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[Posted Wed. a.m.]
Baseball Quiz: I’m stretched for time today, so an easy one to start the season. Name the four franchises now waiting 50+ years for a World Series title. Answer below.
New AP Poll (records thru Sun.)
1. Kansas (62) 24-3
2. Baylor (2) 24-2
3. Gonzaga 27-3
4. Dayton 25-2
5. San Diego State 26-1
6. Florida State 23-4
7. Duke 23-4
8. Kentucky 22-5
9. Maryland 22-5
10. Creighton 22-6...up 5
11. Louisville 23-5
12. Villanova 21-6
13. Seton Hall 20-7
16. Penn State 20-7...down 7
17. BYU 23-7...up 6
21. Colorado 21-7
--Monday, in a biggie in the ACC, 6 Florida State beat 11 Louisville 82-67, the Seminoles moving to 24-4, 14-3, and to the top of the ACC. It’s pretty amazing that coach Leonard Hamilton has been in Tallahassee for 18 years. He has a Final Four-caliber team for sure this season. Tremendous depth, and the players have bought into Hamilton’s insistence on team play and a tough ‘D.’
--So Tuesday, 7 Duke traveled to Winston-Salem to play my boys from lowly Wake Forest, the Blue Devils needing a win to stay tied with FSU atop the ACC.
I watched the first half and Wake took an early 32-20 lead and I thought, ‘this won’t last,’ and it didn’t...39-39 at the half. I then switched to the Democratic Debate and had the game on my computer, but just the online update.
Duke was up 67-58 at the 7:52 mark and there was no reason to be optimistic, and it was 78-69 Blue Devils with just 1:21 left. Bernie was defending his past comments on authoritarian regimes.
But Wake semi-miraculously sent the game into overtime at 79-79, as Brandon Childress, who started 0-for-10 from the field, hit a tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation, and then over the course of two overtimes, Childress scored 13 points as the Deacs pulled away, 113-101. Wake had its first win over Duke since March 2014.
The 113 points tied the most points ever allowed by Duke under Coach K, this after Duke had its worst loss against an unranked opponent in the Coach K era when it lost by 22 to North Carolina State the week before.
Bye-bye No. 1 seed for the Dookies, as they fell to 23-5, 13-4. Wake is 12-15, 5-12.
Was the win enough to save coach Danny Manning’s job for another year. I hope not.
--In other games last night, 4 Dayton beat George Mason 62-55, and 5 San Diego State rebounded from its loss to UNLV, beating Colorado State 66-60.
--I saw most of Kobe Bryant’s moving memorial service, with Vanessa Bryant showing amazing poise in paying tribute to her 13-year-old daughter and her husband. Vanessa described the imagined future a mother would never know for her child. “We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school,” Vanessa said. “We didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car. I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. ...Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA. She would have made a huge difference for women’s basketball.”
Michael Jordan, through the tears from his first words, acknowledged that Kobe’s “got me. I’m going to have to look at another crying meme for the next” as he was cut off by laughs and howls from the crowd.
Shaquille O’Neal took the stage last, talking about how he and Kobe made such an odd couple.
“Sometimes like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered or insulted each other,” O’Neal said. But, he added, “when the cameras were turned off we threw a wink at each other and said, ‘Let’s go and whoop some ass.’”
Shaw recalled an early conflict with Bryant, who wasn’t passing as much as O’Neal would have liked. O’Neal said he told Kobe: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Kobe responded: “Yeah, but there’s an ‘M-E,’” followed by an F-bomb that broke the somber tone and made the crowd roar.
Sabrina Ionescu, women’s college basketball’s current star, spoke at the memorial, then flew back to the Bay Area where she took part in No. 3 Oregon’s game that night against No. 4 Stanford.
All Ionescu did was become the first player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds, notching her 26th triple-double, leading the Ducks past the Cardinal 74-66; Ionescu with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
In keeping with Kobe’s mission to support women’s basketball, Steph Curry was on the baseline for Sabrina’s game after the two had been at the memorial. Friday night, at Oregon’s game against Cal in Berkeley, Curry took his two daughters to see her.
--Seemingly missing from the Kobe memorial, however, was LeBron James. He was not shown on the video screen or spotted in television shots on Monday at Staples Center, so LeBron was asked at practice Tuesday if he attended the ceremony.
James was evasive, but effusive in his praise for Vanessa.
“Like I said, man, it’s just...I respect your question, for sure,” James said. “It was very emotional, very emotional day, very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved.
