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One Shining Moment Meets One Empty Dome

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Can you imagine, “One Shining Moment” played in one empty dome?

March Madness with no crying fans? Or euphoric fans? Or any fans?

Imagine it.

 As much as the oft-misguided overseers of the NCAA are hell bent on playing their cash cow known as the NCAA Tournament before full houses, they can’t ignore what’s taking place in every major sports league and around the world. Doors are closing to fans because of Covid-19.

Which would mean what for a Big Dance that’s shaping up as one of the most unpredictable of all time? Wagering mayhem.

In no way are we making light of this pandemic that has every reasonable person questioning how to live his or her life today, tomorrow, a month from now. There is much we don’t know about this global health threat other than it has killed thousands and dramatically affected the quality of life around the globe.

But fans or no fans in the arena isn’t going to stop the millions of dollars wagered on the Big Dance. Here’s where it gets tricky.

If the season were to end today, Gonzaga would get the No.1 seed in the West Region as per noted Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. The Bulldogs would play their first two games in Spokane, giving them a huge home court advantage.

Unless, of course, there are no fans in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. There goes that home court edge. What’s to prevent a much-maligned Arizona team (the No.8 seed), which lost by four to the Zags earlier this season, from extracting some revenge?

The same holds for Kansas, which is projected to be the overall No.1 seed playing in Omaha. The Jayhawks might not need much fan support to get past No.16 Winthrop but we could see a very physical Houston team giving Kansas fits.

By this reasoning, this would be the Tournament of Upsets. No home crowds for the top seeds equals more opportunity for the underdogs. Or would it?

Consider this scenario: When Loyola of Chicago became the fourth No.11 seed to advance to a Final Four, the Ramblers started their run in Dallas, where Texas Tech, a No.3 seed was only school to have a home court advantage.

But the Red Raiders, who advanced to the regional final in Boston, would never have faced the Ramblers, who won the South Region in Atlanta. The six other teams in Dallas all got behind Sister Jean-led Loyola-Chicago.

The same held true in Atlanta where the Ramblers two opponents – Nevada and Kansas State – had no geographic advantage. The Georgia Dome became Chicago South, especially after K-State ousted Kentucky.

We see this all over the nation every time a “Cinderella” shows up. The crowd backs the underdog. It’s what March Madness is all about. The Ramblers earned their four wins but would they have gone as far as they did without enjoying the mojo as the fan favorite? Doubtful.

By that logical reasoning, this should the Tournament of Favorites. Without the dual burden of being the higher seed and facing a crowd darling, the superior teams should prevail.

This is March Sadness – having to consider the ramifications of empty arenas when filling out your bracket or laying a wager. But you better consider it. Because you know the oddsmakers in Vegas already have.

March Madness begins in earnest this week in the metropolitan area. Here are our picks:

Atlantic 10 Conference – Dayton. No one else is close.

American East – Vermont, see Dayton.

Big East – Seton Hall. Talent, toughness, experience – the league recipe for success.

Big Ten – Michigan State. See Seton Hall.

Colonial Athletic Association – Hofstra. The Pride is playing its best defense of the season.

 MAAC –  Siena. The best point guard in the league, Jalen Pickett, is the difference.

Northeast – Robert Morris. Home court advantage.

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Dayton Top Seed Favor As A-10 Tournament Tips Off In Brooklyn

Welcome to March Madness.  Wednesday afternoon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the march to the “Final Four” of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins for the Atlantic -10 Conference. And there is a good chance that Dayton University could reach the Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Georgia.  

One thing is certain, Dayton is favored to win the tournament and move on.  And unless an upset occurs, which happens in March, that should be the plan.  The Flyers, 2020 Atlantic 10 Regular Season Champion and No. 3 ranked team in the nation, will be the No. 1 seed.

With all 14 conference teams that qualify in the conference tournament it’s Dayton that stands out. They have it all with the offense, defense, and have been ranked in the Top 10 AP poll all season.

They have been here in the past and they know how to play in Brooklyn. They have won two conference championships at Barclays which propelled the Flyers to advance to the “Elite 8” of the NCAA Tournament in  2013-14.

The Flyers registered a league-tying 18 wins and secured only the fourth unblemished conference record (18-0) in A-10 history. After their season finale. Dayton locked up their third regular season title in the last five years  at home against Davidson and received one of four double byes in the A-10 Championship.

It will be difficult to stop the offense. Obi Toppin improved his chances of winning the national player of the year award after scoring 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds in the regular season finale.

Toppin, a forward was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year while his coach Anthony Grant was voted A-10 Coach of the Year by opposing coaches. Toppin,  averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting 63.3 percent from the field, which ranks fifth nationally.

