Category Archives: College Basketball

College basketball starts anew

It isn’t an official holiday in Lawrence, Kansas, but I’m certain many, many, many people are finding excuses to skip work or classes at the University of Kansas.

The Jayhawks begin the college basketball season tonight when they host Tennessee State.

Yahoo. (Sarcasm)

I really don’t care much about college basketball. I will watch if there’s nothing else on, or I’m in a location where it’s on all the televisions and I have no choice but to watch–unless I want to blindfold myself. Otherwise, no thank you.

I don’t know why I fill out a bracket during the NCAA tournament. I guess it’s just to do something fun. I really don’t give a darn who wins.

LSU has been awful at men’s basketball for the better part of the last 20+ years, save for a trip to the Final Four in 2006 and scattered NCAA tournament appearances.

I don’t expect one of those scattered appearances to occur in 2018.

LSU is picked 14th–DEAD LAST–in the Southeastern Conference. By contrast, Missouri, which finished tied for last in the SEC with LSU last year and lost to the Bayou Bengals AT HOME, is ranked in the preseason polls and is expected to make the NCAA tournament, thanks to new coach Cuonzo Martin and a stellar recruiting class, led by Michael Porter Jr., widely regarded as the nation’s top prep player of 2016-17.

The. Bayou Bengals have a new coach, Will Wade, who came from VCU, where he conintued the Rams’ run of success began by Shaka Smart, now at Texas. Wade has brought needed enthusaism and discipline to a program lacking both under Johnny Jones, but Wade has a tougher task ahead of him than what Dale Brown did when he came to LSU in 1972.

I hope Wade succeeds. I want my alma mater to do well, like most graduates want to see their schools thrive. But i can’t see it happening this year or next. LSU must be patient with Wade. It has to give Wade at least four years to get this thing on the right track. I’m not saying beat Kentucky every time. The top half of the SEC year in and year out would be a major improvement.

Kentucky is the favorite in the SEC. As it should be. Until someone can consistently knock off the Wildcats, the title will remain in Lexington. John Calipari has adapted so well to the “one-and-done” phenomenon. You may hate the guy, but nobody can deny he can fuse together a whole new group, get them to play cohesively, send them off to the NBA, where most will be high draft picks, then start all over again.

When I frequented Ivar’s, the sports bar near the LSU campus where I spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of days, one of the first things I noticed was a bumper sticker behind the bar. It read:

Kentucky Pervert–a man who enjoys sex more than basketball.

Very tue. It’s not just that way with the Big Blue, but at Louisville, Western Kentucky, Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky and Northern Kentucky, too. Basketball, horse racing and bourbon are all Kentucky traditions, traditions which should be cherished. It makes the Bluegrass State one unique place.

Kansas will win the Big 12. Again. For the 14th consecutive season. Arizona will win the Pac-12. Duke the ACC. Wichita State should roll in its new conference, the American Athletic Conference, but how much of an upgrade from the Missouri Valley is it really? The Big Ten should be interesting, but look for Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans to come through.

Wichita State fans have been begging and pleading to play Kansas (and Kansas State) in the regular season. Bill Self refuses to bite. Cuold a Shockers-Jayhawks match take place in San Antonio at the Final Four? Maybe.

Let the games begin. Just don’t expect me to be watching too much.

Half-hearted rivalries 

In this morning’s Kansas City Star, there was an article with comments from former University of Missouri president R. Bowen Loftin about the possibility of the Tigers resuming their athletic series with the University of Kansas. 

Kansas and Missouri began their football series in 1891, only 30 years after Kansas became the 34th state. The Tigers and Jayhaks played 120 times, making it the oldest NCAA Division I rivalry west of the Mississippi River. FYI, the oldest NCAA football series is Lehigh vs. Lafayette, which bgan in 1884.

Loftin stated only one reason why Mizzou and Kansas have not played since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in 2012.

Bill Self.

Loftin blamed Self, the Jayhawks’ men’s basketball coach who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, for not wanting to play Mizzou, at least in football and men’s basketball. In recent years, Mizzou has reached out numerous times to Kansas about playing football games at Arrowhead Stadium and basketball games at Sprint Center, but each time, the Jyayhawks have said no way. 

Self, of course, denied Loftin’s premise. He emphatically stated he had nothingt to do with football scheduling. 

Loftin speaks from experience about dormant rivalries. In 2012, he was president at Texas A&M when the Aggies joined Mizzou in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. A&M wanted to continue its rivalry with Texas, but the Longhorns refused. 

In his comments, Loftin believed the Longhorns and Aggies would continue their rivalry before the Tigers and Jayhawks do. 

