Thursday Playlist

I decided to go with a Thursday Playlist after noting the date.

We are off very early tomorrow for a week in the Dominican Republic with roughly a third of M’s graduating class. Two other local high schools will also have large contingents at our resort, so it’s going to be Indy in the Tropics, I guess. Knock on wood all travel goes well and there’s minimal drama amongst the kids (both ours and the larger group). Actually, I’m more worried about some of the parents. I bet I have more stories about adults than kids after we return.

The music lined up just right and I have what I think is an amazing group of songs to share this week.

“My Witch” – Jen Cloher
I’ve followed Cloher’s music casually over the years. She once made my year end favorites list, but not too many of her other songs have gotten more than a few cursory plays in my music apps. Until her new album I Am The River, The River Is Me dropped a couple weeks back. It’s terrific. This is one of the standouts, a not-subtle-at-all track about lust and the need to satisfy those urges. The video is something else. Not sure it is work safe for you non work at home types.

“Overrater” – Superviolet
This is one of those songs that sounds like something else, but I can’t quite place it. The lead singer comes from the band The Sidekicks, but I can’t recall listening to them much so that’s not it. Let me know if you make the connection.

“Wonder” – En Attendant Ana
I swore this band had been around for a while and that I played some of their music in my early music podcasting days, over 15 years ago. Nope, they’ve only been around since 2018. Looks like I first shared one of their songs on a Friday Playlist in 2020, just before Lockdown began. This song lives up to its name; it truly is a wonder.

“Black Earth, WI” – Ratboys
Not much this band does that I don’t dig. This was the band’s first-ever attempt at recording direct to tape. It turned out pretty well, and makes me want to see them live.

“Full of the Joys of Spring” – The Sundries
This song was released early last fall, but as I just discovered it in January I think you will understand why I sat on it a couple more months. Happy spring!

“The Woodpile” – Frightened Rabbit
FR’s third album, Pedestrian Verse, came out just over ten years ago. This past week they officially released the anniversary edition, complete with a reproduction of the notebook that Scott Hutchison scribbled his lyrics in. I remember when this single was released. I quickly bought it, put it on my iPod, and listened to it over and over and over again on a work trip to Bloomington. There are a lot of dated references in that sentence.

Once upon a time that’s what I did with new songs: play them continuously to absorb them. This song may well have been the last time I did that. I know at least one of my friends who also loved FR picked this as her favorite of their songs. It’s pretty high on my list, too, featuring arguably Hutchison’s best chorus.

Wednesday Quickie

It’s been a busy week. Our spring break begins on Friday and there is much to be done to prepare. Lots of errands, laundry, organizing, taking kids to appointments, prepping the house, etc.

Much of my free time has also been taken up by trying to finish a show I’ve been watching that will disappear from Hulu next week. It may well pop up somewhere else – Netflix, Prime, etc – on April 1, but I didn’t want to risk not finishing it. Especially since there is a new movie based on the show I’d like to throw on the iPad for our travels.

I also, accidentally, checked out a book for my Kindle that I wanted to read on our trip too early and I’m trying to rip through it before I have to return it to clear space for something else.

And I’ve been getting up early every day to prepare for Friday morning, when we will have alarms set for around 3:00 AM.

I was hoping to get a Reaching for the Stars entry either posted or queued up for next week. I just haven’t been able to devote the time to the two songs that were possibilities, so I doubt that will happen.

I considered doing a KU post-mortem/look ahead piece, but I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to read 3000 words about that right now. Three KU players are in the portal as of this moment. There will be more. By the time I get back from vacation we should have a better idea of KU’s roster for next year.

I will share a weekly playlist. Not sure if I’ll do it Thursday to ensure it gets posted or schedule something to appear on Friday. Either way, be looking for it.

Weekend Hoops Notes

Not a good weekend of basketball. Nope, not good at all.

Jayhawk Talk

Well, I feared playing Arkansas from the moment the brackets came out a week ago. Long, athletic, fearless, a little crazy. They resembled Texas and TCU, teams that gave KU three of their worst losses this year. Saturday afternoon I began to gain confidence. KU was more experienced and had been tested all year. Arkansas dropped just about every big game on their schedule. There was a little turmoil on their roster. They might be more talented, but they certainly weren’t the more steady team. Get a lead, force them to shoot jumpers, and hold on to survive and advance.

For 25 minutes KU were about perfect, leading by 12 with under 16 to play.

Then it all fell apart.

I wasn’t mad or sad that KU’s season was over. I never expected them to repeat, and while my goal was to be the first defending champ since 2016 to reach the Sweet 16, this team outperformed every other expectation I had for them.

