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March Madness Looms
NCAA Basketball Quiz: Florida won back-to-back titles in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Name the Final Four MVPs for each. Answer below.
No. 1 Florida (29-2, 18-0) became the first SEC team to go 18-0 in conference play, whipping No. 25 Kentucky (22-9, 12-6) 84-65.
No. 2 Wichita State moved to 33-0 with an easy 67-42 over Missouri State in the semis of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. And then beat Indiana State in the final, 83-69, to move to 34-0. No. 1 seed for the Shockers is all wrapped up.
No. 3 Arizona (28-3, 15-3) was upset by Oregon (22-8, 10-8) in Eugene, 64-57, as the Ducks assured themselves a spot in the Big Dance.
Jabari Parker had a spectacular 30 points and 11 rebounds in No. 4 Duke’s (24-7, 13-5) win over No. 14 North Carolina (23-8, 13-5). There’s your No. 1 in the draft.
No. 5 Virginia (25-6, 16-2) suffered a bad loss on Sunday, 75-69 to Maryland (17-14, 9-9) in overtime, the Terrapins’ last ACC regular-season contest. Good riddance.
No. 6 Villanova (28-3, 16-2) kept its No.1-seed hopes alive with a 77-59 win over Georgetown (17-13, 8-10).
No. 7 Syracuse (27-4, 14-4) beat Florida State (18-12, 9-9) 74-58 on Sunday.
West Virginia (17-14, 9-9) upset No. 8 Kansas (23-8, 14-4) 92-86 in Morgantown despite Andrew Wiggins spectacular 41 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocks.
No. 10 San Diego State (27-3, 16-2) was down to No. 21 New Mexico (24-6, 15-3) by 16 with 12:05 to play as the Lobos’ inside game was too much for the Aztecs. So an assistant coach recommended to head coach Steve Fisher that SDSU switch to a 1-3-1 zone, Fisher went along with the idea, the Aztecs went on a 19-1 run and prevailed 51-48 behind Xavier Thames’ 23 points. Huge win for SDSU. If they can win the conference tournament, they could end up with a 2-seed.
No. 11 Louisville (26-5, 15-3) destroyed No. 19 UConn (24-7, 12-6) 81-48.
Doug McDermott had 45 points on 17-25 shooting from the field as No. 13 Creighton (24-6, 14-4) handled Providence (20-11, 10-8) 88-73. McDermott became the eighth player in Division I history to surpass 3,000 points for his career.
Wake Forest (16-15, 6-12), hot off its great win over Duke, proceeded to go to Miami (16-15, 7-11) and lay another egg, 69-56, as the Deacs were outrebounded 38-19. Beyond pathetic. Wake is now 2-32 in ACC road games under Coach Jeff Bzdelik.
St. John’s (20-11, 10-8) beat Marquette (17-14, 9-9) 91-90 in double-overtime, but the Johnnies need to win two games in the Big East tournament to have a shot at sneaking into the NCAA field. [These are all my opinions of course...not Doug Gottlieb’s or Seth Davis’, necessarily.]
Eastern Kentucky (24-9) upset Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship to earn an automatic NCAA bid. Belmont will thus miss the Big Dance for only the third time in nine years.
Hats off to Coastal Carolina (21-12) coach Cliff Ellis, who in defeating Winthrop 76-61 in the Big South final is taking his fourth school to the Big Dance...South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn being the other three.
Reminder, VCU beat Virginia earlier this season, 59-56, though this was way back on Nov. 12. The Rams, my “Pick to Click,” enter the A-10 tournament with a 24-7, 12-4 mark after defeating St. Bonaventure on Saturday, 86-67. VCU entered the game ranked No. 292 in the country in field goal percentage, but finally broke through against the Bonnies, shooting 50.9% from the field, 29 of 57. They are going to have to shoot at least 42% in the NCAA tournament to advance beyond the Sweet 16, is my guess. They also desperately need a 6-seed at worst.