I know about in-state rivlaries going dormant, but Louisiana really isn’t comparable to Texas, or to Missouri-Kansas, either. Tulane has never really been at LSU’s level, and the gulf has continually widened since the Green Wave dropped out of the SEC in 1966. LSU discontinued its annual rivalry with Tulane on the gridiron after the 1994 season; the teams played four consecutive years from 2006-2009, but LSU then bought out the remaining six games on the contract. In men’s basketball, Dale Brown dropped Tulane in 1981 because he felt the Greenies were non-competitive. Tulane dropped its program for three years in the 1980s due to a point shaving scandal, but the Tigers refused to play Tulane until 2003, seven seasons after Brown retired. LSU and Tulane only compete in women’s basketball and baseball, as well as a few minor sports. 

As much as I’d like to see LSU and Tulane play every year in football, Tulane must shoulder a lot of the blame. Why not play in Baton Rouge every year, or four out of every five years? The Greenies are going to make far more in Tiger Stadium than they ever will at Tulsa, SMU, East Carolina or another American Athletic Conference school, and certainly much, much more than playing at UL Lafayette or Louisiana Tech. As for LSU, it would be much more financially prudent to play Tulane than to pay Troy or Chattanooga an exorbitant sum to come to Death Valley as it is doing this season. It would have been much better in 2017 becuase LSU has only six home games, since the Florida game was switched to Gainesville after last season’s Hurricane Matthew flap. 

On the flip side, if Tulane wants LSU to come to New Orleans, it is going to (a) have to give LSU a larger cut of the gate and (b) play in the Superdome. Yulman Stadium only seats 30,000. I understand the idea of playing on campus, but in this case, it would be unreasonable for LSU to do so. If Tulane is worried about LSU fans overrunning the Superdome, then that’s too bad.

LSU has tried to make too many other SEC schools their “rival”, but the other school would not reciprocate. The series with Ole Miss has largely been irrelvant since Johnny Vaught retired as Rebel coach in 1970 (save for a brief return in 1973). Alabama could care less about beating LSU unless the Tigers are at or near the top of the polls. As Bear Bryant put it, “I’d rather beat the cow college (Auburn) once than Notre Dame ten times”. Nick Saban has turned this so-called rivalry into a laugher. Auburn and LSU didn’t play every year in football until 1992, and Auburn might be going to the Eastern Division anyway. 

LSU has played Arkansas for the Golden Boot since 1996, but the Tigers resisted it with every fiber of their being until then-SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer finally prevailed upon LSU to play along.  The game has always meant much more in Fayetteville than in Baton Rouge.

Back to the Border War. 
Kansas’ non-conference football schedule this season is an out and out JOKE. Southeast Missouri, Central Michigan, Ohio University. The game vs. the Bobcats is in Athens, Ohio, which is a coup by Ohio coach Frank Solic in getting a Power Five school to travel to Athens and play a Mid-America Conference school. 

The trip to Ohio begs the question: why not play Missouri at Arrowhead and get a huge gate? It would be mutually beneficial. It would allow Mizzou to fulfill the SEC requirement to play a Power Five opponent in non-conference, and Kansas would not have to embarrass itself playing a lower level team like SEMO. 

I cannot say for sure Self is personally responsible for Kansas not wanting to play Mizzou. But the Jayhawks are wrong on this one. Why would Kansas pass up a chance to play in Kansas City, only 45 minutes from its campus, to go to places like Ohio U and Memphis? 

The Texas-Texas A&M series is not something I’m really worried about. Texas has enough in-state rivals (Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU) in the Big 12, and A&M is content making Arkansas and LSU its big rivalry games. 

In the grand scheme, it’s only college sports. It could be worse. The fact the Jets and Giants play only once every four years in the regular season is sad. The NFL is missing the boat. 

Now, the hard part for Mississippi State…

Mississippi State ended Connecticut’s 111-game women’s basketball winning streak late last night.

That’s the great news.

The bad news?

Now the Bulldogs must turn around and beat a Southeastern Conference foe which defeated them twice prior to the NCAA tournament.

State plays South Carolina tomorrow at 5 p.m. Central for the national championship.

Certainly, nobody will term the Bulldogs’ season a failure if the Gamecocks prevail.

However, it will undoubtedly be a little disappointing for Vic Scaheffer and his charges, especially daughter Blair, a junior guard.

There is precedent which should give State optimism.

I can recall three specific instances where a team had to come down from an impressive victory and do it again 48 hours later.

Three words: Miracle on Ice.

Anyone who knows a little bit about sports probably knows the story of the United States’ 4-3 victory over the powerful Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament.

Mike Eruzione’s goal with 10 minutes remaining against the Red Army turned out to be the game-winner.

However, it did NOT win the gold medal.

The Americans had to come back two days later, on a Sunday morning, and defeat Finland to win the gold.

