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The Cream Is Rising To The Top
[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to the last two games of the Men’s and Women’s action tonight.]
College Hoops Quiz: 1) Who am I? I’m the only player in Baylor history to average 20 points per game for his career, was a first-round draft pick and won two NBA titles, back-to-back. 2) Who am I? I’m the only player in Florida State history to score 2,000 points in their career, was a first-round draft pick and played 10 seasons in the NBA. [Both modern era.] Answers below.
The Madness Continues….
--Sometimes these games aren’t that complicated when it comes to breaking them down. Who shoots best from three, who decides to play ‘D’. Occasionally coaching decisions made in the final few minutes are critical (of if you were the late-Guy Lewis, in the first half…sorry, Houston fans).
In our first Sweet Sixteen contest yesterday, 8 Loyola’s bubble was burst by upstart 12 Oregon State 65-58, the Beavers led by a solid senior, Ethan Thompson with 22.
After an incredibly slow start to the game offensively due to a combination of Loyola’s terrific defense and dreadful shooting, both teams needed to get hot just to make it 24-16 Beavers at the half.
And in the second half, the Ramblers just didn’t get it going, shooting only 5 of 23 from three for the game, 18 of 54 from the field overall, while the normally reliable Cameron Krutwig missed some easy buckets down low at critical times for Loyola.
If the Beavers were to win their next game, Monday, against Houston, they would be the first 12-seed ever in the Final Four.
Speaking of 2 Houston, they had an easy time of it against 11 Syracuse, 62-46, after the Orange had tied it at 20-20 with 5:00 to play in the first, the Razorbacks closing the half with ten straight.
Syracuse did cut it to four with 12:40 to play but Houston basically cruised from there.
The Orange shot just 14 of 50 for the game, 5 of 23 from three (yes, same as Loyola), as one of the stars of the tournament the first two rounds, Buddy Boeheim, was just 3 of 13 from the field, 1 of 9 from behind the arc.
The Cougars didn’t do anything particularly well but played a gritty game on defense.
In the other two Saturday contests, 15 Oral Roberts’ dream came to a crushing end against 3 Arkansas, 72-70, as the Golden Eagles’ Max Abmas just missed a running 3-pointer at the buzzer for what would have been a dream ending. Shockingly, the Razorbacks let Abmas race nearly the length of the court in just 2.9 seconds.
But this game was about so much more. ORU led 35-28 at the half but in the second, Arkansas went to work down low, outrebound ORU 18-6 on the offensive glass for the game, 11 by Justin Smith as the Razorbacks scored all their points at mid-range on in. 6-6 guard Jalen Tate took advantage of his height vs. his smaller opponents, scoring 22, while freshman Davonte Davis had the clutch inside bucket with 4 seconds to play to cut make it 72-70.
For ORU, Abmas had 25 points, but he seemed to dominate the ball too much, while forward Kevin Obanor was invisible for large stretches, scoring just 12. The Golden Eagles live by the three (as opposed to Arkansas which made only one all game), and they were just 8 of 31. ORU shoots better, they win.
So Arkansas moves on to the Elite Eight for a matchup with 1 Baylor on Monday, Baylor handling 5 Villanova 62-51, as ‘Nova was only 3 of 17 from three (Baylor just 3 of 19), the Wildcats really missing point guard Collin Gillespie and his floor leadership, ‘Nova committing 16 turnovers, Baylor with just six.
Baylor was far from spectacular, but they wore ‘Nova down.
Monday’s two games should be good.
As for today’s play….
1 Gonzaga is now 29-0, seeking the first perfect season since Indiana in 1976, as the Zags rolled over 5 Creighton 83-65.
The Zags are No. 1 for a reason…and it will be a big upset if they don’t win it all, except if it was against Baylor.
But I’m more interested in what happens with Creighton, after the tumultuous end to the season with coach Greg McDermott’s “plantation” comment. I talk about the transfer situation below. How many Bluejays will be entering the portal Monday? And what will the school decide to do with McDermott if you see an exodus en masse?
In the second game…1 Michigan moves on, whipping 4 Florida State (the ACC now out), 76-58, as Wake transfer Chaundee Brown has stepped up the last two games to fill the void left by the injured Isaiah Livers; Brown with 33 points off the bench, 11 of 15 from the field, 5 of 8 from three.
--In the Women’s Tournament…as I go to post, six of the Elite Eight have been decided over Saturday and today.
1 UConn, 2 Baylor, 4 Indiana, 3 Arizona, 1 South Carolina, and 1 Stanford. Like with the men, their regional finals are Monday/Tuesday.
