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Gonzaga Rolls On....
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
NCAA Women’s Hoops Quiz: 1) The Women’s Tournament crowned its first national champion for the 1981-82 season. Who won the inaugural event? 2) Three ACC schools have won a single title each. Name them. [Sort of tricky] 3) How many titles does UConn and Geno Auriemma have? 4) Who is second to Auriemma? 5) Name the 2019 champ (there being no championship in 2020). Answers below.
Elite Eight…to Final Four…
--First, going back to the two games after I posted, the best of the weekend, 11 UCLA and 2 Alabama, went into overtime after a crazy last few minutes of regulation.
After UCLA had a 40-29 lead at the half, it was back-and-forth the final eight minutes of the game, ‘Bama having caught up.
Alabama’s Herbert Jones made 1 of 2 free throws at 0:36 to put the Tide up 62-61. UCLA’s Cody Riley made a layup, 63-62 Bruins, 0:14 left.
Riley fouled Jones at 0:06. If Jones, a 73 percent foul shooter makes both, ‘Bama is back in the lead, only he misses both! UCLA’s David Singleton is immediately fouled and hits both from the line, 65-62 Bruins.
And then ‘Bama’s Alex Reese hits a three at the buzzer to send it into overtime, 65-65. Amazing sequence.
But in OT, after UCLA took a 70-65 lead, the same Alex Reese missed two free throws, UCLA would go on to hit 10 straight from the line themselves, and the Bruins prevailed 88-78.
Alabama, though, should be in the Elite Eight, not UCLA, except ‘Bama was an historically atrocious 11 of 25 from the foul line! [UCLA was 20 of 25.] Kansas went 12-for-30 in the 2003 national championship game against Syracuse, which they lost.
So in the nightcap, 6 USC beat 7 Oregon 82-68, as the Trojans shot 31 of 54 from the field, 10 of 17 from three. Senior guards Tahj Eaddy and Isaiah White combined to hit 15 of 21 from the floor, 7 of 11 from behind the arc…42 points. And that’s your ballgame.
The Pac-12 has three teams in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2001.
UCLA and USC are in the Elite Eight together for the first time ever.
Monday we then had the first two games to decide who goes to the Final Four and Houston is going for the first time in 37 years and the Phi Slama Jama days of 1982-84. The 2 Cougars went up on 12 Oregon State 34-17 at half owing to Houston’s stout defense, but then the Beavers turned it on in the second and tied it at 55-55 with 3:40 to play…a terrific, methodical comeback.
Then the Beavers rolled over, committed some turnovers, and Houston continued to dominate on the offensive glass (a 19-7 advantage for the game) and came out on top, 67-61.
Houston doesn’t shoot the ball well (20 of 62 from the field in this one), but they pound the boards and get to the line a lot. They’re gritty.
In the nightcap, 1 Baylor is going to its first Final Four since 1950, 81-72 over 3 Arkansas in a game that didn’t really seem in doubt, as the Bears raced off to a 29-11 lead, though the Razorbacks cut the deficit to 46-38 at the half.
Arkansas trailed just 64-60 at the 7:34 mark, but the Bears stretched it to 72-61 with four minutes to go and it was over. Baylor shot 8 of 15 from three. Veteran guards Jared Butler and Maceo Teague combined for 36 points.
So it’s Houston vs. Baylor in one of the national semifinals on Saturday.
--Tuesday, in the opener, 1 Gonzaga is now 30-0 and heading to its second Final Four, cruising 85-66 over 6 USC…the Zags Big Three – Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs – combining for 59 points. Seriously, there’s nothing more to say. I, like so many others, picked Gonzaga to win it all and they will. Us fans just hope the finale, next Monday, is worth watching.
UCLA is attempting to be the fifth 11-seed to make the Final Four and the second team to go from First Four to the Final Four in the nightcap…but I won’t be staying up for the whole contest. So there.