If the Americans fell to the Finns, who were led by  Jari Kurri, who would go on to be the Hall of Fame right winger on the Edmonton Oilers’ NHL dynasty of the 1980s, they might leave Lake Placid without a medal.

Sure enough, the Americans were down 2-1 through two periods.

According to Eruzione, coach Herb Brooks told his players if they lost, they “would take it to their graves. To their F***ING graves”.

Well, the Americans got the point, scored three goals in the third period, and won 4-2. As Al Michaels famously exclaimed, “This Impossible Dream comes true!”

There are two examples relevant to college basketball, too.

The more recent was in 1991.

UNLV came into the Final Four 34-0. The Runnin’ Rebels were the defending national champions, and the overwhelming favorite to repeat, led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.

The Rebels’ semifinal opponent was Duke, making its fifth trip to the Final Four in six seasons under Mike Krzyzewski.

Despite the Blue Devils’ success in the first four rounds of the tournament under Coach K, plus historical success under Bill Foster and Vic Bubas, Duke had zero national championships when it arrived in Indianapolis on Easter weekend.

In the 1990 championship game, UNLV eviscerated Duke 103-73, the largest margin in a title contest. That mark still stands as we sit six hours from the start of the 2017 Final Four.

Yet the Blue Devils gained their revenge, 79-77.

Some thought Duke would not be able to turn around and defeat a fine Kansas team coached by Roy Williams, but the Devils won 72-65. They repeated in 1992, and have added titles in 2001, 2010 and 2015.

Another Atlantic Coast Conference team was involved in the next example.

UCLA came into the 1974 Final Four seeking its eight consecutive national championship in what would be the final go-round for Bill Walton, who may be the greatest college basketball player ever. He certainly would be on my starting five, along with Lew Alcindor, Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson and Bill Bradley.

The Bruins came into the 1973-74 season with a 75-game winning streak. It reached 88 before they lost 71-70 to Notre Dame in South Bend. UCLA later lost back-to-back games in Corvallis and Eugene to Oregon State and Oregon, but regrouped and easily made it to Greensboro.

In December of that season, the Bruins easily defeated North Carolina State 84-66 in St. Louis. The Wolfpack, who went 27-0 in 1972-73 but was on probation and thus could not play in the NCAA tournament, featured David Thompson, one of the ACC’s all-time greats; 7-foor-4 center Tom Burleson, a 1972 Olympian; and Monte Towe, who stood only 5-foot-7, but was one of the nation’s best point guards of 1973-74.

NC State almost missed the 1974 tournament, too.

The Wolfpack had to survive one of the greatest college basketball games ever played in the ACC tournament championship game vs. Maryland, which featured All-Americans Len Elmore, Tom McMillen and John Lucas.

In 1974, only the conference champion was eligible for the NCAA tournament. While almost every conference determined its representative through the regular season, the ACC held a tournament, which meant NC State would be out in the cold if it lost to the Terrapins.

The game was only televised in ACC country, meaning those in Los Angeles, Lawrence and Milwaukee, not to mention everywhere else, never saw it until ESPN Classic finally televised it in the late ’90s and again throughout the 2000s.

The Wolfpack prevailed in overtime, 103-100.

Exactly three weeks after that thriller, NC State returned to the site of the battle, the Greensboro Coliseum.

The Wolfpack did not have to leave the state during the 1974 NCAA tournament. The regional was in Raleigh at Reynolds Coliseum, and then NC State had to migrate only 80 miles west on Interstate 40 for the next step.

Only NC State and Marquette, which defeated Kansas in the first game of the 1974 Final Four, stood between the Bruins and tying the Boston Celtics for the most consecutive basketball championships in history.

The Wolfpack had other ideas.

The game went into a second overtime, and UCLA grabbed a seven-point lead. So long State, right?

Nope.

In one of college basketball’s most stunning turnarounds, the Wolfpack outscored the Bruins 13-1 the rest of the second overtime and won 80-77.

Two nights later, the Wolfpack had little trouble defeating Marquette. Al McGuire would get his championship in 1977, when his Warriors defeated the Wolfpack’s archrival, the Tar Heels of Dean Smith, in the final in what would be McGuire’s last game as a coach.

As for the ladies from Starkville, the bad news is they have lost twice to South Carolina.

However, both games were in the Palmetto State, once at Columbia and once at Greenville in the SEC tournament final.

State should have the crowd on its side after the victory over UConn. Dak Prescott will be leading cheers for the cowbell crowd.

State and Carolina are all too familiar with a Goliath in their midst.

For the longest time, SEC women’s basketball was Tennessee and everyone else. Georgia had some good teams, LSU made five consecutive Final Fours, and Alabama, Arkansas and Vanderbilt all got to the big stage, but the Lady Volunteers were too good.