--Coach Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers won the NIT today, 77-64 over Mississippi State, a nice win for the program; the NIT field having been reduced from 32 to 16 and played in North Texas, not Madison Square Garden in terms of the final four. In fact it was the first time in 83 years the semis and championship game weren’t played in the Big Apple.
--Shaka…Shaka Smart Shaka Smart…is headed to Marquette, replacing Steve Wojciechowski. I didn’t realize Smart went to high school in Madison, Wis., so a homecoming.
As Johnny Mac and I agree, this is a perfect spot for Shaka, after his high-pressure, disappointing 109-86 six seasons at Texas.
--Meanwhile, it’s impossible to keep up with the players who’ve entered the transfer portal, including those who are grad transfers, so I’m not going to try in any detail. I’m convinced my Wake Forest Demon Deacons will pick up another solid player or two, like the kid we just got from Indiana State, even as we lost five players to the portal.
An example of the chaos is Rutgers. Center Myles Johnson, who was greatly improved this year, entered the portal with a year of eligibility left. I didn’t understand the move at first, because I didn’t know the kid had graduated, so he’ll be a grad transfer somewhere, and a very valuable piece being able to play immediately. [Johnson did not totally preclude returning to Rutgers.]
Rutgers senior guard Jacob Young still has a year left due to the Covid rules, but he entered his name into the NBA Draft and the transfer portal. He’s not nearly good enough for the NBA but could probably play somewhere overseas. Or he’s going to be a good piece for another program.
--So speaking of big transfers, Northeastern guard Tyson Walker, one of the best mid-major guards in the country, committed to Michigan State.
Walker, a 6-foot sophomore, earned first-team All-CAA honors this season and won the CAA Defensive Player of the Year award. He averaged 18.8 points and 4.8 assists, scoring 27 points at North Carolina in February.
Sounds like a helluva pickup for the Spartans.
--Finally, on a sad note, Grand Canyon’s Oscar Frayer died Tuesday in a car accident, just three days after playing in his first NCAA Tournament.
The 23-year-old was traveling with his sister and one other passenger when their Subaru collided with the rear of a California Highway Patrol car on the side of the road assisting a disabled tractor-trailer around 2:30 a.m. The Subaru ran into a tree and burst into flames. All three passengers were pronounced dead at the scene.
“We love O,” Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew said in a release. “He was the heartbeat of our team with his vibrant, energetic personality. I cannot put into words the hurt and sadness we all feel, but we know he is in heaven and that gives us great joy to know we will be together again.”
Frayer, a senior forward, posted eight points, five assists, and three blocks in the Antelopes’ season-ending 86-74 loss to Iowa in the tournament last Saturday.
The Oakland, California native graduated with a degree in Communications and was set to walk at GCU commencement in April. RIP.
NFL’s Wild Day
Friday, the Miami Dolphins shipped the No. 3 overall pick to San Francisco for No. 12, first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 and an additional third-rounder next year. Then the Dolphins flipped the No. 12 and one of their 2022 first-rounders as part of a package to Philadelphia that brought the No. 6 overall choice to Miami.
It was a huge deal because the Niners have clearly soured on Jimmy Garoppolo as the leader of the franchise, owing in no small part to injuries.
Miami, on the other hand, is saying Tua Tagovailoa, for the next year at least, is the man. Owner Stephen Ross has liked the guy for years, and coach Brian Flores has praised Tua. Instead, it seems rather obvious the Dolphins are going to get Tua a weapon, in this draft loaded with outstanding wide receivers (and TE Kyle Pitts).
So what we know is Jacksonville is taking Trevor Lawrence at No. 1. And after a super Pro Day, the Jets loved what they saw from Zach Wilson, so it’s assumed, as of today, they take him at No. 2.
The Niners can take Justin Fields or Trey Lance at 3.
But what if the Jets keep Sam Darnold? Then they get whatever San Francisco has left to give for their No. 2. [Just one far-fetched possibility.]
As for Philly, they’ll go with Jalen Hurts. Good move.
Then you have Atlanta at 4. Looks like they keep Matt Ryan so have your pick at WR or Kyle Pitts.
Cincy at 5 needs to go with protection for Joe Burrow, so Oregon OT Penei Sewell or Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater.
So then you have the ongoing saga of Deshaun Watson, who the Jets and Carolina, among others, were very interested in, and perhaps Miami (despite Stephen Ross’ love of Tua), but you’d be nuts to take on his legal situation.
--The legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger died on Saturday. He was 87.
Schnellenger arrived at the University of Miami in 1979 and proceeded to transform a program that was literally on life support, the school administration considering dropping the sport as losses mounted.
