Thursday, November 10, 2016

R.I.P. Russ Nixon

Former Major League catcher and manager Russ Nixon died on Tuesday.  He was 81.

He played 13 seasons for the Indians, Red Sox and Twins and managed the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1980s and the Atlanta Braves in the late 80s.  He was the Red Sox catcher when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run in 1961.  As a bench coach, he won a World Series with the 1976 Reds.  He still holds the record for longest career without stealing a base.

He was also my uncle.

I was one year old when the 1976 Reds won that World Series and a wide-eyed little boy when I visited Riverfront Stadium or Fulton County Stadium and got to go into the dungeons of those cookie cutter stadiums to meet those baseball players whom he coached.  As a manager for the Reds in 1982 and 1983, pretty much the only players that would move the needle were Mario Soto and a retiring Johnny Bench.  Still, guys like Ted Power, Eddie Milner, Dan Dreissen and Ron Oester were stars to me.  In Atlanta, my Uncle Russ got to manage a bunch of young guys that no one in the pre-internet days ever heard of.  John Smoltz?  Tom Glavine?  Ron Gant?  Well, this David Justice kid had a great rookie season.  Who knew that would be the core for that outstanding Braves' run over the next decade-and-a-half?  Well, my uncle wasn't around to see it as he was fired after the 1990 campaign.

Still, to have a career like that in baseball is amazing.  To break into the big leagues in 1957 and still coaching catchers in lower levels of the minors into his 70s is quite a run.  Selfishly, it was so cool to have an uncle who was connected to baseball.  Whenever we'd visit his house, I always wanted to find his uniform in a closet somewhere.  When he was a coach for Montreal, he would send me Expos stuff that was in French (cool).  In Seattle, he got to coach Ken Griffey, Jr.  When my grandpa died in 1997, I enjoyed sitting down with him and watching a Padres-Reds game (he had managed in the Padres minor league system) and hearing him dish on the players.   Even as a man (kinda), I looked at him as if I was still a kid.

Outside of baseball, he was always kind to us.  Anytime we'd see him, he always chat with me about whatever and spent time with his huge grin and bellowing laugh.  We spent a number of Thanksgivings and Christmases at his home and had a blast.  And though everyone moved away from each other in the late 1980s and we rarely saw each other, he still was nice and genuinely caring whenever we saw each other.

Rest in peace, Uncle Russ.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

So Ends The Kobe-Duncan Era

Kobe Bryant's Lakers and Tim Duncan's Spurs met 7 times
in the playoffs and represented the West in the Finals
13 times over a 16 year period.

The NBA is full of eras.  We had the early days of the NBA when George Mikan and the Minneapolis Lakers ran things.  In the 1960s, it was the Boston Celtics' amazing dominance.  In the 1980s, it was Bird and Magic.  In the 1990s, it was all Michael Jordan.

The post Jordan NBA was looking for its identity and it seems it just ended.  On Monday, Tim Duncan called it quits after 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.  Duncan won five championships, three Finals MVPs and two regular season MVPs.  He may just be the best power forward that ever lived.

This comes as Kobe Bryant called it quits after a 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.  Kobe won five titles, also, as well as two Finals MVPs and a regular season MVP.  Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone scored more points than Kobe and only Wilt Chamberlain topped Kobe's magical 81-point game.

This was their era.  The Kobe-Duncan era.  That was the post-Jordan NBA.

From 1999 (when Jordan retired from the Bulls) until 2014, these two players and their teams dominated the NBA.  Sure, there have been other megastars through this era (LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, etc), but these two players wove a thread through the league.  They owned this league.  From 1999 to 2014, Duncan and Bryant combined for 10 of the 16 championships.  Either Duncan's Spurs or Kobe's Lakers represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals 13 of those 16 seasons (only the '06 Mavericks, '11 Mavericks and '12 Thunder broke through).  The two met in the playoffs 7 times during that stretch, including 5 times in a 6 year period.  Only because they were in the same conference did their rivalry not get the run of Bird-Magic or Russell-Wilt.

