Desktop Sportsman - 04/07/10Is an Opening Day performance any indication of how a team will fare during the regular season? One hopes not but given how much attention one gives to it (whether it's football, baseball, basketball or hockey), it's not hard to feel that a loss maybe an omen of doom. Still, as far as the Brewers and Twins are concern it's just one of 162.
By: Sean Scallon, Pierce County Herald
Even with the loss of Joe Nathan the Twins still have the best team in the AL Central on paper and should win the division title again (we'll have to wait and see as far as to how far in the playoff they can advance). They have power and decent starting pitching. The Twins feel they can give Jon Rauch the closer spot but it wouldn't surprise me if they use every set-up pitcher they have in the bullpen before then. One thing to look for is how well the Twins play in April and May. They haven't been known to get off to fast starts and add to this the fact they need to get used to their new digs and outdoor baseball in general. The Twins would hope not have to make a last minute dash into the playoffs like last season. Very few opposing teams will choke the way the Tigers did last season. That's not something one can count on.
The Brewers situation is dicier only because that describes their pitching staff. Carlos Gomez showed he will be a nice edition to the club but the Brew Crew can only go as far as their defense being able to stop opposing teams from scoring. 8-7 ballgames and blown saves in the ninth may well make for a hard season for Brewers' fans with high blood pressure. The Brewers also have the problem of a tougher NL Central than the competition the Twins have to face. If the Cardinals are as dominant as they were last year, it may mean another Wild Card chase.
The loss of Andrew Bogut for the rest of the season means whatever hopes the Bucks had to win a playoff series (which were pretty good)just went down like he did. Still, regardless of how they finish up. the Bucks still have a lot of young talent and have a very good coach to lead that talent into the future. A free agent pick-up to replace the oft-injured Michael Redd will be the important next step for the Bucks.
Butler's play in this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament reminded me of something Dick Bennett once said about why he liked basketball. He felt it was the one sport where one didn't necessarily need size and strength or need one dominant player like a pitcher or a goalie to be successful. It was the one sport where five persons, working together as one unit, possessing the skills needed shooting the ball and playing defense, could be successful on their own. That's why Bennett's UW team made the Final Four in 2000. That's why Butler came within a few inches of winning the national championship on a last second shot.
I hope head coach Brad Stevens stays at Butler for a long time. Yes he might make more money at an institution that has a major college football team, but he's not exactly making chump change at Butler. And what's not to like about the job? You live in a big city like Indianapolis, play your games in one of the greatest basketball arenas in the country at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, recruit in a state and region with plenty of high school basketball talent and have a rabid fan base. Why go anyplace else? To win a national title? Hey, they came within a few inches of doing so against Duke. Besides, other Butler head coaches (Barry Collier and Todd Lickliter) haven't done as well moving up the coaching ladder. Both were let go from their supposed better jobs at BCS schools (Lickliter was just let go at Iowa). There's no reason to leave.
I hate the term "mid-major" when it comes to college basketball. Yes Butler doesn't have the same budget a Duke does, but one doesn't have to spend big bucks to win at hoops if one knows what they are doing. We're only talking 5-10 guys, not a whole football program (which does require a good amount of money). The terms "mid-major" and "power conference" are terms largely created by football and the budgets athletic departments have to spend are largely decided by football revenue for the most part(Duke being a part of the ACC for example or even a non-football playing school like Marquette in the Big East). College basketball should be about the 300 or so schools that can afford to have a D-I program and the opportunity they have, in the national tournament, to win the national title no matter who they are. That's what makes it special, that the little guy can take on the giant. In college football, David wouldn't even face Goliath, they would make him fight a separate challenge.
If they're going to expand the field of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams, they need to do two things: 1). Eliminate the NIT and 2). Get rid of the postseason conference tournaments. Make the automatic bids go to the regular-season conference champions. This will free-up the first weekend in March for the first and second rounds of an expanded tournament and will allow the tourney to still wrap-up in the first weekend in April. With 96 teams in the field, there's no need for those tournaments anymore as a way to get teams into the field. If the regular season is going to count for anything, then make the conference champions automatic qualifiers.