--In the Women’s Tournament last night, 2 Baylor took on 1 UConn in a regional final and UConn, riding Paige Bueckers’ 28 points, defeated the Lady Bears 69-67, in a dramatic game with a highly controversial ending.
Baylor trailed 68-67 after UConn missed two free throws, getting the ball with 18 seconds to go. Their star, Dijonai Carrington, had the ball and drove inside the arc with five seconds to go, attempting a mid-range jumper for the possible win. She missed the shot but was clearly fouled by the two UConn defenders…only the refs swallowed their whistles and called nothing. Atrocious. UConn was fouled and picked up a final point from the free throw line. Even LeBron James was pissed.
3 Arizona beat 4 Indiana in the second game, 66-53, for the Lady Wildcats’ first-ever Final Four appearance.
Tonight, 1 South Carolina whipped 6 Texas 62-34 to head to the Final Four, while 2 Louisville is playing 1 Stanford as a I go to post.
--Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said something really stupid after the game:
“I don’t think my words will matter. But…they need to dump the Covid testing. Wouldn’t it be a shame to keep Covid testing and you’ve got kids that end up testing positive or something and they don’t get to play in a Final Four?
“So you need to just forget the Covid test and let the four teams that are playing in each Final Four go battle it out.”
Nancy Armour / USA TODAY
“To suggest that a basketball game, even one in the Final Four or for the national title, is more important than a player or coach’s health is as troubling as it is ignorant. Mulkey, of all people, should know better, having had Covid herself in January.
“Covid has already killed more than 550,000 in the United States alone over the last year and cases, after plateauing for several weeks, are rising again. Medical experts, of which Mulkey is not one, are warning of the dangers of new, more contagious variants, urging people to remain vigilant about wearing masks, socially distancing and, yes, testing, until more of the country can be vaccinated….
“We’re all tired of Covid and the restrictions necessary to prevent its spread, and it’s getting harder and harder to be vigilant as vaccinations become more common and a return to normal is in sight. But for Mulkey to suggest that it should no longer be taken seriously is mind-boggling.
“It’s true that young people are at lower risk for severe cases of the disease, but to say they will be fine! just fine! is irresponsible. Or perhaps Mulkey has forgotten about Vanderbilt guard Demi Washington, who was forced to sit out this season after developing myocarditis following a bout with Covid.
“And it’s not only the players who Mulkey is willing to put at risk for the sake of a game. Roger Ayers, the referee who was sent home from the NCAA men’s tournament after testing positive for Covid, finally felt well enough Monday to take a walk outside, two weeks after getting sick.
“The NCAA has asked a lot of players and coaches in order to pull off this season, let alone the men’s and women’s tournaments. The restrictions have been onerous and the testing is inconvenient. But to suggest throwing it all away now, less than a week before the men’s and women’s title games, is the height of irresponsibility.
“Mulkey should know better. It’s appalling that she doesn’t.”
I never liked this woman, the few times I saw her. Into the December file she goes.
--As expected, the NFL is exercising its right under last year’s collective bargaining agreement to allow the league to go to 17 regular season games rather than 16. The season will start as scheduled, Thursday night opener Sept. 9, but now it will end a week later…the Super Bowl Feb. 13, not the scheduled Feb. 6, 2022. [Good for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open, if it stays on schedule. No competition from the Super Bowl.]
Only three preseason games (except for the two playing in the annual “Hall of Fame” preseason kickoff game).
The players do get more money because of the new TV deals just cut, which was what allowed the league to go to 17 games, also part of last year’s agreement. The salary cap will increase. Individually, it will depend on when the player’s contract was signed, or renegotiated, and whether he is on the active roster, inactive list or injured reserve for the 17th game.
As for who the 17th game opponent is, just wait for the schedule. Obviously some teams get an extra home game. Maybe not fair to half the teams, but there’s more money in the pool.
And, no, this isn’t a precursor to an 18-game regular-season schedule…not until 2031, at the earliest, at which point many of us will be dead.
