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Some Final Thoughts on NCAA Basketball

Column by Mike Duffy
and Andrew Heitner

Sports Columnists

Before we jump in to the conclusion of our baseball previews, we have some final thoughts on college basketball. First, we would like to take time out to send our best wishes to Coach Jimmy Valvano in his battle against cancer. It was 10 years ago that Lorenzo Charles capped an incredible season for the N.C. State Wolfpack with his follow up jam versus Houston in the NCAA championship. Who can forget Jimmy V. frantically running the floor looking for someone to hug as the stunned Cougars looked on. Today, Coach V. still proves to be an inspiration to us all as he fights the battle of his life. Here's to you Coach.

Next, we would like all those critics out there to listen to themselves when they say Dean Smith is not a good coach. It started with Cincinnati's Nick Van Exel and continued throughout the Final Four (especially here in Boston). These `critics' point out that Smith has only won two national championships and that each of these were tainted (the `steal' and the phantom T), despite the fact that Smith had the likes of Wood, Jordan, Worthy, and Daugherty playing for him throughout his tenure. But they neglect to mention that he has made the Sweet 16 more times in a row than Boston College, UMass, and other the other New England teams combined have. They also don't mention the fact that Jordan and Worthy left college early, thus costing him another title. The man will end his tenure at Chapel Hill with more wins in the NCAA than any other coach in history and needs no more wins to guarantee his place in Springfield.

Thirdly, we would like to take time to say that it is a crock that head coaches are allowed to freely change teams (see Eddie Fogler at Vandy and Joby Wright at Miami, Ohio) when a better opportunity presents itself, while players must sit out at least a year when they want to make a school change. Coaches argue that players should choose a school on the basis of what the institution has to offer, not solely on a coach. If this is the case, why won't coaches release transfer-minded players from their letter of intent and let the players switch schools, thereby making the player sit out only a year, rather than hold them to it and make any player still wanting to make the change sit out two years. The most obvious situation arises when a school is placed on probation and the coach jumps ship and goes to another school (see Eddie Sutton). Meanwhile, the players must pay for the stupidity of the coaching staff and finish their careers in obscurity.

Lastly, it's about time for the NCAA to revise the college game slightly by moving the three point line further from the basket, from 19 feet, 9 inches to 21-9, the distance of the line in international play, and exactly in between the 19-9 in high school and 23-9 in the pros. The NCAA wisely introduced the trifecta six years ago to add excitement to the final minutes by allowing big comebacks, to increase the importance of the little man, and to open up the inside for the big men by stretching the defense thin. Now, however, the shot has become too easy for players at the college level (see Donald Williams' 10-for-14 shooting in the Final Four) and more of an offensive weapon than originally intended (see Rick Pitino and Kentucky). Moving the line back will still allow for "fantastic finishes," will open the floor even more for the big men, and, if college players get good enough at it, may someday allow the USA to field collegians in the Olympics again, as opposed to the sneaker salesmen they have now...

We round out our 1993 baseball preview with predictions for the American League West and National League East:

AL West

1. Chicago White Sox. A powerful lineup and quality pitching should bring the flag to the Second City. Look for powerhouse Frank "English Muffins" Thomas to have an all-star year slugging tape measure dingers, with Tim "Purple" Rainess setting the table and Lance "Baines" Johnson and Red Sox refugee Ellis Burks rounding out a solid outfield in the pastures of the New Komisky. Also, any pitching staff with Jack "Planet of the Apes" McDowell and Dave Stieb can carry a team if necessary for the whole season. Nevertheless, the Pale Hose will need a good year from Ozzie Guillen, especially on defense, to ensure the crown in a difficult division.

2. Kansas City Royals. Pitching should be good enough to keep KC in the race all season, but down the stretch, it will be the bats that come up short. The acquisition of David "Pine" Cone shores up a pitching staff that includes Mark Gubicza (coming off a shoulder injury last season) and reliever Jeff Montgomery. The defense up the middle is the best in the league with Chico Lind and Greg Gagne, and the outfield has speed in Brian McRae and Felix Jose. For power, however, the Royalty may want to consider following the Detroit Lions' example by extending an offer sheet to Derek Thomas.

3. Oakland A's. A good team overall, whose pitching and power will keep them in position should the top two falter. The pitching staff carries quality arms in Steve "Beer" Welch, Ron "Oh My" Darling, and there's no reason to believe that the controversial (in our minds anyway) AL MVP last year, Dennis "Two Batters" Eckersly, can't do the job from the pen. A lineup including Mark "McGwinn and" McGwire, Dave "Hondo" Henderson, and Ruben "Madre" Sierra should provide some long ball out in Alameda. Still, the Athletics lack defense and the rest of the pitching, especially Bobby "3.091" Witt, is suspect at best.

