Going into tonight's NCAA championship basketball game, it seemed the Duke Blue Devils were in a no-win situation. Not on the basketball floor, but in the rooting interest of the casual fan, or the television network trying to draw in the casual fan. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's crew didn't get a shot at undefeated Kentucky, and now their title opponent was against the new darlings, the Wisconsin Badgers.
This wasn't Villanova-Georgetown in 1985—the Badgers were a number one seed just like Duke. Wisconsin won the Big Ten, the Big Ten tournament, and had only lost three games all year. This was a battle of heavyweights. Duke was the betting favorite, but Wisconsin was the giant killer. It was the proverbial irresistible force against the immovable object. Something had to give. Eventually.
In a first half that saw 13 lead changes, the game ended up tied 31-31 at the break. In half number two, the Badgers built a nine point lead before the Blue Devils came storming back. Duke took the late lead, made their free throws down the stretch, and won it 68-63. It's the fifth title for Krzyzewski (only John Wooden has more), the first Blue Devil championship since 2010, and the first time Duke ever beat a number one seed to do it.
Not speaking for the casual fan, but you got a sense that even though Kentucky was gone and there was no undefeated season at stake, and Wisconsin's hopes of an 'upset' were dashed, people had to be pleased that they spent the three hours or so to watch this game. The game was entertaining (maybe not quite as good as the 2010 win over Butler), Krzyzewski is a class coach, and the players handled themselves well in their celebration.
In a tournament that saw few upsets after the first day (except for undefeated Kentucky taken down in the Final Four by Wisconsin), it seemed the feeling was that the 2015 edition of March Madness was one of the good ones. Just one 'shining moment' after another.
Coach's code: In the post game interview with CBS' Tracy Wolfson, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said it was too bad the game was so physical. "It was just a situation where you just have to be able to handle all the hands and the checking”, Ryan said. “I mean there was more body contact in this game than any game we played all year.” Translation? The officiating stunk. “It's just a shame that it had to be played that way”, Ryan concluded.
Baseball begins: Working today, and still not knowing the final score of the Dodger game (I'm going to watch it now, but I was told they won), not too many opening observations to share. It seemed a lot of aces struggled, though—Jon Lester last night, Masahiro Tanaka, Cole Hamels, and Max Scherzer this morning. Clayton Kershaw gave up a run in the first inning, but I was able to avoid finding out more than that.
Rangers reel in Bass: It looked like three former Gold Sox were going to start the season in Triple-A, but Anthony Bass broke the barrier and made Texas' 25-man roster. Bass had a decent spring except for a start indoors in San Antonio when the Dodgers got to him for eight runs. Max Stassi (Houston) will be at Triple-A Fresno, and Curtis Partch (Giants) will begin at Sacramento. Bass' Rangers, incidentally, are opening in Oakland tonight.
Big league opponents: While the Gold Sox have one player in the bigs, by our count, six former Gold Sox opponents open the 2015 season in the majors. They are C.J. Cron (Angels), Doug Fister (Nationals), Matt Garza (Brewers), Kristopher Negron (Reds), Bud Norris (Orioles), and Joc Pederson (Dodgers). Also, David Hernandez (Diamondbacks) is on the 15-day disabled list. Kevin Frandsen was released by Washington last week.