Slant Pattern Mailbag

Welcome to another edition of the Slant Pattern mailbag! As always, I don't get my own questions, so I poach them from other mailbag columns.

On the Ringer Network, there is a podcast dedicated to the Yankees, which I confess I haven't listened to, but I see in their latest episode they answer a question about the most underrated Yankee, which is a question I would like to tackle.

First, it's hard for a Yankee to be underrated. They are the preeminent franchise of the league, you can't play well for them and fly under the radar.

The closest you can come is to do well for the Yanks in a season where they don't fare well. I was at my baseball-nuttiest at a time when they Yankees were not, in fact, doing well. From 1989-1992, they had four straight losing seasons. They haven't had a losing season since.

But you know who was at our near the top of their WAR lists in those years? First, a hint: it's a position player. Nope, not Don Mattingly.

Roberto Kelly.

He was an all-star in the '92 season, had a nice power/speed combination in '91 (20 homers, 32 stolen bases), played in 162 games in 1990, and hit .302 in '89. With these accomplishments, I give you the most underrated Yankee.

Next, a trio of college basketball questions from this week's Athletic mailbag to close out my column:

Lea C. asks, "Best hire from the college basketball coaching carousel so far?"

My modus operandi for this column is to not read the "real" answer given by the intended answerer before penning my own response (the risk of that is method is coming up with a suspiciously similar answer).

But, two names jumped out at me as great hires this offseason, and I was curious if this answerer, Dana O'Neil, hit on both of them. One she did — Porter Moser, who has parlayed some unprecedented success at Loyola Chicago into the Oklahoma job. But the other move I really like is OU's hated rival, Texas, nabbing Chris Beard.

Lubbock is a hard place to recruit. To win a Big 12 title and make it to the NCAA championship game (and only have one losing conference season out of 5 in the tough Big 12) at TTU is hell of an accomplishment, and I am curious to see what he can do now that is at a school that, while not precisely a blue blood, has a gigantic fan and alumni base that can spend like one.

Josh H. asks, "How much of an effect will the Final Four run have on UCLA's recruiting?" and my answer is "negligible." My answer to recruiting vis-a-vis a Final Four run will always, with every team, be "negligible."

Here's a trivia question for you: what do VCU, Wichita State, South Carolina, and Auburn have in common? Give up? They have all made a Final Four in the last 10 tournaments. None of those have been able to parlay those appearances into creating a basketball powerhouse. It takes more than a single final four run to meaningfully boost your recruiting profile. Hell, Gonzaga is only just now finally starting to get elite 'croots, and they've been knocking on the door for 273 years now.

All of that said, UCLA obviously has some built-in advantages (sexy location, unparalleled history) to the point where it's never going to be a surprise if they haul in a blue-chip class. But that said, people are wayyy overreacting to UCLA's final four run. I don't care if they have everyone back (and in fact, they pretty much do) and a five star recruit coming in. Where would they be ranked if they had lost to Michigan State in OT of the play-in game rather than beating them in OT? The recency bias is ridiculous.

Finally, Mike B. asks, "Was anything that was implemented for this year's unique tournament with every game played in Indiana likely to be considered in future non-pandemic years? Maybe something like going back to four regions but have all of the first- and second-round games in the same area as the regional final?"

I strongly doubt it, and I even stronger-ly hope not. Part of the charm of the NCAA tournament is pretty much regardless of what media market you live in, you're never going to have to wait long for a subregional or regional to come close-ish to you. Indeed, hopefully they will soon lengthen, rather than shorten, the list of candidate cities to host NCAA tournament games, although I know a lot of logistical considerations make some otherwise fine cities unfortunately unsuitable.

Listen, I still remember as a teenager how ethereal it was going to the first day of the 1992 Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit League) tournament. I saw conference heavyweights Green Bay, led by senior guard Tony Bennett (yes, that Tony Bennett) hold a team under 40. I saw my own team get upset in heartbreaking fashion. I saw Cinderellas-to-be Eastern Illinois start their run. I will never forget it, and this was a low-major conference tournament. The magic should be spread as far and wide as possible.

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