Saturday, May 11, 2024

UNC In the Big 12??? My Comments To a Podcast

I'm not typically a podcast guy, but one I do follow regularly is Isaac Schade's "Locked On Tar Heels". As a North Carolina Tar Heels fan, I like to be informed on what's going on with the Heels and to have some of my thoughts either confirmed or downgraded. During this free agency period of offseason roster reconstruction, I find it a useful tool to see what may be going on behind the scenes in Chapel Hill. I may not technically be one of Schade's "everydayers", but I do catch two or three episodes a week.

The other day, an interesting departure from the normal Tar Heel talk was an episode where Schade was being interviewed by a "Locked On Big 12" podcast where the discussion was about the possibility of UNC joining the Big 12 in some fashion. I hadn't considered that to be a serious option so the episode grabbed my interest ... so much so that I feel compelled to write this about it. Anything is possible in this day and age of college athletics, but I'm not feeling this as a possiblity.


In short, no. As Mr. Schade remarked (very diplomatically, I may add), joining the Big 12 is the worst likely scenario on UNC's plate. Keeping the ACC together in a successful model is at the front of the wish list. After than comes a likely invitation from either the Big Ten or SEC (I'll get to that in a moment). If UNC ends up in the Big 12 then something horribly wrong happened. I mean that as no disrespect to the Big 12 which, honestly, has been a better conference in basketball of late and is quite a formidable football league. 

My issue is that UNC fits with the Big Ten or SEC much, much, much better than the Big 12. While not technically a catastrophic option, it is an option that really would be a loss for the UNC program. 


Let's just pretend for the moment that UNC would entertain this alongside a Big Ten or SEC invite. First off, the Big 12 isn't as financially attractive as the Big Ten or SEC ... who are leading the way of conference realignment. There's more money in being a member of the Big Ten or SEC. Second is the geographical and historical context of what North Carolina wants in a new league. Obviously UNC fits in the geographic footprint of the SEC, and would be part of a new geographic footprint of the Big Ten. 

The SEC is filled with programs that UNC is very familiar with. South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and this little rivalry with Alabama blooming. While the Big Ten has grown to a cross country conference, UNC fits with the academic profile of the league as an AAU school. UNC has also had a historical bond with the Big Ten with the now-defunct ACC/Big Ten Challenge that went on for decades and their battles with their programs -- Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and, obviously, Maryland. 

That doesn't really exist with the Big 12. There is the UNC-Kansas thing which would be very attractive, but not really anything else. While the SEC is more geographically compact and the the Big Ten has sort of a midwestern hub of schools, the Big 12 is kinda all over the place. Then again, so is the ACC right now. 

In short, North Carolina doesn't feel like a Big 12 school. 

Look, the Big 12 should be commended. This league was almost dead two years ago when Texas and Oklahoma were lured away to the SEC. They've done a fantastic job not only holding the league together but turning into a league that may end up surviving while the Pac-12 died and the ACC is the one on life support. They had the foresight to bring in the best of the Group of 5 programs to fill its roster and jump on the Pac-12 before the ACC did. Side note: I will forever be angry that the ACC did not go after USC, UCLA, Oregon, Cal, Stanford and Washington before the Big Ten did. I wrote about this two years ago and I feel could be the worst decision the ACC didn't make in its history. 


Imagine that I'm really looking in to this. There is obviously that basketball attractiveness of the Big 12. If the ACC imploded and there was a block of ACC schools like Duke or Virginia willing to move with UNC to the Big 12, imagine what that hoops conference would look like.

UNC, Duke and Virginia have won national championships over the last decade. So has the Big 12's Kansas (ugh, we know) and Baylor. Texas Tech lost to Virginia in the 2019 NCAA tournament final. Newcomer Arizona is a tier or two below blue blood status. Houston has built itself up to be a power again. Iowa State is a really good program. BYU, Cincinnati, Kansas State, West Virginia and Utah have had their moments. That would be a basketball-centric league that would appease the Heels' more hoops-minded fans. 

As far as football, well that's hard to say. The Big 12's biggest football powers (Texas, Oklahoma) are leaving so there is a power vacuum that needs to be filled. With no obvious power school to block success like the ACC (Clemson, Florida State), SEC (Georgia, Alabama) or Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State), there is a better chance for the Tar Heels to make some noise in the Big 12. There are some good programs left, but none are historical powers like the six I just named. North Carolina could compete just as well as they have in the ACC.


This one is hard. First off, UNC is a flagship program of the ACC and has found success in football and basketball ... among other sports. What UNC says in ACC affairs matters. Not only are they an O.G. of the conference with major successes, they also reside smack dab in the hub of the conference. While the influence of the Big Four North Carolina schools isn't as powerful as it was in the 20th century, it still is a North Carolina-centric league with the league offices in nearby Charlotte. Leaving to go anywhere else means UNC is a new guy at the club and doesn't have any of the earned power it has in the ACC.

But what would an ACC look like going forward?

That's really hard to say. My genuine hope is that the ACC can stay together for a long as they can and at least get to the part of the story where college football decides to separate and form its own entity. What that could mean for Carolina and the ACC is that football goes off to be this super league but leaves all the other stuff behind. So North Carolina would be part of this new super football league where they they would be part of some new division playing a new way ... but the ACC is still intact for basketball and other sports. That could put the ACC in a power position to begin forming a more basketball-centric league. You may begin to see a sort of reverse-realignment where geography may matter more to schools since the football money comes from this super league. 

For instance: UNC and most of the rest of the ACC now plays football in the new super league. UNC plays in the Atlantic Division of this league with a lot of the schools they are currently in the ACC. Money comes from the TV contracts that get shared throughout that super league and there's no need to have these bastardized leagues (like having Cal and Stanford in the ACC) we are seeing now. 

You could, theoretically, see the Pac-12 get back together since there's no need for USC, UCLA, Oregon or Washington to be in the Big Ten. They get their football money from this super league and may rather go back to the perks of the Pac-12's everything else. That means Cal and Stanford are back where they should be. 

On this side of the country, the ACC is a more stable league with Clemson and Florida State good with their membership since their football programs are now cashing in. We go back to where football doesn't drive these decisions because everyone is taken care of. It may be an idealistic approach to this, but it is one I am clinging on to.


