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Let the Games Begin
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NCAA Men’s Tournament Quiz: 1) In college basketball the Power Six is the Big Five (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) plus the Big East. Name the last non-Power Six, mid-major, to win the national championship. 2) Name the last five schools to enter the tournament undefeated. Answers below.
First, the AP Poll, post-conference tournaments....
1. Duke (58) 29-5
2. Virginia (5) 29-3
3. North Carolina 27-6
4. Gonzaga (1) 30-3
5. Michigan State 28-6
6. Tennessee 29-5
7. Kentucky 27-6
8. Michigan 28-6
9. Texas Tech 26-6
10. Florida State 27-7
11. Houston 31-3
15. Buffalo 31-3...but a six-seed!
19. Wofford 29-4
20. Nevada 29-4...but a seven-seed!
25. Utah State 28-6
--So let’s get it on...I couldn’t very well have 7-seed Nevada as a “Pick to Click” all season and not put them in the Final Four, so I have the Wolfpack squaring off against Duke, with Tennessee and North Carolina in the other semi...Duke defeating Tennessee in the final.
[Duke is a 2-1 favorite to win it all, UVA 6-1, UNC and Gonzaga 8-1.]
Yes, I know...Duke can’t shoot the three, and this could be a killer. The Blue Devils are among the worst from downtown at a sickly 30.2%.
RJ Barrett 30.4%
Cam Reddish, the supposed ‘shooter’ in the group, 32.7%
Tre Jones 24.7%
By contrast, Virginia hits 40.9% of their threes, led by Kyle Guy’s 46.3% and Ty Jerome’s 39.7%. De’Andre Hunter hits 45.7% from beyond the arc, but he doesn’t hoist it up with the frequency Guy and Jerome do.
North Carolina hits 36.5% from three-point land, led by Cam Johnson’s 46.5%.
But I just expect RJ Barrett, in particular, to have a great tournament, including a higher percentage from downtown.
[Wofford, as everyone knows by now, is the leader in the tournament from three, 42% as a team.]
In terms of first-round upsets, I only came up with 13 Northeastern defeating Kansas, and 13 UC Irvine over Kansas State, the Anteaters making it to the Sweet 16 in my bracket.
Otherwise, aside from Nevada, it’s a pretty standard bracket for moi, though I have 7 Louisville in the Elite Eight, as well as Virginia, Gonzaga and Houston...and the above-noted Final Four.
Feel free to send me your own final fours.
--Back to the odds...as ESPN’s David Purdum reported, Virginia, not Duke, is the worst-case winner for MGM sportsbooks, which in January took a “near-six-figure” bet on the Cavaliers to win the championship at 12-1.
--Of course there is lots of bitching. St. John’s received the last at-large berth, and they did not deserve it, at the expense of UNC-Greensboro (which technically was held out by Oregon’s Pac-12 tournament win, but St. John’s was the last at-large), we learned.
And Michigan State’s Tom Izzo bitched up a storm over none of the Big Ten teams getting a 1-seed, though they have 8 teams in the bracket, vs. 7 for the ACC and SEC, so stop it, Tom. You lost to bottom-dweller Illinois and lost twice to Indiana.
North Carolina State is upset, and you can pick apart these stories, like, say NC State vs. St. John’s, till the cows come home. But note to Wolfpack fans, you were 1-9 against AP Top 25 teams. [Clemson, like State also 9-9 in the conference, was 1-7 against AP-ranked teams, though many of the defeats were in the final seconds.]
Rambling...Indiana, 17-15, 8-12, is bitching because it had some high-profile wins, including two over Michigan State, 4-6 vs. AP-ranked teams, but, hey, it was 8-12 in the conference. I mean, sorry, Hoosiers fans.
Then again, Ohio State, 19-14, 8-12, got in despite a 1-9 record against AP teams, but the Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers in the Big Ten tournament. No way Ohio State deserves a bid. Talk about the ‘eye test,’ I probably saw them more than any other Big Ten team and they sucked.
--I can’t believe the Pac-12 received 3 bids.
--Great for the Ohio Valley Conference getting both Murray State and Belmont.
Otherwise, just play the games....
And last night in the first play-in games, Fairleigh Dickinson, out of Teaneck, N.J., won its first NCAA tournament contest, 82-76 over Prairie View, the Knights rewarded with a game against 1-seed Gonzaga.
