Last chance for teams to move off NCAA tourney bubble

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Welcome to Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com. If you would like great access to regular RPI information, Jerry Palm provides great information for all NCAA Tournament fans. A subscription is very reasonable.

UPDATED: Monday, March 7

Automatic Bids (4): UNC-Ashville (Big South), Morehead State (OVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Indiana State (MVC)

Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (29): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (4): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (26): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (11): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Cleveland State (out), Southern Mississippi (out)
  • Joining the Bubble: New Mexico, USC
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated 11:00 p.m. ET on March 6.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (24-7 | 13-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders closed with 10 wins in 12 games – their only losses to Xavier and Temple. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and a victory over VCU is looking better again. Because the Spiders suffered lopsided losses against Xavier and Temple in their regular-season meetings, do they need to beat one of them in the A-10 tournament? We’ll see. Doing so would certainly make them feel more secure on Selection Sunday.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (19-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 25 | – After closing out Wake Forest Sunday, BC enters the ACC tourney on a three-game winning streak. Winning at Virginia Tech could prove really big as the Eagles swept the Hokies. That said, BC remains just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Texas AM), even though they are 7-10 vs. the Top 100. Although the Eagles are in just “in” right now, BC needs to win its opening ACC tournament game.
  • Clemson (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 74 | – The Tigers won their critical home game with Virginia Tech on Saturday in the only meeting between the two. Clemson’s resume remains pretty modest (2-5 vs. Top 50 teams – BC and Florida State), however, and is backed by a rather weak No. 204 non-conference schedule. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina to go along with hiccups against NC State and Virginia. Whether the Tigers end up in the NCAAs will depend on how they perform at the ACC Tournament.
  • Florida State (21-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 78 | – While it’s hard to see FSU missing the NCAAs with an 11-5 ACC record, most of their wins are against teams below them in the standings. The Seminoles’ win over Duke is helping, but FSU was swept by Carolina. Outside the league, Florida State’s best win is Baylor (Hawaii). They also lost to Butler. The Seminoles are 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 6-8 vs the Top 100 – other bubble teams have more such wins. Beating NC State on Sunday was important. Avoiding a one-and-done at the ACC tourney should be enough.
  • Virginia Tech (19-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 87 | – Losing back-to-back games against bubble teams in your own conference has certainly created a lot of doubt after the win over Duke. The Hokies enter the ACC Tournament squarely on the cutline. An opening-round loss could very well mean another year of heartbreak. Besides Duke, the Hokies beat Florida State in the ACC, and Penn State. They were swept by Boston College and lost their only game with Clemson. They were also swept by Virginia, lost at Georgia Tech, and are 4-6 in road games. VT is 2-6 vs. the Top 50 and 7-7 vs. the Top 100.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s West Virginia, Cincinnati | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Marquette
  • Marquette (18-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 31 | – By losing at Seton Hall, Marquette has left some doubt about their once-promising NCAA hopes. The Golden Eagles are 4-11 vs. Top 50 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. But they are also just 11-13 vs. the Top 200 – a stat that has often meant the NIT. We’ll see if the strength of the Big East and a strong SOS overall helps the Golden Eagles. Winning at Connecticut was huge because it proved that Marquette could win away from home. Still, Marquette is just 4-7 on the road. Out of conference, Marquette’s best win is Bucknell. A first-round loss to Providence at the Big East tourney would create some uncertainty.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 17 | – The Illini took out some frustration on Indiana Saturday in Champaign and avoided a costly loss. While the general feeling is the Illini will make it, their outlook would be clearer if they can beat Michigan (again) in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and perhaps Michigan State. Down the stretch, however, Illinois has gone 5-7 in its last 12 games. Strong SOS numbers and 10 Top 100 wins are a plus. The loss at UIC is a major sore point – along with the dropped game at Indiana in January.
  • Michigan State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 9 | The Spartans won 3 of 5 down the stretch, but struggled on the road against Michigan on Saturday – giving the Wolverines a season sweep. MSU is hoping its strong SOS will be rewarded; we’ve seen it in the past. The Spartans are just 3-9 vs. Top 50 teams, but 9-12 vs. the Top 100. They are 12-12 vs. the Top 200. What’s it all mean? Michigan State plays Iowa in its Big Ten tourney opener. A second loss to the Hawkeyes could prove too much. A victory and a good showing against Purdue? Close call.
