock (1985-86) and 3-point field goal (1986-87).

Once Pete went to the Atlanta Hawks, daddy Press had two poor seasons before being fired in March 1972, opening the door for an unknown North Dakota native, Dale Brown, to take over.

Meanwhile, 60 miles to the west, Beryl Shipley had built a powerhouse in relative obscurity. The Ragin Cajuns didn’t even compete in the NCAA until the 1967-68 season, but before that, Shipley recruited blacks to USL, something that was strictly forbidden at the time at LSU. Shipley played blacks in 1966-67, five seasons before Kentwood’s Collis Temple Jr. became the Bayou Bengals’ first black varsity athlete in any sport.

In 1967, the Cajuns reached the quarterfinals of the NAIA tournament. However, the next season, USL’s first in the NCAA, the program was placed on two years’ probation (1968-69 and 1969-70) for payments from an outside organization to players, including the black ones.

Even though USL was on probation in 1968-69, Shipley hit the mother lode by plucking a transformational player from Ohio State’s backyard.

Dwight “Bo” Lamar went on to score nearly 3,500 points in four seasons (freshmen were eligible in Division II, where USL played in its first four seasons in the NCAA) and took over the spotlight Maravich vacated, becoming Louisiana’s best college basketball player, and by extension, the best basketball player in Louisiana, since the NBA wouldn’t come around until 1974.

If many in Columbus, including legendary Buckeye coach Fred Taylor, who coached Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek when Ohio State won the 1961 national championship, were wondering how one of there own could go to a tiny school in the south, they weren’t alone.

Lamar had plenty of better options if he wanted to play in the south. Louisville and Kentucky were just across the Ohio River. Tennessee had a great program under Ray Mears, and Roy Skinner had built a strong unit at Vanderbilt. Heck, even Alabama, now led by former Olympic gold medalist C.M. Newton, was proving to be more than a idle distraction during Tuscaloosa winters.

By all rigbts, Lamar should have been a Buckeye. That he ended up a Cajun had to raise a red flag.

In 1971, Lamar earned Division II All-America honors and helped the Cajuns finish third nationally. The next year, the Cajuns moved up to Division I and joined the Southland Conference, where they dominated and won the league’s automatic bid to the Big Dance.

USL won its first tournament game in 1972 over Marshall before losing in the regional semifinals to Louisville and their rookie coach, Denny Crum. One year later, USL knocked out Guy Lewis’ Houston Cougars before losing again in the regional semis, this time to Jack Hartman’s Kansas State Wildcats.

In between his junior and senior seasons, Lamar played for the United States Olympic team in Munich, the one which had the gold medal stolen from them by a corrupt Hungarian referee, who helped the Soviet Union hand the Americans their first-ever loss in Olympic basketball.

If they thought the communists were cheating, they had nothing on what was going on in Lafayette.

The NCAA had a fatter dossier on USL than the CIA could ever have hoped for. USL was going to be banned from the postseason in 1972-73, but the Cajuns won an injunction in the federal court for the Western District of Louisiana to continue to be eligible for the postseason. The case was eventually dismissed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals due to lack of jurisdiction.

The NCAA had the goods to put USL out of business, namely more than 120 violations of its rules.

Cash payments to players, players borrowing the cars of Shipley and boosters, buying clothes and other material things for players was bad, but USL certainly wasn’t the only program which engaged in this.

However, there was something much more damning.

Academic fraud.

Shipley and his assistants were doctoring transcripts to make them appear eligible when they really weren’t. In some cases, assistant coaches were forging the signatures of principals. Boosters were arranging for surrogates, namely honor students who were classmates of recruits, to take entrance exams.

With the court case dismissed, the NCAA was free to act.

And boy did it act.

Not only was USL handed a two-year death penalty, but NCAA Committee on Infractions wanted to take a step further and expel the university from the NCAA.

The Cajuns were spared that fate, but USL was banned from competing for conference championships in all sports for the length of the death penalty against the basketball team. Also, USL could not vote at the annual NCAA convention for three years.