Dayton shot 72.3 percent (34 of 47), the second-best percentage in school history. It tied the A-10 field-goal percentage record set by Duquesne (34 of 47, 72.3) against St. Bonaventure on Feb. 23, 1991.

In addition to Dayton, second-seeded Richmond (14-4), No. 3 Rhode Island (13-5) and No. 4 Saint Louis (12-6) earned byes into the quarterfinal round of the championship. Dayton plays at noon on Friday, followed by Saint Louis at 2:30 pm. Richmond opens the evening session at 6:00 pm and Rhode Island will play in the last quarterfinal at 8:30 pm.

Seeds five through 10 earn byes into the second round and will play Thursday on NBCSN. St. Bonaventure (11-7) is seeded fifth and will play the winner of No. 12 George Mason (5-13) and No. 13 Saint Joseph’s (2-16) at 2:30 pm Thursday. 

Mason and the Hawks will meet Wednesday in the first round at 1:00 pm on ESPN+. Saint Joseph’s earned the 13 seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with Fordham.

Fordham, the local team in the tournament, would need to pull the upset. After another dismal season, the Rams will play the second game. The game between the Colonials and Rams will tip off at 3:30 pm on Wednesday on ESPN+.

After a season ending 65-61 loss to George Mason Saturday afternoon up at Rose Hill the Rams finished last again the Atlantic 10 Conference. It was another dismal season for the Rams, 8-22 overall, 2-16 in the conference.

Erten Gazi scored a career-high 22 points and had six rebounds for Fordham,  Antwon Portley added 11 points, and Joel Soriano had 10 rebounds and three blocks for Fordham in the season finale. 

 “We’re excited to head into Brooklyn on Wednesday to open the Atlantic 10 Championship,’ said coach Jeff Neubauer. “ It’s a new season and we have to get ready to play our best basketball of the year. We have been playing better lately and I hope that translates into a good performance at the Barclays Center.”

 But the Rams are not expected to advance to the championship final set for Sunday, March 15. They do have the distinction of leading the conference in scoring defense, among the top 10 leaders in the NCAA.

And the last four games the Rams got production from Josh Colon and Joel Soriano.  Soriano, the freshman forward has come off the bench and got the late season starts. He  recorded 14 points and 15 rebounds to carry Fordham to a 63-52 win over George Washington last  Wednesday night, breaking the Rams’ 10-game losing streak.

Colon, the junior guard, got better in the last five games and scored a career high 17 points against GW.

The Rams had a private practice the past two days as their campus up at Rose Hill in the Bronx has been closed due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Other players to watch during the next few days could make an impact. Joining Toppin and Gilyard on the All-Conference First Team were Jalen Crutcher (Dayton), Fatts Russell (Rhode Island), Kyle Lofton (St. Bonaventure) and Jordan Goodwin (Saint Louis). 

The All-Conference second team consisted of Kellan Grady (Davidson), Marcus Weathers (Duquesne), Blake Francis (Richmond), Grant Golden (Richmond), Hasahn French (Saint Louis) and Mitchell. Jon Axel Gudmundsson (Davidson), Trey Landers (Dayton), Jeff Dowtin (Rhode Island), Osun Osunniyi (St. Bonaventure), Ryan Daly (Saint Joseph’s) and Perkins made up the All-Conference Third Team.

The 2020 Championship begins Wednesday with two first-round games that will be streamed on ESPN+. Thursday features four second-round games and the quarterfinals are Friday. Thursday’s and Friday’s games will be carried by NBCSN. Semifinals begin Saturday at 1:00 pm on CBS Sports Network and the Championship final is Sunday at 1:00 pm on CBS Sports. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.

Let the Madness begin in Brooklyn.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Desert Highway plays K.J. Farrell’s, by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

What is it about bands that play at K.J.’s? It just seems to bring out the best in a band and in a crowd. And that was the story Saturday night 03/07/2020.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra/copyright 2020

The first set contained Eagle’s favs of Witchy Woman, Lyin Eyes, and Peaceful Easy Feeling. Also played was Runaway, the old Bonnie Raitt hit, and Boys of Summer.

The second set just kicked butt with Hotel California, The Long Run and Already Gone. The band of Richie Naso , lead guitar, Mike Green, guitar/vocals, Reggie Bell, keyboards, Edgar Bettancourt guitar /vocals, and Larry Lipman , drums and /vocals just smoked the crowd with terrific solos, great vocals, and altogether a very tight and fun performance. A must see! Please visit their web site,deserthighwayband.com for future dates.

