I had a blast at Twin Lakes Park, attending the Fantasy Camp where the 1983 World Champion Baltimore Orioles were participating. What a group of players in attendance, led by Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. There was Rich Dauer, Mike Boddicker, Al Bumbry, Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Gary Roenicke, Mike Devereaux, and Jim Dwyer. Another former Oriole who was there was my buddy, Tom Niedenfuer. There were 90 fans taking part and each received one of my videos, Winning in the Game of Life. The coaches got a copy of my 50 Greatest Players and Moments in College Basketball books. It was quite a day at the ballpark!
What an exciting time at the Coronado Hotel on the Disney property. I was speaking to representatives of Firestone, with over 3,000 of them present. It was a real blast as I was with a number of sports celebrities, including Jim Palmer of baseball fame, former NHL scoring star Phil Esposito, race car driver Helio Castroneves, defensvie lineman Cortez Kennedy and golfer Paula Creamer.
Villanova knocked off Syracuse. Georgetown edged Louisville. Iowa State beat Kansas State. Wisconsin edged Minnesota. All of these so-called shocks featured ranked teams losing on the road to unranked squads. Just another Saturday in college basketball, baby! I know that some will look at these results, the term upset is overrated. Is it really shock city when you lose on the road in college basketball? It is not easy to get a W in a hostile environment. The fans are rooting hard for their host school. You feel the enthusiasm, energy and passion and feed off of it. I really feel that the toughest thing in sports is to go on the road and win a college basketball game.
Miami entered Wednesday night 0-6 lifetime against number one teams. The Hurricanes did not look worried about that as Jim Larranaga’s team outplayed the #1 Blue Devils. In all of my years calling games, I cannot remember seeing Duke struggle like that. Miami was able to penetrate and get layup after layup, dunk after dunk. It was a true M&Mer, a mismatch. Miami fans were excited going into the game and for good reason. The team got a lift with the return of Reggie Johnson. Durand Scott, Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji were outstanding. In the end, Duke will use as a teaching moment. Thursday’s practice should be pretty intense, my friends. Give credit to Miami on a job well done.
Michigan looked as good as any team I have seen this season. What a great road victory for the Wolverines, getting a W at The Barn! Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. were outstanding. Burke is the guard I choose if I could pick anyone in the backcourt in America. Mitch McGary gave Michigan an early lift off the bench. People have to remember that Michigan is a pretty young team. It is also a very deep squad. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is so vital. Minnesota has dropped two in a row, but you can see Tubby Smith has a very good team too. I look for the Golden Gophers to bounce back.
I felt it was a must win for the Wolfpack against Duke on Saturday. NC State was the ACC favorite going into the season and it was time for them to prove something. Mark Gottfried’s team had to take advantage of a Blue Devils team that was missing injured forward Ryan Kelly. CJ Leslie and Richard Howell dominated inside. Defensively, the Wolfpack did a nice job containing Duke’s three-point game. Gottfried’s team defended the perimeter well and got to the winner’s circle. It was a great environment and the ACC is going to be better than some people think. I am lucky to have a pair of great games this week. Michigan is at Minnesota and both teams are trying to rebound from a loss. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. go up against Dre Hollins and company. Then it is Butler hosting Gonzaga in a great coaching battle. I love what Brad Stevens and Mark Few have done. It is a shame that Rotnei Clarke got hurt over the weekend and is questionable for this weekend. This is a great time of season for college basketball!
What a blast we had in Miami for the BCS Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama. My wife and I spent 5 days in South Beach soaking in the excitement. We stayed at the Fountainebleu Hotel which happened to be the Alabama team hotel. I had a great time meeting several of the Alabama players and their parents. It was non stop action over the weekend, I was glad to be a guest speaker at Notre Dame’s pep rally on Monday along with Regis Philbin and Martin Short. The game was a complete domination by Alabama. What a job Nick Saban has done at Alabama – 3 championships in 4 years. INCREDIBLE!!!! All in all, it was a terrific few days that my wife and I got to share with our entire family, including our five grandkids.
I can not wait for Monday night, baby! I am really excited to be down in Miami for the national championship game. Can the Irish of Notre Dame win the national championship for the first time since 1988, or will the Crimson Tide repeat? South Beach will be rocking and rolling for the next few days. Nick Saban and Brian Kelly will have their teams prepared for this challenge. Gameday will be there to report on all of the news. My friends, I have a lot of respect for Alabama, and the Tide is staying in the same hotel that I am. I hope they don’t hear about my pick – Notre Dame 21, Alabama 20.
I break down the college basketball season into four parts – pre-conference, league play, championship week and the big dance. We are now into phase two with league action under way. This is the time to find out which teams were pretenders by fattening up on cupcake city before being tested night in and night out. It is tough to win on the road in league play. Go ask Illinois, which was super in non-league play. A loss at Purdue Wednesday put pressure on first year coach John Groce. Now his team takes on a highly ranked Ohio State squad next. Conference play produces a lot of pressure, baby!