Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Is it too early for NCAA Bracket Busters? Oakland University says no. In fact, the Golden Grizzlies are already begging to be advanced on your tournament bracket.

No need to check your calendar, it’s only December. But the Golden Grizzlies are already making a case for their third invitation to the national tournament, and second as many years.

Last year, Oakland made a quick exit dropping a first-round decision (89-66) to Pittsburgh, but early indications point toward a possible Cinderella story this season.

So far in the 2010-2011 campaign, the Golden Grizzlies have played against four top 25 teams and have had legitimate shots to win three. Tuesday was the fourth in Knoxville taking on the seventh-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.

Walking into an arena with so much history and tradition could have been overwhelming for the Summit League leaders, but they proved the previous three upset attempts weren’t flukes when the Golden Grizzlies defeated the Volunteers 89-82.
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In just under three days, work productivity across the nation will decline, inter-office betting will increase and extended lunch hours will be taken. It will happen all in the name of the NCAA basketball tournament.

No other sporting event has this type of impact on non-sports fans or draws this much attention. Not even the Super Bowl can claim the amount of recognition the NCAA tournament receives. The Super Bowl, after all, lasts only one day – or two weeks full of hype. March Madness consumes an entire month.

The official madness began on Sunday when the teams and pairings were announced. What usually follows is three days of bickering on what teams should have made it that didn’t, which teams made the tournament but were treated unfairly by the committee and predictions of what upsets will happen. That mostly hasn’t happened so far. In reality, the committee got it right this year.

Most people expected North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville to get No. 1 seeds and they did. The most shocking part might have been Louisville receiving the No. 1 overall seed, but while the others may be considered stronger teams, Louisville is the only team from a power conference that can say it won its regular season conference championship as well as its conference tournament. While North Carolina watched from home after being ousted by Florida State, and Pitt and UConn watched their Big East foe cut down the nets from home, Louisville made a case for being the hottest No. 1 entering the tournament.

But looking from the outside, the losses by UConn and North Carolina gave another team reason to complain. The Memphis Tigers aren’t making a stink about getting snubbed and instead have chosen to do their talking on the court. With the exception of Missouri standing in their way, it looks like Memphis might just do that.

The Tigers got seeded second in the West Region setting up a potential Elite Eight meeting with UConn. And even if that happens, Memphis will still be the only team of the upper seeds that can boast a long winning streak at the end of the 2008-2009 season. If any team in this year’s tournament can say it is carrying momentum into the tournament, it is Memphis. The No. 2 seed and Conference USA champions have won their last 25 games and have done so outscoring its opponents by an average of 19 points per game. The Tigers’ last loss came on Dec. 20 against Syracuse – hardly surprising if you consider how hot the Orange have got in the last half of the season. Conference USA by nature isn’t considered the most powerful of conferences, and by comparison the Big East has received the most hype as this year’s toughest conference. En route to their impressive regular season-ending run, the Tigers defeated both Tennessee and Gonzaga. Like Memphis, Gonzaga went undefeated in conference play but still dropped its last loss of the season to the Tigers by 18 points.

Memphis made it to last year’s championship game, and having as much or possibly more success without NBA No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, the Tigers have the potential to make it back to this year’s title game. Look for them to meet up with Pitt in the championship.

ST. LOUIS — Even before spring training began, Cardinals fans were ready to mail in the season.

 

No Jim Edmonds. No Scott Rolen. No David Eckstein.

 

All were either traded or free agents that were not returning.

 

Troy Glaus didn’t exactly seem like a fair trade for Rolen, but the threat of a poison in the locker room might have been even worse.

 

And Eckstein missed much of the tail end of 2007 with injuries. But could anyone replace his scrappy leadoff hitting?

 

What about Edmonds? Sure he was beginning the down slope of his career, but his arm in center field might have been hard to replace and the same could be said for his veteran leadership.

 

If losing three proven players wasn’t bad enough, Chris Carpenter was still recovering from Tommy John surgery and not expected to be back until July. Mark Mulder had his own injury troubles, and new acquisition Matt Clement was impressive in Boston, but expected to be out for quite some time.

 

It’s OK. Albert Pujols will still be in the lineup. Or will he? Elbow problems threatened to keep him out of the lineup and miss nearly the entire season with the possibility of surgery. The battered Redbirds were placed by experts at the bottom of the NL Central battling Pittsburgh for last place.

 

By the way, the mastermind behind 13 years of success? Yeah, he’s gone, too. Walt Jocketty is no longer your General Manager.

 

Congratulations Cardinals! This is your Opening Day lineup:

 

RF           Skip Schumaker

LF            Chris Duncan

1B           Albert Pujols

CF           Rick Ankiel

3B           Troy Glaus

C             Yadier Molina

2B           Adam Kennedy

P             Kyle Lohse

SS           Cesar Izturis

 

No need to worry. Here is your bench:

 

Jason LaRue

Aaron Miles

Brendan Ryan

Brian Barton

Ryan Ludwick

 

Fast forward to May 1, 2007…

 

Congratulations Cardinals! This is your lineup:

 

(See above roster)

 

Mulder and Carpenter are on the fast-track to a comeback and that team from St. Louis that every expected to be living in the NL Central basement by the All-Star Break is instead battling the Chicago Cubs for the top spot.

 

Glaus is surprisingly leading the Majors in doubles (12) and is tied for sixth in RBI (21), while Pujols leads all hitters in walks (30), as well as on base percentage (.523) and batting average (.365) among players with at least 50 at bats.

 

As a team, the Cardinals are tops in doubles (64) and walks (144), and rank second in on OBP (.374) and average (.279).

 

All of this leaves Cardinals Nation hopeful for a post All-Star Break run after missing out on the playoffs last year for the first time since 2003.   

 

One ESPN analyst remarked that head man Tony LaRussa is the reason behind the Cardinals success. Who else would be able to take a team of virtual no-names and hold baseball’s second best record after the first month?

 

After setting a franchise record for wins in April (18), the Cardinals increase the excitement by hosting division rival Chicago in a three-game series this weekend.