Category Archives: College Basketball
Capital traffic and sporting headaches
What is it about state capitals and traffic?
I lived for nine years in Baton Rouge, where the capitol and state offices are at the western edge of the city along the Mississippi River, but the majority of population lives to the east.
Today, I was stuck in a parking lot at an exit off of Interstate 80/35 in Des Moines. Lucky for me, I did not have to go any farther north, because the traffic was worse.
The Iowa capitol and state offices are at the southern edge of Des Moines along Interstate 235. Most of the population lives to the north and east, and that makes I-80/35 look like the end of a football game in Ames or Iowa City.
Topeka has the same problem: state capitol and offices on the east side, most of the population living to the south and west.
As for other capitals, I’ve been to or through Lincoln, Oklahoma City, Austin, Little Rock, Jackson, Montgomery, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Columbia and Nashville, but don’t have enough experience to say much.
Frankfort is way too small to have traffic. The Commonwealth of Kentucky plopped down the capital there because it’s halfway between Louisville and Lexington. Good move. If you’re driving on I-64 between the big cities, be sure to stop in Frankfort to visit the Kentucky capitol and its beautiful floral clock.
Considering what’s happened the last two weeks, traffic was a welcome distraction.
I had a bad case of tonsillitis the week of March 20. Kelsey Lahey Templeman, Dr. Custer’s physician assistant, prescribed me penicillin and dexamethasone, and that cleared it up quickly.
Then there’s the world of sports.
I’m still angry over the way LSU shamed itself in what should have been one of the university’s greatest moments. It’s embarrassing to think people representing the school you (barely) graduated from could act like that.
I did not watch one second of the game live. I slept through it. In fsact, I had a dream while napping that LSU won when Alexis Morris tapped the ball straight into the basket off of a throw-in with two-tenths of a second remaining. There was then a long delay as the officials determined whether or not Morris tapped the ball straight towards the basket, or she caught it first, which would have invalidated the basket.
Under basketball rules at all levels, if there is fewer than four-tenths of a second remaining on the clock, a player may not catch and shoot. This rule was brought about from a 1990 NBA game in which the Knicks’ Trent Tucker caught a inbounds pass with one-tenth of a second left, turned around and drained a 3-pointer to defeat the Bulls at Madison Square Garden. In fact, here’s a link to Tucker’s shot on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP0t-BXCi1c
I avoided looking for the result until approximately two hours after the game ended. I accidentally surfed to ESPN’s home page, and there was a big picture of Kim Mulkey smiling and wearing another ridiculous outfit.
Then I saw a headline about Caitlin Clark, Iowa’s superstar and the National Player of the Year, receiving a technical foul for supposed disrespect towards referee Lisa Jones.
Clark had to sit out much of the first half with three fouls, as Jones and her colleagues, Pualani Spurlock-Welch and Michol Murray, thought the game was about them, not the Tigers or the Hawkeyes. (Where was Dee Kantner, arguably the greatest woman to ever officiate the sport?)
Forty fouls in a Division I national championship game? FORTY? An average of a foul a minute is asinine. That’s what you expect out of a middle school game, not the highest level of collegiate basketball.
I hope LSU has extra money in the budget for rings for Jones, Spurlock-Welsh and Murray. I have heard enough bitching about MLB umpire Angel Hernandez, but I’ve never seen him call anything as egregious as what this trio of robbers did to Iowa.
Jones, Spurlock-Welsh and Murray remind me of another infamous trio of incompetent officials–Patrick Turner, Gary Cavaletto and Todd Prukop, the three NFL zebras who suddenly came down with cataracts when the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman flagrantly interfered with the Saints’ Tommylee Lewis in the NFC championship game in January 2019.
I thought about going to Baton Rouge for an LSU baseball series. Not happening now. I’m still angry about LSU’s disgraceful display in Dallas.
Why should I be surprised? LSU has embarrassed itself so many times over the years it’s now commonplace.
This was far from the worst. Covering up rape by football players takes the cake. Add in the former football coach–married with four children–acting like a frat boy towards female students working in the office, women’s tennis coaches ignoring a rape complaint by one of their players (committed by a football player) and former men’s basketball coach Will Wade breaking every rule in the NCAA manual before he was finally shown the door, and I wonder why I bother supporting that school anymore.
The Masters started today.
I will not watch.
I hate everything about The Masters, especially the haughty attitude of Augusta National members and golf fans who think The Masters is the only tournament that matters.
Memo to those who dismiss the other majors: The Open Championship started SIXTY-TWO YEARS before The Masters. Golf started in SCOTLAND, not the United States.
I’ll look at the leaderboard. But I will not watch a single drive, chip or putt.
The Masters was a great reason to escape Russell. My parents will be glued to it.