No, I was mad at how they lost. They went soft. They missed free throws. They got both a 5 and 10 second violation, neither of which they had picked up all season. They took a couple very quick, nervous shots when there was still a lot of time left in the game. It wasn’t just a game KU could have won, it was a game they should have won. They pissed it away.

A bad end to a great season, with most of the worst errors of the second half committed by the players who made some of the biggest plays of the year.

Would Bill Self being on the sideline have made a difference? Maybe. He might have adjusted quicker and differently to what Arkansas was doing, notably how they attacked off the pick-and-roll. Maybe he would have called a different out-of-bounds play or two.

However, I think it’s a disservice to Norm Roberts and the other assistants to put the loss on them. I don’t think the general message from coaches to players was much different that it would have been had Self been there. It was individual breakdowns that caused the loss more than any tactical choices the coaches made.

Saturday was a great moment for the KU haters. Not only did another highly ranked Jayhawks team fail to play to their seed, but, as it is currently set to be constructed, KU will likely take a step back next year.

For the first time in seemingly ages, there is no player in the system who is set to take over the mantle as Alpha. As Perry Ellis passed to Frank Mason, who handed off to Devonte Graham, who handed off to Udoka Azubuike, who handed to Ochai Agbaji, who handed to Jalen Wilson. I doubt that either DaJuan Harris or KJ Adams have the ability to take on that kind of role next year. There is a very good recruiting class coming in, but none of those guys seem like they are the next Gradey Dick, who himself wasn’t the best player on the team this year.

The easy answer to that these days is to hit the transfer portal. It’s hard for me to see a transfer coming in and being the Alpha from day one. It takes everyone the better part of a season, if not longer, to figure out Self’s system and expectations.

The portal is also problematic since KU already needs to shed a player or two in order to get under their self-imposed sanctions for next year. Assuming all four committed recruits still show up in the fall, some non-senior/non-Gradey Dick player will need to depart. If Self wants to add a transfer(s), that means another has to hit the bricks.

I can think of at least five guys who have a good reason to transfer, either just to get a fresh start or go somewhere where there are better opportunities to play. I wonder how NIL will change their calculations, though. Is it better to stay at KU and not play much and maybe be unhappy, but make more NIL cash, than to find a better playing situation but not have the same NIL chances? Weird times.

Now don’t take my prediction too strongly: KU will still be good next year. But they will be very young and unproven.

Oh, and there’s the little matter of Bill Self’s health. I’m an optimist. I think he’s going to be fine and coaching at KU next fall. It remains a question, though. If you don’t think the coaches he battles with the most on the recruiting trail haven’t been putting the word out that kids can’t trust Self to be their coach, you don’t know a thing about recruiting. [1]

So defending champs no longer. But the Kansas Jayhawks remain the reigning men’s division one basketball national champions for another two weeks.

Rock Chalk, Bitches.

Other Tournament Thoughts

We went out to dinner Friday evening with some friends who are far less interested in sports than I am. I checked the Purdue score at halftime and was surprised they were down, but figured they would rally. I checked again midway through the second half and they were up five. About 20 minutes later we began hearing occasional noise from the bar area, capped by a huge roar. My buddy and I quickly whipped out our phones and saw Fairleigh Dickinson had just hit a 3 to go up five. We watched the last seconds on a phone. Amazing. I don’t know that many people had a whole lot of faith in Purdue getting out of their region this year, but to lose their opening game? Stunning.

Matt Painter is a very good, borderline great, coach. He recruits to a style and gets those players to excel in that system. He sees the big picture and tweaks his system for the strengths of each year’s roster. He makes terrific adjustments within the game. But, man, that dude has terrible, terrible luck in March.

I know some IU people were having a lot of fun with this, especially in tearing down Painter and the “myth” that he is a great coach. There’s definitely a pattern here, but the randomness of the tournament is a bitch. You can never really quantify how coach X or program Y has such bad luck over time. Is it mental? Is it something specific Painter does wrong? Does Bill Self really coach differently in the Elite Eight? Or is it just the roulette wheel of March Madness coming up the wrong color time and time again?

My bracket was looking pretty good until Saturday evening and Sunday. Fortunately everyone else is getting wiped out, too. I picked 10 of the Sweet 16 and have five of the Elite Eight and three of the Final Four left. I’m second of 44, sixth of 155, and seventh of 49 in my three pools. In my fantasy league, I’m tied for second, six points out of first. And that was with the first overall pick scoring zero points in his first game. If you’re going to take a chance on an accessory to murder (uncharged), he really needs to deliver.

I’d rather be wearing KU gear Friday when we leave for spring break than celebrating bracket success.

The Best Conference in 20 Years kind of had a shitty first weekend.

A Sweet 16 without Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, or North Carolina. Wonder how long it’s been since that happened.

