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The Madness Continues...and a look at 1982
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NCAA Quiz: Every college hoops fan should know these figures by heart. What did Villanova do from the field in its 66-64 titanic upset of Georgetown in the NCAA title game, April 1, 1985. Answer below.
One thing we know is that despite all the madness, we are likely to have two No. 1 or 2 seeds in the Final Four because the East/Midwest side of the bracket still has its power teams left.
The South/West side is a different story, and we are virtually guaranteed to have at least one Cinderella in the Final Four. Even 5-seed Kentucky would fit the role given this year’s edition.
9 Kansas State v. 5 Kentucky
11 Loyola v. 7 Nevada...best game of the eight, potentially
9 Florida State v. 4 Gonzaga
3 Michigan v. 7 Texas A&M
1 Villanova v. 5 West Virginia
3 Texas Tech v. 2 Purdue
1 Kansas v. 5 Clemson
11 Syracuse v. 2 Duke
Think of the South...1 Virginia, 2 Cincinnati, 3 Tennessee and 4 Arizona are all out; all of whom most expected to get to the Sweet 16. And in the West, 1 Xavier, and 2 North Carolina.
I mean that’s kind of staggering. You would expect one, at most two of ‘em not to make it, but not six..
--Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“Remember when men’s college basketball was doomed? Remember when the public had finally gotten fed up with all the corruption, skullduggery and FBI gumshoeing and decided to abandon the sport forever?
“Remember that? Wasn’t that like...six days ago?
“Yeah, I don’t remember it, either. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has roared into action and immediately overwhelmed all the cynicism and pearl-clutching about the future of the game....
“I don’t see any problem with holding the seemingly incongruous opinion that men’s college basketball is a wreck – and that March Madness remains one of the most irresistible cocktails in sports.
“Hypocrisy, Hypschmocrisy. Wiretap that, you FBI goody-goodies! Catch it if you can!
“What makes this annual sports bash so great, of course, is that delightfully predictable unpredictability. You simply cannot rule anyone out. I am surely not the only one who looked over at his phone late Friday night to see a text telling me: TURN ON VIRGINIA-UMBC RIGHT NOW. And then going to the TV to turn on Virginia-UMBC right now.
“Before the tournament, America barely knew what UMBC was. After the upset, the country was ransacking UMBC’s souvenir store. It did not matter that half of the country still isn’t sure what UMBC stands for. The Retrievers will always have that piece of history....
“But I think my favorite part of the tournament is that it’s do or die. Take your best-of-7 series and stuff it in the drawer. Find yourself a cold-blooded shooter like Loyola-Chicago’s Clayton Custer, and you can turn the world upside down. Show up without your pants on, like UVA, and it’s over....
“Look: I don’t mean to suggest everything with college basketball is hunky dory because the tournament’s fun. The sport is a mess, mainly because it believes it can run a multibillion-dollar business like it’s some sort of amateur baking contest. The players should be paid, and the NCAA should be sent out to sea in a rowboat with no oars. But let’s be real: A big part of the reason there’s been little change is that March Madness is such a feast, it disguises the problems lurking below.”
--How prevalent is the 3-point shot in the college game? 33.6% of NBA shots this year are threes while 37.5% of field-goal attempts in college were from behind the arc.
But the last two NCAA tournaments have broken records for three-point attempts, which is owed in part to the reduction of the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.
This year through the first two rounds, the percentage of threes is up to 44.4%!
--Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young announced he was leaving to enter the NBA draft in June. Young, 19, was a first-team All-American, though he was far from spectacular for the Sooners the second-half of the season after a blazing start that elicited comparisons with Steph Curry. He did still lead the NCAA in points (27.4) and assists (8.7).
--With UMBC’s win over UVA, there was much talk of how this was the greatest single upset in the sport since 1982, and Chaminade’s win over then-No. 1 Virginia. I did the following on this game back in 2012.
