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Time Out For Sports Talk: Talking Sox And College Hoops

TOST Question of the Week: Is this the best sports week of the year?

Todd: Given how much is going on I would say yes, although I suppose an argument could be made that without the No. 1 spectator sport (football) in the mix, this week should not be considered one of the tops on the sports calendar.

But think about it for a minute—you have the start of the MLB season and the Red Sox playing (and winning) their Fenway opener on a picture perfect spring day.  Factor in Boston’s surprising 5-2 start thanks to some strong pitching, timely hitting and a lot of hustle, and suddenly the faithful have reason to pay attention again.

Then add in the pinnacle week of the college sports schedule.  The Division I men’s basketball tournament brought us some truly great bracket-busting (and unfortunately some disgustingly leg-busting) storylines, like the appropriately named Shockers of Wichita State making their first Final Four appearance in five decades and the upstart Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast University, who became the first-ever 15th seed to reach the Sweet 16 (plus I can’t help but think of SNL’s obscure but hilarious ‘Jingleheimer Junction’ sketch every time I see the letters ‘FGCU’).  But in the end, the school everyone predicted to win did just that, as the Louisville Cardinals claimed their third title in school history and coach Rick Pitino won his second NCAA championship with a Kentucky-based school, much to the dismay of every hoops fan north of the Rhode Island border.

On Tuesday night, you have the intrigue of the women’s college basketball championship, as either Louisville will become the second D1 school to have both their men’s and women’s hoops teams win titles in the same year, or they will be stopped by the only school to have previously done it in UConn (2004), as coach Geno Auriemma attempts to improve his Huskies to a perfect 8-0 in championship games and in the process tie the Lady Vols of Tennessee for the most women’s hoop titles.

Later this week in Pittsburgh there’s the Frozen Four, featuring a very New England flavor with UMass-Lowell, Yale and Quinnipiac all vying to win their first D1 championship.  Of the three teams, the most improbable story belongs to the 26-10-2 River Hawks, who as recently as two years ago won a mere five games.  If that’s not amazing enough, as recently as nine games into this season UML was a mere 2-6-1 before getting white hot down the stretch to win their first-ever Hockey East regular season and tournament titles and reach their first-ever Frozen Four.

Oh yeah, and to cap off the week there’s the Masters.  Even if you’re generally not a fan of golf, how can you not be taken in the by the aura of Augusta National and that soothing music played throughout the TV broadcast?  Can Tiger Woods finally win that elusive fifth green jacket now that he is once again the top-ranked golfer in the world?

Mike, I’m sure you have a comment or two regarding at least the last two awesome April events I mentioned.

Mike: I sure do Todd, the Masters is one of my favorite events of the year! I just love the tradition, and it’s the only golf tournament I watch all year. And this year, there will be an especially compelling storyline as Tiger seems to be back and should be in the mix throughout the four days in Augusta.

As for the Frozen Four, I really am looking forward to it this year, as I will be jetting down to Pittsburgh to catch the games. I really don’t have a dog in the fight with the four teams on the agenda (though I am traveling with a UMass Lowell alum), but it is a great event even if you are just there as a neutral fan. It’s the third Frozen Four I’ve been to, and if it’s as good as the last one (2008-Denver), it should be quite a long weekend in the Steel City!

Before I wrap this up, I want to touch on the surprising start by the Red Sox. I’m really trying to keep it all in perspective, as it’s really just a very small sample in a very long season, but fans have to be optimistic with this start. It looks like Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have found their groove, both have looked very strong in their first outings this season, with Buchholz turning in a great performance in a pitchers’ duel against Baltimore on Opening Day at Fenway.

Like I said, it’s a long season, but it already seems like the bad feelings of last year’s pathetic campaign are fading away. This team might still be a little ways away from being a true World Series contender, but if the pattern of the first few games holds true, it’s going to be a fun summer with the Red Sox!

 

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