Remembering the great Final Fours in New Orleans

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Remembering the great Final Fours in New Orleans

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Two of the most replayed shots in NCAA tournament history. Two terrible mistakes that are played over and over. Freshmen redeeming the most painful loss in school history. That's what New Orleans has given college basketball fans in the first four Final Fours it has hosted. No. 5 starts Saturday, and as sure as there will be hot sauce in your jambalaya, you can expect New Orleans to add to its tradition of throwing a great party -- on and off the court. To start with the positives, a freshman from North Carolina named Michael Jordan made the first big jumper in 1982. Five years later a junior college transfer from Indiana named Keith Smart hit what turned out to be the game-winner from almost the same spot on the Superdome court. If you haven't seen either shot, just watch the commercials and teases for college basketball. Jordan, still known as Mike then but with his tongue sticking out just a bit, made his with jumper with 17 seconds to go to give the Tar Heels a 63-62 lead over Georgetown. When those 17 seconds ticked off, North Carolina coach Dean Smith had his first national championship. "I'm very blessed for what that shot did, and my name did change from Mike to Michael," Jordan recounted five years ago. "To sit back and think What if?' is a scary thought. There are a lot of other options. I could be pumping gas back in Wilmington, N.C." Smart's jumper with 5 seconds left gave Indiana a 74-73 win over Syracuse, which had a chance to expand its lead when Derrick Coleman missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 28 seconds to play and none of his teammates along the lane. The national championship was coach Bob Knight's third and last at Indiana, and the loss was a crushing one for Orange coach Jim Boeheim. "If it goes in, it's my shot," Smart, now the coach of the Sacramento Kings said then of his game-winner. "It's a pickup game shot." Jordan's shot was followed by one of the biggest mistakes ever seen in sports. Georgetown's Fred Brown had the ball inside the midcourt line, setting up the Hoyas' chance at a win in their first Final Four appearance ever and first in a three-year span with center Patrick Ewing. Inexplicably, Brown turned and flipped the ball to James Worthy of the Tar Heels who was fouled but missed both free throws. One of the lasting images of that NCAA tournament was Georgetown coach John Thompson hugging a disconsolate Brown after the game, telling him the Hoyas wouldn't have gotten to that point without him. Thompson will be in New Orleans this weekend, this time as a radio analyst. He's glad to be back in the Crescent City, even with that memory from 30 years ago. "I think the moment itself is difficult to deal with as is the case with everybody that got that far," Thompson said Thursday. "You lose, you feel bad, but you put it in perspective. New Orleans was the first city we played in a Final Four in. It was the first city we got to the final two. If you're competitive you're always disappointed when you lose. I don't hate New Orleans because we lost. Just the opposite, I love it because it was the first place we had a chance to play for the national championship." When the Final Four was held in New Orleans in 1993, North Carolina again made it to the championship game, this time facing the Fab Five of Michigan, who were playing for the title for a second straight season. The Tar Heels led 73-71 when Michigan got the ball with 20 seconds to go. Chris Webber, the best of the Wolverines' young team, took off like a runaway train and finally stopped in front of his own bench and called a timeout Michigan didn't have. Under the rules at the time, Michigan was charged with a technical foul and lost possession of the ball. Donald Williams made all four free throws, and North Carolina had another national title in New Orleans that was sealed by another major mistake by its opponent. In one of the most standup news conferences ever, Webber, still a teenager, faced every question thrown at him. "I just called a timeout and we didn't have one and it probably cost us the game," he said. "If I'd have known we didn't have any timeouts left, I wouldn't have called a timeout." Steve Fisher was the coach of the Wolverines then. Now the coach at San Diego State, he said Thursday that the NCAA tournament always stirs up memories of that night. "When they talk about plays in tournament history, that's one of the things they talk about," he said. "It's part of who we are, our legacy. ... I wish it hadn't happened, but it happened to us." Brown and Webber never got a chance to atone for their Superdome transgressions. Syracuse did. In 2003, the last time the Final Four was held here, the Orange were led by freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara in an 81-78 win over Kansas that gave Syracuse its first national championship. The game was sealed with seconds to play when sophomore Hakim Warrick, appropriately nicknamed "Helicopter," came from out of nowhere to block Michael Lee's potential game-tying shot from the corner. Boeheim, who had left New Orleans 16 years earlier with a tough loss, had the trophy in his hands and a net around his neck. "I was glad we got to go back in '03," Boeheim said Thursday. "We had an opportunity to win, to get to erase the memory. Honestly, it was better than if we won someplace else."

