It is the Monday following the one and only “Selection Sunday.” What a week we have ahead in sports. It is arguably the best sporting week we have all year. The 1st, 2nd, and now 3rd rounds of the NCAA’s March Madness will take place. Do your best to remain focused at work. But make sure to utilize your mobile devices and dual monitors to keep in the loop on the day games if it is permitted at your respective offices. You will not want to miss these early round games.
Now I will admit, everything else in sports kind of takes a backseat for the next few weeks. The event of March Madness captures the entire country’s attention and really holds on for the better part of 3 weeks. Will my bracket outdo yours? Do I have a shot at winning my office pool? Now is the time to show off your knowledge. But as is the tradition on Monday’s, we will discuss the weekly top five. Contrary to popular belief, the other sports do not go into actual hibernation during March Madness.
5. The NFL fiasco continues. Whose side are you on? The owners or the players? Or are you like me and do not really care either or? As I have said on this blog for at least 3 consecutive weeks, I just want the guys to play come Sundays in September. I do not care how they resolve their billion dollar differences. I just hope that this fiasco is not a precursor to things to come in the NBA.
4. The countdown to opening day reads just 16 days! It is so hard to believe, but baseball is about to get underway. What is better than going to a Major League ballpark, grabbing a hot dog, and watching great baseball in beautiful spring weather? If you think of something better, please let me know. I would love to hear it.
3. The NHL is now drooling over the Return of Sid “the Kid” Crosby. Hockey’s most famous and well-known star appears to finally be nearing his much-anticipated return to the ice. Crosby has missed 29 games and has not appeared in live game action for the Pens since January 5th. Now there are still no guarantees on when the Hockey Phenom will fully return to game action. But knowing that the guy is skating again with full gear on is a great sign. The Penguins have somehow managed to remain in contention even without the game’s best player. The return of Crosby could vault the Penguins into being the Stanley Cup frontrunner. Pittsburgh only has one game this week which will take place on Tuesday night at Ottawa. I would not be surprised to see the star at least appear in the game next Sunday against the Rangers though. This game will be televised on NBC at 12:30, and though it will be vastly overshadowed by March Madness, who says that you can’t flip over to the hockey game on the commercial breaks?
As has become the tradition in the “Weekly Nickel,” I will discuss the game of the week in the NHL.
Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars: On Thursday evening, two teams that are tied with 82 points apiece matchup in a game that has a lot of implications towards the playoff future for both teams. In the West, Vancouver is in a world of its own, then you have Detroit, and then everybody else in the West is fairly jumbled. So the name of the game appears to be to avoid matching up with Vancouver or Detroit in Round 1 of the playoffs. After that, it is every man for himself. Well this game, could go a long way towards deciding which one of these two squads will avoid the Wings in Round 1. Each team has 13 games left. So with each game, the playoff position becomes more and more defined. Though the defending Champion Blackhawks have lost 3 straight games, I like them to handle business on the road behind their potent offensive attack. Both teams have a decent defensive unit, but the Blackhawks offense is one of the most electric in all of hockey. Expect the Blackhawks to leave Dallas with a W.
2. Now even though Charles Barkley, Kenny “the Jet” Smith, Steve Kerr and other featured NBA analysts are taking their talents to help out with the Madness, the NBA will still be going on behind the scenes. It will be a low-key few weeks for the League. But people will be ready for the playoffs come April once the NCAA Champion has been crowned. Here is a look at the marquee game of the week. And this week I will break the streak of highlighting a Thursday matchup so there is no interference with the Madness.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat: Now the Heat are riding high after their major victory over the Lakers which really surprised me, and then their thrashing of Memphis. They are currently just 3 games back from Boston for the top seed in the East with about 16 games remaining. Boy what a 5 game losing streak can do for a team. Can they catch the C’s? I am not sure, but they do need to continue to prove to the American public and themselves that they are capable of beating any team in the League. Beating the Thunder would be another step in the right direction. Kevin Durant put on a show back on January 30th as the Thunder handled the Heat in their only meeting of the year thus far. Well the Heat will get a 2nd crack in front of their home crowd on Wednesday. And for once I fully expect them to capitalize. Yes, I am picking the Heat to win a game. They are still not my pick to come out of the East though by any means. Durant and Westbrook are an elite tandem. But they are not quite at the Wade, LBJ level. Or at least not yet. The sky is the limit for the Thunder. I picked them preseason to go to the Western Conference Finals for a reason. But Miami has now strung together 2 solid performances, and look very hungry to finish the year on a terror. Expect a thriller. But expect the Heat to handle business in front of the home crowd.
1. This one was almost as obvious as the week of the Super Bowl. Starting Tuesday, the most popular and best run sporting event we have in American sports begins. Everyone in America will be glued to their television sets hoping to watch the next Cinderella story transpire, or at least watch their favorite team win. I am expecting one of the wildest first weeks in the history of the Madness though. This year has been extremely unpredictable from Day 1. I mean we have five 14 loss teams in the field. I think there has only been six 14 loss teams in the field since 1985. The parity has been at an all time high as the experts like to say. Well expect the unpredictability of the regular season to translate very smoothly to the Madness. Best of luck in filling out your brackets. Look for my bracket before the games begin on Thursday.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.