BOZICH | Monday Muse: A vote against 9 p.m. games; Mitchell clim - WDRB 41 Louisville News

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BOZICH | Monday Muse: A vote against 9 p.m. games; Mitchell climbs on NBA Draft board

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Rick Bozich presents his 10-item Monday Muse every week. Rick Bozich presents his 10-item Monday Muse every week.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I am not a fan of closed practices. I could do without pre-conference games against heavyweights like Long Beach State, Tennessee-Martin or Houston Baptist.

But the first thing I’d eliminate in college basketball is this: Games played in Eastern time zone locations that tip off at 9 p.m.

Book those games at Central or Mountain time zone addresses. Don’t do it in the East, especially during the middle of the week in a world where college administrators will give you the tap dance about student athletes.

You know what’s coming next — a Monday Muse, with a leadoff scowl at Louisville’s schedule this week.

1. Louisville’s Week To Groan

Putting together a conference basketball schedule is a thankless assignment. You’re guaranteed to receive more complaints than Thank You cards.

You have to please the television networks, clear dates in multiple-purpose arenas, seek competitive balance and wedge games into a nine-week period.

You’re going to create questions. This week is Louisville’s week to groan.

Why?

Because Rick Pitino’s team must host Clemson at 9 p.m. Thursday night and then travel to Tallahassee for a 2 p.m tip.

Two-day turnarounds are fun. But it’s fair to wonder why the Thursday game does not tip at 7 p.m. or why the Saturday game can’t be moved back to 7 p.m?

That’s a tight turnaround, especially including travel.

Understand that Louisville is not the only team roughed up by the ACC schedule.

Notre Dame endured a Thursday/Saturday assignment last week, playing in Miami at 7 p.m. Thursday and then at Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Irish had travel problems Friday and did not arrive in Blacksburg, Va. until 6 p.m.

Mike Brey, the ND coach, was not ecstatic.

"That's jammed up,” Brey told Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune. “I know putting together the league schedule is difficult, but it's interesting that (Virginia) Tech plays at home Tuesday, and we're on the road (Thursday), and we've got to turn it around and make it equitable.

"I wish they would have thought that one out a little more. You kind of treat (day in between) like we did in the NCAA Tournament. It's a day to try and get your energy back quickly."

Guess what?

Notre Dame won both games, which is what good teams do.

If you consider Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State, North Carolina, Duke and Virginia the six primary ACC contenders, you wonder if the scheduled is “jammed up” on everybody.

It is.

North Carolina gets a quick turnaround next weekend: Virginia Tech at home and then at Miami.

Virginia has a pair of Saturday-Monday games that start with road games and end in Charlottesville.

Duke has back-to-back road games with Wake Forest (Jan. 28) and Notre Dame (Jan. 30).

Florida State has one challenging moment — a Saturday game at Pitt (Feb. 18) followed by a home game with Boston College Feb. 20.

Everybody has to do it. But nobody should have to do it with a turnaround from a 9 p.m. home game followed by an afternoon road game.

2. Handicapping The ACC Race

It’s early to check the ACC race. We’re barely past the quarter-pole. Plenty of race to run.

But at this point, the first factor I always check is this: road record.

Has any team built an advantage on the road?

Yes, Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish. The primary reason the Irish lead the league is three of their five ACC victories have come away from South Bend.

If you consider Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia and Duke the six primary contenders for the title, here is how they rank in performance away from home in league games:

Notre Dame: 3-0

North Carolina: 2-1

Virginia: 2-1

Louisville: 1-1

Florida State: 1-1

Duke: 0-3

If Notre Dame wins at Florida State Wednesday, beware.

3. Eli’s Coming

The story of Eli Rogers is well known to University of Louisville fans. He arrived here from Miami in 2011 with his high school sidekick, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It wasn’t long before the Cardinals started doing wonderful things on offense while winning games.

Rogers was a dependable, consistent receiver who snagged between 41 and 46 passes all four seasons he was here, finishing with 176 catches for 2,020 yards.

His numbers were solid, but not good enough to bump Rogers into the seven rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. He signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent and then missed all of last season on injured reserve.

Rogers never flinched. 

He’s become one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite receivers with the Steelers, providing an option in the slot capable of drawing coverage away from Antonio Brown.

Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote this feature story, outlining Rogers’ journey from the difficult streets of Miami to the brink of his first Super Bowl appearance. It’s definitely worth a read.

4. Local Super Bowl Connections

Louisville and the state of Kentucky have a grand tradition of Super Bowl glory.

Paul Hornung’s career with the Packers was winding down when Green Bay won the first Super Bowl over Kansas City, but the Golden Boy was a member of that Packers’ team.

Phil Simms, Joe Jacoby, Will Wolford, Mo Moorman, Deion Branch and Sherman Lewis are only some of the local football representatives to contribute to the game’s mystique.

Next question?

In addition to Rogers, how many players with local connections are still chasing the Lombardi Trophy?

