BOZICH | Monday Muse: UK, Duke, Sparty jockey for #1; Fields still waiting NFL call
There's a three-way tie for pre-season Number One in college hoops in Las Vegas; Still no NFL calls for Devonte Fields; Thad Matta to the Hot Seat.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It’s Preakness Week. By Saturday evening we’ll know if the Belmont Stakes will matter, too. Derby winner Always Dreaming is officially on the clock – and Tom Lane and I are bound for Baltimore to chronicle the second leg of the Triple Crown for WDRB and WDRB.com.
What else is shaking?
Recruiting never stops. You know that. Either Kentucky or Texas should learn if Mohammed Bamba will be a Wildcat or a Longhorn. Ranked second nationally by Scout.com, Bamba is the last uncommitted Top 15 recruit.
Most projections favor Kentucky and John Calipari over Shaka Smart and Texas, but two observers told me in Chicago last week that the Longhorns are quietly confident that Bamba will pick Texas because of the opportunity to enjoy more playing time at power forward.
Keep an eye on Mike Krzyzewski. Somehow he can wiggle into the picture at the wire. Hey, it happens.
But as I wait for my trip to Baltimore and word from Bamba, it’s time to scroll through the Monday Muse.
1. WHO'S NUMBER ONE? KEEP FLIPPING YOUR COIN
Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke.
Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State.
Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky.
You make the call. The folks in Las Vegas refuse.
According to the latest odds at Bovada.com, the Wildcats, Blue Devils and Spartans are the three co-favorites to win the 2018 NCAA Tournament. They’re listed at 8-to-1.
Four teams are in the second tier at 14-1, including Louisville, North Carolina, Kansas and Arizona.
Given the chance to invest $100 imaginary dollars today, my money is on Tom Izzo and Michigan State – and I know a Big Ten program has not won the national title in 17 seasons.
Too much youth and uncertainty at Kentucky, where Wenyen Gabriel is the only veteran who projects to receive substantial playing time. Good? Sure. National champions? That’s asking a bunch.
Ditto for Duke. Yes, Coach K has received commitments from forward Jordan Tucker and guard Trevon Duval in the last four days. The Blue Devils lost seven of their top eight scorers. Coach K won with freshmen in starring roles in 2015, but that team also featured Quin Cook, Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson.
Izzo will welcome six of his top eight scorers, plus top recruit Jaren Jackson, plus two guys recovering from injuries – Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter.
The Spartans won’t have as many lottery picks as the Blue Devils or Wildcats. But check how many lottery picks started for the last two national champions. Maybe one – Justin Jackson at North Carolina this season.
2. ACC SPRING MEETING PRIMER
The Atlantic Coast Conference spring meetings open in Amelia Island, Fla., this week. The league has the reigning college football champion in Clemson as well as the basketball champion in North Carolina.
What do you get the league that has everything?
A television network, of course.
The 2019 launch of the ACC Network in partnership with ESPN remains the number one topic at the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton. Word is that after ESPN laid off about 100 employees three weeks ago, network officials reassured the ACC that financial issues would not delay its plans to give the ACC a network to compete with the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12.
In fact, according to this story by David Teel of the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, one prime topic in Florida will be enhancing the opening week of the ACC’s 2019 schedule to crank up pressure on cable and satellite carriers to carry the ACC Network.
Louisville is primed to host the most desirable game on that opening weekend. That’s when Notre Dame is scheduled to make its first trip to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
3. WOULD SOMEBODY FROM NFL CALL DEVONTE FIELDS, PLEASE?
Still no clarity in the bizarre Devonte Fields story, no explanation of how Fields, a University of Louisville linebacker, slid from a possible second-round NFL pick prior to the season to a player without a free-agent offer two weeks after the NFL Draft.
Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tried to talk to Fields in Texas, but the player declined. Like me, Engel is miffed. Not that Fields was not drafted. He’s miffed that Fields has been unable to sign a free-agent deal.
Name the last first-team all-ACC player who couldn’t secure a no risk, no guarantee free-agent opportunity at training camp.
Like many, Engel wondered if NFL teams have ignored Fields because of the off-field issue that led to his dismissal at TCU.
Like me, Engel theorizes there must be more to the story. One theory: A closer look at U of L highlights revealed that Fields rested on too many plays.
4. THAD MATTA: WELCOME TO THE HOT SEAT
The college basketball Hot Seat folks need new targets now that Indiana, Georgetown, Missouri and LSU are off the board.
Nominations are now open.
Did I hear somebody say Ohio State and Thad Matta?
