On Jimmer Fredette, state and NCAA tournaments, lousy analysts and more
So here we go, knocking about on a number of subjects as we near another frenetic sports weekend ...
• Buzz Bissinger wrote a damn good book in 'Friday Night Lights,' but he is off base with a recent column he penned for 'The Daily Beast.'
To wit: 'Jimmer Fredette is the most popular player in the (NCAA) Tournament and perhaps the country. Why is that? Because he is perceived as the next white hope of the NBA ...'
Ah yes. The Great White Hope.
I'm not naive enough to deny that a little of the intrigue with the Brigham Young standout is his race.
But come on. Has Bissinger seen the kid play? He's an amazing shooter. Basketball fans have always loved shooters, whether they're white (Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Mark Price) or black (Dell and Stephen Curry, Dale Ellis, Eddie Johnson).
The other part of it is the name 'Jimmer,' which has become a verb in the lexicon of some hoop fans across the nation. It has gotten him added attention, for sure.
Part of Bissinger's premise is that Fredette being white will put butts in the seats in NBA arenas. Poppycock. Think about it, Trail Blazer fans. Do you care what color your players are, as long as they can play?
When the Blazers were on their recent road trip, my son and I were watching a game on TV. At one point he remarked, 'Hey Dad, the Blazers don't have any white players anymore since they traded Joel Przybilla.'
With Luke Babbitt in the D-League and Rudy Fernandez of Spanish descent, he was right. But it hadn't occurred to either of us in the three weeks since the Gerald Wallace deal that Przybilla was Portland's last Caucasian player.
And who cares?
I'll willing to bet that feeling is the rule, not the exception, with basketball fans across the country. They want their team represented by good people and good players, not of a certain color or race.
• I proposed some changes in prep basketball in a column last week, including a shot clock and a longer game (from 32 to 40 minutes). Steve Walker, the OSAA's long-time sports information director whose opinion I respect, writes with some ideas of his own.
'We need to borrow pages from the NCAA playbook and find a way to breathe life back into the (Class 5A and 6A) tournaments,' Walker says. 'I'm not speaking for the decision-makers of the OSAA, but as a lifelong Oregonian, fan of OSAA tournaments and a former high school player.'
The current big-school format is an eight-team state event that spans four days. Walker prefers regionals through the quarterfinals on a weekend, resulting in a Final Four the following weekend.
'A schedule that includes mid-week afternoon games is tired and a thing of the past,' Walker writes. 'Games need to be played when the majority of those interested can attend. Big-school consolation games have run their course and are unnecessary if people aren't coming to watch. My high school coach, Ken Harris, said he knew they were on their way out when media stopped showing up to cover them. That was a decade ago.'
Walker favors a Friday/Saturday regionals (venue at one of the competing schools) and Friday/Saturday Final Four (Rose Garden, Matthew Knight Arena). Makes sense to me.
• With an opportunity to re-do an NCAA Tournament bracket beginning with the round of 16, wouldn't Ohio State be the pick to win it all?
I just have a hunch, though, that Duke will have a say before it's all over. I know, the Blue Devils had to hang on to beat Michigan in the second round, but Kyrie Irving will have another week to work back into the swing of things. And the Devils have more tournament experience than anybody.
• It's been fun to watch such former Oregon prep stars such as Kyle Singler, Terrence Jones, Terrence Ross and Brad Tinsley shine for their respective teams in the tournament. Next year, Kyle Wiltjer will get his chance at Kentucky.
Wouldn't it be nice if the programs at Oregon and Oregon State were strong enough to keep some of the plums around?
• Listening to same of the NCAA Tournament on radio via Westwood One makes me wonder who does the hiring of the analysts. Not a fan of either Bill Frieder or John Thompson, as much for their annoying voices as anything.
Dick Vitale? Don't get me started.
• Whose idea was it to call the four play-in games of the tournament 'first-round games'? So that means that 60 teams get first-round byes?
Just call them what they are - play-in games - and then let the survivors move on to the real first round.
• That 'Alaska Airlines' advertisement on the front of the Timbers' jerseys is a bit much. Just seems like it's violating the sanctity of sport. Do MLS players have to be walking billboards like the drivers in NASCAR?
• Pretty nice run of missing opponents' stars for the Trail Blazers over the last few weeks, from Andrew Bynum (Lakers) to Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia) to Dwight Howard (Orlando) to Al Horford (Atlanta) to Stephen Jackson (one of the games against Charlotte), and now Tim Duncan (San Antonio) on Friday.
• Matt Barnes' 3-point bomb at the end of the third quarter in Sunday's Blazer-Laker game is a shining example why basketball players should always try Hail Marys as a quarter ends.
In the NBA, too many times a player will take an inbound pass with a second or two left and dribble out the clock, so he doesn't have to take a 'field-goal attempt missed' on his stat line.
• Don't miss Chris Mannix's feature on LaMarcus Aldridge in the Sports Illustrated issue that will reach subscribers on Thursday. It's a good read. Aldridge even liked it. 'I texted Chris to tell him so,' the Blazer forward says.
• I'll miss Greg Newhouse at practice and on the sidelines of Oregon State football games.
Newhouse was a bit of an odd bird who didn't have much use for the media. But in conversation or the rare times we conducted an interview, I found him insightful and profound in his evaluation of players and what was happening with the Beaver defensive schemes.
He was a good communicator with his players, and he coached many defensive standouts during his 14 years at OSU. Mike Riley felt Newhouse could coach any position on the defensive side, and he moved Newhouse around a couple of times during his years there.
Newhouse didn't have much success recruiting in recent years, and I'm guessing that had as much as anything to do with his departure.
Riley is genuinely excited about the new additions to his staff - Brent Brennan and Chris Brasfield. The other finalists were Brian Norwood of Baylor, Aristotle Thompson of Cal Poly and Lydell Wilson of Houston's C.E. King High.
• Jerry Glanville, hired this week to coach the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League, says 'I may have the best coaching job in America.'
You have to love the former Portland State coach's enthusiasm. But haven't we heard that line before from the Man in Black?
• In Oregon's Tyler Anderson and Oregon State's Sam Gaviglio, the state boasts two of the nation's top draft-eligible junior pitchers. Anderson is 3-0 with an 0.96 ERA and a .158 opponents' batting average. Gaviglio, 4-0, hasn't allowed an earned run all season in 38 2/3 innings. Foes are hitting .107 against the OSU right-hander. That's outrageous.
Beaver catcher Andrew Susac, meanwhile, has been so impressive he could be the first catcher taken in the June draft. Experts are forecasting him as a top-10 pick.