And in a terrific game, better than the final score, 11 Belmont took out 11 Temple, 81-70, behind Kevin McLain’s 29 and 16 from a very talented freshman center, Nick Muszynski. It was Belmont’s first NCAA tournament win as well. Next up, 6 Maryland.
--I have Virginia Tech winning two games, before being taken out by Duke, as the Hokies get back star point guard Justin Robinson, the team’s career leader in assists essentially missing the past 11 games with a foot ailment. [He received a ceremonial start on senior day on March 8, playing one second in an 84-79 win against Miami.]
But I’m a bit surprised over the rumor that Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams could be headed to Texas A&M, replacing the just-fired Billy Kennedy.
Granted, the Aggies now have a history of over-paying, witness the $zillions they gave Jimbo Fisher to coach the football team, after Fisher’s run of success at Florida State.
But why leave an ACC job where you have proven success in your five years and the future should only be better?
Remember what I wrote earlier in the year. Wake Forest could have made a run for Buzz Williams, but the same year Buzz went to Virginia Tech from Marquette, the Deacs selected Danny Manning instead. The rest, sadly, is history....
Back to UNC-G, some of us Wake fans hope the Deacs hire their coach, Wes Miller. At least me and Phil W. do. Makes a ton of sense on a number of levels.
I do just have to add a comment from Miller, on his Spartans not making the dance.
When it comes to the difficulty of mid-majors scheduling non-conference games, especially as an elite in the category (like Wofford or Belmont), it is the “most underrated puzzle” every year and “something the committee needs to look at closer.”
--In the NIT, two 3,000-point performers played their last games. Chris Clemons scored 32 as Campbell lost to UNC-G, 84-69, and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum had 25 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort, the Jackrabbits falling to Texas 79-73.
In another of interest, 2 North Carolina State took out 7 Hofstra 84-78, Hofstra’s star guard Justin Wright-Foreman ending his college career with 29 in defeat. Wright-Foreman will be playing at the next level, ditto Clemons and Daum, though it may take some seasoning in the G-League before they hit the big stage.
--ESPN screwed up the release of the NCAA women’s tournament field, “an unfortunate technical error” leading to the selection show being moved up two hours and the bracket revealed after 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday.
Defending champion Notre Dame was awarded one of the top four seeds, the other three No. 1 seeds given to Louisville, Mississippi State and Baylor.
Connecticut is a No. 2 seed, the first time the Huskies were not a No. 1 since 2006.
But the technical glitch ruined watch parties across the country.
--There was a lot going on in the world of sports when I posted Sunday night and I forgot to finish a piece on the Lakers-Knicks game at The Garden, the Knicks’ Mario Hezonja dramatically blocking LeBron James’ final shot with 2.3 seconds to play, allowing New York to complete a late rally and beat L.A. 124-123. For the Knicks it was just their 14th win, while the Lakers dropped to a pathetic 31-39.
L.A. also blew an 11-point lead in the final 3 ½ minutes, the Knicks playing great defense on LeBron, who while he had 33 points, was just 4 of 15 in the final quarter.
But the game was notable for what happened when LeBron was on the sideline. Cameras showed James sitting all the way at the end of the bench during first-half play, far from some of his teammates. My favorite hoops analyst (when I can’t catch Bill Walton), Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, criticized James for not publicly being more part of the team, saying LeBron “doesn’t really care” about the perception.
“This type of behavior...when you’re the face of the NBA, you should be more a part of your team, folks,” Frazier said on the MSG telecast. “No matter what is going on. In the public, you gotta be a part of the team. Maybe in the locker room you’re not, but you have to exclude that type of togetherness in public, folks. And right now we see he doesn’t really care.”
I love it. LeBron has gotten an easy ride, but this year has been different. Yes, L.A. has had a lot of key injuries, but it’s pitiful he couldn’t guide the team to at least the eighth playoff spot.
--Last night, the Nets, in the midst of a wicked road trip, losing the first three, came up with a miracle finish in a 123-121 comeback at Sacramento.
Brooklyn overcame a 28-point deficit in the third quarter, and became just the fourth team in the shot-clock era to erase a 25-point hole in the fourth, outscoring the Kings 45-18.
Guard D’Angelo Russell had 27 of his 44 points in the final quarter, the Nets improving to 37-36, in the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
--Giants fans are livid with GM Dave Gettleman and he didn’t make the situation any better when he spoke to the press and WFAN on Monday.
With the team bringing back 38-year-old Eli Manning to clearly be the starter, Gettleman insists he is looking for a quarterback of the future and have him learn behind Eli.