Some in Lafayette blamed the new coach at LSU for ratting out USL. However, I have not seen anything to remotely suggest Dale Brown did this. Of course, in 1986, when Brown testified before the NCAA at its headquarters in Kansas City, USL supporters went nuclear when they found out LSU would not be penalized for violations which may have occurred during Bob Brodhead’s tenure as LSU athletic director from 1982-86.

USL was the second school at the time to receive a death penalty. The first was Kentucky, where Adolph Rupp’s program was shuttered in 1952-53 for a point shaving scandal which involved All-Americans Ralph Beard and Alex Groza.

USL would not be the last Louisiana college basketball program to run afoul of the NCAA.

Centenary in Shreveport was hammered by the NCAA when it was discovered superstar Robert Parish, who prepped at the city’s Woodlawn High, had not taken the proper standardized college entrance exam. Instead, Parish and several teammates took another test and had their scores converted to the NCAA scale.

Centenary claimed the test scores were valid, the NCAA said otherwise and ruled Parish and four teammates ineligible to play for the Gentlemen (yes, that is Centenary’s nickname). The NCAA would allow the five players to transfer and resume their careers after sitting out one season, but all refused.

Instead of handing Centenary the death penalty, the NCAA did something even more esoteric.

It basically wiped Centenary off the map. The Gentlemen disappeared into a black hole as far as the NCAA was concerned, banning any of its players from appearing in its statistical records.

Parish, who of course went on to be one of the greatest centers in NBA history, dominated the competition and supposedly led the nation in rebounding and blocked shots his senior season. However, nobody could tell, simply because Centenary was not allowed to report its statistics to the NCAA.

In the 1980s, Tulane found itself embroiled in a point shaving scandal which landed numerous players in front of a grand jury. John “Hot Rod” Williams, probably the best player to ever suit up for the Green Wave, was acquitted, but the resulting bad press prompted Tulane president Dr. Eamon Kelly to shutter the men’s basketball team in April 1985.

Not only was men’s basketball gone at Tulane, but the Green Wave was soon expelled from the Metro Conference, a move which severely hurt Tulane’s strong baseball program. Not long after that, the football program. which had recently hired Mack Brown as coach, was nearly shut down, too, but it was spared the ax.

Kelly wanted to make the ban permanent, but he finally relented and allowed its return in 1989-90.

Many of the same issues which led to USL’s death penalty cropped up again when SMU’s football program was banished 13 1/2 years later.

However, no other Division I team has faced the death penalty, although several programs came very close (Kansas men’s basketball, 1988; Kentucky men’s basketball, 1989; Ole Miss football, 1994; Alabama football, 2002; Penn State football, 2012).

USL got what it so richly deserved in 1973. Too bad the NCAA lacks the guts to do it now.

Why did I watch?

When I last posted Sunday, I stated I would not watch the NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Michigan and Villanova, fearing the Wildcats would toy with the Wolverines.

However, I did, simply because I was in a Wichita hotel room with limited television options and no way to plug my iPad into the TV. I was in Wichita to pick up an online order and shop at Target, something I cannot do in Russell or Hays. Also, there was work going on in the bathroom downstairs, so I wanted to give the workers free rein without distraction.

Michigan started well, but by the middle of the first half, it was obvious the national championship would reside on the Main Line of Philadelphia for the second time in three seasons.

Final: Villanova 79, Michigan 62.

Jay Wright has probably cemented his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., if he had not already. Wright is one of just 15 coaches to win multiple championships since the first NCAA men’s tournament in 1939.

The Big Ten has not produced a men’s basketball national champion since Michigan State in 2000. The Pac-12’s drought is longer, going back to Arizona in 1997. As bad as that is, both of the “Rose Bowl” conferences have had precious little success in women’s basketball as well–the Big Ten won its only title in 1999 with Purdue, and the Pac-12 last won with Stanford way back in 1992.

I’m done with basketball for the rest of 2018. I don’t care about the NBA–unless the Bucks would make a deep playoff run, which isn’t happening–and I don’t watch early season college basketball. Too many mismatches.

