From Sidelines to punchlines.

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering why anyone cares about setting attendance records for spring college football games:

Farewell tour

I once had a pet squirrel, but sadly, no rodent training skills.

All Squiggy learned to do all those years ago in Spartanburg, S.C. was how to eat out of my hand without nipping a finger. I should have tried harder. Much harder.

That was my first thought after reading that Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel is retiring after 39 years.

That’s the life Chuck and Lou Ann Best envisioned for Twiggy after they came across their abandoned squirrel.

Chuck, who owned a skating rink, had taught a chimpanzee how to skate, so he at least had experience training animals. While that wasn’t his intent when he bought a remote-control boat for the pool, his thoughts made that leap when friends started kidding him. It wasn’t long after that that he started teaching Twiggy how to water ski.

Voila! The water-loving rodent was an instant hit at outdoor shows, state and county fairs and on television. He even made an appearance on David Letterman’s show.

Well, at least one of the Twiggy’s did. Eight different squirrels have assumed Twiggy’s identity through the years, including several after Chuck died in a 1997 boating accident. Lou Ann nearly retired the act then, but Twiggy had built such a following that it would have been foolish for her to do so. Instead, she re-envisioned the show as a way to promote water safety.

That all ends this year.

After a stop this weekend in Sarasota, Fla., Twiggy’s final tour will end with bookings in Lake Mary, Fla., Indianapolis and Huntsville, Ala. Then  Twiggy and trainer will retire to the good life in a Florida retirement village.

But wait, there’s more.

Twiggy will become a publishing star when Lou Ann starts diving into a series of children’s books.

“I’m excited and scared to death,” Best said. “Physically, doing the physical work and the riding for so many hours on the road, it’s getting harder for me as I get older. I want to write some books.”

For the record, Sguiggy and I became acquainted in 1986 – only 32 years ago – when he fell out of a nest in my front yard.

He became so tame that he’d eat out of my hand months after we released him into the wilds of our yard. We even have a family portrait taken in the driveway with The Wife and our three kids.

But about six months after he moved out on his own, Sguiggy was murdered by a cat and left on our doorstep (I assume for a proper burial).

He would have been better off living a life of fame, fortune and water skiing.

Come to think of it, so would I.

Stolen glory

The University of Central Florida — yeah, it prefers to be called UCF — handed out large rings Saturday to its football players for the self-proclaimed national championship the school claimed after finishing the season unbeaten at 13-0.

It completes  an egotistical march to claim a title the Knights really didn’t win.

Since January the school has held a championship parade, marked the Orlando campus with  title flags, hung a national championship banner at Spectrum Stadium and raised thousands of index fingers.

All in an attempt to declare an athletic version of Stolen Vaor.

But if all you had to do was declare something true, Lamar Jackson would have won the Heisman Trophy for the second consecutive season.

And that would have been more believable.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “If Bill Moos’ extensions of Tim Miles’ contracts get any shorter they can be measured with a shot clock.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Patrick Reed has been spotted seemingly everywhere since winning the Masters, still wearing his green jacket. The movie-theatre stop proved a bit awkward, however, when patrons wouldn’t stop handing him their tickets.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Quarterback Mark Sanchez has been suspended for the first four games of the 2018 NFL season for Performance Enhancing Drug use. Well, whatever he took, it didn’t work.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Did you see where the Jacksonville Jaguars are building a dog park at their football stadium? I’m thinking this might not be such a great idea … I guess those growing number of NFL critics have a point when they say the league has gone to the dogs.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski bought a stake in a Kentucky Derby racehorse that was named after him. The million-dollar animal bred for its ability to run fast says he’s excited to own a share in a horse.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Note to Notre Dame basketball hero Arike Ogunbowale when she competes on Dancing with the Stars. ‘Don’t wait until the last 10 seconds to score with the judges.'”

Norman Chad of the Washington Post: “If the future of sports viewing is millennials watching 90-second video clips on YouTube, cricket is in a world of hurt.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Does anyone else find it bizarre that, right after the NFL finally clarified its definition of what constitutes a catch, the Cowboys drop Dez Bryant?”

Pedaling Phelps

Michael Phelps is no longer swimming competitively, but he is still competing athletically – even if he isn’t doing it for all the world to see.

Competing online in Pelotron cycling classes, Phelps has been logging hundreds of miles and burning thousands of calories under an assumed identity.

“I’ve had somebody next to me racing every single stroke of my life I’ve ever taken in the pool. It’s good for me to kinda be able to push myself,” Phelps told Business Insider.

“We got a Peloton maybe last July, last August, and I’ve kinda just been really hammering bike rides when I’m home.”

Now that he’s not beginning every day swimming laps, Phelps said he’s motivated by watching the digital “leaderboard” as he rides at home.

For now, he likes having a secret identity

Different view

Tired of being penalized for helmet-to-helmet hits, Micah Hyde thinks quarterbacks who try to hook up with receivers in the danger zone across the middle are the ones who should be penalized and possibly fined.

“They’re the ones who are throwing the ball right there,” said Hyde. “It’s tough for us to be able to adjust last second to get our head to one side, the other side — up, down. We’re trying to make a play like the receiver is. It’s the sport of football.”

The NFL did tweak the rule book last month so that any player – offensive or defensive – can be penalized 15 yards and potentially ejected if they lower their head to make helmet-to-helmet contact with an opponent no matter where they are on the field.

“It’s a violent game, it’s a violent sport,” said Hyde. “They’re trying the best they can do to make it as safe as possible, but at the end of the day, those bang-bang plays, they’re hard to get out of the sport.”

The previous rule limited penalties to situations when any player initiated contact outside the tackle box with the crown of their helmet,

This is the first of many steps toward the formation of the NFFL –  National Flag Football League.

Midwest synergy

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has joined forces with the Milwaukee Bucks, which makes him the only active NFL player to be a limited partner of an NBA team.

Besides the show of community support for another professional team in the area, the investment comes with some nice perks. Like courtside seats at the Bradley Center, which Rodgers shared with girlfriend, Danica Patrick, Friday night during Milwaukee’s Game 3 rout over Boston in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Rodgers is a huge Bucks’ fan, calling the investment opportunity “a dream come true.”

Hmmm. I wonder how that makes Danica feel?

 Headlines

Fark.com: “Bryce Harper’s bat died a hero last night. Godspeed, Wonderboy.”

