March Madness Preview: In two weeks, we'll have our bracket sheets, trying to figure out how to beat that one person who always seems to come out on top in the most popular office pool of the year. I don't usually fare very well in the pool as a whole, but I have a pretty good record of picking the winner. If not, I always get at least one team in the final. In looking back, I figured out why that is. Since 1967, every winner but one has come from current members of the six power conferences. You can certainly argue as to why that is, but the fact remains that for every VCU, George Mason and UNC-Charlotte that works their way to the Final Four, there are ten third or fourth place teams from the power conferences that have achieved the same feat. So rule #1 is to pick your winner from the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Pac 12 or Big 12. Because unless it's an unbelievable UNLV 1990 team, take a pass on any quote "mid-major' to take it all. I know, Gonzaga is ranked #1 this week, but that might last twenty-seven minutes, given the record of number one teams this season. And don't look now, but Duke has Brian Kelly back. Bring on the brackets!
How Can Anyone Doubt LeBron and the Heat? LeBron James is playing at an incredible level, supported by Dewayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier and Ray Allen. I've never understood why people had so much difficulty with LeBron leaving Cleveland to play with a team that has a chance to win a championship. He even took less money than he could have had elsewhere. LeBron gave Cleveland every chance to build a team around him. He fulfilled a seven year contract. He never held out, he never demanded a renegotiated deal and he took a team with virtually no talent other than him to the NBA finals. Now he plays unselfishly, makes those around him better and takes over games both offensively and defensively when needed. The Heat are on a 14 game winning streak at a point in the season when every team wants to begin rounding into form. They are in the process of delivering a message to the rest of the Eastern Conference that they better bring it on in order to compete with the Heat in a seven game series. A lot of so-called experts are looking at the Pacers as realistic challengers to the Heat. Really? I like the Pacers, but come on. Can they win four games in two weeks against the Heat? No way.
Don't Look Now, But Here Come the Lakers: The Lakers squeaked by the Hawks on Sunday to get back to .500 for the first time since December. They're now only 2 1/2 games behind the two teams tied for 8th and only 3 games behind the 6th place team in the Western Conference. I think if the Lakers stay at least as healthy as they are now, they are going to make the playoffs. At some point, they might even get Pau Gasol back. Do you want your team to have to play a Lakers team with nothing left to lose in the playoffs? If you're the Spurs, who just lost Tony Parker, is that the matchup you want in the first round? I seriously doubt it. This Lakers team is only going to get better, and after winning 7 of their last 10 to even their record, that's a scary thought for the rest of the West. Especially with Kobe Bryant leading the way, perhaps at times even willing this team to victory.
Hockey Thoughts: My daughter, Amanda, is a big hockey fan and asked that I include some comments on that sport in my blog. Okay, here it goes. The Chicago Blackhawks are in the process of establishing an incredible record, currently posting at least a point in 22 games to start the season, and 28 games going back to the end of last season. Given the lockout-shortened season, could this team actually go without a loss? Obviously, that's highly unlikely if not impossible. But they haven't lost yet and the season is two games away from half-way. Just think about how amazing that would be. Oh well, it'll never happen. Or will it?