March 11, 2005

Hoops and Spring Training

- The Buckeyes are struggling after a half against Wisconsin, so on to other things. Like the Syracuse-UConn game which seems like it's being played at a whole different level than the Big Ten action I've been watching. Again this year the Big East and the ACC look the classs of the conferences in early March. There can be little doubt though, that the Bucks would be going to the NCAA tournament with 20 wins, including the biggest win of the NCAA season to date, if not for that little matter of the $6000 cash payment to the Serbian 7-footer.

(Bucks making a bit of a run...within 3...of course I'm still watching.)

- Gene Smith, the new Athletic Director coming in to Ohio State, arrives with a track record of bringing a school through an NCAA investigation and discipline situation. This isn't a coincidence. The smart money has the NCAA keeping open the investigation of the basketball program through the resolution of a couple of lawsuits that are at the heart of the issues that got Coach Jim O'Brien fired. But with O'Brien long gone and the Buckeyes suffering through a self-imposed one year postseason ban, it's hard to envision the NCAA landing on them with anything more than "time served", and I think that would be a fair penalty.

(Bucks fade...lose by 11)

The football program investigation should be wrapping up soon with some determination of the penalty, if any, for QB Troy Smith beyond the one-game suspension he has already served. Beyond that, unless there is some evidence we don't know about that implicates either former A.D. Andy Geiger or Tressel's coaching staff in any wrongdoing, then the whole investigation comes down the actions of one rogue booster and one player (Smith), and the rantings of admitted liar Maurice Clarett. The school has been the model of cooperation with the NCAA, and outside of the ESPN offices in Bristol, CT, there is no outcry for harsh penalties for Ohio State. Anyone?

- I'm just short of giddy about the way the Indians are playing in the first week and a half of exhibition games. They drubbed the Pirates today 16-4, and have been mashing the ball all week. Except for Milwood's one appearance the starting pitching has been nearly flawless. Cora, Bard and Hernandez make the bench so much stronger this year than last, and the bullpen will be way better.

The broadcasters and media people who are around the team every day comment on the confidence and purpose that the Indians are taking to the field every day. I know if I looked at the March 2004 archives, I could find some similarly rose-colored banter.(I did, and I did.) Last year I was optimistic, but not unrealistic. (I did peg the 2004 win total exactly at 80, I will remind all just this one last time.) This year the Central Division has four good teams to beat each other up, so 90 wins could conceivably win it. My official prediction (yawn) is two weeks away, but I'm leaning toward 88-90 wins for the 2005 Tribe.

- I'll be driving to Charlotte Thursday with 40-some of the usual suspects for the first two rounds of the NCAA sub-regional (Fri. and Sun.) with some golf sandwiched in between. I was recalling the '03 trip to Tampa, which we undertook just as the Iraq war was kicking off with the assault on Baghdad. Leaving home for four days just as the invasion was starting had me profoundly ambivalent about college basketball. And though the circumstances are broadly different in that region today, those same soldiers remain in harm's way as I go out recreating once again this year. I resolve to be as mindful of them and thankful for them this time around as I was in March, 2003.

Posted by dan at March 11, 2005 10:23 PM