NCAA March Madness brackets were announced Sunday, with play beginning today. It actually began Tuesday with the ridiculous traditional “play-in game” as Mount St. Mary’s defeated Coppin State and earned “the right” to get the hell beat out of them by top-ranked and top-seeded North Carolina in the east regional in Raleigh, N.C. As is usually the case, chronic complaints, justifiable and not, exist. No matter what the criteria, it’s impossible to please all teams in either their bracket placements or even being selected to the big dance at all. So let's enjoy it.
Memphis is my favorite team. I’m a former Memphian with long-time ties to the city that began in 1969, several years before I moved there. However, as a Las Vegas resident now, I really like PG Wink Adams of UNLV. Adams reminds me so much of Baron Davis; small, quick, strong and clutch. Adams was absolutely sensational in the Mountain West Conference tournament, and he had to be for UNLV to win it.
As I was watching the UNLV-TCU game at Thomas & Mack Center in that tournament last week, I realized that I had forgotten how exciting college basketball is, especially the tournaments that determine March Madness invites and brackets. I hadn’t seen a big-time college basketball game in person (Pepperdine doesn't exactly qualify) since I moved away from Memphis in 1979. The energy is incredible. Thanks to my friend and super UNLV fan, Stephen Murphy, for hosting me at the tournament.
If my favorite team is gonna win March Madness, they're gonna have to show marked improvement from the foul line. Memphis shoots free throws like Shaq!
The NHL and NBA: The biggest problem is the importance of the regular season, or rather its lack of importance in both leagues. Each year 16 teams (out of 30) make it into the Stanley Cup and NBA playoffs. I remember when the regular season in both sports meant something. It was meant to earn a coveted playoff birth for but a few teams. Now the regular season could be viewed to be little more, in general, than a tune-up for the playoffs, and in many cases boring playoff series based on the one-sided pairings. It's all about money.
It was a great run, and the second longest in NBA history. The surprising Houston Rockets hit 22 straight wins before losing to the Boston Celtics this week. Only the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers own a longer winning streak at 33.
Story of the Week
THE EDMONTON OILERS. NHL DYNASTY OF THE ‘80s
An avid hockey fan in the absolutely beautiful Canadian province of Alberta, Jason White, requested an article on the ‘80s Edmonton Oilers. Jason now lives in Calgary, is a former Edmonton resident, and believes the ‘80s Oilers is the greatest sports team ever assembled. He and I will debate that one in person, but that team certainly was a dynasty. I couldn’t have written this article better than John Halligan, so I didn’t try.
Edmonton Oilers: One Of The
Greatest Teams Ever.
By John Halligan Of NHL.com
Back in the 1920 and 1930s, the greatest defenseman of the day was Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins. Shore's nickname was the "Edmonton Express." Yet even Shore himself, hardly the self-effacing sort, would have to admit that the real "Edmonton Express" came along nearly a half-century later, and it was a team not a person.
The Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s was a team that dominated the National Hockey League like no other, winning five Stanley Cups in seven seasons and producing some of the greatest players the game of hockey has ever known.
The Oilers were the pride of their city, of their province, and of their country. They were a dynasty team that took its place alongside other "dynasty" teams such as the Ottawa Senators of the 1920s, the Toronto Maple leafs of the 1940s, the Detroit Red Wings of the 1950s, the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1960s, the Montreal Canadiens of the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s, and the New York Islanders of the 1980s.
Born of the World Hockey Association in 1972, the Oilers were first called the Alberta Oilers because the team originally intended to split its games between Edmonton and Calgary, an idea that was abandoned before the WHA started play. The team became the Edmonton Oilers in 1973.
After seven seasons in the WHA, the Oilers (and three other WHA clubs, Winnipeg, Hartford and Quebec) were welcomed into the NHL. The Oilers were an immediate success, making the playoffs their first four seasons in the NHL, before annexing Stanley Cup number one in 1984.
Guided by their peerless general manager, and long-time coach Glen Sather, the Oilers had already acquired Wayne Gretzky in a WHA deal with the Indianapolis Racers. Although he was only a teenager at the time, great things had long been predicted for the man who would become known as "The Great One."
Gretzky would merely become the most famous hockey player of all time, single-handedly re-writing the NHL record book, and changing the very nature of the game itself.
Upon his retirement in 1999, Gretzky would hold some 61 NHL records, 40 in the regular season, 15 in the playoffs, and six for the All-Star Game. He would also win 10 Art Ross Trophies as the NHL's leading scorer, nine Hart Trophies as MVP, five Lady Byng Trophies as most gentlemanly player and make the first All-Star Team on eight occasions.
In the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, Sather wisely selected Mark Messier, giving the Oilers two of the greatest centers of all-time and probably the best one-two punch up the middle that the game of hockey has ever known.
During their run of Stanley Cups, the Oilers built one of the deepest squads in NHL history. There was lots of talent at every position. Grant Fuhr was rock-solid in goal. There was Paul Coffey, Lee Fogolin, Randy Gregg, Kevin Lowe and others on defense.
Up front, the great Jari Kurri lit up arenas with Gretzky and Messier. Dave Semenko, Willy Lindstrom, Charlie Huddy, Kevin McClelland and Craig MacTavish, and Esa Tikkanen were all great contributors and fan favorites. The cast was seemingly endless, constantly starring for Sather and his successor, John Muckler.
Edmonton fans were especially blessed, not only by the plethora of talent on the great Cup squads, but also by the fact that four of the five Edmonton Cups were clinched at the Northlands Coliseum (now known as the Skyreach Centre), the only home the team has ever known.
Victory parades and civic celebrations were the order of the day in Edmonton in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988. Only the 1990 Cup was captured on the road, the Oilers defeating the Boston Bruins in five games.
The Great Gretzky himself actually missed Cup number five, having been traded to the Los Angeles Kings, a move that rocked the hockey world on August 9, 1988. Despite the Cup to follow, the Gretzky trade marked at least the symbolic end of the Oilers' dynasty.
Footnotes to history in the great trade were Oilers Marty McSorley, Mike Krushelnyski and John Miner who accompanied Gretzky to LA. Coming north to Edmonton were Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, Craig Redmond and three first round draft picks.
Following the fifth Cup, the Oilers were still a strong team, advancing to the Conference championship in each of the next two seasons. Then, for the first time in team history, the Oilers missed the playoffs in 1993, formally ending this great run.
Last Week’s Trivia
The term “taxi squad” referred to players under contract to an NFL team, but who didn’t suit up for games because of the 40-man roster limit. At one time, the Cleveland Browns couldn’t put all of their players on the roster, so some were employed as part-time taxicab drivers, and the term was born.
Trivia Question of the Week
Which former Super Bowl head coach played in the NBA? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.