Friday, March 9: THE WEEKEND EDITION
A busy Friday is on tap at TheSportsNotebook as we get you set for not just a big weekend of college basketball, but action across the sports world. Here’s what’s available…
*The preview of the weekend in college basketball conference tournaments is up.
*My podcast at Prime Sports Network with Greg DePalma talking college hoops.
*TheSportsNotebook hasn’t forgotten the NBA or NHL with weekend previews, plus an overall summation of the playoff races.
*NASCAR goes in Las Vegas on Sunday and TheSportsNotebook’s racing consultant, my esteemed brother Bill offers his insights (I’m not sure who he’s esteemed by, but that’s another topic entirely)
*And there’s action at the race track with more Kentucky Derby Prep races, as we continue to march The Road To The Triple Crown.
*Finally, spring training baseball reports continue. The Baltimore Orioles go on the board, and we’ll also look at the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the long-suffering teams of the two cities I lived in most recently are evaluated.
Thursday, March 8
The Big Ten & ACC join the parade of conference tournaments, as action begins in Indianapolis and Atlanta, so every league is on the court for the next three days. But the game that’s got my interest is the semi-finals down in the Southland Conference where Lamar is playing Stephen Austin. You may recall that Pat Knight is coaching Lamar and went off a shocking diatribe against the senior class he inherited. Wouldn’t it be something if the coach and this same group made a run to the NCAA Tournament? They’re a 3-seed, so they’ve got a shot. Bob Knight was, and remains, my favorite sports figure of all time–in any sport–so I’m pulling for his son to get it done.
Thursday in the NBA means a high-profile doubleheader in TNT, with a light card overall. Orlando-Chicago is the opening game of the TV twinbill, and the Magic won’t go quietly, in spite of all the Dwight Howard-induced turmoil surrounding them. So far the Dwight Howard-induced scoring and rebounding’s been enough to compensate. Now they visit the Windy City. In the NHL, the top game in the East is NY Rangers-Ottawa, with the Rangers looking to continue their push for the President’s Cup, while the Senators continue their push at Boston for the Northeast Division title. In the tight Southeast Division, Florida visits Philly, while Winnipeg hosts Vancouver. There’s more action out west, with the Pacific Division up for grabs, and games with San Jose-Dallas and Phoenix hosting Minnesota. Also worth keeping an eye on is Colorado-Nashville, with the Avalanche still trying to pull out a playoff berth.
Here at TheSportsNotebook, we look at the Big Ten and ACC–both a look back on the regular season and a look ahead to the next four days of tournament action. And spring training reports continue with the new-look Miami Marlins.
Wednesday, March 7
Spring training started here at TheSportsNotebook on Monday, but for me personally it began yesterday when I went to Tempe Diablo Stadium to watch the “home” debut of Albert Pujols with the Angels. It was a pleasant afternoon at the ballpark, I was able to talk briefly with a fan in from Los Angeles to watch the team for a couple days and I saw one of my Fantasy League pitchers, Chicago’s John Danks, struggle to get acquainted with the strike zone. Other than the latter part, it was a heckuva day. And spring training will continue today at TheSportsNotebook when we look at the Kansas City Royals.
Conference tournament action in college rolls on, with four more games in the Big East Tournament, starting with a good West Virginia-UConn game at Noon ET. I think both teams are in regardless, but the loser will at least give any criitcs they might have on the Selection Committee a little extra ammo. I think the winner’s going to upset Syracuse tomorrow. The Big 12 & SEC brackets get underway. In the SEC, Alabama needs to beat South Carolina and Mississippi State needs to beat Georgia. The Big 12 is just the bottom four teams in the conference, so this tourney starts for real tomorrow.
There’s only two NHL games tonight, neither one really of note. It’s more evidence of the marketing brilliance of hockey. Yes, by all means, wait until the major college conferences get their tournaments in full gear, wait until the NBA has TNT Thursday and then have a full schedule. Setting up a good marquee doubleheader on your own network tonight when there’s a not lot else going on would be stupid. Yes, it would of course, what am I thinking?
The NBA has three good games. Atlanta pays a visit to Miami, and the Hawks are a team I’m looking to see either the Knicks or Celtics pass in the playoff race. New York goes to San Antonio and a key game in the Race for #8 in the Western Confernce is Portland-Minnesota.
More college basketball and baseball talk are the order of the day at TheSportsNoteoook. We’ll take the SEC and Big 12, looking back on the regular season and ahead to the tournaments. And as mentioned at the top, for baseball we’ll stay in Big 12 Country and talk about the Kansas City Royals. This trio of features will be posted throuhgout the morning, and for those in the East, into the early afternoon. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Memories Of March Madness, a look back at the best moments in the NCAA Tournament from 1976 to the present. You can order through Amazon and get it on your Kindle today, or via Paypal and send out the 25,000 word document as a download.
Tuesday, March 6
March Madness is all over the sports news, and for that matter, it’s all over TheSportsNotebook, right down to Memories Of March Madness, the 25,000 word work you can get on your Kindle today and re-live all the best NCAA Tournament moments from 1976 to the present. Or just order by Paypal and for $2.99 get it sent to you as an MS Word Document.
But beyond the Madness, beyond the self-promotion above, and even beyond spring training in baseball, the NBA and the NHL still churn toward the playoffs, and it’s there where the action lies tonight.
It’s only a six-game card in the NBA, but five of them are good ones. Kevin McHale returns to Boston when he brings the Rockets to the Garden. If you want to continue some 1980s retro, the Lakers visit the Pistons (well I guess, that’s not actually a good game, so really four of the six are good). Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks visit Dallas to play the defending champs, whom Jason Kidd claimed are not getting the benefit of the doubt from the refs.
Can I digress a moment to say the NBA is the only sport where a player could say this and we’d actually take it seriously? I mean can you imagine Matt Holliday griping that the Cardinals aren’t getting that extra inch on the strike zone that’s appropriate to a defending champ? Eli Manning wanting his receivers to get that additional leeway to push off a defensive back? Or the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara angry that he can’t take some liberties along the boards not afforded to other players? The NBA is the only sport where we assume that already talented teams and players are supposed to get some extra love from the officials. Since our assumption—and Kidd’s—is rooted in reality it’s time for David Stern to change the officiating culture in the NBA.
Hockey fans who have the Center Ice package can do some serious work with the remote tonight. In the East, the New York Rangers take on New Jersey. The Rangers continue their push for the President’s Cup, leading Vancouver by a point for the honor of best regular season record. As much as hockey is a playoff sport, kudos to the league for giving an honor for regular season excellence. At the bottom of the playoff fight, Washington is still three points out and hosts Carolina. It’s a game they should win, which means it’s precisely the kind of game the Caps are finding a way to lose. Out West, you’ve got Chicago-St. Louis, with the Blues having #1 seed and President’s Cup dreams of their own. Vancouver plays Dallas, with the Stars having moved into the lead in the Pacific Division past suddenly slumping Phoenix. Los Angeles, who desperately needs wins, takes on Nashville, who’s been looking destined for a 4-5 matchup in the first round with the runner-up in the Detroit-St. Louis Central Division race. And at the bottom of the barrel, Colorado is one point out of the playoffs and visiting Minnesota.
Here at TheSportsNotebook the focus is…well, on March Madness and baseball. The conference wrap reports will continue in college hoops, as we start with the Big East, whose tournament tips off at noon ET with UConn-DePaul. Then it’s time to go west, where we feature the Mountain West Conference, where San Diego State is the #1 seed. And since San Diego’s a nice place to be, even figuratively, as winter winds down, we’ll stay there and preview the Padres. All of the above will be going online throughout the morning (into the early afternoon out East).
Monday, March 5
Spring training games have started in baseball (for trivia buffs, the 2012 season began with the Phillies playing Florida State last Wednesday) and starting today TheSportsNotebook follows suit. We’ll be featuring one team each day as we build up towards Opening Night on April 4. Today’s feature will be the Houston Astros, an obvious indication that the plan is to start slowly with what is, to be blunt, the non-interesting teams. But non-interesting teams still have betting props, such as Over/Under on win totals and as always, TheSportsNotebook should be your first stop if you’re looking for bad gambling advice. Oh, speaking of bad gambling advice, remember my suggestion to take Kasey Kahne yesterday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Phoenix? Kahne had car problems early and finished 34th. Since I boasted about picking Matt Kenseth to win the Daytona at 20-1, I figure I should fess up when I’m wrong.
In college basketball, Selection Sunday is coming up this week, so for all practical purposes, March Madness has begun. In the midmajor conference tournaments, nothing of impact has happened yet, although the Missouri Valley tournament raised some hairs on the back of the necks of bubble teams. Wichita State and Creighton are locks to make the field. Everyone else needed to win the automatic bid. So naturally, Illinois State upsets Wichita in the semi-finals. Fortunately for the power conferences, the Redbirds couldn’t close the deal and Creighton won the tournament. The West Coast Conference provided less in the way of drama. St. Mary’s and Gonzaga, both NCAA-bound, have made the final and will play in the best game of tonight (9 PM ET, ESPN). Here at TheSportsNotebook we’re going to get readers ready for the power conference tournaments that begin as early as Tuesday in the Big East and as late as Thursday in the Big Ten, ACC and SEC. Actually, we’ll recap the season, and hand out some individual honors in each conference. Today starts with the Atlantic 10 and the Pac-12.
The NBA and NHL are going to be in the backdrop of fans’ minds over the next month, but the teams are still fighting for playoff spots and seeding. In the NBA, Indiana visits Chicago tonight with the Pacers playing good basketball and separating themselves in the race for the #3 spot in the East. Out west, there’s Dallas-Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers visit a Minnesota team driving for a playoff berth. Hockey is pretty tame tonight with Pittsburgh-Phoenix being the best game on the board.
Be sure to check out Memories Of March Madness in to the top right corner of the website. It’s a recap of all the best memories from the NCAA Tournament starting in 1976 when the tournament began the process of transforming itself into a cultural mainstay on the American sports calendar. You can get it delivered to your Kindle and start reading today, or if you don’t have a Kindle, just send the $2.99 via Paypal and I’ll get you the Word Document. Memories Of March Madness is 25,000 words (or about 80 pages double-spaced in Word).
Check back later this morning (early afternoon in the East) for the spring training report on the Houston Astros, plus college hoops reports on the Atlantic 10 and Pac-12.