BOZICH | Monday Muse: Another Louisville contract to question; NBA rookies
College coaching contracts, the World Series, the football playoff projects and the first AP college basketball poll are all topics in Rick Bozich's Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Yes, I watched from the first pitch to the final pitch, the one Alex Bregman lined to left-center field to lift the Houston Astros past the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1:38 (EDT) a.m. Monday.
I’m not flipping my bat. I’m just blaming Game Five of the World Series for the belated appearance of the Monday Muse.
Before we get to Game Six (Tuesday at 8 p.m. on WDRB), let’s cover some college football, college basketball, NBA, college soccer, baseball and one question Louisville football fans are asking.
1. Monday Sirmon
Around Louisville, the debate has raged around fired athletic director Tom Jurich and men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and how many dollars the school will ultimately pay both men for no longer requiring their services.
There is another contract stirring ire and questions within the Louisville fan base – the three-year deal that coach Bobby Petrino and Jurich gave Peter Sirmon to replace Todd Grantham as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator after last season.
The performance of the Louisville defense is a reasonable place to ask what Petrino and Jurich were thinking when they awarded a generous contract to Sirmon last winter.
They gave him a pay raise of nearly 50 percent over what Sirmon earned last season at Mississippi State, where his unit ranked 110th in total defense and 93rd in scoring defense. His contract is through Jan. 31, 2020. He is scheduled to earn $950,000, plus extra benefits this season. Some hires work. Some don't. Making Sirmon the guy can be defended. But making him the guy at that price needs more explanation now that it did when the deal went down.
The Sirmon move has become a bigger head-scratcher than the raise and extension Jurich awarded Petrino in 2016, following seasons of 9-4 and 8-5 after returning to U of L from Western Kentucky.
That was a deal pitched as projecting stability and strength but there was little reason to believe another program was angling to recruit Petrino after the circumstances of his departure from Arkansas.
Under Sirmon, the Cardinals’ defensive points per game have climbed from 23.8 last season to 30.8 this season, while the yards per game total has jumped from 322.2 to 410.1. Picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Cardinals are tied for last with Florida State.
Can you imagine the discussion if this hire had been made by Steve Kragthorpe?
Generous buyouts and jumbo raises have become the rage in college sports. Louisville is not the only school wondering how much money they’ll be forced to pay somebody not to work for them. Ask Florida football. Or Indiana basketball. Or several other administrations.
There has to be a better way. If you have one, I’d love to hear it.
2. Playoff Projection
Remember when watching the College Football Playoff Show was Appointment Viewing around here?
If you have not turned your attention to basketball or the World Series, the first playoff show for 2017 will air Tuesday night. It’s become an Internet requirement for media folks to help the 13 playoff committee members pick the correct four teams.
I’m always here to help.
Georgia (8-0) – That win at Notre Dame looks better every weekend as does handing Mississippi State by four touchdowns. All four opponents remaining on Georgia’s schedule have winning records.
Alabama (8-0) – I know the Crimson Tide have not defeated a Top 25 opponent (yet) and that five of their opponents have losing records. I also know Nick Saban’s team has won every game but one by at least 17.
Notre Dame (7-1) –Notre Dame’s one-point home loss to Georgia is more impressive than Ohio State’s 15-point home loss to Oklahoma – and the Irish have wins over three ranked opponents (Michigan State, USC, North Carolina State).
Oklahoma (7-1) – I realize the Sooners’ win at Ohio State is their only victory over a team with a winning record, but it’s a stronger credential than any other contender can flash.
3. Why Isn’t There More Heat On Jimbo Fisher?
Most squawking about college football coaches has been restricted to head coaches in the Southeastern Conference – and U of L’s defensive coordinator.
Jim McElwain of Florida is gone. Butch Jones of Tennessee is likely gone. Bret Bielama of Arkansas and Kevin Sumlin or Texas A&M could be directly behind them.
What about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State?
After underachieving last season, doesn’t Fisher have some explaining to do?
I checked the Scout.com national recruiting rankings from the last four years. Seven schools delivered Top 10 classes all four seasons.
Two are in serious playoff consideration – Alabama and Georgia. One – Ohio State – could make the final four. Three others – Louisiana State, USC and Auburn – have winning records.
Then there is Florida State. The Seminoles are 2-5 and just made Boston College look like the New England Patriots. If FSU loses two more, the Seminoles’ streak of 35 straight bowl games will end. With remaining games against Syracuse, Clemson and Florida, FSU could lose three more.
That national title Fisher won in Tallahassee seems like 1913, not 2013.
