SPORTS w/The Jock 3-31

by Tom Weppel
Two weeks ago, we had a sixty-eight team field ready to go. Most fans only had a select few number of schools they thought would make it to Houston for this Final Four.
NO ONE thought these four would collectively make it as they have…NO ONE! Not even Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas, who didn’t even believe that VCU should be ALLOWED to play in this tournament!
Yet here they are…UConn, Kentucky, Butler, and VCU…four schools, each with varying backgrounds, and each with a story that is worthy of a TV reality series!
In this week leading up to the Final Four, it seems Virginia Commonwealth is garnering a good amount of attention. Actually their Head Coach, Shaka Smart, is the guy catching the accolades…NOT the players! In fact, most fans couldn’t even NAME the players on the VCU roster right now! Its all about Shaka Smart, and not be honest, he might not even be that popular if his name were Joe Smith, perhaps! Just goes to show…if you got an interesting name, people will remember and take note.
Butler was the surprise team last year, when they made a helluva run at Duke in the Championship final, only to lose by a missed basket at the end.
This season, they are back, but no one is giving them near the attention, all thanks to VCU coming in as the ‘new’ Cinderella. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how Butler and VCU play against each other.
Kentucky and Connecticut are two schools with traditional basketball resumes’. People are very familiar with John Calipari and Jim Calhoun, since they have both been here before on multiple occasions. Each team had a similar season, doing well for a while, then faltering slightly, before winning their respective Conference tournaments, then coming in and playing good ball here the last two weeks.
And so their game on Saturday night should be quite a battle, to say the least. Whoever wins will certainly be favored to win the championship.
Last week before the Sweet Sixteen was played, I suggested that Ohio State and Kansas were the two best teams remaining, with both having the inside track to play in the National Championship!
That said, do I have any credibility left at all to even CONSIDER who will win this thing!?!?
I have no idea at all who will win…honestly. You can make a case for any of the four teams left, realizing they all still have talent, and gas left in the tank. Almost everyone believes the first game…Butler vs. VCU…will be the ‘lesser’ of the two contests, for various reason, the most prominent being their overall stature, compared to Kentucky and Connecticut.
But I don’t think that necessarily means the later game will be the better game. Keep that in mind!

The Major League Baseball season has started, and it did so without much fanfare…at least, not as much as we are used to hearing and seeing in the past.
Both the NFL labor situation and the NCAAs have overshadowed Spring Training. There have been no real controversies in the past few weeks. The exhibition games in Florida and Arizona have been uneventful.
And now the regular season has cranked up, although I think it is way too soon. When you have snow forecast during the start of some games, I think that means perhaps MLB should consider pushing things back a week!
Of course, many fans wonder if the NBA, NHL, and NFL season are too long and drawn out. Yet here we have the Major Leagues, where they play TWICE as many games as the NBA and NHL, and TEN times more games then the NFL! Go figure…
I promise you, after Opening Day, a lot of people will care much about the games here in April. Attendance will be paltry in a lot of towns, except Boston, where Fenway tends to draw no matter what.
In the American League, the Red Sox and Yankees will continue to grab the headlines. One or both will play well and get into the playoffs. And while I’m not a fan of the Cubs, Id really like to see them FOR ONCE win their Division, and get into the postseason!
So we’ll see how teams start off…with six months of baseball waiting to be played.