When all four #1 seeds advanced to San Antonio for this weekend’s action there was a buzz and promise of excitement and competitive, if not spectacular, ballgames.
We’re still waiting.
Memphis blew out UCLA and Kansas crushed North Carolina on Saturday to set up Monday night’s championship game. What the games lacked in drama they made up for in their lack of competitiveness.
Memphis completely dominated their game against UCLA. Grabbing an early lead they kept up the pressure and never allowed UCLA to make a serious threat. UCLA’s approach to playing great defense and controlling the tempo never had a chance against the superior athleticism of Memphis and the Tigers never let up on the accelerator. Much credit to Memphis coach John Calipari for a terrific game plan. More credit for recruiting Chris Douglas-Roberts, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey to allow for that game plan and to execute it.
In the nightcap Kansas came out and just punched UNC in the face at the opening tip. Getting lay-up after lay-up and numerous uncontested runs at the basket the Jayhawks rolled to a 40-12 lead over the Tar Heels at one point in the first half. With 7:32 left in that first half CBS color analyst Billy Packer declared the ballgame ‘over’.
That declaration was a bit premature as North Carolina did come out possessed in the 2nd half and at one time cut the Jayhawk lead to 4 points. But it took everything out of Carolina to get the game that close and the Jayhawks dominated the last 10 minutes of play like they dominated the first ten minutes and ultimately walked off with a shockingly easy 18-point win over a team that looked nearly flawless during their previous 4 tournament wins.
That sets up an interesting match-up Monday night to see who cuts down the nets in San Antonio. Kansas opened as a 1½-point favorite Saturday night. Overnight the line went from Kansas as a 1 ½ point favorite to Memphis being favored by two points.
Kansas has the athletes and the quickness to play with Memphis. They had that in spades Saturday night. They also are fundamentally sound. I can see Kansas keeping the championship game close and perhaps exposing the Achilles heel of Memphis at the free throw line. Rose will give Kansas fits like he does everyone else. But if they can somehow keep Rose in check the Jayhawks are the pick.
Brown probably feels like that clock is running at warp speed because looking at the Cavs today one can’t help but feel injuries and the deadline trade that turned over half their roster have this squad in disarray.
The Cavs have blown large leads in each of their last two losses. Thursday night at ‘The Q’ they let a 17-point lead against the Bulls evaporate and turn into a demoralizing loss. Saturday afternoon they took an 8-point lead into halftime only to watch Orlando dominate the second half of the game and win going away 101-86.
Maybe they are just on cruise control. They have a two game led over Washington with five to play for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and are currently set to face the Wizards as the home team in that potential opening series. And maybe they are just trying to get some tweaking done for that playoff run as they look to get people healthy. But they certainly aren’t building any confidence in their fans that they’re set up for another magical run through the playoffs.
Disarray or just getting started? You be the judge.
After winning their first two ballgames against the White Sox in Cleveland the Indians dropped the series finale to Chicago and picked right up in Oakland where the lost the first two games of that series before scratching out an ugly 2-1 win Sunday afternoon. Also on the bright side Sunday Cliff Lee looked very good in his first outing of the season.
They say that early in the season the pitching is typically ahead of the hitting. That certainly applies to the Indians bats of late but apparently a couple of their pitchers, namely last year’s Cy Young winner CC Sabathia, didn’t get the memo. Sabathia has looked far more like former Mariner and 19 game loser Matt Young than Cy Young thus far on the season as he sits winless after two mediocre starts.
Sabathia will be fine. His track record and stuff is too much to ignore. But he’ll look a lot better when the bats are included with the rest of the equipment. The Indian aren’t getting many big hits right now. In fact, they’re not getting that many hits in general. Ryan Garko and Grady Sizemore are hitting the ball well to start the 2008 campaign but that’s about where it ends. Travis Hafner is on a Rob Deer pace in regard to strikeouts and the next hit the Indians get from their left field platoon of Jason Michaels and David Dellucci will be the first one of the season.
The struggles of Hafner, Dellucci, Jhonny Peralta, Sabathia, Paul Byrd and a number of others has made for white-knuckle time on the TCF boards. Never mind that we’re just a week deep, some fans want scalps. They’re ready to clear the decks and get guys in here who can actually play. The problem is that right now you’d need a wholesale transfusion as opposed to just surgically removing some dead tissue.
Give it time folks. The good news is Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook and Lee all pitched extremely well. How some fans can believe the Cavs are just getting their house in order while playing miserably but won’t allow a team that was a game away from the World Series last year (and one with solid pitching top to bottom) the same benefit of the doubt is mind-boggling. But no one said we’re rational when it comes to our sports teams.
Meanwhile, the Cavs get the Nets at home Wednesday and then head to Chicago for yet another game with the Bulls on Friday.