Well, after last week's torrid posting in college hoops followed by a 3-5-1 run so far this week, we are a little more uneasy than normal for our weekly 'KIckin' a Little AAF" picks.
Last weekend, our AAFab 4 (plus 2) went 4-1-1, riding the under to a 2-0-1 mark and trusting Atlanta to be Atlanta and the Fleet to be fleet of foot. Before we get too deep, the lines were tougher to find this week, and the numbers we have below are from Covers.com, rather than our normal VegasInsider.com.
But again, after the bad beats of this week — missed late free throws that could cover, multiple games with multiple over times, a meaningless lay-up at the buzzer, et al. — we have forgotten the infamous advice of none other than personal hero Crash Davis.
"The key to this game is fear and arrogance," Crash told Ebby in the locker room that could very well have been their last conversation ever.
So, with fear and arrogance we approach Week 4 of the AAF with some Bull Durham flavor.
Arizona minus-12 over Atlanta. "It's a long season, and you gotta trust it." Yes, Annie Savoy may have been full of magic, religion and BS, but her synopsis of baseball in particular and life in general is spot on. And it applies to an Atlanta team in turmoil that will have to travel for the third time if four weeks and is still looking for their first win despite losing their QB coach this week. (The third coach to walk away since the preseason started.)
San Diego minus-3 over Memphis. Buy the half, if your entertainment broker will allow this of course. "They're kids. Scare 'em. That's what I'd do." The first glimpse into the abilities Crash may have as a manager when he gives the manager the suggestion that becomes the magical shower scene — and yes, that's on the Rushmore of shower scenes with Pyscho, Porky's and Scarface. Wow, how about that range? — we feel like Mike Martz' move to turn the Fleet into a run-first, run-second, run-again offense is again going to pay dividends.
Birmingham minus-6 over San Antonio. "Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob." Somehow you have to respect the work Trent Richardson — the former No. 3 overall pick who ate his way out of the NFL and leads the AAF in TDs — has put in to try and salvage his career. We like the cut of the Iron's gib to be honest, and we think they handle this number.
Orlando minus-3 at Salt Lake. "This son of a (bleep) is throwing a two-hit shutout and he's shaking me off. Do you believe that (bleep)? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well." One of my all-time favorites from one of my all-time favorites in one of my-all-time favorites, friends. And that's how we view Spurrier in this league. And with Garrett Gilbert getting better each week, laying the 3 seems rather easy. (And easier still if your broker allows the purchase of the half.)
As for the other, well, Crash said it best: "A player on a streak, has to respect the streak" "You know why? Because they don't - -they don't happen very often" "If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that.
With that, we'll ride the under in every non-Spurrier game. San Diego-Memphis under 44, San Antonio-Birmingham under 41, and Atlanta-Arizona under 41.
Last week: 4-1-1 against the number (80 percent)
This season: 9-4-1 against the number (69.2 percent)
All-time AAF picks: 9-4-1 against the number (69.2 percent)
OK, we can see Rick Barnes with a little Crash Davis/Zen/Whirling Dervish type of leadership style depending on the moment.
The current moment? Embrace the good. Soothe the aches and the consternation. Recognize the journey is not done, but there has been improvement and accomplishment, and remind the Orange-clad combatants of an age-old saying/fortune cookie fav: "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
As Russell said among the real people in Topeka, "Think about that."
The Vols won last night. The rest is immaterial.
All of it. The potential dominos for an amazing back-door cover that did not materialize. That calls come around and go around. The reminder that Kermit Davis offered all of us sweaters that light blue oxfords can be a poor choice. (Cue Ron Burgundy.)
Still, there were three things that deserved a little exploration.