TheOnion.com: “Michael Jackson attacks softness, lack of competitiveness in modern blackjack players.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tough break for Browns getting 16 games again – that’s their unlucky number.”

TheOnion.com: “Carmelo Anthony struggles to get rhythm back after making shot.”

Fark.com: “Lance Armstrong settles his lawsuit with the U.S. government for $5 million, a livestrong bracelet and his remaining testicle.”

TheOnion.com: “College equestrian clearly coming to class straight from practice.”

Fark.com: “Michael Phelps shows how to get pot stains off your teeth.”

SportsPickle.com: “America sick of Aaron Rodgers’ cocky behavior after learning he is 1/16th black.”

Lighting it up

In an interview with the Bleacher Report, former NBA player Kenyon Martin said that he believes 85 percent of the league – and not just players – were smoking marijuana during his 15 years in the league.

‘It was a lot of people who you wouldn’t think (smoked),” said Martin, who played in college at Cincinnati.

Another former player, Matt Barnes, said he wouldn’t dispute those numbers based on his 14 years in the NBA.

When it comes to pot use, Barnes said league officials display a certain level of hypocrisy. He claims there were coaches and general managers who were known to regularly smoke weed who managed to keep a straight face when they suspended or fined players for failed drug tests. He said that’s still an issue.

“Some of the people that are cracking whips and suspending us are smoking weed,” said Barnes.

Not surprisingly, the NFL doesn’t get off the hook in the article. Pot use is estimated to be used at an even higher rate in professional football – maybe as high as 90 percent.

Former NFL defensive lineman Shaun Smith said he used to smoke “two blunts before every game” over the span of his 10 seasons in the league.

“Shoot, coaches do it. Personnel does it, people upstairs do it,” Smith said. “Quarterbacks, guys that are your captains, leaders of the team smoke. Everybody has their reason. They do it for their pain.”

Philly closure

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who went from backup to Super Bowl MVP when starter Carson Wentz was injured,  has a revised contract that will keep  him in Philadelphia.

At least for now.

NFL Media has reported that the team has agreed to terms with Foles on a 2018 contract that includes an option for the 2019 season. Foles reportedly received a $2 million signing bonus and could earn other lucrative bonuses if he beats out Wentz for the starting job.

Doesn’t add up

Prognosticating 101 states that if one team wins, another has to lose.

That concept was forgotten by ESPN’s team of experts when they got together to predict the records of all 32 NFL teams for the 2018-19 season. They managed to come up with 289 wins and 223 losses. There should have been 256 wins and 256 losses.

None of the ESPN experts are apparently ready to declare any of the league’s teams horribly bad.

(Pause here for a flashback to the 0-16 Cleveland Browns.)

Last year 11 teams finished with six or fewer wins. But this year the World Wide Leader’s brainiacs believe 26 teams will finish no worse than .500 with 19 clubs posting at least nine wins.

You can’t even do that in Fantasy Football.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while rooting for a breakout NBA postseason for Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo:

Gator nation

Steve Spurrier last coached football at the University of Florida in 2001, while Tim Tebow arrived in Gainesville five years later, so it wouldn’t be correct to label anything they might do together as a reunion.

Destiny, maybe. Fate, possibly.

The aligning of the stars, even.

But whatever it would amount to, it just feels right – even if it hasn’t happened. Yet.

Spurrier was recently hired as the head coach of an unnamed Orlando team in the new professional league, the Alliance of American Football. The AAF will debut in February 2019, beating Vince McMahon’s XFL revival by a full year. For now, Spurrier and Orlando – at least publicly – are in a spring league of their own.

Meanwhile, Tebow is taking another crack at climbing the baseball ladder, starting off this season with the Mets’ Class AA in Binghamton, N.Y., the Rumble Ponies.

Appearing on Mike Bianchi’s radio show in Orlando, Spurrier said Monday that he would welcome an opportunity to coach Tebow.

“I think Tim knows about our league,” said Spurrier. “Obviously, if his baseball career is going well, he may decide to stick with it, which I would certainly understand. But if it doesn’t go too well and he has the urge to play football, we would certainly welcome him to Orlando.”

That suggests that by the time spring training rolls around in 2020, is Tebow could have another option on how to display his athleticism. He might start comparing his stats now.

Spurrier will still serve as a consultant and ambassador for the University of Florida, but what gets his juices flowing is coaching. And when he doesn’t have to recruit fulltime, even better.

The AAF is embracing a player draft that heavily relies on regional ties to colleges. That could mean a lot of former Gators and Central Florida players. Not a bad place to start.

To further bridge that gap to his new gig, he should insist on the franchise embracing the nickname, “Swamp Lizards.” If Tebow can play for the Rumble Ponies, why not?

“In life we all need a challenge,” said Spurrier, who last coached in 2015 at South Carolina. “This is a chance for me to get a bunch of guys to coach, compete and try to win the championship. Heck there is going to be a winner in April and there’s going to be some celebrating.”

The career paths for Spurrier and Tebow aren’t just connected by Gainesville. Tebow spent part of last season playing for the Fireflies, the Mets’ Class A team in Columbia, S.C. just two years after the ol’ ballcoach quit coaching the Gamecocks.

Both, of course, won the Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback for the Gators.

Endangered kickers

When it comes to tinkering with the football rule book, no one can accuse the AAF of being conservative.

Besides eliminating kickoffs and starting every possession at the 25, the league is underscoring that decision by eliminating onside kicks as well. If your team is trailing late in the game and you want the ball back, all you have to do is ask for another chance on offense. The officials will even be nice enough to give you an additional 10 yards to the 35.

Only instead of starting with a fresh set of chains, your team will be facing a fourth-and-10 from the 35. If you want to keep possession from there, you’ll have to earn a first down the hard way rather than benefitting from a lucky bounce of the ball.

In another setback for the placekickers of the world, the league is eliminating the option of kicked extra points. Every touchdown will require a two-point conversion.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Friday the 13th I opened an umbrella indoors, broke a mirror and followed a black cat under a ladder. Still think I’ll have better luck than the Timberwolves will against the Houston Rockets.”