It seems like they’ve shrunk the commercial pool even further this year, and we’re seeing the same 5–6 commercials. Or at least we’re seeing an assortment of 3–4 and then each break has one stupid AT&T commercial and then a Capital One commercial. At least the CapOne ads are funny, but they are so overplayed.

I’m really starting to hate AT&T’s Lilly. Especially when she’s referred to as a “special contributor” by the CBS studio people.

Has anyone thought of putting Coach K and Peyton Manning in a commercial together? It seems inevitable as they both do 8000 ads. I’m going to start boycotting any products that use either of them in their campaigns. Branch out a little, people.

Oh, and if you weren’t watching the very first games of Thursday, you probably missed Coach K’s “speech” to all 64 teams. I’m so disappointed in myself that I didn’t predict CBS would find a way to make the tournament about him somehow. Guy went out a loser. Why are we celebrating him?

I do not like three-man announcer booths. They don’t give the games enough room to breath, even if all three people on the mic are good.

Finally, a rules suggestion. If a player is fouled and makes their shot going into a TV timeout, the timeout gets delayed until either he makes his free throw or the next dead ball. Those breaks kill all the drama of the and-one opportunity. This seems like a reasonable ask, especially when it sure feels like the dreaded double timeout occurs a lot more often in March. No, I’m not just saying this because Kevin McCullar missed an and-one free throw after a commercial break.

Kid Hoops

It was a delightful weekend of getting up at either 6:45 or 6:15 to drive on snowy roads in a single-digit windchill to watch L and her travel team take the court again.

They were perfect Saturday, getting two double-digits wins over very physical teams. L looked a little intimidated by the physical play and struggled with turnovers in the first game. She had six total points on the day, and probably rebounded better than she did anything else.

Sunday we faced a team from Michigan in bracket play. They were super tough on defense, and led by 11 midway through the second half.

Our girls made a nice run to take the lead late. But it felt curiously like the KU game. We missed five free throws in the final 3:00. One of our assistants got a technical that cost us a point in that same stretch.[2] The game went to overtime where our best free throw shooter went 1–2 with 20 seconds left to put us up one. The Michigan girls threw in a crazy shot – a banked, running layup from high off the glass – to take the lead with 10 seconds left and we couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.


That team went on to win the championship with our game being their closest of the weekend.

There was another connection to the KU game. Like DaJuan Harris, L rolled her ankle. Unlike him, she never came back into the game after getting hurt. Fortunately since we lost she didn’t have to miss another game (or two). When we got home it hurt to walk but didn’t look too swollen, so we’re hopeful she didn’t injure it too badly. The good news is we won’t play games for another three weeks because of spring breaks, so she has a nice, long, built-in rest period.

(Monday morning update: she’s in a boot and it still hurts pretty bad, but still not a ton of swelling or discoloration.)

She had been in the game less than two minutes when she got injured, so she didn’t get a chance to do anything. When she rolled it she was backing down a defender at halfcourt. She went down, lost the ball, and her defender picked it up and went in for an uncontested layup. Two more killer points.

I asked L about the bench technical. She shook her head and said, “Those refs were so soft.” I think she’s been watching Bill Self videos.

Oh, sports are dumb. So, so dumb.

  1. A friend made a wonderful point along these lines. “100% guarantee Scott Drew has already called recruits about Self. At the same time he’s probably going to say something in his next press conference about how everyone should join him to pray for Self’s return to good health.” Phony with a capital F.  ↩
  2. The technical in the KU game was a double-tech, and didn’t cost either team a point, but did put Jalen Wilson on the bench before halftime.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Get Out of My House” – Miya Folick
Folick described this song as an exorcism. Which makes it a perfect metaphor for the last weekend of winter, a time for throwing out all the unnecessary things that have collected over the past little while.

“Tell Me To Go” – John-Allison Weiss
This track is over three years old, but also appears on Weiss’ new album. It reminds me of the bedroom pop from 20 years ago.

“Lose You” – Bully featuring Soccer Mommy
I’m sensing a theme of sorts; so far every song is about loss or leaving or throwing out.

“The Way” – Manchester Orchestra
MO have a new album coming out in April. Along with it will come a VR film that the band describes as downloading a dream into your head. Which sounds kind of freaky. This track sure does have a dreamy quality to it, so I’m interested to see what the visuals set to accompany it will look like.(Actually the album came out today. Apparently the film comes out in a few weeks.)

“Nobody” – Black Belt Eagle Scout
Katherine Paul’s new album is all about growing up as a Native American without any role models in American pop culture that she could identify with, and how a recent trip back to her ancestral homelands forced her to consider her place in the music world. Heavy stuff to turn into such a beautiful song.