  • Michigan (18-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 18 | Michigan played well down the stretch, going 8-4 in its last 12 Big Ten games. Through a series of tiebreakers, the Wolverines earned the 4-seed in the Big Ten tourney and play Illinois Friday. The Illini won in Champaign – the only meeting between the two. A 3-8 mark vs. Top 50 teams is somewhat offset by a 9-11 mark against the Top 100. Outside the league, Michigan’s best win is at Clemson, although they did beat Harvard, too. In the Big 10, Michigan swept Michigan State and Penn State. Their only “bad” loss was at Indiana in early January. If good losses help, Michigan took Kansas to OT in Ann Arbor. If they lose to Illinois, it could go right down to the wire.
  • Penn State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 6 | The Nittany Lions staved off bubble elimination by winning at Minnesota Sunday. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State) but the Lions are a just 3-8 on the road – a major disparity. PSU was also swept by Michigan. Despite a solid SOS, PSU’s best non-conference victories are Fairfield and Duquesne. They also lost at Virginia Tech. Penn State has to beat Indiana in its B10 tourney opener, and probably upset Wisconsin to sneak in. They are 3-7 vs. the Top 50 and 9-12 vs. the Top 100.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri, Kansas State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (17-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 84 | SOS: 39 | – Baylor has dropped 5 of 6 and is clinging to life support after losing to Texas at home. The Bears’ RPI is sliding fast and the only thing keeping them afloat is a world of talent and a sweep of Texas AM. It’ll take a deep run in the Big 12 tourney at this point. It starts with Oklahoma.
  • Colorado (18-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 72 | – Colorado’s win over Nebraska Saturday did two things – kept them near the cutline and kept Nebraska off the immediate bubble. While the Buffs have some high-level wins (5-6 vs. the top 50 and a sweep of Kansas State), a horrific non-conference SOS (No. 322) could still prove to be an at-large killer. That, and a 3-9 record in true road games. It’s also worth noting that Colorado is just 10-12 vs the Top 200 – often an NIT qualification. The Buffs best non-conference win is over fellow bubble-dweller Colorado State. Colorado gets a rematch with Iowa State in its Big 12 tourney opener. Another loss to the Cyclones (in 10 days) might very well end their hopes of an NCAA bid.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 33 | – The Rams lost 4 of 5 down the stretch after falling at San Diego State. CSU is just 1-6 vs. the Top 50 and 4-8 vs. the Top 100. CSU has to reach the MTW final to warrant re-evaluation. Next up is New Mexico in an elimination game.
  • New Mexico (19-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 90 | – While still a long-shot, we have to welcome back the Lobos who have won three straight and own a season sweep of BYU. They also split with Colorado State and beat Colorado. UNM’s non-conference SOS (No. 257) is still an eyesore, but if the Lobos could reach the MTW final, they would be in the picture. First, UNM has to beat Colorado State in an elimination game.
PAC 10
Locks: Arizona | Should Be In: UCLA | Bubble: Washington, Washington State, USC
  • Washington (20-10 | 11-7) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 52 | – The Huskies have left themselves on the bubble by playing some very inconsistent basketball. They beat UCLA at home (season sweep), then lost on their same home floor to USC two days later. Keep in mind that Washington accomplished nothing outside the Pac-10 – Long Beach State is the Huskies best non-league win. Thus, it’s hard to move Washington above the fray just yet. They open the Pac-10 tourney against Washington State. What if they lose and WSU or USC makes a run? Washington also has losses at Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State.
  • Washington State (19-10 | 9-8) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 86 | – With Klay Thompson suspended, the Cougars coughed up a late lead to UCLA and lost in OT. That could be a major blow if the Cougars lose to Washington in their Pac 10 tourney opener. WSU is 6-8 vs. Top 100 teams, but just 2-6 vs. the Top 50. The Cougars have beaten Gonzaga and Baylor, but lost to Butler. WSU also swept Washington, but was swept by Arizona.
  • USC (18-13 | 10-8) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 42 | – Having won 5 of 6, it might be prudent to add Southern Cal to the bubble, but the Trojans have a long way to go. Yes, they have 5 Top 50 wins (Texas early, and then at Tennessee included), but they also have 6 sub-100 RPI losses – including 3 sub-200 losses (TCU, Oregon State, Bradley). They were also swept by Oregon. That type of resume suggests the NIT. But if USC can reach the Pac-10 final? We’ll see how the landscape looks.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 36 | – Having won at Tennesse and beaten Kentucky, the Bulldogs remain decent position. They also have a win over UAB. A victory at Alabama would have helped, but the Bulldogs do have one edge on some other bubble teams – no “bad” losses. In fact, every loss except at Alabama has been to teams in the Top 40 of the RPI. Outside the league, Georgia beat Colorado but lost to Xavier and Temple. Overall, the Bulldogs are 3-9 vs. the Top 50 and 5-10 vs. the Top 100. Is Georgia safe? Not yet. They can’t afford a loss to Auburn in their SEC tourney opener.
