BOZICH | Monday Muse: Selection Sunday Blues; Pitino's lost season; Rondo's dazzling shoes
The reveal for the Top 16 NCAA Tournament teams has no local sizzle for the first time in a decade. Richard Pitino's lost season at Minnesota. Hold those Trae Young Player of the Year ballots.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It’s a Show Me game for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team against Connecticut on Monday night. (Eric Crawford and Mike Lacett are in Storrs and will have coverage on WDRB News and WDRB.com.)
It will be a Show Me game for Kentucky at Southeastern Conference leader Auburn Wednesday. And a Show Me game for the U of L men Saturday night against visiting North Carolina.
That’s a significant week on the local calendar as we count the final 27 days until Selection Sunday and wonder if the Cardinals and Wildcats can push themselves into the national conversation again.
Time to Muse.
1. Selection Sunday Blues?
I forgot to watch the NCAA Tournament preview reveal by the Selection Committee Sunday. They ranked only the top 16 teams – and Kentuckiana was blanked in the AP Top 25 again Monday. Jay Bilas of ESPN did not like their Top 16. Without any local representation, I decided to save my bile for the real Selection Sunday.
Unless something changes, no local teams will be projected to survive the first weekend of the tournament. It seems as if I’ve been doing considerable research over the last month, but the last time that Kentuckiana failed to have at least one local team earn a top 4 seed was … 2007.
Louisville was a 6 seed, Indiana 7 and Kentucky 8. All three exited the tournament in round two.
In four of the last 10 seasons, we’ve had at least two teams earn a 4 seed or better. In 2012, when Kentucky won the NCAA title, all three locals started the tournament at least a four seed.
This is a delightfully strange season. Four teams earned votes as No. 1 in the AP Top 25 on Monday, and Virginia advanced from second to first after losing a home game to an unranked team Saturday.
Let Kentucky knock off Auburn and Alabama this week or have Louisville handle North Carolina on Saturday, and the conversation will change.
2. Not So Fast on College Basketball POY
In November, Oklahoma freshman Trae Young pushed to the front of the line for national player of the year. In December, most wise guys called the race for Young. Crown him. His numbers were absurd.
In January, it was still Young, Young, Young.
In February, it’s time to hold all ballots.
Have you checked Young’s numbers over the last month? Not the points. He’s still leads the nation in scoring. But over Oklahoma’s last 11 games, Young has averaged nearly seven turnovers per game. The Sooners are 4-7 during that stretch.
Young is terrific. So are Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges of Villanova; Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State; Keenan Evans of Texas Tech; Luke Maye of North Carolina and Marvin Bagley Jr. of Duke.
Hold all ballots until the deadline.
3. Richard Pitino’s Lost Season
Richard Pitino’s Big Year has become his Lost Year. Year Five feels like Year Three, the middle of a rebuild.
In November, Minnesota was ranked 14th in the nation. In February, the Gophers are sliding toward 14th place in the Big Ten.
“This is totally different (than 2016), because I believe we built a Top-25 team going into the season,” Pitino said. “Two years ago, we had to start over. I felt that was the way to rebuild. I thought we were kind of treading water our first two years …
“I don’t think any college basketball team can sustain losing three starters and losing their first guy off the bench. I really don’t. It’s not an excuse. I think it’s just reality.”
Subtract one starting player for multiple instances of allegedly abhorrent behavior and three other guys for injuries. Minnesota plunged from 13-3 to 14-13 by losing to Indiana by 26 in Bloomington on Friday.
The Gophers lead only lowly Illinois and Rutgers in the Big Ten, and Ken Pomeroy has them projected to win only one of their final four regular season games.
Pitino’s job security is not in doubt. His team made the NCAA Tournament and finished fourth in the league last season. His 2018 recruiting class ranks in the Top 35 nationally, even though he lost two Twin Cities studs – guard Tre Jones to Duke and forward Race Thompson to Indiana.
But this team is a mess. Friday night at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall, I asked Pitino if he had leaned on his father for guidance?