“Bleed Together” – Soundgarden
From the sessions for 1996’s Down on the Upside, Soundgarden saved this for their post-breakup greatest hits collection A-Sides, released in late 1997. It’s the Pearl Jammiest song Soundgarden ever made. I still think that’s actually Jeff Ament playing bass, as it sounds exactly like his style.

“Disappointment” – Blondhsell
“Disappointment” – The Cranberries
I don’t necessarily love Blondhsell’s cover. Sabrina Teitelbaum’s certainly can’t match Dolores O’Riordan’s. Them again, who can? Since it is March 17 and I just heard the cover for the first time earlier this week, seems right to include some Irish, and Irish-influenced, music. It is interesting that Blondshell makes her version sound more ’90s than the 1994 original.

“Streams of Whiskey” – The Pogues
Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Sadly at my age rather than streams of whiskey I can only manage a wee nip of the brown water once I’m sure I don’t have to drive anywhere for the night.

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

The appetizer of the First Four is complete. Now it’s time for the real deal. NCAA thoughts.

Jayhawk Talk

I’m not sure how to feel about this team. Kevin McCullar and Gradey Dick both say their back issues are fine. Can we trust them? Might they be fine against Howard today and flare back up Saturday in the second round? For a team that is not very deep, those alone are massive questions.

Then you throw in that the Jayhawks seem to have been a little low energy since winning in Ft. Worth three weeks ago. Maybe all that championship DNA in the returning players will be enough to kick start a fresh run for the next few weeks. But I’m definitely concerned that the team isn’t firing on all cylinders going into the biggest games of the year.

And Bill Self’s status is still up in the air. He was supposed to appear publicly twice this week, and each of those appearances got cancelled. The team claims he’s been at practice. Will he be on the bench? And if so will he be able to relax and coach normally? Today shouldn’t be an issue. Saturday will.

News just broke that Self will not coach Thursday. Maybe it’s just me but if he can’t coach today, I have a hard time seeing him be ready for Saturday. Hedge your bets appropriately.

Throw all that together and it has my confidence level pretty low before even looking at the brackets. Which takes some pressure off. I’ll still probably be a mess during games, but I doubt that the eventual letdown will be all that bad. I’ll just go back and watch games from last March to improve my mood.

I have KU losing to UConn in the Sweet 16. I think Saturday’s second round game will be tough, but KU will find a way to pull it out regardless of opponent. Then UConn’s depth will overwhelm them. That feels like a game that is either close until the last eight minutes when UConn pulls away, or that KU gets down early, makes a run, but can’t do enough to ever take the lead. Pretty sure that’s the game where we’ll see some crazy lineup because of foul trouble, too.

Now if KU either beats UConn, or plays someone else in the Sweet 16, I have them in the Final Four. Gonzaga would be a great, open-ended game. But the Zags can’t guard my daughter’s team, so KU would win a game in the 80s. UCLA losing its best defender is devastating, so if they were to win three games I can see KU handling them.


This feels like such a weird year overall. Other than Alabama, I don’t trust anyone completely. And given what’s going on with that program off the court, maybe the pressure is too much for them.

Purdue has the best player, but I can’t see their young guards handling the pressure it will take to win four games and get to Houston.

Speaking of Houston, if you told me Marcus Sasser would be completely healthy for the next two weeks, I’d put them through. I have Texas beating them, but do I really trust Texas? Yes, they are super old. Yes, they have a great balance of size and athleticism and shooting. Yes, they can lock people up when they want to. But when they look bad, they look really bad. All it takes is one rough night and even the sexiest teams can lose.

Arizona has injuries. The Big East was pretty garbage once you got past the top, so can you trust any of those teams? Are the Big 12 teams too beat up from two months of league play?

My Final Four:

Alabama over Texas

Player Draft

We had our fantasy draft last night. Points only. I won last year after getting the first pick, taking Drew Timme, then a bunch of other guys who all went off in either their first or second game.

This year I got the first pick again! I took Alabama’s Brandon Miller with my first selection. Joining him are Kam Jones, Julian Strawther, Sir’Jabari Rice, Gradey Dick, Courtney Ramey, Amari Bailey, and Dylan Disu. I don’t feel nearly as good about this year’s team.

Reader’s Notebook, 3/14/23

In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
Chatwin’s work was the inspiration for so many other travel writers I’ve read over the years, so this piece has always been in the back of my mind. If you’ve ever purchased a Moleskine notebook and bothered to read the insert that came inside, you know that Chatwin documented his trips in notebooks similar to them.