Grant Williams is a dude. A Dude's dude, like somewhere Jeff Bridges is watching him in his rob with a White Russian and simply raises a glass and says, "Dude" with a silent nod and tip of the cocktail. Williams hit the game-winner last night, but he won the game with a seven-minute defensive stretch to start the second half in which he made every play — rebound, hedges on screens, switches, contesting dribble-drives, you name it — as Lamonte Turner was banging down shots. Yes, Williams numbers were strong — 21 points on 13 shots, six boards, four assists, three steals, two blocks and only one turnover — but his defense was a big part of the difference.
Second, as for the call at the end, well, I understand the Ole Miss angst, but Johnny Vols Fans have little sympathy. It was a charge if you look at it. Admiral Schofield was there and in position. Could it have been a no call? Yes. Was it a questionable, if not risky decision, to take that gamble? Yes. But not unlike the end of the UT-LSU game, I can see questioning whether the call should be made and the decision-making that led to the contact, but the call was right. Both times.
Finally, we can't be to a better place than trowing crap on the floor, at the players and the referees? Seriously? I get the frustration of the loss. I have felt the disappointment of a decisive call at the very end. There is not an emotion left unfelt from sports for me, and that's a monster part of the draw. The chance of the great; the risk of the great heartache. But throwing trash and cups and all the rest. We as a society should be better than that. At least that's how I view it.
For the Vols, a much-needed win with some clear needs to address before Saturday's dance with the UK dudes.
Color me in for that one. (And I promise not to throw anything one way or the other.)
Ratings and star power
OK, this has been a basketball season unlike most of the recent few winters.
No, my youth teams are still rolling. Don't go crazy. (We had a school team go 10-2 and win the North Hamilton County regular season and tournament title. We have a 2-3 girls team in the semis at 8-1, and we have a 4-5 boys team in the semis at 7-2. Giddy-up.)
No, the difference this winter is that we have watched way more college basketball than NBA basketball.
And that difference was highlighted in the macro and the micro last night.
Entertaining games with entertainment connections — and yes, offering college basketball betting tips this year has aided my connection — abounded Wednesday night.
The Vols in action. The Auburn Tigers sleepwalking defensively past Georgia. Some other action, too.
And the main draw in the NBA — it's most marketable player and it's most recognized and beloved franchise — did not tip until we were almost in the B-E-D.
Yes, LeBron moving to the West Coast has hamstrung the NBA numbers in a lot of ways. Since Christmas Day, seven of the eight NBA games on ABC have posted a double-digit decline. The year-to-date numbers of say this Tuesday or last Thursday are far less scientific because so many of the match-ups are so telling. The number have been better during the week since the All-Star break as five of the seven national games on ESPN/ABC and TNT since the break have increased over last year.
But that's the prime time spot. And if you still do not think that LeBron is the biggest individual draw in team sports, can you think of any person who would be getting this much conversation on a national platform as the best player on a team fighting to move into 10th place in a 15-team conference? Nope, me neither.
Well, my casual movement has been mirrored — at least for a monster name — by a lot of folks this basketball season.
As the NBA watches its TV numbers overall dip, the power of Zion is undeniable friends.
The UNC game last week was the most watched game of the sport's biggest rivalry in a decade. And Zion played half a minute.
Saturday, with Zion out, the infatuation of what will Duke look like without him pushed the Devils' win over Syracuse posted a strong number (1.8 rating and 2.98 million viewers, which is up 64 and 71 percent respectively from last year). Duke's power — without Zion mind you — drew 1.67 million viewers for a Tuesday night game (up 166 percent from last year) and up 34 percent from 2017 in a game that also included Duke.
Duke's upset loss crushed Celtics-Raptors an Thunder-Nuggets on TNT, which drew 1.25 million and 1.10 million viewers respectively.
Here are the top-six audiences for college basketball games this year:
UNC-Duke — 4.34 million
UVA-Duke — 3.76 million
Duke-UVA — 3.32 million
UT-UK — 3.01 million
Indiana-Michigan — 2.99 million
Duke-Syracuse — 2.98 million
And if Zion returns for Duke's trip to UNC, well, look out.
