The NCAA basketball tournament begins Thursday (some of us do not consider play-in games part of the actual tourney). Most folks already are aware, as filling out a tournament bracket is something of an American tradition. For those without a specific team to root for (other than for monetary reasons), you might want to think about Iowa State, which is coached by former Chicago Bulls guard Fred Hoiberg. He has been mentioned as a possible successor to current Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. So should Bulls fans and/or management be rooting for a quick ouster for Iowa State or hope the Cyclones advance deep in the tourney? Either way, hoping for Hoiberg should feel a bit better than a previous Iowa State coach who became the Bulls’ coach. Everyone remembers Tim Floyd, right? The guy who unsuccessfully succeeded Phil Jackson. Those were the days. And quite a daze in the post Michael Jordan era.
* Speaking of Hoiberg, he played at Iowa State for Floyd. Bulls forward Taj Gibson played for Floyd at Southern Cal. Floyd also recruited Kirk Hinrich to Iowa State, but the future Bulls guard exited his verbal commitment after Floyd departed to take the Bulls job. Exciting stuff, no? Well, not exactly.
* Speaking of the Bulls, they downed the visiting Indiana Pacers 103-86. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with 25 points and added nine rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench. Pau Gasol had another double-double (19 points, 12 rebounds). Tony Snell added 14 points and Aaron Brooks 13. A victory Friday at home against Toronto would move the Bulls past the Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference. For those who care about postseason seeding.
* Bulls center Joakim Noah had 14 rebounds and seven assists against the Pacers to give him his NBA-leading 20th game of the season with at least 10 rebounds and five assists. For whatever that’s worth. Is there a won-lost scorecard to go with that? Or should we simply be bedazzled by the stat? Noah achieved his numbers Wednesday in 29 minutes. And, yes, the most bedazzling statistic would be Noah’s minutes played. If Thibodeau isn’t careful, Noah will be healthy and well-rested for the postseason.
* Speaking of Mirotic, he leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring since March 1 by averaging 10 points per fourth quarter per game. He scored 10 in the fourth after scoring 10 in the third. Small sample size? Insignificant stat? Individual effectiveness is not necessarily an indication of team success. That said (or, in this case, typed), the Bulls probably will settle for a player who can score 20 points in a half, regardless of which quarters.
* Still speaking of Mirotic, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said: “He’s spectacular. Not just second half, but he’s given us a lot of problems. He’s a threat at the 3-point line, great off the bounce, great with his cutting game. He’s a heck of a weapon off the bench, and we clearly didn’t do a good enough job on him.”
* Speaking of big-scoring halves, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy made 5-of-7 three-point attempts in the first half and had 19 points at intermission. He finished with 21.
* Speaking of the NCAA tournament (well, we were at the outset of today’s effort), President Barack Obama filled out his annual bracket. He picked Kentucky to win the national championship. That choice puts Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell in an unusual position. He could agree with Obama on something, a move that would shock his Republican colleagues (and others) or he could lobby on behalf of another tourney participant. Louisville, perhaps?
* In that today is Thursday (based on the fact that yesterday was Wednesday — provided that you are reading this on March 19, 2015, or a subsequent Thursday), it is time once again for the weekly wonder known as “Sports & Torts.” Yes, that interview show hosted by David Spada and Elliott Harris at noon Central time on Talkzone.com. The highly acclaimed program (well, it is held in such regard in the Spada and Harris households, as well as reportedly elsewhere) has former Baltimore Orioles pitch Jim Palmer as its guest. Podcast of our interview with the Hall of Famer will be available later Thursday (and presumably for a long time, possibly forever) at www.Talkzone.com.
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