Pat Summitt, who won over 1,000 games and led the Lady Vols to eight national championships, had a lot to do with that. God rest her soul. She was taken from us too soon.

Tennessee also had some damn good players. Chamique Holdsclaw. Tamika Catchings. Candace Parker. Holly Warlick, who is now the Lady Vols’ coach. Not to mention the role players who were so crucial, including my all-time favorite, Abby Conklin.

Today, the SEC is much more competitive. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs are the upper crust of the league, but Tennessee is still there, Texas A&M has a championship banner in Reed Arena (albeit in the Big 12), and Kentucky’s women are much more than a time killer waiting for the next men’s game.

There’s one flaw with UConn: the American Athletic Conference is very weak beyond the Huskies. When Louisville and Notre Dame left the old Big East for the ACC, it became UConn and a bunch of nothing in the new AAC.

Tulane nearly beat the Huskies in New Orleans in February, but that was more a fluke than an indication the Green Wave are on their way to being a consistent winner.

As much as I would like to see Tulane succeed, the Wave will always be a distant second behind LSU in my homeland. On the other hand, Tulane has certainly passed Louisiana Tech for #2 in the Bayou State. Tech once was right up there with Tennessee and Stanford amongst the sport’s blue bloods, but without Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore and Kim Mulkey, it hasn’t been nearly the same in Ruston.

I’m guessing Dawn Staley has scheduled everything so she and her team can watch the Gamecock men play Gonzaga at 5:10 tonight. But something tells me that there won’t be two celebrations in Columbia.

I don’t think there will be one.

State wins tomorrow.

Coronation canceled

I was WRONG.

If you read the blog post before this one, I stated the belief the Connecticut Huskies could not be stopped en route to their fifth consecutive national championship and 12th under Geno Auriemma.

Instead of a press conference and a closed practice to prepare for Sunday’s championship game vs. South Carolina, the Huskies will be on their way to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport later today to board a plane which will ferry them to Bradley International Airport near Hartford.

The queen is dead. UConn’s 111-game winning streak is history.

No parades through Hartford and Storrs.

Mississippi State 66, UConn 64.

Not only did the Bulldogs take down the seemingly unbeatable Huskies, they did so after an egregiously bad call.

With under 20 seconds remaining in overtime and State ahead 64-62, the Bulldogs were called for a flagrant foul.

If that was a flagrant foul, then Don Denkinger’s call in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series was 1,000 percent correct.

Of course, the flagrant foul was nowhere near “flagrant”. It was only “flagrant” because it came in a game involving mighty UConn.

To nobody’s surprise, ESPN analyst Doris Burke said repeatedly the flagrant foul was the right call.

Come on, Doris. Anyone who knows anything about your background knows you harbor a secret crush on Geno. You live in New England and have lived and breathed UConn basketball (men too) for the last 30 years.

ESPN has shoved UConn down our throats for the last 22 years you want to vomit. Who’s their leading expert? REBECCA LOBO, who continues to be an unabashed shill for the Huskies. I’m sure Diana Taurasi has a job lined up at ESPN once she retires from the WNBA.

Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn’s unanimous All-American, sank two free throws to tie the game.

The Huskies got the ball back with the chance to win the game, but incredibly, they turned it over with 12.7 seconds left. Gabby Williams drove the lane, but she was cut off by Mogan William, State’s phenomenal 5-foot-5 point guard who scored 41 points in the regional final vs. Baylor. UConn wanted a foul, but incredibly, the officials swallowed their whistles and gave the ball to State.

State had trouble finding an open shot, but as time was about to expire, WIlliam pulled up from 15 feet just to the right of the lane.

Swish.

Just like that, Mississippi State, the school with the lowest all-time winning percentage in the Southeastern Conference heading into the 2016-17 season, brought down Goliath.

This means two schools best known for baseball will be playing for the women’s basketball national championship Sunday. Not surprisingly, former baseball coaches are now the athletic directors at both schools: Ray Tanner at Carolina and John Cohen at State.

Sunday’s game will be the first All-SEC final since 1996, when Tennessee beat Georgia.

Friday’s shocker was UConn’s first loss to an SEC team in 10 years.

The last SEC team to beat UConn? LSU, in the 2007 West regional final in Fresno. What, UConn actually had to play in a regional outside the northeast? Unheard of today.

The Bayou Bengals’ coach the night of March 26, 2007? Bob Starkey, who was elevated to interim head coach following a scandal which forced LSU to fire Pokey Chatman in the week between the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

LSU beat UConn that night 73-50. In the Bayou Bengals’ next game, they set a Final Four record for futility by losing 58-35 to Rutgers.

Mississippi State is 1-0 in the women’s Final Four. LSU is 0-5. In fact, LSU has a dubious record: 0-11 in all Final Fours, men’s and women’s.