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “How bad of a fit is Patrick O’Brien for a Scott Frost-style offense? It’d be like making Brad Paisley a member of Led Zeppelin.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Judging by the poor initial ratings of the new ESPN morning show with Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, they should change the name of it from “Get Up” to “Go Back to Bed!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Giants scored 1 or 0 runs in six of their first nine games this season. On the bright side, though, they’re already up to third in our latest MLS power rankings.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News after ex-Jazz forward Trey Lyles said “Utah should be there” on any list of the NBA’s worst cities: “Other cities making Lyles’ list: Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee and California.”

Golfer Dustin Johnson on why he isn’t worried about the cost of his upcoming wedding to longtime girlfriend Paulina Gretzky: “That bill is going to Wayne.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Millions of Americans were watching the Masters when it was interrupted by a movie clip from Tin Cup. #SergioGarcia,”

 Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., looking on the bright side as the head count totaled only 974 in attendance for a Rays-White Sox game in Chicago: “All the fans bought a hot dog and beer, so the team still made $3 million from the concession stands.”

 Daly grind

Professional golfer John Daly—well, mostly – injured a knee while jumping out of the way of a car that crashed into his parked RV while he was standing in the parking lot of the Augusta Hooters. In other news from The Masters, Patrick Reed – someone Daly would probably get along with – won.

Wild hairs

You may have heard LeBron James’s digital media company, Uninterrupted, is threatening to sue Nick Saban’s Alabama football program over an infringement of “intellectual property.”

But for LeBron’s lawsuit to have any legal merits, he would have had to have invented the barbershop. That’s because James produces a webcast named, “The Shop,” which features King James, Draymond Green and friends talking all things basketball. Sometimes, they even discuss life off the court.

Meanwhile, some of the Crimson Tide players have started a digital webcast called “Shop Talk” that is similar in concept except it orbits the world of college football. Also, they probably spend more time discussing bass fishing.

Headlines

Fark.com: “The Dallas Stars have lost the hitch in their giddyup.”

TheOnion.com: “Dez Bryant could be perfect fit for NFL team lacking locker-room cancer.”

SportsPickle.com: “Kyrie Irving expecting to play through injury. ‘Knee science is a conspiracy.”

TheOnion.com: “PGA Officials break up crowd of rowdy fans committing commodities fraud in Augusta National parking lot.”

Fark.com: “Forbes says 20 of 30 MLB teams are valued at a billion dollar or more. Tampa Bay still on the clearance rack.”

TheOnion.com: “Annoyed Shohel Ohtani had hoped U.S. baseball players wouldn’t be this bad.”

SportsPickle.com: “Patriots stockpiling draft picks in hopes of taking a quarterback who can catch.”

TheOnion.com: “Report: Pyeongchang Olympic athletes already falling into state of disrepair.”

Fantasy League

Mark McGwire believes he would have hit 70 home runs during the 1998 season even if he hadn’t taken performance enhancing drugs.

In an interview with Jayson Stark of The Athletic, McGwire admitted that while he doesn’t deny being a drug cheat during part of his career, the baseballs were going to clear the fences at a record rate that season anyway.

“I was a born home run hitter,” said McGwire. “I mean, unfortunately I did (take PEDs). And I’ve regretted that. I’ve talked about that. I regretted it. I didn’t need to. That’s the thing. Didn’t need to.”

Three years later, another tainted hitter, Barry Bonds, ripped 73 home runs.

Which brings us to today. McGwire thinks it’s possible  that Bonds’ record will be eclipsed some day soon. And he swears that no matter how staggering the final tally is when its recorded in the books – perhaps by Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton – it will be legit.

Because of more frequent drug testing by Major League Baseball, McGwire notes that the numbers can’t be disputed.

His regret is that MLB execs made it too easy to take PEDs when he played.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t any testing,” McGwire told Stark. “I think we all wish (testing) went on when we had played. But unfortunately, it didn’t.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • After Tyra Buss received a congratulatory billboard in her hometown: “This will be only time I make a road trip to see a billboard. The One Billboard of Mt. Carmel, Illinois. Congrats!”
  • No. 1, nothing less. Time to get paid, A’ja (Wilson).”
  • After being sued for lying about whether he was infected with an STD: “And we only thought a fractured elbow was the worst setback Isaac Haas would have to deal with while playing for Purdue.”
  • I’ve never interviewed Patrick Reed, and didn’t really know his history other than that he won 2 NCAA team titles at Augusta State, but now that I know so many folks were hoping he’d choke at The Masters, he’s my new favorite golfer.
  • Just read C&P’s Sunday centerpiece on Thunderbolts’ improving on ice but struggling in attendance. Can’t believe Jeff Pyle wasn’t interviewed. Pyle is only coach to have winning record in Evansville (IceMen & Thunderbolts). Only Scott Schoenike of Ford Center was interviewed.”

Kicking away

Barcelona set a Spanish league record by extending its unbeaten string to 39 games on Saturday, beating Valencia 2-1.

It comes on the heels of a humbling exit for Barca in the Champions League.

Saturday’s win allowed Barcelona to surpass Real Sociedad’s record of 38 league games without a loss that had stood since 1980. Barcelona’s streak began in the final seven league games last season and the team remains unbeaten through 32 rounds this season.

Although Lionel Messi was held in check Saturday, Phillipe Coutinho and Luis Suarez combined in the 15tj minute. Then Gerard Pique  made it 2-0 in the 51stvminute.

Bombs away

Some of the top headlines from SportsPickle.com that you could possibly see in the event of a nuclear war:

  1. LaVar Ball: ‘I could beat North Korea one-on-one.’
  2. Minor League baseball team holds ‘Apocalypse Night’, offering $1 tickets to anyone who is still alive.’
  3. Roger Goodell stresses that playing football is safer than getting hit with a missile.”
  4. “Washington Capitals knocked out of 2nd round of Stanley Cup playoffs by warhead.”
  5. “John Calipari signs world’s last five living 5-star recruits.”

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that soccer’s World Cup is a little more than two months away. It can’t get here soon enough:

Unforced error

Score it an E-5. Error, Fifth Estate.

The Denver Post produced a special section Friday to celebrate baseball’s opening day, which was also the home opener for the Colorado Rockies.

Alas, there was an error on the cover of the “Ultimate Visitors Guide To Coors Field.”  A huge error. The section cover was anchored by a photograph of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizen Bank Park instead of Coors Field.

The Rockies responded by tweeting a photo of their home field with a comment, “As beautiful as you remember. #LoveCoorsField?”

The Phillies fired right back by tweeting, “What a lovely photo of Citizens Bank Park. Right, @denverpost?”