86th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2020 by Toni Hoyos ,The New York Extra

Can you imagine 86 years! What a wonderful tradition for the town of Huntington. Started in 1930 by the Huntington Ancient Order of Hibernians [AOH] they have generously organized and paid for this event every year since [except during WWII]. Leading the parade was this years Grand Marshal AOH long time member the Honorable W. Gerard Asher.

The Hon. W. Gerard Asher/Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020
The NYPD Emerald Society P&D/Neil Miller/The New York Extra/copyright 2020

Several traditional pipe and drum corps were in attendance including the Emerald Society of NYPD, AOH Huntington and Saint Anthony HS South Huntington to name a few. There was also a motorcycle escort, talented bagpipers and several other entertaining bands.

Street vendor/Neil Miller/The New York Extra/copyright 2020

Thousands of spectators lined the streets of the parade route commencing at Huntington train station proceeding down New York Avenue and Main Street. Push cart vendors selling festive St. Patrick’s day goods, hats, light up necklaces, horns, balloons, flags etc. and of course hot pretzels for a tasty treat. A family friendly, pet friendly event for all to enjoy. Need I say the many restaurants and pubs were open for business and booming! Oh and there was Guinness, lots of Guinness.

David Bayley, uncle and Nick Jr. Godfrey/Neil Miller/The New York Extra/2020
Above gallery ,Happy parade viewers enjoy the parade/Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

So next year grab your date, the family, friends, cousins and even Gramma with a folding chair and come on down to Huntington for a fun filled day. We are all Irish on Saint Paddy’s Day!

Made in China, Deceit, Disease and Death

An Editorial by Neil Miller/Publisher/The New York Extra

Depending on what source you read, listen and believe, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from the current crisis. That is, the actions of China, its people and its government are at the root cause of the coronavirus epidemic.

Let’s start with deceit. From all accounts, the Chinese government knew about the outbreak perhaps a month before the breakout and attempted to hide it. Indeed, when the rumors placed the source at the Wuhan biological center, first they said the center wasn’t involved but then walked back that statement with a series of announcements saying how their security at the facility needed to be better.

If you listen to some reports, certain staff at the center were selling infected lab animals for food consumption to the Wuhan public. Again, not confirmed but not denied.

That being said, it appears that the past few worldwide epidemics have stemmed from China. Swine flu, bird flu, Sars, perhaps Mers and now the coronavirus. How have these diseases been born and spread? From what the news stories show, it is the barbaric food and unsanitary habits of the mainland Chinese population. This is not meant to be a racist statement but rather based on their uncivilized behavior that certainly breeds animal to human diseases.

What can be done about this? The Chinese government must accept full responsibility for #1 The possible leak of a biological warfare virus and #2 If it is indeed an animal to human transmitted disease the Chinese government must stop the trade and consumption of theses animals and the market places where they are sold with the strongest possible enforcement.

Further, as previous events originating in China shows this is not the first nor probably the last of these events, China should compensate the rest of the world in money and service for their poor deeds.

It’s time to let China be held accountable for this outbreak and many other past questionable actions. No more free passes just because they have the world by their monetary short hairs.

The Knicks Spike Lee and I Grew Up No Longer Exist

Every day it becomes harder and harder to remember the last time the Knicks made for good news. It has little to do with losing.

Spike Lee /File photo/Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

The 76ers took losing to a new tank high. The Cavaliers contributed to Cleveland’s moniker as the Mistake on the Lake. The Charlotte Bobcats once won seven games.

Losing happens. Losing as a corporate environment shouldn’t.

File photo /James Dolan ?Neil Miller/ The New York Extra/copyright 2020

Which brings us to James Dolan. Under his ownership, The Garden and the Knicks have gone from a storied franchise that plays in The World’s Most Famous Arena to a sullied team that competes in building run by an Undercover Paranoid Boss.

Spike Lee and I hail from the same borough (his family moved to Brooklyn when he was a child). He attended Dewey High School. I attended Canarsie.

File photo/Spike Lee at Yankee Stadium /Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

He’s 62. I’m 60. We’re of the same Knicks generation, the one fortunate enough to be in our formative fans years when the Knicks raised their only two NBA Championship banners to The Garden rafters.

We were raised on Red Holzman’s thinking man’s basketball.

None of us will forget that magical night when Willis Reed limped out of the tunnel, drained his first two shots, and Clyde Frazier turned in the greatest performance in Game 7 history. But most forget that every starter on that 1969-70 team averaged at least 10 points and two assists in the regular season.

Spike was the guy from Brooklyn who made it big. That’s what those front row Knicks tickets represent, more than his success as a director. Occasionally we would exchange a nod and quick handshake. Thank goodness for a press pass or I would never have gotten within two levels of Spike.

