March Madness Central

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March Madness Central

Day 1 of the March Madness Tournament is in the books. Surprisingly, Im still smiling. I was 13-3 with my predictions. The biggest upset on Day1 was (12)VCU defeating (5) Wichita State (62-59). Overall the Big East had a very bad day. The Marquette Golden Eagles were sharp, but the other Big East teams, that played Thursday, appeared to be overrated. The NCAA Selection Committee should feel embarrassed after selecting nine Big East teams for the tournament.

In my opinion, the Big East looked like a big joke Thursday. The 1 seed in the East Region, Syracuse, trailed 16 seed UNC Asheville by 4 points at the half. Syracuse went on to win (72-65). Although 4 Louisville was never in serious trouble they beat 13 Davidson by only seven points. The Gonzaga Bulldogs crushed West Virginia by 23 points and (8) Iowa State spanked Connecticut (77-64). In other words, the Big East is not worthy of having nine teams in the Big Dance. My advice to the NCAA Selection committeecmon man, show the teams from the West some love! Whats up with the East Coast bias?

I admit I was way wrong

I picked West Virginia to upset Gonzaga. I thought this was a no brainer since the Mountaineers gave several Top 25 teams problems this year. I was way wrong! West Virginia did not belong on the same court as Gonzaga. The Bulldogs punished the Mountaineers 77-54.

Wofford hits the Bullseye

Thursday I picked (5)Wichita State vs (12)VCU as one of my games to watch. For the second straight year, Shaka Smarts VCU Rams are breaking opponents hearts. The Rams had a 9 point lead at the half. Wichita battled hard, but came up short. Everyone in the newsroom was standing around the TV watching this game. VCU will face the Indiana Hoosiers in the second round. That should be a good game. Hoosiers dominated New Mexico State from start to finish Thursday night.

BEST GAMES TO WATCH (FRIDAY)

(7)Saint Marys (27-5) vs (10) Purdue (21-12)

I dont want to see either of these teams lose, because I covered both teams in my career. Man, this is hard to do, but Im predicting the Boilermakers will get the victory. One thing is for sure, both teams are well coached.

Score Prediction: Purdue 62 Saint Marys 54

(8) Creigton(28-5) vs (9)Alabama (21-11)

All of my friends like Creighton. Sorry but I dont believe the hype. Alabama has been inconsistent this season. They need a big game from Senior JaMychal Green.

Score Prediction: Alabama 77 Creighton 72

HIT THE ROAD JACK! HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE!

(2) Duke (27-6) vs (15) Lehigh (26-7) Lehigh will feel pretty low when this game is over. Coach Ks Blue Devils are entering this tournament with an attitude. Duke has lost two of their last three games. One of those losses was by 18 points to North Carolina. Theyll take their frustration out on Lehigh Friday.

COULD AND SHOULD GET THE UPSET VICTORY

(6) San Diego State (26-7) vs (11) N.Carolina State (22-12) I made a horrible prediction in this category Thursday. This time Im going to get it right. You can quote me, NC State will beat San Diego State Friday. In their most recent game, NC State lost to North Carolina by 2 points. Thats all I need to know about this matchup. This game has upset written all over it.

HES GOT GAME!

Im picking three guys who should put up nice numbers Friday.

CJ Leslie 68, 209, Sophomore

He can score, rebound and hes extremely physical. If youre not ready to battle then you better stay away from CJ Leslie. He has scored at least 18 points in 7 of his last 8 games.

Robbie Hummel 68, 215 Senior

This kid refuses to quit. He has battled serious knee injuries in college, but Robbie keeps coming back for more basketball. Hes a great person with a huge heart. Hummel will score at least 20 points vs Saint Marys.

Austin Rivers 64, 200 Freshman

Doc Rivers son has never seen a shot he didnt like. Sometimes Austin shoots too much but he can hit the 3 from NBA range. Austin is a one and done type of player who is looking to put on a show. Look out!

