Simply brutal 2016 claims another famous musician

Before the conference season tips off, more tragic news in the world of pop rock music.

The year 2016 saw many famous musicians leave the world way too soon.  Starting with David Bowie and continuing with Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, and a sad capper to the year happened on Christmas Night as the frontman from the mega popular mid 1980’s United Kingdom group Wham!–George Michael died peacefully at his London home at the tender age of 53:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38432862

Many music stars past and present immediately took to Twitter and Instagram to offer their sympathies and memories:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38432805

George Michael was a huge part of the soundtrack of my youth

The first time I heard him sing was their Top 40 hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (which is the opening track on their Make It Big! album, released in 1984), I was having tacos and rice with my family while eating inside a small Mexican restaurant.  Almost a third of the way through the song, that catchy dance beat immediately caught my imagination.  Soon thereafter, MTV would ride the wave and play the video along with their other big hit “Freedom” and later on his contribution to the holiday soundtrack with “Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart).”

Here are the two mega-hits that made Michael and school friend Andrew Ridgeley famous worldwide between 1984 and 1986, leading off with a performance on the BBC’s Top of the Pops (similar to what ABC did American Bandstand for over 33 years):

 

“Freedom” (fast forward to begin the song at around the 1:13 mark):

 

Rest In Peace, George.

The best way to close it out is from their final album in 1986 here is “I’m Your Man” (fast forward to around the 1:16 mark to begin the song):

 

 

 

 

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North Carolina found to be in more hot water with NCAA

Stemming from May 2015 report on 50 African Studies classes, a Level 3 Violation could carry very steep penalties

Thursday afternoon saw the NCAA act again on its’ very slow, but painful process against North Carolina and several students skipping classes.  Please read over my past blog from May 2015 on the exact details of this academic scandal.

Bottom line, according to Dana O’Neil–college basketball beat writer for ESPN, if the NCAA finds that if the violations are severe enough, they could strip the Tar Heels of both their national championships won in 2005 over Illinois in St. Louis and 2009 easily over Michigan State in Detroit.

Please stay tuned during part of 2017 in what hopefully will be the final sorry chapter in this never-ending saga.

Louisville outlasts Kentucky

Another tight contest between bitter in-state rivals as Cardinals made key plays down the stretch

A fun game at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville had Rick Pitino finally beating John Calipari for the first time since December 2011.  The final score was 77-74 which featured many great plays and a Wildcats offense that struggled shooting only 39 percent in the first half.  However, UK stayed in within striking distance thanks to converting on 9 of 12 fast break opportunities.

Pitino credited the crowd in an interview with Scott Van Pelt on the late night ESPN SportsCenter.   Clearly, Kentucky is a step behind in possibly snagging one of those four coveted Number 1 seeds come Selection Sunday.

Speaking of which, there are only 80 days until the tournament draw.

I will continue to mention these small reminders periodically until CBS does their usual countdown after the AFC determines which team will earn the right to go to Super Bowl LI in Houston.

Grayson Allen suspended indefinitely by Duke

The Most Outstanding Player at the 2015 Final Four tripped Steven Santa Ana of Elon on Wednesday night, school suspended him indefinitely

Once was bad enough, twice was horrible this past season two weeks apart in February  2016.  With a little over four minutes remaining in the first half in Greensboro, Grayson Allen stuck out his leg and tripped Elon’s Steven Santa Ana on a drive to the basket.  It basically looked like Allen kicked Santa Ana from behind, earning a technical foul in the process.

He was very frustrated and angry while sitting at times on the bench, but did eventually return to play with 16 minutes left in the second half.  Clearly, he was not the same type of aggressive player after the trip–scoring a career low three points.

Hall of Fame Coach Mike Kryzyewski mentioned the right things and what Allen had to do in apologizing both to Santa Ana and Elon Coach Matt Matheny in the press conference after the game:

“I handle things the way I handle them.  I think I’ve handled this correctly and moving forward I will continue to handle it correctly, and I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do.

I’m a teacher and a coach. And I’m responsible for that kid, so I know him better than anybody. So to think that it’s the last thing that’s said about this to him is wrong. Obviously, we will do more. It doesn’t mean you have to see it, or anybody else has to see it.”

The statement from Thursday morning by the school was stern and direct, with the key words being that “the incident was unacceptable and inexcusable.”

It is obvious that kind of physical violence is not to be tolerated or condoned at any given place or time–whether it is during a game, walking by cheerleaders who happen to be practicing their routines, or any staffers trying to do their jobs.

Duke still won the game, but my point is–dirty play is simply not called for.  It gives a bad eye to the sport and I am glad that Duke University stepped up and put the hammer down on him.  As heady a player as Grayson Allen is, everyone still has to abide by the same rules–from the NCAA as a whole, and also from both the school and their affiliated conference.