The Big Ten. North Carolina fancies itself more as a Big Ten school than an SEC one. So do I. North Carolina is an AAU school just like every one of the Big Ten schools (Nebraska used to be, but isn't anymore). Not just that, but UNC has a very diverse program of 28 sports ... and so does the Big Ten. The SEC doesn't sanction as many sports, so UNC would have to find homes for them somewhere else. As any UNC fan knows, this is a school that prides itself of having fantastic programs like field hockey, soccer, wrestling, golf, etc and wants to find stable homes for all of them. 

The Big Ten makes sense.

The SEC makes sense as well, but not as much. There are the obvious regional fits and rivalries that we've touched on. UNC in the SEC would mean a much more compact conference that would actually condense UNC's conference footprint. Right now, the SEC shares land with the ACC in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Kentucky (well, and Texas with SMU's move to the ACC). A move to the Big Ten would mean UNC would be in a more mid-west centric league with four schools on the Pacific Coast. The SEC would be as west as Texas and as north as Kentucky. The SEC is the premiere league for football, so it would jolt the competition in that sport -- for better or worse. The SEC is also an emerging basketball conference with another blue blood sitting there in Kentucky.  

The Big Ten is a more desirable home due to academics and sports profile, but the SEC is a more than adequate landing spot. 


Well, that North Carolina should not be a school that is scared right now. UNC has some power. As far as the ACC goes, North Carolina has irons is a few fires ... both in regards to keeping the ACC intact as well as leaving the league. If the ACC implodes, UNC has positioned itself to be a very desirable school that the Big Ten, SEC and the Big 12 would love to add. UNC doesn't need to worry like Boston College, Syracuse, Virginia Tech or even NC State, Duke or Wake Forest. UNC is a driver in all of this and should be able to have a set at one of the big tables ... even if it is a seismic change that fans aren't wanting. 

While Clemson and Florida State are now fighting the ACC for their freedom, UNC can sit back and let them get dirt on their hands while calmly strategizing their next moves. If Clemson and Florida State are successful in breaking away, North Carolina could be right out the door with them and land a Big Ten or SEC invite. If the ACC holds together this thing via legal and financial means, UNC can focus on being leaders in the league. 

North Carolina isn't desperate right now and seems to be holding a good hand. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

How Sportz' "NCAA College Football Playoff" Subdivision Would Look Like

Pretty much nobody but NCAA member presidents and their accountants love all of the conference realignment/expansion/poaching going on over the last 20 years. It is all about football cash grabs and the rest of the sports be damned. That's why we will soon have UCLA playing a Big Ten hoops schedule and not Arizona anymore. Why the Big 12 stretches from Denver to Orlando and why longtime ACC members North Carolina and Wake Forest had to schedule non-conference matchups just so they could play each other once in a while (yet they'll have to play Stanford and Cal). It's why we may lose the Pac-12 conference.

It's stupid and postponing the inevitable: a breakaway mega-super-duper conference.

That's cool ... for football. But the collateral damage has been swift and killed of many of the great things about college athletics. Rivalries ripped apart and conferences that feel more like Zoom meetings than an actual fraternity of schools.  

I wish that the NCAA and the schools just went ahead and separated football from the other sports and went ahead and formed a new subdivision. Doing so might have allowed the conferences to keep their integrity with the other sports (ahem, like our old Big East).

The College Football Playoff Subdivision. 

We used to have Division I-A and Division I-AA, which we now refer to as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The FBS are the schools you know and love, the ones who played in bowls at the end of the season. The FCS are those smaller schools that played in a playoff format to determine their champion. Of course the FBS now has a playoff that will expand next year and has developed a tier system of "Power 5" and "Group of 5" in their own subdivision. 

So why not just place the current ACC's 17 schools, the Big Ten's 18 schools, the Big 12's 16 schools, the Pac-12's 2 schools, the SEC's 16 schools, and Notre Dame ... plus one more school ... to form a 70-team subdivision. 

That gives us 7 "divisions" of 10 teams. Each division will play everyone else in it one time, and then three non-division games against whoever the CFP schedule makers decide. Of course, the schedule makers could consider traditional rivalries as part of that (like Notre Dame-USC), but let them decide. We would have seven division champions and add nine at-large bids for a 16-team College Football Playoff. I've been saying this is how it should end up. 

Since I've pitched this a few years ago, there has been rumblings of this kind of format which would include an 8th division made up of those Group of 5 schools who would be part of a relegation format. So schools would have to step it up in order to stick in that division. That would give us eight champions and eight wildcards for a playoff.

The divisions would also consider traditional conferences to a point ... but it is obvious leagues who have to split up. Though this new entity would be separate from the current conference format, I still would like to keep those conference names in some fashion. They all hold brand value and would be a nice way to make the identity of this divisions more familiar. Or we could scrap that and just rename them into typical geographic divisions. 

So the name I want is placed for each division with the geographic name in parenthesis if we move away from tradition.  


BIG EAST (EASTERN): Boston College, Maryland, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, UCF, West Virginia 

Kind of a mix of northeastern and mid-Atlantic schools left over from the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12. Obviously the controversial placement is Notre Dame. In doing this, Notre Dame will have to make some tough decisions and will have had to forsake their independence to join this association. Putting them here makes sense when you see the rest of the divisions and the Irish already has relationships with some of the schools in this division -- mainly Boston College. This still allows the Irish to play USC in a non-league rivalry and, if the FBS allows for games against FBS opponents, Navy. 

Geographically, this looks ... okay. It leans more northeastern with Notre Dame a bit west and a jump to South Carolina and UCF, but it works. Cohesion comes with BC, Syracuse and Pitt all former Big East (and current ACC) rivals; Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State as Big Ten rivals; and a strong core of Penn State, Pitt, Maryland, Rutgers and West Virginia in the mid-atlantic. Football wise, Notre Dame and Penn State bring the names, but there are some nice historical programs here.   

ATLANTIC COAST (ATLANTIC): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Basically the ACC but with the northern and western schools out. It is strong with Clemson, Florida State and Miami there with plenty of space for others to make their mark. See it as the ACC pre-2000s expansion but adding Miami (who they really wanted) and Virginia Tech and losing Maryland. So this sticks as far as rivalries go and a nice, tight geographic center. 

SOUTHEASTERN (SOUTHEAST): Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Like the ACC, this is the same SEC before they expanded back in 1992. Sure, this is a tough schedule and a tough league, but with an expanded playoff format they should find plenty of teams in the postseason. That means South Carolina and Arkansas (who came in 1992), Missouri and Texas A&M, and Texas and Oklahoma go back to their old identities. Obviously this is a great football conference.

