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Madness and spring ball

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 11, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chris Jackson

Ah, you have to love this time of year.

No, not just because soon the average college student will be piss drunk somewhere other than Tucson, enjoying the week of debauchery known as spring break - but because of what this time means to sports.

March Madness and spring training. Is there a better time to be a sports fan in Arizona?

This year, the UA men's basketball team is gunning for another run at the national title when no one thought it would. A women's basketball team that looked dead in the water in January is doing quite fine and in its third straight NCAA Tournament. And then there are the local baseball teams: The team money could buy, the Diamondbacks, the team that can't pitch, the Rockies, and the team that can't do anything right, the White Sox.

Well, okay, so no one really cares about the White Sox anymore, but the rest is fairly exciting, right?

Can the UA men's basketball team go to the Final Four this year? Sure. Are they as good a team as last year? No, but the 1997 team wasn't as good as the '98 Wildcats, and look what they did.

Arizona's problems will fall on the shoulders of Ruben Douglas and Richard Jefferson. Jefferson, who's the second most quotable person on the Wildcats (anyone who's read a b-ball story this year knows it's the guy with the fro whom all the reporters love the most), is a good, intelligent player... sometimes. Douglas has suddenly come to life, and expect him to have the better tournament.

The one player who is a key and whom everyone thinks will do just fine is Michael Wright. But be warned, Wright can disappear in big games, and if he's up against any sort of Mark Madsen-like guy, watch out.

UA's opponents present some problems. Okay, fine. UA's gonna whip Oklahoma, but Lamar Odom of Rhode Island is the kind of guy no one person can guard. Like it or not, Mean Gene will see a lot of playing time in round two.

The Sweet 16 will be UA against one of the most overrated teams in the nation, Michigan State, led by the most overrated player in the nation, Mateen Cleaves. How he made first team All-American over Evan Eschmeyer is a mystery to one and all.

So UA can win those three games, but looming in the Elite-8 will most likely be either Kentucky, a team which always picks it up in the postseason, or Utah, whose triangle-and-two defense killed UA last year.

Root for Utah to make it. That would make revenge that much sweeter. But unfortunately, then would come the one team UA has no chance against: Duke. Final result: Arizona goes down in the Final Four 92-75.

As for the women, they'll beat Florida tomorrow, then comes a much tougher task against Rutgers on Sunday. It'll be close, as the Wildcats have never been blown out this year, but on the Scarlet Knights' home floor... that's too much to ask of this young UA team. Rutgers wins 74-69. Even if UA advanced, Texas Tech would eat the Wildcats for lunch in the Sweet 16.

Oh, yeah, and about baseball. Well, no Pirates fans are crying after Tony ".318 on-base percentage" Womack broke his wrist last week. The D-backs have seven starters who will bat .270, hit 20 homers and drive in 80 runs. A great pitching staff or not, that's not going to get Arizona into the postseason.

As for the Rockies... well, it's the same old thing. They can't pitch at home or hit on the road. Oh, Darryl Kile, you were such a fool to leave the cozy confines of the Astrodome.

And the White Sox, well, maybe they'll get some good prospects when they trade Frank Thomas to either Boston or Atlanta. The Braves with Thomas. My goodness, the Yankees may not be invincible after all.

See you at TEP or in front of a TV set.