Worse, Brooks Koepka, one of the assholes who took the Saudi blood money to join LIV Golf, is tied for the first-round lead.
The West Des Moines Sheraton. A happy place. Reminds me of good times. I have work to do, but there will also be enough time to slip away to Omaha for Pibb Zero, and maybe to the Quad Cities for some hard-to-find sausage.
Time to stop for now. I don’t need to raise my blood pressure.
Thirty years ago Saturday, Arizona became just the second No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament to lose its first round game, falling to Santa Clara in Salt Lake City.
The Broncos’ star was a previously unknown Canadian named Steve Nash.
Ironically, Nash would one day bring much joy to basketball fans in the Grand Canyon State by becoming arguably the greatest player to wear a Phoenix Suns uniform. I would put Nash behind Alvan Adams and Walter Davis, but my memory is way too good.
Today, history repeated itself for the Wildcats in Sacramento.
Despite being seeded No. 2 in the South behind top overall seed Alabama, more than a few picked Arizona to reach the Final Four in Houston. Some even had the Wildcats to cut down the nets at NRG Stadium on the night of 3 April, which would have been Arizona’s second national championship. The Wildcats won it all in 1997 in an overtime thriller vs. defending champion Kentucky.
Instead of practicing tomorrow at Golden 1 Center (which should not be the home of an NBA team) in preparation for a date with Missouri, Arizona will be boarding a plane for the long and painful flight to Tucson.
Arizona met its Waterloo this time at the hands of Princeton in embarrassing fashion, going scoreless over the final 4:45 of a 59-55 loss to the Ivy League tournament champion.
The Wildcats led by 12 points with 11:50 to go and somehow lost this game?
Memo to U of A president Dr. Robert C. Robbins: DO NOT consider a move to the Big 12. No. Don’t tilt at that windmill, even if your archrival in Tempe wants to jump.
First, the Wildcat football program is a mess. It can’t stay out of the cellar in the Pac-12 South unless Colorado goes full tank like it did last year.
Second, if your basketball program is going to lay dinosaur-sized eggs like this one and the one in 1993, why test your luck in the Big 12 against the program with the most wins in NCAA history, a Houston program which has regained its place among the elite for the first time since Phi Slamma Jamma, an up-and-coming Kansas State program, plus consistently strong teams in Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia? Once UCLA goes to the Big Ten, there’s no reason Arizona shouldn’t swallow the minnows remaining in the Pac-12 pool.
Third, Orlando is Disney World and a whole bunch of crap. Playing UCF will do nothing for you.
Happy 40th, Selection Sunday!
It took 10 minutes for me to scrape the icebergs off my car this morning in Kansas City. I arrived from Russell barely in time; it began sleeting at Junction City, and by time I hit Lawrence, the bridge over the Kansas River on the Tunrpike was slushy. A state trooper was on the left shoulder, and two vehicles were involved in an accident on the right.
It got worse after the toll plaza near Bonner Springs. There is a series of curves between the plaza and Kansas Highway 7, and if you take it too fast in bad weather, it will lead to trouble.
Indeed, numerous cars had slid off the Turnpike, and a couple hit the barrier median (the Turnpike has a concrete barrier for its entire length from the Oklahoma state line to KCK; engineers in the mid-1950s saved money by not including the standard 11-meter (~25 foot) grassy median). I was smart enough to slow down.
By time I checked into my hotel at 16:00, the sleet was coming down harder. An hour later, the snow began, and by morning, my white Buick mostly disappeared.
If it would have been -10 C (12 F) when the snow started, it would have been light and fluffy. Instead, with the temperature at -2 to -3 (27-30), it made the snow ice-crusted.
I have always carried a scraper/brush combination when driving in the winter. Today proved why. Combined with starting the engine and cranking up the defoggers to 32 (90), it made the removal easier.
I had an appointment today in KC, one I put off two weeks ago. That’s the only reason I was here. Believe me, if I didn’t have to be here, I would be in my basement in Russell.
Forty years ago this evening, CBS made sports history with a half-hour special announcing the pairings for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, colloquially known as March Madness.
CBS acquired the rights to the NCAA tournament in the summer of 1981 following a 13-season run on NBC.
NCAA head Walter Byers and his closest lieutenants may have had reservations about moving to Black Rock, since the network also had the NBA, but soon Byers and everyone else at NCAA headquarters in Overland Park would be over the moon.
CBS promised the NCAA much more coverage of the early rounds. NBC provided spotty coverage of the rounds prior to the Elite Eight (reginonal finals), and it wasn’t until the late 1970s it showed those four games live to all of the nation. At first, all four regional finals were played on the same day at the same time; then it was two Saturday and two Sunday, regionally televised.
CBS televised its first college basketball game the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1981, then made its big splash the evening of Sunday, 7 March 1982.