  • Alabama (20-10 | 12-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 127 | – What will the Selection Commitee do with Alabama? That’s a big topic of debate. Winning the SEC West was hardly epic work, but a 12-4 SEC mark is hard to ignore. Outside the SEC, Alabama’s profile is very questionable. Their non-conference SOS ranks No. 280 and the Tide’s best non-league win is Lipscomb. They also have early losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, and Seton Hall. With just 4 Top 100 wins, it’s hard to move Alabama off the bubble. Yes, the Tide beat Kentucky at home, but UK has been an average team on the road. Their other notable win – other than Georgia at home Saturday – is at Tennessee. But the Vols are very unpredictable. Is that enough? Alabama had better win at least one game in Atlanta. They might need two.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason, Old Dominion | Bubble: Butler, Missouri State, Memphis, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (21-9 | 14-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 71 | – Butler has done what it had to do by reaching the Horizon League final. They play at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Certainly, winning the automatic bid would be best, but the Bulldogs have won 8 straight to be squarely in the conversation. A win over Florida State in Hawaii helps as could a win over Washington State – although that is more questionable. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – causing the question mark. Butler played a strong non-conference schedule (No. 12), and might be rewarded. That said, losing three times to Milwaukee could be a stumbling block.
  • Missouri State (25-8 | 17-4) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 124 | – Long wait coming up for the Bears who lost to Indiana State in the finals of the MVC tournament. With no Top 50 wins and just a 3-6 mark vs. the Top 100, Missouri State has to hope the Selection Committee values an outright MVC regular season title. Odds aren’t promising, we’ll see how the week develops.
  • Memphis (22-9 | 10-6) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 55 | – Memphis lost 3 of 5 down the stretch and needs to do some hefty work in the C-USA tourney. The Tigers swept UAB and Southern Miss in league play but also managed to lose at East Carolina, Rice, and SMU. Further, Memphis was blown out in its prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. The win at Gonzaga is Memphis’ only non-conference victory of note. Have to think the Tigers need to at least reach the C-USA final.
  • UAB (22-7 | 12-4) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 68 | – UAB wrapped up the C-USA regular-season title – something to note. Whether that would warrant an at-large bid is questionable. The Blazers are just 3-4 vs. Top 50 teams (but two of those are Marshall at No. 50). However, they do have 8 top 100 wins overall. The Blazers’ best non-conference win is VCU – they lost at Georgia and Duke. Within the league, UAB was swept by Memphis, we’ll see if that matters. A 9-5 road mark helps, but there’s just not a lot to be excited about. UAB needs to reach the C-USA final.
  • VCU (23-10 | 14-6) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 91 | – After losing 4 of 5 down the stretch, VCU rallied to beat Drexel and then upset George Mason in the CAA tournament. Now, the Rams are in the title game against Old Dominion. Winning would erase all doubt, although VCU should be in the conversation either way. The Rams have a neutral-court win over UCLA and also won at Wichita State in the BracketBuster. VCU is 3-4 vs. the Top 50 and 8-7 vs. the Top 100. A loss at UAB could come into play.
  • Gonzaga (21-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 103 | – Gonzaga had won 9 of 10 heading into the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas and held off San Francisco Sunday to advance to the title game with St. Mary’s. That’s a good spot, and helps their at-large case. They have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor, as well as a home loss to Memphis. The ‘Zags split two games with St. Mary’s. A 2-6 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is somewhat concerning, but a 5-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps a little.
  • St. Mary’s (22-7 | 12-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 114 | – The Gaels beat Santa Clara to advance to the WCC title game. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. The rest of the resume is light, however, (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-5 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would likely fall behind Gonzaga. A home loss to Utah State could also pose a problem. In an interesting note, SMC has a game with Weber State on March 11 – after the WCC tourney concludes.
  • Utah State (27-3 | 15-1) | RPI: 17 | SOS: 122 | – The Aggies thoroughly dominated the WAC and may very well have done enough. Still, with a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those being Long Beach State (No. 95) – we can’t assume USU is a lock. Avoiding an early WAC flameout would be advised. Reach the final and it could be difficult to leave the Aggies home on Selection Sunday.

