April 1, 2013
Much like last weekend, the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament were full of drama and surprises.
The Cinderella story of Florida Gulf Coast was halted by the Gators, who advanced to the Elite Eight for the third consecutive year. However, Florida was packing their bags a couple days later after being routed by Michigan 79-59.
With the win, Michigan won the South Region and emerged as a real contender after beating number one, Kansas, in an overtime thriller on Friday night. The Wolverines will face Syracuse, who won the East Region after upsetting the number one Indiana Hoosiers in the Sweet Sixteen, followed by a blowout 55-39 win over Marquette.
The sole remaining top seed, Louisville, will face number nine Wichita State next Saturday, in a battle for a spot in the championship game on April 8. Louisville has remained a favorite to win throughout, but was thrust further into the spotlight Sunday, when sophomore guard Kevin Ware broke his leg on the court during the Elite Eight matchup against the Duke Blue Devils.
Despite reports that his bone was sticking out of his shin, Ware told his teammates, “I’m fine, just win the game.”
His teammates delivered, breaking away in the second half to silence Duke, 85-63.
While the Cardinals now have an emotional push, the Wichita State Shockers have been just that–shocking–in this year’s tournament. They made history when they ousted number two, Ohio State, in the Elite Eight to become just the fifth team seeded nine or lower ever to reach the Final Four. The only two teams to do it in recent memory were local Cinderella stories: George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011.
By next Monday we will have a national championship, but for now we can only speculate what will happen. Only three times in the past twenty-eight years has a team seeded lower than three won the National Championship—will history be repeated, or made? If the tournament so far has been any indication, anything could happen.
After a heartbreaking end to the 2012 season, the Nationals and their fans are ready for a fresh start.
The Nats’ 2013 season begins a little after one p.m. today against division opponent the Miami Marlins. After winning 98 games, the Nats won the National League East, while the Marlins finished last—a feat they are expected to repeat.
Stephen Strasburg will take the mound, and unlike last year has no restraints–no limit to the number of innings he can pitch or games he can play. If the Nationals make it to the playoffs or beyond (both ESPN and Sports Illustrated have predicted them to win the World Series)—Strasburg will be right there with them.
The game will be a test to Strasburg, who told reporters he has not yet gone over seven innings in his major league career, and admitted, “The hitters change their approach later in the game. It’s going to be interesting to see how the game changes in the later innings when you’re out there, because I still haven’t experienced that yet.”
Strasburg, Harper Have Strong Season Debut
Opening Day this year fell on April Fool’s Day, but the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday was no joke.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Nationals Park, Stephen Strasburg made a strong impression by pitching seven scoreless innings in his season debut. The twenty-four-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits, at one point retiring nineteen batters in a row.
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, picked up right where he left off, launching two long homeruns off starter Ricky Nolasco in his first two at bats. The two runs were the only ones of the game, but were enough to lift the Nationals to their first of what may turn into many, many wins.
It is huge turnaround for a team that before last year was used to one-hundred loss seasons and could barely fill seats. Third basemen Ryan Zimmerman told reporters yesterday that the turnaround is exciting for everyone, adding, “You want to be a part of a team that has a city behind it.”