At 6:00 ET/5:00 CT, Brent Musburger sat at his familiar desk at CBS Sports Control in New York with Billy Packer, NBC’s top analyst from 1975-81, discussing what would happen in a few minutes when they linked up with Gary Bender at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Kansas City (yes, THAT Hyatt Regency, the one where 114 were killed eight months earlier when a walkway collapsed on participants in a dance contest).
Joining Bender, who called the 1981 NBA championship series (Celtics-Rockets) for CBS and was tapped as the top play-by-play man for the NCAA was Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt, chairman of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.
Bender and Gavitt gave a thorough explanation of the principles of constructing the bracket. Gavitt explained the committee always did its best to keep teams in their “natural” geographic regions, but inevitably some teams had to be shifted, such as Georgetown, led by freshman Patrick Ewing, to the West as the No. 1 seed.
The first pairing announced by Bender was Ohio State vs. James Madison at Charlotte in the East regional, with the winner to face top seed and top-ranked North Carolina. (for the record, the Dukes defeated the Buckeyes
FYI, the bracket was 48 teams in 1982. The top four seeds in each regional had byes to the second round. In 1985, byes were eliminated with the expansion to 64.
Another innovation by CBS was live satellite hookups at various schools to gauge their reaction to the brackets.
Pat O’Brien was stationed with Fresno State, where he was joined by the team and hundreds of fans outside Selland Arena. Jim Kelly was in Lexington, where he interviewed Kentucky athletic director and former Wildcat superstar Cliff Hagan. Verne Lundquist, who announced a UNLV-South Carolina game earlier that day in Columbia, got raw emotion from Running Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian after his team was snubbed.
In later years, the chairman of the selection committee answered questions from CBS anchors and analysts, as well as coaches. There have been more than a few heated exchanges.
ESPN began the women’s selection show in the mid-1990s, and it has gained popularity as the women’s game has grown. It will likely draw the highest ratings this year in Louisiana, thanks to Kim Mulkey.
The selection show whetted the appetite of college basketball fans for what CBS would do when the games started four days later.
Black Rock came through big time.
Beginning in 1982, CBS televised a first-round game at 11:30 ET/10:30 CT/8:30 PT on Thursday AND Friday, plus three second-round games each day. CBS showed four live games (two Thursday and two Friday) in the Sweet Sixteen, then made sure every regional final had an uninterrupted three-hour window.
ESPN continued to show first round games through 1990. CBS took over the entire tournament beginning in 1991, and in 2011, coverage expanded to TBS, TNT and TruTV to ensure every game from the First Four to the championship was televised from start to finish in every household in the United States (and many in Canada) who wanted to watch.
YouTube has video of the 1982 selection show. That’s all you need to put in the search box.
One tradition which did not come for a few years was “One Shining Moment”. In 1982, following North Carolina’s 63-62 nail-biter over Georgetown in the Superdome to give Dean Smith his first national championship, CBS showed a montage of highlights, set to Sister Sledge’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us (Jackie’s Theme)”. Nowhere near as popular as “We Are Family” or “He’s the Greatest Dancer” for Sister Sledge, but I’m betting that song gets some play in Raleigh-Durham this time of year to the chagrin of Duke fans (hopefully not too much; besides, the Blue Devils have won five titles since OSM began in 1987).
In 1983, Christopher Cross’ “All Right” was selected for the highlights after North Carolina State’s stunning win over Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Cougars (aka Phi Slamma Jamma). I hope Pam Valvano, her children and grandchildren listen to that song and remember Jimmy V. running up and down the court at Albuquerque looking for someone to hug. It was sad Jimmy V. couldn’t be at Cameron Indoor last Saturday for Coach K’s last home game.
Jennifer Hudson, YOU SUCK. Just look up “One Shining Moment 2010” and you will see why.
Coincidentally, CBS’ coverage of the NBA dramatically improved during the 1981-82 season.
The previous season, four of the six games in the championship series were tape-delayed and not televised until 11:35 ET/10:35 CT. Only if you lived in Boston or Houston could you see the games live; even the West Coast markets, where the games in Boston started before prime time, did not show them live.
In 1982, CBS showed all six games of the Lakers-76ers series live. Some earlier round games were still tape-delayed, but there were more live playoff games. Plus, Dick Stockton took over from Bender as play-by-play man, and he showed his mettle as one of the best, and my personal favorite.
I’m not a big college basketball fans, but those who are deserve the best coverage. CBS and its partners have given it to them for 39 seasons.
Holiday no reason to celebrate for NC State
I’m in the Omaha Marriott composing this War and Peace post. I must be bored. It feels like winter in Nebraska outside. Praise Jesus.