--Washington’s Russell Westbrook had a rather historic night Monday, in leading the Wizards, playing without Bradley Beal and two other key components, to a 132-124 win over Indiana.
Try 35 points, 21 assists and 14 rebounds. The triple-double, his 16th of the season, moved him past Darrell Walker for the most by any player to ever wear a Washington jersey.
Westbrook did it in 38 games.
But…Westbrook also became just the third player in NBA history to author a 30-20-10 triple-double, joining Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. Westbrook is now just 20 triple-doubles away from breaking the Big O’s career record of 181.
--The Knicks had a bad 98-88 loss to Miami on Monday, as the Heat’s Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 18 rebounds, Jimmy Butler with 27 points.
So the East playoff race heading into Tuesday’s play….
4. Charlotte 23-22
5. Knicks 24-23
6. Atlanta 23-23
7. Boston 23-24
8. Miami 23-24
9. Indiana 21-24
--The Buffalo Sabres have now lost 18 straight, tying the 2004 Pittsburgh Penguins for longest losing streak in NHL history. Good gawd!
--Boy, I’m not blown away by the Yankees’ starting staff…Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Domingo German, Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon.
--On the other hand, assuming Clayton Kershaw rounds into form, how can you not love the Dodgers’ starting five…Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Jose Urias, and Dustin May.
It’s so strong that the Dodgers have David Price coming out of the bullpen, for now, and the No. 7 starter, Tony Gonsolin, would be a 3 or 4 on most staffs. Talk about a plethora of riches. No issues if Kershaw stumbles or hurts his back.
Price, by the way, who opted out last season, is still due $64 million over the next two years.
As for the Dodgers’ prospects for repeating – no team having done so since 2000 (the Yankees, 1998-2000)….
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“What could be better than a baseball team powerful enough to reach into the heavens and end three decades of drought?
“What would possibly top a 2020 Dodgers team that won the franchise’s first World Series championship in 32 years?
“Quick, hustle in from Vin Scully Avenue, because you’re about to find out.
“Meet the 2021 Dodgers, a team that is going to write the kind of stirring sequel rarely seen in Hollywood, an emphatic baseball encore that will lock down Murderer’s Row, smother the Gashouse Gang, and turn the Big Red Machine blue.
“Last season they were one of the best teams in Dodgers history.
“The Dodgers will be better than a 1927 New York Yankees team that didn’t play against a representative population. They will be better than a 1976 Cincinnati Reds team that required only seven postseason wins. They will be even better than a 1998 Yankees team that can’t match their starting pitching.
“Last season they were one of the best teams in Dodgers history.
“These Dodgers are loaded and stacked. They’re deep and wide. They’re brainy and brawny. They’re competitive and cool.
“They have MVPs, Cy Young Award winners and Game 7 heroes scattered about the dugout like sunflower seeds. They have Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and walk-off homers spread across the batter’s box like cleat marks.
“They have hotshot kids and Hall of Fame veterans. They have summer grinders and October heroes. They are shaped by the best mind in the game and commanded by the most resilient manager.
“Returning all but two important pieces from last year’s roster – and having countered those platoon pieces with two former Cy Young Award winners – there’s really nothing they can’t do.
“These Dodgers have a legitimate chance to equal the major league record of 116 wins, a mark shared by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners.
“They have deep scars. They have long memories. They rely on them both. Nothing fazes them. No bad stretch can rattle them.
“You think that’s crazy? Their 43 wins during last year’s 60-game season translated to 116 wins in a full season, and they’ve only gotten better….
“The Dodgers aren’t just good, they’re surreal good, Andrew Friedman having spent the last six years using both bold strokes and intricate sketches to create a roster that resembles a hardball masterpiece….
“About the fans, (2019 N.L. MVP Cody) Bellinger said last season something was clearly missing.
“ ‘I think the parade, I don’t know, it’s got to probably be the coolest part of it all, yeah, it sucked not getting that,’ he said, later adding. ‘Obviously, we want a parade and a champagne shower. So definitely some motivation there.’