So he was asked by WFAN if this means a prospect will be added via the upcoming draft or other means (like trading for Arizona’s Josh Rosen).
“If everything works out, probably,” Gettleman said.
“Would I like to do something now? Probably,” the GM said. “But I have to believe it’s the right guy to be the quarterback for this iconic franchise.”
The Giants have two picks (Nos. 6 and 17) in the first round, and it was thought they’d select Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, perhaps trading up to nab him.
But now there are stories that the Giants have soured on Haskins because they don’t think he’s mobile enough, which is a crock. Missouri’s Drew Lock, another option, won’t be available at 17.
So that means trade for Rosen, with Arizona seemingly serous about selecting Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
On an earlier conference call with reporters, Gettleman discussed the trade of Odell Beckham Jr.
“Really and truly, you can win while you’re building,” he said, the Giants receiving first- and third-round draft picks and safety Jabrill Peppers in return for the Pro Bowler.
The Beckham deal came after solid outside linebacker Olivier Vernon was also shipped to Cleveland, and Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins was allowed to leave as a free agent, signing with Washington. The Giants then signed receiver Golden Tate, who will be 31 in August, as Beckham’s replacement.
But as fans have observed, just what is Gettleman’s short-, and long-term plan?
“We’re building. The object of this is to win as many games as possible every year,” Gettleman said. “So we’re building. We were 3-13 when I took over. We were 5-11 last year – 12 of those games were a touchdown or less. We’re building. I don’t understand why that is a question.”
Huh? So what is the team’s plan?
“Trust me, we have a plan. And over time, you have to be patient. Everybody wants answers now. We live in an instant gratification society, instant gratification world, and everybody wants answers now,” Gettleman said. “Over time, you’ll see it. You have to trust it.”
Gettleman still can’t explain the decision to jettison one of the best talents in the NFL, Beckham, seven months after signing him to a $90 million extension.
Gettleman says that in getting Jabrill Peppers, they were in essence picking up a second first-round pick (Peppers having been a first-round selection by the Browns in 2017), plus they got a third-round pick.
“As I said publicly twice, we didn’t sign (OBJ) to trade him, but obviously things changed,” Gettleman said. “Frankly what changed is another team made an offer we couldn’t refuse.”
Previously, Gettleman had told everyone that you don’t give up on talent.
So here’s the bottom line. Giants fans know that going 6-10 or 7-9 does the team no good if the goal is to get a top quarterback in the 2020 draft, like Tua Tagovailoa. But unless they draft Haskins, or obtain Josh Rosen, with Eli at the helm, and without his best receiver, that’s where the team is headed. And they are paying Eli $17 million this season, including the $5 million roster bonus he picked up over the weekend by still being on the team.
Gettleman was asked why stick with the 38-year-old, a guy who is 8-23 his last two seasons?
“So, again, this narrative that Eli is overpaid and can’t play is a crock. I’m telling you,” Gettleman said. “So at the end of the day you have to think Gettleman is out of his mind or he knows what he’s talking about when he evaluates players. That is really what it is. That is really where it’s at. And I’m OK if you disagree with me. That’s fine.”
“What I’m telling you,” he said, “is if you turn around and take a look at what he’s making right now and look around the league and see what quarterbacks are making, if you’re in my shoes you’d say...the way he finished the season and what he is making, there really wasn’t a decision to make.”
--As noted last chat, the Dolphins signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal, replacing Ryan Tannehill, which means one thing. While FitzMagic can be entertaining, Miami is clearly in major tank mode, looking ahead to next year and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters: “Basically, the thought is we’re going to look to really build this organization based on our needs and if it takes a year or so – two years, three years – we’re going to be there and we’re going to be a [winning] organization.”
Yup, Tank City.
--Blake Bortles, formerly of Jacksonville, signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams to backup starter Jared Goff. Bortles was let go after the Jaguars signed Nick Foles. Bortles had led Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game in 2017, but he regressed last season and was benched after going 3-9 as a starter.
--Clay Matthews is no longer a Green Bay Packer, signing a two-year deal with the Rams.
--And the Raiders signed linebacker Vontaze Burfict, formerly of the Bengals, to a one-year deal. Kind of funny in that it was in the 2015 playoffs that Burfict was suspended three games for a vicious hit on then-Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, Brown now being Burfict’s teammate.
--Max Jaeger / New York Post
“It may be another happy ending for Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Florida prosecutors are offering to drop their charges against him for allegedly paying for sex at a South Florida massage parlor, according to the Wall Street Journal.”