Last night’s scheduled Holiday Bowl between North Carolina State and UCLA was postponed less than five hours before the scheduled kickoff of 1800 PST. The Bruins felt they could not compete due to a large number of COVID-19 cases within the program. The Wolfpack and coach Dave Doeren were not pleased; they felt UCLA coach Chip Kelly manipulated the situation by waiting until the last minute to say they had COVID problems. NC State tried find an opponent, but just before noon CST, the game was officially cancelled. Last year’s Holiday Bowl, which has been a staple of the bowl season since 1978, was cancelled by COVID.
I’m calling this John Wooden’s payback, with the I.O.U. dated 23 March 1974.
It was that Saturday evening when NC State did the unthinkable, defeating UCLA in the Final Four at Greensboro. The Wolfpack’s 80-77 double overtime win ended the Bruins’ dream of an eighth consecutive national championship, as well as Bill Walton’s quest to match Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) by winning three titles under Wooden’s tutelage.
It ended UCLA’s phenomenal 38-game NCAA tournament winning streak. Prior to that, the Bruins had not lost when it counted most since falling in the 1963 regional semifinals (Sweet 16) to Arizona State, which at the time was in the Western Athletic Conference (the Sun Devils joined the Pacifc-8 with Arizona to make it the Pac-10 in 1978).
Too many people under age 40 think NC State basketball’s only shining moment was when Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack to their stunning 1983 championship over Houston.
A man named Norm Sloan built a team which churned out one of the most impressive two-year runs in college basketball annals.
The iconic Wizard of Westwood, who passed away in 2010 at 99, led UCLA to seven consecutive NCAA men’s basketball championships from 1967 through 1973, and had the Bruins poised to make it eight at the 1974 Final Four, despite THREE (3!) regular season losses: one to Notre Dame which ended UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak, then a pair of inexplicable stinkers in Corvallis (Oregon State, coached by Kansas native Ralph Miller) and Eugene (Oregon, where Bill Bowerman was still coaching the Ducks’ track and field team while helping Phil Knight with some two-year old startup company called Nike).
To make it eight in a row, which would have matched the Boston Celtics from 1959-66 for the most consecutive championships in a team sport at the collegiate or professional level, and 10th for Wooden since 1964, the Bruins would have to fly across the fruited plane to Greensboro.
As in Greensboro, North Carolina.
There, a hometown favorite and Atlantic Coast Conference power was lying in wait, along with Kansas and Marquette. The Jayhawks of Ted Owens and Warriors (don’t give me the p.c. crap; Marquette was the Warriors until the 1990s) of Al McGuire faced off in the “undercard” to the main event.
It was not North Carolina. Topeka native and former Kansas Jayhawk Dean Smith was already a Tar Heel legend, but that elusive championship was still a few years off. Meanwhile, 11-year old Michael Jeffrey Jordan of Wilmington had yet to hit puberty.
It was not Duke. Yes, UCLA defeated the Blue Devils in the 1964 championship game to give Wooden his first title, but the Blue Devils were relegated to the middle of the pack of the ACC, save for a 1978 championship game loss to Kentucky, for most of the years between then and the 1980 hiring of you know who.
Virginia? Ralph Sampson was in seventh grade.
Wake Forest? Tim Duncan wasn’t born.
Georgia Tech? In exile after leaving the SEC in 1965, with rescue by the ACC still five years away.
Clemson? Basketball was filler between football and spring football
South Carolina? Left the ACC three years prior. Its lifeline from the SEC was still 17 years away.
Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville? In 1974, suggesting any of these schools would someday be in the ACC was a one-way ticket to the looney bin.
The ACC is unusual in that the only champion is the team which wins the conference tournament. There is no official “regular season champion” in ACC men’s basketball. Every school which finishes first or tied for first after the regular season hangs a banner in their arena, but don’t expect the conference office in Greensboro to provide a trophy for it.
It’s win the tournament or no ACC trophy.
Since 1980, the first year the NCAA allowed an unlimited number of qualifiers per conference to the men’s tournament, the ACC tournament final has almost always matched two teams which would be going to the Big Dance, win or lose. Those epic Duke-North Carolina finals were fun to watch, but in the grand scheme, would mean zilch once CBS’ Selection Sunday show began at 1800 EST.
In 1974, this wasn’t the case.
Each conference was allowed ONE team into the tournament. One. Uno. Solitary.
When Wooden had his dynasty humming in Westwood, the other seven members of the Pacific-8 knew their odds of making the NCAA tournament were about as good as those given Leicester City before it won the Premier League championship in 2015-16.
In the SEC, Kentucky was, and still is, the undisputed king. Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had some very good teams in that era, but all knew the Wildcats would be representing the conference barring a major slip. Pete Maravich scored 3,667 points in three seasons at LSU to set the NCAA record–which still stands–but the Bayou Bengals never sniffed the Big Dance because they needed binoculars to find the Wildcats in the standings.