“Plan on that celebration. Get your seats now. Tell Randy Newman to check his calendar. Figueroa or bust. The best baseball team in history is about to embark on a season that would turn even the most blustery and bellicose of Dodgers hoarse.”
And so it should be no surprise yours truly has to go with the Dodgers as well. Of course I want my New York Metropolitans, but just being realistic.
--Across town, the dream spring training of Shohei Ohtani ended badly on Monday, Ohtani surrendering three home runs, and then exiting in the third inning with a blister on his middle finger, an ailment he has battled in the past.
Ohtani is still scheduled to make his regular-season pitching debut as scheduled Sunday against the White Sox. Fans of the sport will be eagerly watching, hoping for at least three strong innings, and a two-run double at the plate, if the Angels choose to let him hit as well.
--As I go to post, the Mets and Francisco Lindor still have not reached agreement on a contract extension, with Lindor having said come Opening Day, if he didn’t have a new deal, he’d wait until after the season and file for free agency.
Lindor wants $385 million over 12 years, the Mets and new owner Steve Cohen having countered, 10 and $325m.
22-year-old Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a 14-year, $340 million extension in the offseason, so while this has a lower average annual value, you’d think this is the bare minimum $dollar amount Lindor would accept.
Cohen has appeared confident he’ll get a deal done. We’ll see what happens Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mets fans, there is no chance of signing Michael Conforto to an extension for now. He, too, becomes a free agent after the season.
--The postmortems on the WGC-Matchplay event in Austin have rolled in. All are in agreement the format needs to be changed. The round-robin format for the first few days only leads to a less-than-stellar weekend in terms of star power.
So as Golf Channel, and others, have simplified it…the format should be the following:
54 holes of stroke play, Wednesday thru Friday, then knockout match play over the weekend for the top 16.
The stars stay in town for three days, and you’d expect an exciting playoff to reach the weekend on Friday.
The main issue is stroke play is the best format for ensuring some of the stars are playing on Saturday, let alone Sunday.
--Last weekend, given the weather forecast, I really thought NASCAR was going to have to flat-out cancel the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway rather than move it from Sunday to Monday. Monday’s weather was fine, but the track was a mess as the sport attempted its first dirt race at the top level of competition since 1970.
But they pulled it off yesterday. Funny, I reminded my brother the race was at 4:00 Monday, doing so the day before, and then forgot to write my needed Post-it reminder for myself, so he had to remind me with about a third of the race left. Doh!
Hey, it was entertaining. No doubt some drivers hated it, others thought it was a pisser, and in the end, Joey Logano picked up career win No. 27. Not bad for a 30-year-old former Cup champion.
It would have been disastrous for the sport not to have run it, but I hope if they do this in the future, they select a venue known for running such races, and I had forgotten when I commented last time that Tony Stewart has a track, Eldora Speedway in Ohio, that has run dirt truck races before. But he is a competitor of Speedway Motorsports, which owns Bristol, and Speedway did shell out tons of money to get this done.
The Story of Mario Tonelli
Awhile back I saw the following piece in Military Times by Claire Barrett and just thought I’d share it.
“On November 27, 1937, in its final football game of the season, Notre Dame found itself tied 6-6 late in the fourth quarter against Southern California. The 9th-ranked Fighting Irish desperately needed a spark. Its fullback, Mario ‘Motts’ Tonelli, delivered.
“Taking a handoff from deep in Irish territory, the 5’11”, 210-pounder took off down the field, weaving for 77 yards before being tackled yards away from pay dirt. Seconds later Tonelli took advantage of the momentum, scoring the game-winning touchdown as exuberant fans roared.
“Tonelli admitted after the game that he didn’t ‘remember that run. I don’t know just what I was thinking about, except just to run.’
“But there was one fan that day who certainly remembered the running back, one who would remind Tonelli of it nearly five years later on the other side of the world and on opposite sides of World War II.