BIG TEN (MIDWEST): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

The theme continues as these are the ten schools that made up the conference named Big Ten. Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland stay east and Nebraska gets left out. The four Pac-12 schools never came. 

SOUTHWEST (SOUTHWEST): Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M

Now we're back to starting to create new groups, though this one already has history. The seven Texas schools and Arkansas were in the old SWC for decades. Of the old SWC, only Rice doesn't make it back with this new format. When the SWC disbanded in the mid-90s, the Texas schools were in the Big 12 with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. This holds up nicely. It is a very tight geographic footprint who all have history with each other. This works.

Football wise this should be fun. There's always the Texas-Oklahoma feud, with both their other rivals back together. Bedlam never dies. Arkansas may be able to spread its wings a bit outside of the current SEC West. TCU has had success. This is a really solid conference.

BIG 12 (CENTRAL): BYU, Cincinnati, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah

Similar to the Eastern Division, this is a mixed bag of sorts. Missouri is homeless as we cut it from the SEC, Louisville is left from the ACC, Nebraska from the Big Ten, and Utah from the Big 12. They fit here because the other six schools were set to be Big 12 members together anyway and those other four schools fit the geographic footprint. After all, of the ten schools listed here, only Louisville, Missouri and Nebraska aren't currently in the Big 12 ... though Nebraska and Missouri once were. Louisville is rather homeless at this time and fits better here than trying to shoehorn them in the Eastern Division. This is a nice, if not perfect, collection. You have BYU and Utah together (as they were set to be in the Big 12) with Colorado to form that western front, plus that plains set with the Kansas schools, Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska. Louisville and Cincinnati link up nicely together. While BYU to Cincinnati is a wide area, they were set to do this in the Big 12 anyway. 

That's geography, but what does it look like on the field? Eh. This may be the worst of the seven divisions because there really is no current power. Nebraska has the history, but haven't been that elite of a program in quite some time. Louisville has had some solid moments lately ... which could be said about pretty much everyone else in this league. Utah looks to be the top dog, but this may have a very fluid look to it. 

PACIFIC 10 (PACIFIC): Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

And this division looks like the Pac-12 when it was the Pac-10. Remember those times? 

So what does this accomplish? Well, we have a College Football Playoff Subdivision of Division I football. The schools comprising the Group of Five would stay as the Football Bowl Subdivision. That would be the AAC, MAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West and Conference USA. Of course, would a bowl system even be needed at that point ... especially for these schools.

RELEGATION: Appalachian State, Boise State, Fresno State, Liberty, Memphis, Miami-OH, Toledo, Troy, Tulane, Western Kentucky

I'm adding App State and Troy from the Sun Belt, Memphis and Tulane from the AAC, Miami-OH and Toledo from the MAC, Liberty and Western Kentucky from Conference USA, and Boise State and Fresno State from the Mountain West. I don't have a great idea on how we relegate these teams, but this is my placeholder of two teams for each Group of 5 conferences. 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Elite 8

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Purdue vs Tennessee. This was a good game, but it was really about the battle between the two best players in college basketball this season. Purdue's Zach Edey scored 40 points while Tennessee's Dalton Knecht dropped 37. In a tournament where we've seen some really bad games from stars that ended their teams' seasons, it was awesome to see two superstars are going blow for blow.

UPSET OF THE DAY: NC State vs Duke.  The only seed upset of the weekend, NC State just keeps rolling. The 11-seed that only made the tournament because they won the ACC tournament beat Duke for the second time in three weeks (and one time in each tournament). Duke felt like they had control of the game despite their iffy first half, but NC State went on a big run in the middle of the second half and weren't threatened the rest of the game. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. I'm going with the Big Ten of this one. The Big Ten, along with the ACC, SEC and Big East, all got one team into the Final Four, but the Big Ten really needs this right now. The league has underperformed in the NCAA tournament in general and especially on the biggest stages. Purdue has been one of the better programs in college basketball the last decade or so but just kept tripping up in the tournament. They've finally broke through to a Final Four and have the look of a team who could finally end the league's championship drought. Michigan State in 2000 is the last Big Ten team to win a national title.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. The Big 12 has championed itself as the top college hoops conference in the nation, but it will be watching the Final Four as each of the other four power leagues (sorry Pac-12) will send a team to Phoenix. In fact, the Big 12 didn't even get a team to the Elite 8. What hurts the most is ... well ... hurting. Kansas, the preseason No. 1 team, lost their best player before the tournament started. Then Houston, the best team in the conference, lost their best player halfway through the first half of their Sweet 16 game. The Big 12 has been a great league, but this was a bad tournament for them.  

DUD OF THE DAY: UConn vs Illinois. It looked like this could be an elite game. UConn looks unbeatable, but Illinois has been playing at a level where they could knock off anyone. For about 18 minutes of this game, it looked like that could be the case. Then that run happened.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: UConn vs Illinois. After Illinois tied the game 23-23 just before halftime, UConn went on a ridiculous 30-0 run.  Yes. 30-0. That seems like something UConn women's team did to teams in their heyday. Just when you thought UConn was vulnerable and could be taken down, they go on a historic run and turn the game into yet another blowout

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: What makes the tournament so great ... and why it hurts so much. What makes this tournament so great is the fact that anything can happen. It is a six round single-elimination tournament. Obviously anything can happen in a win-or-go-home format, but in this tournament you've got to survive six of those games ... and win 18 to 24 year olds playing. So no matter how good you've played, one bad game can end a season and leave a horrible taste in your mouth ... forever. Caleb Love's 0-9 shooting night from three ended Arizona's season. A few hours later, RJ Davis' 0-9 three point shooting ended North Carolina's. Illinois' Terrence Shannon Jr had been one of the best players of the tournament, until his 2 of 12 showing vs UConn gave the Illini no chance. The entire tournament was filled with tough nights like this, which happen, but it doesn't make it any harder for anyone. 

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Elite 8 Standings


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 games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Duke vs Houston. It is a shame that Jamal Shead severely turned his ankle and missed most of this game. It really showed at certain points that they needed him to calm the team down and make the right plays. Having said that, this was a very physical, hard fought game with both teams bringing energy defensively. Both teams shot 20-of-49 from the field and both teams had 26 points in the paint. The difference was Duke's ability to hit threes (Houston attempted just eight) and Houston's inability to drain free throws.