The Big Eight boiled down to Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, with the Jayhawks prevailing more often than not, as they did in 1974.
The Big Ten centered on the Hoosier State, with Indiana and Purdue taking their turns at the top. Fred Taylor still had Ohio State rolling, and Michigan played for the 1965 championship.
The NCAA kept several spots reserved for worthy independents, mostly in the northeast. Providence and Pitt took this road into the 1974 tournament (see below), as did Notre Dame, which lost to Marquette (also independent) in the Mideast regional semifinals.
In the Pac-8, SEC, Big Eight, Big Ten and most every other conference, the regular season champion went to the NCAA tournament. The second place team could hope for an NIT berth. Everyone else? Better luck next season.
The ACC dared to be different.
In 1961, the conference declared the tournament champion would be recognized as the sole champion of the conference and its representative to the NCAA tournament.
In 1974, it meant March 9 was Armageddon.
No. 2 North Carolina State vs. No. 3 Maryland in the tournament final at Greensboro.
The winner would be dancing.
The loser would be weeping.
In 1973, the Wolfpack of coach Norm Sloan went 27-0 and deposed the Tar Heels atop the ACC, but the NCAA slapped NC State with probation and a tournament ban for recruiting violations.
(The NCAA had a much more serious infractions case on its hands at the time in my native state, one which landed Southwestern Louisiana, now Louisiana-Lafayette, a two-year death penalty and nearly got the school booted from the NCAA, period.)
The silver lining for Sloan? All of his studs would be back the next season.
Those studs included 7-foot-4 Tommy Burleson, who played on the 1972 Olympic team which was royally screwed in the gold medal game by the Soviets and corrupt officiating; Monte Towe, one of the slickest playmakers to grace an ACC court despite standing all of 5-foot-7; Tim Stoddard, who enjoyed a solid career as an MLB reliever, notably with the 1984 Cubs division championship club; and David Thompson, who was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan and would have to be on any all-time ACC team, even in 2022.
Maryland—which now likes to forget it spent 61 years in the ACC–took NC State’s place in the 1973 NCAA tournament. The Terrapins were led by the flamboyant and personable Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who built a strong program at James Madison before landing at College Park in 1969.
Driesell’s 1973-74 team featured John Lucas, Len Elmore and Tom McMillen. All would play in the NBA, and McMillen and Elmore went on to great success outside of basketball, McMillen as a U.S. Representative from Maryland and Elmore as an attorney. Elmore was also a respected television analyst for many years.
The Wolfpack had an early opportunity to prove themselves in December 1973 against UCLA in a showcase game at The Arena in St. Louis, home to the Blues and the same place where Bill Walton scored 44 points by going 21 of 22 from the field in the Bruins’ 87-66 victory over Memphis State (the “State” was dropped in 1994) in the 1973 championship game, the first to be televised in prime time.
Walton’s last appearance in St. Louis–the Gateway City hasn’t had an NBA team since the Hawks left for St. Louis in 1968, and it’s highly unlikely the NBA will return to Missouri anytime soon–was just as fruitful, with the Bruins winning 84-66.
It was UCLA’s second victory over an ACC power in less than two weeks. The Bruins scraped past the Terps 65-64 at Pauley Pavilion two weeks before taking out the Wolfpack.
NC State responded by reeling off 22 consecutive victories to end the regular season 24-1 overall, 12-0 in the ACC for the second straight year.
The Wolfpack edged the Terrapins 80-74 at Raleigh on Super Bowl Sunday (a better show than the Dolphins’ rout of the Vikings in Houston), then completed the season sweep 86-80 at venerable Cole Field House 17 days later.
Maryland also lost to North Carolina in Chapel Hill and ended the regular season 21-4 overall, 9-3 in the ACC.
With only seven teams in the ACC from 1972-79, the team with the best regular season record earned a bye to the tournament semifinals, a huge advantage in the era of one bid per league.
NC State didn’t waste its advantage, crushing the Cavaliers from Charlottesville 87-66. Maryland was no less impressive in Greensboro, blistering the Blue Devils 85-66 and the Tar Heels 105-85.
No. 2 NC State vs. No. 3 Maryland. Winner to the NCAA tournament. Loser doesn’t.
Forty minutes wasn’t enough to decide the issue. Forty-five were enough–barely.
Wolfpack 103, Terrapins 100.
It has been called by many who witnessed it, either in Greensboro or on television, as the greatest college basketball game they witnessed.
I wasn’t born for another 33 months. I’ve seen bits and pieces on ESPN Classic and YouTube.
I won’t name a greatest game, but in terms of what was at stake, it has to be among the top non-championship games in the history of the sport.