But in his second year, Schnellenberger guided Miami to a 9-3 season, including a win in the Peach Bowl, and then they won a national championship in 1983, after which he took the money for a job with a USFL team planned for Miami, where he was to make $3 million.
But the team never materialized and he sat out 1984, before moving on to his hometown of Louisville, while the Hurricanes, the program now an established powerhouse, won three more national titles over the next six seasons under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson.
What Schnellenberger did, however, in his brief stint in Miami was totally turnover the blueprint for success in college football, putting the emphasis on speed and athleticism.
Schnellenberger also revitalized the Louisville program, and then, later, Florida Atlantic, which he built from scratch.
And way back in 1962, as an assistant at Alabama, he helped convince a kid out of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, Joe Namath, to head south.
With the Hurricanes, Schnellenberger coached quarterbacks Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde, the foundation of the “Quarterback U” moniker Miami once held.
--The Nets continue to add former All-Stars, the latest power forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge, a seven-time All-Star, at 35 is a shell of his former self, much like recently acquired Blake Griffin, but it just adds to the Nets’ depth as they head into the playoffs and gun for the championship that they really must win.
The Nets now have the ‘Big Three,’ James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, plus Griffin and Aldridge, as well as current starting center DeAndre Jordan (plus Nic Claxton has given Brooklyn solid minutes up front).
If everyone stays healthy, and Durant should return soon, the Nets will win the title. But that’s a big ‘IF’.
--At the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls strengthened their playoff hopes in acquiring Orlando All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, as well as former Demon Deacon Al-Farouq Aminu, in exchange for Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, a protected 2021 1st-round pick and a protected 2023 1st-round pick.
The Miami Heat also are gunning for the playoffs, picking up Victor Oladipo from Houston for Kelly Olynk, Avery Bradley and a 2022 pick swap.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks traded Rajon Rondo to the Clippers, strengthening the Clippers’ backcourt in time for their playoff run. The Hawks picked up valuable reserve Lou Williams, and some future draft picks.
And the Portland Trail Blazers picked up sharp-shooting guard Norman Powell from Toronto, in exchange for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood.
One more of import…Boston acquired Orlando shooting guard/small forward Evan Fournier, averaging 19 points a game, for former Deacon Jeff Teague, and future considerations.
While all the above strengthen teams for their respective runs, on the other side of the trade it’s largely about opening cap space.
For selfish reasons I think the NBA’s postseason is going to be outstanding, especially if my Knicks hang in there and secure a spot, which at 24-22 after a fine 102-96 road win at Milwaukee last night they look to do (the Bucks playing without Giannis, the Knicks without Julius Randle).
But the Knicks, who said they aren’t in the chase for center Andre Drummond, lost their own center, Mitchell Robinson, to a broken foot, four games after he had returned from a broken hand! It’s not clear how long Robinson will be out. Huge blow. Robinson has so much raw talent.
[Drummond is seemingly joining the Lakers tonight.]
--When you think back to January, there was serious talk of the season not starting until May, maybe even June, owing to serious Covid issues in Arizona and Florida, with concerns over holding spring training.
But here we are…Praise God! The season is starting on time and there is no reason to believe we won’t have a full one. Players, and fans, will have to be flexible…individual teams may be forced to pause now and then, necessitating more 7-inning doubleheaders to make up the contests, but that’s a small price to pay.
And we also know every team will have fans in the stands, except Toronto will continue to play in Tampa (Dunedin), not being able to go home because of strict Covid rules in the Great White North. Hopefully the Jays are playing home games in Toronto by June 1 at the very latest.
--So in the final week you’re just hoping to avoid injuries and the Yankees suffered an early blow when last season’s home run champ, Luke Voit, is now out at least a month with a partially torn meniscus requiring surgery this week. But this left a roster spot for Jay Bruce, who will take over at first base and attempt to take advantage of the short porch in right. Bruce has a month to convince the Yanks to keep him around all season.
--The White Sox suffered a huge blow when slugging left fielder Eloy Jimenez, who slammed 31 home runs as a rookie in 2019, ruptured his left pectoral tendon, requiring surgery. He will be out 5-6 months!
--Shohei Ohtani is 16 for 28 at the plate, a cool .571, five homers, a 1.701 OPS. Granted, he got hit hard in a spring training start on the mound and has a 7.88 ERA, but also 14 strikeouts in eight innings.
--Then you have the Mets’ Jeff McNeil. As a fan at this point you begin to worry a little when a .300-hitter is just 5 for 43, .116.
--And if you’re a Dodgers fan you are worried when Clayton Kershaw finishes his spring with a 10.22 ERA, including giving up 17 hits in 7 1/3 his last two Cactus League starts.
