Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

Shooting from the lip

Worst practice

That's it. I've had enough. The next time college basketball fans rush the court, the officials should clear the court and give the opposing team 25 technical free throws.

Something, anything, needs to be done to stop this ridiculous practice.

Here should be the rule: if your team is not ranked and you upset the No. 1 team in the nation, it's okay to storm the court. Anything short of that is not good enough.

Last month, for instance, then-No. 1 Duke lost to No. 20 North Carolina State on N.C. State's floor. I'd even argue that the Wolfpack, 13-2 then, should have won. Yet fans rushed the court, including a student in a wheelchair who was knocked over and almost trampled.

Nine days later, after Duke had lost, Miami fans flooded the court after the then-No. 25 Hurricanes beat the Blue Devils by 27 points. Again, if you're ranked, should your fans be that overwhelmed when you beat anyone?

Last week, TCU knocked off No. 2 Kansas and TCU fans celebrated at midcourt. Okay, you know what? I'm willing to let that one go. TCU had never in its long history beaten a top-five team, so upsetting the second-ranked team in the country was rush-the-court worthy.

Notre Dame and Louisville played an incredible five-overtime thriller Saturday night, but that wasn't a good enough reason for Irish fans to run all over the court after Notre Dame's 104-101 victory. Heck, Notre Dame was ranked 25th and Louisville had already lost three times in the past month.

So now we're rushing the court for beating the 11th-ranked team in the country?

Heck, even ESPN's Dick Vitale, who loves the game as much as anyone, thinks it is time to knock off all this rushing-the-court jazz.

"I think there is too much rushing the court,'' Vitale told me last week, before the Notre Dame-Louisville game. "There's a danger of somebody getting hurt. I understand Texas Christian doing it against Kansas, but some of these I cannot comprehend.''

Best (and funniest line)

CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg had a hilarious, accurate and not-as-inappropriate-as-you-might-first-think line when describing Indiana's Victor Oladipo during Sunday's Indiana-Ohio State game.

"He's like a baby's bottom,'' Kellogg said, "smooth and sometimes explosive.''

I'm sure someone out there was offended, but come on, that's a great line.

Best broadcast

ESPN's Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale should be applauded for managing to keep their voices for Saturday night's five-overtime game between Notre Dame and Louisville, but they should be given a standing ovation for keeping up their enthusiasm for five overtimes. At the end, both looked like they had run a marathon, but at no point did their energy level drop.

Nice work, fellas.

Best reporting note

ABC's Lisa Salters had a nice update during Sunday's Lakers-Heat broadcast on a special undershirt that Lakers center Dwight Howard wore to help with his injured right shoulder. Howard, Salters explained, had to get permission from the NBA to wear it. She described in detail what the therapeutic undershirt did, and while I didn't quite understand what the shirt did, Salters deserves a pat on the back for the report.

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but Salters does a heck of a job on ABC's NBA coverage, particularly with in-game interviews.

Worst fans

This week, we have a tie between the punks of Notre Dame and the immature idiots at Duke.

During Saturday night's epic five-overtime game at Notre Dame, Louisville's Gorgui Dieng, a native of Senegal, picked up his fourth foul and was taunted by fans with the chant of "USA, USA.'' Isn't it ironic that a school whose nickname is based on another country would pick on a kid not from the United States?

Meantime, I'm sick of hearing about how clever and passionate Duke's "Cameron Crazies'' are. They are ignorant and disgusting, for the most part. Take last week. Less than a week after his grandmother died, North Carolina State guard Tyler Lewis was shooting free throws and students were heard chanting, "How's your grandma?''

Bunch of idiots.

Worst news

Oh no. As if we didn't already have enough of Fox's Gus Johnson screaming and yelling. Now Fox is in the process of making him the voice for the network's soccer coverage.

Johnson will begin calling matches on Fox Soccer Channel starting Wednesday with the Manchester United-Real Madrid Champions League match. The plan is that if Johnson does well, he will be Fox's lead announcer for the 2015 Women's World Cup and the 2018 men's World Cup.

It's a great idea that Fox is trying to establish someone as the voice of soccer in this country. As Newsday's Neil Best points out, it's "past time for the sport to have a signature American voice." I just wish it was someone other than Johnson.

True, I've never been a fan of his overdramatic calls that seem to draw attention more to himself than the game he is calling. But I also think he will struggle with the patience and steadiness it will require to call soccer where, often, there is only a goal or two. Soccer isn't football or basketball or mixed martial arts — sports where Johnson has the most experience. You might go 15 or 20 minutes in soccer without a reason to raise your voice. It will be interesting to see if Johnson can be effective with that kind of down time.

Good (maybe) studio show

I'm still trying to figure out if I like ABC/ESPN's NBA Countdown studio show with Magic Johnson, Bill Simmons, Michael Wilbon and Jalen Rose. It still feels odd that there is no defined host, yet the show moves along at a nice pace.

Johnson is hit-or-miss, sometimes really perceptive and sometimes really scattered in his thoughts. When he's passionate about something, he's fun to listen to. When he's not passionate, he's a bore.

Wilbon and Rose are good, and Simmons has become the most interesting voice. I don't always agree with him, but I enjoy listening to his opinions.

For example, most analysts are trying to pin the Lakers' woes on Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but Simmons, at the very least, gave fans something different to chew on.

"The guy getting a free pass from me this season is Steve Nash,'' Simmons said. "He might be washed up. He's 39 years old. Point guards and centers are like boxers, when they lose it they lose it. If he doesn't start playing better, the Lakers are not going to make the playoffs.''

Saying Nash might be washed up? Simmons just might be right. But that's not the point. How many analysts out there would be so brazen to say something like that?

Most overblown

National signing day has become something of an obsession in this country. Websites are dedicated to it. Newspapers go crazy over it. ESPN dedicates hours upon hours and even turns over one of its networks (ESPNU) to it in early February.

The funniest part is how fans take it so seriously. They either brag about what a great day their school had or want their coach fired if he is perceived to have a lousy day. All for a bunch of kids most fans have never even seen.

Well, check this out:

The Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina did a study, looking at Rivals.com top 100 recruits from 2006-09. The study found that 42 percent of those prospects turned out to be busts. That means they failed to either appear in 40 college games or start 20 games or have one above-average season. That means about 58 percent turned out to be worthwhile players. Only 14.1 percent turned out to be stars — defined as an All-American or a first- or second-round NFL draft pick.

Three things that popped into my head

1. I don't know that I've ever seen a network as obsessed with a losing team as ESPN is with the 24-28 Lakers.

2. I might be more excited about Rays pitcher and catchers reporting this week if I was more excited about the catchers who will be reporting.

3. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant might end up being the NBA MVP, but the Heat's LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet.

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

     
   
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