Andrew Beaton / Wall Street Journal
“(But) there is a catch. The proposed agreement calls for the men to admit they would have been proven guilty at trial.
The proposed deferred prosecution agreement calls for completion of an education course about prostitution, completion of 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs.
“But in an unusual provision, the agreement also calls for the defendants to review the evidence in the case and agree that, if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove their guilt, this person said. It isn’t clear whether Mr. Kraft and others would accept such a condition. When the charges were announced, a spokesman for Mr. Kraft denied he engaged in illegal activity.
“A spokesman for the state attorney’s office said that it is the standard resolution for first-time offenders, or they go to trial....
“Legal experts have raised questions about the tactics Jupiter, Fla., police used in obtaining search warrants for an investigation they said was intended to stop a growing human trafficking problem.
“Prosecutors and law-enforcement officials had described the investigation as a probe into human trafficking and portrayed the men who patronized the spas as contributing to the demand for sex slavery. In announcing the charges, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, had called human trafficking ‘evil in our midst,’ echoing the rhetoric of law-enforcement officials.
“But no one has been charged with human trafficking in the case....
“ ‘The police are making this case that this is a major human trafficking ring, and that’s why it’s so serious,’ said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner of Tucker Levin, PLLC who is not connected to the case. ‘The fact that they had cameras installed in the locations for so long somewhat undermines the claim that there was an extraordinary danger to the people working in the establishment.’”
I think Kraft should fight this. But the NFL has to take action as well.
--The Angels stepped up and reached an agreement with the best player in the game, Mike Trout, that keeps him in an Angels uniform through 2030; $430 million over 12 years, which includes the $68 million he is already owed the next two years, so the extension is really for another 10 years, $362 million.
Trout, who has finished first or second in the A.L. MVP voting in six of his seven seasons, and was fourth in the other only because he was limited by injury that year, 2017.
Trout has already had a Hall of Fame career, and by the time he hangs it up, he’ll no doubt be thought of as one of the 3 to 5 best players in history.
I love that he is staying put. He’s a New Jersey native, south Jersey, near Philadelphia, and just built a new home in his hometown, Millville, but he clearly loves Southern California, likes his teammates, and is loyal to Angels owner Arte Moreno.
So, sorry, Bryce Harper and Phillies fans. You aren’t getting Trout when he otherwise was going to become a free agent in 2020.
But now the Angels need to surround Trout with some talent. He’s been to just one playoff in his seven full seasons, the team under .500 each of the last three.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“Few thought he wanted to stay. Even fewer thought the team would be able to keep him.
“Then Arte Moreno stepped in and took a giant hack and just crushed it, delivering a hit bigger than Scott Spiezio’s three-run jack on that October night in 2002, doing what great sports owners in Southern California do. Moreno connected on such an impactful blow, the outcome is worth repeating, this time with a punctuation mark that has described a career.
“Mike Trout is an Angel for life!...
“It is the richest deal in professional sports history and worth every penny. It is a stunning wake-up call by baseball’s sleepiest big-market team and worth every bit of applause.
“Trout is the best player in baseball... His competitiveness is unmatched, his drive is unparalleled, and when his contract ended in 2020 he could have gone anywhere for any amount of money....
“This is the Angels’ biggest and most surprising victory since that 2002 World Series championship. This is the low-key Trout saying he embraces the Orange County lifestyle, endorses the Angels’ direction and has enough faith in the franchise’s future to work here for the rest of his career....
“It was a huge win for Moreno, who showed a great understanding of the Southern California sports landscape and a great fearlessness in the wake of past failure. Moreno knows that the market requires big stars, and Trout is easily his biggest star. He knows that fans expect a concerted effort to win at all costs, and this boldly checks that box. And Moreno shelled out all the money despite still hurting from big-bust contracts given to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, because he knows that Trout is very, very different.
“This was, conversely, a loss for the Dodgers, who this winter refused to give an equally big contract to free agent Bryce Harper even though Harper wanted to play in Los Angeles as badly as Trout wanted to stay in Anaheim. There is no salary cap in baseball; the rich Dodgers simply didn’t want to spend the big money and give the long deal to Harper, not understanding that this star power in this town would have been worth the cost – it could have even ended their TV stalemate....