This and that
— It's here. It's happening. The combine is moving, working, it's moving by itself. (Yes, we just crossed the streams on a money quote from "Almost Famous" — which is criminally underrated — and "Weird Science" as well as working in a vague "Ghostbusters" riff. Cue Ice Cube "Today was a good day.") OK we had running backs and offensive linemen hit the scales and the reviews were mixed, especially for the RBs, who will start turning heads with the agility drills and the 40. It also brings us to what likely is the most anticipated measuring since you took your 6-year-old to Disney and whether they were taller than the Eagles' wing to ride the big-boy/big-girl rides. Kyler Murray meets the measuring tape today. It's go time.
— Wow, Fat Vader, we could not even offer a fade or not fade answer. We missed UT minus-4.5 at Ole Miss (and yes, the details of how an epic backdoor cover were there before Grant Williams missed the first technical) and had a heart-breaking loss of Marquette plus-5. How heartbreaking? Well, with right at five minutes to play, Marquette led 60-53. Marquette scored 1 point over the final 300 seconds and lost 67-61 that included a missed free throw in the final 20 seconds, a desperation foul and a missed lay-up at the buzzer. Yes, it was the definition of a bad beat. We cruised on Florida minus-4.5 (Gators won by 16) and SMU-Cincy under 135 (Cincy 52, SMU 49). A 2-2 night that felt like a loss. More picks this afternoon, because, say it with me kids, "Pickers gotta pick."
— Johnny Football will never be Johnny Canadian Football apparently. The former Texas A&M star, Heisman winner, first-round pick and Cleveland Browns starter can now add former Montreal Alouette to the list.
— Lady Gaga addressed the Bradley Cooper rumors on Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday, saying "A Star is Born" is a love story and she and Bra-Bra were 'acting.' OK. Excellent. And sadness. She also added that "Like social media, quite frankly, is the toilet of the internetAnd what it has done to pop culture is just abysmal." While we do not disagree, a current superstar — even one as talented as Gaga — that has 78.1 million Twitter followers (and whose pinned topped Tweet is promoting the release of her Oscar-winning movie) and more than 34 million Instagram followers is a little duplicitous, no?
— This is not a good look. Mike McCarthy, the former Green Bay Packers coach, was seen pulled a Fran McCaffery following officials from the gym and berating them after his step-son's team lost by a point on Tuesday. Did we mention this was a high school game? Here's the quote from the opposing AD to a local TV station in Wisconsin: "This parent chose to follow the officials and berate them, which is clearly unacceptable. Some things were said, some language was used that we don't want in our gym, unsportsmanlike language."
— Speaking of McCaffery, he was suspended for two games and fined $10,000 for his meltdown at the end of Tuesday's 20-point loss to THE Ohio State.
Lots to get to friends.
On the day that follows a True or False Tuesday and a Which Way Wednesday, let's mix and match, like Wendy's four-for-$4 menu
There are a lot of coaches who are videoed dropping WYMOWS words. (That's Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap. We think we need to get more into acronyms and this easy to understand social media slang. Who's with me?) Fran McCaffery was suspended for a) the F-bombs; b) following the referee into the hallway; or c) using the newly charged tag of 'cheater' in this day and age of increased gambling. Discuss.
OK, Kyler Murray meets the measurable today. Whatcha' got on Mr. Murray's verticalness? If we set the over/under at 5-foot-9 and 5/8 of an inch, you going over or under? (And if he can run the 5-10, well, that's going to be a pricey Eagles' wing friends.
As for today, Feb. 28, Jason Aldean is 42. He's the rare breed of current country musicians in that I'm OK with Jason's work.
The last episode of M*A*S*H aired on this day in 1983 and drew 125 million viewers.
It's also National Chili Day. Chili = HUGE Friend. Like life-long, lasting-man-hug-when-seeing-them friend.
Rushmore of Chili additions. Go.