Sure, Kobe and Duncan were very different.  Kobe was viewed as a ball-hog; a me player who wasn't always the banner teammate.  Duncan is noted for his selflessness and his dedication to his teammates.  Kobe was a star in high profile Los Angeles while Tim was the quite giant in sleepy San Antonio.  Kobe has a highlight reel filled with dunks, amazing shots and epic moments.  Duncan has made nearly 1,000 bank shots and soft blocked shots.  Duncan was a 4-year college player who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft.  Kobe Bryant skipped college and entered the NBA as one of the first high school backcourt players (he wasn't drafted until the 13th pick).  Tim's Spurs won five titles over a 16 year span and none consecutively.  Kobe's Lakers had a three-peat at the beginning of the 2000s and then went back-to-back at the end of the decade.  Even in retirement they were different.  Kobe ended up with a league-wide tour and love fest.  Duncan didn't even have a press conference.

That's fine.  Magic and Bird were different.  So were Bill and Wilt.

But what makes them all the same is their drive to win.  They craved winning. Duncan was willing to be grossly underpaid just so the Spurs could add guys to help win.  He was known for his help defense and communicating the game to his teammates.  Kobe's obsession for winning is stuff of legend.  No moment was too big for him and my most vivid moment was him hitting two free throws to beat the Warriors mere moments after shredding his Achilles.  Two of the greatest players to ever play are now gone.

Just like they came along, others will define the next era.  Will it be the LeBron-Steph era?  Will someone else come along and dominate the league?  All I know is it will be someone.

Or a couple of guys.

Monday, June 13, 2016

What If The Big 12 Crumbled?

With the Big 12 possibly looking at expanding from ten teams to their namesake twelve, there are rumors all over about who the two new schools could be.  There is some excitement that some schools on the outside of the Power 5 could get a ticket into the party.  But what if this moves in the other direction.

What if schools leave and the Big 12 is kaput?

That is a realistic possibility.  The dominoes could fall if Texas decides it wants out or if everyone wants to run away from Texas.  Of all those Power 5 conferences, the Big 12 is the least stable.  If the cracks in the membership start to show, would the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 try to pounce?  Don't think it couldn't.

While expansion is on the table, it isn't a given.  Oklahoma wants it; Texas doesn't.  There aren't any schools that really move the needle, either.  This isn't like the last decade where schools like Texas A&M, Miami, Nebraska, Missouri, Maryland and Colorado were moving.  Schools like Central Florida and Memphis are in the mix here.

The Pac-12 thought they had a deal to lure of combination of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M or Texas Tech to pair with Colorado (who was leaving the Big 12) to form a 16-team super conference back in 2010.  It didn't happen like that, as at the 11th hour the Big 12 stuck together.  What if the Pac-12 revisited that?  Or what if a school like Oklahoma decided it wanted out and made a move themselves?

It isn't like if Oklahoma or Texas were looking to move, there would be no options.  Due to their geography, the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC would definitely look at those schools and the ACC would try to make a pitch as well.  If that happens, would the rest of the conference purge for the other schools or would the league try to keep it together?  Not too sure.

We could see Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech move on to the Pac-12.  You could see Texas and Oklahoma go together to the SEC.  If that happened, the Pac-12 could try to scoop up Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU.  Oklahoma State could try to go to the Big Ten with Kansas.  Heck, Texas and Oklahoma would also fit well in the Big Ten.  Iowa State and Kansas State could be left out and need to look for a smaller league.

You get the point.  It could be what happened to the Big East in a way.  Of the Power 5 conferences, the Big 12 is the only one that seems to not all be on the same page.  Some will run to find a new book to read.

What would I'd like to see if I could move it along?


Texas and Oklahoma leave for the Big Ten, the exposure and the lifestyle.  The Sooners get the best of both worlds as getting to hang with Texas as well as getting back in bed with Nebraska.

BIG TEN EAST:  Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mich State, Ohio St, Penn St, Purdue, Rutgers
BIG TEN WEST:  Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin


Yep, the Pac-12 would be the Pac-16 by adding these four schools.  Now, it isn't the Texas or Oklahoma they wanted a few years ago, but it does get the league into Texas in a major way, gets them into the Central Time Zone and would help launch the league into even more relevancy.  One problem would be dividing up the schools in a football league.

