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And the trophy goes to...

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So I'm guessing here, but I think the big winner of this year's Final Four was college basketball in general.

I think it's good that the very best teams from the mid-majors see themselves as potential Final Four teams.

I think it's good to see teams that aren't revolving door squads succeed--with maybe one or two exceptions, there weren't really any NBA picks in the Final Four this year. And by that, I mean that *teams* actually played well and won this year.

It was awesome to find out that there were 2 Academic All-Americans in the final game.

And interestingly enough, one common feature among all four of the final teams was what I kept hearing as "buy in." Each team had a pretty distinctive style, and the coaches, to one extent or another, talked about how their kids had to "buy in" to that style. Perhaps this is just another way of talking about team instead of lottery picks, but I'm encouraged to see the coaches adjusting to the talent they have, and the players adjusting to that vision of play.


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It's been a while since I had cause to write about Sammy Sosa. Long time readers may recall that Sosa had worn out his welcome among many Cubs fans, myself included. If you glance that old entry, you'll get to see me engaging in a little sabermetrics.

What I said then was that you could see a strong downward trend in all of Sosa's stats that were quietly helpful to the team, even though certain of his stats (most notably, HRs) had remained relatively stable. Back in the halcyon days of the early 00s, the Cubs went from being a superstar (Sosa) with a team to a team with a superstar (and several budding stars in the mix), and unfortunately, that wasn't much to Sosa's liking. The word on the street is that, once he was no longer the only player who mattered, he was bound and determined to matter even less--or to matter only to himself.

This week, Sosa cemented his bid for the Baseball Hall of Shame, as it was revealed that, like Alex Rodriguez, he failed a drug test back in 2003. It's not a good thing--the constant leakage of grand jury testimony and anonymous test results is going to make catching violators even more difficult in years to come. But in this case, the leak of Sosa's name drives a final, sad, anticlimactic nail in the coffin of Sosa's career. What saddens me most is that he brought a lot of joy to Cubs fans, myself included, but he never quite understood that we were rooting for the whole uniform, not just the name on the back. Over the years, it became clearer and clearer that Sosa cared more about the latter than the former, and now, we have independent confirmation that it was that way from the start.

There's not a lot of folk, I suspect, who believed Sosa was innocent of juicing, and the announcement is small potatoes compared to many others, but still. I'd made my peace with Sosa's departure, but as a Cubs fan, I have to admit to some disappointment.

That's all.

Let the brackets commence!

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I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see Syracuse nab a 3 seed. I thought for sure that they'd be a 4 or 5 (I thought the UConn game pushed them up to 4), and that as a result, they have to be in the North Carolina bracket, since they try to avoid interconference matches before the regional finals. They were in that bracket anyway, to my surprise, but with a road that feels a little more doable--in some ways, though, Oklahoma could be a tougher match, assuming they make it that far. Griffin is an inside scorer and a rebounder who could quickly thin out the back line of the 2-3 with foul trouble, if SU's not careful.

But it's not out of the realm of possibility to ride Syracuse for 3 or 4 rounds--if you'd asked me a month ago if that were possible, I would have laughed at you. Now I'm cautiously optimistic. I wish that the current lineup had one more year in em, bc I think this group could compete for the final 4 with a little more experience and polish, but I doubt that Flynn will stay another year. So fingers crossed for this year.

And if you're looking to show off your predictive prowess, then bring it on over to Yahoo.

That is all.

This could just be the year

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The Cubs W Flag

Advantage? What advantage?

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I was all set to post something tonight about how Cecil Cooper should stop whining about having to play the Cubs in Milwaukee. Surely it wouldn't be that much of an advantage, right?


They should embed a video clip of Andrea Kremer's post-game interview last night with Brian Urlacher. You could see him twitch when Kremer asked a question that was based on the premise that last night's game was an upset, then when she finished the question, Urlacher said, with a totally straight face:

"It wasn't an upset to us."

All the talking heads picking the Bears to finish 3rd or 4th in the Norris this year should take note--this team may surprise a few more favored opponents before the season's over, if last night was any indication.

...and I needed to mollify my alumni and boosters with a couple of wins over BCS conference teams, I could do a lot worse than to schedule Syracuse early and often. In a couple of seconds, SU will have lost by 2 TDs to Akron, in the Carrier Dome. They played well in the 3rd quarter, but that was about it.

You can't coach speed, but you can coach tackling; over and over today, the SU defense was meeting Akron ball carriers in the backfield, only to be shrugged off en route to 10+ yard carries. If it were a matter of someone else's talent, that'd be one thing, but most of our players were recruited by our current staff. If it were a matter of offense, that'd be one thing given the head coach's background in defense, but we couldn't tackle today to save our lives and we gave up 40+ points and almost 500 yards to a team from the MAC. Last year, SU was one of the worst D1 teams in the country, across the board, and the first 2 games (losses against Northwestern and Akron) do nothing to inspire confidence about our other non-conference games (v. Penn State and Notre Dame) or our ability to climb out of the Big East cellar.

I've watched parts of both games now, and I'm hard pressed to find any sort of identity for this team, not to mention actual promise. My guess is that our current coach doesn't have much longer.

Hall of Rain Game

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Under the umbrella

Meant to blog this a few days ago. On Monday, I went down with some folk to Cooperstown, to see the Cubs and Padres play in the annual Hall of Fame Game.

Unfortunately, we had to sit through a couple of brief hailstorms before the game was finally cancelled. The picture above came during hailstorm number two. I did get a few pictures, though, which I posted to Flickr for your enjoyment.

Kind of a bummer, as I'd been looking forward to seeing the Cubs, and possibly getting an autograph from Greg Maddux, who is my all-time favorite pitcher. And I'd been looking forward to it for a couple of months now. A 90-minute drive in soaking wet clothes and temps in the low 60s? Not looking forward to that so much. Ah well.

That is all.

and Wisconsin beat Kansas State
and Kansas State beat Kansas,
then maybe...

Okay, wishful thinking. Speaking of wishful thinking, my own bracket hopes rest pretty solidly on the shoulders of Memphis (not, as Billy Hack Packer called them multiple times, Memphis State). If they win out, I have a shot. If not, oh well.

I did want to give a shout-out, though, to the talking head (Mariotti, maybe) who, yesterday, explained that Davidson had no shot because we live in a "post George Mason world." Apparently, two years ago, top seeds didn't have to scout their opponents or game-plan, but now they do. Oh, and two years ago, teamwork and talent had an impact on the outcome of the game, but now they don't. Just so's you know.

Tell me again about the ACC

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Two picks that I was especially proud of this year are both going to be put to the test today. The first was that I picked West Virginia to beat Duke, and the second was K State over Wisconsin. The first has just come to pass, and the second has just begun.

So yeah, there's a little gloating going on. But mostly, I hope that this puts an end to the stupid "If they get Alexander in foul trouble" analysis that seems to be the only thing that most talking heads know about WVU.

And we should no longer have to listen to how the ACC is a "power" conference. UNC is still a strong team, but the drop off after them is steeper than it's been in some time. For the record, today the 5th place team in the Big East took down the 2nd place ACC squad. And that's a day after the 3rd place ACC squad lost to a team many said shouldn't make the Tournament, 8th place Villanova. I know memories are short in the sportstainment world (except when it comes to ACC homerism), but I hope that someone remembers this next year when time comes to debate the strength of the pack in the Big East.



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