UPSET OF THE DAY: NC State vs Marquette.  The only double-digit seed remaining just axed the second best team in the Big East. NC State is keeping their miracle run going in March. State jumped on the Eagles early and kept that comfortable lead the rest of the night. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC went 2-0 on the day and guaranteed themselves a spot in the Final Four. Both Duke and NC State won in the South Region and the two teams will face off for a fourth time this season. Duke won the two regular season games while State won their meeting in the ACC tournament. The ACC is 11-2 in this tournament with a shot at have two teams in the Final Four.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big East. Creighton and Marquette bowed out of the tournament tonight. Marquette was stunned by the Cinderella NC State Wolfpack while Creighton was smacked with a Tennessee 18-0 run that they couldn't fully recover from. The Big East still claims the biggest fish in the tournament, but Friday was a rough night.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Purdue vs Gonzaga. There were no duds, but Purdue's win going away over Gonzaga is the likely pick. This was not a typically great Gonzaga squad, so getting to this point was a success. But Purdue jumped on the Zags early in the second half and didn't look back.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: NC State vs Marquette. The Wolfpack opened a 20-10 lead and never looked back. What NC State has done over the last three weeks is nothing short of remarkable, especially considering they needed a buzzer beating banked three in the ACC tournament semifinals just to stay alive. Now the Wolfpack are a win away from their first Final Four since 1983

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: New blood in the Elite 8. Sure, the defending champion UConn Huskies are alive. So is Duke, who is tied with UConn with five national championships. But we also could be having some new blood in the Final Four. For instance, Clemson and Alabama will face off for either school's first Final Four berth. Tennessee will face Purdue for their first trip to a Final Four ... while Purdue hasn't been since 1980. As we mentioned, NC State hasn't been there since 1983. Illinois hasn't been since 2005. 

Friday, March 29, 2024

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 games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Alabama vs North Carolina. The Tar Heels became the first No. 1 seed to go down. This was a weird game filled with runs by both teams with unlikely heroes presenting themselves. ACC Player of the Year RJ Davis was an awful 4-of-20 from the field and missed all nine of his three point attempts. More on that in a bit. But this was a track meet all night long with Alabama feeling more comfortable playing that style.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Clemson vs Arizona.  Clemson is still alive after taking the fight to Arizona and coming out on top. What may be the most impressive thing about the Tigers win is the fact that they never folded whenever Arizona made a run. Clemson would get a nice lead and then the Wildcats stormed back. But the Tigers would make a key shot or key defensive possession that kept them ahead and they're making their first Elite 8 appearance since 1980. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big East. UConn's expected win makes the conference 7-0 for the tournament. Marquette and Creighton are on tap for Friday.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Pac-12. And so it ends. The "Conference of Champions" saw their final remaining team lose on Thursday. The Arizona Wildcats went down to Clemson, meaning that league hasn't won a national championship since 1997 (Arizona). If you haven't heard, the conference will be very different next season. Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Arizona State are leaving for the Big 12. UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington are heading to the Big Ten. Cal and Stanford are grabbing an invite to the ACC. That leaves Oregon State and Washington State trying to hold on to whatever is left of the conference ... which may be nothing more than assets earned over the years. Who knows what the league looks like if it exists past a two-year grace period starting next year. It's really sad to see a once mighty and proud conference implode like this.  

DUD OF THE DAY: UConn vs San Diego State. The only game of the night that wasn't competitive, the rematch of last year's national championship game truly was. UConn dominated the Aztecs.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: UConn vs San Diego State. Three games tonight were close, and this wasn't one of them. The Huskies look unbeatable right now

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The "Caleb Love Game" isn't happening. As soon as the brackets were announced, CBS's Seth Davis already began talking about a possible "Caleb Love Game" if Arizona and North Carolina met in the West Region Final. Love, the Pac-12 Player of the Year at Arizona, spent his first three college seasons at North Carolina where he hit one of the biggest shots in program history against Duke in the 2022 Final Four. Last season, it was clear that Love and Tar Heel backcourt partner RJ Davis weren't working well together. Love was pretty much told that transferring out may be best for everyone ... and it was. Love became the top player in the Pac-12 and Davis gained the freedom to grow and became the ACC Player of the Year. So a matchup of the two would've made for great theater in the West final ... but it won't happen. Love's Wildcats and Davis' Heels were upset in Los Angeles by Clemson and Alabama, respectively. Love went 5-of-18 from the field; Davis went 4-of-20. Both missed all nine of their three point attempts, making their box score 9-of-38 from the field and 0-18 from three. Proclaiming these things to happen are always premature, but it is so odd that both were this close to making it happen and both played awful in the game leading up to it. 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Sweet 16 Standings


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 games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Houston vs Texas A&M. This wasn't the back and forth brawl some of us may have been expecting (well, okay, six players fouled out), but the Aggies did give the Cougars everything they wanted before falling in overtime, 100-95. Yes, these two teams put up 195 points. Houston's Emmanuel Sharp and A&M's Tyrese Radford had huge games and Andersson Garcia's three at the buzzer to put the game into overtime was electric.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Clemson vs Baylor.  Just like Saturday, there was only one real upset today as 6-seed Clemson toppled 3-seed Baylor. The Tigers got up early on Baylor and pretty much kept a comfortable lead most of the day. RayJ Dennis tried to keep the Bears in it but Clemson seemingly had an answer for every Baylor run. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC and Big East. I'm giving this to both conferences. Both believed they were short-changed in the bid department -- the ACC thinks Pitt deserved to get in while the Big East is mad they got just three teams in. Yet when the tournament goes on there are four ACC teams and three Big East teams in the Sweet 16. The two leagues are a combined 14-1 with Virginia's horrible showing in the First Four being the only blemish. These two leagues have won six of the last eight national championships and 10 of the last 14 (that doesn't include UConn's 2014 title when they were in their first season in The American). These two leagues have run March and April over the last two decades or so and deserve more respect than they have been given.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Mid-majors. All of them. The NCAA tournament is a fluid thing. In 2022 we had a Final Four of blue bloods -- Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Villanova. In 2023, we had UConn and three first timers (San Diego State, Florida Atlantic, Miami). This year we are back to more of a chalk bracket (more on that in a bit). The mid-majors did their damage in the first round but have only two of the Sweet 16. Those two are the top mid-majors of the era in Gonzaga and San Diego State. Everyone else not only failed to advance but James Madison, Yale and Grand Canyon looked rather embarrassing out there today. Grand Canyon fought but they continued to put up rushed shots and seemed to have butterfingers on loose balls. Add in the Mountain West's inability to get anyone else but San Diego State to the second weekend with Utah State getting absolutely rolled by Purdue. Make no mistake -- the mid majors are tougher now than ever but they had a bad Sunday.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Duke vs James Madison. James Madison had that buzz as a mid-major who could make a surprised tournament run this year. They had that FAU quality about them all season long. Even though Duke is ... well ... Duke there was a feeling that the Blue Devils were going to have to work for a win. Duke dominated the Dukes and the game was over pretty quickly.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: San Diego State vs Yale. I mentioned the mid-majors having a rough day ... well, San Diego State didn't. They looked like a team that is poised to get back to the Final Four by destroying a confident Yale team. The Aztecs jumped all over Yale and held a 24 point halftime lead. Jaedon Ledee has really turned into an impressive performer