EAST:  Arizona, Arizona St, Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma St, TCU, Texas Tech, Utah
WEST:  Cal, Oregon, Oregon St, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington St


Let's imagine that Notre Dame will finally go all the way with the ACC.  It isn't a stretch.  The ACC is willing to make concessions for Irish football and could do the same here.  So, to add a 16th team, the ACC goes ahead and adds in West Virginia.  Yeah, they'd try to lure Texas, Oklahoma or a Texas school.  Kansas would also be looked at, but that's asking a lot for a conference to go from Boston to Miami to Lawrence, KS though the basketball implications would be epic.  No, the 'Neers are the choice as their fitting in with the Virginia schools as well as Pitt.

ATLANTIC:  Boston College, Clemson, Florida St, Louisville, NC State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Wake Forest
COASTAL:  Duke, Ga Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Pitt, Virginia, Va Tech, West Virginia


With no more Power 5 openings available (the SEC would only, in my mind, allow Texas or Oklahoma to join), these three schools have to scramble.  All three could join the AAC and form a 14-team league.  That would mean that Navy's football membership would be over (fine) as they joined just to get the league to a 12th school.  At least the league looks a bit better basketball wise.  Kansas would join UConn as elite programs of late.

EAST:  Cincinnati, Central Florida, East Carolina, Memphis, South Florida, Temple, UConn
WEST:  Kansas, Kansas St, Houston, Iowa St, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Dad, Mother's Day and A Five-Year Anniversary

Today is Mother's Day, but I'd like to take a second to talk about Father's Day.  Ten years ago, I wrote a blog post about my dad and fathers for Father's Day.  My mom would tell me that my dad really, really, really enjoyed the post and felt proud.  Here is the entire post I wrote back on June 18th, 2006:

Happy Father's Day to everyone.  If you are reading this blog, then you probably are a sports lover.  And if you are a sports lover, chances are that your dad had something to do with it. 
Sure, you're name isn't Ken Griffey Jr. 
Or Barry Bonds. 
Or Moises Alou.
Or Peyton Manning. 
Or Eli Manning. 
Or Tiger Woods. 
Or Venus Williams. 
Or Brent Barry. 
Or Kobe Bryant. 
If you are....then my blog is doing better than I thought. 
You aren't though.  But that doesn't mean that the seeds of your sports life weren't sowed by your dad.  Whether it is watching the game with him....playing catch....learning what 1/2 game in the standings are....or that feeling when you were small that your dad was the greatest athlete of all time [and, to the dads, the feeling you get when your kid thinks that].  
My dad certainly was that.  He taught me about sports, mainly baseball and football.  He was the manager of my Little League team.  If you've ever played for your dad in any know how hard that is.  You can't  Your dad is probably harder on you than anyone else on the team 'cuz he expects more.  And your teammates give you crap because your "daddy is the coach".  
He showed up at all of my football games [even the ones on the road in the rain].  Even though I wasn't on the field that often.  He went to a few basketball games as well.
He did teach me all those rules.  I probably know more useless rules in baseball than anyone should.  I know that throwing your glove at a batted ball is an automatic triple.  He told me so.  He told me that there still was a NFL team in Tampa Bay....even though I never saw them on television.  I know how to keep score in a baseball game and I used to [back when I though baseball was thegreatest] sit in front of the TV and keep the scoring book of the games.  
As far as playing pool, he taught me everything without really saying anything.  He only gave me tips if I asked for them....but was willing to show me anything if I was willing to watch.  And whenever I played him in pool, I wanted to beat him more than anyone else I played.....just because, well, there is nothing like beating your dad at  He taught me what betting lines were....and the over/under.  He taught me how to play Euchre [a card game for the uninitiated].  He kept me away from soccer.  We played baseball and football on Intelevision...and then Atari.  
But not everything is shared.  He is a Carolina Panthers fan.....I am a Washington Redskins fan.  He is a Indiana Hooiser fan [really, a Bobby Knight fan]....I am a North Carolina Tar Heel fan.  I love the NBA....I don't think he ever watches it.  He was a mechanic....I can't tell you what anything is under the hood of a car [unless it is already labeled, but I still don't know what it does].  
And that all is just sports.....but this is a sports blog.  But many times, with fathers and sons [and daughters], sports is the perfect place for getting together.  It's a chance for dads to pass on their knowledge to their kids and watch them learn and grow on the field of play.  For kids, it's a great chance to learn something that didn't involve a school book or homework.  It's a chance for kids to be in awe of our dads and a chance for dads to still think they "got it". 
Either way, I wish all the dads a Happy Father's Day!!!  And wish all the kids great memories of the days learning about the things they know now.
Hard to believe it was 10 years ago I wrote that.