For all of the success State has enjoyed in baseball, it has never left Omaha as champion. Now, the Bulldogs can leave Dallas with a championship trophy on their first try Sunday.

If State wins Sunday, maybe the parade should stretch down Mississippi Highway 25 from Starkville to Jackson. Sure, the Ole Miss fans would bitch, but who cares?

State was not the biggest winner last night.

It was women’s basketball, period.

It had gotten to the point where the tournament was a mere formality, where 63 teams were basically playing for second place.

Now, other teams have hope. And not just Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame and South Carolina. But the up and comers, too.

Starting in Starkville.

 

 

 

 

48 hours and change until UConn’s latest coronation

The NCAA Division I women’s basketball Final Four is taking place tonight in Dallas’ American Airlines Arena, home of the Dallas Mavericks and their crybaby owner, Mark Cuban, who complains more than either of the women, Barbara Corcoran and Lori Grenier, on Shark Tank

Did I say Final Four? More like another coronation for the University of Connecticut. 

While several teams have a realistic chance of winning the men’s national championship each and every year, the women’s game has no such parity. 

There are 64 teams in the tournament, but really, 63 of them are playing for second place. 

Connecticut enters tonight’s game vs. Mississippi State riding a 111-game winning streak. If it doesn’t reach 112, then Geno Auriemma ought to retire right then and there in Dallas. 

The Huskies have made a farce of the women’s game with their dominance. Some of the regular season games UConn plays are grossly unfair. Auriemma has built up such a machine that the players on the end of his bench could beat most opponents’ starting fives. 

ESPN has jammed UConn down the throats of America year after year after year, telling us there is some pressing need to watch the Huskies slaughter some overmatched team by 50 to 60 points. 

Last year, UConn defeated Mississippi State 98-38 in the Sweet 16. That’s a SIXTY point margin for those who are mathematically challenged. Does anybody outside of Mississippi realistically expect the Bulldogs to put up much more of a fight tonight? If there are believers out there, I’m guessing they’re limited to Starkville, Columbus and other communities in east central Mississippi. Of course, I’m certain many in Oxford and Hattiesburg would love nothing more than to see State get slaughtered again. 

Stanford and South Carolina play the first semifinal. Two fine women’s basketball teams, led by two fine ladies Tara Van Derveer has won over 1,000 games with the Cardinal. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley was an All-American playing for Virginia, an Olympic gold medalist in 1996, and has been a very successful coach, first at Temple and now at South Carolina. 

Yet Stanford and South Carolina are playing for the right to probably get beat badly by the Huskies Sunday. I would expect the game to be closer than the 38-point beatdown UConn laid on Oregon Monday in the East regional final, but if UConn doesn’t win by at least 15, I would be surprised. 

I’ll give Auriemma this: he doesn’t shy away from the media, unlike Bill Belchick, Nick Saban and Gregg Popovich, all of whom would rather the media leave Earth and exist on Uranus if at all possible. Auriemma will speak his mind and not back down from his comments. 

However, Auriemma has been known to say some stupid things, like claiming men’s basketball was “unwatchable” in comparison to the women’s game a few years ago. 

I’ll agree with Geno on this point: most basketball is unwatchable. I am so glad Caitlyn is done with playing basketball, because high school games are so intolerable with officials who refuse to call blocking in the low post. College women’s games feature too many blowouts. And the NBA? Is that real basketball, or just a shooting contest? 

Barring something unforeseen, UConn will leave Dallas with its 12th championship trophy. There will be another huge parade somewhere in Connecticut. And few outside the Constitution State will care. 

Another Friday far away from home

For the second straight Friday, I’m in Kansas City. I didn’t expect to be here this morning, but as I was driving home the previous Sunday, the low oil pressure light in my car came on and off several times. It never stayed on for long, but it was a little disconcerting. 

Ergo, here I am, sitting at Morse-McCarthy Chevrolet. Oh well. I have nothing better to do today. 

I did get in a little time at Buffalo Wild Wings yesterday–six hours to be exact. I managed to avoid eating too much–only fried mushrooms and fried pickles, but simply because I was hungry and hadn’t eaten for much of the afternoon. 

I watched much of the Kansas-TCU basketball game at Buffalo Wild Wings. The Jayhawks led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but the Horned Frogs made a big comeback to take a 43-42 halftime lead. The second half was nip and tuck throughout, but when Kansas took an 80-76 lead with just over a minute to go, I figured it was over for TCU. 

Instead, the Frogs hung tough, and with less than three seconds left, the Jayhawks committed a stupid foul on a 3-pointer from the right corner. The TCU player sank all three free throws, and Kansas was headed back to Lawrence with an 85-82 loss. 