I mention the notebook angle because that’s very much how this book reads: like a series of brushed-up notebook entries made while traveling through the South American region of Patagonia in the mid–70s. Some are the barest of entries. Others are extended vamps on things he experienced, or deep dives into the history of the region. Often one entry leads into the next with a set of ellipses. It has a very casual presentation.

Because of that it was hard for me to establish a reading rhythm. I can see how it would influence writers who came later. But I think I’ve read so many of those authors, and enjoyed their styles more, that this didn’t really resonate with me.

It was fun, though, to look at his travels in a relatively primitive technological time and imagine how different his travels were compared to someone making the same trip today.

Fairy Tale – Stephen King
So there’s a parallel world, with a portal between ours and it. There’s strange magic in said parallel world. There’s a quest through that world whose end result will have major ramifications in both worlds. There’s an unlikely friendship between a young person and an older person. There are creepy characters.

Basically it’s every note from the Stephen King greatest hits collection. And, as happens more often than not, it works. Not a classic but worth the 5–6 nights it took me to get through it.

The thing that really stuck out to me was how King spent over 200 pages on what amounted to setup for the real story. In some ways that felt like too much. But he tells that part of the story in such a compelling manner that it makes complete sense.

Walking With Ghosts in Papua New Guinea – Rick Antonson
This was an account of Antonson’s walk along the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea. It wasn’t just about his trek, but also about the battles that were fought along the trail during World War II.

That historical angle stuck with me more than the actual hike. It helped me to remember that there are so many stories from that war that are left out of its broader narrative, but which were insanely important to the people directly affected. Most of Antonson’s group was Australian, and many of them had family members who had served in PNG during the war.[1] They often had incredibly emotional responses to the stories they heard as they traversed the country.

  1. Antonson is Canadian by birth, but was living in Australia at the time.  ↩

Hoops Notes

As you might expect, I have a lot of words about basketball today.

HS Hoops

A quick note about HS ball. Cathedral’s run as defending state champs came to an end in the regional round of this year’s tournament, losing to #1 Ben Davis by 10. The Irish did have the lead at halftime. I had to run L over to a friend’s and when I got home they trailed going into the fourth. Not sure what happened but it was all while I was out. They tried to make a run in the fourth quarter but, like so many times this year, were just too sloppy to get the job done.

It was nice to have one of the top five recruits in the country on the team. But this season proved that the two D1 guards that graduated last year were more important than a big man who often plays passive.

Jayhawk Talk

OK, it’s been a couple weeks, and a lot has happened. So let’s chop this up into parts.

Big 12 Champs

Like so many times in the Bill Self era, KU claimed a title that seemed unlikely in the first week of February. The Jayhawks ripped off a long winning streak while every other contender hit a rough patch. This year’s seven straight wins were especially impressive given the strength of the conference. I never expected anyone, let alone KU, to have the outright conference title clinched four days before the regular season ended.

When the Jayhawks got blown out in Ames on February 4, I looked at the schedule and couldn’t figure out any way KU escaped with fewer than six losses for the season. And then I was also hoping that Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, and Iowa State would all stumble enough to also be sitting at six losses.

So naturally KU won the conference outright at 13–5. Shows how much I know.

The blowout loss in Austin on the season’s final day took a little luster away, but not much. Another notch in the conference championship belt secured.

Bill Self

I was going to have a section dedicated to Bill Self anyway this week. Now it’s going to be longer, and about more, than I expected.

First off, I’m sure I was like most KU fans and freaked out a little when I got my first text message last week saying something like “Self had a heart attack?!?!” and then scrambled to find out more.

Fortunately it looks like Self got to the hospital before he had a proper heart attack. Two stents and a weekend in the hospital are no joke, though. Like most KU fans I hope he’s healthy enough to coach in the NCAAs. But there’s also no reason to risk his long-term health if it’s going to take a month or months for his cardiologists to declare him fit to stand on the sideline again. It sounds like recovery from having stents implanted is generally pretty quick, and many patients often feel amazingly better fast as they suddenly have normal blood flow again.

Scary stuff.

Originally this section was going to be about how the national media, in the last couple weeks, has suddenly jumped all over the Self bandwagon. There are a lot of reasons for that. Winning his second title last year is a big one. There’s how this team, which lost so much from that championship squad, managed to win the Big 12 and claim another #1 seed in the NCAAs, the 10th top seed in Self’s 20 years. And there’s the fact so many top tier, established coaches have left the game in the past couple years. He’s one of the few elite coaches left, and before last Wednesday I think most people expected him to coach at least another ten years.

When the Jayhawks took over first place, it triggered a flood of reflectional praise from nearly every national writer. He’s always had a great reputation amongst the analysts who follow the game closely. It’s like they all suddenly took a look at his record and realized, “Oh shit, he’s even better than we thought!”