Did Nike plagiarize JellyFam, Minnesota freshman Isaiah Washington to sell kid shoes?

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The JellyFam movement started as nothing more than a way for a little New York City point guard to add some flair to his game, a way to stunt on an opponent when you can’t dunk on that opponent, and has grown into something no one, not even Isaiah Washington, could have imagined.

Washington is that little point guard, and a few years ago, he and a couple of his hooping buddies coined the jelly, which, at its root, is essentially nothing more than a finger roll. Where the magic happens is when that finger comes after weaving around an opponent or finishing the layup despite the presence of a shot-blocker at the rim, with a sprinkle of NYC Point God showmanship. Think Kyrie Irving’s layup package if they happened at Rucker Park with an And1 Mixtape crew filming the game:

What JellyFam has turned into is a full-blown, grassroots movement powered by social media.

And while Washington is the face of the movement, it’s not just him. A half-dozen other talented New York hoopers are members of JellyFam, but Washington is the star. He’s a celebrity on the city’s hoops scene, drawing massive crowds wherever he goes and garnering more than 335,000 followers on Instagram despite having just 27 posts on the site. It’s not as if Washington is a sure-fire NBA All-Star, either. He’s a 6-foot-1, 160 pound point guard that doesn’t crack the top 50 on any of the major recruiting services and is headed to Minnesota to play his college ball.

His popularity is tied directly to the movement that he created.

It’s a shame, however, that he cannot profit off of it, not if he wants to remain an amateur that is eligible to play college basketball.

That doesn’t stop corporations from profiting off of what he has created.

Today, Nike released a new colorway for the kid size PG1s, Paul George’s signature shoe, that has been dubbed the ‘JellyFam PG1’. It’s being sold for $90 on their website right now. This is what it looks like:

What you’ll notice, in addition to purple and turquoise colors that are a staple in the JellyFam gear that Washington wears, is the straps. On the right foot, it says “score in bunches”. On the left foot, you’ll see a design that looks like basketballs on a grapevine … or the grape emoji, with basketballs instead of grapes.

Washington and the rest of the members of JellyFam have adopted the grape emoji as their own when posting on social media.

According to a Nike spokesperson, these shoes were “inspired by Paul George’s love for fresh grapes.”

What Nike is doing here is wrong.

They are trying to capitalize on a movement created by athletes that are not allowed to monetize something they built simply because of the NCAA’s amateurism rules. They are stealing the work created by these young men simply because they can. At worst, this is plagiarism.

Washington did not respond to messages from NBC Sports, but on Friday morning he tweeted, “It’s crazy bro they know I can’t so they just take advantage.” That tweet has since been deleted.

If you read this space, you know my feelings on the NCAA and amateurism. It’s wrong and it needs to be changed, but that’s another column for another day that’s been written thousands of times.

This column is much simpler: An international, multibillion-dollar company like Nike is already profiting off of the unpaid labor of amateur athletes.

Stealing their art, their work, their movement to try and sell sneakers to kids for $90 is despicable.

And I’m not sure there’s anything else to add.

Joel Berry II’s touching encounter with a grieving fan

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When you are the starting point guard at North Carolina and a preseason All-American coming off of a season where your team won the national title while you won the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award, getting recognized in Chapel Hill comes with the territory.

Joel Berry II should expect it when he goes out to eat.

What Berry wasn’t expecting, however, was that simply being recognized could profoundly affect the life of one of his fans.

Berry shared the story with UNC’s in-house media arm, GoHeels.com. He was at breakfast with his girlfriend when he noticed two women eyeballing him. As it turns out, those two women were the mothers of two boys that had been best friends. One of the boys had moved to Oregon and, in February, died in an car accident. His name was Rob McKiver, and Berry was his favorite player on his favorite team.

MORE: Joel Berry II, fake tattoos and a family’s loving gesture

From GoHeels.com:

That’s why Carol Freedman and Myra McVicker sat in their booth that May morning with tears trickling down their cheeks. Freedman ultimately sent Berry a heartfelt email. She relayed the story of the McVicker family and then explained why the two women had been so closely watching Berry. “Your presence that Saturday, that morning when we could have met anywhere, at any other day or time, reaffirms our belief that those loved ones who leave this Earth are still with us if we look and listen,” she wrote. “In death, Rob let his mother know that his love for her is stronger than ever.”

The email deeply touched Berry, who wrote back that same day.

“This is by far the greatest email I have ever received,” Berry wrote. “I got goosebumps reading this letter and had to share it with my mom and dad. When telling my mom, she cried with joy knowing her son had impacted someone in that way. Each morning, I always tell myself, ‘Something good is going to happen today,’ and as I read that email, I said to myself, ‘This is more than something good. This is a life changer and I will always remember this.'”