The newspaper blamed the mistake on a “production error.” That’s shorthand these days for all the cutbacks in staffing newsroom have been experiencing. The Post newsroom has been repeatedly reduced in size since 2010, and just last month staffing was cut an additional 30 percent.

Next Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus came away with another unforgettable memory at The Masters on Wednesday when he stepped away from the tee to let his grandson G.T. play the final hole in the Par-3 Tournament.

He invited his 15-year-old grandson hit off the tee on the last hole, No. 9, after G.T. Nicklaus had caddied for him during the Par-3 Tournament. What happened next is apparently something The Golden Bear had predicted.

G. T. aced the hole. It was his first career hole-in-one and it came at Augusta National with hundreds of spectators looking on, including his famous grandfather and a couple other legends, Gary Player and Tom Watson.

Nicklaus later Tweeted: “With all due respect to @themasters, allow me to put aside my 6 Green Jackets in the closet for a moment. I don’t know if I have had a more special day on a golf course.  To have your grandson make his first hole-in-one on this stage. Wow!”

Watson went on to claim his second win in a Par 3 Tournament at The Masters.

Golf talk

There are just some things that are frowned upon at Augusta National.

Like these words and catch phrases that The Masters committee deems a distraction. Most phrases come straight from television or movies.  Or a beer commercial, like this year’s inclusion of “dilly-dilly.”

Shout any of them and risk being removed from the premises by security.

Also included on the list of things you shouldn’t say are these gems:

“Baba booey, mashed potatoes, you da man, sweep the leg Johnny, to infinity and beyond, bikini wax, can you hear me now and hashtag (anything). In all, there are 23 words or phrases that never should be said during The Masters week.

March Madness

ABC comedian Jimmy Kimmel on all the TVs being off at work because the NCAA tournament is over: “Nobody knew what to do. Someone said maybe we should work, and then everyone laughed and started checking Instagram again.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter in a Tweet: “The majority of people who didn’t watch a game of college basketball all season had a better bracket than Stephen A. Smith. So if he could stop yelling at all of us, that would be wonderful.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “If Kansas’ basketball coach takes a photo of himself, is that a Selfie squared?”

CBS’s Charles Barkley on why he didn’t want to get into a war of words with Loyola’s Sister Jean: “It was pretty much 80-20 on me going to the Pearly Gates or the other way … I don’t want to give that other 20 percent away.”

They said it

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, hesitant about buying in to the Tiger hype at The Masters: “I’m not saying don’t jump on the Tiger Train, I’m just saying to board at your own risk and tell the engineer to pump the brakes just a little bit.”

Former Virginian-Pilot columnist Bob Molinaro: “There’s a lot of  hubbub over Dwight Howard producing the first 30-point, 30-rebound game in 36 years. By the way, Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the feat a mere 124 times.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “A Behr paint expert quoted in USA Today said tennis balls are neither green nor yellow. Which tells us it was a really slow day in sports.”

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet on talk of a Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor rematch: “I haven’t been this excited since ‘Rocky V’.”

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, 88, who received an award from the Maxwell Football Club for his contributions to the sport, on getting old: “(Wife) Ann was going to let me hide my own Easter Eggs this year.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “The Yankees had to postpone their home opener because of a snowstorm. You can tell it was cold because the foot-long hot dogs were only five inches.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Okay, who had the Pacers being the only NBA team to sweep the Warriors this season? (And I bet all you liars had UMBC over UVA too.)”

Jerry Kill, 56, on serving as an advisor for the Southern Illinois football team because of health concerns that make it difficult for him to coach full-time:  “Just trying to keep my feet in the grass and out of the ground.”

Hockey history

Even the Stanley Cup has to play a painful game of give and take.

Yes, hockey history will take another hit when Gordie Howe’s name is among those removed from the NHL’s championship trophy. Howe’s name, along with the other players who won titles from 1954 to 1965 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup to create room for a new layer of names.

If the league didn’t agree to do that from time to time, the trophy would continue to grow too large. Unlike other leagues, the NHL awards its historic trophy each year to the next champion rather than handing out a new trophy every year.

As part of that tradition, the name of every player on the winning team is added to the trophy. But those names aren’t displayed permanently.  At most, they are part of the trophy for 65 years.

Fat stats

Fans at Major League Baseball games will consume an estimated 19 million hot dogs and 4.6 million sausages this season, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

 Headlines

Fark.com: “Sergio Garcia goes all Tin Cup at The Masters.”

TheOnion.com: “Sister Jean wheeled back into rectory closet until next season.”

SportsPickle.com: “Josh Rosen’s draft stock skyrockets after he eats bowl of paint chips for room of NFL scouts.”

TheOnion.com: “Kobe Bryant creates foundation to help children struggling with severe narcissism.”

Fark.com: “In South Korea, you are considered too tall to play basketball at 6’6″.8

TheOnion.com: “Jack Nicholson banned from sitting courtside after spilling Tupperware full of homemade chili.”

SportsPickle.com: “Augusta National installs artificial turf to save on mowing costs.”

Fark.com: “Tony Bennett adds AP Coach of the Year to go with his multiple Grammy and Emmy awards.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Villanova joins Duke (1991, 1992), Kentucky (1996, 1998) and Florida (2006, 2007) as schools to win pair of titles in 2-3 year span since 1975. Wildcats also won in 2016. UCLA won 7 in row from 1967 to 1973.
  • It’s only halftime of the NCAA championship, so there’s still at least another 20 minutes of this season to savor, so why am I feeling the first hints of withdrawal symptoms?
  • Sister Jean must now be a Notre Dame women’s basketball fan. Irish prayers were answered on Easter Sunday. @SisterJean98@JackieYoung3@Arike_O@ndwbb@MuffetMcGraw
  • Amazing! Arike Ogunbowale hits another buzzer beater as Notre Dame wins national title, beating Mississippi State 61-58. It was her only 3-pointer of game and she was just 6 of 21 for game.
  • Leading IU men’s and women’s scorers were raised just 40 Miles (and about 25 years) apart. Evansville’s Calbert Cheaney (785) and Mt. Carmel, Ill.’s Tyra Buss (757) also finished just 28 points apart.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

 

Clearing my mind and notebook while trying to get excited for a men’s basketball championship game between Villanova and Michigan:

Not a fan

Ken Burger wrote with passion and purpose during his career at the Courier and Post in Charleston, S.C. and whenever colleagues remember the late sports columnist someone invariably recalls this memorable zinger of his.