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: What you want from a tournament. The NCAA tournament is a variety of things to a lot of people. We all live for the first weekend of the tournament to see what Cinderella shows up to knock off what big dog. However, people tend to want order restored in the later rounds and prefer to see those big names playing in the Final Four and for championships. We have that this year. We got Oakland, James Madison and Yale pulling off some great first round upsets. We really didn't get that in the second round, but that means that our big teams will be duking it out in the regionals. The East and Midwest Regions have the 1, 2, 3 and 5 seeds. The South has the 1, 2, 4 and 6. The only crazy seed left is NC State at No. 10 ... and they are a power conference team who has two national title trophies on their campus. There's a lot of chalk which doesn't mean the tournament is boring. We got some great upsets and now we are about to have the top teams in the nation have to earn it by beating each other and crowning a champion. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

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 games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Creighton vs Oregon. The Ducks left it all on the court. After a great run to a Pac-12 tournament championship and a win over South Carolina in the first round, the Ducks did everything it could to reach the Sweet 16. Taking a tough Creighton team to double-overtime before finally running out of time. This was a game we love to see in the NCAA tournament. Clutch shots, great defensive plays and emotions swaying in the crowd and on the court. Great theater.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Gonzaga vs Kansas.  There was just one seed upset on Saturday, and that wasn't much of one. 5-seed Gonzaga beat a depleted 4-seed Kansas. It was a fantastic first half of action with scoring, momentum swings and Jayhawks coach Bill Self saying they were going to tighten it up going into halftime. Then the second half happened and Kansas came out flat. The Zags outscored the Jayhawks 46-24 in the final 20 minutes and put the preseason No. 1 team out of their misery. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. Let me start by saying the SEC had a good day after being beat up nationally after a bad first round. But the ACC won two games today, top seed North Carolina turned a 12-point deficit into a 16 point win over a dangerous Michigan State squad and NC State keep their amazing run going by dispatching Cinderella darling Oakland. The ACC got off to a rough start with Virginia's awful showing in the First Four, but since then has gone 6-0. A league that was downplayed all season already has two teams in the Sweet 16 with Duke and Clemson set to play on Sunday.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. The Big 12 and Pac-12 both saw two teams get eliminated on Saturday, but at least the two Pac-12 teams went down fighting. Texas was down big before mounting a comeback that was just a little too late. Meanwhile, well, I mentioned Kansas' bad second half and unceremonious dismissal from the tournament after being the preseason No. 1 (seriously, does anyone want to be branded with that baggage anymore?). Texas will be off to the SEC next year while the Big 12 will be bringing in Sweet 16 ticket owner Arizona.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Gonzaga vs Kansas. This is difficult to pin down and I don't want to pick on Kansas, but what was such a great game going into halftime turned ugly immediately in the second half. We all know Kansas was undermanned both figuratively and literally, but I didn't expect Gonzaga to turn this into a route like this.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Illinois vs Duquesne. This game was also a candidate for Dud Of The Day but I don't think people had the expectations for this one like they did for Kansas-Gonzaga. Illinois just jumped all over Duquesne and crushed any hope for an upset. And Terrence Shannon Jr has been the best player of this tournament. Illinois is a lowkey dangerous team heading into next week and their showdown with Iowa State in Boston will be one of the top games to watch

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Game times. I get that television runs things. I totally understand and actually enjoy the way the NCAA tournament schedules these games. I do have a gripe with which pods are playing which games and what times. I know there is some obliviousness for fans to watch these games and not care where they are played. But note that the Arizona-Dayton game was played at Salt Lake City at 12:45pm ET. That meant the game was played at 10:45am local time and 9:45am PT (aka, Arizona time). Why? Why are we having these teams play at 10:45am local? Meanwhile, the Creigton-Oregon game was played at Pittsburgh and was scheduled to begin at 9:45pm ET (which is local time). Because the NC State-Oregon game went to overtime, that game ended up starting around 10:20pm and didn't end until after midnight.  So you asked Arizona and Dayton to play a game at 10:45am local time and Creighton-Oregon to finish a game after midnight the same day? Why couldn't this have been reversed? Why couldn't, say, the Pittsburgh pod begin at 12:45pm and the Salt Lake City pod be the late one? I mean, the caliber of games really wasn't better. Sure, Kansas-Gonzaga (which was in Salt Lake City) was deemed the most interesting game of the day, but the two Pittsburgh games went to overtime and much better to watch (I know, I know, how would the scheduling people know that). The NC State-Oakland game was buried among two other games while the Creighton-Oregon double overtime game was so late that many on the east coast were asleep. Does this hurt me or really anyone watching these games on our couch (or bed)?  No. But for these kids and fans attending the arenas it is a bit ridiculous. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Round, Day 2

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Colorado vs Florida. First off, the final score of this was 102-100. You don't usually get that kind of high scoring game in regulation in the tournament. The Buffaloes seemed to have this game in control late, but the Gators hit key shots late -- especially from Walter Clayton Jr. But with the game tied, KJ Simpson hit the game winner with less than two seconds. A thrilling end to a great game -- both teams held double digit leads at some point, the Buffs shot a ridiculous 63% from the field, both teams combined to go 47-of-55 from the FT line and Simpson's shot banged on every part of the rim before finally falling.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Yale vs Auburn.  There were three big upsets on the day, but Yale beating the SEC tournament champion tops them all. Yale tried hard to give the Tigers the game, but Auburn missed shots and free throws to take control of the game. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big East. I'm giving today to the Big East. UConn and Marquette wiped the floor with their opponents and, while that really wasn't that impressive a feat, when added with Creighton's win on Thursday and the Big East is 3-0 in the tournament. The league felt slighted with St. John's, Providence and Seton Hall didn't get in and now has some fuel to that fire. By the way, the Pac-12 is 5-0.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: SEC. The SEC had an uneven day. Alabama and Texas A&M spent the night beating the brakes off of very good opponents, but before that Auburn and Florida took tough losses. Auburn became the third SEC team to lose to a double digit seed in the first round ... joining Kentucky and South Carolina. SEC commissioner was vocal about looking at expanding the NCAA tournament to let more of his teams in, which was clapped back at him after the SEC's 3-5 record from their eight schools.

DUD OF THE DAY: Texas A&M vs Nebraska. This was supposed to be the year Nebraska finally won an NCAA tournament game. But they were quickly down big to the Aggies and really were never in the game. Usually those 8/9 games are better than this.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: UConn vs Stetson. UConn did what they've done pretty much all season long -- dominate their opponent. Any question of a 16-seed possibly pulling off another upset was squashed in the first five minutes

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The need for tournament expansion. Tournament expansion has been a topic since before Selection Sunday and got even louder once teams from the power conference felt snubbed. Then the tournament happened and we've seen mid-majors San Diego State, Yale, Duquesne, Grand Canyon, Dayton, James Madison, Oakland, Utah State and, technically, Gonzaga win first round games. Why do we need more power schools in this tournament? They have every opportunity to win their way into the tournament by having a parade of power teams to play in conference and a conference tournament to win. They may be "better" than some of these mid-majors, but they had their shot to get in. Let these mid-majors that no one wants to schedule get in and have at it against the big boys. 

Round of 32 standings


Friday, March 22, 2024

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Round, Day 1

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Dayton vs Nevada. With about seven minutes left in this game, Dayton had a 0.5% chance of winning. They were down 17 points and were struggling to score. Then they went beserk and went on a 24-4 run to end the game. Wow.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Oakland vs Kentucky.  Kentucky has now lost to a double digit seed in two of the last three tournaments and hasn't gotten out of the first weekend since 2019. This isn't the Kentucky basketball we are used to. John Calipari's freshmen clearly looked like the stage was too big and seemed to feel the pressure as Oakland was either up or close to the lead all game. 

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: PAC 12. The Pac-12's final hurrah has gotten off to a great start. Not only did Colorado win their First Four game on Wednesday, but Arizona, Washington State and Oregon all won on Thursday -- with the Ducks being an upset. All four teams the league got in has won so far.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: SEC. The SEC really had an off day. Kentucky has a lot of hard questions after their dud against Oakland. Mississippi State were spanked by Michigan State in an 8-9 game. Then South Carolina loses to 11-seed Oregon. Tennessee did blow out St. Peter's, but that wasn't anything to ... peacock ... about.

DUD OF THE DAY: Gonzaga vs McNeese. McNeese was a lot of people's pick for an upset in the first round. Gonzaga isn't the power they normally are and the Cowboys had the look of a Cinderella. Then they got on the court and the Zags jumped all over them. Not the game we thought we were getting.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Tennessee vs St. Peter's. Tennessee looked like a national champion by dismantling the darling of the 2022 tournament, St. Peter's. This wasn't the same Peacocks team that reached the Elite 8 a couple years ago, but this also wasn't the Volunteers team that looked bad in the SEC tournament last week

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Kentucky's recent swoon. From 2010 to 2015 ... John Calipari's first six seasons at Kentucky ... the Wildcats reached four Final Fours, two national championship games and won the 2012 title. In 2015, they were also two wins away from becoming the first team to go undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Who knew that would the last time Kentucky would reach the tournament's final weekend? The last four seasons has seen the Wildcats lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament twice (to a 15 and 14 seed), miss the tournament altogether in 2021 and lost in the second round in 2023. Coach Cal has been 1-3 over the last four NCAA tournaments and 1-4 over the last four SEC tournaments. Let's be real -- Calipari won't be fired. He'd have to agree to leave and he's not doing that. But in a state that has showered him with love for most of his time in Lexington, he's getting quite a bit of heat right now. Something has to change, but what? Calipari has swag and loves to flex when things are going great ... so he's going to have to hear the noise when things aren't. It will be interesting to see what his approach will be heading into the next season. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Hubert Davis, Have Yourself A Week!

Hubert Davis should do what he usually does. Smile.

He's had a fantastic week. On Saturday, his North Carolina Tar Heels went into the lion's den called Cameron Indoor Stadium and beat their hated rivals ... the Duke Blue Devils ... to win the Heels' first regular season ACC championship under his tenure. Two days later, he was voted ACC's Coach of the Year. The team is in the mix for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament and are on the short list of championship contenders.

This is quite an accomplishment considering where this program was sitting about 12 months ago. 

Davis has enjoyed a very rollercoaster career in his nearly three seasons as the head men's basketball coach at UNC. He inherited a talented but flawed roster that lost in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Remember that the 2019-2020 Tar Heels had a losing record and wasn't going to qualify for the NCAA tournament ... which was canceled due to COVID pandemic breaking. The following season saw a very talented freshman class, along with sophomore Armando Bacot, get the Heels back to the tournament. That season was played in empty arenas and the tournament was in the Indiana Bubble. They were part of it, but were spanked by Wisconsin in the first round.

Roy Williams abruptly retired and less than a week later Davis was the next head coach. 

We all know how his first year went. Davis cobbled together some transfers to replace NBA bound Day'Ron Sharpe and controversial transfer Walker Kessler. The team suffered some embarrassing losses throughout the season and were living life on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A strong run to end the regular season ... including an epic win at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Mike Krzyzewski's final home game ... gave the Heels a life entering into the big dance. One of his transfer pickups -- Brady Manek -- was on fire. Like in 2021, the Heels were a No. 8 seed again, but this team wouldn't lose in the first round. In fact, they would beat Marquette, topple defending champion Baylor, UCLA, and Cinderella darling St. Peter's before facing off against Duke in one of the most anticipated games in tournament history. Davis won that one too, giving him two of the greatest non-title victories any North Carolina coach could ever want and a spot in the NCAA title game. UNC rolled out to a huge lead ... and that's where the fun would stop. 

Kansas overcame the hot Heels and mounted the largest comeback in NCAA championship game history. Davis' Heels were so close, but left New Orleans with a title game loss. Davis' hiring looked like a slam dunk!