Of course, there was no social media and no smartphones back then when pickup basketball was the city game and we believed more titles were to come. We were naïve. Not we’re broken. Spike temporarily broken.

The Knicks have been reduced to a soap opera, The Garden as the set on which the segments are filmed.

Charles Oakley fights with Msg security/Neil Miller/The New York Extra/copyright 2020

If Dolan isn’t feuding with former players (Charles Oakley) he’s feuding with teenage fans and now he’s feuding with the most fanatical A-list fan any team in sports has known.

Spike is to us what Jack Nicholson is to the Lakers and a less subdued Drake is to the Raptors. Nicholson’s presence in the Forum has never been a distraction and, if Drake can just stop trying to run huddles, he can continue in his role as self-designated celebrity super fan.

Spike? Spike never was the story, with the exception of one epic exchange in 1995 with Reggie Miller. Heck, if Reggie, who scored eight points in the final 18.7 seconds of a Game 1 playoff game, can’t get under your skin, no one can. That’s a compliment.

Now Spike and Dolan are the story. It matters little who is right or wrong in Monday night’s EntranceGate blowup. It’s the pettiness. The constant siren of pettiness that sounds from The Garden and his heard around the NBA world.

Dolan is the common denominator in all of these petty episodes. The man with enough money to own the most valuable NBA franchise can’t buy himself a healthy sense of self.

The slightest perceived offense triggers some insecure fight response from Dolan. It’s as if he’s never outgrown that 10-year-old, “You started it! No, you started it!” phase.

Dolan announced the hiring of Leon Hall as the Knicks president on Monday morning. Dolan has been quick to remind us that he leaves the business of basketball in the expert’s hands. This way when Phil Jackson or Steve Mills falters, Dolan has his fall guy.

It can’t be his fault. But it is. Free agents know it is. Current players know it is. Current and former coaches know it is.

Makes you wonder if Rose checked the small print in his contract for an out clause. Makes you wonder if Spike will return next season. Makes you wonder if we should too.

Because these are not the Knicks Spike and I grew up on. This is not thinking man’s basketball.

Mountain Jam Orchestra

A photo gallery at the Connequot Public Library by Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Today, The Mountain Jam Orchestra did one 1 1/2 hr long set at the library to a diverse crowd of different ages.With Jim Leach,bass,Steve Killian and Al Murphy, guitars,Phil Franco ,lead vocals,Steve Farella and John Laguzzi,drums, and Jim Sotis key boards the attentive crowd had a fun,if somewhat restrained good time,given the venue.

The set list was the standard Allmans every one knows and loves ,including,Southbound,Blue Sky,One Way Out and more favorites.The night before ,the band played at the always popular Sunset Grill in Seaford, to a packed house, with a waiting line outside.It wont be long till this band will be playing at larger venues on the Island, given their following .

J.D. Davis Reflects On Thurman Munson Award

Thurman Munson was a leader on and off the field and 40 years after his untimely death his legacy is constantly remembered.  Tuesday night at Chelsea Piers, the annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner continued to live that legacy.

The 40th Thurman munson Awards Dinner press conference From Left to Right Lou Piniella,Gleyber Torres ,Diana Munson,John franco ,J.D Davis, and Nancy Lieberman /Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

This annual event raises money to support the AHRC New York City Foundation. The organization assists children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Diana Munson /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“I am most proud of the money we raised ,” said Diana Munson . “To be a part of it has meant a lot to my family.”

Widow of Thurman Munson, the  Yankees Captain and catcher, has also kept that legacy going with the Thurman Munson Award. Professional and Olympic athletes are recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to the community.

“It’s truly a tremendous honor,” J.D. Davis said.

J.D.Davis /neil Miller/The New York Extra

 The Mets outfielder and third baseman was honored along with Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, former Yankees outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, former Mets captain John Franco ,and Nancy Lieberman of basketball fame.

They all spoke about Munson. A week or so after the untimely death of Kobe Bryant, they also did not forget his legacy.  

So this was not only about baseball and basketball.  Over the years, those who have been honored at this event have been role models. They have exemplified the good character and dedication of Thurman Munson.

“I was a 90’s baby, unfortunately, I never saw him play,” Davis said. “But when I got the call that I was being honored, I knew who he was. How big of an icon he was in New York. I was pretty humbled by it.”

Davis, may not become that icon, but has those qualities to exemplify all the Thurman Munson attributes do fit his character.  

Last season, he had that breakout year with the Mets  and has adopted New York City as that second home. Davis, this off-season, made several trips to New York from his home in California for charitable events.

Quickly, Davis, has adapted to playing ball in this town.

