Sunday, February 16, 2014

Do the Shockers need to lose...and other buy/sell/hold

Hold:  No mens college basketball team has run the table--the full table of regular season and NCAA Tournament--since Indiana in 1976.  As Wichita State continues to chase perfection, one has to wonder if head coach Gregg Marshall feels like his team might be better off losing prior to entering postseason play, very likely as a number one tournament seed.  The Shockers' remaining regular season games are against Loyola and Bradley on the road and versus Drake and Missouri State at home before the Missouri Valley postseason conference tournament, March 6-9.  As the Shockers continue to win, the chances for an early-round NCAA exit seem to rise.

Buy:  The two U.S. Olympic stars thus far who look poised to parlay their success into post-Olympic marketing dollars are T.J. Oshie and Sage Kotsenburg.  Oshie's hockey shootout success against Russia will only grow in status should the U.S. survive the knockout rounds and play for the gold.  Kotsenburg is full of wide-eyed, "hey dude" wonder that will be a natural for brands hoping to tap into the X-Games audience.

Sell:  The alpine skiing events aren't over yet but the U.S. Ski Team misses the marquee power of Lindsey Vonn.  Ted Ligety, used in advertising by a couple of Olympic sponsors, has been a disappointment and Bode Miller shockingly failed to medal in the downhill.

Sell:  Just how long can Scott Drew continue to coach at Baylor without being considered on the hot seat?  For sure, let's give Drew credit for rescuing the program and making it relevant.  Let's also call him out for once again failing to deliver on high preseason expectations--his team stands at 4-8 in the conference and has only won three of its last 10 games.  Saturday's double-overtime win over Kansas State provided a needed injection of hope but after tomorrow's Big Monday matchup versus Oklahoma State, the Bears must travel to West Virginia and Texas.  Baylor will once again end up in the NIT.

Hold:  NBC's coverage of the Olympics has been questionable, at best.  The peacock's programming took a hit with Bob Costas' ill-timed eye infection and the lack of compelling U.S. storylines.  Let's face it--Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera are not the approachable, warm hosts needed for a prime-time event of this magnitude.  Further, it seems that NBC has not optimized its cable outlets to complement overall coverage.  NBC over-indexes on figure skating coverage, which is made tough-to-handle given the sappy coverage provided by Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and Tracy Wilson.  Thankfully, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinsky have been refreshing with their commentary.

Buy:  I'm in the midst of reading Seth Davis' new biography about John Wooden and it's terrific.  Davis does a terrific job at uncovering the little known and unknown facets of Wooden's life and coaching style.  It's a great read for anyone interested in college hoops.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Texas Tech needs to act too

A college athlete pushes a fan in an opposing arena.  That newsworthy encounter has dominated Twitter and college sports media over the past 18 hours.  And, in this nothing-is-private social media world in which we live, the opposing fan has received his share of public scrutiny, including digging up a YouTube clip that shows his boorish behavior in a past game.

We'll hear from Marcus Smart and his coach, Travis Ford, in a couple of hours.  Will we hear from Texas Tech and/or the fan combatant in this story?  If so, there's little coming out of Lubbock that would indicate any rush to fair judgment on this so-called "super fan" who spends a lot of time trekking from home in Waco to Lubbock to other venues where his beloved Red Raiders play ball.

It will be a shame if Tech does not, at minimum, conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this incident and what, if anything, was actually said between the fan and Smart.  In no way am I condoning Smart's physical contact with a fan as that has absolutely no place in sports at the college or pro level.  Yet, we all have been witness to, and recipients of, fan behavior at games that runs from the boorish to the scary.  I never cease to be amazed how some fans feel that their purchase of a game ticket provides them the freedom to say whatever they want, at whatever volume they want, to those seated around them and to the participants on the floor.

The word I keep coming back to for this incident is "sad."  It's sad that we're witnessing, in national media, the meltdown of a 19-year old who came back to his school for laudable reasons.  It began with the reputation as a flopper to the technical foul in Manhattan, KS to the kicked chair to the petulant behavior.  Now, it's this--a push of a fan who didn't deserve the attention and the ensuing ill-advised decision to not escort Smart off the court immediately.  Here's hoping that Oklahoma State doles out the appropriate punishment for Smart; that this becomes a time for Smart to accept the punishment, change his behavior and move on; and that Texas Tech quickly follows suit with their own announcement of what they plan to do with the fan, and improved security in their venues.