|2013-14 ends on a sour note. From: the Prospector Daily|
Today in the bag, I'm talking about the excellent Elite Eight action from the weekend before reminding everyone that today is Opening Day for baseball.
Click below for the bag...
The Elite Eight: Saturday -
Saturday struck me as your typical Elite Eight day. Sure, there was a surprise entrant (11-seed Dayton), but the other three combatants were regional heavyweights. Between Florida, Arizona, and Wisconsin, you just had the feeling that any could wind up winning the title.
Cinderella lead off the weekend as Dayton took on overall #1 Florida in Saturday's first game. It went... about as expected. The Flyers played well, even taking a lead midway through the first half, but the Gators were just too talented to fall to some A-10 upstart. Florida finished the first half on a 15-1 run, and never really look threatened in the second half. The 62-52 final made things look close-ish, but I never really feared for the odd-on title favorites once the final frame started.
|I believe I can fly...|
The only other remaining #1 in the field, Arizona, was less fortunate, having to play a very tough Wisconsin team to make the Final Four. In the game of the day, the Wildcats and Badgers battled to overtime. With just over two seconds left on the clock and down one on the board, Arizona's All-American Nick Johnson collected the ball at the top of the arc, and weaved for an open look. The only thing is, he had no where near the time he thought he had, and the Wildcats, easily one of the best teams in the land, lost 64-63 without even getting a shot off. Where were you going, Nick?
|Dude... you don't even get a shot off?|
The Elite Eight: Sunday -
Sunday was a little more chaotic. Neither the Midwest or the East had their #1 still alive, leaving unconventional 4 vs 7 and 2 vs 8 matchups to decide the last two spots in the 2014 Final Four. Take your chalk and shove it.
The early game featured the surprising UConn Huskies in a semi-home game at Madison Square Garden against the media-darling Michigan State Spartans. It being the Garden, and the Huskies still being, at least at heart, a Big East team, it should surprise no one that this one was a slow, physical exhibition. In the end, behind a brilliant performance from Shabazz Napier, who scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, it was the Huskies punching their ticket to Dallas by a 60-54 final.
|Where did UConn come from?|
In the weekend finale, and, for my money, the best game of the weekend, it was the suddenly overachieving Kentucky Wildcats beating the Michigan Wolverines 75-72. This one, just like the two that preceded it, came down to the wire. The difference here is, where Wisconsin/Arizona and UConn/MSU were trench warfare, UK and UM engaged in repeated cavalry charges, lighting up the scoreboard possession after possession. Combined, the two teams shot over 50% from the field. While Coach Boyle would lose the rest of his hair looking at that stat-line, it wasn't completely a result of poor defense. This was an example of brilliant offensive pieces setting off fireworks, and it made for a delightful end to the weekend.
Baseball's Opening Day -
I don't mean to break up the basketball-only theme of this grab bag, but it is baseball's Opening Day. While it will never be a national holiday, Opening Day still holds tremendous sway with this diehard baseball fan. A day of hope, fleeting as it may be, for millions across the land, even if they root for the Houston Astros!
Sure, the baseball season technically started with the Dodgers double dip over the D-Backs in Australia, and the first game played on American soil took place last night when those same Dodgers lost to the Padres, but baseball really doesn't start until all 30 teams have their say. That all started about an hour ago when the Cubs and Pirates took the field. I don't know why we no longer give seasonal first pitch rights to Cincinnati, the home of the nation's first professional outfit, but it is what it is.
For my White Sox, we're still going to be garbage this year, but at least it'll be interesting garbage. The last few seasons, My Sox have been mired in a slow slide into irrelevancy. With an aging, ineffective roster and no minor league talent worthy of the title, the team has been less than watchable. Thankfully, the rebuilding process is well under way. Old, boring, expensive pieces have been traded for exciting new prospects, and management spent big bucks on the Cadillac of Cuban hitting prospects, Jose Abreu (*squee*). Add to that the third pick in this summer's MLB draft, and I'm truly excited for White Sox baseball for the first time in years.
|New toys are fun.|
But, none of that matters. All but the Dodgers, D-Backs, and Padres started the day 0-0. Both the Rox and My Sox have a magic number of 163, and a theoretical shot at the pennant. On Opening Day, that's all that matters.