Thursday, March 27, 2008

Quick Hits

By Samuel Berman
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It’s one of the busiest parts of the sports year and yet here I am at a loss for the time to do a full-fledged, well-reasoned, thoroughly-researched, “column”-style post. As a result, here are some quick-hit thoughts on March Madness, baseball ramp-up, and the NBA home stretch:

-Everyone seems really caught up in Stephen Curry being the next Danny Manning (that is, a guy who carries his team during the tournament), but I can’t be alone in thinking that Michael Flowers is going to absolutely shut him down when Wisconsin gets their hands on Davidson on Friday. I mean Flowers is legitimately the best defender in the Big Ten, if not the entire nation. As good as Curry is (and don’t get me wrong, he is good), I just don’t see him going off for 30 with the best defender in the tournament keying on him for 40 minutes.

-A week-and-a-half ago I picked Texas, Tennessee, UCLA and Wisconsin as my Final Four, and I still stand by that now. I think Villanova has a better chance of beating Kansas than people think, and ditto for Wazzu with North Carolina. West Virginia and Xavier is a pick ‘em if ever there was one, but I’m actually leaning towards WVU, if only because Joe Alexander is the best player in that game.

-Western Kentucky’s play to beat Drake last weekend was probably the best play of the season, and the pass that led to the shot may very well be the best pass in NCAA Tournament history. That’s not a typo.

-Best game I saw from the opening two rounds was San Diego’s upset of Connecticut, but the Marquette vs. Stanford game (even with the personally heart-breaking ending) was a very close second.

-All of the “Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP” talk is going to look really silly in mid-July when he weighs like 275 pounds and that team realizes that their pitching (outside of Justin Verlander) peaked two years ago and they’re eight-and-a-half back of the Indians. Sure the Tigers’ offense looked great last year, but now Pudge Rodriguez is a year older, Magglio Ordonez isn’t going to have an all-time great year again, and Curtis Granderson has to spend the first three weeks watching from the dugout.

-Just-for-fun preseason (or would-be preseason now that the Red Sox and A’s split in Japan) predictions for MLB results as follows:

AL Playoff Teams – Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, A’s

NL Playoff Teams – Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Phillies

MVPs – Manny Ramirez (OF, Boston) & Eric Byrnes (OF, Arizona)

Cy Youngs – Rich Harden (SP, Oakland) & Johan Santana (SP, New York Mets)

-If Chris Webber doesn’t end up in the Hall of Fame, they should stop having a Hall of Fame. Did you know that Webber is one of only six players ever to have career averages of 20+ points, 9+ rebounds, and 4+ assists? The others: Chamberlain, Baylor, Cunningham, Bird & Garnett. That’s beyond elite company. Also, the notion that his missteps while at Michigan should effect his candidacy are ludicrous, especially in a world where bigots and wife-beaters and drug addicts grace every Hall of Fame the world over (including basketball’s).

-Though the realistic picks for NBA MVP are Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett (with Amare Stoudemire a very outside darkhorse), I think the one guy getting overlooked is Baron Davis, who has been at his best this season while leading Golden State into the playoff mix in a crowded Western Conference. He almost certainly shouldn’t win over the five guys I named, but the fact that he’s getting completely ignored irks me to no end. Ditto Deron Williams, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard.

-While I’m here, let me say this: Golden State scores 111 points per game and has 43 wins this season. Miami scores 92 points per game and has 13 wins this season. So why exactly is Miami on national television like twice a week and Golden State shows up only occasionally? Just putting it out there.

-If anyone reading this has any pull at all with the Milwaukee Bucks organization and doesn’t do everything in their power to get ESPN’s Bill Simmons an interview for the (thankfully) vacant General Manager position, consider yourself a TRAITOR to the team! This is the first I’m speaking on this issue, but I assure you it will not be the last.

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