Fact Or Fiction?

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OUR JIM SEZ WEEKEND EDITION TACKLES A "FACT-OR-FICTION" THEME IN COLLEGE HOOPS, THE NBA & MLB

By Jim Hurley:

The NCAA Tournament will crown a new national champion come Monday night in Houston- and anyone who's thinking all the head coaches who prospered in this year's tourney will be "staying put" have another thing coming to them!

No doubt that Butler boss-man Brad Stevens has made it be known loud-and-clear that he plans on staying in this hoops hot-bed state with his beloved Bulldogs and- truth be told- Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart would likely love to stick around for another year or two with his Rams but the writing's on the wall that he is likely N.C. State-bound.

Dig a little deeper and you'll see the likes of Princeton's Sydney Johnson (a close-but-no-cigar 59-57 loser to Kentucky in opening-round NCAA Tournament play) and Marquette's Buzz Williams- who guided his club to a Sweet 16 berth before getting bopped by North Carolina- both are high on the list of many big-name schools looking to change head coaches this upcoming off season and here's a guess:

Johnson will get tempted by the expected vacancies at Mississippi State and/or South Florida but he'll stay put while Williams could well be entertaining thoughts of going out West where the Arizona State job soon might come available.

We'll get into some more College Basketball "Fact-or-Fiction" bits here in today's Jim Sez plus we'll weigh in on the NBA and MLB stuff too but first this key reminder

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get Monday night's NCAA Championship Game Winners - that's both the Side & the Totals- when you check in anytime after 1 p.m. ET game-day afternoon and don't forget there's a ton of Major-League Baseball and NBA games all weekend long. Check in after 11 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays for all the NBA/MLB action and after 1 p.m. Monday-thru-Friday for all the night action anytime after 10 a.m. ET. Don't just stop now that we've reached College Basketball's finest hour- go ahead and keep piling up all those profits right through the spring time with a reminder that the NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, April 16th.

IT'S FACT-OR-FICTION TIME

Let's continue on first with the world of College Basketball ...

  • Fact-or-Fiction ... The Big East wound up being one of the great "overrations" in recent sports history:

    Not exactly.

No doubt CBS/TNT studio host Charles Barkley made a living while deriding the Big East Conference in this year's NCAA Tournament- the league that sent 11 teams into this "Big Dance" entered Final Four weekend at 11-10 SU (straightup) and 9-12 ATS (against the spread) and that's certainly nothing to write home about- but how can anyone in their right mind claim the Big East was "overrated" when Connecticut (a #9 seed in last month's Big East mini-tournament) went this far while Marquette made it to the Sweet 16 and the likes of Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Cincinnati each won a tourney game. Maybe the Big East wasn't as good as advertised but we can think of some other power conferences that didn't do quite as well (see the always overrated Big 12).

  • Fact-or-Fiction ... The NIT results proved that Wichita State (and not Alabama, Colorado or Virginia Tech) was the team most overlooked on Selection Sunday.

    Fact!

The Shockers- who rolled through the NIT and beat the likes of V-Tech (in Blacksburg), Washington State and 'Bama had the goods to be picked as one of the NCAA Tournament's at-large teams but Wichita State (29-8 and 14-4 in the better-than-you-think Missouri Valley Conference) did indeed get "hosed" and offered yet another example why we said in these Jim Sez pages that the NCAA Tournament Committee should have placed 34 mid-major teams and 34 power conference teams in its 68-team field because the best of the mid-majors (e.g, Wichita State) were inherently better than those .500-type teams from the bigger leagues such as the likes of USC, Michigan State, etc.

Now, here's some NBA thoughts...

  • Fact-of-Fiction ... The Denver Nuggets (46-29 following Friday's 99-90 win at 5 ½-point underdog Sacramento) and/or the Portland Trail Blazers (45-32 following Friday's 98-91 home triumph/cover against 3-point dog Oklahoma City) have legitimate shots to get to this year's NBA Finals.

    Fact!

The new-look and newfangled Nuggets, in fact, may turn out to be the league's biggest/best story after trading away disgruntled super scorer Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks just prior to the late February trade deadline and now George Karl's club will enter Sunday's marquee matchup at the Los Angeles Lakers having won 14 of their 18 games in the post-Anthony Era. The Nuggets get out and go like past Denver teams in the Karl Era (and back in the days of Doug Moe ... remember him?) and suddenly this Mile High City club is tough to defend from baseline-to-baseline and there's just silly bench strength that could cause major problems for the likes of NBA Western Conference frontrunners San Antonio and the aforementioned LA Lakers. In terms of the T-Blazers, they've now won their last seven in a row at thee rollicking Rose Garden and star F LaMarcus Aldridge (32 points against Okie City on Friday night) has become an under-the-radar MVP candidate who shouldn't finish lower than fourth behind Chicago's Derrick Rose, the Lakers Kobe Bryant and Orlando's Dwight Howard. Hey, how about a Nuggets versus Blazers battle for the right to face the Eastern Conference champ this June? Now, that would shake up the pro hoops world!
  
And in MLB ...

  • Fact-or-Fiction ... There will be a "new king" in the Bay Area this year as the Oakland A's will win the AL West and the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants won't win the NL West.

    Pure fiction!

No doubt you've read- or are still reading- all the various Baseball publications out there and many of 'em have touted the good-pitch, no-hit Oakland A's as the vogue or chic pick to win the American League West this 2011 but we just don't see it. Okay, so the A's are banking on a young and talented starting rotation to steer Bob Geren's team into a divisional crown thus unseating the Texas Rangers but where exactly are the A's gonna get their offense (see 28th in the bigs in home runs last year and 25th in RBI) and what will it cost GM Billy Beane to acquire a big-time bat at/near the late July trade deadline?

On the flip side, the Giants' 0-2 start shouldn't get anyone rattled in San Fran- the pitching will be fine as evidenced by the season-opening gem by RHP Tim Lincecum -- and the Jints figure to score plenty of runs once they simply get out of Dodger Stadium where facing LHP Clayton Kershaw and RHP Chad Billingsley (the latter's our Jim Sez NL Cy Young Award winner for this current campaign) is hazardous to anyone's offensive health.

The forecast here: The A's will be a .500 team (Las Vegas placed Oakland at 83 ½ wins this year) and will miss out on the post-season altogether while the Giants will win 92 or 93 games when all's said and done (note that Las Vegas says 88 wins is their magic number) and snag the NL West but won't be repeating their World Series title. Go ahead and write it in stone, folks!

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