▪ Who said getting into the NCAA Tournament is so difficult? Northern Kentucky did it the first year the Norse were eligible, besting Milwaukee in the Horizon League finals on Tuesday night.
▪ Norse Coach John Brannen played for Billy Donovan at Marshall and coached under Anthony Grant at Alabama before coming to NKU. After going 9-21 overall and 5-13 in the Horizon last year, Northern Kentucky is 24-10 with a 12-6 conference mark. And now, an NCAA tourney berth.
▪ If I had a dollar for every time ESPN’s Jay Bilas said a play was “great” or a shot was “fabulous” during last Saturday’s North Carolina-Duke game, I might be a wealthy man.
▪ How about Duke-Louisville for an ACC Tournament quarterfinal — yes, quarterfinal — game Thursday at 2 p.m. in Brooklyn? Not too shabby.
▪ Said it on Dick Gabriel’s “Big Blue Insider” show on Tuesday night on WLAP and will say it here: De’Aaron Fox is the key to how far Kentucky goes in the postseason.
▪ Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins on Memphis’ 103-62 loss to SMU last weekend: “It was the worst Memphis loss since 1947, when Delta State beat the Tigers, 76-35. And, yes, it was the end of the honeymoon for Memphis Coach Tubby Smith. If he ever had one in the first place.”
▪ Name to watch next week: Mike Daum, who scored 37 points to lead South Dakota State to a 79-77 win over Omaha in the Summit League finals. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is averaging 25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds this season for the Jackrabbits.
▪ Stat to remember next week: Gonzaga is 6-0 against teams in the top 25 of Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings. (Kentucky is 2-4 against Sagarin’s top 25, 7-4 against the top 50.)
▪ Not a bad first homestand for new UK baseball coach Nick Mingione. His Cats swept the six games by a combined score of 61-7.
▪ In case you missed it, Richard Pitino, son of Rick, earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for engineering a turnaround that saw Minnesota go from 8-23 last season to 23-8 this season.
▪ The most surprising thing about Florida’s 73-71 loss at Vanderbilt last weekend was that Canyon Barry missed two free throws in a row.
▪ Apparently UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran didn’t like Benny Snell being referred to as “the guy” in the Cats’ backfield for next season. Guarding against the sophomore acquiring an inflated sense of self-worth.
▪ Forgive experienced, qualified women’s coaches for failing to hold back a smile last week when it was announced that Arkansas Coach Jimmy Dykes had resigned. Despite not having any experience in the women’s game, the former ESPN broadcaster got the Arkansas job three years ago. He quit after going 43-49 overall and 16-36 in the SEC.
▪ In his latest evaluations, ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks Western Kentucky offensive guard Forrest Lamp as the 19th-best player in the 2017 NFL Draft. “He’s a smooth mover and an excellent athlete, and his tape against Alabama (particularly Tim Williams) was awesome,” writes McShay.
▪ Not sure why, but find myself rooting for Tim Tebow as he tries to impress the Mets in spring training.
▪ You know March Madness is around the corner when Joe Lunardi is on ESPN via Skype from his hotel room.