Tuesday, March 15, 2005

BEASTS OF THE EAST

The last two NCAA Men’s Championship Teams have come from the Big East. With another strong group of teams in the tourney, it’d be no surprise to see one or two of them march to the Final Four. Here’s a hint, it’s not Boston College as they won’t get past Alabama if they can survive the Penn Quakers in the first round.

First, let’s get BC out of the way. They play Penn in the first round. I know nothing about Penn. I do know that BC sinks down to the level of their competition on a nightly basis. Their major flaw is that they peaked in January. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with that and it’s nobody’s fault. So if they get past Penn and somehow sneak past Alabama (which would likely mean that the Tide was upset by the University of Wisconsin—wait a beat—Milwaukee), they still end up facing the best team in the country, Illinois. Pray for the Sweet Sixteen BC fans.

Pitt, an eight seed who has looked good when I saw them play, has a tough road as they face #1 seed Washington in Boise, ID. Uggh. “Yeah, we made the tourney. We’re going to Idaho, baby!”

Villanova, a five seed, draws and easy win in the first round against New Mexico and then gets the Ohio and Florida winner (hint, its likely Florida). If they survive that game, it’s on to face North Carolina. Sweet Sixteen remains the goal of Villanova.

UConn is the two seed in the East bracket, or Syracuse bracket, or whatever the heck they call it now. They face Central Florida and the Charlotte/NC State winner. UConn (and Syracuse), unlike BC, are both peaking at the right time. Kansas is the three seed UConn would face in the Sweet Sixteen and then only North Carolina would stand in their way on the road to the Final Four (that is, unless Harold Pressley, Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain, and Gary McLain suit up for ‘nova for another improbable run). Tough schedule, but then UConn should play well in the Tourney. Since I’ll be listening to my boss leaving broadcast voice-tels of him shouting out “GO HUSKIES!!!” throughout the tourney, I’ll say UConn will knock off North Carolina and make it to the Final Four.

Syracuse gets the distinct honor of knocking those annoying Duke pukes out of the tourney. Whoo-hoo. Syracuse faces Taylor Coppenrath and mighty Vermont in the first round. After demolishing them, they get a strong Michigan State team. Alas, Magic Johnson graduated, won some titles, kissed Isaiah Thomas way too much on TV, contracted HIV (from who exactly since his wife and kid were clean?), and then retired, so Michigan State will likely be bowled over again. Yes, I pick them to beat Duke, beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight and face UConn in the Final Four. I’ll take the Orangemen over the Huskies, but then they’ll lose to Illinois in the final.

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THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

I didn’t see the Celtics game Sunday night so I can only comment on the highlights and box score, but apparently I missed a heck of a game. By the time dinner was done, it was time for laundry, and I was ready to fire up the Simpsons and squeeze in a few minutes of play with the little monkeys.

It was good to see some positive results from the kids, as Tony Allen, Marcus Banks, and Al Jefferson all not only brought the team back into the game in the fourth quarter, but took over the game. Best of all, with another game tonight, it gave the starters some time to rest their legs.

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WHO’S ON FIRST? NO, WHO’S IN CENTER?

I’ve decided to steel myself and accept that the head Idiot, the long-flocked author, Johnny Damon, is playing his last season in Boston. I like Johnny, the management likes Johnny, but I think his contract is what is going to be the problem. Hopefully, they can find an inexpensive replacement that can play some defense, get on-base, and steal some bases.

Is Rule 5 pickup Adam Stern Johnny Damon’s eventual replacement in centerfield? Should we have kept Dave Roberts and traded Johnny at the height of his value? When will top outfield prospects Brandon Moss and David Murphy be ready to patrol center field at Fenway? Can we move shortstop prospect Dustin Pedroia to centerfield? How about Hanley Ramirez?

I really believe the team needs to start developing and holding onto their young players. It is, as the Patriots have shown, the best way to build a team. Have a strong base of young pitchers and hitters who can play for cheap and supplement them with the free-agents. I like Johnny Damon, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want to be paying him $8 million a year when he’s 37. The Sox finally have some legitimate prospects in the lower-levels of the minors, and they need to keep them, not trade them, for once. This year, with five of the first fifty picks in the amateur draft, they should be able to supplement their promising youngsters with another crop of prospects.

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