The Jock

by Tom Weppel

This weekend we’ll see all the major conference tournaments being held around the country. They will culminate, and then on Sunday evening we’ll hear the announcing of the field of sixty-five for the NCAA Tournament.
From what I’ve heard over the last few days, there are a lot of teams who are ‘on the bubble’. I don’t know if networks are just coming out with that to amuse and entertain us, or whether its actually legit. Obviously there’s gonna be a number of teams who will barely get in and a number teams on the outside looking in. The debate is what makes this whole process interesting for college basketball fans.
In the meantime, the conference tournaments can indeed be quite entertaining. The granddaddy of them all, of course, is the ACC Tournament, being held this year in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Because the facility is so cavernous, this is the first time since the 1960’s that tickets were actually available, having been sold out for decades.
Most tournaments will stay true to form, with the higher seeds advancing to the finals. Only once in a blue moon will we see a lower seed actually go all the way. Of course, that is what can make a tournament that much more interesting. Nonetheless, all teams usually have something to play for. A win or two can even put them in a better position to get into the postseason.
In the last few weeks, we’ve heard that the Florida Gators are one of those teams on the bubble. Do they have a good enough record to qualify for an at-large spot in the postseason? Better yet, are they good enough to win the entire SEC Tournament, which is being held down in Tampa? We shall see what Billy Donovan does with his team.
In the meantime, you can pencil in Duke and Carolina in the ACC, Kansas and Oklahoma in the Big 12, Pitt and UConn in the Big East, and Michigan St. in the Big Ten.
By Sunday night, I’m sure everyone will have their ‘brackets’ filled out, and every single network commentator will tell you how one lower seed will upset a higher seed to become this years’ ‘Cinderella’.

The free agency market continues to stay open, although my view is that it’s not as hot as it has been in the past. Obviously, a number of teams are laying low and staying cool, checking out who is available and what they might have to pay to fill a particular need. A lot of teams also have to consider whether to fill their roster needs now, with veterans, or next month, with younger guys through the Draft.
Players and their agents are realizing this, and so I believe the prospecting, wheeling, and dealing takes on a different perspective these days. There are plenty of veterans still available that thought they were going to be offered a long-term, big-dollar deal. Instead, they are wondering when they will get an offer, and where they will end up playing, or even IF they will end up playing.
As a great ‘for instance’, consider the list of ‘name’ QB’s (many of them backups) still available as of March 10th…Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger, Rex Grossman, Charlie Frye…all of them looking for a team to latch on to. Meanwhile, there are some teams without a QB, for sure, including the Jets, Bucs, and Vikes. They all would love a good, solid starter for this upcoming season.
There are plenty of other good position veterans available, including RB’s Tatum Bell and Rudi Johnson, and WR’s Bobby Engram, Devery Henderson, and Darrell Jackson.
The bottom line here is the supply is outweighing the demand. My guess is teams are hanging tight and playing the waiting game, until they know the ‘rates’ drop to a point where they can get good talent for low prices.