My dad would die five years later ... on May 8th, 2011.  Five years ago today.  That date was also a Mother's Day like today's date is.   My dad had been in a bad way for quite some time and his suffering ended on that date.  One thing I will always remember is that in that hospice room, my mom mentioned that it was the first time in a looong time that her two children and her (at the time) three grandchildren were all together with her on Mother's Day.  Didn't realize it until then, but she was right.

At that time, I was fostering a little girl that we have had for just four months (she was 16 months old at the time).  We had no biological children and were trying to build our own family.  It was the second and last time she met my dad as we took a quick weekend visit to see him a month earlier.  I was a very new dad.  In the five years since his passing, we adopted that little girl.  We are currently fostering another child who we've had for 16 months (he's 18 months old).  And we actually got pregnant and had a child of our own.  My dad's first name is his middle name.

So as a father of three, today means a lot as does actual Father's Day.  For one, today is Mother's Day and my wife is a fantastic mom who does what it takes to make sure the kids are exposed to many things.  I think of my mom who has done a great job building her life since dad passed.  Plus we are reminded of that day where my dad left us.

Also, I'm a dad now with a son of my own.  I want to make sure he learns the life lessons ... and sports ... like I did.  I want to pass on those semi-useless facts to him like my dad did to me and I'll say them just as smug.  I'll tell him like I am Phil Jackson, Joe Gibbs and Tommy LaSorda rolled into one guy.  To him, I know it all even though I kinda don't.  Especially if any of my kids want to play soccer.  They may be on their own.

Happy Mother's Day, mom!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Where Should The Big 12 Expand?

The Big 12 is apparently looking at expanding to, uh, 12 teams.  Yes, the ten team league with a twelve team name is looking to expand.  Football is running this, per usual, but it is the fact that the league is worried about getting left out of the college football playoff.  So adding teams is going to be tough.

This isn't like the last few rounds of conference realignment.  Schools are kind of set in the major conferences and there isn't any likely big time candidates to move.  No Nebraska, Syracuse, Louisville, Maryland, Colorado, Missouri or Texas A&M that is willing to bolt.  No Big Ten or SEC school would leave their leagues and it wouldn't seem as if the Pac-12 is nervous about losing a member.  The Big 12 could send feelers to ACC schools Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech to see if there is any interest but that probably will be fruitless.  So the Big 12 must not only find solid football members but ones in smaller conferences.

So who could be the candidates to join the Big 12?  Here is my rankings:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It Really, Really, Really Hurts ... But Congrats To Villanova


I was stunned.  I actually knew it was going to happen, but I was still stunned.  Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the National Championship against my Heels.



It certainly stings.  It was the first buzzer beater to win an NCAA Tournament since NC State did in against Houston in 1983.  So, yeah, as a North Carolina fan, three of the most famous buzzer beaters in my life were NC State and Duke hitting them, and UNC getting one hit on them.


I've mentioned this in the past, but I have been pretty lucky when it comes to this.  My favorite teams (UNC football/basketball, Redskins, Lakers, Reds) have rarely lost like this.  Not just a buzzer beater, but in a title with a winner take all deal.  The Tar Heels hoops team had won their last four trips to the title game (1982, 1993, 2005, 2009).  The last title loss was in 1981 to Indiana, and I would turn six years old just a few months after that game.

My Redskins would lose Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984 (I was eight and it was rather devastating).  They'd win the next two Super Bowls (1988, 1992) and haven't sniffed that success since.

The Lakers have done it.  They lost Finals in 1983, 1989, 1991, 2004 and 2008, which sucked, but none of those went to a winner-take-all.  Two of those were sweeps and two others went just 5 games.  But the Lakers did have 1984 when they lost Game 7 of the Finals to the hated Celtics.  They also won Game 7 of the 1988 and 2010 Finals.

So I have been lucky.  I haven't seen my team lose in a winner-take-all championship game since 1984 when I was about to be 9 years old.  Since that game, I have watched North Carolina, Redskins and Lakers win 7 of these games and those teams win 14 championships.