ACC could also send sterner punishment, if they want

Since it was a non-conference game, it will be interesting to see if Allen will still be enrolled as a student going forward.  Again, I as a blog reporter do not wish to spread rumors of any kind.  I just report the facts as I see them on television and what I view online and/or hear on sports talk radio.

Until Allen learns his lesson, he will be very lucky just to earn his diploma–that is, if he somehow returns in time for the ACC Tournament come early March.

That, my online friends–is another topic for another day.

 

 

 

Northwestern, Purdue, and Butler score nice victories

Bob Huggins earns his 800th win as West Virginia wins, Roy Williams briefly loses his cool in Las Vegas, and Georgetown upends Syracuse in long-awaited renewal of once bitter rivalry

SONG SELECTION:

“Jingle Bells” and “Run, Run Rudolph”–pick your own version to rock along to when wrapping your presents

The State Farm Legends Classic in snowy Chicago and the Crossroads Classic in somewhat icy, sleety Indianapolis entertained fans on Saturday afternoon.

As longtime Notre Dame announcer Jack Nolan said to his radio audience,

“It was a tale of two halves–Notre Dame clicked on all cylinders in the first half.  Purdue dominated in the second half.”

Notre Dame was unable to hold a 17 point lead late in the first half.  Purdue went on a 12-2 run to trim a 52-38 deficit down to four points, then utilized another 10-0 run to take the lead for good.  One might recall, the Fighting Irish blew a similar game in the Crossroads Classic to Indiana leading by 16 en route to losing to the Hoosiers 80-73.

Leading the way for Matt Painter’s bunch in Purdue’s alternate home court was Caleb Swanigan with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Vincent Edwards also having a double-double scoring 20 points and 10 rebounds.  Notre Dame has lost two straight after losing to Villanova on December 10.  The Irish were led by Bonzie Colson had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Matt Farrell had a nice game with 22 points, 10 assists to go along with five rebounds.  It was Purdue’s first win in six tries since the Crossroads Classic replaced the old Boilermaker Blockbuster series in 2011.

The other game in Nap Town was Butler surprising Indiana 83-77 as Tyler Lewis found Tyler Wideman for a dunk with 15.6 seconds.  The Hoosiers never had a chance to either tie the game to force overtime or take the lead as they were mostly fighting from behind.  Indiana managed to trim a 11 point Butler lead down to two at 79-77 with 70 seconds left, it was not enough.

For the Bulldogs, it was not only their first win against Indiana since 2012 but even sweeter for their school mascot.  Butler Blue III returned triumphantly after undergoing surgery in October to repair a torn ACL.  Even his Twitter account could not contain his true excitement saying simply:

“DAWG GONE IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK!”

Even though Butler lost at Indiana State earlier in the week, they are 3-0 against the Top 25 according to the Associated Press polls and two other victories in the Top 10.  This is one of many criteria that the Men’s Selection Committee looks at in evaluating teams for inclusion to the NCAA Tournament.

Senior forward Senior forward Andrew Chrabascz became the 38th Butler player in history to score at least 1,000 points while wearing the Bulldogs blue and white.  The Rhode Island product had a nice game scoring 14 points to go along with three rebounds and four assists.  Kelan Martin led the charge with 28 points and he is only 35 away from joining Chrabascz as 1,000 point Butler career scorers.

About that jacket fling, it was not for rolling snake eyes at the blackjack table

Instead, it took place a few feet away from the Strip at the third annual CBS Sports Classic as Kentucky survived a furious comeback from North Carolina in a dizzying final score of 103-100.  The two winningest programs in the history of the sport met for the first time in two years and the 38th meeting all-time inside the new T-Mobile Arena proved to have a true Elite Eight/Final Four feel.

Upset over a foul against Isaiah Hicks midway through the first half, North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams flung his trademark baby blue jacket towards his teams’ bench.  It elicited a technical foul from veteran referee Roger Ayres.

Kentucky led most of the first 39 minutes shooting a blistering 54 percent from the field.  However, the Tar Heels clawed their way back as Justin Jackson scored two of his team high 34 points with 45 seconds on the clock

North Carolina’s Justin Jackson nearly outshined Monk with 34 points, and his basket with 45 seconds left put the Tar Heels (10-2) ahead 100-98 after trailing much of the second half.  Malik Monk (by this point had broken the Kentucky single game record for points scored by a freshman player, which was previously shared by Jamal Murray in 2015 and Terrence Jones in 2011 when they both scored 35 in a game) nailed a right-wing three of his own with 16.7 seconds left to give UK a 101-100 lead.

After Hicks hit only the backboard at the other end, De’Aaron Fox was fouled and consequently hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 103-100 lead. North Carolina gathered the inbounds from the front court but Kenny Williams’ desperation three at the buzzer got lodged between the rim and backboard.

Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 from long distance as UK will no doubt have little time to think before their in-state grudge match against Louisville on Wednesday night.  For North Carolina, they return to familiar territory at the Dean Smith Center to take on Northern Iowa on Wednesday and Monmouth on December 28 before their ACC opener on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta at the Wramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech.

Georgetown holds in at Syracuse in renewal of classic rivals

Thanks to L.J. Peak and Rodney Prior, they helped Georgetown in ruining a nice tribute to former Syrcause legend Pearl Washington–who sadly died this past April at age 52 from cancer.  A video tribute and an unveiling of his Number 31 on the court at the Carrier Dome was a very nice touch to one of the original Big East stars.

Peak had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Pryor added 20 points to help the Hoyas win a huge game on the road over struggling Syracuse 78-71.  Georgetown also feasted at the free-throw line, converting on 22 of 25 attempts for the game which included nine free points in the final 38 seconds of action.  Syracuse was not as fortunate in missing 11 of their 25 attempts to the charity stripe.  Syracuse is 6-4 and really scuffling at the guard position, even though sophomore Tyler Lydon had a nice game for the Orange hitting on 12 of his 13 shots from the field in finishing up with a career high and game high 29 points.

Finally, congratulations to Bob Huggins of West Virginia as he watched his Mountaineers give him win number 800 in his career with a comfortable 112-67 win over the UMKC Kangaroos.  The Mountaineers forced 27 Kangaroos turnovers, which led to 38 points.  Leading the way for West Virginia was Nathan Adrian with 13 points, along with Esa Ahmad and Daxter Miles Jr. each tabbing 12 points apiece.  Seven Mountaineers players finished in double figures.  Elijah Macon led the Mountaineers with seven rebounds and Jevon Carter had six assists.

Shortly after the game, numerous video tributes from the likes of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Kentucky coach John Calipari, famous West Virginia alumnus and current Golden State Warriors executive board member Jerry West, along with numerous former Cincinnati and West Virginia players all sent their congratulations.

Consider that Bob Huggins is only the tenth coach in all of NCAA history to amass 800 wins, but only the third to do so at his alma mater.  The others were Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and the late, great Adolph Rupp in Kentucky.

If you also count one-time Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, he also earned his 800th win on Wednesday at tiny Keiser College, who defeated Trinity Baptist by 30 points 77-47.

Late night dibs

USC rallies late to stun Troy at home and the Men of Troy are 10-0.

Luke Kornet’s late trey helped lift Vanderbilt over Tennessee-Chattanooga 76-74 and Illinois scored a nice win 75-73 in Chicago over BYU as Tracy Abrams led the way for the Orange Crush with 15 points.

Another surprise was Wichita State losing at home, along with Oklahoma losing early in the day to an upstart Memphis Tigers squad.

Finally, Belmont was supposed to play at Wisconsin-Green Bay.  But white out conditions and very dangerous wind chill readings between -25 and -40 (that’s frostbite of the worst kind for people living in warm climates) forced the game to be postponed.  A makeup date will be determined soon.

Season’s Greetings To One And All

This will be my final blog before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

It has been a pleasure and I will try my best to make the blogs really fun, fully realizing there are only 84 days until Selection Sunday.

And although Villanova continues to lead the polls, many schools with lots of tradition and some schools hoping to rewrite history in the likes of Gonzaga, Creighton, and Butler are hoping to crash the party (and maybe scores of people’s online brackets) come late March.

See you all back in the first week of January with the return of “Under The Microscope”–those blogs during parts of January and February are always insightful and truly provocative at the same time.

May Santa get what you really wish for underneath your holiday trees.

Lucky for me, I scored tons of deals online during 2016 so my list was not as huge as in years past.  Please have a fun Christmas and may 2017 bring all of us lots of joy (in a mostly uncertain world) and hopefully tons of successful days and nights.

Craig Sager loses brave fight with cancer, popular Turner Sports reporter dead at 65

Before his two year battle with acute myeloid leukemia and undergoing three separate bone marrow transplants, basketball fans the world over will never forget Craig Sager when he would wear those really splashy suits and displaying that colorful personality getting inside the heads of many NBA coaches and players.  And yes, for a short time from 2011 to covering the Sweet 16 round in 2015, Sager also brought his insights to the greatest tournament in the world each March.  The ultimate topper was being in Cleveland this past June when he got the chance to cover Game 6 of the NBA Finals for ESPN/ABC.

Craig Sager lost his two year battle with cancer on Thursday.  The 2016 Jimmy V Perseverance Award Winner for Courage at the annual ESPY Awards was something to behold.  And this tragic news comes two days after Sager was announced that he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Just you wait until you see the many scores of broadcasters and players that paid tribute to him two days before his passing:
http://www.sportsvideo.org/halloffame/on-air-talent/craig-sager/

At the very least, he managed to celebrate one final wedding anniversary on Wednesday, December 14 alongside his wife, Stacy.

