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Mudville Offers Preview as Selection Sunday Nears

Column by David Berl
and Jeremy Cohen
Sports Columnists

While the beginning of March is usually a time when baseball fans are buzzing and the boys of summer are returning to the diamond, this year, it has a different feel. With Mike "enough" Aldrete batting cleanup in place of Ken Griffey Jr., we will not even dignify this ghost of the national pasttime with a response or a preview.

If you are truly curious about whether second baseman Billy "Norman" Bates can lead the Brewers to the pennant over Darryl Robinson and the Red Sox, we present you with two options: Ask Peter Gammons, who probably knows how many times Yankee pitcher Guillermo "don't call me Willie" Hernandez brushed his teeth last year, or get a real life, and pay attention to the greatest sport still existing - college hoops, which is now entering tournament weekend, otherwise known as a couch potatoes' dream come true.

To help guide you through the multitude of big tournaments, we offer the following preview.

We begin with the best conference top to bottom in recent college history, the ACC. This weekend's semifinal and final round in Charlotte may not be the last meeting for the conference's four strongest teams, as Wake Forest, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia all have a legitimate chance to make it to the Big Dance's Final Four.

This weekend, however, the Tar Heels should reign, as Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and the rest of Dean's boys will be looking to avenge recent losses to all the three other teams. The most recent loss, which came at the hands of the aformentioned Tim Duncan "Doughnuts" and the Deacons, cost Carolina sole possession of the regular season title, but the post-season tournaments will be much harder to wrestle away from Chapel Hill.

The Big East tournament usually has more surprises in store than the exchange market, unless one is viewing from the perspective of an inexperienced investor playing with $30 billion. Last year, the Providence Friars pulled off a miraculous upset, but Michael Smith is gone, and lightning rarely strikes twice.

The vote here is for the Connecticut Huskies to pull it together before tournament time, with Ray Allen and Deron Scheffer leading the way after disappointing regular season finishes.

The Southeastern conference is deeper than usual this year, with Alabama and Mississippi State having surprisingly strong campaigns. However, the cream of the Dixieland crop remains Arkansas and Kentucky, who should meet in the championship game on Sunday.

Although Kentucky has had the better season, Corliss Williamson and the Hogs are peaking at the right time, and should take the conference tournament once again. Both teams should make some noise in the tournament, even if the noise is the annoying, patently imbecilic chant of "Hog Suey."

The last major conference with a post-season tournament this weekend is the Big Eight. The most overlooked conference in the country has several impressive teams, not the least of which is a revitalized Oklahoma program that found out first hand what discarding an atrocious coach can do for a program. Although Kansas won the regular season title with an impressive win over Oklahoma State, the tide will turn back in the Cowboys' favor this weekend.

After all, there is only one Big Country in Big 8 Country, and Greg Oestertag is not his name. Take the R&R combination - no, not the rest and relaxation that everyone here needs, but Reeves and Rutheford, for the Big 8 title.

As an extra bonus to our loyal Iowa State following, we in Mudville would like to present our not-so-all-American awards rewarding those players who deserve far more attention than they actually receive.

Italian American #1: Alabama Center Antonio McDyessini. In the words of a New Orleans cab driver who shall go nameless, "He can flat out fly." McDyess is the latest heir to the throne of Crimson Tide thoroughbreds coached by the underachieving Wimp "Bread and Water" Sanderson. He is destined to fill the rather large footsteps of Latrell Sprewell and Robert Horry and become an NBA star upon shedding his Bible belt.

Italian American #2: DePaul Forward Tom Kleinschmidtoni. T.K., as he affectionately dubbed, has become something of a cult hero to midwestern basketball fans. He leads the Blue Demons in scoring, assists, rebounding and steals and is well on his way to Great Midwestern Conference Player of the Year honors. A probable first round pick, we in Mudville can only pray that if his basketball skills some day run sour, we can purchase a bratwurst and a cream puff from him in the stands at a Chicago Bears game.

Italian American #3: Wake Forest Forward Tim "High Up and" Duncanini.