4. Texas Rangers. All stick and no glove leads to a repeat fourth place performance for the Ranglers. The sticks include Jose "Can You See" Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, and Juan Gonzalez, so balls should be jumping during those Sunday night games. Look for 21-year old Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez from the Island to become one of the best catchers in the AL. The acquisitions of Charlie "General" Liebrant and Tom Henke should merely offset the loss of Juan Guzman, and therefore not improve a weak staff much. Anticipation of the North Stars moving to Dallas next season should keep attendance low at Arlington for most of the season.

5. Seattle Mariners. Organ player's rendition of Nirvana's "Lithium" during the seventh inning stretch should account for an extra 5-7 wins at home for the Seattle men, but it will not be enough to lift Lou Pinella's club out of perpetual mediocrity. Ken Griffey Jr. will again display far more talent than his club deserves , and the bats of Edgar "I'll Have a Dry" Martinez and Jay Buhner will keep the ball bouncing around the Dome. Look for the Mariners to average more offense per game than the lowly Sea Doves.

6. Minnesota Twins. Now that Dave Winfield has a World Series ring, he will not be nearly as productive as last year, and the Twinkies will suffer from his strikeouts. Kirby "Union Gap" Puckett, who is finally getting recognition, will not contribute much either, in part because of his wise decision not to join the Red Sox. Scott "Leif" Erickson leads an underarmed pitching staff into battle in the dangerous confines of the Homerdome. Finally, the loss of Greg Gagne will hurt more than Tom Kelly thinks.

7. California Angels. There won't be much competition for the basement in the AL West for the Halos. Beyond the great pitching of Mark Langston and Chuck Finley, the boys from LaLa land have youth but little else. J.T. Snow is rumored to be a good prospect at first base. By mid-August, there won't be many fans at horrible Anaheim Stadium to scarf down the tofu dogs...

NL (L)East

1. Montreal Expos. The Expos will provide a reason for the locals to leave their house this summer. They boast the best young talent in the division, with Delino DeShields, Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, and Larry "Space" Walker. The pitching is equal, if not better, than that of any other team in this division, with Dennis "Shaken, not stirred" Martinez and Ken "Hamburger" Hill as the 1-2 men. Their closer is John "I'm in the" Wetteland (as soon as he recovers from breaking his toe), and he has talent. The only thing that could hurt the Expos is their youth, but they should have a big enough lead over the Mets that this won't pose a problem.

2. New York Mets. The Metropolitans have a strong pitching staff, when healthy, led by Brett "Light" Saberhagen, Dwight Gooden "'N Plenty", and Sid Fernandez. However, questions remain about Sid's shoulder and the health of closer John Franco in general. The lineup could be potent, with a rejuvenated Vince Coleman and an adapted Bobby Bonilla, but the defense will give up as many runs as they can.

3. Philadelphia Phillies. The key to the Phillies' season is Lenny "Poker Chip" Dykstra. When at full speed (no pun intended), the Phils are dangerous, but when nursing an injury, they are on par with the Sox. The rotation is lousy, as their two man, Danny Jackson, and the erratic Mitch Williams are proof of. Yet with the Sixers and Flyers for folks in Philadelphia to cheer for all winter, the Phils will provide competitiveness and hustle for the locals, which will be a pleasant surprise.

4. St. Louis Cardinals. The pitching is respectable, with Bob Tewksbury and Joe Magrane, and the offense is potentially dangerous. Brian "I looked over" Jordan, Ray Lankford, and Bernard Gilkey make up the second best outfield in the division, while the addition of Gregg Jefferies could provide some more punch. Still, there are too many questions remaining for us to place them higher.

5. Florida Marlins. Why not? The lineup has some well known names in Benito Santiago, Dave Magadan, and Walt "Miami" Weiss, while the pitching staff boasts the starter of the 1990 All Star game, Jack Armstrong, as well as Bryan Harvey. The fans will provide the enthusiasm, Orestes Destrade the power, and Nigel "1.00" Wilson the speed to carry the Marlins to fifth.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates. While Jim Leyland is the best manager in the league, even his hands are tied this year. The loss of Doug Drabek leaves the Bucs with a rotation of Zane Smith, Randy "Lily" Tomlin, and Bob "Intentional" Walk. The lineup has household names such as Kevin Young and Al Martin. While Leyland will work some magic for a while, as the August heat rolls in the Bucs will start to fade.

