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Fun Day in Tigertown
Sometimes it's not what you know, it's who you know.
  • My friend's son works for the LSU Athletic Department and got us great seats for both the basketball and baseball games Saturday, as you can see from the pictures above. We even got some free food at the baseball game.
  • The Tigers' 73-63 victory over Ole Miss on the hardwood was great fun be­cause of our courtside seats, especially in the first half when LSU was shooting at the basket right in front of us.
  • Unfortunately, Jordan Mickey had a terrible half, scoring zero points. Part of the problem was the excellent Rebel defense, but he also was out of sync, missing several uncontested midrange jumpers and also shots under the goal.
  • When the Tigers trailed by only four (27-23) at halftime, I felt good about our chances. If Jordan contributed anything at all the second 30 minutes, we would be in a good shape.
  • Mickey didn't have a great second half with only 11 points but that ac­counted for the 10-point margin of victory. The Tigers looked really sharp after the break, totaling 50 points against a good Ole Miss squad.
  • Of course, the splash news was Tim Quarterman's triple-double, the first by an LSU player since Shaq. Johnny Jones' decision to give up on Josh Gray and install Quarterman as his starting point guard has made all the difference in the world.
  • LSU's starting five is second only to Kentucky's in the SEC and among the best in the nation. The problem is the bench, which contributed a measly one point Saturday in just 14 minutes of playing time. (Ole Miss got 23 points from its reserves.)
  • That will be a problem in the SEC Tournament, where LSU must play back­to-back days in order to advance.
  • That makes it all the more important to keep the #4 spot in the standings that the Tigers earned by means of their second victory over the Rebels this season. The top four teams earn the "double bye" at the tournament, which means they must win only three games to take the title. It also means your first game is against a team that just played the day before and possibly for two straight days if one of the bottom four teams springs an upset in the second round.
  • The Tigers finish with Tennessee at home Wednesday night, a game they must and should win, then close at Arkansas, which will be a challenge. The Rebels play at Alabama Tuesday, then host Vanderbilt Saturday. Hopefully, the Tide can trip up the Rebels. If that happens, LSU can afford to lose to the Razorbacks if they take care of business against the Vols.
Saturday at LSU
Looking forward to Saturday doubleheader live.
  • LSU hosts Ole Miss at 1 PM in Maravich Assembly Center.
  • Tiger baseball hosts Princeton at 4 PM at Alex Box Stadium.

I was leery about staying for the baseball game with the chilly weather we've been having. But the forecast calls for a sunny afternoon with high of 65°.

Johnny Jones' Tigers won in Oxford 75-71 January 14.

  • If they can beat the Rebels again, they'll tie Ole Miss for 4th place, which means they're ahead of them because LSU will own the tiebreaker based on two head-to-head wins.
  • The Tigers host Tennessee Wednesday. The Vols are on a slide, having lost four in a row starting with an LSU victory February 14 in Knoxville.
  • The Tigers need to beat the Vols again because they close the regular sea­son with a trip to second-place Arkansas.
  • Winning two of these three final games, plus a victory in their first game of the SEC Tournament, should guarantee the Tigers a spot in the NCAA Tour­nament for the first time since 2009.
  • They've played with more consistency lately but still have a thin bench. One bright spot is the improved play of G Josh Gray. He was 3-of-6 on 2-point shots and had three assists against only one turnover at Auburn. He's get­ting better at following the M.D.'s dictum: "First do no harm" when you come into the game.
  • And Jarell Martin has had two straight monster games:
    Florida 8-15 2ptFG, 1-3 3ptFG, 11-16 FT, 13 reb, 28 points.
    Auburn 11-17 2ptFG, 1-2 3ptFG, 2-2 FT, 12 reb, 25 points.
    LSU outscored Auburn in the paint by an astounding 52-18.
    Martin's playing like a man determined to finish his last season with a bang before heading to the NBA.

Did you notice that Missouri finally got its second SEC victory Tuesday night, beat­ing Florida 64-52 at home?

  • Mizzou's only previous conference triumph was in their opener against LSU.
  • The loss almost certainly guaranteed that Florida, a Final Four team last year, will not make the tournament at all this season. At 13-15, the Gators may not even make the NIT.
Future of Football
I've written before about employing technology in the NFL to show the first down line on the field of play for the referees, players, and fans to see.
  • The technology has been available for some time.
  • You could put a laser in the bottom of the chain that marks the first down spot. The person holding that end of the chain can click the laser beam on with his foot.
  • You could also put a laser in the line of scrimmage marker to shoot a different color beam.

But now I'm imagining a whole new futuristic way of doing it.

PUT A COMPUTER-CONTROLLED ELECTRONIC GRID IN THE FIELD.

  • Everything keys off a sensor in the tip of the football.
  • When the official places the ball down for first down, the computer-controlled grid lights the blades of "grass" in the artificial turf, changing the color of the blades from sideline to sideline to mark the line of scrimmage.
  • The computer also gives the order to light the blades of grass ten yards down the field to mark the first down line.
  • All this can be programmed now on a computer screen for video football games. The trick will be to imbed this technology in the gridiron.
  • Essentially what this system would do is take the computer system that marks the first down line on the TV broadcast and transfer it from a monitor to the field.
Baseball's New Speedup Rules

I'm happy with baseball's new speedup rules just as I was happy with the expansion of Instant Replay last year.

  • But I have to laugh at some of the comments from major leaguers. Such as White Sox OF Adam Eaton: I'm not a big fan (of the new rules). There's a lot of thinking involved. When a pitcher steps on the rubber, there's a lot going on. There's thinking in the dugout, the coaches, everyone. Why speed that up?
    Spoken like someone who's being paid to be at the park.
  • How long does it take to think about the next pitch? 30 seconds is more than enough. Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron - you think any of them had to step out of the box after every freakin' pitch to "think"?
  • I'm reminded of something Yogi Berra said in his rookie season. The first citation seems to be in an Associated Press story dated August 1, 1947.

    They tell a story about Larry “Yogi” Berra, the New York Yankees’ new No. 1 catcher and his Manager Bucky Harris. Yogi is known as a bad ball hitter and Bucky decided to do something about it.
    “Think when you get up there,” he told Berra. “Make the pitcher come in with the ball. Don’t be too eager. Make him get it over. Think. Think.”
    Berra went to the plate and took 3 called strikes. He walked to the dugout and sat down.
    “How can anybody think and hit at the same time,” he mumbled.

  • I also recall Bob Gibson, the greatest Cardinal P ever. Bob liked to work fast. He didn't have to think very long about the next pitch. He also didn't like hitters stepping out to slow him down. Joe Morgan told this story in his autobiography.

Gibson was a notoriously fast worker as well as a ferocious competitor. If you so much as fiddled with the bill of your cap during an at-bat you were in for it. A fellow rookie on our team named Aaron Pointer once fouled a Gibson pitch off his foot. When Pointer stepped out, Gibson didn't make a mental note to relay word to him that in the future he better watch out. Even though the count then was 0-2, Gibson drilled him in the ribs with the next pitch.
Bob Aspromonte, another player on our team, broke Gibson's rhythm in one game by briefly stepping out on him. Gibson hit him in the back with the next pitch. It sounded like a cannon shot. Aspromonte was out for almost a month. Gibson games lasted less than two hours - and the main reason was that no one was ever willing to stand in against him one second longer than was absolutely necessary.

  • Too many hitters step out after every pitch to go through their personal ritual: relatching the batting gloves, adjusting the helmet, taking a practice swing. Some take their good time stepping back in as if it's the first time they've ever batted. Right foot at this exact spot, pause, left here. Dig, dig, dig to get good foothold. GIVE US A BREAK! Fine them for this nonsense.
The Scourge of Phil Jackson?

In his "The Numbers" article in the recent ESPN the Magazine, Peter Keating lays the current problems of two storied NBA franchises, the Lakers and the Knicks, at the feet of the same man, Phil Jackson.

  • Phil coached the Chicago Bulls from 1989-1998, winning six championships.
  • He took the Lakers to five more titles in his tenure in L.A. from 1999-2004 and 2005-2011.
  • He now is the GM of the Knicks in the first year of a five-year $60M contract.

His resumé is hard to beat. But therein lies the rub.

  • According to Keating, Jackson's philosophy for creating a team as a GM and molding it as a coach are stuck in the 1990s.
  • At the All-Star break this year, the Knicks wallowed at 10-43, good for last place in the Atlantic Division and the fewest wins in the league.
  • Part of the problem is the injury to star Carmelo Anthony, who is deciding whether to shut down his season because of an injured left knee. But it's much more than that.
  • Keating: The Knicks have found few easy baskets this season, ranking at or near the bottom in percentage of points on fast breaks, in the paint and from free throws. But that's not just because Jackson traded Tyson Chandler, the team's reliable low-post presence, or because the oft-injured, roster-churning Knicks don't pass well. It's because they rely so heavily on inefficient shots. The midrange jumper is the worst shot in basketball because it's far enough from the hoop to be difficult to make but not far enough to be worth an extra point.
  • The Knicks have taken the highest percentage of their attempts from 16' out to the 3-point arc in the league.
  • Keating: Now here's the shocker: That's by design! In an era when the NBA is setting a record for 3-point attempts every season, the Knicks are down 17 percent in 3-point shots per game under Jackson and his handpicked coach, Derek Fisher (a valuable player on Phil's Laker teams). And on defense, Fisher explicitly wants his team to focus on defending in transition and in the paint rather than on the perimeter.
  • The Knicks are good at what Fisher wants them to do. They've given up the second fewest points per fast-break possession in the NBA and have held opponents to the sixth-lowest FG% at the rim.
  • Unfortunately, they're losing 77% of their games because opponents are raining 3-pointers on them. In particular, opponents have hit an astonishing 43.8% of their corner 3s.

Think back to Jackson's outstanding teams in Chicago and L.A. and recall that he had at his disposal two of the greatest midrange jump shooters in history: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

  • Jackson's 1992 Bulls won an NBA title while hitting just 138 3-point shots, as many as some individuals make in today's basketball.
  • In October 2013, Phil tweeted his philosophy: "Nothing new about getting ball to open man. Basketball is played to strengths of individuals. 3pters are not always the key." But if your open men are shooting 2-pointers while the opponent's open men are making 3s, you're in trouble.
  • Byron Scott, coach of the team Phil left behind, the Lakers, wanted his team to take just 10-15 3s per game this season. I don't believe it wins championships, said Scott, who once led the NBA in 3-pt % as a member of a championship L.A. squad.
  • And how are his Lakers doing? 13-40 at the break, also good for last place in their division. To be that bad, poor personnel is an issue obviously, but even improving the talent level won't get you to the top if your philosophy is stuck in the 90s.

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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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