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The Dish: Lulla Time For North American Sports

national pardon
by huitze

Article by Christopher Harris

Lull, lull, lull.

The North American sports landscape has the post-Super-Bowl blues, which is kind of funny considering how many sports there are on TV just now. Tune to any NBC-owned station and you’re bound to see people who call themselves athletes who engage in what other people call sports. But pardon me if I don’t get all that stoked about half-pipe snowboarding.

“Today on NBC! Half-pipe snowboarding! All the annoying arbitrariness of figure skating, without the sequins! Or the possibility of some woman cracking her skull wide open!”

Any sport that requires judges to determine the outcome isn’t a sport. It’s vaudeville. As for curling, well, yeah, I’ve played shufflepuck in American bars. I guess it’s kinda cool. But I don’t recall the matches taking three hours. However, if U.S. captain Cassie Johnson happens to be reading (a likely event): Cassie, I would be honored to marry you.

As for NBA All-Star weekend…yawn. They might really have something if the superstars would dunk. But they won’t, presumably because they are wusses. The game is dreadful. The “skills” competition has all the drama of biathlon. March Madness cannot come soon enough. Oh, and the Daytona 500 is this weekend. If you’re into the whole fossil-fuel-guzzling, metaphor-for-everything-that’s-wrong-with-America kind of thing.

Now that our attention is shifting to March Madness, did UConn’s loss last Monday at Villanova shake your confidence in them? Do the Wildcats now deserve consideration as the nation’s #1 team?

Greg Jorssen, BoDog.com: If the Wildcats can do the same thing in Hartford in a couple of weeks, then I would say unequivocally that Nova deserves consideration as the #1 ranked team in the nation. They should be 12-1 in the Big East and UConn should be 11-2 when these two teams face each other again, and that game should be the decider as to who will be not only the Big East champion heading into the tournament, but also may determine who is the top in the nation. But let’s not count out the Blue Devils. They are sitting pretty right now with a 23-1 record and they really do not face a tough opponent until the final week of the season when they take on the Tar Heels. Unless they are upset over the next couple of weeks, it’s doubtful that any team can knock them off the top spot heading into March Madness. As for UConn, I believe this is a minor setback. They will have an opportunity to redeem themselves on Saturday when they take on #11 West Virginia, and with such a deep front line and with Rudy Gay the talent that he is, UConn will be a power to be reckoned with in March. The Wildcats in my opinion are undersized, and if the guards are not firing on all cylinders, they may suffer.

Which perennial powerhouse in college hoops do you think is most at risk of missing the Tournament: Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland or Stanford?

GJ, BoDog.com: I think Kentucky will make it despite their disappointing season, though they won’t be seeded as highly as they’re used to. Stanford is coming together, winning 8 of their last 11, and are only 1 games back in the Pac-10. It’s doubtful that Maryland will make the tourney unless they pull some miracles down the stretch. They face three of the top six ACC teams to close out their season. As for Louisville, they are the biggest disappointment thus far. I rode them to a Bracket Buster championship last year (I picked them to make the finals and they came up just short of that), thus I had high expectations for them this year. They had a great start, winning 13 of their first 15 games, but they’ve lost six of their past nine games and sit at 4-7 in the tough Big East conference. They first need to qualify for the Big East tourney, as only the top 12 qualify (Louisville is tied with Rutgers for the final spot right now), and then impress enough during the tournament to perhaps be a bubble team. In a conference that boasts Villanova, UConn, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Georgetown, the chances of Louisville impressing anyone and getting in is incredibly slim.

Do you expect that Duke will get the most action once the Tournament begins? Do you think that action will be well-placed for a team that’s so young and not deep at all?

GJ, BoDog.com: Bettors love the favorite and love high-profile teams, ones that are on national television, ones that are getting the hype, which Duke is right now. Duke games traditionally are the ones that receive the most handle, which is surprising considering that their ATS record is below.500 at 10-11-1. Duke has a high-powered offense, and is second in the nation in FG%, thus those that like betting the Over on their games are doing quite well right now, considering that their defense is sketchy and the fact that my grandmother could snatch a rebound away from them. (They are near the bottom of the ACC in rebounding, with only 32 per game.) As talented as they are, I think their lack of focus on the boards and their weak defense may cost them in the tournament. That said, J.J. Redick is as good as they come and Shelden Williams is a hell of a shot blocker and is holding his own under the boards (he’s about the only one on the team that is). These two players account for almost 60% of Duke’s offense, which says a lot for their lack of depth.

If I were to name a single team currently outside the Top 25 who I think could come out of nowhere and make a run at the Sweet 16, at this point I’d pick Wichita State. How about you?

GJ, BoDog.com: After this week’s huge win over West Virginia, I would say right now the team that could do some damage in the tournament and possibly make the Sweet 16 would be Seton Hall. The Pirates should be around a #7 or #8 seed in the tournament, and have enough talent to knock off some of the big names in their bracket. After being crushed by UConn a few days ago by 42 points, to then turn around and defeat the #11 ranked team in the nation says a lot for the Hall. They have already knocked off other Top-25 teams this season, including Syracuse and NC State, and are peaking at the right time, winning seven of their last eight games. They should go into the Big East tournament and the March Madness tournament on a positive note.

Christopher Harris is a featured writer for the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at www.procappers.com










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