There is the  understanding of  that significance of being in the spotlight and playing baseball in New York. Thurman Munson, when he donned the Yankees pinstripes also knew that giving back to the community was important. 

So, J.D. Davis, along with the others are not recipients of this award because of their name. They are special and are doing something significant as athletes here.

More than baseball or other sports they play for a living, It’s being role models off the field.

Of course, baseball was the talk and prior to the speeches and recipients getting the Munson honor. There was no talk about the recent baseball scandal, no discussion about the Mets ownership change that is in jeopardy.

Though, Piniella, always a good piece for conversation, did say that technology was good for baseball.

And for J.D. Davis, this could be the first of many more awards to come. Assume the Mets provide that opportunity for Davis, to be a vital cog in their plans going forward, helping the community will also be in his plan.  

And there is every intention of Davis being in that lineup often, in the outfield or at third base.

He is excited about the upcoming season, and prepared this off-season to get better by watching film. He dropped seven pounds and worked on various ways to get better in the outfield.

“ Reconnected with Luis Rojas,” he said about his new manager, the former quality control coach who  was by his side in the dugout last year.

J.D.Davi /Neil Miler/The New York Extra

There are those Thurman Munson qualities on the field for J.D. Davis. He has adapted after coming from Houston as the unknown player last season, possibly the best acquisition for Mets  GM Brodie Van Wegenen.

“Coming here to New York with these guys, with these teammates and coaches, showing your personality  showing you a little bit of flair, playing the game right,” he said. 

He got that right. Because, in New York, playing here is about doing the right thing and also being a part of the community. We always saw that in Thurman Munson.

And the best way to have fun, as Munson always said, was win ball games. The Mets won 86 games last year and made a postseason push in the second half. 

 Davis, and the Mets  are anticipated to win ball games this coming season.  They also don’t know what to expect from Yeonis Cespedes with a contract that was restructured and coming off surgery.

And then there is this part about J.D. Davis, that talk of getting better.  He reminds you so much about the qualities of Thurman Munson.

“Little ways, better at bats,” he said.  “Taking notes about failures and what I’ve learned.”

Sounds a lot like Thurman Munson.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Kobe Just Might Have Made His Most Important Play

ROBBINS NEST

file photo /Neil Miller /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

It’s taken two days to see.

Since the first alert on my phone Sunday morning stating the unfathomable had happened – Kobe Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven other human beings – taken from us in the blink of a text, we’ve been blinded by grief and uncertainty.

The Lakers-Clippers game was canceled last night, as it should have been. But when do the Lakers return to the court in spirit as well as body? A week? A month? A season?

Prior to the tipoff of Monday night’s prep game between Friends Seminary and Packer Collegiate Institute, the rivals huddled at midcourt, arms around each other’s shoulders, as a 24-second shot clock ‘violation’ counted down.

Generations of Americans are hurting.

There are memorials at Staples Center and the House of Kobe Gym in the Philippines and Lower Merion High School outside of Philadelphia and Mamba Sports Academy, and Reggio Emilia in Italy and the Bryant Park subway stationed unofficially renamed Kobe Bryant Park.

(Memo to City: Don’t change that).

Should everything go back to the way it was before Kobe died or should it never be the same?

Does a reporter continue to write about Kobe or the suddenly surprising Knicks or disappointing Nets?

How do we evaluate any NBA team going forward when so many players lost a friend, idol, mentor, role model, former teammate or opponent?

How can we attend a Super Bowl party on Sunday, cheer and laugh, when four families are in the soul-numbing process of planning a funeral they never expected to plan so soon?

How do we go to church or temple this weekend knowing that Bryant and his daughter reportedly attended Mass Sunday morning at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, just hours before they died?

A parishioner there, Julie Hermes, told NBC-LA that she recalled watching Kobe with his four daughters after Mass one day.

“He was showering them with cupcakes, and he put them in car seats and buckled them in so carefully,” Hermes said.

That’s what love looks like. And this is Kobe’s last and possibly greatest legacy.

We’ve see men, seemingly the most manly among us, publicly showing their emotions in tears and tributes. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Spencer Dinwiddie crying. Barack Obama, also a father of daughters, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, expressing their sadness.

“[He was] and a leader in a lot of ways,” Abdul-Jabbar said on social media. “He inspired a whole generation of young athletes.”

Imagine that. A whole generation of young athletes seeing Kobe memorialized as a father and husband more than a player. A whole generation of young athletes overtly and covertly getting the message that there is more to life than a ball or a puck. A whole generation of young athletes seeing men that express their emotions as strong and sensitive.

Imagine this: In death, Kobe has made his most important play.