Pac-12 Gets Some Respect; Transfer U; Pay Inequity; Looney Lindsey
The biggest story in the NCAA Basketball Championships so far has been the performance of the under-rated, often-dissed (including by this writer) Pac-12 Conference teams.
As of today, three of the teams who have reached the Elite Eight are from the Pac-12: USC, UCLA and the Cinderella team of the tourney, Oregon State. Surprisingly, this is the first time both USC and UCLA have been in the Elite Eight together.
The Trojans have the one of the biggest teams in America with seven-foot Conference Player of the Year Evan Mobley, his 6-10 brother Isaiah, and several big guards who can shoot it.
UCLA has a gaggle of good players, led by point guard Tyger Campbell, who never commits a turnover, and the J boys—Johnny Juzang, Jamie Jaquez, and Jules Bernard—under-rated center Cody Riley and off the bench shooter David Singleton. They play with an impressive toughness instilled by coach Mick Cronin, and their overtime win over Alabama yesterday was the best game of the tournament thus far.
Oregon State, you'll recall, won the Pac-12 tourney after going 10-10 in league. Somehow, they've caught fire and, after dispatching UCLA, Oregon and Colorado in the Pac-12 championships, have beaten No. 5 seed Tennessee, No. 4 seed Oklahoma State and No. 8 Loyola to advance to the Elite Eight, tying the record for the lowest seed (No. 12) to get this far.
Coach Wayne Tinkle, who I'd love to see at Stanford, has done a masterful job with his team, led by senior guard Ethan Thompson.
It’s been quite refreshing to have a tournament with the usual suspects—Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and Virginia—all missing in action.
All three Pac-12 teams face difficult assignments tonight and tomorrow, with OSU taking on No. 2 seed Houston, USC facing No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, and UCLA taking on No. 1 seed Michigan, but even if they go no further, it’s been a boon for the conference, both prestige-wise and revenue-wise.
Transfer Epidemic: The other big story coming out of March Madness has been the proliferation of transfers. The USC-Oregon game was a literal transfer fest. The Duck start four transfers—Chris Duarte (Northwest Florida State), Eric Williams (Duquesne), Eugene Omoruyi (Rutgers) and LJ Figueroa (St. John's).
Four of USC’s top seven players are transfers: Tahj Eaddy (SE Missouri State and Santa Clara), Isaiah White (Utah Valley), Drew Peterson (Rice) and Chevez Goodwin (Wofford).
Things have gotten so out of hand in college basketball (and football for that matter), that many schools now have a "Director of Transfer Recruiting."
I kid you not.
Coach Daddy: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that of the homegrown USC recruits, the aforementioned Mobley brothers came to Trojanland only after their father, Eric Mobley, was appointed an assistant coach.
The senior Mobley had 11 years of experience coaching in the cesspool of AAU basketball, but never had coached men's basketball in either a college or high school setting.
However, he was the father of two of the nation's top recruits when added to the Trojan staff in 2018. (Fittingly, Mobley replaced Tony Bland, who was fired in the wake of his arrest in connection to the FBI's investigation on bribery in college basketball).
Any guesses as to how long Mobley will remain on the USC staff after his sons leave for the NBA?
Soccer Inequity: In the category of, what else is new, the U.S. will miss its third straight Olympic men’s soccer tournament after a loss to Honduras in the qualifying event Sunday in Guadalajara. The U.S. men also missed the 2018 World Cup.
Meanwhile, The US women's soccer team is unquestionably the best in the world and the most successful in international competition, winning four Women’s World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals.
The women sued U.S. Soccer over pay discrimination, but most of their suit was tossed by a federal judge who determined the women are actually paid more per game than the men.
Turns out when negotiating their agreement, the women opted for more security, guaranteed salary and benefits, while the men chose the “pay for play” risk, with payment based on performance. If the women had gambled, and went for the riskier package, they would’ve reaped a lot more piasters.
Bird vs. LeBron: While we're on the subject of underpaid female athletes, a much more egregious comparison was circulating on Facebook last week. It compared the careers of NBA champion LeBron James and WNBA champion Sue Bird, both acknowledged as among the all-time best in their sport.
Both James and Bird have played 17 years in their respective leagues. Both have won four league championships. Yet LeBron's salary is $37.44 million, and Sue's was listed at $215,000. (Other sources have pegged it at $350,000).
Either way, it’s disgraceful. I get that the NBA brings in a lot more money and has bigger crowds and TV ratings, but seriously folks?
Gun Madness Revisited: I received quite a few comments (all favorable) regarding last week’s blog on the gun violence madness in the U.S.
A quick follow-up. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, best known as one of our disgraced former president’s favorite bootlickers, was on TV Sunday explaining why he opposes an assault weapons ban. It’s among the most ludicrous, illogical and delusional responses I’ve ever seen or heard.
“I own an AR-15,” Graham said. “If there’s a natural disaster in South Carolina where the cops can’t protect my neighborhood, my house will be the last one that the gang will come to, because I can defend myself.”
Not sure what type of disaster would prevent the cops from protecting Lindsey’s neighborhood, or what gangs he’s talking about, but I’m just wondering if he plans to have a permanent sign in front of his home that reads “I’ve got an AR-15, so you best go next door and attack my neighbor instead.”