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From the Archives
One of the nice features of posting articles online is that they can be updated at any time as I discover new information. So from time to time, I post links on this page to articles that have been updated. Here's one.

Dazzling Debut: Archie Manning - The rookie from Ole Miss almost didn't start his first regular season NFL game. Read the update ...
March Madness - Defense, Defense, Defense
I've noticed two strong trends in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
  1. The teams that made the Sweet Sixteen all get after it on defense.
  2. The referees are not calling the games as tightly as they do during the regular season.

The second trend helps explain the first.

  • If the officials let you get away with fouls, especially as a player drives to the goal or takes a shot, that helps stymie the offense.
  • Innumerable times Thursday night I saw a player get bumped as he drove the lane or have a defender slap his hand as he tried to dribble. I yelled "Foul!" but nothing was called.
  • That's not right. So it's the NCAA Tournament. Did the rules suddenly change that hacking or bumping a player out of his path to the goal is not a foul? NO!
  • Just as the rules don't change in the last minutes of a close game, so too, even more, they don't change because it's March Madness.

You can't tell me that this is happenstance.

  • Scenario 1: The NCAA told the officials to "let them play" and back off strict enforcement of the printed rules.
  • Scenario 2: Officials who call it "loose" were the ones selected to call the tournament games.

The loose officiating benefits teams that play aggressive defense.

  • The main beneficiary has been West Virginia. Bob Huggins's crew presses the entire game. Like Nolan Richardson's squads at Arkansas, the Mountaineers "push the envelope," daring the officials to call fouls. They push and bump with the idea that the refs aren't going to call every foul.
  • Fourth-seeded "Press Virginia" swarmed Bucknell and Notre Dame and almost upended the #1 seed in the West Regional, Gonzaga, Thursday night.
New LSU Basketball Coach

I'm generally pleased with the hiring of Will Wade as LSU's basketball coach.

  • It pleases me that he is young - 34 years old. LSU needs a coach who will stay at least 10 years.
  • John Brady served 11 seasons as head man, but Trent Johnson lasted just four and Johnny Jones, five.
  • Wade has been effusively praised by coaches at schools where he's coached before - Clemson (his alma mater, where he was a student manager, not a player), Harvard, and VCU.
  • LSU is fortunate that Clemson AD Dan Radkovich, who was LSU ass't AD before taking his current job, stuck with Brad Brownell after a 17-16 season. But those who know Wade say he would have taken the LSU job over his alma mater even if Clemson's job was open. One reason that comes to mind for that attitude is that competing in the SEC is easier than battling it out in the ACC (despite the fact that the SEC has three teams in this year's Sweet Sixteen to just one for the ACC).
  • I agree with Scott Rabalais of The Advocate when he says that Wade's most urgent task "will be to make recruits believe it's cool to play at LSU again."
  • Fortunately, Wade has a reputation as an excellent recruiter and thinks the LSU basketball program has great potential.
  • Still, I have this nagging feeling that, just as in football with Ed Orgeron as the "fallback" option, LSU could have done better.
  • I hope Wade will dispel my anxiety and soon. I have a positive attitude going forward.
LSU Baseball - Bleak Outlook?
I've been following the Tiger diamondmen, watching most of the games on ESPN3.
  • Despite their starting the SEC season with a sweep of Georgia, I'm not optimistic about the Tigers reaching the 2017 College World Series.
  • Pitching coach Alan Dunn has lost three returning hurlers he was counting on to anchor the bullpen: senior Alden Cartwright, setup man junior Doug Norman, and closer Hunter Newman. Cartwright and Norman have had surgery and are gone for the season. Newman may return but no sooner than two weeks.
  • The bullpen was shaky in the final game against Georgia, almost blowing 5-3 and 7-4 leads in the final three innings. A line drive double play bailed out the Tigers in the 7th and two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning were essential to the victory.
  • It is also alarming that #1 starter Alex Lange has had two bad outings in his last three starts. He gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings against TCU and, after a good showing against Wichita State, was belted by Georgia Friday night for seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. LSU won the Georgia game 22-9 but had to use three relievers that Manieri would have preferred to save for the second and third games of the series.
  • The Tigers' lineup is formidable but you can't consistently win SEC games outscoring the opposition. The bullpen that was considered a strength entering the season is now a big question mark.
  • Manieri will have to do his best coaching job at LSU to get these Tigers to the World Series. There's a strong possibility that there streak of national seeds (1-8) in the NCAA Tournament will end. They will be fortunate to be ranked from 9-16 to host a regional.

The SEC has had a strange opening weekend.

  • Six of the seven series resulted in three-game sweeps.
  • The exception was Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, who split their first two games before the Rebels won the rubber game.
  • Two of the sweeps were surprises: Kentucky over Texas A&M in College Station and Auburn over Florida at Auburn.
  • As an LSU fan, I don't like all those sweeps. When my team sweeps, I want other series to be 2-1 one way or the other so that the Tigers gain on both teams. Later in the season, as the standings evolve, I might pull for a sweep of a lower place team over a higher team, but on opening weekend I don't care which one wins as long as there is no sweep. But that didn't happen except at Oxford.
March Madness
I've been watching the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, in part because I have two entries in the pool that I run for the school where I teach.
  • The best game thus far has been Purdue-Iowa State. The Boilermakers led most of the way before ISU rallied to take the lead. Then the two teams slugged it out the last few minutes, the lead seesawing back and forth before Purdue prevailed 80-76.
  • Part of my interest in that game was the fact that ISU Coach Steve Prohm has been included on lists of possible replacements for Johnny Jones at LSU. But his buyout is supposedly prohibitive. Too bad because he has done an impressive job in Ames.
  • Kentucky-Wichita State was another barnburner with the young Cats holding on 65-62. Once again, John Calipari has demonstrated how good a coach he is. It isn't easy to take talented freshmen, some of whom will play only one year before heading to the NBA, and meld them together with upperclassmen into a #2 NCAA seeded team. Wichita State's coach, Gregg Marshall, has been on LSU's wish list, but most commentators say he's happy where he is.
  • The officiating in the games I've watched has been generally good. The refs have allowed the teams to play. My only complaint is that sometimes a player is bumped on his way to the goal and nothing is called.

In my two pool entries, I have the following Final Four predictions. The first one was based on ESPN's Power Ratings Index. Since I thought the chances of a Villanova-UNC finals match two years in a row was close to 0, I made some changes in my second entry.

  1. Villanova over Gonzaga in one semifinal.
    North Carolin over Louisville in the other.
    Villanova over North Carolina in the final.
  2. Gonzaga over Villanova
    Kansas over UCLA
    Kansas over Gonzaga in the final.

Obviously, my first entry is shot to hell with Villanova and Louisville eliminated. But the second is still alive. I'm rooting strongly for Kansas to take it all. None of the four entries ahead of me have the Jayhawks. As I write this, KU is in a dogfight with Michigan State (but now pulling away).

The other point I want to make is the same one I make every year.

  • The regular season doesn't mean much in basketball (men's NCAA, women's NCAA, or NBA).
  • I usually follow the SEC but this year, with LSU mired in a dismal season, I watched less basketball than I have in many a year.
  • What good did it do Villanova to go 31-3 if they were upset by an under-seeded Wisconsin in the second round?
  • The regular season would be greatly enhanced if the tournament field were cut in half but that's never going to happen.
Baseball Rules Changes
The new commissioner, Rob Manfred, is making noise about changes to speed up games.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post proposes a criterion for whether a rule should be retained:

    Here is the way to judge if a rule is worthwhile: Act like it didn't exist and then was proposed. Would you vote yes or no?
    So, for example, if baseball's rule all along was that a player was automatically sent to first for an intentional walk and someone suggested, no, let's make the pitcher throw four pitches to do it, how would you vote?
    How about if throughout the history of the game no coach or player were allowed to visit the mound to counsel the pitcher, how would you feel if the suggestion was let's stop play and have a middle-aged man slowly walk to the mound to talk to a pitcher about what they talked about in their pregame meeting a few hours earlier or all of spring training or in their in-between start bullpen session?
    Crazy, right? No one would say, "Yeah, let's add that boring, time-consuming stuff."

  • I've long been in favor of telling the batter to go to first instead of throwing four wide ones. However, I agree with those who don't think that change will speed up games much.
  • I agree with Sherman about visits to the mound. How about this rule: If a manager or coach goes to the mound - except to check on an injury - the pitcher must be removed.
  • But my main irritation during baseball games is hitters who step out after EVERY pitch to adjust their batting gloves, gaze at the sky, take a deep breath, check out the bat label. My rule change would be: Once you get in the box, you stay there unless possibly if you fouled one off. And even then the ump should signal the pitcher to proceed after only 10 seconds at most.

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This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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