March 20, 2011
As the NFL scrambles to figure out a resolution to the lockout before it goes too far, sports fans are focusing on other things to get their minds off the possibility of a football-free fall – namely, March Madness. To me, March Madness is much more exciting than the NBA (at least until the playoffs start) and even more so if you have any sort of connection to the schools. With Maryland not even able to make it to the NIT this year, local universities Georgetown and George Mason were able to make it onto brackets nationwide. Unfortunately, both of their championship bids were short-lived with Georgetown losing in its first game and Mason dropping the ball on their chance at the Sweet. With Georgetown out early, the area’s focus and hopes went to Mason, the Fairfax school that made it to the Final Four in 2006. Despite a last minute, 4-point win against Villanova on Friday, the GM Patriots were no match for No. 1 seeded Ohio State on Sunday, getting blown away 98-66.
The biggest surprise of the tournament thus far has been the loss of No. 1 seed Pittsburgh to No. 8 Butler and VCU’s surprisingly dominant wins over No. 6 Georgetown and No. 3 Purdue. Aside from Pitt, the rest of the No. 1 seeds still remain: Ohio State, Kansas University and defending champion Duke. Who will win it all this year? Will it be a Cinderella story for VCU, who in recent years has made a surprising run for the title or another notch on Duke’s belt? As Maryland alum, I’m going for anyone that’s not a Blue Devil.
With the first day of spring newly behind us, it means that Opening Day can’t be far away. The Nationals kick off their season on March 31 at home with a match up against division rival Atlanta. The Nats go into the season with a few new faces and without some favorite ones: Phillie Jayson Werth penned a $126 million 7-year deal with Washington early in the off-season, replacing slugger Adam Dunn in the lineup. Rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg is expected to sit out most — if not all — of 2011 due to the Tommy John surgery he had at the end of last summer. The Nats perennially finish last in their division and have a chance to redeem themselves this season starting next Thursday. But with their questionable off-season moves, most noticeably, letting their best hitter go to Chicago and signing a 30-something outfielder with sub par numbers to an outrageous contract, I’m left wondering. Will the organization be able to breathe new life into the young but struggling franchise or is it poised to be dead on arrival.
While the Caps have come together as a formidable force in the latter part of the 2010-11 season, they have struggled with the loss of key players for multiple games, their most recent loss is their biggest yet–captain Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin will be out for 7-10 days, due to an undisclosed injury that has been plaguing the hockey star all season. The Caps play their first captain-less game tonight against the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers. While the loss of Ovechkin is no doubt upsetting, they can take comfort that he has placed them in a favorable spot: No. 1 in their division with only 9 games left in the season. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters he believes that Ovechkin’s absence will allow someone else to step up and show what they can do. “I think it says a lot for our depth and a lot for the ability for somebody else to step up,” Boudreau said. “Like I’ve said numerous times, when someone’s out, it gives somebody else an opportunity to get 20 minutes a game, probably more than they’ve played a while. It’s up to them – short-term – to take advantage of it.”
As their season nears its end, the Wizards (17-51) are three games shy of a 20-win season. In their last game, they were able to snap a six game losing streak in DC on Sunday with a 98-92 win over the New Jersey Nets. John Wall displayed why he’s a top contender for Rookie of the Year, putting up 26 points with eight assists and six rebounds. The Wizards’ usual lead scorer, Nick Young, was on the bench sitting out his third straight game due to a bruised left knee. Young is averaging a career high 17.7 PPG this season, but has been unable to collaborate with Wall enough to bring out a substantial number of wins this season. Young is doubtful for today’s game against the playoff hopeful Portland Trailblazers, whom the Wizards were able to defeat earlier this season on December 3. While the Wizards will go home at the end of the regular season, they have a chance to play spoiler to the Trailblazers tonight, who are trying to keep hold of their sixth-seed spot in the Western Conference. At just a half game ahead of New Orleans and 1 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-seed Memphis, tonight’s game against Washington could make or break Portland’s season.