THIS COACH-IN-WAITING GOT TIRED OF WAITING

His blood was orange but his mood probably was turning blue.

Mike Hopkins is leaving his beloved Syracuse for the Washington Huskies because he couldn’t be sure exactly when Jim Boeheim would step down and he had to know replacing his mentor could be an extremely difficult task.

Boeheim had said that next season will be his last, partly because he wants to focus on watching and cheering for his kids – all gifted basketball players. After 42 years as head coach at his alma mater, who could blame him?

But there are no guarantees. Maybe Hopkins was tired of waiting.

Hours after the announcement that Hopkins is leaving, Boeheim signed an extension that would take him beyond next season.

One reason Hopkins decided to leave reportedly because he didn’t want to put any sort of pressure on Boeheim to retire if he really didn’t want to.

But perhaps Hopkins isn’t overly impressed by the roster he might have inherited after next season. If Tyler Lydon and/or Tyus Battle don’t enter this year’s NBA draft and go pro, they’ll almost surely be gone after next season. Who knows if Frank Howard will be around as a confident senior point guard or if 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu will develop into a force or if redshirt freshman forward Matthew Moyer will be an impact player?

I’m sure Boeheim will be difficult to replace when he finally decides to leave, and I’m pretty sure Hopkins will missed immediately. He was an excellent recruiter and teacher.

It will be interesting to see if Hopkins takes Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone to Washington and makes it his new team’s staple defense. My guess is not.

Saturday’s 85-80 season-ending home loss to Ole Miss was a classic example of why it would’ve been a plus for the Orange to switch to man-to-man defense. SU was a lousy defensive team all season – Boeheim never hesitated to point that out. The zone lacked the traditional SU height and long arms.

The only realistic chance for Ole Miss to upset SU was to shoot ridiculously well from the outside. That’s what happened. The Rebels were 15-for-32 from three-point range and particularly deadly in the second half. It would’ve made sense to switch to man-to-man – if the Orange ever practiced it.

Assuming Lydon and Battle return, and Taurean Thompson and Frank Howard continue to improve, I expect Boeheim will post his 42nd consecutive winning season at SU next year.

Meanwhile, Hopkins figures to enjoy next winter in Seattle. The weather will be better, he’ll be much closer to his roots in California and taking over for the fired Lorenzo Romar likely will be more fun and comfortable than replacing Boeheim in the year - - - - (fill in the blank).

NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL SWEET 16 PRIMER

So you didn’t ace your NCAA men’ basketball tournament Brackets 101 exam? Don’t feel too badly.

ESPN’s reports that out of the 18,8 million brackets filled out for the Tournament Challenge,  a mere 19 of them (0.000096 percent) had every Sweet 16 team right.

Here are the odds on winning the NCAA championship in Phoenix April 3 (courtesy of Westgate SportsBook): North Carolina 4-to-1…Kansas 4-to-1…Gonzaga 6-to-1…Arizona 6-to-1…UCLA 7-to-1…Kentucky 7-to-1…West Virginia 18-to-1…Purdue 18-to-1…Florida 18-to-1…Baylor 18-to-1…Michigan 18-to-1…Wisconsin 18-to-1… Oregon 20-to-1…Butler 40-to-1…South Carolina 80-to-1…Xavier 100-to-1.

Here are the odds for the eight games:

Midwest Regional (Kansas City) Thursday – Kansas -4 ½ vs. Purdue…Michigan -1 1/23 vs. Oregon

West Regional (San Jose) Thursday – Gonzaga -3 vs. West Virginia…Arizona -7 ½ vs. Xavier

South Regional (Memphis) Friday – North Carolina -7 ½ vs. Butler5…UCLA -1 vs. Kentucky

East Regional (Madison Square Garden) – Florida -1 ½ vs. Wisconsin…Baylor -3 ½ vs. South Carolina.

Sweet 16 seeds :

1—Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina

2 – Arizona

3 – Baylor,  Oregon, UCLA

4 – Butler, Florida, Purdue, West Virginia

7 – Michigan, South Carolina

8 – Wisconsin

11 – Xavier.

Previous NCAA championships – UCLA 11…Kentucky 6…North Carolina 5…Kansas 3…Florida 2…Arizona 1…Michigan 1…Oregon (the first in 1939)…Wisconsin 1…Baylor, Butler, Gonzaga, Purdue, South Carolina, West Virginia and Xavier have yet to win the NCAA title.

