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FINAL-4 AND MORE
LOTS OF BASEBALL (but read it anyway)
Posted: Thursday, March 30th, 2017, 3:29 PM
by Beano
FREE THOUGHT FRIDAY

FINAL-4 STUFF:

JOCKING THE COCKS: I really like how the Final-4 played out this season. While Florida and Kentucky were denied a chance to further separate themselves from the SEC pack long-suffering South Carolina fans -who I identify with and have an affinity for- get a chance to enjoy the finer things college basketball has to offer. I told Tony on Monday that I would be pulling for Gonzaga but immediately regretted it knowing when the ball is tipped I’ll be full-Cocky. I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with some of South Carolina’s biggest fans and somehow still like the heck out of them. I hope they get the further thrill of seeing the other three participants “step to the rear” while Frank Martin and the Gamecocks cut the nets down.

YOU NEED A BAD GUY: I also told T-Boz that I wished the Final-4 had been a regal-free event. That of course was an impossibility with North Carolina and Kentucky playing in the South Region Final. After further review I would like to retract that comment as well. Like any great drama -especially one in which your favorite character isn’t involved- the Final-4 wouldn’t be the passionate experience it always plays out to be without a villain. UNC should play that part quite well.

DRUNKLE BIG-BLUE: Kentucky found out that it’s regality has limits. They’re certainly one of -if not THE- most historically significant programs in college basketball history but when the real heads of haughty gather they look down their noses at the Wildcats like Rodney Dangerfield at Bushwood Country Club. There was a blue whistle being blown as usual last Sunday but this one had a distinctly different shade than Cat faithful are accustomed to. Welcome to the real world Big Blue Nation. You may be the Jimmy Carter of the SEC but when UNC, Duke, Kansas or UCLA show up they still refer to you as “Billy”.

LATEST ODDS: Gonzaga was originally tabbed as the favorite to win the National Championship by the pros in the desert but the public -probably bolstered by early pro money- quickly elevated North Carolina to that perch. As of Wednesday morning here are the numbers:

ODDS TO WIN THE TITLE:
NORTH CAROLINA: 5/4
GONZAGA: 9/5
OREGON: 19/4
SOUTH CAROLINA: 8/1

GAME LINES

Gonzaga -6- over S Carolina
N Carolina -5 over Oregon

TENNESSEE BASEBALL:
Unfortunately, Vol baseball fans greatest fears came to fruition over the first two weekends of SEC play. The seemingly impressive non-conference start looks once again to be fool’s gold when the stark reality of SEC Baseball slaps you in the face. The Vols tripped and fell when the league gate flew open and now stand at 0-6 after sweeps at the hands of South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Vols are the only winless team in league play with Georgia (Vols next opponent), Texas A&M and Alabama all sitting at 1-5. The ugly truth is barring a series sweep -which are almost as rare here as SEC Championship Game appearances- the Vols must now win every remaining series in order to finish above .500 in SEC play. Here is the math:

-8 SERIES REMAINING
-Win 2 of 3= 16-8 Final Record= 16-14
Win 2 of 3 in 7 of 8 series =15-9 Final Record= 15-15

MLB CRYSTAL BALL:
Coming off a sterling effort of predicting the NCAA Tournament bracket where I correctly selected 5 -yes I said five- of the Sweet-16 it’s time to turn my prognostication proficiency skills to baseball:

NL EAST
1-NATIONALS: Easily the East’s best but nothing’s ever easy in DC.
2-METS: Great pitching staff and an average everyday lineup.
3-MARLINS: Can they overcome the Jose Fernandez tragedy?
4-BRAVES: New ballpark but team seems torn between rebuild and attendance
5-PHILLIES: Bachill’s Fightin-Phils are coming but still a few seasons away

NL CENTRAL
1-CUBS: Get used to it. Barring injuries the Cubbies are front-and-center for a while
2-CARDINALS: Was last season a blip or a slip?
3-PIRATES: Buccos need young pitchers and Andrew McCutchen to perform to contend
4-BREWERS: What the heck? Miller Park is a good place to drink a few beers.
5-REDS: Hatfield’s crew needs to hire Theo Epstein.