“This is also a huge win for Billy Eppler, who is slowly building hope in his four seasons as the Angels’ general manager. There was the signing of Shohei Ohtani. There was the addition of Andrelton Simmons. The farm system has gone from being ranked as baseball’s worst to somewhere in the top half. New manager Brad Ausmus is bringing in a new culture.
“Sure, Trout stayed for the money and for the atmosphere that fits his low-key demeanor. But there’s no way he stays unless he thinks Eppler is building toward something special, and now his decision gives his boss time to continue rebuilding at a smart pace.
“Finally, this is a big loss for everyone else in baseball who thought Trout could be persuaded to go to a bigger, shinier market. This includes, Harper, who, since he joined the Philadelphia Phillies, has shamelessly recruited Trout to come back closer to his Millville, N.J., roots.
“In the end, Mike Trout chose a place that fit his quiet, workmanlike personality, yet a place that he believes can fulfill his vivid championship dreams. He has so much faith in Los Angeles’ ‘other’ team that he permanently made it his team, and now they’re the talk of the town. He chose the Angels, and he chose them for life, and good heavens indeed.”
Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY Sports
“(Trout) was certainly cognizant of the demands of playing at home (the Phillies). There would be endless ticket requests and demands on his time. He could no longer retreat quietly to the beaches. He would be a walking billboard where everyone would know what he was doing every waking moment.
“Sure, he wishes the Angels would win more, reaching the postseason just once in his career, but he cherishes his privacy away from the ballfield.
“Now, he gets to have it all.
“Mike Trout is an Angel.
“He’ll remain an Angel.
“And he will retire as an Angel.
“And that’s perfectly fine by him, playing the game he unabashedly loves, in the most comfortable of environments.”
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post...on the four monstrous deals of Trout, Harper, Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado....
“These four...all within a few weeks, should be good long-term news for MLB, and they underline one more factor that works against great young athletes in the next generation who choose football as their career path.
“There may be a few more Kyler Murrays, who win the Heisman Trophy in college football, then go to the NFL, rather than take bonus money to be an outfielder in the Oakland Athletics’ system. But the trend is against it. Football is just starting to face the brain-damage catastrophe of CTE as MLB and NBA contracts continue to shoot to the sky. If you have a choice, why not be an NBA guard or play any position in baseball where your health and wealth have vastly better odds?
“We will have to wait many years to evaluate each of this offseason’s mega-contracts individually. But I’m willing to predict the outcome of all of them, taken as a group: These will be poor-to-awful deals for the teams that are now so happy.
“The reason: Trout.
“Through 26, the 10 players most comparable to him statistically are (in order): Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Miguel Cabrera, Orlando Cepeda, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Andruw Jones and Albert Pujols. You could hardly concoct a more fabulous list.
“But Aaron is the only one out of these 10 who would have been worth the contract that the Angels are about to give Trout thorough his age-38 season.
“Remember, the Angels already had Trout under contract for two more years – and he’ll probably remain spectacular in 2019 and 2020. It’s the decade after that that probably won’t work out well, especially the eight years from age 31 through 38 that caused the erosion of the talents and health of every one of the players on that list, except Aaron.”
Well, Mr. Boswell then goes into statistical detail on how few players lead their league in anything (the bolded “black ink” on Baseball-Reference.com, save for Aaron) in their age 31 through 38 seasons. [Eliminating “hit by pitch.”]
“Pujols, Jones, Cepeda, Griffey and Robinson never led the league in anything again....
“Come back in about a decade, when all these huge long-term gambles have played out.
“One of them may pan out with Aaron-like ‘old age’ production. Maybe it’ll be Trout. Or Harper. Or Machado. But it probably won’t be more than one of them.
“This is a watershed moment in baseball. Wait a few years, and then see who goes over the waterfall.”
--One more contract of note. The Astros signed All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman to a six-year, $100 million extension.
Just a week ago, Bregman, only 24, admitted he was “disappointed” when the Astros renewed his contract and gave him a $41,500 raise for his 2018 salary of $640,500.
--The Yankees did what they had to, sign free agent Gio Gonzalez to a minor league deal that will pay him $3 million when he pitches in the majors and includes an April 20 out date, seeing as the 33-year-old has missed spring training.
Compare the $3 million to the $12 million Gonzalez made each of the past three years.
With ace Luis Severino out until at best mid-May, and with CC Sabathia out it seems until end of April, the Yankees were down to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ, plus some unproven talent.
Gonzalez is 127-97 with a 3.69 ERA in his 11 big league seasons.
