2015 MLB Preview and NBA Notes

IT'S A JAM-PACKED HOLIDAY WEEKEND EDITION OF JIM SEZ

THERE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME GOODIES, AN MLB 2015 PREVIEW, PLUS NBA NEWS/NOTES TOO

Hey, remember the "good old days" of the NCAA Tournament Championship Game - back in the early-to-mid-1980s we had three major cliffhanger classic within a four-year period that included 2-point wins by N.C. State (1983) and Villanova (1985) and a 1-point win by North Carolina (1982).

Heck, if you're old enough to remember then you probably thought every NCAA Championship Game was gonna be a wire job but let's get up to speed here and remind you that since Duke edged Butler 61-59 back in the 2010 title game the next four consecutive championship games have been decided by 12, 8, 6 and 6 points with nary a buzzer-beater (or missed shot at the buzzer) among 'em.
So the $64,000 question now is this ...Are we "due" for a fight-to-the-finish type game come Monday Night?

Better yet, might we have overtime in our championship game future on this first Monday in April?

Just to let y'all know, there's been a grand total of seven NCAA Tournament Championship Games that have gone OT including that 1957 tilt that went three overtimes - North Carolina 54, Kansas (starring Wilt Chamberlain) 53. No other NCAA Tourney title game has ever gone multiple overtimes but in recent years we did witness Kansas 75, Memphis 68 in OT back in 2008 ... yes, John Calipari remembers that one only too well!

Finally, if you wish to track some championship game trends, then note that since 2000 there have been four different teams that have won multiple crowns including Duke (2001, 2010), Connecticut (2004, 2011 and 2014), North Carolina (2005 and 2009) and Florida (2006 and '07) and there's been 13 different schools that have lost in the championship game with aforementioned Butler (2010 and '11) and Kansas (2003 and 2012) each having lost a pair of title games since the start of the millennium.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers steamrolled their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and there's more on the way here in April with this weekend's Final Four and Monday's national championship game! Get in now on the final college hoop games of the year - just go online or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Hey, we're also banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month. And Baseball's back - the Major-League Baseball Opening Night is Sunday (St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs on ESPN) plus there's almost a full slate of games on the "real" Opening Day on Monday, so cash in right from the very start of this 2015 season!

MLB 2015 PREVIEW

Did you happen to get a chance to review Baseball's "over/under" wins totals for the year? Folks, right now there are 16 teams that fall somewhere between 81 and 87 wins on the over/under scale - think the oddsmakers expect a whole lot of parity this year? - while both the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are right at/around the 93-win mark but can someone please tell us the last time either one of these teams made it to a World Series?

Yikes. Okay, so here's how we see MLB 2015:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Put it this way: If the Nats don't win 90-plus games in this NL East then they have a real problem as both Miami and the New York Mets are trying to climb back up the ladder with some young superstars in Marlins' OF Giancarlo Stanton and Mets' rehabbed RHP Matt Harvey but both Philadelphia and Atlanta are brutal.

In the NL Central, let all the pundits get juiced up for these Chicago Cubs - yes slugger Kris Bryant will be up before you know it and probably a 30-dinger guy this year - but this is likely a 90-win St. Louis team and something tells us Pittsburgh isn't going away even with the loss of C Russell Martin (Toronto).

Out West, the Dodgers are the odds-on choice even though San Diego rebuilt its shoddy offense with loads of moves including the acquisition of OF Matt Kemp and why is everyone so quick to count out the every-other-year champion San Francisco Giants just because they had a miserable spring?

NL Division Champs - Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Cards - Pittsburgh and San Francisco
NL MVP - Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh
NL Cy Young - Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati
Manager of the Year - Bryan Price, Cincinnati

AMERICAN LEAGUE   

One year after the Kansas City Royals went from death's door in the AL wild card play-in game to 90 feet away from tying up Game 7 of the World Series, the questions pop up all around as to whether or not Ned Yost's club can make that long climb back and the quickie answer is they can ... but won't.

In other words, the Royals - considered to be no more than a .500 team this year by the aforementioned "over/under" wins folks - might surprise by making it back to the post-season with that glittery bullpen starring Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland but don't expect a second straight appearance in this year's Fall Classic.

In fact, look for the Royals to edge out the likes of the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox in an ever-so-close race in the AL Central.

In the AL East, it's a major toss-up who wins out here - if you believe in a worst-to-first-back-to-worst-back-to-first scenario than you believe in these Boston bats starring DH David Ortiz and LF Hanley Ramirez but both Baltimore and Toronto have better pitching and if you tell us right now that New York Yankees' starters RHP Masahiro Tanaka and LHP CC Sabathia are gonna give Joe Girardi's team 55-to-60-plus starts between 'em then the pinstripers could be playoff-bound after back-to-back dry years.

In the AL West, everyone's hootin' and hollerin' about these Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels but did you happen to notice the totally rebuilt Oakland A's won more games this spring than anyone in the bigs ... just sayin'!

AL Division Champs - Toronto, Kansas City and Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Cards - Baltimore and Oakland
AL MVP - Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
AL Cy Young - Felix Hernandez, Seattle
Manager of the Year - Terry Francona, Cleveland

Our World Series Prediction - Los Angeles Dodgers over Toronto Blue Jays in 7

NBA NEWS & NOTES

Okay, so what were the odds at the start of this 2014-15 NBA season that the Atlanta Hawks and the Golden State Warriors both would run away with regular-season conference titles?
Right, not very good at all and now as we play out the final two weeks if this NBA regular season, just how many people believe we'll see a Hawks vs. Warriors showdown in this June's NBA Finals?
Right, not many.

In fact, the Cleveland Cavaliers will head into this year's post-season as the overwhelming pick to get to this year's NBA Finals while you're already hearing a whole lot of chatter about the defending champion San Antonio Spurs even though they currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference standings ... wait, another LeBron James versus the Spurs showdown (that would be a third year in a row)!

In other NBA News & Notes ...

The battle for the #7 and #8 playoff seeds in the NBA's Eastern Conference remains a five-team chase for the two vacancies but nobody's attacking the challenge better than the Brooklyn Nets who headed into Friday's home game against the Toronto Raptors riding a five-game winning streak. The Nets have been one of the league's more enigmatic teams this season but C Brook Lopez has put up MVP-type numbers lately and - who knew - even Nets' head coach Lionel Hollins has been singing Lopez's praises after criticizing his big man for much of this current campaign.

Let's see if the knee injury suffered Thursday night by Miami G Dwyane Wade is a down-the-stretch detriment to a Heat club that entered the weekend with just 34 wins but tied for that eighth/final berth ...
Finally, don't sleep on the battle for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference where the Oklahoma City Thunder minus Kevin Durant hold a slight lead over the New Orleans Pelicans who streaked into Friday's game at Sacramento riding a three-game winning but did you realize that this club has four players averaging 14.7 ppg or more led by F Anthony Davis (24.6 ppg) who gets no mention when it comes to this year's MVP race - but he should!

NOTE: Catch our NCAA Tournament game wrap-up plus lots more in this next edition of Jim Sez, so don't miss out!

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