Of those columns and articles, this part of Eamonn Brennan’s recent piece on The Athletic stuck out to me:

College basketball is hard. (Self) makes it look very easy. And he has made it look easy for the better part of three decades. Every little twist and turn of the 2022–23 season, every little in-game adjustment he made to help his team win another close game in another hot gym in this butcher shop of a league, is the same notional stuff he has been coaxing out of his guys — the same one-step-ahead brilliance relative to the other coaches, the same ability to regenerate teams each and every year, even as the specifics change over time — that has created one of the largest sample sizes of success in modern college basketball history. Self does this stuff for months at a time, each and every season. Maybe his team goes deep in the tournament, maybe it doesn’t, but the outcomes of single-elimination games in one three-week span can’t and shouldn’t erase everything that happens around them.

All sports are ultimately judged by how you do at the end of the season. Self is one title away from entering the conversation as the best college coach of all time. But all the terrific elements of that section of Brennan’s column show how he has already firmly established himself as the greatest regular season coach of all time. Coach K didn’t win as many conference titles in twice as much time. Roy didn’t. Boeheim didn’t. Jay Wright didn’t. Izzo and Calipari haven’t.

It’s been a remarkable run.

Suddenly I think we are officially on the clock for the end of the Bill Self era. Last week I would have said he would coach into his 70s. Today? I would imagine sometime in the next five years he walks away to give himself a nice, hopefully long window to just be a grandfather, dad, and husband.

Maybe I’m wrong. Self is noted as being a bit of a psychopath when it comes to being competitive. I think he knows how many records are out there for the taking if he wants to coach another decade. Maybe that, combined with this heart issue, is enough for him to change the way he takes care of his body. Maybe he comes back next fall having dropped 20–30 pounds and is full of energy and feeling better than he has since he turned 50 and does coach for another decade-plus.

Yet I also believe that he’s very good at seeing the big picture. He knows his place in the history of the game is secure. If he begins to think that coaching is taking years off his life, I believe he’ll walk away.

Big 12 Tournament

Man, how did KU beat Texas once this year? That’s just a bad, bad matchup. I can’t figure Texas out. When they are good, they are really freaking good. But they’ve had some bad slip-ups. I’m notorious for jumping on the Longhorn bandwagon in March. Two years ago, most recently, I was sure they were on their way to the Final Four. They lost in the first round. I’m not sure I’m ready to this year, but I’m close.

I’m not normally a big, rah-rah Big 12 guy. It would be nice, though, if the conference sent 4–5 teams through to the Sweet 16. The league got a lot of hype this year, all deserved based on the regular season. It’s always a pisser when conferences fall on their collective face in March. See the Big 8 in 1990 for one of the best examples.

NCAA Tournament

I resolved a few months ago not to get worked up about KU’s eventual seed and path in the NCAA tournament. That national championship glow has to last at least a year, right? Also, I’m getting old and have less energy to devote to such things. Play who they tell you to play and it will all work out. The tournament is a complete crap shoot anyway. Sometimes things break your way. More often than not, the luck will be against you.

I expected KU to get sent West. I figured the NCAA, whether out of malice (as some suggest) or just because that’s the way the numbers worked out, would keep Houston in the Midwest. So I wasn’t surprised when the bracket revealed exactly that.

I do not understand why the NCAA always sends out the committee chair to talk to CBS, and that person is woefully unprepared to talk about whatever glaring issue the people in the TV studio bring up to them. As a KU fan I can name at least three times that the chairperson, when asked a KU-related seeding question, said something profoundly dumb or factually incorrect. I’m guessing fans of other schools have their own lists.

Sunday the dumb comment was that Houston got the nod over KU because, paraphrasing, “they were more competitive in their losses.” OK. If you’re looking at raw results, strength of schedule has to come into play, right? And KU (#1) played a much more difficult schedule than Houston ( #96). Being more competitive in losses against worse teams makes no sense.

Listen, there are lots of perfectly reasonable justifications for putting Houston above Kansas. Houston was higher in the NET and most other predictive measures than KU. If the committee chair, who was speaking from beautiful Carmel, IN, had used one of those evidence points, I think there were would have been a lot less bitching.

Much of the problem is that there are just too many metrics to use when evaluating teams, the NCAA seems to adjust their thinking every year without preparing the public, and the Joe Lunardis of the world are always applying this year’s data to last year’s NCAA logic. We’ve been told for several years that Quad 1 wins were perhaps the biggest determining factor in separating teams. That clearly was not the case this year. So next year’s predictive brackets will probably adjust accordingly and we’ll get surprised again on Selection Sunday.

Or maybe the NCAA is just pissed that KU won the title last year, Bill Self is still coaching, and it looks like the school is going to escape the hammer of massive penalties the organization was hoping to drop over the five-plus years they’ve been investigating the program.

