THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: On the Rockets, Astros, college hoops and Olympic hockey

A.J. Hinch does not have a lot of decisions to make. Jason Behnken / Getty Images

The final six weeks of the Rockets’ regular season will be anything but boring as they roll toward a new franchise record for regular season wins (all they need is a 15-10 finish) and battle the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA (winning that battle will require more along the lines of a 20-5 finish).

Astros’ spring training should be delightfully boring. For the World Series Champions no news will be good news. Any significant news would probably be injury related. Manager A.J. Hinch has three fringe roster decisions to make; who gets Yuli Gurriel’s spot as he serves a five game season-starting suspension, whether to carry a third catcher or a more versatile last man on the bench, and whether to carry a marginal lefty reliever.  

No Texas fight

So, who’s doing the less impressive job this season: Billy Kennedy or Shaka Smart? The Aggies climbed out of the hole of an 0-5 start in SEC play to get to 6-6 following wins on the road at then 8th ranked Auburn and at home over then No. 24 Kentucky. And since have dumped three straight games including getting destroyed at Arkansas and then losing at home by 12 to a middling Mississippi State team. That has the Ags 6-9 in SEC play with games remaining at Vanderbilt, at Georgia, and home vs. Alabama. They should win at least two of those three and be OK for an NCAA Tournament berth. But worse than that followed by a first round loss in the SEC Tournament…

Meanwhile, Smart makes over three million dollars per season at Texas and has a produced a record to this point of 47 wins 47 losses.  I thought Smart was a tremendous Horns’ hire. I’ve been wrong before. The loss of Andrew Jones to a leukemia diagnosis was a big blow to an offense that too often is inept. But scoring all of 48 points in a loss at Kansas State this week was pitiful. UT is 6-9 in Big 12 play. Its remaining three games are against teams that have already hooked the Horns this season: Oklahoma St., Kansas, and West Virginia. I don’t care how good and deep the Big 12 is, a team that goes 7-11 in conference does not belong in the NCAA Tournament unless it wins two games minimum in its conference tournament.

USA! USA! 

It’s only once every four years that there’s any realistic chance of me watching a women’s hockey game. The latest quadrennial occasion was Wednesday night and it sure was worth is as the U.S. women beat Canada for the gold medal. Four years ago in the gold medal game the American women had a 2-0 lead with five minutes left but blew it, and lost in sudden death overtime. 10 of the players who swallowed that bitter pill were back and tasted the sweetest victory. It was a great game and a great story, made even greater in that twin sisters scored the tying and game winning goals for the U.S. Can’t wait until Beijing in 2022!

Remembering the Miracle

Thursday marked the 38th anniversary of the greatest sporting event in U.S. history. It was Feb. 22, 1980 when the entirely amateur-comprised American hockey team stunned the Soviet Union machine at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

It is inconceivable that a future sporting event could resonate as strongly in this country as did that victory coupled with the subsequent gold medal win. The USSR was our sworn Cold War enemy, our economy was a mess, and we had 52 hostages held captive in Iran. It was not the best of times.

We did not win the gold by beating the Soviets. That victory got the U.S. a shot at gold playing against Finland two days later. It wasn’t a straight up gold medal game. Under the format of that time a loss to the Finns would have meant only bronze for the U.S. A tie would have resulted in the gold to the Soviets on a tiebreaker.

Against Finland we trailed 2-1 after the second period. In the third period we scored the tying goal, while unbelievably, ABC-TV was in commercials. Out of the commercials Al Michaels said “We’ve got the greatest news of all for you. As you can see the Americans, the mob scene there, Phil Verchota has just scored to tie the game!”  Not quite as famous on the Al Michaels page in Bartlett’s Quotations as “Do you believe in miracles….yes!!!”

ABC managed to not be in commercials for the go ahead and insurance goals that capped the Miracle On Ice.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Kansas wraps up an insane 14th straight Big 12 title if it wins at Texas Tech Saturday.   2. I wonder if Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock think Kevin Hart is very funny.   3. Match Game Super Match Edition, Ice ______ :  Bronze-Ice, Baby!  Silver- Breaker  Gold-Cream.

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