Dec. 23, 1982, in the Neal Blaisdell Center on Oahu, tiny NAIA school Chaminade defeats the top-ranked team in the land, Virginia, led by 7-foot-4 star center Ralph Sampson, 77-72.
As the Silverswords coach Merv Lopes said, “It was more than an upset. This was impossible.”
Without this upset, there is no made-for-TV Maui Invitational each year. Instead, all the big schools now find their way into the tournament at one point or another.
Chaminade is Division II these days and the Maui Invitational is held in November. So thirty years later, last Nov. 19, Chaminade celebrated the anniversary by defeating Texas 86-73.
Back to Dec. 1982, Ben Bolch had a piece in the Los Angeles Times last year. In part:
“The Cavaliers were 8-0 and only a few days removed from a ballyhooed victory over Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston in Tokyo when they made a stopover in Honolulu on the way back to the mainland. Virginia players spent part of their time in paradise boogieing at a disco with members of the top-ranked USC women’s basketball team, which was in town for a tournament.
“Chaminade also had reason to party, having recently beaten Division I rival Hawaii for the first time. Then, two days before taking on Virginia, the Silverswords fell to Wayland Baptist, a fellow NAIA school with a 5-9 record. In the stands scouting the game was Cavaliers coach Terry Holland.
“ ‘He probably said, ‘These guys can’t even jump,’’ said Lopes, the former Chaminade coach.
“Nobody outside the Chaminade locker room gave the Catholic school with an enrollment of about 900 much of a chance against mighty Virginia, particularly since the Cavaliers had shellacked the Silverswords in each of the previous two years.”
Michael Wilbon was in Honolulu for the Washington Post to cover Maryland’s football team in the Aloha Bowl. He had been instructed to take the night off, but with Ralph Sampson recovering from the flu, Wilbon decided to check it out and with the score tied at the half, 43-43, he instructed his editors to save some space in case of an upset.
UVA scored the first seven of the second half, but plucky Chaminade came right back and at one point 6-foot guard Tim Dunham took an alley-oop pass and dunked over Sampson, tying the score back up. And the rest is history. Wilbon needed the space.
--Cleveland Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team because of health issues. This comes after he took himself out at halftime during a game against the Bulls.
In a statement Monday, Lue said he had been having “chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep” all during the season. Three times this season, he has missed all or part of a game with an illness.
“After many conversations with our doctors and [General Manager] Koby [Altman] and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season,” Lue’s statement said.
“Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.”
Coaching at the NBA level is not for the faint of heart.
--Meanwhile, in the Cavs’ 124-117 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, LeBron James had 40 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming the third-oldest player in league history to notch a triple-double while scoring at least 40 points at 33 years, 79 days old, putting him behind only Larry Bird (35 years, 99 days) and Elgin Baylor (34 years, 48 days).
--The Knicks stupidly won again on Monday, 110-92 over Chicago, in a game advertised as the “Tank Bowl,” to move to 26-45, the Bulls now 24-46, so the Knicks are ninth worst when if they hadn’t won their last two, they would have retained some hope for moving into legitimate shape for a shot at the No. 1 pick in the lottery.
In moving up from No. 6 in the first round to No. 3 in order to have a better shot at getting their favored quarterback, the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Salfino says this is a more significant move than you might think, at least historically.
“It turns out there’s a big difference between quarterbacks taken in the top-five and those who fall lower in the first round. For the most part, scouts have been good at sorting players out.
“There have been 22 quarterbacks picked in the top-five this century and 14 have played in at least one Pro Bowl, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Quarterbacks taken in draft slots No. 6 through No. 10 are 0-for-6 in making a Pro Bowl.”
“Additionally, top five selections have a median touchdown-to-interception rate of 1.27 compared to 1.11 for picks six through 10 and 1.04 for the rest of the round.”
--Sports Illustrated is picking the Washington Nationals to win the World Series over the Yankees, which is the fourth time since 2013 that SI has picked the Nationals to win the N.L. pennant, and the third time it has predicted Washington would win it all, but, of course, the Nats are still looking for their first playoff series win in team history.
