Texas Tech and Virginia Survive and Advance to Final Four

As a basketball fan–I needed what the NCAA Tournament’s two Elite 8 games turned out to be in what were two epic college basketball games. After covering the piece of indifferent junk which goes by the name of the Oklahoma City Thunder for 76 games … I needed to be reminded why I love playoff basketball and hockey in the manner in which I do.

Yesterday was one of the best days of college basketball I can remember in a while. Let me tell you this…it would not shock me if Texas Tech wins the whole thing even after knowing they lost in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament to West Virginia. They have a superstar in Jarrett Culver. They have role players who play their roles to perfection. But most of all they have a coach they believe in and listen to. You watch this team and you get the impression if Chris Beard tells them to go thru a wall… they’ll look at him and say, “Which wall, coach?” What a quaint notion for those of us who cover the NBA on blogs.

Seriously, after watching 76 games of Russell Westbrook ignoring his coach it was genuinely refreshing to see a team in every way take on the persona of their coach. Maybe this just doesn’t translate to the NBA given the floundering we’ve witnessed this season from NBA teams coached by Fred Hoiberg, Billy Donovan and Brad Stevens…but yesterday was a needed doubleheader of basketball where four teams played their hearts out and played with their hearts on their sleeves.

Another thing…Carson Edwards from Purdue last night reminded me so much of Steph Curry back at Davidson when we really didn’t have an idea of what Steph Curry would become. In watching Carson Edwards play in his three games in this NCAA Tournament…I can only say I wish his team had advanced just so I could keep seeing him play on the biggest stage in college hoops.

So…today we have Duke vs. Michigan State with Coach K vs. Tommy Izzo. I love both coaches. I truly do. Duke in reality—should have already lost twice in this tournament with tentative performances against UCF and VA Tech. But if they get Zion going and get going on a roll they could still be something to behold. This should be a great game.

And then of course..my wife’s alma mater–the Auburn Tigers without star big Chuma Okeke take out John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats in an all SEC Elite 8 final. If Okeke was healthy I’d clearly like Auburn, but without him… I don’t know if they can keep Kentucky off the glass. Bruce Pearl is a piece of work and one of my favorite college coaches just because he has so much fun out there and his players feed off of him. So my head says Kentucky while heart screams… ‘War Eagle!’

What a day of hoops we could be in store in for if these two games measure up to what we saw yesterday from Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Virginia and Purdue.

Survive, win and advance.

March Madness is truly upon us and it has reminded me of what college basketball used to be and still is in the month of March.


Auburn Advances, Thunder Fall Flat at Home vs. Nuggets

My wife went to Auburn so during our thirty-eight years of being together I’ve developed an emotional tie to War Eagle Nation. I don’t hate Alabama like a true rabbid Auburn fan, but I would say Auburn has become my second favorite program to root for over the years easily supplanting the O State Cowboys since Holder only promotes wrestling and golf. But I will be watching Spencer Sanders with great interest this coming season though. I can’t wait for that dude.

It was good to see Auburn trounce Kansas and North Carolina in back to back games to advance to the Elite 8 where they will now have to face Michigan State without their star big Chuma Okeke. With Okeke–I’d pick Auburn to advance…now I’m not so sure. But that’s why you play the games.

As far as the Thunder they once again lost to Denver last night inside the Peake closing out a 0-4 season sweep by the Nuggets. The narrative I heard from Antonio Daniels after the game was literally absurd… and I’m a fan of Antonio as I wrote in my local OKC media rankings. It appears.. even Antonio has grown weary and appears to just be throwing in the towel on the no heart, no grit, no real basketball smarts Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

Denver came into this game on the second night of a road back to back on the very end of their toughest road trip of the season and just calmly outclassed, out-hearted, and out smarted the Thunder at every turn in the game which required a standup moment by the visitors.

Am I being too tough questioning the heart of the Thunder? I could care less. Unlike Low Energy Royce Young or Little Nick Gallo or even Antonio Daniels I in no way derive my livelihood from sucking up to the Thunder organization. I have my own blog and I’m going to call it exactly as I see it.