I wrote about Berry and his family after UNC won the national title. I found him to be a likeable young man and someone who is very easy to root for, unless, of course, you live in Durham.

I guess I’m not the only one that feels that way.

Tommy Hawkins, first black all-american at Notre Dame, dead at 80 years old

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tommy Hawkins, the first black basketball player to earn All-America honors at Notre Dame and who played for the Los Angeles Lakers during a 10-year NBA career, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Hawkins died in his sleep at home in Malibu, son Kevin told The Associated Press. He had been in good health and had lay down to rest, his oldest son said.

Hawkins graduated from Notre Dame in 1959 after playing three years on the basketball team. He had 1,318 career rebounds for the longest-standing record in Fighting Irish history. He was named to the school’s All-Century team in 2004 and inducted into its Ring of Honor in 2015. He led the Irish to a 44-13 record over his last two seasons, including an Elite Eight berth in the 1958 NCAA Tournament.

“He loved Notre Dame with every fiber of his being,” said Kevin Hawkins, who followed in his father’s footsteps and played basketball for the Irish before graduating in 1981. “He said Notre Dame did so much for him and grew him up to become the man that he would become.”

Hawkins became close with Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh, who served from 1952-87. Hesburgh was supportive when Hawkins was dating a white woman from nearby Saint Mary’s College and they were turned away from a South Bend restaurant that wouldn’t allow the interracial couple to dine, Kevin Hawkins said.

“That act led Father Hesburgh to ban Notre Dame (students) from eating there until my father got a public apology,” Kevin Hawkins said by phone from his home in South Bend. “Notre Dame walked the talk when you talk about civil rights. That meant the world to him.”

Kevin Hawkins said his father’s basketball teammate and future NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung led Hawkins back to the restaurant to secure the apology.

Kevin Hawkins said he spoke to his father almost daily and they had recently discussed last weekend’s civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Hawkins was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers with the third pick in the first round of the 1959 NBA draft. He played one season in Minnesota before moving with the team to Los Angeles. He went on to play six seasons for the Lakers, averaging 9.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in 454 games.

The 6-foot-5 forward also played for the Cincinnati Royals from 1962-66. Hawkins recorded 6,672 points and 4,607 rebounds in his pro career.

“He was and will always be part of the Lakers family,” team CEO and majority owner Jeanie Buss said. “His baritone voice and easy demeanor made him a favorite of the fans and media, as well as everyone who had the honor of calling him a friend.”

Hawkins’ influence continued beyond his playing days. As a player representative, he had a key role in establishing the first collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union and the NBA.

Born Thomas Jerome Hawkins on Dec. 22, 1936, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he moved to Chicago with his mother and aunt as a child. He starred at the city’s Parker High, now Robeson High, before being recruited by Notre Dame.

Kevin Hawkins recalled his father as a man with interests that ranged from poetry to jazz to sports. He self-published a book of poetry and Hawkins was in the midst of writing a memoir on his basketball career when he died.

“My father was a person who didn’t want to be defined as a jock or an ex-player,” Kevin Hawkins said. “He was an eclectic man. He had stories about everything from Notre Dame to the NBA to broadcasting.”

Hawkins enjoyed friendships with Alabama football coach Bear Bryant; UCLA basketball coach John Wooden; Southern California football coach John McKay; and artist LeRoy Neiman.

“You think about a man who grew up in the projects of Chicago that had done all these things in his life,” Kevin Hawkins said. “He called himself a cosmic functionary. That was his big deal. It made us all cringe, but he just loved it. He was a man of the world and a man of the people.”

Hawkins’ gregarious personality was on full display as master of ceremonies for the John R. Wooden Award presentation for over 30 years before he passed on his MC duties in 2011. He was co-national chairman of the award that honors the nation’s top male and female college basketball players.

Hawkins was hired in 1987 by then-Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley to be vice president of communications and he worked for the team until 2004.

“In life we are fortunate to know many people and Tommy was one person I always looked forward to seeing and being with,” said O’Malley, who sold the team in 1998. “He did an extraordinary job for the Dodgers as vice president, and his friendship will be missed by his family and many admirers.”

The Dodgers had a moment of silence for Hawkins before their game against the White Sox on Wednesday night.

Before joining the Dodgers, Hawkins worked in radio and television in Southern California, including stints with KNBC-TV and KABC radio.

He is survived by his second wife, Layla, and their daughter Neda; his first wife, Dori, and their children Kevin, Karel, Traci and David; seven grandchildren; and a great grandchild.

The family will likely hold a public memorial at a future date, Kevin Hawkins said.

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.