Madness Doesn't Disappoint; Stanford Slides; Assistant Coach Salary Insanity; Truth Matters
It's par for the course, one might say, to have a bunch of stunning upsets in the early rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
This year's tourney certainly hasn't disappointed in that regard. On the men's side, in the first round alone:
We had No. 13 seed Furman upsetting No. 4 seed Virginia, a frequent tournament bust.
We had No. 15 seed Princeton ousting No. 2 seed Arizona, dealing another blow to the Pac-12's image.
We had No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, after gaining a spot with a play-in win over Texas Southern, stunning No. 1 Purdue, only the second time in history that a No. 16 beat a No. 1, and giving further credence to the belief that Purdue All-American Zach Edey is an over-rated 7'4" stiff.
The upsets continued in the second round.
No. 8 Arkansas outplayed No. 1 Kansas, saving us from another year of watching the sleazy Bill Self win an NCAA title.
And on the women's side, the second round saw No. 8 Mississippi upsetting No. 1 seed Stanford on the Cardinal's home court.
Jersey Boys: For this old New Jersey boy, it was a thrill to see FDU burst Purdue's bubble once again. Last year another New Jersey team, No. 15 St. Peter's, beat then No. 3 Purdue, becoming the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight.
And a more well-known Jersey school, Princeton, followed up its upset of Arizona by downing Missouri and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
When I was a kid growing up in Bergen County, my brother John went to Rutgers, the New Jersey state university. Their big rival was FDU, which the Rutgers kids derisively referred to as "Fairly Ridiculous."
Today it's Purdue that looks pretty ridiculous once again. Edey didn't get off a shot in the last nine minutes of the game, as FDU denied him the ball and stripped him on several occasions. We'd noted last month that the pros don't love Edey because he isn't very quick and has bad hands. Both deficiencies were on full display against FDU.
Stanford's Slide: As suggested in the Inside Track a few weeks ago, it was going to be very difficult for Stanford to make its customary appearance in the Final Four this year because of long offensive scoring droughts and perimeter defense shortcomings.
Well, not only did the Cardinal not reach the Final Four, it didn't reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2007.
The Cardinal struggled offensively for the last month of the season, unable to find many looks for three-point specialist Hannah Jump and with All-American Haley Jones in a prolonged shooting slump. The dysfunction continued in Saturday's loss to Mississippi. Stanford went scoreless for six and a half minutes in the second quarter and five minutes in the third, blowing a number of layups and turning the ball over with impunity.
The Rebels are an excellent defensive team, and their physicality clearly rattled Stanford from the opening tip. They also did a fabulous job on the offensive boards, resulting in numerous second chances, and took advantage of wide-open three-point opportunities.
Brilliant Brink: Cameron Brink, not fully recovered from a stomach ailment that kept her out of Thursday's game, singlehandedly led a furious comeback from a 13-point deficit. Stanford tied the game with a minute remaining and had a chance to go ahead. But consecutive ugly turnovers by Jump and Jones doomed the Cardinal.
Brink was, frankly, out of this world, with 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks. She made 10 of 10 free throws in the game...this from a woman shot 62% from the line just a year ago.
Brink will be back next season, and will certainly contend for Player of the Year honors. But she'll need some help if Stanford is to return to national prominence.
The Cardinals' will have plenty of size, with 6-7 Lauren Betts--the nation's No. 1 recruit this year--likely joining Brink in the lineup, but they lack a penetrating guard who can create and drive to the basket, and they'll need a three-point option to complement Jump, who may return for a fifth year. And Betts, despite showing some improvement late in the season, clearly has a long way to go.
I still miss Lexie Hull.
Why Players Should Get Paid: Alabama's assistant football coaches just received contract extensions and huge pay increases. According to the Tuscaloosa News, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees signed a three-year deal with a starting salary of $1.9 million that will increase by $100K each year. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele also will get $1.9M. Position coaches are all in the high six figures, several just under the $1M mark.
At Ohio State, the assistant coach payroll has increased to just under $9 million, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles leads the way at $1.96M, while offensive coordinator Brian Hartline will now make $1.6M per year. Five assistant coaches top the $1M mark.
As far as I can tell, none of these gentlemen have cured cancer.
Truth Matters: With Joe Biden having returned honesty, sanity and dignity to the White House for the past few years, we've been able to take a break from injecting politics into The Inside Track and writing letters / op eds to the San Francisco Chronicle (49 published to date).
But the recent stream of lies emanating from the soon-to-be-indicted former president, Fox News fabricator Tucker Carlson and sold-his-soul speaker Kevin McCarthy relative to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Jan. 6 insurrection pushed us over the edge. Here's our latest submission to the Chronicle: