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Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

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Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.
Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

Coronavirus is unconcerned about the NCAA Tournament.

 

The good news is that you didn’t miss much if you didn’t pay attention to college basketball before the NCAA Tournament. The regular season was a revolving door, with the schedule and, at times, the final score being decided by which players and teams were joining and exiting the sport’s COVID-19 protocols.

Besides, it was the same way on Day 2 of the tournament.

Oregon defeated Virginia Commonwealth 1-0 — officially a “no-contest” — and advances to face Iowa due to several VCU players testing positive. Their misfortune. The coronavirus told everyone that it doesn’t allow exceptions just because all the players now have new blue patches affixed to their tournament uniforms reading “NCAA.” One-fifth of the 2020-21 season was wiped out due to the pandemic, and the coronavirus reminded everyone that it doesn’t make exceptions just because all the players now have new blue patches affixed to their tournament uniforms reading “NCAA.”

“It just stinks,” said VCU coach Mike Rhoades, whose team was told of the situation during their pregame meal and was then put in quarantine. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it.”

Due to COVID-19-related problems, the defending champion Virginia had most of its roster quarantined until Thursday, didn’t arrive in Indiana until Friday, and was promptly eliminated by 13th-seeded Ohio 62-58. But that was just Saturday’s second-largest upset.

Abilene Christian, a 14 seed that didn’t even enter Division I until 2018, upset No. 3 Texas, winning 53-52 on the strength of 23 turnovers and two free throws by Joe Pleasant — a 58.8 percent free throw shooter — with 1.2 seconds remaining.

Pleasant said afterward, “I was visualizing the free throws going in before I fired them.” “All I was trying to do was lock in on the rim and shut out the noise.”

In the day’s only other upset, UCLA, which entered the main bracket as a No. 11 seed after beating Michigan State in the First Four, defeated sixth-seeded BYU 73-62. It was all chalk the majority of the time.

Both of the No. 1 seeds competing on Saturday came out firing. Gonzaga, the tournament’s top seed, thrashed Norfolk State, while Michigan dominated Texas Southern. Number two Iona and erratic coach Rick Pitino were sent packing by Alabama, and Grand Canyon — which chartered two private jets to carry 240 members of the GCU student section to the game — was sent packing by Iowa.

Oklahoma, Creighton (by a hair), USC, Kansas, LSU, Colorado (over media favorite and trendy upset pick Georgetown), Florida State, and Maryland were the other winners.

Tony Bennett, the coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, had an alibi ready for why he didn’t make the list, but he didn’t use it.

“I’m not sure whether it would have made a difference if it was a standard prep or not,” he said. The Cavaliers lost to a double-digit seed in the first round for the second time in their last three NCAA Tournament appearances — this time as a No. 4 seed.

Bennett said, “I’m glad we got the opportunity.” “You can’t go back in time and make changes. Given the circumstances, I figured our guys were as prepared as they could be.”

However, not everyone in the same situation experienced the same outcome. Coach Bill Self had good reason to wonder how much firepower he had left when No. 3 Kansas began to slow down, trailing 11th-seeded Eastern Washington 46-38 at halftime.

After a positive test last week, the Jayhawks were forced to withdraw from the Big 12 Tournament, and like Virginia, they barely made it to the Indiana state line in time to claim their bracket spot. Jalen Wilson, a forward, is still in the protocol, and David McCormack, a 6-foot-10 center, was only allowed to return on Friday. He hadn’t trained in ten days, didn’t start against EWU, and after a grueling few minutes in the first half, McCormack exhausting all five of his fouls before running out of gas was the best Self could hope for.

Instead, McCormack carved out a niche in the heart of an Eagles defense that had been stretched thin by Kansas’ timely perimeter shooting, scoring a game-high 22 points as the Jayhawks pulled away.

Self said afterward, “He sort of got his legs under him and he was really, really strong in the second half.” He sounded just as shocked as the rest of us. “I say, seriously good.”

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Parade of planets visible in the night sky this week

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Parade of planets visible in the night sky this week

ST. LOUIS – There will be a parade of planets this month. December 6-10 you will be able to see three planets and then on December 12 you will be able to see 5. There will be a crescent moon earlier in the month which will provide less moonlight, making it easier to see the planets.

