Why you should care
Because your bracket is complicit.
This is the latest edition of OZY’s Huddle newsletter, which brings you a smart, flavorful conversation-starter for your next game watch party. No stale takes allowed. Add The Huddle to your OZY email subscriptions here.
Don’t worry, America. During March Madness, you’re free to forget about the exploited amateurs. Or is that not how this works?
Nearly two years after an FBI investigation into crooked recruiting seemed to engulf college basketball, there’s been no sign of systematic change. Beyond a few fall guys now subjected to monitored outdoors time, the FBI managed only to ruin the lives of some recruits. The Feds’ Madness impact is so far confined to Louisiana State University (Will Wade is poised to be the first head coach scalp) and Kansas (would-be difference maker Silvio De Sousa is suspended because his guardian accepted $2,500). Meanwhile, SEC champion Auburn is rolling (and survived a first-round scare) despite Bruce Pearl’s former assistant pleading guilty this week to bribery.
But just as the public realized that the NCAA will never change, a mountain of a man emerged to do what the FBI could not. The savior’s name was Zion Williamson, and on his shoulders an appropriate mechanism of amateur compensation would be built. His exploded shoe led to a cavalcade of commentary about the NCAA’s exploitative patriarchy and how he should refuse to play, as if a mildly sprained knee might affect Superman’s draft stock.
Only Zion had no interest in martyrdom. He’d rather win a title. What a surprise.
The NCAA has no interest in messing with its March piggy bank (brought to you by Capital One). And as you go wild for upsets and stress over your bracket, let’s face it: Neither do you. We’re all in this together. Let’s take a cue from Zion and enjoy the show.
What to Watch & Pick ’Em
No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats (Friday at 12:15pm ET on CBS)
Side bet: over/under 3 technical fouls between head coaches Fran McCaffery and Mick Cronin.
- Iowa +3.5 (-105)
- Cincinnati -3.5 (-115)
No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones (Friday at 9:50pm ET on TBS)
Would it shock anyone if one of these two major conference sleepers met Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen?
- OSU +6 (-115)
- ISU -6 (-105)
Ones to Watch
Bella Alarie, Princeton Tigers. The daughter of former Duke star Mark Alarie has made her own name in the Ivy League and, on Saturday, the Bella Alarie show goes national. Alarie’s 11-seed Princeton Tigers (22–9) meet 6-seeded Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament first round. The first Ivy player since 1982 to average 23 points per game in a season, Alarie has topped 30 points five times and 40 twice this season. And she wins. Seven of Princeton’s nine losses came with Alarie sidelined with an injury. When April’s WNBA draft rolls around, the 6-foot-4 senior forward will become the first Ivy League product to play in the league since Harvard’s Allison Feaster in 1998.
Joe Snively, Washington Capitals. A 5-foot-9, 180-pound forward, Snively, 23, led Yale in scoring in each of his four years at the school (139 points in 129 games). On Monday, the Virginia native, who played youth hockey at Washington’s practice facility with the Little Caps program, signed a two-year deal with his hometown team. Snively is the fourth Little Caps alum to make the NHL since Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin entered the league in 2005, further evidence of a growing passion for hockey around the nation’s capital. The “Ovechkin effect” is real.
Paydays. In a move that many hope will spread, the Toronto Blue Jays announced plans to increase minor league salaries by 50 percent across the board. This is huge considering that Congress last year passed the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” keeping minor leaguers exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime laws. (The have-nots at the lowest levels make as little as $1,100 per month.) But the real question is: How many Mike Trout at-bats would the pay raise buy? Speaking of the haves, ESPN reports that the upcoming All-NBA awards could trigger as much as $80 million in contract incentives for the chosen players.
Turnovers are at an all-time low in the NBA this season. According to Basketball Reference, a mere 12.6 percent of possessions league-wide ended in a turnover — only the second time the mark has sunk below 13 percent. Why? Basketball’s three-point revolution hasn’t just changed the way players are valued and points are scored, it’s also reshaped the way teams spread the floor. With teams raining threes at a record pace, the ball is rarely passed into crowded areas where defenders can steal the ball. Plus, the generational rise in isolation offense, where one player clears the floor with no intention of passing, leads to fewer turnovers.
Nobody Rattles Asia Durr — Not Even Her Mother, by Ray Glier in OZY
Louisville’s combo guard clearly has star-player chemistry, nature plus nurture. She was named the ACC Player of the Year for the second straight season, and that’s no accident.
Wake Tech Tries to Craft a Championship Out of Empty Dreams and Wallets — and Second Chances by Andrew Carter in The (Raleigh) News & Observer
In the shadow of college basketball greatness, a North Carolina community college team shows how students studying HVAC and other trades still have hoop dreams in March.
This Baltimore Man Owns a Green Jacket, and August National Desperately Wants It by Sean Zak in Golf Magazine
Hanging in the bedroom closet of a modest brick house on Baltimore’s north side is a very special, very old green jacket. It might be the only coat of its kind in existence, and right now, Augusta National wants it back.
Steal the Thunder by Will Bardenwerper in Outside Magazine
Indian relay racing has been called America’s first extreme sport. This is the story of the greatest horseman of his generation, the Pine Ridge Reservation and a tragic quest to regain glory on the track.
This cool moment in Spring Training yesterday as Diamondbacks prospect Alek Thomas, a 2018 second-round pick out of Chicago’s Mt. Carmel High School, homered off the White Sox. His dad, Allen, works for the Sox and, well, Alek had some fun making sure his dad saw the dinger.
Seventh-ranked D-backs prospect Alek Thomas' big blast became one of the highlights of the spring as soon as it cleared the fence. pic.twitter.com/95LD3eQD26
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) March 21, 2019