 “I love women. I love basketball. I hate women’s basketball.”

Forgive him. Ken died in October 2015 and didn’t live to witness the A’ja Wilson era at South Carolina under Dawn Staley, including a national championship last season and the numerous national player of the year honors collected by Wilson this year.

When Burger strung those words together, women’s college hoops was guilty as charged. It may have been a blunt assessment, but it was an honest one. And frankly, all these years later, there’s still a lack of competitive depth. Just last weekend the defending champion Gamecocks lost to UConn by 29 points and Louisville routed Oregon State by 33 – in Elite Eight games.

After what we saw Friday in this year’s national semifinals, though, there’s reason to believe better days are ahead for the sport. Both of Friday’s games went to overtime.

It also helps that for the second straight season Geno Auriemma’s UConn dynasty was a semi loser. That means there will be a different women’s champ for the third straight season. UConn had won four titles in a row and 10 of 17.

Since 2000 only six other schools have worn the crown. If you are wondering, the men really haven’t fared that much better with just 11 champions during that span. But at least the men have  had 16 schools reach the final game.

Making strides

With what Dawn Staley has accomplished since taking over at South Carolina, I’ve become a much bigger fan of the women’s game over the past several years. As a graduate of the school, I’m still riding the wave of momentum she’s created with four consecutive SEC Tournament Championships, a national player of the year in Wilson and being named the coach of Team USA.

But currently living in Indiana has also opened my eyes to how entertaining the women’s game can be when played at the highest levels.

As the former sports editor in Evansville, my staff had the honor of covering two of the nation’s best female high school basketball players in Jackie Young, now a sophomore at Notre Dame, and Tyra Buss, who was a senior at Indiana University this season.

Both chose to go to college in this state and within driving distance of their hometowns, and they have developed into two of the nation’s best college players.

They also grew up just 14 miles apart in different states, separated by the Wabash River, but competed against each other in the same high school conference in Indiana. While Mount Carmel High was a member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Big Eight Conference, it was classified as an independent in Illinois when it came to the postseason.

Buss, who became the all-time leading girls’ scorer in Illinois high school history with 4,897 points, is now the Hoosiers’ all-time leading scorer. She led IU to the Women’s NIT title Saturday with a 65-57 victory over Virginia Tech in front of 13,007 fans at Assembly Hall.

Buss finished her college career by setting school records for points (2,364), free throws (633), assists (574) and steals ( 293). She also teamed with Amanda Cahill to claim a record 82 wins by a senior class in Bloomington.

Meanwhile, sophomore Young and her Irish teammates will play for a NCAA championship Sunday against Mississippi State. Young couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy a career night, scoring 32 points and adding 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double in a 91-89 overtime win over UConn on Friday.

The Princeton, Ind. native finished her high school career as the state’s all-time leading scorer, boys or girls, with 3,302 points.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Not only did I have Loyola-Chicago in my Final Four but at the top of the page I wrote. ‘A nun named Sister Jean steals the show.'”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “Something about baseball feeds my spirit. Stadiums are my cathedrals, programs are my prayer book, and my sermon is 162 games long. Now, the service begins. Happy opening day.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A sure sign your NBA team might be trying to get a top draft pick? They come onto the court wearing tank tops.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Astros signed Jose Altuve to 5-year, $151 million extension. So Jose will be able to take his family to Disneyland. Even if he still isn’t tall enough to ride all the rides.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “YouTube is planning a “Karate Kid” series that follows the characters 34 years later. The show is entitled “Ralph Macchio’s Mortgage Is Due.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Bills receiver Zay Jones over an incident involving shattered glass doors and windows at a Los Angeles apartment building. Apparently there wasn’t conclusive video evidence that he’d broken the pane.”

Comedy writer Jerry Perishow after Donald Trump and Joe Biden tweeted about how they’d like a chance to settle their differences, political and otherwise, the old-fashion way: “The big question: Will Betty White be the ring girl?”

Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, now 84, on a bite from a brown recluse spider that required eight weeks of intense treatment: “The spider didn’t ‘recluse’ himself from biting me.”

Comedy writer Alex Kaselberg after a 102-year-old woman, Julia Hawkins, broke a world age-group record in the 60 meters: “The bad news is, afterward, she tested positive for Geritol.”

Lefty’s turn

Lefty Driesell, who is the only coach to win at least 100 games at four different colleges, is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame with a group of players he would have enjoyed coaching.

The 13-member class was announced Saturday before the start of the NCAA men’s semifinals. It includes Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Maurice Cheek, Charlie Scott and Croatian star Dino Radja. Also earning admission into the hall are women’s players Tina Thompson, Katie Smith and Ora Mae Washington and professional basketball executives Rod Thorn and Rick Welts.

Hill and Driesell were former players at Duke – 40 years apart —  with Hill playing for two NCAA champions with the Blue Devils in 1991 and 1992.

Washington’s name may be less familiar. Born in 1898, Washington played on 11 consecutive Women’s Colored Basketball World’s Championship teams. She was also an outstanding tennis player.

Salary cap

If Major League baseball owners have their way, they’ll get Congressional help to avoid paying minor-league players bigger paychecks.

Depending how far they’ve climbed the ladder, most minor leaguers earn between $1,100 and $2,150 per month. But when you consider the long work weeks they can put in, it’s not much compensation.

Several lawsuits have been filed in recent years trying to force clubs to meet federal minimum wage laws.

“If Walmart or McDonald’s can find a way to comply with those laws, then Major League Baseball can find a way to comply with them, too,” said attorney Garrett R. Brosuis.

 Headlines

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

Fark.com: “After never playing for UCLA and playing a grueling nine games in a Lithuanian rec league, LiAngelo Ball declares for NBA draft.”

TheKicker.com: “NASCAAR driver who kneels for anthem gets torn to pieces by crowd.”

SportsPickle.com: “All college football coaches happy with their jobs now.”

TheOnion.com: “MLB season ends over 200 days early after new rules speed up games way too much.”

TheKicker.com: “Kentucky players excelling in ‘Declaring-for-the-NBA-draft drills.”

Fark.com: “White Sox rehired groundskeeper after he clears the dirt from his name.”