But the Yankees lost key reliever Dellin Betances to shoulder discomfort yesterday. Not good words to hear. His fastball has been non-existent this spring.
--College Baseball rankings from Baseball America (3/18):
2. Miss. State
6. North Carolina State
7. Oregon State
8. North Carolina
21. Florida State
Wake Forest is off to a disappointing start, 12-9, 3-3 in the ACC thru Monday, when they were expected to make some noise, nationally.
But the other day, in a 13-3 win over Boston College in Winston-Salem, the Deacs’ Chris Lanzilli set a new program record with 10 RBIs...a grand slam, an RBI groundout, a two-run single, and a three-run homer. Lanzilli has 31 RBIs in the team’s first 21 games.
Wake took two of three from B.C., thus winning me a free lunch from B.C. alum Steve D., but I had just paid off our basketball bet last week, the Deacs losing to the Eagles on the hardwood, which was after Wake lost to B.C. in football. I was in a sour mood. Thank you, Chris Lanzilli for brightening it.
--More on The Players Championship. Winner Rory McIlroy now has six top-6 finishes in six starts this season.
But as Rory won the biggest purse of the year, $2.25 million, a reminder that seven opponents held at least a share of the lead during the final round.
Eddie Pepperell, Jhonattan Vegas, Jon Rahm, Abraham Ancer, 48-year-old Jim Furyk, Tommy Fleetwood, and Ollie Schniederjans.
--During the final round of The Players, there was a confusing moment for viewers when we told Webb Simpson had been assessed a one-stroke for accidently moving his ball, but we weren’t shown any kind of video.
Well, Simpson has joined the list of disgruntled PGA Tour players who are upset over the new Rules of Golf.
On the 14th hole, Simpson had a 47-foot putt for birdie when he was assessed a one-shot penalty for a violation of Rule 9.4b. The rule states, “if the player lifts or deliberately touches his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the player gets one penalty stroke.”
But Simpson blamed the penalty on his shirt and putter.
“My ball’s on the fringe, and I was seeing if I was standing in the rough or if I was going to get both feet in the fringe or whatever and the top of my putter just got stock on my shirt and it moved the ball about a quarter of an inch,” he said after the round. “I thought it might be a penalty, but we called anyways, and if it’s on the green it’s not a penalty. So this is where I’m going to be loud and clear, like we have to get intent into the rules. We have to. Because it’s killing our game when it comes to these kind of things.”
--Butch Harmon, golf’s most celebrated instructor, is retiring from teaching on the PGA Tour, according to Golfweek’s The Forecaddie.
Harmon, who turns 76 in August, recently told his stable of players that he is “done on Tour” and that he wants to cut back on travelling. Who can blame him?
The son of 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon, Butch has been the most prominent teacher in the game for a quarter-century. He famously split with Tiger Woods after guiding Tiger to eight major championships, and he has coached Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. Currently in the stable are Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker and LPGA star Danielle Kang.
But as Butch has been pulling back, Johnson and Fowler have increasingly spent time with Butch’s son, Claude Harmon III. The son also teaches Brooks Koepka.
--Moving The Players to March from May has ruined the Florida swing. The order of play since the WGC moved from Doral to Mexico had been Honda, WGC, Valspar and Arnold Palmer Invitational. The top players compete at the WGC, and then one or two of the other three, giving the three Florida events a strong field.
As Mike Purkey of Morning Read notes, the top five on the Valspar leaderboard last year were Paul Casey, Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. But you’re not going to see that this week because the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play will be played next week, with The Masters two weeks after that.
By injecting The Players into March, though, you have the top players opting for WGC Mexico, The Players, and the WGC Match Play, with most just playing one of the other three Florida events.
So Purkey suggests a change. Move The Players to fourth in the Florida rotation, so you have Honda, Bay Hill and Valspar before it, then move the Match Play to April and stick the Zurich Classic in between. Which leaves the Match Play the week before The Masters.
Well, you have to do something. The Florida swing is critical to generating interest for the sport in general as much of the nation shakes off the winter doldrums and gets ready to hit the links.
--Speaking of The Masters, pretty amazing that the talented Patrick Reed hasn’t won since his big triumph at Augusta.
Europe’s top soccer clubs were to hold a secret meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, Tuesday to discuss potentially radical changes to the Champions League, though any changes likely wouldn’t take effect until 2024, as reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Robinson.
On the table are items such as having a more closed system of promotion and relegation that would favor the biggest and richest clubs and make it harder for smaller teams to qualify.