This was the game which prompted the NCAA to begin allowing more than one team per conference into the tournament, although it was capped at two from 1975-79.
Playing in their cozy home, Reynolds Coliseum, NC State steamrolled Providence and Pitt in the East regional to punch a return to Greensboro for the Final Four.
UCLA needed triple overtime to take out Dayton, led by one of the most underrated coaches in the history of the sport, Don Donoher. The Bruins then scorched San Francisco, which had just as much a death grip on the West Coast Conference from Bill Russell’s time until the early 1980s (the Dons in the 1980s is a story for another post) as Gonzaga has today.
Kansas, which lost to UCLA in the 1971 Final Four at the Astrodome, came up short again. The Warriors cruised 64-51, and the Jayhawks would not be heard from again on the national stage until 1986.
UCLA held an 11-point lead in the second half. The Bruins blew it.
The Bruins then led by seven in the second overtime. They blew that, too.
And this was long before the shot clock and 3-point shot in college basketball.
Combine this with Valvano’s magic act nine years later, and NC State has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it knows how to pull a surprise on the biggest stage.
Just how big was UCLA-NC State? So big the Los Angeles Times‘ front page the next morning featured a photo of Bill Walton losing his balance while battling David Thompson for a rebound.
Jim Murray, the famed Times sports columnist, compared the UCLA loss to the end of the British Empire, the Titanic sinking, Napoleon’s surrender at Waterloo and Caesar’s stabbing by Brutus in the Roman Curia.
NC State’s conquest of UCLA featured a scenario which would be repeated six years later in Lake Placid following the Miracle on Ice.
The Wolfpack had Marquette.
The U.S. hockey team had Finland.
Herb Brooks’ skaters almost blew it, trailing 2-1 after two periods before three third-period goals rescued gold.
Sloan’s cagers were never threatened. Al McGuire didn’t stick around until the end. He was ejected in the second half.
Final: NC State 76, Marquette 64.
UCLA and Marquette both earned redemption.
Even without Walton, the Bruins returned to the Final Four in 1975, defeating Louisville in the semifinals before ousting Kentucky 92-85 in Wooden’s grand finale. Joe B. Hall and the Wildcats had to wait three years for their first title since 1958.
Wooden’s 10 championships in 12 years have rightfully earned him a permanent place on the Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches. Adolph Rupp would be on my mountain, and so would
McGuire also went out on top. His Warriors returned to the Final Four in 1977, and Marquette toppled Dean Smith’s Tar Heels 67-59. Smith’s first title, and UNC’s first since 1957, was still five years away, as was that Michael Jordan fellow.
Sloan stayed at NC State until 1980, when he surprisingly returned to Florida, his alma mater, in an attempt to save the Gators from basketball irrelevance, as well as sell season tickets to the Gators’ new arena, now known as the O’Connell Center, which would open in the fall of 1981.
The Gators didn’t reach the Final Four until 1994, five years after Sloan’s departure, but all of his successors–Lon Krueger, Billy Donovan and Mike White–are quick to point out the groundwork Sloan laid in the 1980s for the Gators’ rise to powerhouse status.
The move to Gainesville opened the door for NC State–reeling from the shocking death of former football coach Bo Rein in a January 1980 plane crash–to hire a young, energetic coach from Iona in New Rochelle, New York.
I won’t expound on Jim Valvano’s story any longer, at least this time.
Meanwhile, just down the road in Durham, Duke president Terry Sanford, a former Governor of North Carolina and future United States Senator, rolled the dice on the 33-year old coach at West Point after Bill Foster left for South Carolina.
Needless to say, Sanford hit seven on the come out roll.
Valvano and Coach K are forever linked because of the timing of their hires, and sports is better for it.
Maryland beat the dog out of Virginia Tech in today’s Pinstripe Bowl. Yippee.
How the F**K Is Maryland in the Big Ten? Or Rutgers? I’d still like to know what was going through Jim Delaney’s brain. Somewhere, Bill Reed and Wayne Duke, Delaney’s predecessors as Big Ten Commissioner, must be spinning in their graves.
Thank you for reading if you’ve gotten this far.
Houston, you have yet another problem
Houston called itself “Clutch City” after the Rockets won back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 (vs. the Knicks, led by Patrick Ewing) and 1995 (vs. the Magic, sweeping an Orlando team led by Shaq).
After the last three months, a more appropriate moniker for Houston is “Choke City”.
It began with the Astros. After winning a franchise record 107 games in the regular season, Houston nearly choked in the American League Division Series vs. the Rays, needing a victory in the winner-take-all Game 5 to advance to the American League Championship Series.
The Astros ousted the Yankees in six to move into the World Series for the second time in three years, where Houston would face the Washington Nationals, who were making their first World Series appearance.
