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Selection madness (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday March 8, 2005 3:38PM; Updated: Wednesday March 9, 2005 1:38PM
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Eight in the Box

1. Friedman's First Law of College Hoops ("It's not an upset if the home team wins"), first espoused in cyberspace two weeks ago and certainly proved itself last weekend. No. 1 (and undefeated) Illinois lost at unranked Ohio State, No. 3 Kentucky lost at unranked Florida, No. 7 Kansas lost at unranked Missouri and No. 10 Washington lost at unranked Stanford. Websites and newspapers still describe these outcomes as "upsets," "stunners" and "shockers," while SI's Dick Friedman, the Wizard of West Windsor (N.J.), just shakes his head and tsk-tsks, knowing the only real upset of the weekend was unranked Texas' 74-73 squeaker at No. 8 Oklahoma State -- the Cowboys first home loss in 30 games.

2. In men's college rugby there's Cal and everybody else. It's like talking about Google vs. other search engines; or the Rivers women vs. other red-carpet-baggers. The Golden Bears are 13-0. They waxed Arizona State 121-0 and destroyed cross-bay rival Stanford 82-5. For the season Cal has outscored its opponents (and I can barely count this high) 919-61, or an average score of 61-4. Is there a more dominant squad in any NCAA sport?

3. Good news item of the week: Illinois State swingman Neil Plank's stats: 7.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 GPA. The 6-foot-5 junior, a transfer from Wisconsin, carries a perfect cumulative grade-point average and is majoring in finance.

4. Tennessee women's guard Shanna Zolman honored teammate Sidney Spencer by wearing her jersey during a 78-56 win against Mississippi State on Feb. 24. Spencer, a junior, had suffered a season-ending ACL injury earlier that week so Zolman, who wears No. 31, donned Spencer's No. 1 for the game. But Zolman, who is 5-10, didn't just claim the number of her 6-3 teammate; she took the actual jersey. "Zolman," writes Tennessee student stringer Scott Simmons, "looked like a kid wearing an adult-size jersey."

Zolman, one of the best pure shooters in women's college hoops, shot 3-of-11 from the field in her adopted jersey/dress and scored 12 points.

5. Negative recruiting may have hit a new low with a story swirling around West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez recently, student stringer Stephen Bupp reports. At 10:30 p.m. on the eve of signing day, a prospective recruit phoned Rodriguez and told him that an assistant coach at another school had advised him not to become a Mountaineer. The assistant allegedly told the recruit Rodriguez was having marital problems and that he would soon be dismissed (rumors had been circulating that Rodriguez was having an affair with a female student).

Rodriguez, who is married and has two children, was outraged and has phoned the assistant who made the alleged remarks (Now there's conversation that I would like to have had tapped). Rodriguez told the Morgantown Times, "It sounds like I'm on a vendetta, but the more I think about it the madder I get...in my opinion, the coach owes me and my wife and the whole program an apology."

And his mistress, too (it's a joke, people!).

By the way, you may have read the first story in a national sports publication that pertained to West Virginia and failed to make a Take Me Home, Country Roads reference. You're welcome, WVU.

6. The Oakland Raiders love naughty and nautical images. When they acquired Randy Moss from the Minnesota Vikings, the Raiders traded away linebacker Napoleon Harris, who, if you're counting, is the third former Raider draft pick to be named Napoleon. Before Harris (a 2002 Northwestern product who was selected 23rd overall) there were running backs Napoleon McCallum (Navy, '86, who was taken in the fourth round, 108th overall) and Napoleon Kaufman (Washington, '95, the 18th overall pick). Clearly Al Davis has a Napoleon complex.

Which takes us to April's draft. I can just see it now (and you must be able to see where this is going, too). NFL commish Paul Tagliabue steps up to the podium and announces, "With the seventh overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select ... Napoleon Dynamite -- dang!"

7. Our Arizona student stringer, James Kelley, tells us that it's already time for former Wildcat Jennie Finch to move over. Just last week Finch was supplanted as "Sexiest Female Athlete" on another website by fellow former Wildcat Amanda Beard (um, are applications up at the U of A?). Now Kelley tells us that Finch, a three-time All-America and Olympic gold medalist, may be only the second-most dominant windmiller coach Mike Candrea has produced ... this decade.

The latest prodigy? Alicia Hollowell, who has already tossed nine no-hitters, including five this season. Hollowell, 10-0, has struck out 142 batters in 67.2 innings. Only a junior, the two-time All-America has already surpassed Finch's school career strikeouts record of 1,028. Hollowell, a northern California native, has 1,042 and also has the Cats' single-season K-record (508), set last year.

I'm not about to suggest that Finch is over the hill -- especially since the softball mound isn't raised -- but it's amazing someone could come along so quickly and erase her records -- never her legacy.

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8. The second annual SI On Campus March Madness RV tour begins next Sunday with myself a colleague and two college seniors. Last year's trip covered 5,500 miles in 13 days and at least two showers were taken. This year's promises to be somewhat more sanitary. It'll be a three-week tour with a new foursome each week in order to cut down on the homicide rate.

Anyway, we're always looking for a place to crash (in the metaphorical sense) or a heads-up for a good place to eat, so here's our tentative schedule:

Sunday, March 13: Philadelphia
Monday, March 14: Buffalo (tentative).
Tuesday, March 15: Dayton, the play-in game (see, I thought it was a typo -- "Daytona" -- and that's why I agreed to go)
Wednesday, March 16: Roaming the Midwest somewhere
Thursday, March 17: Indianapolis, first round, men
Friday, March 18: Nashville, first round, men
Saturday, March 19: Harassing actor pal Tom Cavanagh on the set of a movie he's making in Nashville.
Sunday, March 20: Knoxville, first round, women

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