“My family is my family,” he said. “So they’re just supportive. I don’t know what they would say. I think we’re in this situation because of injuries.
“I need a doctor. I need a witch doctor or something.”
4. Rajon Rondo Fashion Statement
I can’t believe it’s been a decade since former Eastern High and University of Kentucky star Rajon Rondo won an NBA title as the Boston Celtics’ point guard.
Rondo will turn 32 next week. His career is winding down. He has hinted at a coaching career. That would be fun, because Rondo has never been a guy who cut corners. Younger guys on the Bulls responded to his leadership last season.
But if Rondo does not coach, he has a future in fashion. He created quite a stir Sunday with the outfit that he wore to ceremony in Boston where the Celtics honored Paul Pierce. (The story.)
5. Football Hoosiers Make The Wrong Top 10
This is a list you don’t want to make – the hardest projected schedules in college football next season, according to TheSpun.com
Louisville, Kentucky and Western Kentucky did not make it.
Indiana, which was chewed up by its schedule in 2017, did. IU’s schedule is ranked the seventh toughest in the nation. Michigan and Jim Harbaugh top the list.
The Hoosiers open at Florida International. Doesn’t sound like much, but the game is in Miami. The Panthers went 8-5 last season, beating WKU and Marshall. Then comes a visit by Virginia, which started 5-1 before staggering to the finish. Then Ball State, which beat Indiana twice during the Kevin Wilson Era.
Then nine Big Ten games, including trips to Ohio State and Michigan.
6. Youth Tackle Football Ban
You knew this was coming. It was inevitable in the constant churn of stories about head injuries, concussions and CTE with NFL players.
A bill was introduced in California that would ban tackle football until high school. A similar measure has been discussed in other states, including Virginia.
This is a conversation that is not going away. It is only beginning. As it should.
7. Katie Couric To the Penalty Box
I wouldn’t file this under the category of Ugly Americans at the Olympics, but the fine folks in The Netherlands were not amused by the commentary that Katie Couric delivered during the Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Game in South Korea.
Couric gave credit to the country for its dominance in speed skating events, because it’s an important mode of transportation.
You just can't make this up.— Jos Duijvestein ???? (@JosDuijvestein) February 10, 2018
NBC opening ceremony coverage. Katie Couric talks about why The Netherlands is so good at speed skating as The Netherlands enters the stadium.
And this folks is why Americans are less bright about the rest of the world as they spread fake news! pic.twitter.com/7YC5deTl2w
Sometimes no additional comment is necessary.
8. Whatever Happened to Sammy Sosa?
Sorry, but there is nothing else I can say other than: Whatever happened to Sammy Sosa?
This picture went up on one of Sosa’s social media accounts over the weekend and people stopped asking about when Sosa was going to ask when he was going to kiss and make up with the Cubs.
Somebody is going to get a great story one day.
9. Baseball Prospectus
Pitches and catchers report across Major League Baseball this week. While agent Scott Boras laments the generosity that owners have shown toward his free-agent clients, I prefer to prepare for the season in my usual manner: with the latest edition of Baseball Prospectus.
It’s not inexpensive -- $21.27 on Amazon -- but it is invaluable. With nearly 600 pages, BA provides complete breakdowns for more than 40 players on every big league teams, plus additional looks at other prospects.
You’ll find plenty of discussion on a string of former Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana players who are trying to grind their way to The Show. Got mine Friday. Have barely put it down.
How many locals are ranked in the book’s list to Top 100 prospects?
Former U of L first baseman/pitcher Brendan McKay No. 23. He is with Tampa. Former Ballard outfielder Jordon Adell sits at No. 38 for the Los Angeles Angels. That is the list.
10. Poll Results
Villanova, Virginia and Purdue are consensus picks as top seeds for the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament. Which team is likely to be the fourth top seed?
Michigan State: 40.2 percent
Xavier: 27 percent
Cincinnati: 20.1 percent
Auburn: 12.7 percent
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