"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

MARCH MADNESS AND TIGER MANIA

It's not often that the Final Four takes second stage, or at least shares the limelight. But when the most dominant athlete of a generation announces his intention to return to action at the golf's premier event, there's little surprise that Tiger Woods' proclamation that he intends to play in next week's Master's tournament attracted a lot of attention. It just speaks to his appeal that almost seven years removed from his last major championship that he garners that kind of exposure from the media during a high weekend event such as the NCAA basketball championship.

The real story, however is whether the the 38 - 0 Kentucky Wildcats can continue their historic run to perfection, They've already set the record for consecutive wins to begin a season. Only Wisconsin and  possibly the winner of the Duke - Michigan State game stand in the way. But two other teams have entered the Final Four undefeated since 1976, and both left unfulfilled. Interestingly enough, Michigan State beat Indiana State in the 1979 final and Duke shocked UNLV in the 1991 semifinals. Of course, those games were a long time ago, but one person involved in the second of those contests is still on the Duke bench, and that's long time coach Mike Krzyzewski. He won't have to concern himself with Kentucky until Monday, if the Wildcats can survive another game.

(1) Duke vs. (7) Michigan State: With big man Jahlil Okafor surrounded by sharpshooters that combine to make Duke the third best percentage shooting team in the nation, Duke offers a formidable opponent for Michigan State. The Spartans are the only Cinderella, if you can call them that considering the number of people who had them bracketed into the Final Four, still alive in the tournament. In what I think is the most important game that Michigan State played, they jumped out on Virginia, another ACC team and never really let Cavaliers play their game. The only losses for the Spartans in their last ten games have been to fellow Big Ten and Final Four team Wisconsin. Duke's only losses in its last twenty-one contests have been to Elite Eight Notre Dame. It speaks volumes about how well both of these squads are playing at the right time in the season. Can Michigan State get to the final? No question about it, but Duke will make it difficult with their tough defense and outside shooting. I'm looking forward to the game to see which team can impose its will on the other. If the Spartans can do what they did against Virginia and get out running, they'll mitigate Duke's defensive advantage in the half court. At the end of the day, I'm leaning toward a Blue Devil win, possibly setting up an historic match-up between two storied programs: Kentucky and Duke.

(1) Kentucky vs. (1) Wisconsin: Can Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky validate his decision to return to the Badgers for another season by derailing Kentucky's run to history? Can the Wildcats bounce back after a last second win over Notre Dame, where they put up a sub-par performance? These teams met in last year's semifinals, with Kentucky escaping with a one point victory. I think what's really misrepresented is the experience that the Wildcats have on a team that most people feel is another John Calipari squad full of "one and done" players. But other than freshman Karl Anthony Towns, there are three sophomores and a junior, all of which played in last year's Final Four. Wisconsin, one of the few teams that can come close to matching Kentucky's size, won't be intimidated as they throw seven footer Kaminsky and 6'9" Sam Dekker into the mix. If Wisconsin's backcourt can handle Kentucky's tenacious defense and spread the court to open up passing lanes their big men, I think the Badgers have a great chance to pull out a win. If not, the Wildcats' pressure could lead to some easy baskets, making it a long night for Wisconsin. I have to stay with Kentucky to prevail, but it could be an all-time great game. I'm looking forward to it.

Tiger's Augusta Comeback: It's a little surprising that Tiger Woods decided to make his tournament debut following an injury induced absence by entering next week's Master's. He reportedly shot 74 in a practice round, convincing him that he was ready to contend for a fifth green jacket. There are very few writers that comment regularly on golf that have been bigger proponents for Tiger Woods than me. But I will state on this page that is impossible for him to win next week. Since Woods began his PGA career in 1996, I've thought very little was beyond his grasp when it came to accomplishments on the golf course. However, he's not only rusty from a tournament perspective, but the glaring weakness in his game when he tried to play in January and February was his play around the greens. Augusta National has always been a place where a solid short game is paramount. One bad decision or poorly executed shot around those lightning fast putting surfaces can literally cost a player multiple shots, not to mention a chance at victory. I sincerely hope that Tiger gets back on the tour and can compete in the majors, and most of all I hope I'm totally wrong about my assessment of his chances in next week's Master's.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.