Many experts expected the Astros to win the first two games at Minute Maid Park, then go to the nation’s capital and win two of three there.
Instead, Houston lost the first two games at home. The Astros rallied to win the next three in the District of Columbia to gain the series lead, only to choke it away by losing the sixth and seventh games in Texas. It became the first best-of-seven series in any of the three major sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) which use that format where the road team won every game.
Today, the Texans joined the Astros in Houston sports infamy.
Bill O’Brien’s team built a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter of an AFC divisional playoff in Kansas City.
By halftime, the Chiefs led 28-24, as Patrick Mahomes joined Doug Williams as the only quarterbacks to throw four touchdown passes in one quarter of a playoff game. Williams did it in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII, when the Redskins turned a 10-0 deficit vs. the Broncos into a 35-10 halftime bulge. Washington won 42-10, and Williams was the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Kansas City won 51-31 and earned the right to host Tennessee in next Sunday’s AFC championship game.
Green Bay held on to defeat Seattle 28-23 in the NFC, sending the Packers to Santa Clara to face the 49ers for the other spot in Super Bowl LIV in Miami (Gardens) Feb. 2.
A team from Houston has not played in the AFC championship game since 1979, when the Oilers lost to the Steelers for the second consecutive year. Bum Phillips’ team was hurt by the officials making a bad call on a pass to Mike Renfro which was ruled incomplete but was in fact a touchdown, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
Even worse, Houston fans have to watch their former team play in its third AFC championship since relocating to the Volunteer State. The Titans defeated the Jaguars in 1999 before losing to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, but lost to the Raiders in 2002.
Barely an hour after the game ended at ARrowhead, a Houston Chronicle columnist wrote it was time for Texans coach Bill O’Brien to leave, reminding readers of past Houston sports failures. One of them was the famous 1983 NCAA men’s basketball title game, when Jim Valvano’s underdog North Carolina State Wolfpack shocked the mighty Houston Cougars, nicknamed “Phi Slamma Jamma” , when Lorenzo Charles caught Dereck Whittenburg’s airball and slammed it through the net with no time remaining. That Houston team featured two of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, Clyde Drexler and (H)Akeem Olajuwon.
It wasn’t the first time a team from Kansas City stuck it to a team from Houston.
In 1993, the Oilers hosted the Chiefs in an AFC divisional game. Houston entered on an 11-game winning streak, but Kansas City, led by Joe Montana, prevailed 28-20. Following that loss, the Oilers’ fan support plummeted to subterranean depths, and after the 1996 season, they were on their way to Tennessee.
In 2015, the Astros were up 2-1 on the Royals in an American League Division Series and led Game 4 through seven innings. Kansas City rallied to win that game, won Game 5 in Kansas City, and eventually won the World Series. Houston’s 2017 World Series championship took the sting out of the 2015 setback, but the one in 2019 will be hard to forget, no matter if the Astros win another championship or not.
Despite superstars like Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul and James Harden playing for the Rockets in recent years, Houston has not played for an NBA championship since 1995. The window is wide open with the Warriors in free fall, but the Rockets will be severely tested by the two Los Angeles teams in the West, and hopefully Milwaukee if they make it to the Finals.
Approximately 26 hours from now, LSU will either have completed its greatest football season ever, or one of its most disappointing. Hopefully it’s the former. However, I would feel much better about this if the opponent were wearing scarlet and gray instead of orange. Something tells me Dabo is the younger, hipper version of LSU’s former coach–the one in Tuscaloosa, not the one in Lawrence–and has a dynasty going in the the South Carolina uplands.
Rumblings from Red Stick (too bad I’m not there)
So much for posting every day this year. I missed yesterday. I’m a bad boy. However, given my lack of posts over the last two and a half months of 2019, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad, to paraphrase Mr. Meat Loaf.
If Matt Rhule has his way, Joe Brady will be a one-year wonder with LSU. The new Panthers coach has targeted Brady, the wunderkind who turned Joe Burrow from a former Ohio State backup into this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, to be his offensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward are going to give Brady a significant pay raise if he remains in Baton Rouge, but LSU can’t match the resources of an NFL team, especially considering Rhule will make more than $8 million per season.
LSU plays Clemson for the national championship Monday in New Orleans, and the casinos are worried Burrow, Brady, Orgeron and the team in purple and gold take the golden trophy west on Interstate 10.
Sports books across the nation are reporting heavy action on LSU, by far the most one-sided action for a championship game since the first College Football Playoff in January 2015. For every nine dollars bet on money lines, eight is on LSU, while the spread action is 4-to-1 in favor of the Bayou Bengals.
It’s hard to believe Alabama did not receive anywhere near the action in its three national championship games vs. Clemson, two of which the Crimson Tide lost. However, the public is betting LSU is more battle-tested by playing in the SEC than Clemson is in the ACC, although the South Carolina Tigers had a much tougher semifinal vs. Ohio State than the Bayou Bengals did vs. Oklahoma.