TheKicker.com: “Gelo 3s are just some Sketchers LiAngelo lifted from a Payless.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • Sister Jean, Sister Jean, get out your Rosary and start saying your Hail Marys … No, she’s leaving the building!
  • The BUSS pulls away late with the WNIT championship as Indiana beats Virginia Tech 65-57. Mount Carmel, Illinois legend Tyra Buss leads way with 16 points in front of 13,007 at Assembly Hall. Named MVP. Congrats @tbuss3@TyraBussNews@IUHoosiers
  • Connecticut women have lost 7 straight overtime games — 4 to Notre Dame.
  • Teaira McCowan had 21 points, record 25 rebounds to lead Mississippi State back to the NCAA women’s championship game w/ 73-63 OT win over Louisville. If UConn knocks off Notre Dame, I’ll pull for Bulldogs Monday. But that’s as much a stretch as 6-7 McCowan.
  • May be my favorite 60 Minutes episode of all time. Great story and interviews tonight about …. The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Thank you Grayson Allen for not making a 3-pointer in overtime until it didn’t matter. Kansas beats Duke 85-81 in OT.
  • No. 3 Indiana’s men’s swimming finished NCAA Championships third with 422 points, most since 427 in 1969. Texas won a fourth-straight title with 449 points and California was second with 437.5 points. The team finish was IU’s best in 43 years. Indiana won four event titles.

Title tradition

University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament when it beat Virginia, has competed at a high level for years.

Yes, the school was six-time National College Team Chess champion from 2003 to 2010.

Super sub

Scott Foster lived his sports fantasy Thursday night when the rec league goalkeeper was pressed into action with the Chicago Blackhawks against the Winnipeg Jets because of injuries.

Foster, 36, is a former college goaltender at  Western Michigan, but these days he plays in two adult amateur leagues. Because he does have some experience turning back  flying pucks, Foster is one of several wannabe backups who show up at Chicago’s games to serve stints as an emergency keeper. It usually means he’s treated to a meal and a night in the press box watching an NHL game.

But he was needed to skate on the ice when Chicago’s Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia suffered injuries. Foster came in to help the Blackhawks protect a 6-2 lead over the final 14 minutes.

Forsberg got hurt during pregame drills, which forced Foster to put on his gear and watch the game from the bench. That by itself was a thrill he never expected to experience. Then Delia was injured, so he had to play and ended up making seven saves.

When it was over, the Blackhawks rushed the net to celebrate as if he’d stopped a penalty.

“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”

The NHL mandated last year that teams have an emergency goalie present for all home games ready to fill in for either team — setting the stage for Foster’s most competitive action since he played 20 minutes of a college game 12 years ago.

Sharpshooting ‘Cats

Villanova’s postseason run has allowed Jay Wright’s Wildcats to set NCAA records for 3-pointers in the regular season and the NCAA tournament.

Villanova had 18 treys against Kansas on Saturday to set the tourney record of 66 (and counting). VCU had established previous mark of 61 in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats currently have the single-season record for 3-pointers with 454 — surpassing 442 — and their 18 threes against Kansas were most ever in a Final Four game.

It’s already been a fun season for the Wildcats and now only Michigan stands in their way of a truly special finish.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while blessed to still be able to call myself a deadbeat blogger considering The Wife had to call 9-1-1 on my behalf last Sunday:

 You gotta believe?

Loyola Chicago, which has won 14 straight games, is headed to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed out of the South.

And not just any No. 11 seed. A No. 11 seed that has established a culture of winning, piling up a school record 32 victories this season in winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles.

“They have a ton of fun with each other,” head coach Porter Moser said of his players. “You can see they have a ton of fun with each other. They’re enjoying this ride more than you guys –  but when it’s time to lock in, they are locked in. It’s because they want to win. It’s in their genes. They are winning young men.”

Now in their fifth year in the MVC, the Ramblers have become the darlings of March Madness, matching the highest seed to ever advance to the Final Four. And obviously it doesn’t hurt to have 98-year-old nun, Sister Jean, leading you in pregame prayers.

She’ll even soon have her own bobblehead to watch over you as you say your prayers.

But according to Moser, the real bond of faith surrounding the Ramblers is the one that exists between his players.

“These guys have been investing for a long time on how hard they worked, how hard they believed, and we’ve kind of had this mantra about the process,” said Moser. “People asked me out there, did you ever think you were going to the Final Four? And to be honest with you, after Selection Sunday, we didn’t say, hey, let’s go to the Final Four. We said, what do we got to do to beat Miami.

“Then it was the next game, and then it was the next game. These guys have done an amazing job on having laser-like focus on what’s right in front of them instead of skipping steps.”

Indeed, Illinois Chicago won its first three NCAA tournament games by a combined four points – beating Miami 64-62, Tennessee 63-62 and Nevada 69-68. Then Saturday the Ramblers collectively took a deep breath and methodically shredded Kansas State, 78-62.

They had 17 assists on 27 baskets. They made 57 percent of 47 shots, including 9 of 18 3-pointers. And defensively, they held Bruce Weber’s K-State team to 34 percent shooting while winning the rebounding battle by eight.

Those who questioned the MVC’s decision for extending an invitation to Loyola after Creighton bolted for the Big East in 2013, your apology is accepted. Clearly, the Ramblers have a lot more going for them than ancient history – a 1963 NCAA title.

Even though it wasn’t a direct swap, the Ramblers have even filled in nicely for the gut-punching departure of Wichita State to the American Athletic Conference in 2017. (Technically, Valparaiso stepped in for the Shockers).

Moser has been a head coach for 13 seasons, including four at Illinois State and six at Loyola. For MVC fans, he had never had a winning conference record in eight seasons in the league until this year, when the Ramblers were 15-3.

He’s still only 64-98 overall in the MVC with an overall record of 226-211. But all that matters at the moment is he’s unbeaten in the NCAA Tournament.

There’s hope

Walter McCarty, who won a national title at Kentucky and played for four NBA teams over 11 seasons, was introduced as the next coach of the University of Evansville on Friday. He’s spent the last five seasons as an assistant with the Boston Celtics.

While McCarty, 44, has never been a head coach in college, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that what Loyola is doing in this tournament will make it easier for him to sell his vision for the Aces to recruits and any of the returning UE players.

McCarty said he favors an attacking brand of basketball, offensively and defensively.