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

The White Sox return for Chris Sale has been generally praised in the aftermath of Tuesday’s megadeal with the Boston Red Sox, with the headliner being 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada

But the White Sox also acquired three other prospects with varying ranges of hype: 20-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, 20-year-old outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and 22-year-old right-hander Victor Diaz. Baseball America ranked all three among the top 20 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranked Kopech No. 5, Basabe No. 8 and Diaz No. 28 in Boston’s farm system. 

Kopech is a hard-throwing former No. 33 overall pick out of Mount Pleasant, Texas who was rated as a top 100 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2016 season. Over three minor league seasons from rookie ball to high Single-A, Kopech has 172 strikeouts, 69 walks and only three home runs allowed in 134 2/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA.

Whether or not Kopech sticks as a starting pitcher (35 of his 36 professional games have been starts) remains a point of contention among prospect evaluators, though he features a power slider and a low-90’s changeup that Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser wrote has drawn comparisons to New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard. He also reportedly threw a 105 mph pitch last summer with Double-A Salem — and even if that radar gun reading was inaccurate, he’s able to fairly regularly throw his fastball at or above 100 mph. 

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

There have been two off-the-field issues with Kopech, though, that are why he’s been dinged in some prospect rankings. In 2015, he was suspended for the final 50 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamine use, and in March of 2016 he fractured his hand following an altercation with a teammate

Basabe — not to be confused with his twin brother, infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe, who the Red Sox traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer — is a toolsy outfielder who hit .264/.328/.452 with 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts between Single-A Greenville and high Single-A Salem last year. FutureSox’s Rob Young wrote that Basabe has “immense upside” as a potential five-tool player, while Baseball America’s best-case is Basabe’s raw talent develops into a "top of the order center fielder" 

Over four minor league seasons, Basabe has a .253/.353/.408 slash line with 21 home runs, 25 triples and 73 stolen bases in 93 attempts (78 percent). 

Diaz has had some control issues, issuing an average of 3.97 walks per nine innings, over his first two professional seasons. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 3.88 ERA with 63 strikeouts out of Single-A Greenville’s bullpen last year, and with a fastball touching 100 mph, he could develop into a legitimate relief option down the road if he can find the strike zone more consistently. 

What’s worth noting here is the depth of the trade for the White Sox. This is a farm system that lacked both top-end and raw talent when Rick Hahn & Co. woke up on Tuesday, but adding Moncada, Kopech, Basabe and Diaz to a group headlined by recent draft picks like right-hander Carson Fulmer, catcher Zack Collins and right-hander Zack Burdi should have a significant impact on the quality of the White Sox minor league ranks. 

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

The Cubs' postseason shares were released Tuesday afternoon amid the craziness of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale deal.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Cubs handed out 66 full playoff shares, worth $368,871.59 each. The organization also dealt 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards.

As champs, the Cubs received a share of $27,586,017.75 of the players' pool, which is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the American League and National League wild card games and then 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series, the first four contests of the League Championship Series and first four games of the World Series.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The 2016 players' pool set a new record at $76,627,827.09, up from the 2015 total of just under $70 million.

2015 champion Kansas City Royals received share amounts of just over $370,000 last season, split into 58 shares.

The Cleveland Indians received more than $18 million from the 2016 players pool.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — runners up in the LCS — tallied more than $9 million from the players' pool.