--South Carolina coach Frank Martin was suspended for one game (which the Gamecocks won on Saturday, 74-62 over Mississippi State) for what the athletic director called “inappropriate verbal communication as it relates to the well-being of our student-athletes.”
Martin was caught on national television yelling profanities at freshman point guard Duane Notice in the second half of South Carolina’s 72-46 loss at Florida last week.
Martin apologized: “I embarrassed my family, my kids, my past current and past players and my bosses. My actions are not acceptable. I work at my problems every day. I’ve got to get better. I’m still not where I need to be.”
After a successful five-year run at Kansas State, Martin has struggled his two seasons in Columbia and the Gamecocks finished up the regular season 12-19 and 5-13 in the SEC, after going 14-18 in 2012-13.
He also had an outburst on Jan. 18, that he later had to apologize for.
“Anecdotally, it appeared that coaches had gotten out of control this season. ‘Bad coaching behavior’ was the way it was put, set in contrast to what college basketball coaches are supposed to be: as molders of young men on and off the court.
“John Adams, the NCAA’s national coordinator for basketball officiating, provided USA TODAY Sports with the following numbers:
“ – From November 2012 through January 2013, 468 technical fouls were called in Division I men’s basketball games, 92 on head coaches for unsportsmanlike behavior.
“ – From November 2013 through January 2014, 315 technical fouls were called, 85 on head coaches for unsportsmanlike behavior.”
Adams cautions these are estimates and self-reported as box scores don’t include reasoning behind technical fouls.
But back to Martin, his players seem to like him. My point would be this is 2014, not 30 or 40 years ago when verbal abuse of the kind he displayed would be more easily tolerated. But I won’t rant further on the topic like I was preparing to do before I saw Martin’s apology. I hope he changes. You can keep the intensity, just watch what you are saying when others can hear, or the television cameras and cellphones are on. [Virginia’s Tony Bennett is one to emulate.]
--Tantalizing stuff as LeBron James showed up in Cleveland on Saturday as the Cavaliers retired the jersey of his former teammate, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. James had a day off before the Heat played the Bulls on Sunday and his appearance fueled speculation he was looking to smooth things over a bit with Cleveland fans prior to perhaps coming home for good down the road.
LeBron is a free agent this summer but there really hasn’t been any serious talk he’s leaving Miami.
[Meanwhile, in the Bulls’ game on Sunday, LeBron was just 8 of 23 from the field, 17 points, as the Heat lost 95-88, which I imagine will have some Miami scribes pointing out his side trip the night before.]
--Rumors are flying fast and furious that Phil Jackson is coming to the Knicks in a front office capacity, but while he may act like he would give someone of Jackson’s stature full autonomy, that is hardly owner James Dolan’s track record.
--Atlanta’s Kyle Korver finally had his three-point streak end...a record 127 games with at least one three-pointer before he went 0 for 5 in a game Wednesday against Portland. He bested Dana Barros’ mark by 38 games.
--Thursday night the Clippers beat the Lakers 142-94, the worst loss in Lakers history and the biggest winning margin for the Clippers’ franchise.
“It was so bad that Lakers fans, usually demanding curators of Lakers greatness, didn’t even boo. It’s hard to boo a comedy. It’s unseemly to boo a farce.”
--Can’t help but note Timmy D’s performance on Thursday in the Spurs’ convincing 111-87 win over the Heat...23 points and 11 rebounds.
--Dr. Frank Jobe of Tommy John surgery fame died. He was 88. I recently wrote of John and Jobe last summer, when Jobe was honored by the Hall of Fame. So just to repeat:
It was back in 1974 when Dr. Jobe told John his surgery had a 1 or 2 percent chance of success. On Sept. 25 of that year, Jobe replaced the ruptured ulnar collateral ligament in John’s left elbow with a tendon from his right forearm. He ordered John not to throw for 16 weeks. But after that? “Follow your body,” John recalled Jobe telling him.
John sat out 1975, rehabbing, and was 10-10 in ’76, but then in 1977 he was 20-7 with a 2.78 ERA and would go on to big success with the Yankees, who he signed with as a free agent in ‘79.