It is only the second time in 21 Big 12 tournaments the Jayhawks have gone one-and-done. Kansas has NEVER been forced to play in the first round, which means it has finished in the top four every year the Big 12 has been in existence. Of course, the Jayhawks have won or shared 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, tying UCLA from 1967-79 for the longest streak in NCAA Division I. 

Kansas almost certainly will be the #1 seed in the Midwest regional for the NCAA tournament, but the Jayhawks are not infallible. Not much depth, and rebounding is a sore spot.

The Midwest regional semifinals and final are at Sprint Center. Jayhawk fans are praying for two games and then at least one more in Glendale, Arizona, but first, Kansas will have to survive two games, most likely in Tulsa. 

There will certainly be some cheap tickets outside Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City today from Jayhawk fans who have no desire to stick around and watch TCU-Iowa State and Kansas State-West Virginia in today’s semifinals. 

Big 12 executives and Sprint Center can’t admit to a rooting interest, but they have to be hoping Iowa State and Kansas State win today. Cycolne fans turn out in droves for this tournament, and of course, it’s an easy drive from Manhattan to Kansas City. 

By contrast, if it’s TCU and West Virginia, Sprint Center might be half empty tomorrow at 5 when the championship game tips off. 

TCU is the smallest school in the Big 12, and the Horned Frogs don’t move the needle much as far as basketball is concerned in Dallas/Fort Worth, not with the Mavericks and SMU. Besides, TCU has enjoyed far, far more success in football and baseball than it ever has in men’s basketball. Sounds like another school which wears purple and goes by an abbreviation…I think it’s in Baton Rouge. 

TCU should have been in the Big 12 in the first place. The reason why the Horned Frogs weren’t in the original Big 12 is lying in a grave in the Texas State Cemetary in Austin. 

ANN RICHARDS.

When talks between the Big 8 and Southwest Conferences were taking place in 1993 and 1994, Richards was the Governor of Texas. She demanded her alma mater, Baylor, be included in the Big 12, or else there would be no Big 12. Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech capitulated. 

If Richards had not had her way, TCU would have been in the original Big 12, not Baylor. And i don’t think the Bears would be in the Big 12 today, not with the scandal that school has gone through. I’m surprised the Big 12 stuck by Baylor after the murder of men’s basketball player Patrick Denehey by teammate Carlton Dotson and the massive cover-up by then-coach Dave Bliss, who was given a 10-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA for his egregious violations. Bliss got off easy. He should have been banned for life by the NCAA and sent to prison for what he did. 

Now, if the sexual assault allegations against Baylor football players are true, then the Bears should be kicked out of the Big 12. Art Briles has gone down the same road as Bliss, and although it isn’t murder, it may be worse, since these women have to live with the trauma of these violent acts. 

West Virginia has a rich history, but it’s a very, very long drive from the heart of Appalachia to Kansas City, or anywhere else in the Big 12. The Mountaineers wanted to be in the ACC, but the conference felt its academic profile was nowhere near what it was looking for. I believe West Virignia’s status as an economic backwater (at least among the elite) and the state’s heavy reliance on the coal industry, one which has been deemed evil by the left wing in the United States, made several ACC members, especially the private schools, North Carolina and Virginia, want to turn away. Yet why would the ACC say no to West Virginia when Morgantown is an hour away from Pittsburgh, which is in the ACC? 

West Virginia had no shot of getting into the SEC, even though it isn’t all that far from Lexington and Knoxville, and some would argue if the SEC took Missouri, why not West Virginia?  But the SEC would have had to find a 16th team if it took the Mountaineers, and that would have been difficult, if not impossible, unless Kentucky somehow found religion and would sponsor Louisville for inclusion. 

The Big Ten? If the ACC said no, then the Big Ten was going to say HELL NO. Some in the Big Ten still want to expel Nebraska after it was kicked out of the Assoiciation of American Universities shortly after the Cornhuskers were accepted into the Big Ten, but it’s too late. So the Big 12 was all that was left for the Mountaineers. 

West Virginia is a beautiful place. I drove through the state many years ago on Interstate 77, and I found it breathtaking. I don’t care what the environmental nut jobs say about coal, it can help the United States gain energy independence. I know I wouldn’t want to be a coal miner. If I thought my dad’s job at Air Products and Chemicals was dangerous, it was a picnic compared to what coal miners endure. Look at all the miners who have died in accidents in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. 

I left my iPad in my car last night when I got back to the hotel. I thought about going to get it, but I was tired and I figured it would distract me. So I left it. 

Trying to figure out the car right now. Supposed to snow tomorrow in Kansas City. Sunday looks good to get back home. My mother is cooking lasagna for lunch. Can’t miss it. 

Kentucky’s highs and lows 

Both Kentucky schools lost their bowl games today. 

Louisville, of course, lost to LSU in the Citrus Bowl, and Kentucky fell to Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl (or TaxSlayer Bowl if you want to be technical about it). 

That means Western Kentucky has bragging rights in football, not only because the Hilltoppers won their bowl game, but because Western did something its bigger brethren in the Commmonwealth did not–win its conference. Now why don’t Louisville and Kentucky play Western every year? Louisville saw fit to play Charlotte and Marshall,and Kentucky played Austin Peay and a couple of other palookas. Why not keep the money in the Commonwealth? 

How many people actually care Louisville and Kentucky lost today, outside Louisville and Lexington (and maybe scattered people in Frankfort, Covington, Ashland and Paducah)? NOT MANY. 

Basketball soothed the pain on the gridiron for folks in the Bluegrass.

Not only did Rick Pitino’s Cardinals defeat Indiana in Indianapolis, but Duke, the most hated team in every corner of Kentucky, lost at Virginia Tech. 

Duke has never been a favorite of either Kentucky or Louisville. Both the Wildcats and Cardinals own national championship game victories over Duke–Kentucky in 1978 when Jack “Goose” Givens scored 41 points in the Wildcats’ 94-88 win, and Louisville in 1986, when freshman “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison lifted the Cards to a 72-69 victory over a Duke team led by Johnny Dawkins and Jay Bilas. 

However, the Kentucky-Duke hatred reached a new level the evening of March 28, 1992.

That’s the night when Christian Laettner, one of the dirtiest players who ever graced a basketball court, stepped ont eh chest of the Wildcats’ Ammu Timberlake in the East regional final at Philadelphia. Laettner did not even receive a technical foul for being a gigantic asshole, and he hit the game-winning shot in overtime. 

I have never been a Duke fan. I especially couldn’t stand the Blue Devils when Laettner played. The officials who work Duke games are intimated by Kryzewzski, but with Laettner, it was a whole different level. It’s a wonder how Duke lost games. The free throw dispartity was so lopsided. Not even Dean Smith could catch a break most of the time. 

Duke and Virginia lost today. Good. Two programs which deserve each other. 

I’ve never visited Kentucky. I would like to. Maybe in April when LSU plays baseball in Lexington. 

Embarrassing, ESPN

While the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has produced a record number of lower-seeded teams winning in the first round, the chalk, as expected, is dominating the women’s tournament, which began yesterday.

The only wins for lower seeds, not counting the 8-vs-9 matchups, which are tossups anyway? St. Bonaventure, a No. 10, over Oklahoma State (7), and Albany, a No. 12, over Florida (5).

ESPN normally covers the first and second round games of the tournament in “whip-around” fashion, meaning it will cut from game to game to game to show the most competitive game to the largest audience. An exception to the whip-around is if a local team is playing in your area, then that game is protected, meaning ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU will not cut away from that game. For instance, when Missouri plays BYU this evening, the entire states of Missouri and Utah, plus the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro, will see the Tigers and Cougars from start to finish.

One team, however, is immune to whip-around coverage for the first two rounds.

Of course, it can only be ESPN’s darlings, the Connecticut Huskies.

ESPN went to UConn and asked them to start today’s game vs. woefully outmanned Robert Morris at 11 a.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Central, 9 Mountain, 8 Pacific) so it could be shown to everyone before the other 15 games today tip off at Noon Central.

Geno Auriemma, who never met a spotlight he didn’t aim at himself, jumped at the idea.

Of course, the good people of the Nutmeg State aren’t going to complain about being able to showcase their Husky women to everyone else, either.

What is going on right now in Storrs is beyond atrocious. It is utterly embarrassing to everyone associated with Robert Morris University, a small, private liberal arts college near Pittsburgh.

At the end of the first quarter–the women now play in quarters, not halves like the men–it is UConn 41, Robert Morris 4.

That’s right. FORTY-ONE TO FOUR.

Shame on you, ESPN. Shame on you for foisting this “game” upon us. UConn would have been better served scrimmaging a Connecticut girls high school All-Star team. It would have been better off scrimmaging a UConn alumni team of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Rebecca Lobo, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi. Heck, let former UConn All-American Shea Ralph, now an assistant to Auriemma, suit up again. Where’s Svetlana Abrosimova? Aisha Jones? Jennifer Rizzotti? Kara Wolters?

ESPN has shoved the UConn women down our throats for over 20 years. We have been led to believe women’s college basketball, at least as long as it’s coming to us from Storrs, Hartford, or wherever the Huskies are playing, is on par with the men’s game.

Only at UConn could a men’s team which has won four national championships since 1999 be relegated to second-class status. And I wonder what football coach Bob Diaco thinks about having a smaller budget than the women’s basketball team. No wonder Randy Edsall flew straight to Maryland after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma on New Year’s Day 2011.