NL WEST
1-DODGERS: Kershaw is the modern-day Koufax. He needs a Drysdale.
2-GIANTS: Great pitching with an underwhelming but really gritty lineup
3-DIAMONDBACKS: Look for a Greinke bounce-back and a full season of A.J. Pollock.
4-ROCKIES: Great lineup but who can pitch in that park?
5-PADRES: From all-in to all-out in less than a year.

AL EAST
1-RED SOX: Like the Cubs the Red Sox are brimming with ML-ready young talent
2-BLUE JAYS: The window of opportunity is rapidly closing for the Jays
3-YANKEES: The average age is down and hopes are up in the Bronx
4-ORIOLES: The O’s have outdistanced expectations for several years now
5-RAYS: Not sure they’ll ever get it exactly right in Tampa

AL CENTRAL
1-INDIANS: When healthy the Tribe’s starters and bullpen are very good
2-ROYALS: If the Royals finish lower than this their roster will be unrecognizable.
3-TIGERS: The Tigers lineup is beyond its championship years
4-TWINS: Hope for Molitor’s sake they’re better.
5-WHITE SOX: Starting over on the South Side

AL WEST
1-ASTROS: Need Dallas Keuchel to be the 2015 version; otherwise they’re there.
2-RANGERS: Regular season studs and postseason duds
3-ANGELS: Wish Mike Trout could play with a true contender.
4-MARINERS: Look more ready to contend but they are the Mariners.
5-ATHLETICS: Money Ball my @$$

NL PLAYOFFS

WILDCARD- Mets over Giants
DIVISION ROUND- Cubs over Mets; Nats over Giants
NLCS- Cubs over Nats

AL PLAYOFFS

WILDCARD- Jays over Rangers
DIVISION ROUND- Red Sox over Jays; Astros over Indians
ALCS- Red Sox over Astros

WORLD SERIES-
Red Sox over Cubs

FANTASY BASEBALL: My home fantasy baseball league -15 years and counting- held our annual draft this past Sunday. While at the start of my love affair with fantasy sports football clearly held my attention I now much prefer baseball. The everyday nature of the game and the greatly increased opportunity to overcome a bad draft day through use of the waiver wire are only a couple of reasons that it is the best of all fantasy sports to participate in. Here is the team I put together last weekend:

C-Jonathan Lucroy-Took a catcher a little earlier than usual
1B-Jose Abreu-I was late to the party selecting a 1B
2B-Brian Dozier-Hope he just comes close to last season’s numbers
3B-Kyle Seager-Another 30-homer guy that could regress
SS-Carlos Carrea-Went early on SS hoping he’s the special guy we saw in 2015
OF-Mike Trout-Fell to me at #3
OF-George Springer-Like the all-around skill set
OF-Stephen Piscotty-Hope he builds on solid 2016
UT-Kendrys Morales-He can rake and Toronto’s lineup provides coverage.

RESERVES-Miguel Sano, Kyle Calhoun, Manuel Margot

PITCHERS: Kyle Kluber, Chris Archer, Danny Duffy, Kevin Gausman, Jake Oderizzi, Sean Manaea, Cody Allen, Ian Kennedy, Drew Smyly, Zach Davies, Sonny Gray

BLOGGERS NOTE: I rarely have enough pitching which -along with my Steinbrenner-like meddlesome management style- usually sentences me to a lower-division finish. I like my staff at the outset for what little that’s worth.

SPRING BREAK:
Going to take a few weeks off from the blogosphere to reset the mechanism. I hope you enjoy the Final-4, start to Major League Baseball and whatever other sporting events spark your interest. As usual I am eternally grateful to all who take time out of your busy day to read my drivel. Don’t know why you do it but thank you very much regardless. God bless you all and I’ll be back soon.

FINAL FRIDAY THOUGHT: Would it really surprise anyone if on his first official day on the job John Currie -along with Chancellor Davenport- announces that in an unprecedented move the University of Tennessee and WBIR have come to terms with Al Roker to become the next UT Men’s Basketball Coach and do the weather on Channel 10?

JUST IN CASE: I take an extra-long blog break I want to wish you and your family a blessed Easter. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)


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