The Jock

by Tom Weppel

NCAA COLLEGE BASKETBALL
This weekend you will see and hear about a ton of college basketball tournament games being played, all mostly by small or unknown schools that play in paltry Conferences.
A number of Conference Tournaments will have an NCAA Tournament berth to play for. That’s where you get the schools you’ve never heard of that end up playing the first round of the tournament, only to be blown out by a major school. Only once in a blue moon will we see a small school pull off the major upset over a heavyweight.
Don’t get me wrong. This weekend you will see some entertaining action, some thrilling games with tough competition, and great stories hen it is all said and done. Conference Tournaments for the Patriot League, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt, and the Big Sky will all prove challenging.
Locally, Jacksonville University has the top seed in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, which will be held up in Tennessee. J.U. had a good season and holds a decent chance of getting in to the NCAA Tournament, if they can win the conference tournament.
Meanwhile, the Florida Gators have had another challenging season and will still need another win or two to get into the postseason. Florida State had a better year, playing good ball and winning games in the ACC, and should be in the field of sixty-five already, receiving an at-large bid. Both schools will play their conference tournaments next week.
So we’ll see what teams pull out their Conference Tournament championships in the next week. There will be plenty of revelry, celebration, and also heartache.

NFL/JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
In the first week of the free agency period, the Jaguars, as expected, didn’t throw big bucks out to lock down big-name marquee players. After getting burned so badly last season with the deals they did with Drayton Florence and Jerry Porter, my guess is Wayne Weaver is happy to sit back and see how things play out.
For all intents, there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the Jags in the long run can and will find the talent they need between now and the start of Training Camp in July. Jack Del Rio and Gene Smith I’m sure are working together to try and figure out who they want to have in place on the roster. While they will most likely sign one or two more players that are currently out on the market, their focus will continue to be on the NFL Draft in late April.
And while there have been some big-dollar signings in the past week, the overall environment is one of being cautious and conservative amongst NFL teams, as the economy has shown to have an effect even on professional football. There are plenty of guys that are looking to find a team and good deal that might’ve thought they’d be signed by now, including LB Ray Lewis.
And so it’ll be intriguing to watch and see who does what and who goes where, as NFL teams continue their wheeling and dealing with agents and players.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
The World Baseball Classic is being played, with plenty of guys from Major League teams playing for their various countries. It makes for an odd scene, to be honest. At least in this country, I don’t think many care whether the USA wins this thing. Maybe in other countries it’s a huge deal. But here in the States, the focus and interest is almost purely focused on Spring Training and which players are doing what with their respective Major League squads.
Excuse me, but does anyone care to know the names of the other 103 players who tested positive for steroid use along with A-Rod? I wonder what those guys are thinking as we sit here. If some of them are still playing, they have to be conscious that it’s always possible for their name to get out, and then they will have to deal with all the publicity Rodriguez has gotten, albeit on a lesser scale. But for all intents, I find it interesting there hasn’t been a stronger push for all those other players’ names to be revealed.
Meanwhile, Barry Bonds will be able to hang out a while longer as his trial will not begin until July at the earliest. While he is lucky to stay away from the courtroom, it also looks like he won’t be on the baseball field anytime soon, ether. I think a lot of people forgot Bonds actually had an interest in playing this season. The perception is that he was retired and his career was finished.
But Bonds and his agent were talking to teams, wanting to know if they were interested in his services, whatever those are at this time in his life. It will be interesting if any team does sign him, now, or perhaps later during the season.

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