But a big proposal is to move the games from midweek to the weekends, which as I wrote long ago concerning the topic of money and the CL, the weekends are critical to country’s national league, including the Premier League, so a non-starter.
The talks come amid the constant fear of a breakaway by some of the richest clubs to form a “Super League,” as a way of chasing television revenues.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has told the European Club Association (ECA), a trade body representing 232 European teams, headed by Andrea Agnelli, the Fiat scion and chairman of Juventus, “there will be no Super League. That is a fact,” Ceferin told Agnelli. “If you had carried out your alleged plans, your clubs would have lost their status as great clubs in the hearts of the people. The only thing great about you that would stay would be your past.”
How important is the Champions League to the clubs who qualify? Just for qualifying (like the top four in the Premier League), you receive $17.8 million in prize money. The farther you go, of course the more the club takes in, up to $90.8 million for the winner. Such funding is critical to a club’s bottom line. But, as you’ve seen, it’s not guaranteed you can qualify every year, as we’ll see with this year’s Premier League season and the four clubs fighting for the last two spots. [No Arsenal or Chelsea in this year’s Champions League competition, for example.]
But, again, the thought of the national leagues giving up their weekends is a non-starter, it would seem.
La Liga president Javier Tebas said the reform process could be “a catastrophe,” in an interview with Reuters. “UEFA and the ECA are negotiating behind closed doors so that the others don’t know about the reforms which put national leagues in danger.”
--Kyle Busch had a rather historic win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sunday, when he captured his second straight Cup victory. It was the 200th win of his career across NASCAR’s three major series, thus tying Richard Petty’s NASCAR record.
Busch now has 53 Cup series wins, 53 in the Truck series, and 94 in Xfinity. All of Petty’s 200 were in NASCAR’s top Cup Series.
While Petty’s were in the top series, he competed in 1,184 NASCAR races over 35 years, while Busch has his 200 wins in 998 races over 17 years.
--Mikaela Shiffrin not only had a record year on the World Cup Alpine circuit this season with her 17 wins, she earned $885,000 in prize money, with Petra Vlhova next at $427,000.
Marcel Hirscher, who dominated the men’s side, earned $564,000.
World Cup organizers typically pay $44,950 for a win, with prize money down to 30th place, about $500. [Shiffrin had other strong finishes aside from her wins, if you’re playing with the numbers.]
--I didn’t have a chance last time to note a piece from Dugan Arnett of the Boston Globe that Brad K. first noted. The tale of the 3-year-old mayor.
“FAIR HAVEN, Vt. – When she had finished relieving herself on the hallway floor, the newly elected mayor stepped forward, gathered herself, and strode purposefully into the Town Hall meeting room, ready for her big moment.
“It was a Tuesday night, and the new mayor – a 3-year-old, droopy-eared Nubian goat named Lincoln – had drawn a crowd. A few dozen townspeople had packed into the small space for the goat’s official swearing-in. Camera-wielding TV reporters jostled for position. Others craned their necks for a look at the animal draped in a mayoral sash and wearing a bell collar.
“Since the goat’s March 5 election, this is pretty much how it has gone – in this bedroom community of 2,500 in western Vermont, and far beyond. Town manager Joe Gunter has taken dozens of calls from media outlets across the world, from Fox News to The Japan Times.
“ ‘I got a call the other day from the French Embassy,’ he said. ‘They were baffled by what we were up to, and they kind of wanted to know why.’
“The idea for an honorary pet election had been Gunter’s, a way to raise money for a new playground, and Lincoln the goat beat out a crowded field of 16 local candidates that included a dog named Sammie and a gerbil named Crystal, this despite a limited political background and no discernible platform. Each entrant paid a fee that went toward the playground.”
At the Wooden Soldier, a diner, Cindy Seamans told reporter Dugan Arnett, “Oh my God, it’s so stupid.”
But coworker Cathy Monty said, “I think [the goat’s] cute.”
Arnett, though, points out that having a goat as mayor hasn’t always worked out.
“In the early 1980s, a black mountain goat named Clay Henry became an overnight sensation when he was named mayor of the small Texas town of Lajita. People traveled from across the country to have a beer with the mayor – or, more precisely, to feed beer to the mayor, who quickly developed a drinking problem.
“One night, in a Shakespearean twist, the drunken mayor found himself locked in a physical altercation with his son, Clay Henry Jr., over the attentions of a female goat.
“By the time it ended, the mayor was dead, and today his stuffed head adorns the wall of a local bar, a not-so-subtle reminder of the perils of power.”