But I said I wasn’t going to get worked up about it, or buy into conspiracy theories.

I’m more worried about the draw than the location where KU will be playing. The West is loaded; five of the top 11 Ken Pomeroy teams are in the West. Six of the top 20. That’s a gauntlet for everyone in that region, not just KU.

At first glance, I think a potential Arkansas game in the second round is a brutal matchup. Arkansas is basically Texas without the experience and discipline. Long, athletic, disruptive, and super talented although very young. They seem like a team that KU could either handle by playing even for 30 minutes then overwhelming late with their experience, or that could dominate KU from the opening tip and get an easy win.

Of course Arkansas has kind of sucked for the past month, so while KU fans stress about that, it may be Illinois lining up against them on Saturday. And the Illini are a whole different kind of wild-mood-swing opponent.

Getting out of Des Moines isn’t a given. Especially if Kevin McCullar’s old man back doesn’t cooperate.

While KU indeed claimed the outright Big 12 title, the last week of the season wasn’t the most convincing. Narrow wins at home against West Virginia and Texas Tech, each of which came down to one possession that KU was fortunate on, followed by the blowout loss in Austin. Comfortable wins over WVU and Iowa State in Kansas City helped, but a second spanking by the Longhorns raises more questions.

I worry that this year’s Jayhawks are one of those teams that put so much emphasis on winning the conference championship that they’ve worn themselves out for the Big Dance. Over the last month they are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country, often a sign of weariness. Fortunately their defense has been one of the five best in the country over the same stretch. Defense might win championships but you’re not winning two, four, or six games in March if you can’t hit shots.[1]

So my expectations are low. I would not be shocked if the Jayhawks only have one more win in them. I am hoping for two so I can at least leave for spring break with them still alive.

Picks to come later this week after I spend more time looking at the bracket.

  1. Unless you have Kemba Walker.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Not Strong Enough” – boygenius
This is what I’m talking about! The first set of songs from the upcoming boygenius album each featured a different lead singer. On this one, Phoebe, Julien, and Lucy all take turns. The result is wonderful.

“Crusher” – Taleen Kali
You know a retro-head like me is going to enjoy the hell out of a song like this that is loaded with post-punk goodness.

“Watermelon End Credits” – John + Jane Q. Public
I can’t find much out about this song or this act. I dig this song, though.

“Layla” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
You go, UMO, making a song titled “Layla”!

“Surely Everything’s Alright” – Sunnsetter
A gorgeous track like this was made for spring. Which is coming, I have been told.

“I Fought the Law” – The Clash
“I Fought the Law” – Mike Ness
A different riff on the angle I introduced last week. Instead of an original and a cover, I offer two covers. First, The Clash’s take on The Bobby Fuller Four classic, presented in its greatest format: a live recording. Then Mike Ness, a Clash-head if there ever was one, with his take, which adds just a touch of twang.

“New Moon on Monday” – Duran Duran
I had a different video lined up for this spot, but on my initial post attempt I saw the copyright holder does not allow it to be played outside of YouTube. So I scrambled. Last night I was going through that Rolling Stone list of best songs (in their view) of 1983 and discussing a few of them with brother-in-music E$. We agreed this is a jam.

“Baretta’s Theme” – Sammy Davis Jr.
Brother-in-music/books Sir David sent me this last night. It is amazing and required sharing with the blog audience.

***Update*** I didn’t realize until after I posted this that Robert Blake, the star of Baretta, died yesterday. If you want to read a wild story, check out his life.

Thursday Links

I haven’t run across as many pieces lately that struck me as sharable. So this entry spans over a month of collection. Thus the first is a little out-of-date, and I’m guessing many of you who would be interested in it have already read it.

Wright Thompson is a modern Gary Smith: everything he writes is completely compelling. Especially when he has such an interesting subject.

This is an amazing look at Joe Montana and the person he has become. On one hand, he lives exactly the cool-ass life you would think he lives. On the other, like so many former elite athletes, there are some slights, real and perceived, that he can’t let go of.

This piece is packed with memorable anecdotes. My favorite, though, are the sections that feature Steve Young’s thoughts. Their relationship is fascinating. Not only does Young, maybe, understand Montana as well as anyone can, he clearly still idolizes the man he helped to drive out of San Francisco.

“Every player in history wants to write more in the book,” Young says. “I think about that all the time.”
His voice gets softer.
“No matter how much you write,” he says, “you want to write more.”
Young goes quiet.
Then says, “I’ve talked to you more about this than he and I would ever consider talking about it.”