“The one thing I can come out of this saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa [Bryant] is to stand up there the way she did, to give the speech the way she gave that....Obviously, it was a difficult day for all of us. I’d appreciate it if we can move on tonight. That would be great.”
Yeah, but were you there?
LeBron did move on Tuesday, the Lakers taking care of business against the Pelicans 118-109, as James had 40 points in his first matchup against Zion Williamson, who had 29; Zion’s ninth consecutive game with 20 or more.
--The Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal, who was left off the All-Star team despite scoring 28 points per game at the break, scored 55 points in a 137-134 overtime loss to the Bucks, a night after going for 53 in another loss in Chicago to the Bulls. Beal was 19 of 33, and 15 of 27 from the field in the two.
Beal thus became only the sixth player in NBA history to score 50 or more points on consecutive nights and the first to do so since Kobe on March 22-23, 2007.
But the bottom line is the Wizards have lost eight of the nine games in which Beal has scored 40 or more this season.
As I write, his average is up to 30.1, second to James Harden’s 35.3.
--Last time I mentioned how the Yankees were on pins and needles over the condition of starter Luis Severino, who was back in New York getting his right throwing elbow looked at.
And the worst news possible came back...he needs Tommy John surgery, which means given the timing, he’s likely not back until midseason 2021.
This is the same Severino who was 19-8, 3.39 ERA, in 2018, but was limited to just three starts last year due to a lat injury.
It’s also the same Severino who prior to 2019, signed a four-year, $40 million extension. The contract was criticized by more than a few players around baseball as being too little for such a talented starter, but today, thank god, for his part, Severino signed it.
Needless to say, GM Brian Cashman is going to be burning up the phone lines, looking for someone to fill the gap.
--According to a report in The Athletic, Madison Bumgarner, newly signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been secretly competing in rodeos under the name “Mason Saunders.” There are a number of photos confirming this.
What’s funny is it’s not clear whether participating in rodeos is one of those prohibited outside activities under the standard players’ contract. Horseback riding? Yes. But who the heck would consider competing in a rodeo, risking $millions?
Of course then we have the case of the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes and his issue with wild boars on his ranch and the injury he suffered as a result of attempting to tramp them and...well...as Tony Soprano used to say, “Whaddya gonna do.”
--Baseball America’s College Baseball Poll (Feb. 24)
2. Texas Tech
4. Mississippi State
8. Arizona State
17. North Carolina State
22. North Carolina
Hey, where’s Wake Forest? Well the Deacs traveled out to Long Beach State for a 3-game weekend series and were swept...ugh.
Michigan’s reign at No. 1 didn’t last long.
--Joe Burrow, the projected No. 1 overall pick by the Bengals, said he is not going to pull an Eli Manning-John Elway type power play and say he will refuse to play for the godawful Bengals.
Eli thumbed his nose at the Chargers in 2004, and Elway snubbed the Colts in 1983. But Burrow, asked whether he would accept being picked No. 1 by Cincinnati, responded, “Yes, of course.”
--We are starting the Florida swing of the Tour this week with the Honda Classic at PGA National. Unfortunately, the field is weak (just Brooks Koepka among the world’s top ten), but that gives some of the up-and-comers a chance for the limelight. And a Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose, who I have in my DraftKings lineup. [Can’t give you the other four...wouldn’t be prudent.]
After Honda we have Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Valspar tournaments.
--Liverpool was in trouble, Monday, in its match with bottom three West Ham, down 2-1 midway through the second half before Jurgen Klopp’s boys rallied for two goals to win it 3-2, their record-tying 18th in a row, undefeated in 27 with a lone early-season draw with Manchester United. [West Ham’s keeper, Lukasz Fabianski, had a truly embarrassing game, with two of the three Liverpool goals essentially going thru his legs.]
Manchester City won 18 straight between August and December 2017.
So Liverpool, up a staggering 22 points, needs to win just four more to win their first title in 30 years.
As for the bottom and the battle to avoid relegation....
16. Bournemouth 27 matches – 26 points
17. Aston Villa 27 – 25
18. West Ham 27 – 24
19. Watford 27 – 24
20. Norwich 27 – 18
So Norwich seems destined for relegation, but the battle among the other two spots could be fierce.
Waiting in line to be promoted for next season from the Championship League (not to be confused with the Champions League) is West Brom and Leeds United, with a playoff for the last slot among the teams that finish 3 thru 6 in the standings. [Great way to carry out the drama.]