Dr. Jobe was also known for another procedure, his “landmark 1990 operation to rebuild the right-shoulder of then-Dodger Orel Hershiser.”
“When Hershiser, a Cy Young Award winner who led the team to the World Series in 1988, needed surgery to repair cartilage damage and tighten the ligaments in his shoulder, Jobe proposed a revolutionary procedure that had been done on only about 30 people. None were major-league pitchers trying to throw 90 mph fastballs.
“Until then, such an operation meant disturbing and damaging muscles, which made it almost impossible for a pitcher to come back. Jobe designed a less-invasive approach – instead of detaching the muscle to repair the joint, he split the muscle and made the repair. He used microscopic tools and newly invented anchors that secured the ligament to the bone, minimizing trauma.
“Hershiser recuperated from the 45-minute operation in secrecy and allowed no photographs of his 13-month rehabilitation. After winning his first game post-surgery in 1991, he threw a party in honor of Jobe and gave him a trophy.
“ ‘He gave me back the thing I love,’ said Hershiser, who went on to pitch 10 more seasons and in two more World Series with the Cleveland Indians.” [As an aside, just looked up Hershiser’s postseason record...8-3, 2.59...not bad, not bad at all.]
“Stan Conte, the Dodgers’ director of medical services, says Dr. Frank Jobe was a medical pioneer who doesn’t get enough credit for changing sports medicine through his groundbreaking orthopedic surgery procedures.
“But there was another part of Jobe’s life that Conte wants remembered as well.
“As a teenager Jobe joined the U.S. Army during World War II and served as a sergeant with the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge.
“ ‘His World War II accolades are unbelievable,’ Conte said Friday. “He very rarely talked about [it] unless you really drew it out of him.’
“According to Conte, Jobe was briefly captured by the Nazis, only to escape and seek refuge with other airborne troops in the Belgian town of Bastogne. The Germans eventually encircled the town and threatened to wipe out the American troops before Gen. George Patton’s tanks arrived to break the siege.
By the way, Sandy Koufax had an elbow injury similar to Tommy John’s and when Jobe used to see Koufax at spring training in later years, of course Sandy would ask, “Why didn’t you do that on me?” Jobe says, “We simply didn’t know what to do for them back then.”
Reflecting on his contributions to sports medicine, Dr. Jobe looked beyond the medical terminology. He told Major League Baseball’s website: “Sometimes it just makes you want to cry watching those guys go on to great things. It really does.” [Richard Goldstein / New York Times]
“MLB had a brilliant idea....It’s so perfect you wonder if it was an accident. A team is guaranteed only one challenge for a whole game – just one precious challenge. If you get that challenge correct, then you get a second challenge. But that’s all – there’s never a third.
“Do you challenge a call in the third inning, when your chance of winning changes by just a half-percent, and risk a mistake that may haunt you the rest of the game? What if, in extra innings, you have no ability to demand a replay of a three-run play – perhaps a diving catch of a bases-loaded fly ball with two outs in a 4-2 game that’s ruled a ‘trap’ not a catch?
“Under the new rules, all you can do is beg the crew chief to ask for a replay himself. He can. I suspect he probably would. But what if he didn’t? What if he thought he saw the play clearly? What if he hates your guts as much as Ron Luciano hated Earl Weaver? (It happens.)
“In many close games this season, one team will be out of challenges while the other still has its challenge and, potentially, another one, too. That is going to feel like an advantage, whether it ever becomes a factor or not. Will it play on the minds of the teams? Is there added psychological value in holding back your challenge even if you have a base stealer incorrectly called out in the fourth inning? Or will the failure to challenge be seen as gutless?
“While expanded replay will get more calls correct and make baseball seem up to date, its biggest value may be that the strategy around using the one guaranteed challenge will be seen as a major new element in a game that thought it was fully formed a century ago....
“Baseball expanded its replay system to improve its product, to defuse criticism that it’s stuck in the past and to avoid infamous mistakes like wrong-by-a-mile calls that probably cost St. Louis a World Series in ’85 and cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game in ’10.