Until there are more women’s basketball teams who can actually challenge UConn consistently, why bother watching?

ESPN executives, game announcers Dave O’Brien and Doris Burke, and Lobo (Mrs. Steve Rushin), an ESPN studio analyst, should go hat in hand to Robert Morris’ campus and apologize to all associated with the university for shaming these young ladies on national television. I’m sure the Robert Morris players and coaches are handling this far better than I. Good for them. That’s more class than Geno Auriemma will ever know.

I’ll get off the soapbox. Wichita State and Miami tip off the men’s tournament in 35 minutes.

Trip before the trip

The night before I go on a trip to Kansas City, I usually like to pack and get my laundry done so I’m ready to go the next morning, even if I’m not totally refreshed. 

Tonight, I changed my routine. 

Instead of sitting in the basement in Russell, I ventured to Salina to Buffalo Wild Wings. I stopped at Dillon’s on Ohio Street–the same Dillon’s where my car wouldn’t start the afternoon of January 29–for some stuff I can’t get in Russell or Hays, then headed to South Ninth Street. 

I’m staying until at least 8:30, so I can play ma favorite Buzztime game, Six, which is Wednesday and Thursday from 7:30 to 8:30. I’ll be in Kansas City tomorrow to play it. 

I can’t leave for Kansas City until my appointment with Crista is done tomorrow morning. That starts at 9, so I figure to be out of Hays by 10:15. It will be 30-45 minutes longer, but I can’t miss an appointment with Crista, even if things are going well. 

It will be my last trip to Kansas City for this month, probably a little longer. Next weekend is Easter, and the day after Easter, my parents are leaving for Nashville, where my sister-in-law will be giving birth. 

I didn’t do a blessed thing after getting home from Kansas City Sunday morning. I watched the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday evening, although I did not watch much of either First Four game last night. Then again, neither game was particularly competitive. Florida Gulf Coast demolished Farleigh Dickinson 96-65, and Wichita State easily ousted Vanderbilt 70-50.

The Commodores’ loss leaves TWO Southeastern Conference schools, Texas A&M and Kentucky, amongst the remaining 66 teams. Three teams in the NCAA tournament for a power conference is pitiful, espeically in the 68-team era, which began in 2011. I can remember more SEC teams in the field in 1989 (five), when the SEC had only 10 teams. 

The SEC has long had a reputation in basketball of Kentucky and nothing but weak sisters, and this year has proved the axiom true, save for Texas A&M, which won a share of its first conference championship since 1987 when it is was in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. 

Two more First Four games tonight: Holy Cross vs. Southern (yes, the one in Baton Rouge), and Michigan vs. Tulsa, which doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the NCAA field. If the Wolverines choke this game, then they should be forced to walk up Interstate 75 from Dayton to Detroit, then west on I-96 back to Ann Arbor. Tulsa is a joke. A JOKE. 

Jayhawks rocking

It’s getting loud at Buffalo Wild Wings. Kansas now leads West Virgina 48-39, forcing Bob Huggins to call a timeout. Looks like the Jayhawks will not only win the Big 12 tournament, but wrap up the #1 overall seed. KU would be in the Midwest regional if that happened, with the first and second round games likely in Des Moines. 

LSU was beyond putrid today. It was excruciating to watch. It must have been much worse to have been in Nashville. I’m sure Jim Hawthorne, who is retiring as LSU’s play-by-play announcer as soon as the basketball season concludes, wishes he were somewhere else today. 

In case you don’t know, Texas A&M beat the pee out of LSU, 71-38. The Aggies are having one of their best basketball seasons ever, and if they can knock off Kentucky tomorrow in the tournament final, it will get that much better. 

How can you not average a point a minute with a 30-second shot clock? That is unfathomable. I could have understood before the shot clock, but in 2016? I thought I had watched the last of those pitiful LSU performances many years ago, but I’m wrong. 

John Brady had two horrible teams at the beginning of his LSU tenure (1997-98 and 1998-99), but could they have been that bad? Dale Brown’s next-to-last team gave up 86 points to Kentucky in the first half in 1996, but (a) LSU scored 42 in the half and finished with 97 (the Wildcats scored 129), and (b) that was one of the most loaded teams in the history of a program with loaded teams. 

March Madness will proceed without LSU. Not that I’m not used to it by now. Hard to believe the Bayou Bengals went to 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1984 through 1993. Since 1994, they will have missed the NCAA tournament 16 times out of 23. Yeesh. 

I’m not staying nearly as late at Buffalo Wild Wings tonight. I am driving home in the morning, and also, the stupid time change is tonight, so it will feel like 8 am when it’s really 9 am. And I want to be home for noon to eat.