--The Dodgers suffered a bit of an early blow as third baseman Justin Turner suffered a broken left wrist when he was hit by a pitch in a Cactus League game against Oakland on Monday.
While surgery isn’t required (so the L.A. Times reported this morning), it is unlikely Turner will be back before May. Last season, Freddie Freeman of the Braves missed six weeks because of a broken wrist.
Logan Forsythe will likely move from second to third, and the Dodgers have a number of options at second, including Chase Utley.
--I forgot to note Jose Altuve’s new contract the other day, having brought up a week or so ago his team-friendly deal of a few seasons ago that pays the 3-time batting champion $6 million this year, and $6.5 million next season, after which he could become a free agent.
So the Astros, no longer pinching pennies, rewarded Altuve with an extension for five years, 2020-24, that will pay him $30.2 million per year, $151 million in total, making the annual value easily among the top in the sport. Good for him. And good for Houston.
--The Twins, 85-77 last season, were looking to take another big step up this season and shortstop Jorge Polanco was to be a big part of it. Polanco, in his first full season last year, hit .256, but with 13 homers and 74 RBIs, and a particularly strong second half, 10 home runs in 63 games after the All-Star break.
Alas, he was suspended 80 games without pay by Major League Baseball for testing positive for Stanozolol, a PED. Polanco accepted his suspension and said in a statement, “The substance that I requested from my athletic trainer in the Dominican Republic and consented to take was a combination of vitamin B12 and an iron supplement, something that is not unusual or illegal for professional athletes to take. Unfortunately, what I was given was not that supplement and I take full responsibility for what is in my body.”
Ah yes, ye olde B12.
--Yankees advanced ticket sales are reportedly up by 500,000 over last year, a big change after yearly attendance dropped by some 700,000 between 2010 and 2016, while ticket and suite revenues fell by $170 million.
Over in Queens, though, the Mets have been struggling, with attendance falling 300,000 last year and the team’s season-ticket sales for this season “flat,” according to their chief revenue officer.
Forbes estimates the Yankees generated operating income last year of $39 million on $526 million in revenue, while the Mets pocketed $32 million on $332 million in revenue, thanks to their far lower payroll. [Aaron Elstein / Crain’s New York Business]
--I wrote of the passing of former Mets third baseman Ed Charles last time, and Phil W. passed along a piece from Bruce Markusen of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s just a follow-up to Charles’ travails as a young player, having met Jackie Robinson in his youth and using him as an inspiration.
“Six years after watching Robinson, Charles signed his first professional contract with the Boston Braves. But he would never make it to Boston, instead spending nearly a decade in the Braves’ farm system. He debuted as a shortstop for Quebec in the old Provincial League in 1952; he found the fans and community there accepting of a black man playing baseball. But then, he moved on to Ft. Lauderdale in 1953, Corpus Christi in ’55, and Jacksonville in ’56. In between, he lost a season and a half to military service during the Korean War. When he was able to play, those three locations in the South exposed him to much of the hatred and bigotry that Robinson himself experienced while in the military and while trying to establish himself during his first year in Brooklyn.
“One time, Charles was playing in Knoxville, where a white man taunted him throughout the game, calling him a full range of insulting, racist names. But Charles played well that day, impressing the white man, who waited to see him after the game. ‘He extended his hand,’ Charles recounted. ‘He said, ‘By Golly, ######, you’re one hell of a ballplayer.’ In his own little ignorant way, given how he’d been reared, he had brought himself to the point that he could see I was not inferior to the whites.’”
--While Tiger Woods wasn’t really in it the last few holes, his performance at Bay Hill was once again a ratings bonanza for NBC Sports: Even with March Madness competing for attention, Sunday’s final round averaged a 3.6 overnight rating – a 136 percent jump over a Tiger-less 2017 tournament. And those tuning in saw the return of another very popular player in Rory McIlroy.
NBC Sports said that when combined with the final round of the Valspar (5.1 overnight), the two tournaments posted the highest ratings of any non-major PGA Tour broadcast since the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Woods played in that one, too.
