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Mitch Perry Report for 3.20.15 — March sadness

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s the first full weekend of the NCAA Basketball tournament, the time when some writers wax absurd about “brackets” and “the insanity of March Madness.” And yes, there were a couple of thrilling upsets and buzzard-beaters yesterday to begin the first full day of the 68-team championship.

As a basketball aficionado, however, I’ve been calling out the college game for several years now as being a severely weakened product, and thankfully, the mainstream media is finally getting the picture.

As The New York Times reported on Thursday, scoring is down, as teams averaged 67.6 points a game through February, according to the N.C.A.A. If that average holds through the end of the tournament, it will be the second-lowest number since 1952 and part of a trend in which scoring has fallen from a peak of 76.7 points in 1990-91.

In a devastating takedown in Sports Illustrated last week, writer Seth Davis wrote that, “College basketball is facing a crisis. It’s time for an extreme makeover.”

What’s the problem, you say? Not enough scoring, frankly. It’s the same issue that’s been plaguing Major League Baseball, post-steroid crisis. The other night ESPN aired the special on former Duke star Christian Laettner, who became a legend with his classic last-second shot against Kentucky in the 1992 Final Four. You know what the final score of that game was? 104-103.

When was the last time a big-time college game was in the 90s?

Having said all of that, I’m actually into watching both Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame, a university whose football program I’ve always loathed, over the next few weeks.

Kentucky is always impressive. Yes, “one-and-done” has ruined the college game for fans (unlike up until the mid 1990s, the best players generally stayed around for 2, 3 years at least). But Kentucky gets the best players in the nation every year, so if you love the NBA like I do, you’re getting a sneak preview watching the Wildcats. John Caliperi is as good a coach as there is in the game, and certainly the best recruiter. And oh yeah, they’re only attempting to be the first college squad since Bobby Knight’s 1975-76 team with Scott May to go undefeated. That’s exciting.

How about Wisconsin? Frank Kaminsky became a favorite during last year’s Final Four, and it was great to see him stick around for another year, where he got better, becoming the consensus Player of the Year. They play tonight at 9:20 p.m. in must-see viewing.

And Notre Dame? Well, they looked damn good last weekend in the ACC tourney, defeating Duke and North Carolina on consecutive nights. That was impressive.

But oh, will there be so many games where the last two minutes take about 15-20 minutes to finish. Way, way too many time-outs are allowed for these teams. So, if you’re into it, enjoy it, but enough of the hyperbole. There will be a lot of very mediocre ball being played as well as some spectacular stuff, and it isn’t just because of stifling defenses.

In other news..

With Marco Rubio getting more love from the elites vis a vis his presidential aspirations, every speech matters now. Yesterday afternoon on the Senate floor he burned President Obama for his confrontational stance with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Well, if you wanted to see Guido Maniscalco and Jackie Toledo debate last night on Tampa cable access, you got a whole lotta Guido, and not so much Jackie, as she backed out due to the impartiality of the moderator.

Democrats Yolie Capin and Frank Reddick endorsed their fellow party member, Mr. Maniscalco, in Tuesday’s election.

Every year, the current Tampa City Council votes to put Charlie Miranda in as their chairman, as opposed to giving others a chance. Based on a debate on the council yesterday, that probably will remain the case.

One of the critics of the current system, Mary Mulhern, certainly let her opinions be known, as she has consistently over the past eight years. Her last meeting takes place next week.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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