--Each year around this time I see an article in either the Los Angeles Times or San Diego Union-Tribune that makes my blood boil.
It’s about the desecration of something beautiful.
Jaclyn Cosgrove / San Diego Union-Tribune
“Calling the stampede a ‘poppy nightmare,’ Lake Elsinore officials announced Sunday they had shut access to the popular poppy fields in Walker Canyon, where crowds had descended in recent weeks to see the super bloom of wildflowers.
“ ‘The situation has escalated beyond [our] available resources,’ Lake Elsinore said on its City Hall Facebook page. ‘No additional shuttles or visitors will be allowed into Walker Canyon. This weekend has been unbearable [for] Lake Elsinore.’
“For the last few weeks, droves of flower fiends have flocked to the poppy fields, some of them ignoring instructions that they stay on the designated path.
“Desperate for social media attention, some visitors have trampled through the orange poppy fields, despite official signs warning against doing so. Others have plucked their own poppies as souvenirs.
“Southern California has received record-setting rainfall this winter, creating conditions favorable to a super bloom, when wildflowers blanket hillsides in epic proportions.”
I’d tie those trampling the fields to trees in the area and let the mountain lions feed on them.
‘Man’ plummets from No. 423 to 448 on the All-Species List. ‘Mountain lions’ (cougars, pumas) are No. 16.
At last count, there were only 451 species eligible for ASL treatment, the mosquito being last.
--We note the passing of guitarist Dick Dale, 81.
Randall Roberts and Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times
“Nearly 60 years ago, surfers flocked to the waves along Newport Beach to try mastering the new craze. When the sun set, they needed someplace to dance and Dick Dale delivered it at Rendezvous Ballroom on the Balboa Peninsula. Nearly every week for two years, Dale and his band packed over 3,000 people into the ballroom.
“ ‘The energy between the Del-Tones and all those surfers stomping on the hardwood floor in their sandals was extremely intense. The tone of Dale’s guitar was bigger than any I had ever heard,’ recalled Del-Tones bandmate Paul Johnson.
“Dale, whose death was confirmed Sunday, manifested a quintessentially Southern California story, forged in surf, sand and rock ‘n’ roll. They called him the Pied Piper of Balboa Beach, but his musical instrument of choice was defiantly not a flute. Rather, the electric-guitar playing son of a Lebanese father melded elements of the music of his ancestral homeland with roaring instrumental rock sounds emerging in the late-1950s, and helped pioneer an iconic American genre known as surf music.”
One of Dale’s hits, “Misirlou,” was tapped decades later by director Quentin Tarantino to serve as the theme to “Pulp Fiction.”
“Other rock instrumentalists charted wordless hits before Dale came to the fore in the early days of the electric guitar, among them Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ and Duane Eddy’s ‘Rebel Rouser,’ but Dale helped push surf music into the mainstream through those high-energy performances, supplying a sound that paired perfectly with that growing surf craze.”
Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston to a father who had emigrated from Lebanon and a mother who was Polish Belarusian. The Monsour family moved to Southern California in 1954, when his father landed a job at Hughes Aircraft Co. in El Segundo, near the beach. Richard changed his name to Dick Dale for performance reasons.
Dale’s music was infused with the Middle Eastern influence, such as on “Miserlou.”
Shockingly, Dale isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but a decade ago, he was elected to the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.
RIP, “King of the Surf Guitar.”
Top 3 songs for the week 3/21/70: #1 “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel) #2 “The Rapper” (The Jaggerz) #3 “Give Me Just A Little More Time” (Chairmen of the Board)...and...#4 “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (John Ono Lennon) #5 “Rainy Night In Georgia” (Brook Benton...awesome tune...) #6 “Let It Be” (The Beatles) #7 “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (Hollies) #8 “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (Edison Lighthouse) #9 “Evil Ways” (Santana) #10 “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” (The Delfonics...A- week...)
NCAA Tournament Quiz Answers: 1) UNLV was the last mid-major to win the national title, 1990, when they were a member of the Big West, now Mountain West. 2) Last five to enter the tournament undefeated.
1976...Rutgers, 27-0, lost in national semifinal game
1979...Indiana State, 28-0, lost in national title game
1991...UNLV, 30-0, lost in national semifinal game
2014...Wichita State, 34-0, lost in round of 32
2015...Kentucky, 34-0, lost in national semifinal game
Next Bar Chat, Monday.