TEAM USA FACES A HUGE CHALLENGE IN THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC FINAL FOUR

The United States is only two games away from winning the World Baseball Classic for the first time. C’mon, I know some of you care.

Easier said than done.  Team USA will face Japan in the semifinals Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Japan, the winner of the first two WBCs in 2006 and 2009, is 6-0 in this year’s tournament.

Puerto Rico also is 6-0 and will play the Netherlands in Monday night’s semifinal at Dodger Stadium.

The championship game will be Wednesday night. Viewing tip: Do you have anything better to watch? Try it, you might like it. Manager Jim Leyland has the best WBC roster ever for the United States – despite the absence of young stars such as Mike Trout and Bruce Harper. They’re probably wishing they could be wearing Team USA uniforms now. So do the companies paying them to endorse their products.

The records of the four teams in the single-elimination semifinals: Japan 6-0 (outscoring opponents 46-22)…Puerto Rico 6-0 (outscoring opponents 51-15), the Netherlands 4-2 (outscoring opponents 45-20) and the United States 4-2 (outscoring opponents 31-20).

The United States has yet to medal in WBC competition. Team USA was 3-3 in 2006, 4-4 in 2009 (lost 9-4 to Japan in the semifinals) and 3-3 in 2013.

The United States knocked off WBC defending champion Dominican Republic 6-3 Saturday night in a do-or-die showdown for both teams in San Diego. The key hits were a screaming two-run HR by Giancarlo Stanton and a clutch two-run double by Andrew McCutchen. You’ve probably seen Andrew Jones’ amazing catch to rob Baltimore teammate Manny Machado of a home run.

ACC BACK DOWN TO EARTH IN NCAA AND NIT

A few weeks ago, nearly everyone was calling the Atlantic Coast Conference by far the best college basketball conference in the country. The big question – how many ACC teams would be selected for the NCAA Tournament? Maybe as many as 11?

Collectively, the ACC has cooled off – big time.

NCAA (9 teams in…8 out before the Sweet 16:

Duke – Beat Troy 87-65…lost  to South Carolina…lost to South Carolina

Florida State beat Florida Gulf Coast 86-80…lost 91-66 to Xavier

Louisville beat Jacksonville State 75-63…lost 73-69 to Michigan

Miami lost 78-58 to Michigan State

Notre Dame beat Princeton 60-58…lost 83-71 to West Virginia

Wake Forest lost 99-90 to Kansas State

Virginia beat UNC Wilmington 76-71….lost 65-39 to Florida

Virginia Tech lost 84-74 to Wisconsin.

Only North Carolina is left – beat Texas Southern 103-64 and beat Arkansas 72-65.

NIT (3 teams in…2 are out)

Georgia Tech beat Indiana 75-63…at Ole Miss Tuesday night

Clemson lost 74-69 to Oakland

Syracuse beat UNC Greensboro 90-77…lost 85-80 to Ole Miss.

ACC’s overall record in NCAA Tournament and NIT: 9 wins, 10 losses.

A RARE SHOOTOUT WIN FOR THE SABRES

The Buffalo Sabres earned a 2-1 road victory last Friday night at the Anaheim Ducks. It was even more surprising because it came in a shootout. The shootout went 10 rounds and Zemgus Girgensons scvored the deciding goal.

Buffalo now is 2-6 in shootouts this season. The Sabres have scored 6 times in 25 attempts (22.2 percent). Opponents have 14 scores in 26 attempts (53.8 percent).

The Toronto Maple Leafs are 1-8 in shootouts this season and the Detroit Red Wings are 8-0.

RAZORSHARKS ARE THE PBL TEAM TO BEAT AGAIN

The Rochester RazorSharks are coming off a productive week and appear to be the team to beat for yet another Premier Basketball League championship.

The Kentucky Wildcats entered last week with a 12-1 record and one-game up on second-place Rochester. But Kentucky was upset 102-92 by the Ohio Bootleggers last Thursday and then lost 115-110 at home to the RazorSharks last Saturday night.

Rochester is 14-2 and Kentucky is 12-3. Ohio is 17-11.