So it is hard to go out like this.  However, I am glad it did happen this way.  There has been debates about losing on a buzzer beater and losing in a blowout.  Buzzer beater any day.  At least my team competed and had a shot to win it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sportz' MLB Predictions

Okay, let's take another stab at this:



Sportz Assassin's Final Four Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: North Carolina. The only No. 1 seed remaining, the Tar Heels look like a title team.  Their inside game is elite and clearly is advantage against the other three teams in Houston.  Add in their recent ability to stretch defenses with their three point shooting, and they are playing nearly unbeatable basketball. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP: North Carolina. For all the reasons above.  The best team doesn't always win, we know, but the Heels have the most going for them.  The other schools have weaknesses that Carolina can exploit.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR: Villanova. The Wildcats can be that team that imposes their will on UNC.  Their defense has been great and no team has had a more impressive path to the Final Four.  They can make UNC's guards uncomfortable and their defense intensity to rock a confident Tar Heel squad.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Syracuse. The Orange aren't supposed to be here.  Like, the tournament.  Many felt after losing five of their last six games, they shouldn't have even gotten a bid to the dance, but here they are.  Getting to the Final Four isn't just about domination, it is about some luck.  They avoided Michigan State and needed an epic comeback to down Virginia.  Still, a Hall of Fame coach and a zone defense that causes trouble could be enough to carry Syracuse to an unlikely title.  

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Oklahoma. Going by the true seeding, Oklahoma was the "fifth No. 1 seed".  They were the No. 2 seed in the weakest No. 1 out West.  Not only did Oklahoma win the region, but they destroyed No. 1 seeded Oregon in the Elite 8 to do it.  The Sooners have a punchers chance to win this thing as Buddy Hield is having one of those transcendent tournaments.  He could be the next in a line that includes Danny Manning and Carmelo Anthony to carry a team to a title.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma. North Carolina and Syracuse have huge fan bases, but none should fill up NRG Stadium in Houston more than Oklahoma's.

MUST WATCH GAME: Oklahoma vs Villanova. The scrappy team defensive team against the best player in the tournament.  Yes please.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: North Carolina vs Oklahoma. Well, the preseason No. 1 team against the Player Of The Year.  What a matchup it could be.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Multiple Teams In The Final Four ... Yet Again?

The 1975 tournament was the first that allowed multiple teams from one conference to qualify for the event.  The very next season, Indiana and Michigan met for the championship ... obviously both were from the Big Ten.

In the 41 tournaments since the tournament expanded like this, there have been multiple teams from one conference in the Final Four 24 times.  Amazing that much more than half of the tournaments have had this occur.  Only three times have both those teams gone on to play for the National Championship.

This season, the ACC sees North Carolina and Syracuse in the Final Four and, since they face off on Saturday, one will play for the title Monday night.  The ACC last sent multiple teams to the Final Four in 2004, 2001, 1991, 1990 and 1981 ... and two years ended with an ACC team winning the title.

Also interesting is the fact that of the 23 previous times a conference sent multiple teams to the Final Four, only 10 times ... less than half ... did that conference end up winning the title.  In 2013, Louisville won the title while fellow Big East member Syracuse also made the Final Four.  Both of those schools are now in the ACC.

That is the lone time in the last eight Final Fours where two teams from the same conference made it there that one of those teams won the title.  Pretty amazing.  

In 1985, three of the Final Four were made up of teams from the Big East.  With realignment, the 1976 Final Four will be made up of teams from the same conference as Rutgers will join the Big Ten next season.  The 2005 Final Four was made up of two Big Ten teams as well as North Carolina and Louisville.  Louisville joined the ACC in 2014. 

The same could be said for 2002 (Maryland joins Indiana in the Big Ten), 1998 (Utah is now in the Pac-12 with Stanford), 1983 (Louisville joins NC State in the ACC), 1982 (Louisville, again, with UNC), 1978 (Kentucky and Arkansas are now in the SEC together; Duke and Notre Dame are in the ACC together), 1975 (Louisville and Syracuse in the ACC), 1951 (Kansas State and Oklahoma State are in the Big 12), 1948 (Kansas State and Baylor in the Big 12), 1947 (Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12), 1943 (Georgetown and DePaul in the Big East) and 1942 (Stanford and Colorado in the Pac-12).

