A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook after suffering a 7-9 performance in Friday’s first-round games of the NCAA men’s tournament after going 14-2 on Thursday:

Landing spot

Tom Crean didn’t need to make a visit to Athens, Ga., to know he wanted to be the next basketball coach at the University of Georgia.

While serving as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, he was approached about other coaching opportunities during the past year. But of the jobs that were open when Georgia first contacted him on Wednesday, this is the one knew he wanted.

His name was one of the first connected to the opening after Georgia fired Mark Fox last Saturday, so he had most of the week to check out the possibilities even before he was officially contacted. That was enough for him to realize it would be a good fit for him, calling it a “gold mine” several times Friday.

After his wife, Joni, made some phone calls and became acquainted with the area online, she was onboard with making the move, too.

“We had absolutely no doubts about coming in here, and I don’t think we’re going to have,” said Crean.

They even turned down an offer to check out the town and campus in person before making a final decision but decided that was unnecessary.

“We’re here now because, first off, in the age of social media and video, you can see so many things,” Crean said. “As long as she’s happy with the house, I’m going to be happy.”

So on Friday, exactly a year after being terminated at Indiana University, Crean found himself holding his introductory press conference as the new coach at Georgia. And not long afterward, he was officially an SEC coach, making his first appearance on the SEC Network on Paul Finebaum’s show.

With the players off for spring break, he’ll have a few days to start organizing his office and getting his bearings around Stegeman Coliseum and the Ramsey Center weight rooms.

But he’s already exchanged texts with football coach Kirby Smart, who is on a spring break trip with his family, and been welcomed by other members of the UGA family.

The energy he brought to his opening presser has the fanbase convinced that he’ll bring the competitive fire they believe the program lacked under Fox.

He’s heard enough to know that Georgia basketball fans are hungry for the success the school has had in football, including winning the Southeastern Conference and playing for the national title this season.

He also knows the SEC has made it a point of emphasis to become more competitive in basketball, as evidenced by having eight teams make the  NCAA tournament with six– Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama and Florida advancing to the Round of 32.

“I hope one of the first thing we can do is build a Midnight Madness, Georgia Madness, whatever we’re going to call it, type of situation, hopefully something that will work to get the fans to come in and get inside of this,” said Crean. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight but I promise you there will not be a day that goes by that we will not be trying to continue to build on the energy of what can happen here, build on what has already happened here, and continue to move it forward to what will happen here.”

Crean, 51, has a 356-231 record in 18 seasons as a college coach at Marquette and Indiana and has taken 13 teams to the postseason, including nine NCAA appearances. He led three of his Hoosiers squads to the Sweet 16 and took his 2002-03 Marquette team to the Final Four.

He’ll find plenty of similarities between the Georgia and IU jobs, including the fact that both are  great college towns located near major metro areas in which he can center recruiting efforts.

Threepeat not enough

Only Lilly King could expect more from herself than what she accomplished Friday while once again setting an American swimming record in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist became a three-time NCAA champion Friday to remain undefeated in her signature event at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Columbus, Ohio. She won the 100 breast in 56.25 to again set American and NCAA records.

Only three other swimmers in NCAA history have won the 100-breast three consecutive years (Georgia’s Kristy Kowal (1998-2000, Stanford’s Tara Kirk (2001-2004) of Stanford and Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson (2012-2014). Only Kirk has won the event four-consecutive years, which King will take aim at matching as a senior.

But despite those milestones, King was less than ecstatic with her time Friday even if she had improved her own American record.

“I kind of expected more of myself,” said King. “It’s still a best time, which is neat, but I was really hoping to go 55. I’ve been talking 55 for a long time … It’s a new American record, so I shouldn’t be too upset about it. But I expected more from myself.”

IU swim coach Ray Looze also expected more, according to King.

“He told me a couple of months ago that he was going to quit coaching me if I don’t go 55, so I might be looking for a new head coach,” she said, laughing.

King admitted that motivation is still something she struggles with periodically because of her dominance in the breaststroke.

“It’s obviously not as special as my first NCAAs was,” said King. “After racing at the Olympics and Worlds and all these different meets, it is kind of hard to get up sometimes but it is what it is.”

King swims in the 200 breast finals on Saturday, again aiming to win both events.

Her time in the 100 gave her a comfortable win over fellow Big Ten competitors Miranda Tucker (57.98) and Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky (58.13).

