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Spring Starts in Two Weeks, but Spring Training is Already Here

By Bo Light
Associate Sports Editor

Okay, no one is undefeated in college basketball anymore. UMass seemed to have an easy road to 290, but the Minutemen dropped an easy game to George Washington last weekend, dropping them all the way to number two in the AP poll.

Is this the wake-up call the Minutemen need in order to avoid a similar letdown in the tournament?Don't count on it. Yes, a late-season loss often helps a good team refocus on playing hard, but UMass has had enough scares against lesser teams during this season (anybody remember Xavier?) that if they haven't gotten it together by now, they never will. Don't bet on the Minutemen to make the Final Four.

And speaking of the Final Four, only one short week remains until tournament time! As we head into Selection Sunday, the Big East is the conference to watch, with six teams that could make it to the post-season.

Kentucky, the number one team in the country, will obviously be a top seed, but, surprisingly enough, not in the Southeast. Why? The Southeast semi-finals and finals are being held in Rupp Arena, and the Wildcats won't be allowed home court advantage in the regionals. Kind of silly, isn't it?

Look for the Wildcats to be the top seed in the Midwest, and for Big Ten champ Purdue to be number one in the Southeast. UMass should be tops in the East, while UConn will have an easy road to the Final Four with the first seed in the West.

Who's going to win? Well, we've already ruled out UMass. If you want to know more, tune in Tuesday for the special EA Sports NCAA Tournament Preview Spectacular, featuring all the insight, predictions, and capitalized words you could ever want in a tournament preview.

Which top seeds will be eliminated early? (Hint: see above.) Which sleeper team will make it to the Final Four? (Hint: Bill Clinton's alma mater.) Will a sixteenth seed win a game this year? (Hint: No.) Pick up Tuesday's issue, and all will be revealed.

On The Ice

How about those New Jersey Devils? The defending Stanley Cup Champions spent most of the season playing bad offense and bad defense, and only another stellar season from goalie Martin Brodeur has kept the Devils out of the Atlantic Division basement. The Devils still have no offense (only Ottawa has scored fewer goals), but the defense has come around (only Detroit has given up fewer goals), and New Jersey is slowly securing a spot in the playoffs. Sure, they're in eighth now, but fifth-place Washington is only three points away, with almost 20 games left. Remember, the Devils were a fifth seed last year.

Don't look for a repeat from New Jersey, though. For that matter, don't expect the resurgent Rangers or the amazing Florida Panthers to take home the Cup, either. It's been said before, but this is finally the year for the Detroit Red Wings. Sure, they were humiliated in the finals last year, and everybody thinks the Eastern Conference is dominant (well, Sports Illustrated thinks so anyway), but how can you argue with a team that could score over 130 points this season?

The Wings have it all: offensive stars (Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Paul Coffey, etc.), defense (only 140 goals allowed through 63 games), big men (Keith Primeau, the poor man's Eric Lindros), and goaltending (Chris Osgood, who finally won the starting job from Mike Vernon earlier this season). They are the complete package, and this year, Lord Stanley's Cup will finally return to the Motor City.

The Batter's Box

Hey kids, guess what time it is? That's right, it's spring training time (and spring itself is only two weeks away)! While you're busy slaving over problem sets and braving the elements on the Harvard Bridge, hundreds of guys who can't do anything more spectacular than catch a ball are spending the month in Florida and Arizona, doing push-ups and searching the stores for SPF 10 suntan oil. They're making more money than you will, too.

Next week, we begin the countdown to Opening Day with the American League Preview.

Trivia Question

Name the last Big East team to win the NCAA basketball tournament. Send your answers, along with comments and applications to the Tournament Selection Committee, to easports@the-tech.mit.edu.

Answer to the last question: the last undefeated college basketball team was in fact five years ago, not 20 as had been stated (oops). The Runnin' Rebels of UNLV rode an undefeated season all the way to the Final Four in 1991, when their dreams of repeating as NCAA champs were shattered by the team everyone loves to hate, Duke.