And here’s the way I see it with six games remaining in the regular season…for the second straight season the Thunder with one of the highest payrolls in the NBA is by far the most massively overhyped/underachieving piece of junk in the league. I’ve loved the Thunder over the years, but to be brutally candid—I don’t like or respect this team. I’d trade this bunch for the 23-59 group with Scott Brooks and not even blink.

The manner in which they play and compete sickens me as someone who’s played and coached sports. Or even just from the standpoint of being a fan…they sicken me. If I were Billy Donovan inside that locker room this basketball season.. I would have probably felt the need to destroy something nearby on at least a dozen occasions.

This Thunder team sickens me. But you know what, maybe some of this is on all of us for being duped into the notion that last year was on Carmelo Anthony.

Fool me once it’s on you. Fool me twice it’s on me.

The Thunder host the tanking Dallas Mavericks tomorrow afternoon. They better win this one because next time they play Dallas the Mavs will have Porzingus and Donic together as one of the most dynamic combos in the league.

You have to figure the Lakers will finally pair someone with LeBron. And you would assume the young Kings will be a year smarter and the better for it. What I’m saying here is that next year could even be tougher to just make the top eight and we have no idea yet who Jerry West lands for the Clippers.

We all know the NBA isn’t a coach driven league. It’s a star driven league and OKC’s two stars are 7-13 since the All-Star break. The two stars might want to do some serious soul searching on this Saturday afternoon.

Chris Beard Has Texas Tech in the Elite 8

With the 63-44 dismantling of Michigan by the Texas Tech Red Raiders– Tech head coach Chris Beard is one win over Gonzaga from becoming a household name in the universe of basketball coaches.

Jobs at both the elite college level and perhaps even an NBA job will be at his fingertips if he so chooses. He has one of the best players in the nation in Jarrett Culver and a team which clamps down on the defensive end like a pitt bull.

Obviously, he has far too strong of a coaching personality to ever be considered by Sam Presti with the Thunder. But this guy can flat out coach.

Kansas is the job where I could see Chris Beard if the Bill Self legal situation in Lawrence devolves to the point where the president of the university has no other choice but to let his coach go.

Then I would guess—you might see Self migrate to O State perhaps like Eddie Sutton back in the day when Kentucky had to let him go. This would be great for Kansas and O State, not so great for Texas Tech. Anyway… it will be something to keep an eye on after the national championship game.

The Gonzaga-Texas Tech game should be a war. I can’t wait to see it.

Post game presser from earlier round versus Northern Kentucky.

Westbrook Coddles Little Nick Galllo, Then Stones Daily Thunder’s Low Energy Royce Young

Now…. I have to tell you, when I saw this video I laughed so hard I thought I might spew out some internal organs.

This makes up for the Mueller Report.

The irony is that Little Nick Gallo has become the spiritual leader of Low Energy Royce Young’s Daily Thunder and gets every one of his cupcake questions answered by Russell Westbrook. Yet Russell won’t give ESPN’s national Thunder beat writer the time of day.

And since Low Energy Royce Young is the chief enabler of Little Nick Gallo on his Thunder flagship blog–Westbrook must be doing this for me is all I can decipher at this point since his little brother loves me.

Thank god for the Thunder post game pressers is all I can say at this point.

The Thunder host the Nuggets tomorrow night and should be well rested, but will be without Paul George who has a little ‘soreness’ in his shoulder. Don’t look for Paul George to be making his NHL debut anytime soon.

Adams, Grant Lead Thunder to Home Win Over Pacers, 107-99

The overpaid, overhyped, underachieving OKC Thunder awoke from another first half coma and promptly went on a 24-0 scoring spurt in the third period to come back from an eight point halftime deficit to defeat the Indiana Pacers by a score of 107-99 on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

With the win, the Thunder improve to 44-31 and are currently the No. 7 seed in the West.

Steven Adams had one of his better games of the season with a 25 point, 12 rebound night. He was my No. 1 star. Jerami Grant with 19 points and five late clutch points was my No. 2 star. Paul George with 31 points was my No. 3 star.

This is my recap. This team doesn’t at this point doesn’t deserve five paragraphs. They don’t warrant that much effort or thought.