Stat of Week

The Pac-12 Conference, which was 1-8 in football bowl games, was 0-3 in this NCAA basketball tournament.

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “March Madness has officially arrived. Twelve hours a day of college basketball — or as sports fans call it, payback for “The Bachelor.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Former 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer claims he suffered 2,500 concussions in his NFL career. I’m wondering how he can remember them all.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Johnny Manziel tweeted he would play football for free. Guess who’ll be the first one called to take a drug test?”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Last week, the Kansas City Royals hosted an anti-porn seminar. No one attended.”

 Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com on the death of Roger Bannister, the first to run a mile in less than 4 minutes: “If anyone was sure to be in heaven before the devil knew he was dead …”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The owner of a Greek soccer team this weekend stormed onto the field during a match waving a handgun. So long story short, soccer is now the official sport of the NRA.”

O.J. Simpson on his time in prison, which sounds like he played a ‘Godfather’ role: “Nobody would think about screwing with me. Virtually all the guys had my back. I was setting the tone. I was helping guys. I helped put together programs, and when there were problems, I was the guy they came to mediate.”

 Stats of Week, II

The Cincinnati Bearcats women’s basketball team shot 2 for 23, went scoreless in the second quarter and trailed UConn 43-5 at halftime of their American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal. UConn held on to win, 75-21.

 Historic loss

How bad was Virginia’s Friday loss to Maryland-Baltimore County, the first upset in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed?

For starters, the Cavaliers were favored to win by 20.5. Instead, they lost by 20, 74-54.

For another, the Cavs made just 2-of-22 3-pointers, while the Retrievers nailed 12 of 24 attempts.

And for another, the No. 1 seed had beaten the No. 16 seed in all previous 135 matchups.

But at least Virginia fans can quit agonizing over that 1982 loss to NAIA team Chaminade in the regular season, which was only by five points.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Teddy Bridgewater announces retirement, “I didn’t do all this rehab to play for the Jets.”

Fark.com: “In a bid to make the regular season completely irrelevant, the NHL looks to expand the playoffs.”

SportsPickle.com: “FBI agent friend curiously adamant that North Carolina won’t make it past Sweet 16 in his bracket.”

TheKicker.com: “Opinion: Kobe’s film wouldn’t have beaten MJ’s ’96-’98 animated shorts.”

Fark.com: “Arizona getting walloped by Buffalo means no more Pac-12 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The world’s tiniest violin is playing.”

SportsPickle.com; Kirk Cousins, “I just feel blessed to have received a long-term deal before everyone figured out I’m not that good.”

Stat of Week, III

Memphis basketball coach Tubby Smith was fired after just two seasons with an overall record of  40-26. He will receive a $9.7 million buyout.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Crap, the reason I picked Purdue to win the NCAA tournament was 7-2 Isaac Haas. Now he’s out for rest of tourney with fractured right elbow suffered in 74-48 win over Cal State-Fullerton. Matt Painter can’t catch a “break.”
  • Candace Parker better say extra prayer on Saturday. She’s already counting on a Tennessee win over Loyola and Sister Jean.
  • Arizona’s Sean Miller swears he doesn’t pay his players despite FBI investigation. Maybe he should pay them per free throw and layup. #4 seed Wildcats losing to Buffalo by 17 with 4:43 left.
  • I can’t wait to get Christian Laettner’s “2.1 Second Workout” video. I’m sure it will allow me to burn 2.1 calories…. Also love the Top Shelf Bank “commercial” with Greg Oden, former NBA Center and Tall Human, who puts your cash on a top shelf only he can reach .#truTV
  • Tubby Smith out at Memphis. They’ve literally lost the “eye of the Tiger.”
  • Louisville players voted against competing in the NIT after being snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee. But Louisville’s powers that be ACCepted the NIT bid anyway. Cardinals will host Northern Kentucky on Tuesday at 6 pm CT.

 Rather unruly

Major League Baseball needs to learn that you can’t improve on perfection.

No doubt, you’ve heard that the baseball czars have decided to implement a new extra-innings rule – only in the minor leagues, for now –that will place a runner at second base.

Considering all the energy focused on tweaking rules, it won’t be long before someone decides it would be a good idea to limit pitch counts to 100 and shorten base paths to 80 feet.

And while we’re at it, let’s really save arms by requiring teams to use hitting tees once a game extends past nine innings.

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