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Sequential Non-Sequiturs – Does This Proposition Entail My Dressing Up As Little Bo Peep?

March 22, 2012

In a writing format utilized by Larry King that inspired indifference and mockery, and then emulated by many to even lesser fanfare … I bring you the second series of what is certainly to be many Sequential Non-Sequiturs!

Let’s start with some housekeeping on what the NCAA wants me and all other writers to refer to as the “NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship”, but what I will continue to refer to informally as “March Madness”. Having digested last weekend and tried to make sense of the upcoming Sweet 16 games, I’ve arrived at the notion that this tournament is now officially (at least by my limited authority) Kentucky’s to lose.  A December last-second loss to Sweet 16 foe Indiana will assure their immediate attention does not stray beyond Friday night’s task, and while the Baylor-Xavier winner will be talented and tough enough to challenge the Wildcats, they will also be a decided underdog.  It’s also possible that if Kentucky books their trip to New Orleans as I expect, no other No. 1 seeds will be there waiting for them …

… Examining those other No. 1 seeds, Syracuse has surprised me by how well they’ve played without Fab Melo, but Wisconsin is a tough out, and potentially following that with the winner of the Battle of Ohio (Cincinnati-Ohio St) makes surviving the East Regional a daunting task. … Michigan State’s West Regional is filled with formidable teams heading to Phoenix on a roll, no team left there (No. 3 seed Marquette, No. 4 seed Louisville and No. 7 seed Florida) would surprise me by advancing to the Final Four … North Carolina looked every bit the part of a National Champion on Sunday until Creighton’s Ethan Wragge decided that a mid-air forearm shiver to point guard extraordinaire Kendall Marshall was a great idea, resulting in the most talked-about fractured scaphoid bone in NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship history. (Seriously, where was the flagrant foul call on that? Wragge never went for the ball and was barely looking at Marshall as he mauled him, which is how injuries happen, and which is why the current rules are in place to discourage such thuggery.  Peeves me that the refs let that slide.)  Marshall’s return for Friday’s game against Ohio was “undetermined” as of Wednesday night, and if he can’t play, I’m “undetermined” on whether the Tar Heels can get past the No. 13 seed without the nation’s assists leader and no experienced backup point guard, much less through the Kansas-North Carolina State winner to get to the Final Four …

… Speaking of Kansas, I can’t help but feel they’ve all but punched their South Regional winning ticket to New Orleans, having survived their Purdue encounter to face the No. 11 seed Wolfpack, and either a point guard-less UNC or the No. 13 seed Ohio. Credit to the Jayhawks for doing just enough to beat the No, 10 seed BoilerHummels, who you remember (if you watched) had it all in front of them, a 3-point lead, the ball, a hot hand in Robbie Hummel, a senior point guard and 1:44 until Kansas inevitably choked away another close game to a double digit seed .. and in a Jeremy-Irons-as-Claus-von-Bülowstyle reversal of fortune, unequivocally snatched defeat from the Jaws of Victory, allowing Kansas on the last three possessions to fast break dunk-breakaway layup-fast break dunk their way to the Sweet 16 … Xavier, much like Colorado and their “Buffalo Swooning” ways, won’t be able to fall behind by double digits against Baylor and get away with it like they did against Notre Dame and Lehigh … Consider me “not a fan” of the unis Cincinnati wore in their ugly-in-many-ways win over a Florida State squad who didn’t buy much rest for Leonard Hamilton’s critics with their performance … Florida surprised me with how easily they put away Norfolk State, but not with how well they are playing, winning last weekend by an average margin of 30 points/game.  Marquette should decrease that average winning margin substantially, but I still anticipate the Gators making a return trip to the Elite Eight … Ending this column’s swing through the state of Florida, congratulations to South Florida for winning two games in March Madness before bowing out to this year’s Cinderella Ohio, but I certainly won’t miss them or their style of play, making Ohio’s deliberate approach look like the Showtime Lakers …

… If I had to rate the remaining 16 teams left in the tournament (ahem, excuse me) the NCAA® Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Nos. 1 through 16, or “re-seed” them in effect based on their tourney play so far, I’d have it as follows: 1.) Kentucky; 2.) North Carolina; 3.) Ohio State; 4.) Michigan State; 5.) Florida; 6.) Marquette; 7.) Baylor; 8.) Syracuse; 9.) Wisconsin; 10.) Louisville; 11.) Indiana; 12.) Cincinnati; 13.) North Carolina State; 14.) Kansas; 15.) Xavier; and 16.) Ohio … which helps explain how tough the West Regional will be, and how unpredictable the South Regional could be …