The Missouri Department of Conservation shared this timeline for planet viewing:

  • On December 6th, the crescent moon will appear near Venus within 3 degrees in the early evening sky. Venus is the brightest planet.
  • On December 7th, the crescent moon and Saturn are about 5 degrees apart. Saturn is a fainter planet with a gold color. If conditions are right, you can see its rings with a telescope during twilight, and may even see its largest moon, Titan,
  • On December 8th, the moon approaches close to Jupiter, our largest planet. With clear conditions and a telescope, you may be able to see its four largest moons.
  • On December 10th, look for the moon, Jupiter, and Saturn forming a nice row in the sky.
Courtesy: MDC

The St. Louis Astronomy Facebook page says the best time to observe 5 planets together will be after sunset on December 12. Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and the moon will be visible to the naked eye. You will need a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see Neptune, Uranus, Ceres (a dwarf planet), and Pallas (a large asteroid).

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Miner’s Candle fire burning near Idaho Springs is 100% contained

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Miner’s Candle wildfire forces evacuations near Idaho Springs

The Miner’s Candle fire burning near Idaho Springs is 100% contained, fire officials said Tuesday.

The wildfire started Sunday as a structure fire and it forced residents of about two dozen homes to evacuate. The fire, which destroyed two homes, a cabin and a small number of outbuildings, burned about 15 acres, according to the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office.

Strong winds on Sunday and extremely dry weather fueled the fire. There were no reports of injuries or fatalities.

 

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This “bizarre” creature is a massive sunfish spotted near Laguna Beach

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This “bizarre” creature is a massive sunfish spotted near Laguna Beach

A pair of paddlers encountered a massive sunfish just a few hundred yards off Laguna Beach’s shoreline that could rival in size a Guinness World Record set in 1996.

Rich German and friend Matt Wheaton, both of Laguna Beach, set out on Thursday, Dec. 2, to enjoy the clear waters off the coast. They came across a massive mola mola, also known as sunfish, floating on the ocean’s surface.

“We were just paddling and all of a sudden we were like ‘Oh my god.’ That thing was massive,” said German, author of the book “Blue Laguna” and founder of the ocean conservation nonprofit Project O.  “Most of my encounters are with dolphins and whales, but you never know what you’re going to see.”

German, comparing to Wheaton’s 14-foot stand-up paddleboard, guessed the fish was close to 9 feet in length.

Once home, he found a Guinness World Record set in 1996 when a fisherman caught an 8-foot-11 mola mola that weighed 5,070 pounds off the coast of Japan. While that record was for the heaviest fish, which would be tough to compare with the sunfish the pair encountered off Laguna Beach, German said he thinks theirs could be longer in length and is hoping to consult with marine scientists to see if it could be measured based on the size of the board.

Julianne Steers, founding board member of the Beach Ecology Coalition, said the sunfish was larger than most seen here – she’s seen fish about 6- to 7-feet long. But whether it was a record-holder would be tough to tell.

“The only true way to know is if it was out and weighed and officially measured,” she said, noting that there’s some records up in Northern California of sunfish reaching 13-foot long. “But it does look much larger than what we typically see out here.”

She called the mola mola a “lumbering” fish that likes to lazily float on the ocean’s surface to bask in the sun, hence their nickname, eating jellyfish and salps.

The species looks like a mad scientist put them together with spare parts, Steers said. “It’s such an oddball kind of assembly of parts.”

The mola mola is also the largest fish in the world that has a skeleton structure, she said.

Scientists once thought the mola mola drifted with ocean currents, but they’ve been tracked in Southern California swimming 16 miles a day at a top speed of 2 mph, the Monterey Bay Aquarium says on its website.

“With its tank-like body, the mola was clearly not built for life in the fast lane. But it holds its own against faster and flashier fish and is able to live in almost all of the world’s oceans,” the aquarium says. “It’s known to spend time near the surface, but tagging shows that the mola is also a prolific diver and migrates long distances at depth.”

German said he has seen many mola molas through the years, but typically further offshore and about half the size of the one encountered just south of Main Beach.

“The first time I saw one, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a mutilated shark,” he said, noting the fish’s fin often stands up above the surface. “They are so bizarre looking. They just lay there.”

Even if it’s not an official record-setter, German is still soaking in the interesting encounter.

“I just know it was really big,” he said. “It was a unique and very cool thing to experience, and another example of why we need to protect the ocean and the amazing life that calls it home.”

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