The RazorSharks have two games left in the regular season: at the Washington Warhawks (3-8 record) Friday and at the Jamestown Jackals (9-6 record) Sunday.

SOME SPRING TRAINING TIDBITS

The New York Yankees beat the Houston Astros 6-4 Sunday at West Palm Beach to boost their MLB-best spring training record to 17-6. Third baseman Chase Headley was 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI, and stole home. Rookie left fielder Clint Frazier was 2-for-2 to boost his batting average to .343 (12-for-35)…Two potential 2017 Rochester Red Wings big boppers are performing well for Minnesota: Matt Hague .423 (11-for-26, with 1 HR and 6 RBI) and ByungHo Park .387 (12-for-31, 2 doubles, 3 HRs, 6 RBI)…Former Rochester slugger Adam Brett Walker III is doing his thing with the Atlanta Braves: .261 (6-for-23) with 3 doubles, 2 HRs, 7 RBI and 10 strikeouts).

McDAVID OR CROSBY FOR THE HART TROPHY?

Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins will play at the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night. Is Crosby on the way to his third Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player? Or will Edmonton young superstar Connor McDavid win his first Hart Trophy?

The top candidates include:

Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh) – 64 games…37 goals (tied for NHL lead), 44 assists, 77 points…+16 (plus/minus)

Connor McDavid (Edmonton) – 71 games…25 goals, 55 assists, 80 points…+21 (plus/minus)

Brad Marchand (Boston) – 71 games…37 goals (tied for NHL lead), 42 assists, 79 points…+20 (plus/minus)

Patrick Kane (Chicago) – 71 games…31 goals, 46 assists, 77 points…+13 (plus/minus)

Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus) – 38 wins (1st in NHL), .930 save percentage (2nd), 2.06 goals-against average (2nd).

I believe Crosby deserves the Hart Trophy, but McDavid probably is the sexy much younger favorite. He’s the main reason the Oilers are on the verge of ending their 10-year playoff drought.

Prediction: One of these seasons, Jack Eichel will be Buffalo’s first non-goalie Hart Trophy winner. Dominik Hasek won it twice (1996-97 and 1997-98).

SHORT SHOTS

Entering the NCAA men’s Sweet 16, Las Vegas favorites are 39-9 outright/straight up and 22-23-3 against the point spread. The professional oddsmakers have been on target.

The Buffalo Beauts, with Ric Seiling as coach/GM, won the National Women’s Hockey League championship Sunday with a shocking 3-2 upset victory over the Boston Pride in Lowell, Mass. Buffalo was outshot 62-14 and had a 3-0 lead entering the third period.  The Beauts had no shots in the final period and the Pride scored twice in the final five minutes. Brianne McLaughlin had 60 saves for Buffalo and announced her retirement after the game. Boston was 16-1 in the regular season and Buffalo was 6-10. The Pride was 5-0 and outshot Buffalo 21-4 in those games. If the Beauts could do it, why not the Bills and Sabres?

Former Red Wing right-handed pitcher Trevor May is expected to miss the entire 2017 season with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow. He was vying for a spot in Minnesota’s starting rotation. His injury means a pitcher who otherwise would’ve started this season in Rochester will instead be with the Twins.

Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup champion Arrogate has arrived in Dubai to prepare for the $10-million Dubai World Cup on March 25, A full field of 14 horses is expected and he’ll be the big favorite.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…

Monday, March 20 – Ronnie Brwwr (32)…Marcus Vick (33)…Jamal Crawford (37)…Mookie Blaylock (50)…Chris Hoiles (52)…Leo Rautins (57)…pro grappler Sting (58)…Rickey Jackson (59)…Charlie Simmer (63)…Pat Riley (72). Spike Lee (60) is invited to the birthday party and might attend if the Knicks aren’t playing at Madison Square Garden.

Tuesday, March 21 – Bryan Bulaga (28)…Erik Johnson (29)…Jonathan Stewart (30)…Adreian Peterson (32)…Ryan Callahan (32)…Matt Prater (33)…Aaron Hill (35)…Rotislav Klesla (35)…Ronaldinho (37)…Al Iafrate (51)…Shawon Dunston (54)…Mike Dunleavy (63)…Manny Sanguillen (73)…Tom Flores (80). Scott Eastwood (31), Rosie O’Donnell (55) and Matthew Broderick (55) are invited to the birthday party.