After making trips to the Final Four in two of his first eight seasons in Columbus, Matta has missed the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons.
That’s not the problem. This is the problem: Matta recruited a five-player Top Five recruiting class in 2015 – and no members of that Fab Five will play for Ohio State next fall.
The fifth and final dropout was announced last weekend – and not in the conventional way. Word percolated out of Evansville, Ind., that JaQuan Lyle was arrested after an incident with police. Then word percolated out of Columbus that Lyle was no longer listed on the Ohio State basketball roster, reportedly because he quit the team in April.
This, of course, was the same JaQuan Lyle who once orally committed to the University of Louisville and later reportedly spoke with NCAA investigators about his possible involvement in the sex scandal at the U of L basketball dorm.
As Thad Matta can tell you, Aaron Craft isn’t walking through that door.
5. HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY FOR LONZO BALL SNEAKERS?
I know you’re not going to pay $495 for a pair of Lonzo Ball sneakers. You know I’m not going to pay $49.50 for a pair of Lonzo Ball sneakers.
We all know that anybody who pays more than $4.95 for a pair of Lonzo Ball sneakers should write an 800-word essay about what the rest of us are missing.
But there is ranting about the younger generation and there is a reasoned approach to a better way to spend your money.
The folks at Men’s Health magazine took the high road. They offered this review about a pair of Kobe Bryant A.D. NXT sneakers they say are better than the Ball sneakers – at less than half the price.
Of course, these shoes are still priced at $199.99.
Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not going to pay $199.99 for a pair of sneakers.
6. IS MARK STOOPS SIXTH BEST COACH IN SEC?
The Southeastern Conference is similar to the rest of college football. There is Nick Saban of Alabama and there is everybody else.
As good as Saban has been for the Crimson Tide and bringing national success to the league, he also looms over the 13 other programs like a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sky hook. The gap between Saban and his SEC competitors is bigger than the holes in the Vanderbilt secondary.
That is one thing that makes this ranking of SEC football coaches interesting. There is Saban and then there is … ?
This list by Matthew Bartlett of GigEmGazette, a site that focuses on Texas A&M, ranks Gus Malzahn of Auburn second. That’s an interesting choice, considering Malzahn made some Hot Seat lists last season.
But here is an unconventional idea: Mark Stoops of Kentucky ranked sixth.
Ahead of Bret Bielama of Arkansas (miscast at No. 14), Butch Jones of Tennessee (10), Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss (9) and Kirby Smart of Georgia (7).
The guys ahead of Stoops (in order): Saban, Malzahn, Jim McElwain of Florida (3), Dan Mullen of Mississippi State (4) and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M (5).
Not exactly Bear Bryant, Vince Dooley, Johnny Majors and Pat Dye.
7. COLLEGE FOOTBALL SILLINESS, PART XXL
You want to know why people roll their eyes at how much money schools spend on college football?
This is why: Tennessee spent more than $37,000 on Music City bowl champion rings as well as more than $1 million in bowl travel in expenses for its 360-mile round trip from Knoxville to Nashville.
No further comment necessary.
8. DICKIE V IS CANCER’S WORST ENEMY
There is only way to say this: Dick Vitale is a national treasure.
Never mind the basketball and ESPN work. Nobody has been more relentless in his pursuit to battle cancer than Vitale. Last weekend Vitale and his wife Lorraine hosted their 12th annual gala for pediatric cancer research on the Florida Gulf Coast.
Another year, another record – at least $3.12 million in donations.
That brings the amount that Vitale has raised in a dozen years to $21.3 million.
This year’s gala was especially challenging. It was the first without emcee John Saunders, who passed away last year. Chris Berman, another ESPN personality, was scheduled to serve as a co-host with Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly as well as West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins.
But Berman’s wife, Kathy, was killed in an automobile accident last week. The gala was amended to include a tribute to her. According to this story in the Bradenton (Fla.) paper, Berman donated $100,000 to the cause, plus an additional $30,000, which included $1,000 for every year Berman and Saunders worked together.
Well done, as always, Dickie V.
9. POLL RESULTS I
Which college basketball program has been hurt more by losing NBA early entries for next season?
Louisville – 74.8 percent.
Kentucky – 25.2 percent.
10. POLL RESULTS II
Would you watch a basketball game or a game of H-O-R-S-E matching Rick Pitino vs. John Calipari?
Absolutely – 56 percent.
Probably – 19.7 percent.
Unlikely – 14.5 percent.
No way -- 9.8 percent.
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.