--We note the passing of Bobby Brown, 96. Brown was a bit player for the Yankees at shortstop and third, batting .279 over eight seasons, 1946-52, ’54 (he served in Korea in ’52-’53) as he pursued a career in medicine, quitting baseball at age 29 to open a cardiology practice, while later servicing as president of the American League. As in he was Dr. Bobby Brown.
Brown usually missed spring training because of his studies, and was a platoon player under Manager Casey Stengel, but come October, the good Doctor was clutch. Like try a .439 batting average in 41 at-bats over four World Series championships…1947, 1949-51.
But he missed the 1952 World Series, having left the Yankees that summer for medical service in the Army during the Korean War.
“My unit landed at Incheon, Korea, on Oct. 1, 1952, the first day of the World Series,” he told Baseball Digest in 2003. “It was the worst day of my life. I’m trudging up a quay for a quarter of a mile with everything I owned on my back going into Korea, and my team is playing in the World Series. My wife had our first baby when I was flying over the Pacific.”
Brown became a battalion surgeon near the front lines and later served at an Army hospital in Tokyo.
Brown remained in medical practice until 1984, when he became the American League president, a position he held for a decade.
--My Rangers have been frustratingly inconsistent and I’d say it’s doubtful they make the playoffs. Every time they get on a run they suffer a bad loss, like Saturday’s 2-1 defeat in Philadelphia. And then they lost today to the Capitals, 5-4.
But Mika Zibanejad had his second, six-point game in a week…3 goals, 3 assists against the same Flyers on Thursday in an 8-3 Rangers win. The last player to have multiple 3 goal/3-assist games in the same season (let alone a week) was Mario Lemieux in 1989.
--We note the passing of St. Louis Blues legend Bob Plager, of the Plager brothers. He was killed Wednesday in a car crash in St. Louis. Plager was 78. He was alone in his vehicle when it collided with another carrying two women, one of whom suffered minor injuries. No other details were released.
Plager was an original Blues, moving over from a few stints with the New York Rangers when the NHL expanded in 1967-68. He played 11 seasons for St. Louis – teaming for a stretch with brothers Barclay and Bill – and later worked for the organization in a variety of roles.
Plager was one of those classic no offense defensemen of the old NHL, which made the likes of Bobby Orr, Brad Park and Carol Vadnais so rare when they hit the scene. “What, we’re allowed to score?” thought the other back liners.
Bob Plager had 20 goals and 126 assists in 644 regular-season games.
We had dual events this week on the PGA Tour.
First, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play annual shindig at Austin Country Club in the Texas Hill Country. Visually, this is one of the better sites we see each year and a great commercial for visiting the area. Plus you’re wondering, who owns all those gorgeous looking homes high up in the hills?
But while the event attracts an elite field, by the time you get to the weekend and quarterfinals, many of the elite each year have bit the dust.
And so it was that in the field of the Elite Eight, only one, No. 3 Jon Rahm, had made it from the first 20 seeds. Among those not making it to Saturday afternoon…Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau, Victor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson, Paul Casey, Sungjae Im, Dustin Johnson…and Jordan Spieth (49)…as the “Beaver.”
So then in the quarters, Billy Horschel (32) took out Tommy Fleetwood (21); Victor Perez (31) whipped Sergio Garcia (39); Matt Kuchar (52) beat Brian Harman (54); and Scottie Scheffler (30) took down Rahm (3).
Scheffler then beat Kuchar, with a critical birdie on No. 17 to win his semifinal 1 Up.
And Horschel beat Perez 3 & 2 in the other semi.
Horschel has had some good tournaments this year, and some not so good ones, befitting his entire career. He has five wins but none since 2018.
Scheffler has been knocking on the door for two years now, finishing 5th in the FedEx Cup standings for 2019-20, with seven top 10s, but no wins.
And in the end, Horschel got win No. 6, 2 & 1. Scheffler remains winless.
--In the other event this weekend, the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, Joel Dahmen picked up a huge win for his career, his first on the PGA Tour. The guy is solid and this is his launching pad (mused the DraftKings player, looking for selections that make the cut consistently). Sam Ryder and local Rafael Campos finished one back.
I don’t know what NASCAR was thinking in attempting to hold its first dirt race since 1970 at Bristol Motor Speedway, in Bristol, Tenn. The “Colosseum,” or Bullring, is a great change of pace venue vs. a lot of the cookie-cutter tracks used by NASCAR, but it’s not like this area is known for terrific weather this time of year, i.e., the risk of mud was considerable. I mean if you want to hold a dirt race in March, you have to do it somewhere like Arizona or Las Vegas, and those tracks aren’t conducive to that old-time feel NASCAR is trying to conjure up.