If LSU wins, the casinos will take a bath. If Clemson wins, the bettors will take the bath.
This is a disturbing trend for the Bayou Bengals.
Sports books are reporting they have not seen this much one-sided action on a championship football game since Super Bowl XLVIII, when most of the betting public put their money on the Broncos, believing Peyton Manning would cap a record setting season by winning his second championship.
Instead, the Seahawks demolished Denver 43-8, and the books made almost $20 million, a Super Bowl record.
Yesterday’s Baton Rouge Advocate had a wide-ranging interview with former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was forced out of the job last year after 11 years in Baton Rouge. Two things Alleva said were of particular note.
First, Alleva did not want to hire Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, to be LSU’s football coach. Alleva, who had ties to the ACC during his days as Duke’s athletic director, did not want to give in to Fisher’s exorbitant demands, demands which were similar to those Nick Saban made at LSU and Alabama before taking each of those jobs. The most exorbitant of which was a fully guaranteed contract, which would have to run at least eight years and pay Fisher at least $7 million per season.
Late in the 2015 season, it was rumored LSU would fire Les Miles, who led the Bayou Bengals to the 2007 national championship but whose teams had slipped following the 2011 BCS championship game loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide. Most thought Fisher would be the successor, but Alleva now says it wasn’t so.
Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles in 2015, and when LSU defeated Texas A&M 19-7 in the regular season finale, Alleva went to the locker room after the game and told the media Miles would be back in 2016.
Four games into 2016, Alleva fired Miles following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. Orgeron was named interim coach, then got the full-time position two months later, angering many LSU fans at that time. Of course, it has all worked out.
Ironically, Woodward hired Fisher at A&M, giving in to Jimbo’s demands with a 10-year, $75 million contract which is fully guaranteed. Not even Saban had that at LSU, nor does he have that at Alabama. Like Saban, Fisher does not owe a buyout if he leaves College Station.
The second nugget from Alleva’s interview which struck me was regret over hiring men’s basketball coach Will Wade.
Wade came to LSU from VCU after Johnny Jones was fired following a disastrous 2016-17 season. Wade was suspended in March 2019 when the NCAA announced LSU was under investigation for numerous violations, and did not coach the team in its last regular season game or in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, where LSU lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. Wade was reinstated following the season, but the NCAA is still investigating.
Alleva told Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais “he got bad information” about Wade. Hmm.
What wasn’t discussed was hiring the awful Nikki Caldwell-Fargas to coach LSU’s women’s basketball team.
LSU went to five consecutive women’s Final Fours between 2004-08, but hasn’t been close since. LSU has slipped to an SEC afterthought under Caldwell-Fargas, while former league doormats Mississippi State and South Carolina have become powerhouses, with the Gamecocks defeating the Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game after State ended Connecticut’s record 110-game winning streak in the semifinals.
LSU women’s basketball has fallen into gross disrepair since the glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. It was never going to eclipse football, baseball or men’s basketball in importance, but now it is far behind gymnastics, softball, and track and field, and even men’s golf has won a national championship recently.
Someone, either the UCLA, where Caldwell-Fargas coached before leaving for LSU, or the late Pat Summitt, who coached Caldwell at Tennessee, sold Alleva a bill of goods. This was a terrible hire, one which Woodward must rectify switfly, or the PMAC will again become a tomb for women’s games the way it was in the mid-1990s before Sue Gunter got it back on track.
Alleva blundered big time by not going after Kim Mulkey when there was a vacancy in 2011. Mulkey, who has coached Baylor to three national championships, grew up 45 minutes from LSU’s campus in Hammond, then went on to become an All-American at Louisiana Tech and a gold medalist on the 1984 United States Olympic team. Alleva should have taken a blank check to Mulkey and asked her to fill it in. Even if she stayed in Waco, Alleva would have won fans for going for it. Instead, he copped out and hired someone who is getting circles run around her by Dawn Staley and Vic Shaffer.
The only good things I can say about Caldwell-Fargas is (a) she’s a woman coaching women’s basketball, and (b) she is nowhere near as inept as the men leading Power Five women’s basketball teams in my current home state. Kansas State hiring Jeff Mittie and Kansas hiring Brandon Schneider were only eclipsed by the Wildcats hiring Ron Prince and the Jayhawks hiring Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beatty.
It’s a good thing I was in Kansas City last weekend. This weekend is promising snow and ice, plus the myriad of travel problems it causes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay what have I not discussed? Trump’s emergency declaration? Well, that will have to wait–if I comment on it at all.
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.
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?
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.
Swedish crepes at iHOP. Gotta have them again.