With the NCAA tournament field coming into focus, here’s something to read in between games this weekend.
- Archie Miller’s second season at Indiana sounds similar to the last few for Thad Matta at Ohio State: IU basketball sums up a wasted season with ending it deserved. A team with flaws for sure but still one that did not play up to its talent level. Questions about effort and/or motivation are always the most disturbing, of course, and in this case enough to overshadow the fact he is 0-4 against Chris Holtmann at Ohio State since the two ascended to their current positions.
- I did not know a lot about Holtmann when he was hired as the coach of the Buckeyes two years ago, but some research did indicate he might actually be a better hire than Miller, who while he was winning big at Dayton was long thought to be Matta’s successor. Both Holtmann and Miller are regarded as knowing how to coach ‘em up, but Holtmann was a better recruiter at Butler than Miller was at Dayton. Through two years for each in the Big Ten, they have both had some recruiting victories, but Holtmann has turned out better results on the floor.
- I don’t really think either of those teams deserves to make the NCAA tournament, but it would seem Ohio State is going to make it anyway. I get that the Buckeyes and Hoosiers have more losses than a team like Belmont because they played a lot more games against top-tier teams, but the deck is stacked against the mid-majors in terms of trying to beef up their schedules (at least without playing almost exclusively away from home). I don’t think requiring a team to win more than it loses against its chosen level of competition is too much to ask. In fact, a .500 record is probably too low a bar, but I’m willing to compromise. What’s odd is how many defenders the Goliaths seem to have in the media considering Cinderella is what makes the tournament fun.
- But, hey, Indiana is in better shape than Texas under former coaching commodity Shaka Smart. Seems like following the Longhorns basketball for the last few years would be frustrating in the opposite way following Ohio State basketball was after the last Final Four team under Matta. The Longhorns seemingly always have blue chip talent but never do anything with it, and hardly any of their elite guys stay around for more than a year anyway so there’s no opportunity for fans to develop any kind of relationship or affinity for them.
- Meanwhile, the things SEC fans think about Big Ten football, I think about Big Ten basketball.
- Since we just had the Oscars, “LeBron Destroys The Lakers” has to be an early favorite for 2019 comedy of the year, right? Regardless, I’m enjoying the Lakers season a lot more than I thought I would when LeBron announced he was leaving Cleveland again and confirming all that stuff about “coming home” was bogus, but I feel as bad for those young players as I thought I would. They seem to be going through the ringer in a most predictable way, but there is good news. At least they won’t be blamed for losing a playoff series, a cardinal sin to the LeBron-friendly media across the league.
- Will be interesting to see how much this Lakers stint damages LeBron’s reputation as a good teammate. As evidence continues to mount he is not, keep this in mind: Michael Jordan made role player Scottie Pippen a Hall of Famer (and won). LeBron made potential Hall of Famers Chris Bosch and Kevin Love into role players (and mostly lost). RELATED: How do MJ and LeBron compare now?
- At first I was intrigued by the idea of MLB adopting 3-batter minimum for pitchers but worried about unintended consequences. Now it's a little more the latter...
- At least one draftnik is not as high on Dwayne Haskins as the majority seems to be. Ted Nguyen of The Athletic would not give Haskins a first-round grade. I think this assessment is fair and demonstrates the difference between drafting on what we know and what we think will be. It’s no secret Haskins has great talent but is far from a finished product. One can have a first-round stock and be a first-round talent even while being only a second-round player now for two reasons: Potential is part of what determines stock, and teams tend to reach for quarterbacks these days. A lot. Patrick Mahomes is a good example. He’s got great arm talent and was more experienced than Haskins but was still considered a reach when the Chiefs took him at No. 10. By year two he was the MVP, but that doesn’t mean he would have done the same thing as a rookie or that the people grading him on what he had actually done at Texas Tech were wrong. It just means people projecting him to be a successful quarterback based on his potential were right.
- That said, I think Nguyen overstates the impact of the talent of Haskins’ receivers. The YAC they produced certainly inflated his passing yardage, but their YAC also increased significantly once they had a quarterback who could throw the ball on time and accurately more often. And while those guys can fly, they did not do a whole lot of going up to get 50/50 balls for him, so he had to put it in the right place for everything to work.
- In case you forgot fullbacks are awesome, Kyle Shanahan is here to remind you.
- Fullback got pigeonholed into being mostly a sixth offensive lineman in a lot of offenses in the 1980s and ‘90s, but for the majority of time football has existed fullbacks could do many things besides block. With spread offenses forcing defensive personnel to sacrifice some bulk for speed and coverage ability, there is a great opportunity to have a second back who is a blocker first but can carry the ball or catch it because he doesn’t have to match up with 250-pound dudes anymore so he can be a little smaller and more athletic, too.
- Shouldn’t Dayton and UNC-Wilmington have an annual rivalry game? Or would that be giving too much respect to North Carolina’s laughable “first in flight” boasting?
- Men’s college basketball would benefit from going to quarters and reducing the number of TV timeouts.
- I like how the hippie is the one who sells out the whole civilization in Trolls.
- Been traveling a lot lately, so I have been subjected to more ESPN than usual since the hotel TV channels are more limited. Has anyone considered the problem with SportsCenter might be the anchors? I don’t watch it much but when I do I’m almost never entertained. Wasn’t that kind of what made the whole show back in the day? I mean yeah we can watch highlights whenever we want on our phones now, but seeing them on a 45-inch screen is still better than seeing them on a 4.5-inch screen. And even when information wasn’t instantaneous we watched sports highlights shows to be entertained again by stuff we already knew if it was presented in an interesting way. Remember how people used to watch the same SportsCenter multiple times? It wasn’t because they forgot who won.
“Random Thoughts” is a semi-regular feature here at this blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions and have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter or Facebook.
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