4. The Race To Eight
When this college football season kicked off, Louisville and Western Kentucky were the surest bets to win at least eight games.
Bovada.com put the Cardinals over/under win projection at 9.5. Ditto for the Hilltoppers. The number for Kentucky was seven, just six for Indiana.
What a difference two months make.
According to the ESPN Football Power Index, none of the four local teams are projected to win eight. Here are the latest FPI win totals:
Louisville 7.3; Kentucky 7.5; Indiana 5.3 and WKU 6.6.
5, NBA Rookie Update
We’re two weeks into the NBA season, ample time to overreact to a small sample size on how the six local rookies have performed:
DeAaron Fox, Kentucky (Sacramento) – If you liked Fox over Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and the other point guards in the 2017 draft, you like Fox more today. He ranks sixth among NBA rookies in scoring at 12.7 while making three of seven shots from distance and averaging 5 assists.
Malik Monk, Kentucky (Charlotte) – Monk is not drawing as much playing time as Fox, but has averaged 7 points in about 21 minutes per game. He has struggled from distance, making 8 of 33.
Bam Adebayo, Kentucky (Miami) – Slow the hype train on the former UK center. He’s played in three of the Heat’s first five games, shooting less than 37 percent and averaging 3.7 rebounds.
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville (Utah) – After making 5 of 25 shots in his first three games, Mitchell has started to show why the Jazz traded up to select him in the first round. He has scored 19, 2 and 21 in Utah’s last three games while making six three-point shots and contributing five steals.
Mangok Mathiang, Louisville (Charlotte) – Any production from an undrafted free agent during the first two weeks is rare, so Mathiang should celebrate the pair of rebounds he delivered in three minutes last Wednesday.
OG Anunoby, Indiana (Toronto) – Less than 10 months after undergoing major knee surgery, Anunoby has roared into the Raptors’ lineup and played at least 15 minutes in all five games. He has averaged 6.2 points and 2.4 rebounds.
6. Muse on Muse
The Monday Muse was not created in honor of the Indiana University men’s soccer team. But it could have been.
The top-ranked Hoosiers finished an unbeaten regular season with a 1-1 draw at No. 7 Michigan State Sunday, and IU goalie Trey Muse completed a regular-season performance earned this Muse mention.
First, Muse is a Louisville native. He played three seasons at Male High School before joining the Seattle Sounders developmental team last season. Second, Muse tied the IU record by allowing only four goals in 17 matches this season.
Muse played 966 minutes and 28 minutes without allowing a goal, the fourth longest streak in NCAA history. “He’s got a lot of confidence,” IU coach Todd Yeagley told Andy Wittry of NCAA.com. “He’s very mature. He reminds me of a junior, just in his maturity. I’ve felt that from Day One. I think the team did.”
Muse’s father, Dave, played college soccer at Kentucky. Mr. Muse did not let his son move to goaltender until five seasons ago, preferring that he develop his footwork and balance at other positions. Here is a link to Wittry's story.
7. AP Pre-Season College Basketball Poll Heads Up
The Associated Press college basketball poll will be released Wednesday at noon. The AP has asked voters not to reveal their ballots – or their picks for the five-player pre-season all-American team until the poll is released.
I’ll follow the rules. And share this: I’ve got Kentucky in my top 10 and Louisville in my Top 20. I do not have any local players in my top five – to start this season.
8. Iowa State Gives Everybody Hope
If you’re looking for data to help make the case that your favorite college football team should be winning more games, this should help:
Iowa State has beaten a pair of Top 5 teams for the first time in school history.
The same Iowa State that has not delivered a winning season since 2009. The same Iowa State that failed to qualify for a bowl game from 1979-through-1999. The same Iowa State that has averaged less than three wins the last four seasons.
That Iowa State, which has already taken down Oklahoma and TCU – and gets its shot at West Virginia and Oklahoma State the next two weekends.
9. The Best Baseball Writer on the Best 2017 World Series Game
If you’re going to read one baseball writer on the epic World Series game the Dodgers and Astros played Sunday night, this is the one I recommend, a piece by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, who has covered every World Series since 1975.
Boswell belongs with Roger Angell, Roger Kahn, Red Smith, Peter Gammons and several others among the best who have written about baseball.
10. Poll Results
Ken Pomeroy said Louisville fell from 3rd to 16th in his pre-season rankings because of Rick Pitino's absence. Too steep? Too little? Just right?
Sounds right 41.2 percent
Too steep 36.7 percent
Too little 22.1 percent
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