Sunday, March 31, 2013

3/31: Madness, Baseball!, etc.

Greetings! First of all, we've wrapped up the 30-team baseball preview (check the right scroll bar for all of them) as baseball approaches, and I'd invite you to take a look. There's just one more day of hoops before the Final Four (in my hometown of Atlanta) is set. We will take a look at what went down on Saturday, as well as glance ahead to Sunday's slate.
  • #9-seed Wichita State is headed to the Final Four. The Shockers stunned Ohio State with a 70-66 victory led by swarming defense for the entire game, and ultra-balanced scoring. WSU held the Buckeyes to just 31% shooting on the night (including 20% from 3-point land), shutting down Deshaun Thomas (8-20 FG) and Aaron Craft (2-12 FG) for the duration, and generally locking them up. They simply just made more plays throughout, and nothing was more indicative than when the Buckeyes climbed all the way back into the game before falling short by failing to grab a defensive rebound on a huge late possession. It's on to Atlanta for Wichita, where they'll be a big-time underdog against either Duke or Louisville. 
  • In the early game, Syracuse absolutely dominated Marquette. The 'Cuse held Marquette to the lowest Elite 8 point total in the shot clock era, allowing only 39 points and holding the Golden Eagles to 12-53 from the field (22.6%) and 3-24 from three (12.5%). The Orangemen used that vaunted 2-3 zone to stifle Marquette, who simply didn't have the explosion to get into the teeth of the defense or the shooters to spread them out in a sufficient way. Syracuse actually wasn't particularly good offensively (38% FG), but it almost doesn't matter when you defend like that. 
In non-tourney news...
  • MLB Contract Madness! Justin Verlander is reportedly going to ink the largest pitcher deal in baseball history, signing for 7 years and $180 million with the Tigers. It's really tough to gauge the market these days, but I wouldn't give any pitcher $180 million over that sort of length. That said, Verlander has been basically the best pitcher in baseball for a half-decade, and if there was ever a guy, it's him. In the National League, Buster Posey will be a San Francisco Giant for quite a long time, as he signed a 9-year, $167 million contract yesterday. Posey is the best catcher in the league without question at this stage, but this contract is insane to me. Considering that a) he already has an injury history, b) catchers age very, very quickly, and c) they didn't need to lock him up yet, this one is one they'll probably regret. If he can replicate his 2012 numbers? It's a steal, but good luck with that. 
  • UCLA has hired Steve Alford to replace Ben Howland as their head coach. Alford was stolen away from New Mexico, where he turned that program into a year-in-year-out power, and he is also famous for his player exploits at Indiana under Bobby Knight. I like this move a lot because he's a high-profile name who will run a high-tempo system and be able to recruit California. In addition, he'll bring his top-prospect son with him, and will take over a talented roster. Thumbs up. 
  • Kevin Kolb is a Buffalo Bill. The former Eagles and Cardinals QB inked a 2-year, $13 million deal with the Bills to theoretically compete for the starting job. I personally think the job has to be his for this type of money, but Tarvaris Jackson is still around. I'm not a big fan of Kolb, but they gave him another receiver to go along with Spiller and Stevie Johnson, it could be okay. 
  • Johan Santana, of New York Mets fame, will miss the season with yet another shoulder issue. This move devastates me as a Santana owner in the NFBC (lol), but it's a big issue for the Mets as well, as they turn to Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and the oft-injured Shaun Marcum to form the top-3 of their rotation along with young flame-thrower Matt Harvey. Good luck. 
What to watch for on Sunday...
  • 2:20 - NCAAB - #4 Michigan vs. #3 Florida (CBS) - With a trip to the Final Four on the line, I'm torn. I'm obviously rooting for Michigan, but me and Ken Pomeroy are out on the limb with Florida this year (lol). This should be a good one, and no result would surprise me. 
  • 5:05 - NCAAB - #1 Louisville vs. #2 Duke (CBS) - This is easily the highest-profile game of th entire NCAA tournament so far. The Cardinals are the overall #1 seed and they're facing the #1 "public" team in Duke. I picked Duke and I'm standing by it. 
  • 7:00 - NBA - Heat @ Spurs (NBATV) - This would've been a much bigger deal if Miami had the streak going, but that doesn't mean it's not an awesome NBA game. 
  • 8:00 - MLB - Rangers @ Astros (ESPN) - Real, live baseball that counts! Yu Darvish takes the mound for Texas, and since he's my AL Cy Young pick, I'd say that I'm excited to see what he looks like. Houston is abysmal, but it's real baseball and I'm in. 
Happy Easter! And stay tuned for my final "wrap-up" MLB Preview post. Enjoy!

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