--The New York Rangers did it...they announced they were going for it today, not just years in the future, when they signed Chris Kreider to a seven-year extension worth an average of $6.5 million per.
“We’re young and we’re getting younger,” president John Davidson said. “You need people who can lead the way.”
Rather than using the allure of the solid 28-year-old left-winger as the lure to add more draft picks and prospects, the Rangers clearly signaled that the rebuilding phase is close to being over and it’s now time to step up. The fans should be psyched.
As for the next seven weeks, they now will be in full-blown ‘make the playoffs’ mode. Without Kreider, this was likely not possible.
But the playoff push was made more difficult when rookie sensation Igor Shesterkin, who is 9-1-0 in goal since his call-up, was involved in a car crash Sunday night in Brooklyn in which he suffered a non-displaced broken rib while his passenger, teammate Pavel Buchnevich, was badly shaken but escaped injury. Shesterkin was blameless in the crash, and thankfully both were wearing their seatbelts. But Igor will be out up to three weeks.
So that means veteran Henrik Lundqvist, who was relegated to the third goalie position on the team, is back and the Rangers will need him.
In terms of the salary cap, Kreider made some concessions, and the Rangers traded defenseman Brady Skjei to Carolina for a first-round pick, which helped alleviate any cap issues that I brought up last time.
New York then went out last night and continued their winning ways, beating the Islanders, 4-3, behind the other good young goaltender, Alexandar Georgiev.
After winning 8 of 9, the Rangers are suddenly just two points back of a wildcard.
--Deontay Wilder said he is going to exercise his contractual right to a third fight with Tyson Fury, like this summer,
“We’re definitely going to exercise it,” said Wilder, who fought to a disputed draw with Fury 14 months ago. “We’re looking forward to it. I’m a warrior and a true champion, and I fight like that every bit of the way. We’re definitely going on with it. That’s for sure. By the summertime.”
Under the terms of the deal for the rematch, both sides could ask for a third fight.
Wilder claims now that he knew he was in trouble when he got into the ring because he didn’t have it in his legs, saying it was the result of miscalculating the weight of his costume.
“My uniform was way too heavy,” Wilder said. “It was 40-plus pounds.”
The now-former champ said, “By the third round, I had no legs. I was completely done.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, said he was surprised Wilder would wear such a heavy costume into the ring. Arum was sitting near to Raider’s coach Jon Gruden, who said of Wilder’s outfit: “What is he, crazy?”
Wilder also complained that referee Kenny Bayless wasn’t fair in how he handled the fight, allowing rabbit punches to the back of his head by Fury after the break; stuff that Wilder claims Bayless warned Deontay of in a pre-fight chat.
But Wilder said he wasn’t trying to detract from Fury’s victory.
“I congratulate Fury on his accomplishment,” Wilder said. “I’m very excited for him, and I am not bitter toward no one.”
But Wilder went back to blaming his co-trainer, Mark Breland, for throwing in the towel.
By contract, the third fight has to be by July 18, but Bob Arum said it can be moved to the fall.
--The University of Colorado reached into the NFL coaching ranks to fill their head coach position, left vacant after Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State. Karl Dorrell, 56, who went 35-27 as UCLA’s head coach from 2003-07, and was currently an assistant with the Miami Dolphins, will take the helm in Boulder.
I’d say the Buffaloes were lucky to get such a quality coach at this late stage.
--Brad K. reminded me I forgot to note the tale of 84-year-old Mary Ann Wakfield (sic), who the other day needed to sink a putt across the entire length of the court at the University of Mississippi in order to win a new car.
Wakfield did just that during a promotional segment at Saturday’s game between Ole Miss and Alabama. 94 feet.
The crowd erupted in applause as she won a 2020 Nissan Altima from a local dealer.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/23/74: #1 “The Way We Were” (Barbra Streisand...godawful...) #2 “Seasons In The Sun” (Terry Jacks) #3 “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” (Aretha Franklin...one of my two favorites of hers, the other “Day Dreaming”...)...and...#4 “Spiders & Snakes” (Jim Stafford) #5 “Love’s Theme” (Love Unlimited Orchestra...Barry White’s debut...) #6 “Jungle Boogie” (Kool & The Gang) #7 “Boogie Down” (Eddie Kendricks) #8 “Rock On” (David Essex) #9 “You’re Sixteen” (Ringo Starr) #10 “Let Me Be There” (Olivia Newton-John....crappy week, ‘C’....)
Baseball Quiz Answer: The Indians haven’t won a World Series in 71 years, the Rangers 59, Brewers 51, and Padres 51.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.