LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — This is the week we’ll find out if the Belmont Stakes will be the final leg of the Triple Crown or a prep race for the Haskell.

It’s a week when many of the best college basketball players will find out what NBA teams truly think about their games.

Maybe the Cincinnati Reds will double their winning streak to a dozen.

Let’s not get silly. Let’s get to the Monday Muse.

1. NBA Scout Salutes Chris Mack

For weeks I’ve called NBA scouts to collect their takes on Louisville forwards Raymond Spalding and Deng Adel as well as the string of Kentucky players who have made themselves eligible for the NBA Draft.

But one scout wanted to discuss more than the players. He wanted to discuss Louisville’s new basketball coach — Chris Mack.

"They got a really good one," the scout said. "Really good. Give him a couple years and he’s going to win big there. He’s that good."

The scout said he routinely worked at least a half-dozen Xavier games during Mack’s nine-year run at Xavier. What impressed him wasn’t the Number One seed Xavier earned during the 2018 season.

"Look back at that 2017 season," he said. "He lost his point guard (Edmond Sumner) at the beginning of February. They lost something like six or seven (it was six) games in a row. People thought they were finished.

"But he held that team together and figured it out and then he took them to the Elite Eight. His teams play tough. They play physical. And they always play hard. Other than Jay Wright (of Villanova), there wasn’t anybody better in that league."

2.  Brian Bowen’s Big Week

One reason Mack will coach the Cardinals next season is Brian Bowen made his commitment to Louisville about a year ago. You know the rest of the story. No need for a distant replay.

But prepare yourself for a major splash of Brian Bowen stories this week. He transferred to South Carolina in January, but there is no guarantee he will play a minute for the Gamecocks.

Like you, me, Joe The HVAC Repairman and others, Bowen made himself eligible for the 2018 Draft. He is scheduled to compete in Chicago this weekend at the NBA Draft scouting combine.

Will NBA teams be hesitant to take Bowen?

If they are, the reason will not be anything that happened at Louisville. The reason will be his ability as a basketball player. Brian Lewis of the New York Post wrote that the Brooklyn Nets will not wave Bowen away because of his background. In fact, the Nets and Atlanta Hawks have already invited Bowen for workouts.

My guys say Bowen is unlikely to be taken in the first round but a few franchises could gamble on his potential in round two.

"I think he is really a talent," one scout said. "Can really score. Good length.

"That said, it depends on what else is available. I would think you could not draft him and just put him in Summer League or G League. Tough for him to make a roster next year."

3. Viva Las Vegas

If you’re following the NHL playoffs, you understand that the Vegas Golden Knights have become The Story of the regular and post-seasons, positioning themselves to win the Stanley Cup as an expansion franchise.

Tell that to Cleveland Browns’ fans.

As you know the Oakland Raiders are also bound for Las Vegas — and the city is not finished dreaming big things.

Jim Murren, the CEO of MGM Resorts, told the Las Vegas Sun that multiple NBA teams will be on the move in the next five years and Vegas is positioning itself to grab one. 

Vegas is on a roll. There’s your primary competition, Dan Issel.

4. Bye Bye Grayson Allen

Understanding the love affair local college basketball fans have for all things Duke, I couldn’t let this moment from the weekend pass without sharing it.

No further comment necessary, correct?

5. Shy Guy Jaire Alexander

Another person that went through graduation ceremonies over the weekend was Louisville defensive back Jaire Alexander. I also cannot let that moment pass without sharing this.

But there is more to Alexander than the entertainment factor. Will he be prepared to help the Packers win during the Aaron Rodgers Window of Success?

Although Alexander, who measured at 5 feet 10, is a smaller cornerback than the Packers typically prefer, they selected him in the first round because of his considerable athletic abilities.

“He’s very physical, very aggressive,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst told Rob Reischel of forbes.com in this story.


"When you have a corner that lacks great height like that, sometimes you start to say, ‘Is he just a nickel? Can he play inside? Play outside?’

“I think all of our staff, personnel staff and coaching staff, felt really good about him playing inside and outside. He’s a dynamic explosive athlete.”

6. Top 25 Running Backs

The University of Louisville has not enjoyed a 1,000-yard running back since Bilal Powell. (Read closely: I said running back, a category that does not include Lamar Jackson.). Indiana is still searching for the next Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard.

Kentucky is the place to look for the best running back in the area for the 2018 season. You know the name — Benny Snell Jr.

Look for Snell to kick up his share of publicity in the pre-season magazines and award watch lists. Consider this the beginning of the spotlight on Snell. He is ranked the 13th best halfback in America by The Sporting News as he chases his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.

7. Finding a Challenge For Brandon McKay

There was a muffled grumbling about Brandon McKay’s introduction to professional baseball last summer.  He struggled as a hitter in the New York/Penn League, batting only .232 with nine extra base hits in 146 plate appearances.

There’s no grumbling any more. There’s only growing anticipation that McKay is on the fast track to the Tampa Bay Rays.

That’s what happens when a guy shows he is absolutely capable of continuing his quest to be a two-way player by striking out 40 in 24 2/3 innings and posting an on-base percentage of .484 as a hitter. (Yes, his batting average, .254, and power numbers, only three extra-base hits, need improvement.)

His career in Bowling Green barely lasted a month. McKay has been promoted to the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Tampa’s High A affiliate in the Florida State League. Don’t be deceived by the name. He will make his debut Monday at 6:35 p.m. for a team based in Port Charlotte, Fla, against the Lakeland Tigers.

"What's not to like? The kid shows four above-average pitches right now," said Dick Bosman, McKay’s pitching coach as well as the former Major League starter. "He has a wonderful demeanor on the mound.”

8. The Real Dickie V

You know Dick Vitale as the guy who helped make ESPN the major force in college basketball television. You know his signature calls. You know that he defends coaches. You know he hangs out in the student sections prior to games.

You might like him. You might not. I’ve heard all the debate points.

What is not debatable — and never will be — is that Vitale is one of the most giving and sacrificial people I’ve known. More than a decade ago, he dedicated a significant chunk of his free time in leading the fight against pediatric cancer.

Dick Vitale has made a difference.

How much of a difference? When all the numbers rolled in from his latest gala in southeast Florida over the weekend, Vitale reported that his annual event raised about $3.7 million this year, upgrading the 13-year total to more than $25 million.

“It was amazing,” Vitale told the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald. “It means a lot, But we need a lot more.”

9. How Many Straight?

The next time your favorite team loses a game or two or 10 in a row, remember that it could be worse.

Much much worse.

How much worse?

Try 77 games worse.

That’s how many consecutive Division I baseball games the St. Peter’s Peacocks had lost before they handled Iona, 7-1, Sunday to end their 77-game losing streak.

St. Peter’s ranks No. 295 in the college baseball Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). 

I scrolled the list of their scores this season. I found a 19-1 loss to Butler, a 21-1 defeat to Pittsburgh and a 28-2 loss to Quinnipiac.

Don’t worry about Iona. They bounced back in the second game Sunday and handled St. Peter’s 19-2.

10. Poll Result

Will Justify win the Triple Crown?

Yes 58.6 percent

No 41.4 percent

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