“After graduating from Notre Dame, Tonelli made the leap to the NFL, signing a contract in 1940 with the Chicago Cardinals. However, as war loomed Tonelli felt the call of duty to serve his nation and enlisted in the U.S. Army following the end of the Cardinals 1940-41 season.
“On December 7, 1941, the Fighting Irish alum found himself stationed at Clark Field on Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. The following day, with Japanese bombs littering the area around Clark Field, it dawned on Tonelli that what he thought would be a one-year tour of service was going to be prolonged into an interminable hell.
“ ‘Unable to reach his anti-aircraft gun, [Tonelli] grabbed a nearby Springfield rifle and fired fruitlessly into the horde of enemy aircraft until the Japanese planes departed,’ the National Museum of the Army writes. ‘Soon after the initial assault, Tonelli joined the rest of the American and Filipino forces in their withdrawal into the Bataan Peninsula.’
“Retreating into the jungle, Tonelli and his comrades continued their fight against Japanese forces despite a dwindling supply of food, medicine, and ammunition.
“On April 9, 1942, with no choice but to capitulate, some 9,700 Americans and their 66,300 Filipino allies surrendered to the Japanese. The already weakened or sick Allied soldiers were forced to trek 60-plus miles with little food or water, enduring what was later termed the Bataan Death March.
“ ‘[The] Japanese executed anyone who broke formation or couldn’t keep up and casually butchered others,’ according to historian Peter Duffy. ‘Men were left where they fell, sometimes to be run over by Japanese vehicles. During breaks, most prisoners were forced to sit in the hot sun.
“ ‘The best estimates,’ Duffy continued, ‘suggest that approximately 500 Americans and 2,500 Filipinos died’ during the march.”
Tonelli survived, and along with his fellow soldiers, was stripped of all his possessions, including his Notre Dame class ring.
“Moments later a Japanese officer approached the former NFL-er and asked, in perfect English, ‘Did any of my men take anything from you?’
“ ‘Yes, he took my Notre Dame ring,’ a puzzled Tonelli responded.
“The Japanese soldier told the bewildered Tonelli that he had attended the University of Southern California and knew all about Tonelli’s game winning play against the Trojans, according to the National Museum of the Army.
“ ‘I know how much this ring means to you,’ the officer told Tonelli before handing him back his ring. ‘So I wanted to get it back to you.’
“Without telling the American his name, the officer turned and walked away.”
The next seven weeks at the Japanese prison camp were hell on earth, just as the Bataan Death March had been. “The prisoners battled dysentery, diphtheria, elephantiasis, and other ailments. Some 1,500 Americans and 26,000 Filipinos died, according to Duffy.”
Then the prisoners were moved twice, “where a starving Tonelli and his fellow prisoners were forced into slave labor in a rice paddy. It was during this time that Tonelli contracted a parasite, leaving him with relentless abdominal pain that piled onto his already-acute hunger pangs.
“In the summer of 1944, Tonelli was placed aboard a Japanese ‘hell ship,’ where he remained in dark, cramped quarters for 62 days while en route to Japan.
“ ‘Nothing was worse than a World War II Japanese POW camp – except a trip on a prisoner transport ship,’ historian David Aquila wrote.
“An estimated 50,000 Allied POWs boarded hell ships during the war. Gregory Michno, author of ‘Death on the Hellships,’ wrote that of that number, 21,000 didn’t survive – more fatalities than the U.S. Marines sustained during the entire Pacific War.
“Tonelli felt certain during the voyage that he would never see the sun again. And yet he survived, barely. Upon arrival to Nagoya No. 7, a prison camp near the village of Toyama, Tonelli, stricken with malaria and the parasite, told the Notre Dame News he ‘felt that (Toyama) would be my last stop. I was going to die there or be liberated.’
“There Tonelli labored for 10 months before being transferred in June 1945 to a scrap metal plant. Putting on his new prison garb, Tonelli noticed the number 58 stitched into the fabric – the same number he wore at Notre Dame and as a member of the Chicago Cardinals.