Here’s Steven with the feature interview tonight. Up front is alpha Thunder sycophant Little Nick Gallo who has become the literary tour de farce voice of the Daily Thunder.

I saw this and knew it had to be the lead on my blog for the Thunder win over Indy. This in essence is me giving the voice of the Daily Thunder a Bolt on my eclectic blog.

Should Billy Donovan Be Coaching for His Job These Next Few Weeks?

Great question when you weigh the $6 million the Thunder will pay Billy Donovan next season after Sam Presti prematurely re-upped his coach this December when the Thunder were enjoying the easiest schedule in the NBA.

It made no sense then and it makes less sense now.

Here’s a number for you as in 43-31. That’s right —that’s what the Thunder’s record was at this point last season and this season after 74 games. Having or not having Carmelo Anthony on the roster has not made any real difference.

Here’s another number…6-12. That’s the Thunder’s record since the road loss in New Orleans. Put this in perspective…in the history of this franchise in OKC…only the inaugural 23-59 team had a worse record than this after the All-Star break.

Here’s more numbers. OKC leads the entire NBA in technical fouls received and leads the entire NBA in fewest passes per game with 240 team passes per game.

The Thunder since the break are one of the worst offensive and defensive teams in the league.

By my purely non-scientific take the Thunder are also the dumbest team in the league with a penchant for self torture at just the wrong moments.

This isn’t just one thing…it’s systemic.

Does firing Billy Donovan solve the problem?

No… not by itself because the problem is a lack of leadership from Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

This isn’t real sports…this NBA thing. Its only a real thing in San Antonio where players actually listen to their coach. The Warriors actually had a better winning percentage with Luke Walton and Mike Brown than they have with Steve Kerr. Really—if Kerr just showed up for the playoffs they’d probably have a better regular season record.

The NBA is not a coach driven league, it’s a star/agent driven league. So good luck finding the person Russell Westbrook will listen to for 82 games and change.

But Billy Donovan should be coaching for his job these next few weeks. The question is who would you hire that Russell Westbrook would listen to?

My Late Season OKC Media Awards

I’ve read some real bullshit from some of the locals this season on this yo yo ride of a season. And.. I’ve also read and heard some people at least make an attempt to somewhat tell it like it is. I no have sympathy for the in essence defacto Thunder ’employees’ who basically don’t go far beyond toting the company line.

I know it’s a one major league sport market, but some of what I’ve read this season is just basically weak.

Yet…at the top of the list some people are at least making an effort to be objective.

I’ve combined both print and radio on my poll as to who I enjoy reading or listening to. I did not include local television sportscasters on my poll.

So…basically—this is who I’ve enjoyed reading or listening to this season:

1 Jim Traber (This is a true sign of my aging in that Traber has won me over…easily–I might add. Most entertaining person in the market.)

2 Mark Rodgers ( A millennial, but an honest one. He’s always saying the things I’m thinking. He must be reading my blog. Smart kid if that’s the case.)

3 Dusty D (I love Dusty and he was a friend of my dad. He has a bright future in sports broadcasting).

4 Barry Tramel ( Note on Tramel—he’s the only person at the pressers with a set of balls to at least ask the obvious tough questions).

5 Erik Horne ( He’ll stick his nose in there, but needs to free wheel more with his writing, but I know he’s not a hopeless homer).

6 Antonio Daniels ( I need to see more, but he’s the only person on Fox I ‘ll listen to at all. He’s the best dresser in the market. I should prolly have Antonio higher.)

7 Maddie Lee (She’s new to the market, yet I’ve read some of her stuff and she actually will ask some non-homer questions and seems like a cute chick.)

8 Jenni Carlson Jenni will at least challenge the Thunder company line unlike some. She doesn’t ask stupid questions at the pressers either).

9 Little Nick Gallo Hey…what can I say? Everybody in their heart kind of loved Sean Spicer. Surely—he’s doing a brilliant parody of himself…right?

10 Mike Jackson The eclectic rogue blogger at okcthunderground.com who at the least doesn’t suck on the Thunder tit 24/7.