In 1972, North Carolina, Florida State and Louisville are now all in the ACC. 

Below are the 22 instances of multiple teams from one conference in a Final Four.  Teams in bold were champions that season.

2016:  ACC (North Carolina, Syracuse)
2015:  Big Ten (Michigan State, Wisconsin)
2014:  SEC (Florida, Kentucky)

2013:  Big East (Louisville, Syracuse)
2009:  Big East (UConn, Villanova)
2005:  Big Ten (Illinois, Michigan State)
2004:  ACC (Georgia Tech, Duke)
2003:  Big 12 (Kansas, Texas)
2002:  Big 12 (Kansas, Oklahoma)
2001:  ACC (Duke, Maryland)
2000:  Big Ten (Michigan State, Wisconsin)
1999:  Big Ten (Michigan State, Ohio State)
1996:  SEC (Kentucky, Mississippi State)
1994:  SEC (Arkansas, Florida)
1992:  Big Ten (Michigan, Indiana)
1991:  ACC (Duke, North Carolina)
1990:  ACC (Duke, Georgia Tech)
1989:  Big Ten (Michigan, Illinois)
1988:  Big 8 (Kansas, Oklahoma)
1987:  Big East (Syracuse, Providence)
1985:  Big East (Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's)
1981:  ACC (North Carolina, Virginia)
1980:  Big Ten (Purdue, Iowa)
1976:  Big Ten (Indiana, Michigan)

Same with the realignment issue above, the 2009, 2001 and 1987 Final Fours will now be seen as schools from different conferences.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What The Tar Heels Could Look Like In 2016-2017

Will Isaiah Hicks become the star of the 2016-17 Tar Heels?

The North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball season will end this weekend.  Either it will end with the Heels' celebrating their 6th NCAA Tournament championship or it will end with a heartbreaking loss at the Final Four.

Either way, we are going to sneak a peak at what next season's team could look like.  They won't be a preseason No. 1 team since seniors Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Joel James will graduate (Johnson and Paige will both have their jerseys hung in the rafters), but they won't be as decimated as people thought as they did the season after their titles in 2005 and 2009.

What will be back?  What will the roster look like?


Backups: Nate Britt (Sr), Seventh Woods (Fr.), Stilman White (Sr).

Berry has come into his own this season.  He has taken over the offense and become a huge part of the Heels' success.  He has that Ty Lawson quality of driving to the rim and getting baskets.  He also has a pretty good, if not inconsistent, perimeter shot.   Britt is back for his senior season and will be what he has been his entire UNC career -- a capable backup who usually makes good decisions and has a game or two where his offense comes up big.  Woods is a combo guard that is some sort of athlete.  He could struggle is freshman season all while showing some glimpses of what Tar Heel fans will love down the road.  White is more of a garbage time guard.


Backups: Brandon Robinson (Fr), Woods, Kenny Williams (So), Shea Rush (So)

Pinson was the starter at this spot at the beginning of the year when Paige was out with a hand injury.  He's a very good defender, hustles and is quick to the basket.  His shooting isn't there yet, but he has a ton of confidence.  With a variety of other players' roles likely to expand next year, Pinson may not be asked to score as much. Robinson is a smooth shooting freshman who should get minutes depending on how quickly his shot translates to college.  Williams is known as a great shooter, but made just one three-point shot in his freshman season at Carolina.  Woods should see time here as well.  He is a combo guard and Roy Williams has shown he is willing to play two small guards in the backcourt.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

UConn Isn't Ruining Women's Basketball ... But I'm Not Watching It

There has been much made about Dan Shaughnessy's tweet about UConn's dominance ruining women's college basketball.  People all over the sports world are chiming in.  Most agree that it isn't the case.  UConn isn't killing the game.  Everyone else needs to step it up.

That's my view as well.  It isn't the Huskies fault that they are so good and no one else can touch them.  Are they supposed to lay down so everyone else feels good?  Isn't that the exact wrong approach?

To me, this is about two things overlapping: Dominant teams and women's basketball.

The effect of a dominant team is always debated in sports.  In some aspects, it is good.  A hated team usually gets the blood boiling and people love to see that team get smacked down.  Whether it is the Yankees when they dominated at the turn of the century or the Cowboys in the mid-1990s or the Lakers or Duke or Alabama or LeBron or ... whomever.  Even short term "great" teams get hated in the moment.  Our yearning to hate is just as big as the want of your team to do well.  Take the upcoming Final Four.  People are choosing to root against teams more than wanting to see someone win it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Elite Eight

Buddy Hield has carried Oklahoma back to the Final Four

Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room.

GAME OF THE DAY: Villanova vs Kansas. Whenever the top overall seed goes down, it's a big deal.  This was a real good one.  The Wildcats looked like they were looking good early, then the Jayhawks predictably took the game over.  But Nova took it right back.  Their defense and timely shooting got them back into the Final Four.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Syracuse vs Virginia. Again ... how was Syracuse even in this tournament?  Doesn't matter since here they are -- one of the Final Four.  Virginia was cruising along when the Orange decided to press and trap their way back into the game.  Just a shocking turn of events.  Now Syracuse is the first No. 10 seed to make it to the Final Four.  

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC was guaranteed two teams in the Final Four and one of them a spot in the National Championship game before the Elite 8.  They will be joined by a Big East and a Big 12 squad ... so all three leagues should be proud.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. Well, two of them lost too.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Oklahoma vs Oregon. While three of the No. 1 seeds lost in this round, Kansas and Virginia at least were in the game.  Oregon was blown out by Buddy Hield and the Sooners.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: North Carolina. No team has imposed their will on opponents this tournament more than the Tar Heels.  Either they hit all their perimeter shots or they will just rebound them and stick them right back in.  Give up a 12-0 run and the lead?  Just go on a 12-0 run of your own immediately afterwards.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Rocked Chalk. When the Elite 8 started, we had all four No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds alive.  Three of the top seeds fell and we have a No. 10 seed nestled in there.


*North Carolina opens up the Final Four as heavy favorites.  They are a 4-5 shot to win the National Championship. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 2

Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Notre Dame vs Wisconsin. Hey, today we at least have a game to pick from (heck, we have two).  This was a back and forth game that the Badgers seemingly had the game late.  However, two great steals by Demetrius Jackson swung the game to the Irish.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Syracuse vs Gonzaga. Even though the Orange were the better seed, the Zags were the favored team.  Syracuse, despite many people thinking they shouldn't even be in this tournament, is now in the Elite 8.  Wow.  

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC won all four games on Friday.  All.  Four.  That means, on the right side of the bracket, you will see two games featuring two ACC teams playing against each other.  So the ACC is guaranteed two teams in the Final Four and one of them a spot in the National Championship game.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big Ten. Indiana and Wisconsin were eliminated today which ends the Big Ten's time in this dance.  Three Big Ten schools lost in the Sweet 16.  

DUD OF THE DAY: North Carolina vs Indiana. The much hyped matchup in the Sweet 16 was never in doubt.  The Tar Heels jumped all over the Hoosiers early and kept a safe distance all game long.  UNC even hung 101 on Indiana.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: North Carolina. The Heels shot the ball insanely well, which really isn't fair.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The ACC. Not to beat a dead horse, but it is quite remarkable that one league literally owns one half of the bracket in the Elite 8 .


*The ACC has 4 teams left.  Everyone else?  Big 12 (2), Big East (1), Pac-12 (1). 

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 1

Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Kansas vs Maryland. Well, this one was close at the half.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Villanova vs Miami. There were no upsets today.  Not even close.  But it is a suprise that Miami got handled like this.  

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big 12. Kansas and Oklahoma each advanced to the Elite 8.  One more win and we would get Round 3 of an epic Jayhawks-Sooners series.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. The ACC has been rolling in this tournament.  Not anymore.  Miami and Duke were soundly beaten giving the conference a rare egg during the tournament.  Four more members play tomorrow.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Villanova vs Miami. This had the feel as the best game of the day and it didn't happen.  Nova jumped all over the Hurricanes and didn't let up.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Villanova. The Wildcats made this a laugher with their outstanding shooting  Villanova looks like a legit title contender.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Blowout. Every game was won by at least 14 points and most weren't even competitive in the second half.  Funny in a season label as "parity" that we will see the No. 1 vs No. 2 seeds face off on Saturday.