“ ‘From that point on,’ he told Notre Dame News, ‘I knew I was going to make it.’
“With American forces closing in on mainland Japan, Tonelli began seeing American planes flying overhead daily.
“ ‘One day, a plane flew in close to the prison and dropped a carton of cigarettes that had a handkerchief tied on as a parachute,’ according to the National Museum of the Army.
“ ‘Writing scribbled on the parachute read, ‘Hostilities have ceased. Will see you soon.’’
“After 1,236 days as a prisoner of war, Tonelli, weighing just 98 pounds, was liberated.
[Ed. Pro-Football Reference listed him as playing at 200 lbs. in 1940 for the Cardinals.]
“Two months after being freed Tonelli was back up to 183 pounds thanks to ‘a miracle of American roast beef, butter and milk,’ Chicago Daily News sportswriter Francis J. Powers commented.
“Cardinals owner Charlie Bidwell even re-signed Tonelli, despite the former POW’s lingering health issues, and on October 28, 1945, the former Notre Dame star was back on the football field.
“After playing in one game against the Green Bay Packers, Tonelli retired from professional sports. Soon after, he was sworn in as the youngest commissioner in Cook County, Illinois history – retiring in 1988 after 42 years of public service.
“Tonelli died in January 2003 at the age of 86. His Notre Dame ring was still on his finger.”
Tonelli, in nine games with the Chicago Cardinals in 1940, had 148 yards rushing and 53 receiving, with one touchdown.
--Kevin Baxter / Los Angeles Times…on the U.S. Men’s soccer team…
“Three times in the lead-up to the last three Olympics, the U.S. went into its final match of qualifying needing just one goal to keep alive its hopes of playing in the Summer Games.
“And for the third time the U.S. came up one-goal short Sunday, losing to Honduras 2-1 in a chippy, physical semifinal of the CONCACAF pre-Olympic competition on a 90-degree afternoon in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“The win sends Honduras to the Olympics for a fourth straight time, while the Americans, who haven’t played in the men’s tournament since 2008, must wait three years for another chance.”
Pathetic. Freakin’ Honduras.
But this is not the same U.S. team that is going to qualify for the World Cup, according to all the experts.
--Yet another reason why ‘Man’ will never sniff the Top 100 on the All-Species List, let alone Top Ten.
Customs officials in Ecuador on Sunday discovered 185 baby tortoises packed inside a suitcase that was being sent from the Galapagos Islands to the mainland.
The tortoises (No. 44 on the ASL) were found during a routine inspection at the main airport on the island of Baltra. Ten of them had died, officials said.
Illegal trading for animal collectors and exotic pet markets is a huge threat to the Galapagos. The tortoises seized were thought to be less than three months old.
Officials say hatchling-sized juveniles can fetch sums of more than $5,000 per animal!
The smugglers thought the plastic would immobilize the tortoises but the X-ray machine’s operator grew suspicious. So to this operator, we say ‘thank you’ and send him or her the home version of “Bar Chat: The Game,” as soon as we get around to producing it.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/29/69: #1 “Dizzy” (Tommy Roe) #2 “Traces” (Classics IV Featuring Dennis Yost) #3 “Time Of The Season” (The Zombies)…and…#4 “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” (The 5th Dimension) #5 “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #6 “Run Away Child, Running Wild” (The Temptations) #7 “Indian Giver” (1910 Fruitgum Co.) #8 “Galveston” (Glen Campbell) #9 “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” (David Ruffin) #10 “Only The Strong Survive” (Jerry Butler…only a ‘B’ week…)
NCAA Women’s Hoops Quiz Answers: 1) Louisiana Tech won the first women’s title in 1982. 2) Three ACC teams to win it: North Carolina (1994), Maryland (2006), Notre Dame (2018). 3) Geno Auriemma and his Lady Huskies have 11 titles. 4) Pat Summitt won eight titles at Tennessee. 5) Baylor was 2019 champ.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.