That’s my Top Ten. But there’s also some very creative bloggers on various other Thunder blogs and message boards I enjoy as well. But don’t give me the Thunder home cooking just to be doing so. In the immortal words of Howard Cosell…”Tell it like it is.”

Thunder Fall Back to 8th With Loss in Memphis, 114-103

This is difficult to write, but I’ll be brief and to the point. The Thunder with two days rest and desperately in need of a win to stay in the chase for a No. 4 or 5 seed in the West fell flat with one of the worst performances in the history of the franchise from my view.

The final score was 114-103. This was a Memphis team which came into the game with a record of 29-44. This was a Memphis team which was sitting six players and had a makeshift NBA roster on the court.

There’s no point in really going into the game per se because the effort was so poor on multiple fronts it hurts as a fan or even as an objective blogger to write about the game. I guess there will be some on some outlets who make an excuse. I can’t do that on here. The game and the effort made me ill.

The Thunder drop to 8th in the West and will still hold on enough to make the NBA playoffs for one round. AS an NBA fan, in all honesty, if this is the effort the Thunder are going to exert then I’d rather see the young Sacramento Kings play the Warriors and at least give it an honest effort.

I’d try and write more, but I don’t know what you write when you witness an effort this poor on a night the Thunder were healthy, rested and in need of a win in the worst way against an inferior opponent.

The Thunder host Indiana on Wednesday night inside the Peake.

Nick Collison’s Night

I thought it was excellent. Of course…I cried. Older guys cry a lot…that’s just the way it is because you’ve traveled the journey and see things through a different stage of life.

Even Jim Traber cries quite a bit and I was relieved to hear him say this just the other day on the air. So…it’s no big deal to cry.

What made Oklahomans embrace a player so closely who has a career scoring average of six points a game?

I think it’s a combination of his decency, his fierce work ethic, his smarts, his team first mantra and the fact I never once felt Nick Collison was conning us either on or off the court. He gave what he had and you knew he’d do anything to give his team an edge.

Plus, he has the heart of a human champion.

I hope to see Nick Collison in coaching like his father at some point.

Thunder End Four Game Losing Streak in Toronto, 116-109

Just when you were ready to throw in the towel for this Thunder basketball season the Thunder responded with their best 17 minute stretch of play this basketball season since maybe before the All-Star break.

Another loss would have been devastating to the whole feel of the season and seemed probable after another lethargic first half of play. But finally somewhere around the mid-point in the third period… the Thunder found some heart and played at a high level of basketball which if they could bottle would take them on a nice playoff run this spring.

As wasn’t the case two nights ago in OKC– in these last 17 minutes the Thunder did everything right and didn’t look like the Bad News Bears.

They made stops. They made free throws. They made threes. They got to the loose balls first. They did the big and little things and they got it from four guys who were doing this the before the All-Star Break, but not as much after the break.

Paul George was the MVP candidate again. He brought his big boy game. He led and steadied the team when it needed balance. PG scored 28 points on 17 shots and was 5-10 from the field.

Dennis Schroder was once again the player I had hanging around Lou Williams for the Sixth Man of the Year award before he experienced the joy of becoming a father. Schroder was my MVP in this game. He brought his A game and when he brings this game to the arena the Thunder are a different animal. Schroder had 26 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.

Jerami Grant added 19 points on five made threes and for the Thunder to get beyond the first round he needs to be this type of player. Grant has been on a roll of late and when he gives the Thunder this type of production it helps Russell Westbrook make better decisions.

Terrance Ferguson had been slumping since the break, but chipped in with 11 points and went 3-7 shooting threes. This is what the Thunder need from Ferguson. Namely—someone to make several threes and play some respectable defense.

Russell Westbrook tripled doubled for the 28th time, but more importantly seemed calmer and in a better place with decision making even though he struggled shooting the ball on a 6-20 night.

The Thunder improve to 43-30 and for the time being are still the 5th seed in the West with a road game on Monday night in Memphis the next game up.

At this point all of the seeding in the West is still up in the air because if you haven’t noticed the Denver Nuggets with nine games are tied for first with the Golden State Nuggets.

My advice to the Thunder is not to worry about the seeding and just bear down for 48 minutes and this will take care of itself.