“But the greatest benefit to the game – and to our fun – may be the addition of the second-guess of the challenge. You can almost hear the hubbub, as video screens in parks will be allowed to show controversial replays.
“Thumbs up, thumbs down? Use it! Save it!
--We note the passing of Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife of 65 years. She was 85 and died not far from the couple’s longtime home in Montclair, having had a stroke recently.
“She was in some ways the classic baseball wife, known publicly as the woman at Yogi’s side for yet one more bow at Yankee Stadium. In private, she might gently tease him for the lore that grew around him, but she relished the fans’ affection that came his way.
“Asked to explain the longevity of their marriage, she deferred to one of her husband’s Yogiisms.
“ ‘Yogi said it best,’ she would say. ‘We have a good time together even when we’re not together.’...
“Carmen Berra grew up one of six children in Salem, Mo., two hours from The Hill – Yogi’s boyhood Italian immigrant neighborhood in St. Louis. Her father was Ernest Short, a farmer.
“She was working as a waitress at Biggies, a St. Louis steakhouse, when Yogi Berra walked in. Before asking her out, Yogi would return to the restaurant several times with Joe Garagiola, a friend since childhood who was playing with the St. Louis Cardinals. Carmen was taken by Yogi’s persistence.
“ ‘Garagiola would say, ‘Why are you coming here? We can’t afford this,’ so they would order water,’ (David) Kaplan said.” [Kaplan is director of the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair.]
“We were sitting in his living room one time in Montclair, N.J., and Carmen had walked out of the room. Yogi and I got back to talking about baseball and the Yankees and finally I asked him what he thought his greatest accomplishment was and he smiled, and nodded toward the door his wife had just walked through.
“If you were lucky enough to know her, to know the two of them, you understood it all the moment you walked through the front door of their home. You saw the way he always looked at her and she looked at him. Better than anyone, she saw all the good in her husband, the intelligence; understood why people always have said that they just wanted to go through life standing next to Lawrence Peter Berra, because good things always seemed to happen to him.
“The best thing to happen to him was Carmen. He knew it. We all did. You would talk to her in all those years when he stayed away from the team, and she would always say the same thing, ‘Who would ever want to be mean to Yogi?’....
“One day at the house in Jersey, Carmen said, ‘But you know who my husband really is? He’s an example of how you can come from where he came from and still have this kind of life in America. That’s who Yogi Berra is.’...
“Always, she was there when you would visit them in Jersey, all her life and laughter and style and love of her husband filling the room, and Yogi’s wonderful American life. This was the love story to remember with the Yankees, today more than ever. The way the world has always loved Yogi, that is the way he loved Carmen.”
On Saturday, 23-year-old Patrick Reed, leading the WGC event at Doral, told NBC he was “top five in the world.” We all scoffed, but Reed did enough to win on Sunday, already his third PGA Tour title, and when it was over, he reiterated he was top five.
Heck, I’ve been writing ad nauseam that there are so many great young players, around the world these days, but one of them has to grab the sport by the balls and win five or six a year, plus a few majors, to set a new standard, now that it’s clear Tiger Woods’ best days are behind him.
As for Woods, for the second straight week he had a great Saturday round, 66, and then once again his back flared up and he shot 78 on Sunday.
“At this peak, Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer ever. He owns scoring records and margin-of-victory marks in major championships that outshine anyone. But each year, it’s becoming clearer that Jack Nicklaus – who managed his game, his body and his life with estimable if somewhat boring maturity – had the greatest total career.
“And Woods, who has had trouble in all those areas the past six years and is fighting injury again, now looks unlikely to equal him....
“From the age of 32 to 37, Nicklaus played in 24 major championships and had five wins, five seconds and five thirds. That’s 15 top-three finishes.
“In the past six seasons, from 32 to 37, Woods has played in 20 majors, missed four because of injuries and one first, two seconds and one third.
“Nicklaus had few physical issues – because he focused on preventing them.... As a result, Nicklaus never missed a major championship for which he was eligible to play until he was 58. (The same applied to Arnold Palmer until he was 65.)”
“Can you train like an NFL back or Olympic runner yet avoid the injuries in your 30s common to such athletes? Can you hit 350-yard drives for years with a swing that deliberately snaps every endurable amount of force onto your firm left knee and still have much knee left by 35?....
“Woods’s furious drive and athleticism made him the best and most thrilling of all golfers at his peak. But that same ambition and flare, that desire to push beyond limits and burn brightest, is also part of why Tiger likely won’t pass Nicklaus in the lifetime quest he set for himself as a child.”
One last note. Phil Mickelson did nothing over the weekend and is off to a desultory start this year. I tweeted Sunday afternoon, he’s “joyless.” There is a lot I want to say, but whereas I have no problem being snarky on just about any other topic, I’m going to hold back. I just hope he finds his mojo, if not in time for Augusta, certainly for the U.S. Open, which is his obsession.
--Brad Keselowski picked up his 11th career Sprint Cup title at Las Vegas, besting Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran out of fuel the last lap but held on for second.
So Keselowski has a win and two thirds the first three races of 2014, while Earnhardt has a win and two seconds.
--Johnny Manziel signed a deal with Nike for an undisclosed amount that you can assume is huge.
--I didn’t bring up the topic before because I thought there is no way the NCAA could be so stupid as to enact this, and sure enough I was right.
The college football rules committee tabled, shelved, the idea of penalizing a team for snapping the ball in the first 10 seconds of the 40-second clock. As Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times noted;
“The irony is the penalty would have been for delay of game.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with studying whether or not up-tempo offenses pose a player safety concern. It makes some sense given hurry-up teams can run 20 to 25 additional plays per game....
“What was wrong was trying to ramrod a ground-breaking rule through a committee before any definitive analysis could be established....
“Washington State Coach Mike Leach said: ‘The whole proposal is ridiculous. The whole thing is dysfunctional. Crazy. You can’t just make changes to the rule book, aimlessly, just because.’”
Like I said...glad I didn’t waste any time on this topic. It was beyond absurd.
--Americans Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin backed up their Sochi golds with wins in World Cup events over the weekend; Ligety taking the giant slalom in Slovenia and keeping his overall GS WC title hopes alive with one race remaining, while Shiffrin won the slalom at Are, Sweden to retain her World Cup title in that event, five days before her 19th birthday. Remarkable.
--A South African-born Australian businessman has a plan to save the rhinos. He would airlift some of them to Australia and let them breed in peace. Certainly, Australia has the land for such a venture.
--The New York Post’s Page Six claims a source told it Bob Costas got his infamous case of pink eye after a botched Botox procedure to smooth out wrinkles prior to the Olympics. NBC strongly denies this.
Doctors told Page Six that it is rare to contract an infection from a Botox injection, unless there was contamination or the patient suffered an allergic reaction.
--The story of the Duke freshman who has shot ten or so porn flicks to help pay for her tuition cracks me up. I’m just picturing how my friends and I would have handled things back in the day, as a student at Wake Forest. I mean it’s just too easy....to rip her, that is.
But then the story hit that the boy who ratted her out, because he had seen one of her films, was himself identified by the CEO of Monarchy Distribution, which has a subscription hard-core porn site. Now I won’t identify the site, or the name of the “Big-mouthed frat boy,” as the New York Post described, but the guy is shelling out $1,000 a month on Monarchy’s site!
The CEO of Monarchy wrote an open letter on the Net to the kid.
“I want to commend you for spending the $200 a week your parents send you every week for living expenses wisely....
“I want to also commend you on getting accepted into Duke. Great school! I am sure your parents are proud.”
--I love this story. A much better tale. From Naomi Nix / Star-Ledger:
“Debra has worn her diamond engagement ring through 18 years of marriage, but it disappeared in a flash among a sea of people at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“The ring might have been gone for good, if not for a little luck and the kindness of a stranger.”
Debra, her husband and four children went to see a Devils game and she suspects when she took her glove off to have her bags checked at security, the ring slipped off her finger.