*The ACC has 4 teams left.  Everyone else?  Big 12 (3), Big Ten (2), Big East (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1). 

*Mike Krzyzewski is in the wrong for scolding an Oregon player for showboating.  This is the head coach for Duke talking.  The coach who is so apologetic for Grayson Allen's trippings and the Cameron Crazies annoying behavior.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Second Round, Day 2

Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Texas A&M vs Northern Iowa. With about 40 seconds left in this game, this certainly didn't look like a candidate for Game Of They Day.  Yet, it is.  How did Northern Iowa lose this?  How do you lose a 12 point lead with 40 seconds left to play?  I have never seen this kind of meltdown in my life.  It was amazing.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Wisconsin vs Xavier. This was the lone true upset.  Xavier was the only lower seed to lose today, which is odd since these were the guys who had that wild Friday.  Wisconsin's three pointer at the buzzer to win was rather shocking since many had Xavier as a sleeper title team.  

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC is now 12-1 in the NCAA Tournament and have locked in a record six of the Sweet 16.  Oddly, there is an outside chance that all six could make the Elite 8.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Atlantic 10. The A-10 is no more.  Both VCU and St. Joseph's put up valiant efforts against Oklahoma and Oregon, respectively, but they fell late.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Villanova vs Iowa. The hard thing about this is that it was the lone game on when it tipped off around noon.  Iowa, who was ranked No. 3 in the nation a little over a month ago, never was in this one and the Hawkeyes were soundly spanked.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Villanova. This is a school that has underperformed in the tournament of late, so the way the Wildcats just dismantled Iowa early and made this game a laugher.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: A bit of chalk. Again, only one upset today.  All No. 1 seeds have survived to the Sweet 16.


*The ACC has 6 teams left.  Everyone else?  Big 12 (3), Big Ten (3), Big East (1), SEC (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1). 

*So Indiana plays North Carolina on Friday.  At 10:00pm.  In Philadelphia.  Ridiculous.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Second Round, Day 1

Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Indiana vs Kentucky. Two schools who have a fierce rivalry that don't play during the regular season anymore.  Kentucky threw some good punches, but Indiana had a steadier array of jabs.  It was a great atmosphere where both fanbases were loud, both teams battled and stars shined.  However, Kentucky just didn't have enough horses to stem the Hoosier tide and stopped the Wildcats typical magical tournament stay.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Gonzaga vs Utah. It isn't a surprise that Gonzaga beat Utah, but how badly they beat them.  The Bulldogs had a 30 point lead at one point and the Utes just looked horrible.  With the Zags on to play the winner of Syracuse-Middle Tennessee, they have a legit shot at a Elite Eight appearance.  And this is their down year?

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC is now 10-1 in the NCAA Tournament and on Saturday locked in four spots in the Sweet 16.  Yeah, 4 of the 8 spots in the Sweet 16 are already occupied by ACC.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big East. Let me pause from dumping on the Pac-12 some more (you too, Utah?), and say the Big East had a bad day.  Both Butler and Providence ended their tournament runs as they ran into No. 1 seeds.  Nothing to be ashamed of, but still a tough one.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Iowa State vs Arkansas-Little Rock. The Cinderella run of Little Rock is over.  And we didn't hear much about it.  The Cyclones jumped on the Trojans and didn't let up.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Gonzaga. The Zags defense was outstanding in this one as they shut down Utah.  Again, it wasn't so much the upset of Utah but how badly they beat them.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: A bit of order. Per usual, order was restored.  Of the eight games today, only two were won by the lower seed ... and one was No. 5 Indiana ousting No. 4 Kentucky which isn't a big upset.  All three No. 1 seeds advanced.


*Virginia is having its road to the Final Four just beautifully paved.  No. 2 seed Michigan State went down on Friday, No. 3 Utah was spanked on Saturday.  The Cavaliers play No. 4 Iowa State in the Sweet 16 and then either a No. 10, 11 or 15 seed in the Elite Eight. 

*That Des Moines pod was pretty remarkable today.  You had Kentucky (8 titles), Indiana (5), UConn (4) and Kansas (3).

*Man Doug Gottlieb has a weaselly voice.