Enjoy the games. My next blog will be posted Saturday morning.

For all the scores from Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament, click here.

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point over the last month, the Giants quietly stopped playing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the late innings of games they trail. 

It’s unclear exactly when it started, or who made the decision. A number of team employees, surveyed over the past week, had noticed. But nobody knew the exact details. Perhaps the longtime staple of AT&T Park was shelved on July 9, when FanGraphs dropped the playoff odds to 0.00 percent for the first time in a lost season. Maybe it was during a bad loss before that or a bad loss after that. You can take your pick. This season has been filled with so many of them it’s hard to keep track. 

Friday’s stood out, in part because this was the kind of night where Journey briefly made sense. The Giants gave Jeff Samardzija a 4-0 lead in the first inning against a Padres team that spent the early innings kicking and throwing the ball all over the field and making mistakes on the bases. It was 5-1 after three innings. By the sixth, the Padres had tied it. By the seventh, they had the lead. By the eighth, it was a three-run lead. 

Before the bottom of the eighth, the in-stadium crew played Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for a crowd of a few thousand. Last weekend, Huey Lewis was the fill-in for Journey. On Wednesday, a game the Giants actually came back to win, the scoreboard played a singalong game to “Happy Together” by The Turtles. 

On this night, the Giants actually would come back. Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth, tying the game and sending it into extras. The Giants had trailed by three with one out remaining, but the momentum provided by Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Gillaspie was just a blip. The Padres scored three in the 11th off George Kontos, who has pitched five times over the last eight days and was supposed to get a night to rest. 

Kontos was the last to give up runs in a 12-9 loss, but hardly the only one. Samardzija took blame after failing to get through five with a big early cushion. That put pressure on the tired bullpen, and the relievers blew it over and over again. The Padres scored runs in six consecutive innings at one point and had 20 hits. 

“We couldn’t stop them,” Bruce Bochy said, shaking his head. 

Nothing can apparently stop this skid. The Giants are 37-61 and six games behind the Padres. They are much closer to the No. 1 draft pick than they are to fourth place in their division. 

“Don’t Stop Believin’” survived the 2013 season. It survived 2015 and the second half of last year. Nothing can survive this season.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — A few hundred, maybe a few thousand, stayed to watch the Giants late Friday night. The Giants did not make it worth the effort. 

Conor Gillaspie’s two-out homer in the ninth sent the game to extras, but the Giants lost 12-9 in a game that lasted nearly five hours. The Giants had trailed by three with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. They tied it. Instead of carrying that momentum over, they suffered yet another demoralizing loss. 

They have dropped both games of this series and they trail the Padres -- who had 20 hits -- by six games in the race for fourth place. Those are facts. Here are five more, mostly from earlier, when a young man harbored dreams of leaving a ballpark before 1 a.m. … 

—- Hector Sanchez took Jeff Samardzija deep to lead off the fourth, and at this point it’s flat-out hilarious. Sanchez has seven homers this season and three have come against his former team. He hit two homers at AT&T Park in 296 plate appearances as a Giant, and the fourth-inning blast gave him three in 11 plate appearances as a Padre. He also doubled in a run and singled. It’s an all-time revenge tour. Just go along for the ride. 

—- There were a ton of scouts on hand to watch two starting pitchers who could move in the next 10 days, and they left disappointed. Trevor Cahill gave up six earned on seven hits and four walks and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. Jeff Samardzija gave up eight hits and five earned in 4 1/3 innings. 

—- I dunno man, it’s really hard getting to five of these every night. Sam Dyson was good again. 

—- Gillaspie's pinch-hit homer was the sixth of his career. He's a hero around these parts, but perhaps Bobby Evans should see if a team out there was watching Friday and remembers his October run. Gillaspie could help a contender. 

—- When MLB inevitably introduces a pitch clock and pitchers start complaining, this will be the game I tell them to sit down and try to watch start to finish.