But it wasn’t until later when she was drying her hands in the restroom that she realized she had lost it. Imagine the panic. Something like this has happened to all of us. I’ll never forget thinking I lost a gold ring at Wake Forest, washed down the drain, I thought, only it somehow was in my drawer at home months later. Never did solve that spooky one. [True story.] Anyway...
Poor Debra looked all over the Pru Center, including the bathroom trash cans. She went outside to her car, nothing.
Meanwhile, Kevin (I’m leaving out last names here), was waiting with friends in the lobby “when he saw a few kids horse-playing. As they tussled, they sent a ring spinning across the floor, landing by (his) foot....
“(Kevin) picked it up and looked around for someone who seemed to be looking for something. Not seeing anyone, he slipped it into his pocket.
“ ‘I honestly figured it was one of those 20-dollar pieces of costume jewelry,’ he said.”
Well, Debra filled out a form with lost and found, while the next day, when he was going through his pockets, Kevin found the ring and decided to take it to a jeweler who looked at it for about two seconds. “This is the real thing,” he told Kevin. The jeweler said it appeared custom made.
Kevin never asked the jeweler what it would be worth. Instead he called the Pru Center and was promptly put in touch with Debra. When he returned the ring to her days later, she offered him an envelope with cash as a reward and he refused to take it.
“To me it diminishes the value of a good deed,” he said. “I did what any normal person would do. I didn’t save a life, I just returned a piece of jewelry.”
You know, the world really sucks these days. Thank God there are still people like Kevin for reminding the rest of us how to live life.
--This story hit Sunday, though the incident occurred on Thursday. From the Los Angeles Times:
“A 71-year-old woman in Palm Desert is recovering after being stung by a swarm of 75,000 Africanized honey bees, officials said.”
The Fire Battalion Chief who was on the scene told a local television station, “She was covered as if she had on a bee suit, and we threw her in the back of the ambulance, where our guys sustained bee stings.”
“Officials said the bees flew out of a Verizon telephone vault that a worker had opened. The woman was nearby, they said.
“A beekeeper was brought in and the bees were removed and sent to farmers for crop pollination, authorities said.”
I’m guessing the presiding court judge said, “You fellas go...please...go pollinate or whatever you do. Just leave us alone.”
--From Agence France-Presse and the South China Morning Post:
“Stranded by floods and lost, a German backpacker survived for nearly two weeks in Australia’s harsh Outback on a diet of insects...
“Daniel Dudzisz, 26, went missing in February on a walking trip southwest of Longreach in remote Queensland.”
He was picked up by a motorist last Thursday and later told police he waded through the floods and ate flies to survive. Police confirmed the story.
--“Mad Men” returns April 13, but many of us are still ticked they are splitting up the final season into seven episodes this spring, and seven spring 2015.
--Shu had the opportunity to attend a ZZ Top concert in Vegas this weekend, up close and personal. Said it was simply the best.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/13/76: #1 “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” (The Four Seasons) #2 “All By Myself” (Eric Carmen...good for you, Eric....) #3 “Love Machine” (The Miracles)...and...#4 “Take It To The Limit” (Eagles) #5 “Dream Weaver” (Gary Wright) #6 “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” (Captain & Tennille) #7 “Theme From S.W.A.T.” (Rhythm Heritage) #8 “Love Hurts” (Nazareth) #9 “Sweet Thing” (Rufus featuring Chaka Khan...Chaka Khan Chaka Khan...) #10 “Junk Food Junkie” (Larry Groce...just listened to it...incredibly stupid...)
NCAA Basketball Quiz Answer: In 2005-06, Florida was 33-6, 10-6 in the SEC, as they featured four sophomores...Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Taurean Green and Joakim Noah. Noah was MVP with the Gators defeating UCLA in the title game 73-57.
In 2006-07, Florida went 35-5, 13-3, with the super sophs now juniors. Brewer was MVP in the 84-75 national championship over Ohio State.
How did these guys lose more than three regular season contests each year?