And then there’s this:

Last season Loyola was 18-14 overall and 8-10 in the MVC. This year Evansville was 17-15 and 7-11 in the MVC. So yeah, it is possible to make dramatic improvement in a year’s time.

Also, it’s interesting that 2015 was the year Marty Simmons led Evansville to the second-tier CIT postseason tournament title while Loyola won the CBI championship.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Omahans finally get through one of the iciest winters in memory and now we gotta worry about getting tripped by some Duke basketball player.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on Mattel’s 17 new Barbie dolls on history-making women, including Olympic snowboarder gold medalist Chloe Kim: “It’s called the ‘Way Too Good for Ken Collection.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Sergio García’s new baby girl, Azalea, is named for a flower common at Augusta where he won the 2017 Masters. The kid is lucky Dad didn’t win the Waste Management Open.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Been a rough week already, still have to smile seeing Sister Jean win and John Calipari lose.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “People who ran the L.A. marathon said it was nice to finally get from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica in less than four hours.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson took a tumble while taking a walk last week, requiring knee surgery. Or as he’s now known in physical-therapy circles, Mr. Knocked-Over.”

Kent Somers of Arizona Republic in a tweet: “NFL free agency is just one big yard sale. Your junk is someone else’s treasure.”

Bob Molinaro of Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on PED poster child Alex Rodriguez’s image makeover as television personality: “A-Rod is a good-looking, well-spoken guy who benefits from living in the United States of Amnesia.”

 Big Blue Collapse

John Calipari’s Kentucky basketball team was seeded fifth in the South Region, so it wasn’t as if anyone other than Ashley Judd expected the Wildcats to win another national championship.

Then it happened. March Madness began and all the teams seeded higher than the SEC Tournament champions began falling like Willow Tree branches in a wind storm. The top four seeds in the region – Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Arizona – each had their seasons halted before all the conspiracy theorists could unpack their bags in Atlanta.

For the Wildcats, that meant that the Road to the Final Four in San Antonio was wide open. And then it wasn’t.

Everyone was telling the UK players that they just had to take care of business against No. 9 seed Kansas State, and then wait for the winner of the game between No. 11 Loyola Chicago and No. 7 Nevada.

But a funny thing happened on the road to San Antonio – UK lost 61-58 to K-State. Cal and his players didn’t even get a chance to test Sister Jean and the power of prayer.

 Fast finish

During his playing days with the Indiana Pacers, Reggie Miller once scored eight points in less than nine seconds to clinch a 1995 playoff game against the New York Knicks. But that was nothing compared to what Miller witnessed Thursday night during Florida State’s 75-60 upset of Gonzaga in a Sweet 16 game.

FSU led 69-60 with 1:36 left when Phil Cofer completed a four-point play – thanks largely to a flagrant foul being whistled on Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell. And then, because the Seminoles kept possession, FSU added a Mfiondu Kabengele dunk to take a 15-point lead with 1:35 remaining.

Six points in one second. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as Miller’s heroics in that long ago Eastern Conference semifinal, but FSU coach Leonard Hamilton will celebrate anyway. After all, it’s his first trip to the Elite Eight in 31 years as a head coach.

“It’s interesting that we’re probably the only ones that think we were capable of doing this,” said Hamilton. “It’s fun because we’re always the underdog and we’re scratching and clawing to put ourselves in a position to do it.”

Alas, his team could have used some late-game heroics Saturday night, losing 58-54 to Michigan.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “UMBC sees spike in applications among total morons who only hear of universities through sports success.”

TheOnion.com: “Is it time for the NCAA to start paying the coaches?”

Fark.com: “Sam Bradford will sign with Arizona, citing the state’s top-notch hospitals and physical-therapy facilities.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Sister Jean negotiating deal with Golden State Warriors.”

TheOnion.com: “Which NCAA Tournament team will struggle most with the pressure of playing under  FBI surveillance?”

TheOnion.com: “Why is March Madness the only time we get to see good, old fashioned, fundamental gambling?”

Fark.com: “Tiger Woods is in the lead of a real live golf tournament. Welcome to 2008.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • The Power of the MVC: Loyola Chicago is Final Four bound
  • My NCAA hoops bracket was busted last weekend, but tonight I lost my pick to win it all when Purdue fell to Texas Tech by double digits. It really isn’t much consolation the Red Raiders are coached by a BEARD. Disappointed for Matt Painter, but I am pulling for Chris Beard.
  • Strong comeback effort by Clemson in 80-76 loss to Kansas in Sweet 16. The early deficit was just too much but all Brad Brownell’s doubters should be lining up for 2018-19 season tickets at Littlejohn.
  • It won’t happen overnight. And unfortunately I won’t be here to see if it happens at all (since I’m moving to SC), but I think UE made the right decision in hiring @waltermccarty as the Aces’ next basketball coach. Good luck, Walter!
  • Evansville’s Lilly King won the 200 breaststroke, winning her third-straight NCAA title in the event with best time in history – 2:02.60. King is first woman to break the 2:03:00 barrier. She also completed 100, 200 breast double for 3rd straight year. IU finished 8th in standings.

Taking it on chin

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres decided since Purdue Pete and his chunky chin reminds her of her good friend Jay Leno, she’d go with the Boilermakers over Texas Tech while making her Sweet 16 picks.

“It’s like hillbilly Elmo versus Jay Leno – Jay Leno in a hard hat,” she said. “Jay’s a friend of mine so I’m going to go with Jay,” said DeGeneres.

Alas, it wasn’t about Purdue Pete’s chin. It came down to Isaac Haas’ fractured right elbow that kept him on the bench.

From Sidelines to punchlines

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.