So around noon, NASCAR canceled today’s action with all the rain and a bad track. They’ll try again tomorrow afternoon.
--No Premier League action this weekend as we had World Cup qualifying.
--Jim Nantz received a new contract from CBS, a big boost from his current $6.5 million per year arrangement, though nowhere near Tony Romo size…Romo in the midst of a 10-year, $180 million deal.
Sources told the New York Post Nantz is in the $10-$10.5 million-per-year range, which puts him on par with Fox’s Joe Buck and NBC’s Mike Tirico.
Because Nantz wanted to match his partner Romo, the negotiations were more tense than they should have been.
At 61, Nantz has said he wants to do the Masters until he is 75.
In support of Nantz, there’s no comparison between him and Romo in terms of workload. Romo is just doing the NFL, while Nantz does March Madness and lots of golf.
Working against Nantz was there was nowhere else for him to go.
Bottom line, if you plan on leaving this earth in the next, say, decade, you’ll still have an opportunity to have Nantz do an on-air obituary for you, camera panning skyward, which is my hope.
“We lost the Editor this week….no one really knew his name, but after 4,500 Bar Chats…and 8.85 million Coors Lights…” [Camera then goes to a shot of puffy clouds, or a setting sun at Torrey Pines.]
--We note the passing of prolific author Larry McMurtry, of Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lonesome Dove” fame and “Terms of Endearment.”
But I totally forgot he wrote “The Last Picture Show,” which was his third of about 50 books, including novels, biographies and essay collections. He and director Peter Bogdanovich were nominated for an Academy Award for this terrific movie, filmed in McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City, Texas.
And I didn’t realize his novel, “Horseman, Pass By,” at 25 years old, in 1961, was made into the 1963 movie “Hud” starring Paul Newman.
Basically, I don’t know squat when it comes to the guy.
--Since I talked of a tragic hiking accident in Maine’s Acadia National Park the other day, Ken P. wanted me to remind any of those venturing into the area for the first time to be careful at Thunder Hole, which sucked in a couple that got too close a few years ago.
I once took a glider ride at Acadia where the pilot had way too good a time in scaring my friend and I nearly to death.
--Shu passed on a Nat Geo story on another jaguar sighting near the Arizona-Mexico border, which is very cool, as some of us hope the jaguar repopulates Arizona, munching on naïve hikers and juicing Bar Chat’s ratings during Web Sweeps Weeks.
There apparently is a breeding population of up to 200 jaguars in Sonora, Mexico, and cats from their ranks are increasingly wandering north into Arizona.
Granted there are some issues. Ranchers aren’t real happy to see jaguars, and then you have the border wall that is cutting off some of their travel corridors.
--“Godzilla vs. Kong” comes out this week. I’m going with Kong to prevail at the one hour, 44-minute mark (“Down Goes ‘Zilla! Down Goes ‘Zilla!)….and the little girl to go on to become a nuclear physicist.
But it seems clear the Biden infrastructure program price tag will have to be increased from $3 trillion to $42 trillion given the damage these two will inflict, which could also shake up global financial markets.
The cable ratings, though, will be huge! I’ll be calling my brother.
“Geezuz, did you see what Godzilla just did?! Holy s---!”
Top 3 songs for the week 3/30/68: #1 “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding) #2 “Love Is Blue” (Paul Mauriat) #3 “Valleri” (The Monkees)…and…#4 “Simon Says” (1910 Fruitgum Co.) #5 “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” (Aretha Franklin) #6 “La-La-Means I Love You” (The Delfonics) #7 “Young Girl” (The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett) #8 “The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde” (Georgie Fame) #9 “Lady Madonna” (The Beatles) #10 “(Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls” (Dionne Warwick…great tune…B+ week…)
College Hoops Quiz Answers: 1) One of my 3 or 4 favorite players all time who wasn’t a Knick, Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson averaged 24.1 points per game for his two seasons at Baylor, 1977-79, after which he was a first-round draft pick by Seattle. After being traded to Detroit, had a sterling career as perhaps the best sixth man of his era, winning two NBA titles, 1988-89 and 1989-90. 2) Bobby Sura Jr. scored 2,130 points for Florida State, 1991-95. Sura was a first-round pick of Cleveland and hung around for 10 seasons, mostly with the Cavaliers and Warriors, averaging 8.6 points per game for his career.
Next Bar Chat, Tues. p.m. Your EXCLUSIVE Pick to Click in Baseball…and a war story involving a Notre Dame kid.