Joe Montana Was Here

I was lucky enough to live here in Indy during the Greg Oden era. That was an incredible time. And this is an incredible piece covering his life and career and how he arrived at his current place: an assistant for Butler. I knew a lot of the details of his life, but a few of them in this piece were new to me. Guy has been through a lot. I really hope he can stay healthy and find success in his new path. He always seemed like such a good kid and it seemed so unfair that his body wouldn’t let him even try to reach the expectations that surrounded him.

Maybe Oden’s calling will prove to be at the end of the bench, not the paint. Maybe his potential can be reincarnated. He’s realized that it’s okay to change course, change careers. Sometimes, he thinks about former child actors and how it disheartens him when he sees that people shame them for doing something different as adults. “What did you expect them to do? Sit in the house and live off the one thing that you know them from?” Oden says.

Greg Oden’s Long Walk Home

A couple very serious pieces about the state of modern journalism.

It Is Journalism’s Sacred Duty To Endanger The Lives Of As Many Trans People As Possible

Good journalism is about finding those stories, even when they don’t exist. It’s about asking the tough questions and ignoring the answers you don’t like, then offering misleading evidence in service of preordained editorial conclusions. In our case, endangering trans people is the lodestar that shapes our coverage. Frankly, if our work isn’t putting trans people further at risk of trauma and violence, we consider it a failure.


Why do we hire dipshits? It’s simple. After the 2016 election, we got yelled at a lot by right-wingers. How could you report such negative stories about Trump by printing the words he says? Why don’t 100% of your stories talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails, rather than just the ones on the front page? They had a point.

Stephen Hyden went to a Bruce Springsteen concert last week. I loved his summary, in which he addressed the elephant in the room. One of my biggest music regrets is that I’ve never seen Springsteen live, and likely never will.

Watching Sunday’s concert overall felt like closing a circle. It reminded me of a genre movie where a gang decides to team up for one caper, in the hopes that they can eventually walk off forever into the sunset.

On His Latest Tour, Bruce Springsteen Contemplates His Own Ending

I enjoyed scrolling through this. As with any music list, there were a number of “What they hell are they thinking?” entries. Their choice for number one, while fun, seems like a reach to me.

Best Songs of 1983 – Rolling Stone

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 83

Chart Week: February 25, 1978
Song: “Falling” – LeBlanc and Carr
Chart Position: #28, 20th week on the chart. Peaked at #13 the week of April 1.

Normally I put my song grade at the end of these posts, but for this entry it seems best to offer the assessment up front. This is not a good song. In fact, it is borderline terrible. I’m sure a lot of people who were young and in love in 1978 remember it fondly. I was six when it was getting heavy airplay, so not sure how I felt about it then. I know that I do not like it now. It’s middle of the road, weightless, AM radio fluff. It strikes me as a lame, misguided attempt to thread the needle somewhere between an Eagles ballad and 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love.” Let’s call it a 2/10.

On this show, Casey related an awful story about the duo that performed it.

Lenny LeBlanc and Pete Carr served as an opening act for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1977 Street Survivors tour. On October 20 the bands played a show in Greenville, SC. The headliners had their own plane for the tour, an aging Convair CV–240, which they would take to the tour’s next stop in Baton Rouge, LA.

Three of the band’s roadies decided to road trip to Baton Rouge rather than fly, and the band offered LeBlanc and Carr two of those open seats. However, at the last minute the roadies changed their minds and decided to fly. The guys in Lynyrd Skynyrd thought it wasn’t fair to boot LeBlanc and Carr after promising them a lift, but Lenny and Pete overheard the conversation and backed out on their own.[1]

Later that night, just before its scheduled landing in Louisiana, the plane ran out of fuel. The pilots attempted to land in an open field but overshot the field and flew into a line of trees. Six of the 26 people on the flight died, including LS lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Most of the survivors were severely injured, including the two roadies who were flying in place of LeBlanc and Carr.

Thus the duo joined the Waylon Jennings Club of not being on a plane that crashed and ended the life other music legends.

Did their connection to that flight contribute to this being LeBlanc and Carr’s only chart single as a duo? Perhaps. Somehow, in the midst of Bee Gees/Saturday Night Fever mania, it clawed its way up to #13. Coincidentally, on this week’s chart Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first post-crash hit, “What’s Your Name,” was eleven spots higher at #17.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a year. I could never quite the tone I wanted last winter. I’m still not sure I nailed it. But as I brushed it up to finally get it posted, news broke that founding Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington had died. He was injured in that 1977 plane crash, breaking both legs, both arms, both wrists, both ankles, and his pelvis. He fell into drug addiction in the years after the crash as he struggled with immense amounts of pain. And he lived another 45 years. Props to him.

  1. What are the odds women were involved with the roadies’ abortive plans?  ↩

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