Last season began like Davis was set to take his place alongside Frank McGuire, Dean Smith and Roy Williams as another great Carolina coach. They were the preseason No. 1 team heading into the season because almost all of the key players from that championship game returned. Almost. Manek ran out of eligibility and it turned out that his absence was huge. The chemistry that seemed to the spark that late season run in 2022 just wasn't there in 2023. Last season made people think that the first half of the 2021-2022 season would be the norm and not that magical NCAA Tournament run. 

The honeymoon was over for Hubert Davis. What was once great roster building and ability to get his team to work together turned into a team besieged by a lack of trust and cohesion.  Davis' 2022 group were nicknamed the "Iron Five" due to their massive on-court minutes, but his aversion to using his bench in 2023 became a sticking point to fans and, apparently, his players. There was criticism over how he was using his roster and the style of play the Heels were using. At the top of the complaint list was the enigma known as Caleb Love, who can shoot you into games (like the Duke Final Four win) or out of games (like against Kansas two nights later). Fans ... and apparently players ... were ticked off that Love seemingly had a green light to do whatever he wanted but other players were pulled at the first mistake. Plus he lost twice to eventual ACC champ Duke and their brand new head coach, Jon Scheyer. 

Which brings me back to 12 months ago.

That was when the Tar Heels saw that they weren't part of the NCAA Tournament. The first team since the tournament expanded in 1985 to be preseason No. 1 and miss the big dance. The team turned down an NIT bid (there's still some debate over who made that call) because Davis just wanted to move on to the offseason. Love, who hit one of the biggest shots in program history in that Final Four win over Duke, was told by Davis that it may be better if he finds a new place to play. Then many of those bench players who spent another season barely getting to play decided to wanted out. Guys like Tyler Nickel (Virginia Tech), Dontrez Styles (Georgetown), D'Marco Dunn (Penn State), Puff Johnson (Penn State), Justin McKoy (Hawaii) and Will Shaver (UAB) all left. Love would transfer to Arizona.

It was a mess and reminded many of the Matt Doherty situation in the early 2000s. Doherty, of course, was a UNC player from the 1980s who had a nice first season but quickly bottomed out. His third and final season saw his talented roster at odds with him, and he was promptly fired ... and Roy Williams was hired away from Kansas. 

Twelve months ago, it looked like the Hubert Davis era would go down the same path. The optics were certainly there. The roster was gutted aside from mainstays Armando Bacot and RJ Davis and rising sophomores Jalen Washington and Seth Trimble. Everyone else left. But that's when Hubert Davis began to turn things around and start walking down the path to the ACC Coach of the Year.

Davis is known for his ability to convey family and caring during recruiting. He also seemed to understand the kind of players his program needed to succeed. He was able to lure junior Harrison Ingram ... a guy that Carolina recruited in high school ... to leave Stanford. He brought two ACC players to Chapel Hill: grad student Cormac Ryan down from Notre Dame and Charlotte native Jae'Lyn Withers. All the transferring allowed point guard Elliot Cadeau to reclassify and enter UNC a year early. 

Those four brought toughness to Carolina, something that sorely lacked in 2023. They brought flexibility to the roster, as Ingram, Withers and Ryan have the ability to play different positions and do different things. All make a commitment to defense and became big chemistry guys. Along with Paxson Wojcik (Brown) and James Okonkwo (West Virginia), Davis completely rebuilt this roster both in terms of talent but a team that genuinely cares about each other. 

That has shown this season. This team may be the best defensive team Carolina has had in decades. They are also insanely seasoned (Bacot and Ryan are fifth year seniors). The flexibility of the roster has allowed Davis to use his bench more than ever. He also looks more ... in charge ... than ever. His mid-season adjustments defensively shows he is able to diagnose and solve problems. The offense is much more fluid and prioritizes sharing the basketball as well as playing with purpose at a much faster pace. 

This feels like his team and his program. He's adapting. That seems like a foreign concept to any Carolina fan. After all, most fans grew up with Dean Smith as the head coach and then Roy Williams stepped in. Our only real experience with unproven coaching was Bill Guthridge and Matt Doherty. Smith left Guthridge with a loaded roster and we all knew that he was an extension of Smith. We also knew that once Coach Gut retired, we'd pluck Ol' Roy from Kansas. Except we couldn't at first ... which led to the Doherty era. 

Davis was groomed by Roy Williams, but he has his own experience of things. Davis played for Dean Smith. But he also played for Pat Riley and Don Nelson in the NBA. He coached as an assistant for nine years under Roy Williams, but he was an ESPN analyst for five seasons. His time at ESPN allowed him to visit, interview and be around other successful coaches and programs and see how they work. So while Davis fully understood the Carolina program, he also has witnessed things done in other ways. 

This season it seems as if Davis is figuring out what he wants his program to look like on the floor. The skills and values he wants in his players and his teams. While Carolina fans expected Davis to hit the ground running to success (which he delivered with his Final Four run in his first season), we all needed to accept that there would be some growing pains as well. I brought up the two years before Davis' first season to set the backdrop of what this program looked like when he stepped in. The success of the 2016-2019 years (three No. 1 seeds, two title game appearances and a national championship) had faded fast (two missed tournaments, two No. 8 seeds) in the last four years. 

That's what made Saturday night so sweet for Davis and people who were on the Davis bandwagon. Where he was less than one year ago to where he's at now is stunning and gives even the most skeptical Tar Heels fan reason to be upbeat about the future. The Heels will enter the tournament with high expectations like they did in the 2010s. The win in Durham flipped the narrative as Davis got to celebrate an ACC title with his team while Scheyer had to spend time talking to the media about licking wounds and finding answers. By Monday, Davis won ACC Coach of the Year while RJ Davis was Player of the Year. 

That doesn't mean this is all fixed. He will lose Bacot after this season. RJ Davis could elect to not use his COVID season and play an extra year for North Carolina. Cormac Ryan will exhaust his eligibility. Harrison Ingram could decide to jump to the NBA Draft. And, of course, the transfer portal could suck somebody out of the program. Next year's team will really be his team. All his recruits. He brings in a great recruiting class in McDonald's All Americans Ian Jackson and Drake Powell. It feels like Elliot Cadaeu will come back for at least one more season. And, of course, the transfer portal allows for Davis to add some veterans guys to that mix. 

The chatter of Davis' job security has died down considerably since 12 months ago (it will never fully go away). But he's got Carolina back to where it feels comfortable. A place that even Roy Williams struggled to get to in his final two seasons. 