… Elsewhere in the sporting planet, the Los Angels Lakers appear to stepped back into NBA Title contention with their trade for Ramon Sessions, who provides a big upgrade at the point guard position over Derek Fisher (younger, quicker and higher field-goal shooting and assist rates) without needing to change the dynamics of who controls the ball – that’s always going to be Kobe first and Kobe second … Thickening the plot is the acquisition of Fisher by Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City, providing a steady backup hand at point guard behind the kinetic but erratic Russell Westbrook.  “Fish” could certainly have the chance to haunt the Lakers deep in the playoffs … These two teams, along with the Spurs, have established themselves as the Western Conference “Haves” with roughly 20 games left in the lockout-truncated regular season, separated by six games in the overall standings, while the “Have-nots” (everyone else) are failing to create any meaningful separation among themselves, with No. 4 Memphis only six games ahead of No. 13 Golden State … The Eastern Conference appear to also be a three-team race, as Orlando – last week’s winners of the trade deadline frenzy just by holding onto Dwight Howard – aims to challenge front-runners Chicago (despite Monday’s 85-59 blowout loss to the Bulls) and Miami, while six “Have-nots” battle for five remaining playoff spots (ahead of six more “Never-had-its”) and especially the No. 4-5 seeds, in efforts to avoid the Eastern Conference “Haves” in the first round of the playoffs …

… The Peyton Manning Saga ended one chapter and began another with his signing by the Denver Broncos on Tuesday.  I’m fascinated that someone with fused vertebrae in his neck can still command a potential commitment of $96 Million, which in itself is a commentary on the overall depth of quality for NFL quarterbacking … Someone asked me recently if I thought Manning had “Brett Favre-like” drama potential, and at first I scoffed at the notion, but upon further review under the NFL instant-replay hood – a lost season, four neck surgeries, oft-contentious negotiations with the Indianapolis Colts that resulted in his release, a free agency tour that lasted longer than expected where Manning actually threw footballs in private workouts for three teams (Denver, San Francisco and Tennessee), and the Broncos signing that also abruptly ended the Denver Tim Tebow Era, all in the lens of lingering doubts over Manning’s prospects at being a.) healthy and b.) productive next season – I can see it … Apparently no hard feelings among other quarterbacks who were affected by waiting for the Peyton Manning domino to fall, as Tebow was quickly traded to the New York Jets (good luck with that Mark Sanchez), Alex Smith re-signed with San Francisco, and Arizona’s Kevin Kolb, who planned “on being a Cardinal for a long time” even before the Cards’ entry into the Manning Sweepstakes was rejected faster than Irwin M. Fletcher’s sweepstakes entry was cancelled by Ed McMahon, received his $7 Million roster bonus last Friday … NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell showed he was not messing around with the consequences for the New Orleans Saints’ tawdry pay-for-performance program now known as “Bountygate,” which will cost the Saints  Head Coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, their GM Mickey Loomis for half the season, two 2nd-Round draft picks, $500,000 in fines, and that’s before issuing penalties for the players who participated. While bounty schemes aren’t exactly a new phenomenon in any level of football, Goodell’s extensive punishments make a bold and necessary stand for the integrity of the game, as well as reminding the players they already receive ample compensation for their services in the post-2011 Lockout Era.  No argument here with the severity of it all, and no argument either on the idea that Goodell has replaced the NBA’s David Stern as the Capo Di Tutti Capo, the preeminent league commissioner in all of sports …

… Watched a bit of “Frozen Planet” last Sunday in my efforts to decompress from four days of wall-to-wall basketball and I have to say Alec Baldwin has a particular talent for narrating every scene as if he was describing the action at a singles resort in the Bahamas, what with penguins “flirting”, cod “multiplying” and polar bears “chilling out by the pool with Mai Tais” (no he didn’t actually say that last phrase, but he might as well have) …Every time I watch “Holmes Inspection” on HGTV I make a note to myself, which says “Don’t Buy A House in Canada” … Finally saw “The Perfect Storm” on late night cable a while back, and to me it was like watching a two-hour extended version of the scene in “Caddyshack” where the Bishop (portrayed by the great Henry Wilcoxon) played golf in a driving thunderstorm with caddy Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) and was struck by lightning, only without the comical “There is no God” rejoinder in the country club bar afterwards … and on that depressing note, Happy Belated Vernal Equinox!

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