Major League baseball is suffering from a rash of postponements, which happens when there is bad weather in the northern latitudes. The Royals saw last Sunday’s home game vs. the White Sox snowed out, and it was too cold for them to play Wednesday in Detroit, so there will be two doubleheaders later this month. Next up is a trip to Cleveland, which isn’t exactly a tropical paradise.

MLB needs to stop with this idea that every team should have a home opener within the first two weeks of the season. If it’s too cold in Boston, New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago, then they have to play on the road in April. The schedule will even out in July and August. Besides, who really wants to play in Atlanta in August? Even St. Louis is miserably unbearable. The Florida teams and Houston don’t count because they have retractable-roof stadiums. Milwaukee was smart enough to put a retractable roof on Miller Park, so why didn’t other teams in the Great Lakes region? Wrigley Field is one thing, but there was no reason the White Sox shouldn’t have done it. Or the Tigers. Or Twins, which played indoors for 28 seasons.

The NHL playoffs start next week. I am absolutely loathing Tampa Bay, Nashville and Vegas all having good chances to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. I will never, ever agree with the idea of hockey in southern locales. I’m glad New Orleans had a team when I was living there, because it would have been awfully tempting to go. It’s up to the Bruins and Maple Leafs to carry the flag for the Original Six, because the Rangers, Red Wings, Canadiens and Blackhawks are long gone.

Seven days until I depart for the native land.

Back on the blog

If you thought I had passed on into the afterlife, I don’t blame you. But March was a pretty bad month for me, so I figured it best not to chronicle just how bad it was. However, I did post some very nasty things on social media which I really am hating myself for.

I am so happy March Madness ends tomorrow night. I have had it with basketball. Enough already. I’m not watching the championship game.

If Michigan keeps it close, it will be a miracle. I can’t remember Michigan being this big an underdog in a major athletic event in my lifetime. Probably the last time it happened was the 1969 football game vs. Ohio State when the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 24-12 to end Ohio State’s 22-game winning streak.

Villanova isn’t as big a favorite as Georgetown was vs. the Wildcats in the 1985 final, but it’s close. With the way the Wildcats dismantled Kansas, there’s no reason to think the Wolverines will come any closer, even though Michigan is riding a 14-game winning streak.

Michigan is 1-4 in previous title game appearances. However, the one the Wolverines won was against Seton Hall, a Catholic school from the Big East, just like Villanova. Unfortunately for John Beilein, Glen Rice has been out of eligibility since that night in Seattle 29 years ago.

Kansas got its comeuppance last night. Jayhawk fans had been talking trash all tournament, crying about the lack of respect  and whatever else they could complain about. They can shut up until November.

Notre Dame just hit a buzzer beater to defeat Mississippi State in the women’s championship game.

The good news: UConn didn’t win the title. Again.

The bad news: Notre Dame won.

I do not like Irish coach Muffet McGraw. Not after she whined and bitched and complained about Geno Auriemma constantly during the 2014 Final Four, when the Huskies beat Notre Dame in the final. I am not an Auriemma lover by any means, but McGraw sounded like a shrill shrew.

I also found reason to dislike McGraw after she allowed her players to wear t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter before several games in recent years. That has no place in sports. Period.

I also have heard in a few places McGraw is pro-abortion, which if she is, should disqualify her from being employed by Notre Dame or any other Catholic university. Then again, many pro-aborts have been featured speakers at Notre Dame, so it would not shock me if McGraw fell in line with that view.

I was very angry with Saint Louis University when it employed the late Rick Majerus, who was outspokenly pro-abortion. Majrerus not only coached at Saint Louis, but also at Marquette, another Catholic institution. Do administrators at Catholic universities do their homework? I’m beginning to believe not.

There was some good news from the sports world this weekend. The Royals lost twice to the White Sox, while the Padres, led by their $147 million man, former Royal Eric Hosmer, were swept by the Brewers. The Reds were also swept–by the Nationals–so MLB opening weekend was pretty god in my book.

I slept until 12:40 this afternoon. Maybe that wasn’t the worst thing.