NCAA hoops TV Schedule

All times ETl

 

March Madness TV Schedule (All Times ET)

Time Game Round Net
FIRST ROUND
Thursday, March 15
12:15
PM
#10 Oklahoma
#7 URI
MW Rd. 1
Pittsburgh
CBS
12:40
PM
#14 Wright St.
#3 Tennessee
South Rd. 1
Dallas
TruTV
1:30
PM
#13 UNCG
#4 Gonzaga
West Rd. 1
Boise
TNT
2:00
PM
#16 Penn
#1 Kansas
MW Rd. 1
Wichita
TBS
2:45
PM
#15 Iona
#2 Duke
MW Rd. 1
Pittsburgh
CBS
3:10
PM
#11 Loyola-Chi
#6 Miami
South Rd. 1
Dallas
TruTV
4:00
PM
#12 S. Dak. St.
#5 Ohio St.
West Rd. 1
Boise
TNT
4:30
PM
#9 N.C. State
#8 Seton Hall
MW Rd. 1
Wichita
TBS
6:50
PM
#16 Radford
#1 Villanova
East Rd. 1
Pittsburgh
TNT
7:10
PM
#12 Davidson
#5 Kentucky
South Rd. 1
Boise
CBS
7:20
PM
#11 SDSU
#6 Houston
West Rd. 1
Wichita
TBS
7:27
PM
#14 SFA
#3 Texas Tech
East Rd. 1
Dallas
TruTV
9:20
PM
#9 Alabama
#8 VT
East Rd. 1
Pittsburgh
TNT
9:40
PM
#13 Buffalo
#4 Arizona
South Rd. 1
Boise
CBS
9:50
PM
#14 Montana
#3 Michigan
West Rd. 1
Wichita
TBS
9:57
PM
#11 St. Bona.
#6 UF
East Rd. 1
Dallas
TruTV
Friday, March 16
12:15
PM
#10 Providence
#7 T A&M
West Rd. 1
Charlotte
CBS
12:40
PM
#15 CS Full.
#2 Purdue
East Rd. 1
Detroit
TruTV
1:30
PM
#13 Marshall
#4 Wichita St.
East Rd. 1
San Diego
TNT
2:00
PM
#15 Ga. St.
#2 Cincinnati
South Rd. 1
Nashville
TBS
2:45
PM
#15 Lipscomb
#2 UNC
West Rd. 1
Charlotte
CBS
3:10
PM
#10 Butler
#7 Arkansas
East Rd. 1
Detroit
TruTV
4:00
PM
#12 Murray St.
#5 WVU
East Rd. 1
San Diego
TNT
4:30
PM
#10 Texas
#7 Nevada
South Rd. 1
Nashville
TBS
6:50
PM
#9 K-State
#8 Creighton
South Rd. 1
Charlotte
TNT
7:10
PM
#14 Bucknell
#3 MSU
MW Rd. 1
Detroit
CBS
7:20
PM
#16 Texas So.
#1 Xavier
West Rd. 1
Nashville
TBS
7:27
PM
#13 C of C
#4 Auburn
MW Rd. 1
San Diego
TruTV
9:20
PM
#1 UVA
#16 UMBC
South Rd. 1
Charlotte
TNT
9:40
PM
#11 Syracuse
#6 TCU
MW Rd. 1
Detroit
CBS
9:50
PM
#9 FSU
#8 Mizzou
West Rd. 1
Nashville
TBS
9:57
PM
#12 NM St.
#5 Clemson
MW Rd. 1
San Diego
TruTV
SECOND ROUND
Saturday, March 17
Noon TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
2:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
5:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
6:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TNT
7:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TBS
7:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
8:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TNT
9:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TBS
Sunday, March 18
Noon TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
2:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
5:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
CBS
6:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TNT
7:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TBS
7:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TruTV
8:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TNT
9:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Second Round
TBD
TBS
SWEET SIXTEEN
Thursday, March 22
7:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Atlanta or L.A.
CBS
7:15
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Atlanta or L.A.
TBS
9:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Atlanta or L.A.
CBS
9:45
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Atlanta or L.A.
TBS
Friday, March 23
7:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Omaha or Boston
CBS
7:15
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Omaha or Boston
TBS
9:30
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Omaha or Boston
CBS
9:45
PM
TBD
TBD
Regional Semi
Omaha or Boston
TBS
ELITE EIGHT
Saturday, March 24
6 or
8:30
PM
TBD
TBD
South Final
Atlanta
TBS
6 or
8:30
PM
TBD
TBD
West Final
L.A.
TBS
Sunday, March 25
2 or
4:55
PM
TBD
TBD
Midwest Final
Omaha
CBS
2 or
4:55
PM
TBD
TBD
East Final
Boston
CBS
FINAL FOUR
Saturday, March 31
6:00
PM
TBD
TBD
National Semi
San Antonio
TBS, TNT,
TruTV
8:30
PM
TBD
TBD
National Semi
San Antonio
TBS, TNT,
TruTV
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Monday, April 2
9:00
PM
TBD
TBD
Nat’l. Champ.
San Antonio
TBS, TNT,
TruTV

 

 

Defending champ South Carolina placed in same regional with powerhouse UConn

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament selection committee didn’t do any favors for defending national champion South Carolina.

It placed Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks in the same Albany Regional as traditional powerhouse Connecticut, making the Huskies the No. 1 seed and the Gamecocks No. 2. Part of the blame, of course, for that tough road to the Final Four rests on the shoulders of national player of the year A’ja Wilson and her teammates for losing six games, including an 83-58 home loss to Geno Auriemma’s UConn team.

Staley has never beaten UConn. The Gamecocks avoided that matchup in the Final Four a year ago when Mississippi State stunned the Huskies in the semifinals.

This season Staley and her players pulled off another win in the SEC Tournament final over Mississippi State, ending the Bulldogs’ shot at finishing the season unbeaten.

Now UConn is the only remaining team with an unblemished record.

If it weren’t for UConn’s historical dominance in the tournament, the Albany Region could be tagged the Group of Death.

The top four seeds are # 1 Connecticut (32-0), #7 South Carolina (26-6), #11 Florida State (25-6). and #17 Georgia (25-6). Traditional ACC powers Duke and Virginia are also in the region,

The other regional top four seeds:

Spokane: #5 Notre Dame (29-3), #6 Oregon (30-4), #10 Ohio State (27-6) and #14 Texas A&M (24-9).

Kansas City: #4 Mississippi State (32-1), #8 Texas (26-6), #9 UCLA (24-7) and #21 N.C. State (24-8).

Lexington: #2 Baylor (31-1) #3 Louisville (32-2), #12 Tennessee (24-7) and #15 Stanford (22-10).

The top four teams in Albany have 18 combined losses. In Lexington, the top four have 20 combined losses. Meanwhile, the top four teams in the Spokane and Kansas City regionals have 22 losses.

But before they get to a possible meeting in the Albany Regional finals, South Carolina will have a chance to advance on its home court against N.C. A&T, California (21-10) and Virginia (18-13). The Gamecocks play N.C. A&T at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

**