SPORTS – The Jock 3/31

by Tom Weppel
The Final Four in Indianapolis culminates what has been quite a dramatic set of games played within this tournament the last few weeks. We end up with only one #1 seed in the Duke Blue Devils…a team many thought would not make it to the Final Four. Add to that the West Virginia Mountaineers, and the two #5 seeds…Butler, and Michigan State…and you have quite a diversity of teams to watch this Easter weekend.
If there is to be one slight surprise, it would be if the Butler Bulldogs get to the Final…and win! It has been enough that they won the West Regional, defeating Syracuse and Kansas State on the way. Now, we shall see if this squad, based out of Indianapolis, where the Final Four is being played, can beat the Spartans in their Semifinal.
Meanwhile, West Virginia and Duke bring their power from the Big East and ACC, respectively. Both squads have an array of talent. Both are led by marquee head coaches (Bob Huggins and Mike Krzyzewski). The winner of that contest will be the clear favorite to take the national title.
Both games should be entertaining. We’ll watch and wonder how it will all end up…
It was reported earlier this week that the higher-ups running the NCAA are more inclined now to expand the Mens Basketball tournament from the current 65 teams to a whopping 96 teams! My opinion and response to that (to stay within our G-rated audience) is that is an absolute, complete JOKE!
Why mess with an event and a sport that is doing so well, running so nicely over the years, and making SO much money (it is the #1 revenue-generating sport in NCAA)? And now they want to add 31 more teams! In my mind, by doing so, it would completely water-down the level of play and the drive to even make it INTO the tournament! We are so consumed each year in trying to determine who makes it in and who doesn’t, with the dividing line being so thin. Now it seems there will be a number of completely mediocre teams from nothing-conferences getting in, only to play in a first round that will be nothing more than a cheap exhibition.
Meanwhile, you can kiss the NIT goodbye, if the NCAA higher-ups go through with this. There is no way the NIT could even be considered legitimate, compared to now, where it is barely an afterthought. Going to 96 teams would be a farce. It would complicate the entire process and make the regular season even that much more of a non-factor. It would be a bad idea, pure and simple.

After a month of Spring Training games in Florida and Arizona, MLB will open their regular season this weekend. The defending World Series champion New York Yankees are once again the favorite to get back to playing in October. But they will do so with a roster that is slightly different from the one that won it all.
Gone are OF/DH Hideki Matsui (to the Angels) and OF Johnny Damon (now with the Tigers). In their place are OF Curtis Granderson (from Detroit) and DH Nick Johnson. The Yanks also signed P Javier Vazquez (former Brave) as a starter, then chose to have reliever Phil Hughes be the fifth starter, while Joba Chamberlin is now the set-up reliever to Mariano Rivera.
While the Yanks are certainly set with the stars, including Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeiera, and Posada, it remains to be seen exactly how they will perform within the first few months of the season. Look for them to get plenty of competition from the Red Sox and Rays, among others.
In the National League, the Phillies come in from their World Series appearance looking to once again perform at a high level. Their lineup remains essentially intact, with the only major change being the addition of 3B Placido Polanco. He should be a nice addition to a stout roster. Meanwhile, Philly added free-agent P Roy Halladay (from the Blue Jays) to their rotation. He should be a solid starter for them.
As we all know, it’s a long season, full of twists and turns throughout the Summer. We’ll see how things shake out around the League…