7. Chicago Cubs. Sorry, Harry, but the Cubs are going nowhere this year. With Shawon Dunston on the DL and Ryne Sandberg's broken hand still a problem, the Cubs have no `O' to speak of (aging vets such as Willie Wilson and Candy Maldonado won't do). The loss of Greg Maddux is a killer, so let's hope the beer is flowing nice and cold for the Bleacher Bums.

Bonehead Play Of The Week

The final minute of the NCAA Championship game provided enough fodder for this feature that we will be handing out four awards this week:

I. To Michigan's Ray Jackson whose foot was 2 inches over the three-point line when he buried his long distance J to bring the Wolves' down only 3 (72-69) with 46 seconds left. Had he made a three-pointer, Chris Webber's rebound hoop would have tied the game, the Wolverines would not have fouled, and awards III and IV would not have occurred.

II. To North Carolina's Brian Reese who stepped out of bounds with 45 seconds left following Jackson's jumper, turning the ball over to Michigan.

III. To referee Ed "Officer" Hightower for being the only one out of 65,000 people in the Superdome to miss Webber's walking violation after grabbing the rebound off of Sullivan's missed free throw.

IV. Because he's already getting so much flack we won't mention his name (but it rhymes with "This Schlebber"), for imitating Dicky V's with 11 seconds left, thus leaving the Wolves 1 loss away from being bowling partners with the Buffalo Bills...

You heard it here first

China will be awarded the 2000 Olympics. The communists in Beijing, smelling the green that comes from the television rights to the Games, have purchased 1 billion knee pads in preparation for the IOC visits. IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch is certainly not one to ignore a good kissing up to...

Race For Futility

Ottawa: 0-39-0 road

Mavs: 8-64

Rockies: 0-1

Dodgers: 1-1

The number of wins on the road for the Senators is equivalent to the number of days the school year should be extended by, while the Mavs magic number for futility history is at 10. The Rockies' win total is equivalent to the number of times Barbara Streisand will be singing the national anthem in Colorado, while the Dodgers get an appearance for losing to the Marlins in Florida's first game ever. Though not here yet, we expect the Red Sox to make their first appearance in a couple of weeks...

Globe gem of the week

Fan favorite Bob "Onion Ring" Ryan is back with a vengeance. Though he served up innumerable gems this week, space constraints (and space should never be constrained) permit us to submit only the following: "Suppose you decided to put the bambino to beddy-bye...the nattering nabobs of negativism can slice and dice..." Could he be referring to Shaugnessy or Ryan with a pizza or Steve Fainaru taking his daily nap in the Red Sox press box?

From our man in the Islands, Geno Torres `93, comes this list of has been Puerto Rican basketball players:

Pachin Vicens, Fufi Santori, Reymond Dalmau, Neftali Rivera, Hector Blondet, Ruben Rodriguez, Pepin Galarga, Charlie Bermudez, Roberto Balderas, Freddie Lugo, and Frankie Toruella...

Trivia question of the week

What baseball expansion team has the best overall winning percentage (including the original expansion teams in the year of 1961)? Send answers, comments, and baseball predictions to sports@the-tech. For Pat Moriarty, Atchinson, Kan., the fax number is (617) 258-8226.

Answer to last week's question: Jackie Robinson who won the award in 1947 (by the way there was only one award given out in 1947 and 1948). Kudos to Geno, Jonathan Sigman '95, and Frank DiFilippo G, who all got it right. They all win a free trip to the fantasy camp of their choice. For the Democrats: A week at Bill Clinton's "Pitch Like A Champ" camp. See tapes of opening day at Camden Yards for an example of how you, too, can throw after a week with Slick Willie. For the Republicans, a full two-and-a-half lame duck months at the Dan Quayle "Diddle the Hours Away" computer PGA Tour camp. Lessons are taught on IBM, Apple, or Nintendo computer systems, your choice. As a bonus, every Wednesday is karaoke night, and you can sing the National Anthem along with Roseanne Barr...

MIT TWIB notes

The men's lacrosse team fields a tough squad this year as Stephan Feldgoise G, Abe Udobot '95, Dylan Bruno '94, and Hyung Chang G lead the Beavers into battle. Come support them as they play their home games in Steinbrenner Stadium...

Good Luck to the Men's Volleyball team as they compete in the Division III regional tournament down in the state of Pa. this weekend. Danny Alvarez '93 and Juanito Ramos '93 provide the spark for the Techsters...