His words from the 2016 ESPY Awards (even while wearing a flowery sportcoat on stage) will carry a lasting impact for decades to come:

“Whatever I might’ve imagined a terminal diagnosis would do to my spirit.  It’s summoned quite the opposite — the greatest appreciation for life itself.

So I will never give up. And I will never give in. I will continue to keep fighting, sucking the marrow out of life, as life sucks the marrow out of me. I will live my life full of love and full of fun. It’s the only way I know how.”

Craig Sager accepting Jimmy V Award for Courage at 2016 ESPY Awards, Los Angeles

So long, Craig.  I guess that both Stuart Scott and John Saunders have some company in the wardrobe department.  All kidding aside, adding a little extra color in heaven is not really a bad thing to ponder.

Pair of barn burners in chilly and windy Chicago

SONG SELECTION:

Natalie Prass, “Everybody’s Having Fun (It’s Christmas Time)”
Found on Stereogum, make your online purchase at https://natalieprass2.bandcamp.com/releases

For a minimum contribution of $1.29, all proceeds will benefit the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC) of Virginia.

On a evening that saw lots of near frostbite conditions in and around Chicago, two really hot games took place at the communities of Evanston and Lincoln Park

Both games on Wednesday night saw some great basketball action as a pair of inner-city rivalries renewed acquaintances.

First, Chicago State traveled north to take on Northwestern in one of the final games before Welsh-Ryan Arena gets its’ much overdue makeover.

Northwestern got off to a nice start during the first half, but somehow Chicago State clawed their way back in the middle of the second half.

Thanks to a three-point basket by Fred Sims, the Cougars took a brief 52-50 lead.  However, the Wildcats were quick to respond by scoring the next seven points and never relinquished the lead after that point.

Leading the charge for Chris Collins was Vic Law, Jr.  He had a very nice game finishing with 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting, including 3 of 6 from long distance.  Chicago State was led by Fred Sims, Jr. who ended up with 22 points.

Chicago State won the rebounding battle surprisingly by a 40-33 margin.  But a great defensive play off an inbounds pass by Barret Benson saved the evening and would ice the game a few moments later with two free throws in a narrow 68-64 win.

Both teams will be having some time to rest after finishing up semester final exams and then there will be a huge doubleheader at “The House That Michael Jordan Built” as the United Center will play host to two games on Saturday night:

Chicago State will take on DePaul, and the nightcap features Dayton vs. Northwestern.

Speaking of DePaul, they had more than a battle on their hands with the Flames from Illinois-Chicago.  UIC came out hotter than a wood brick oven making a piping hot pizza at 500 degrees .  Led by junior forward Kyle Guice, he was a difference maker hitting 4 of his 6 shots from deep and ending up scoring 14 points.  Tarkus Ferguson and Tai Odiase (yes, that’s his real name) each finished with 12 points in what you can basically call a mild upset as UIC upended DePaul 80-75 in one of the final games at their campus in McGrath-Phillips Arena before relocating to their new arena which will be housed inside one of the key spaces occupying McCormick Place next season.

Just like the Chicago Bulls have been suffering through in recent years in not getting up for the teams that they should be beating with regularity, DePaul is going through a major funk at the time of this blog posting.

The Blue Demons have dropped two straight games and three of their last four games overall.  Even though guard Eli Cain had a career best 27 points on 11 of 20 shooting from the field, including nailing 4 of 7 attempts from beyond the arc, DePaul misfired on their last five shots as Guice’s last three point shot was the final nail in breaking a 73 all tie.

Another light schedule, but another pair of games that was worth noting were in Wisconsin and Rutgers

The Badgers helped Greg Gard earn his 25th career win as head coach when he stepped in this time one year ago replacing the legend in Bo Ryan as Wisconsin easily won their intrastate battle with Wisconsin-Green Bay 73-59.  Senior Nigel Hayes led the Badgers with 24 points to go along with five rebounds.  In New Jersey, the Scarlet Knights are off to their best start since 1976 as they dispatched Fairleigh-Dickinson by a count of 80-69.  My only comment about Rutgers is similar to what I used to comment to friends before I started this blog about Northwestern–nice start to the non-conference schedule, but once New Year’s comes around, look out below.

99 games are on the docket for Saturday, weather permitting in the Midwest

In-season round robin tournament in Indianapolis with the annual Boilermaker Blockbuster, along with the third annual CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas should be some excellent viewing for those of you getting ready to either finish up your holiday shopping–or in my case, finally getting down to wrapping like a pro those sometime odd-shaped and most often than not fragile holiday presents.

If I get a little bit of time on either Sunday or Monday, I will try to post one final blog before I take my usual holiday break.  Hope to see you all then.

For most of the country, please have a good night and try your best to stay warm.