Looming large in the ACC, Duncan and teammate Randolph "Child-less?" Childress have carried the ever improving Deamon Deacons to a 10th-place ranking in the national polls. Duncan hits over 59 percent of his field goals and leads his conference with 12.2 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots a contest. Only a sophomore, Duncan may well improve his title to Bold American #3 by 1997.

Italian American #4: Kentucky Guard Tony Delkoni. If the aforementioned hallowed yet nameless cab driver in New Orleans had offered his opinion on Tony Delk it may have sounded something like this: "He can flat out shoot." Delk has been absolutely outstanding this year, supplying the outside sharp shooting his Pitinoesque Kentucky team has needed to remain a powerhouse in the Southeastern Conference. Besides, in our all-Wildcat team of Daimon Stoudamire, Kerry Kittles, Jason Lawson, Rhoderick Rhodes and Delk, somebody has to shoot the ball.

Italian American #5: Iowa State Mr. Everything Fred Hoibergini. We in Mudville purport that the number on the back of Fred Hoiberg's uniform is in fact a model number, but inside sources tell us otherwise. Hoiberg has been truly machine-like this season, and behind his dead-eye aim Iowa State could surprise a few teams in the upcoming NCAA tournament. We hope our loyal Iowa State following is happy.

For those of you scoring at home (thank you ESPN's Keith Olberman), Texas Christian's Kurt Thomas, the nation's leader in both scoring and rebounding, would have been the sixth Italic American if time and space permitted.

Inside pitch

As the NBA season reaches the stretch run, the favorite topic of NBA conversation on every talk show in America is the NBA's three best centers: Hakeem, David, and Shaq. However, lost in this media hype about the superstars has been the amazing recent performance of the NBA's second tier of centers, which includes, but is not limited to the Pacers' Rik "Vanna, please let me buy a C" Smits, the Hornets' Alonzo "widow in" Mourning, and the Knicks' Patrick Ewing.

Smits has been a model of consistency this season, as the Pacers have been plagued by the Davis injury bug, which sidelined their best two rebounders, and the poor shooting of the usually dependable Reggie Miller.

Without the Dunking Dutchman, Larry Brown would be at his next job, Spike Lee would be looking forward to the playoffs this season, and the Pacers' would have less of a shot in the playoffs than Mario Andretti has at the Brickyard.

Mourning, who has led the Bees to a terrific campaign, has always been overshadowed by the bigger, stronger O'Neal. However, the fine-tuning of Alonzo's game has not gone unnoticed under Mudville's watchful eye.

Mourning's outside shot has become consistent, his ball handling skills are impressive, and his inside moves actually remind us of someone whose offensive game did not fall victim to the coaching of John Thompson.

Speaking of flourishing Hoyas, the best player in the league for the past month has been the rejuvenated Patrick Ewing, who is playing the best basketball of his career. Although it may have taken Ewing much longer to recover from the worst excuse for a basketball coach south of Jimmy Boeheim, he has taken the Knicks to a new level. If Ewing continues his play, Charles Oakley returns to form, and John Starks decides to ditch his yearly summer masonry job, then the Bricks may actually find their way back into the finals.

Then again, the other centers in the much improved Eastern Conference, including Orlando phenom Tree Rollins, may spoil Ewing's party.

Trivia

Though there were a multitude of correct answers to last week's question, the first two came from Steven Chan '95 and Ben Schaum '97.

However, the most enthusiastic response came from Matthew Congo '97, the self-proclaimed "biggest Connecticut fan on campus," who not only gave us the answer, but also provided us with a bit of nostalgia. Here is the call of Tate George's miraculous buzzer beater, as heard on WTIC radio:

"Burrell . . . one second left . . . fires a long inbound pass to Tate George (voice speeds up here), jumps, catches, spins, shoots, (buzzer heard in background) It's good! Oh, My!"

This week's question, also from the hardwood courts, defies our readers to tell us where the Dunking Dutchman, Rik Smits, played his college ball. Send answers to: bell@mit.edu.