Understand the 3.6 rating wasn’t far from the 3.8 Fox drew for the final round of the U.S. Open, with zero competition.
--Tiger said after of his five-tournament preparation for the Masters...a tradition unlike any other...on CBS...that it could not have gone better.
“If you would have [told] me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. Everything was an unknown. But I’ve gotten a little better, a little bit sharper, and I worked my way up there into the leaderboard back-to-back weeks and had a chance, which is nice.
“If I can play with no pain and I can feel like I can make golf swings I’ll figure it out.”
So let’s see...the Augusta lineup...Woods, McIlroy, Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Jon Rahm...and Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama.... yeah, I’d say that’s kind of delicious if we could have 4 or 5 of them battling for the green jacket Sunday afternoon.
--Thank god it would appear the Austin bombing episode is over. This week’s WGC event down that way would have had a tense atmosphere, with plans for a massive security operation in place.
--The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He was put to sleep after age-related complications worsened significantly. Sudan was 45.
His death leaves only two females – his daughter and granddaughter – of the subspecies alive in the world.
Hope for preserving the northern white rhino now lies in developing in vitro fertilization techniques.
Attempts to use Sudan to prolong the species with the two surviving rhinos had failed.
45 for a northern white rhino is 90 in human years, so I realize I am nearly 30 in rhino years...which makes me feel better.
--Tennis great Martina Navratilova is pissed. She found out that fellow Wimbledon pundit John McEnroe is being paid ten times more than her, as revealed by a BBC top-paid talent list. She is paid about $20,000 for her commentator role with the BBC at Wimbledon, while Johnny Mac was paid about $200,000.
“It was a shock because (unless McEnroe’s) doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon he’s getting at least 10 times as much money,” said Martina.
BBC Sport said “John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment,” adding: “They are simply not comparable. John’s pay reflects all of this, gender isn’t a factor.”
BBC’s “Panorama” program said McEnroe appeared around 30 times for the BBC at Wimbledon last year, compared to Navratilova’s 10 appearances.
Maybe he’s stuffing envelopes on the side as well.
--Baseball broadcaster Bob Uecker, 84, had another scary, near-death experience. Uecker told the Milwaukee Journal that he almost succumbed to a brown recluse spider.
Uecker told the newspaper that he was in the backyard of his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, last October. “I had a pair of shorts on. I got bit by a spider but I didn’t know it. I didn’t feel it bite me. The next day, I had a red mark on my leg, and it kept getting bigger. I kept trying to take care of it by myself but it kept getting worse.”
Uecker realized he was bit on his left leg as he was replacing a light bulb. Four days later, he visited a doctor for scheduled blood work and was told he needed to get to a hospital immediately. Uecker said the doctor recognized the wound right away.
A doctor cut away infected flesh from the bite, which can potentially lead to death. While 90 percent of recluse bites do heal without complications, they can leave permanent scars.
The wound had to be left open following the surgery...yuck...
“It has to heal from the inside out, so they left it open,” said Uecker. “That took five weeks. I couldn’t believe it.”
He’s fine now, but it was his 11th major surgery.
Top 3 songs for week of 3/20/76: #1 “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” (The Four Seasons) #2 “All By Myself” (Eric Carmen) #3 “Dream Weaver” (Gary Wright)...and...#4 “Take It To The Limit” (Eagles) #5 “Lonely Night” (Captain & Tennille) #6 “Love Machine” (The Miracles) #7 “Sweet Thing” (Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan) #8 “Dream On” (Aerosmith) #9 “Junk Food Junkie” (Larry Groce) #10 “Disco Lady” (Johnnie Taylor)
NCAA Quiz Answer: Villanova went 22 of 28 from the field, 78.6 percent.
Dwayne McClain* 5-7
Harold Pressley 4-6
Gary Mclain* 3-3
Ed Pinckney 5-7
Harold Jensen 5-5
*Spelling is correct.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.