Which makes for a great weekend. An ACC regular season title. ACC Coach of the Year. He coached the ACC's Player of the Year. Won at Duke which secured a sweep of their rivals. Plus a byproduct of Cormac Ryan's 31 point game against the Blue Devils was a trip down memory lane for Davis' playing career. Ryan had Carolina's highest scoring game at Cameron since 1992 when Hubert Davis scored 35 at Duke ... which gave everyone a reminder of just how good ol' Hubert was back in the day. 

What a week. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

My Favorite Geographical Oddities In Sports

College athletics is in quite a state of chaos right now, which has teams from all over the country suddenly thrust into conferences together. This fall we will see USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington in the Big Ten with Rutgers and Maryland. We will also see California and Stanford joining the Atlantic Coast Conference with Boston College, Miami and all those North Carolina schools. The Big 12 will stretch from Arizona to West Virginia. 

That's the reality of college athletics and there has been a lot of mockery about it. But professional sports has had several instances of weird geography throughout their history ... and still does in some cases. Here are my favorites over the years.


This isn't about actual geography as much as when the NHL didn't use a compass to make division names. Back in the 1980s, we had the Wales and Campbell Conferences that housed the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe Divisions. Even though the divisions were pretty much geographically aligned, the kooky names (for us Americans) gave those divisions a different kind of heft. I remember Wayne Gretzky back then saying that the NHL probably needed to ditch those names for traditional directional names (which they did), but the spirit of those old school names should come back. When the NHL realigned a few years ago, they mixed in the "Metropolitan Division" to go with the Atlantic, Central and Pacific divisions. Oh how I wish the Smythe would come back.  By the way, the NFL did something similar in 1967 when they broke into the Capitol, Century, Coastal and Central divisions until the merger forced them into the names we've known for decades. 


When the NHL realigned during the late 1990s it put the Dallas Stars in the Pacific Division. That placed Dallas, who is in the Central Time Zone, with teams in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix and San Jose. It had to be done with what they had to work with, but it was still unfortunate to have Dallas stuffed in a division to have so much travel despite being closer to teams in the Central Division.


In one of the weirder decisions, the American League decided to put the Milwaukee Brewers in the AL East and the Chicago White Sox in the AL West. When divisions were formed in 1969, the Brewers were an expansion team known as the Seattle Pilots and were sent to the AL West. After one season, they Pilots moved to Milwaukee but stayed in the AL West. When the Washington Senators moved to Dallas to become the Texas Rangers in the 1972 season, the league moved them from the AL East to the AL West but had a difficult time deciding if the Brewers or Chicago White Sox would move from the West to the East. The White Sox felt they should move East to be with their longtime rivals Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Indians and Orioles (the West had only the Athletics). Even though the White Sox ... an original American League franchise ... had a point, the AL decided to put the relatively new Brewers in the East. What makes it even more strange is that Milwaukee and Chicago are close to each other and they were broken up to play in different divisions. That's even more ironic now since the Brewers were moved to the National League Central during the realignment of 1994 so they could be paired with the Chicago Cubs. 


Florida teams always seemed to get placed in weird places. Heck, it is the same now. But when the Buccaneers settled on a division after their 1976 expansion, they landed in the NFC Central. By name, that's not too egregious. However they were thrown in a division made up of what is the NFC North now: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Four franchises that are very close in proximity and known for their cold, harsh winters. And then there's sunny Tampa Bay. In 2002, the Buccaneers were lopped off the NFC Central and placed in the much more appropriate NFC South. 


Oklahoma University will be taking their sports to the Southeastern Conference this fall. Yet their lone professional sports franchise in the state -- the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder -- play in the Northwest Division? The easy explanation is that the Seattle SuperSonics' move to the Sooner State led to this bad geographic issue, but why hasn't it been corrected? The easy answer for that is there is no clear cut franchise to switch with. The one that makes the most sense -- the Sacramento Kings -- wouldn't want to break away from the nearby Golden State Warriors or the down state Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers. Really another other option that isn't already in that division are just as horrible geographically as Oklahoma City. 


When the NHL went back to a four division format a few years ago, the Western Conference was easy to break up into two divisions. The Eastern Conference was a bit tougher due to some politics and preferences of team placements. The divisions really make no geographical sense. The Metropolitan Division houses the New York based teams (Rangers, Islanders, Devils), the Pennsylvania teams (Penguins, Flyers) as well as the Washington Capitals. Then the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets are somehow with that group. Meanwhile the Atlantic Division houses the northeast teams (Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Senators, Sabres, Bruins) with the Florida teams (Lightning, Panthers)? To top it off, somehow the Detroit Red Wings are there? It's really odd. It may have been more geographically sound to have Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens alongside the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils to form that Atlantic Division and have the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins join the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning in a sort of "Mideast Division". It is messy regardless, but the current geography is strange. 


The 2002 NFL realignment did a lot to rectify the league's vast geographic issues that weren't addressed in any way for over 30 years. One of those improvements was to cut the Cardinals from the NFC East. When the division was formed after the merger, the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins (now Commanders), Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Cardinals were original members. Obviously Dallas isn't very east, but the rivalry among those teams was real so it made sense to keep them together. St. Louis gave Dallas a team at least sorta/kinda nearby. But in the mid-1980s, the Cards moved to Phoenix and now made the division reach from New York to Arizona. Again, the Arizona Cardinals were placed in a revamped NFC West in 2002. The Dallas Cowboys are still a geographical oddity, but that's more about the deep rivalries they have with the Giants, Eagles and Commanders than anything.


The NL West that existed from 1963 to 1993 was quite a setup. You did have western teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, but they were joined by the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds. Atlanta and Cincinnati were placed in the NL West despite Chicago and St. Louis further west. When baseball realigned in 1994 to add a Central Division to each league, Houston and Cincinnati were placed in the Central and Atlanta took their rightful place in the NL East. 


Until that 2002 realignment, the NFC West was one of the weirdest divisions in sports. It began innocently enough as the NFL created divisions that were less about geography, which caused a "Coastal" division to be created with two teams off the Pacific coast (Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers) and two off the Atlantic coast (Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Colts). When the NFL and AFL merged, the NFL went to geographic divisions (East, Central, West) but the NFC West was still ridiculously off. The Rams and 49ers still were paired with the Falcons, but now the New Orleans Saints were thrown in. When the league expanded in 1995, the Carolina Panthers were added to the division. So the NFC West had three franchises in the southern part of the country and only two ... west.