Here is the list:

Former Kentucky star Randall Cobb is one of the top weapons for the Packers, who also have former Indiana lineman Jason Spriggs.

Atlanta also has a UK/IU connection: former UK tight end Jacob Tamme and IU halfback Tevin Coleman (although Tamme is out for the season after having shoulder surgery).

Pittsburgh has the most guys with local connections — four (Rogers and former U of L defensive back William Gay; former UK linebacker Bud Dupree and former Eastern Kentucky punter Jordan Berry).

EKU is guaranteed to have at least one former player in the Super Bowl because Matt Lengel is the Patriots’ back-up tight end.

5. Why WKU Hoops Could Be No. 1

In addition to lacking a dominant team this season, college basketball also has a pool of at least 20 teams capable of making a four-game run to advance to the Final Four in suburban Phoenix.

That makes this a perfect time to play one of my favorite mid-season games: Suggesting that an awful team is better than a formidable team.

It’s easy to play. You simply scroll through the transitive property of defeat and the next thing you know, Western Kentucky is the best team of the country.

Pay attention: Western Kentucky beat Indiana State, which beat Butler, which beat Villanova, which returned to the top spot in the AP Top 25 Monday.

If you’re like me and you voted for Kansas, not Villanova, in the top spot, you can find a different replacement No. 1 team — mighty Chicago State, which is ranked 325th in the latest Ken Pomeroy numbers and features former Ballard guard Anthony Eaves on its roster.

You see, Chicago State beat Western Illinois, which beat Fort Wayne, which beat Indiana, which beat Kansas.

6. Donovan Mitchell Gaining on 2017 NBA Draft Board

The list of local guys projected to be taken in the 2017 NBA Draft has always included at least five guys: Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo of Kentucky as well as Indiana sophomores OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant.

I’ve found another name on the mock draft boards — Louisville sophomore Donovan Mitchell.

Mitchell is ranked 45th — the middle of the second round — in this projection at FanSided.com.

The other locals are projected in the first round, even though neither Anunoby nor Bryant have delivered terrific seasons so far.

Monk ranks 8th, Fox 12th and Adebayo 19th. Trevor Magnotti of FanSided ranked Anunoby 10th and Bryant 23rd.

7. The Book On Villanova

Villanova moved back into No. 1 in the AP poll Monday. The Wildcats have a reasonable shot to achieve something only Duke and Florida have achieved since the UCLA dynasty ended more than four decades ago — back-to-back NCAA Tournament titles.

That makes this the perfect opportunity to tout a book written by a friend, Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com. She knows the Villanova program as well as anybody. She can also write feature stories better than anybody currently covering the game.

That combination makes her book on Jay Wright’s program — titled “Long Shots,” a winner. 

It’s a 252-page look at a program that was drawing more attention as an underachiever than as a champion only a year ago. Starting with her stirring recreation of Nova’s game-winning shot against North Carolina in the national championship game in Houston, O’Neil takes you on the ride of a lifetime with Daniel Ochefu, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart and the rest of Wright’s magical team.

If you love college basketball or great story-telling, you’ll enjoy the book. (Amazon link).

8. Cubs Fans — Can’t Please ‘Em

Joe Maddon did something Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Jim Frey, Dallas Green and a million other baseball wise guys could not do — win a World Series with the Chicago Cubs.

You’d expect fans to demand a statue of Maddon. Maybe rename the Cubs’ playing venue Maddon Field.

Nope.

Cubs’ fans are no different from any demanding fan base, even after they have finally been rewarded.

Appearing in the city last weekend at the Cubs’ annual winter fan-fest, Maddon was greeted with applause, adoration and one nagging question:

What was he thinking when Maddon was so quick to pull relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman in Game Six of the World Series against Cleveland?

“There’s always a big but in the room,” Maddon said.

Here’s a link to the story.

9. About My Twitter Profile

Sometimes I do silly things.

My mother constantly advised me not to, but we all have listening problems.

Last week, I did a stupid thing. I posted my prediction for the national championship game on Twitter. I believe I went with Alabama 31-24.

Big deal. Didn’t matter to me if Alabama won or lost.

Chris Dachille is a sportscaster at WBAL in Baltimore, somebody I know on Twitter. He picked Clemson to win and sent me a message, asking if I’d like to have a Twitter bet on the game.

Sure.

Now, remind me: What is a Twitter bet?

My profile will teach you about a Twitter bet. Clemson won. I lost. Dachille’s reward was the chance to pick the picture that appears with my Twitter profile.

He selected an ode to the team that won the 2016 World Series, which also happens to be my least favorite baseball team.

Enjoy my profile picture until 12:01 a.m. Friday. Reliable sources have informed me that is when it will disappear.

10. Poll Results

How would you describe Nick Saban’s career decision to stay at Alabama instead of taking another shot at the NFL?

Cowardly 6.7 percent

Shrewd 93.3 percent

Related Stories:

BOZICH | Kentucky, Louisville gain in my weekly AP Top 25 college basketball poll

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