The sloppiness of play and the incessant over-coaching almost ruined the NCAA tournament for me.

Butler kept winning games, it seemed, by displaying better tackling form than their opponents, by hitting almost as many sternums as free throws. In the end, though, watching them beat a more-talented Florida team, watching Brad Stevens out-coach Billy Donovan, left you with one of those warm feelings in your stomach modern-day sport too infrequently provides.

VCU looked to me to be a product of the bracket’s modern-day mediocrity - until VCU simply out-hustled and outplayed a far superior Kansas team on Sunday. If those teams played a seven-game series, VCU might win one or two games. In a sudden-death format, their fierceness and fearlessness caused Kansas to choke.

Which wasn’t pretty. The Jayhawks didn’t make free throws, didn’t handle stress, didn’t handle the press, didn’t hit open jumpers, didn’t finish near the rim.

My Final Four was Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Florida. I thought in a mediocre bracket, talent and experienced coaching would pay off, and I, of course, was way off. UConn and Kentucky fit that profile to a degree but both fit better into the modern sports template for champions - teams that are not necessarily the best in their sport, but those that peak near the end of the season.

The Packers weren’t the best team in the NFL during the regular season. They won the Super Bowl.

The Giants weren’t the best team in their league. They won the World Series.

The Blackhawks weren’t the most talented or the best regular-season team. They won the Cup.

The Lakers...ok, well, in basketball, there are so many possessions in a postseason that it’s hard for true upsets to occur in the later rounds. You almost have to be the best team to win it all. Then again, the Lakers barely care about the regular season and turn it on in time to win the title, which is a variation on the same theme.

VCU and Butler are not two of the four best teams in college basketball. That’s not to say they didn’t earn their berths. They did. And they did it by out-hustling more talented teams.


I leave for Toronto on Wednesday, to get in place for the Twins’ final workout before their first game on Friday.

Some of my colleagues have expressed dismay at the Twins’ final roster moves. Mr. Reusse noted that the Twins put their third-best starter (Kevin Slowey) in the bullpen, left their best righthanded pinch-hitter (Luke Hughes) off the roster and will use the recovering Joe Nathan instead of the very capable Matt Capps as their closer.

While I don’t completely disagree with this assessment, I just place less stock in the opening-day roster and assignments than most people do. I actually think the Twins are in a position of strength with Slowey - much like last year, when Brian Duensing started the year as a valuable reliever and became a key starter. Slowey could be invaluable in the pen, and he provides insurance to the rotation.

I think Hughes, if he performs in Class AAA, will wind up with plenty of days in the big leagues this year. And while I think it would be safer to start the season with Capps as the closer, you have to understand how much the Twins have invested in Nathan, as a leader as well as a player. They feel obligated to give him back his job if he’s healthy, and while that may seem ridiculous in the short run, if he can handle the ninth inning, suddenly the Twins’ bullpen could look very deep, with Capps handling the eighth and Mijares the seventh.


Upcoming: Covered the Wolves-Celtics game on Sunday night, and wrote for the paper about the differences between unharnessed talent and, well, Kevin Garnett.

Boston coach Doc Rivers - I love this - wore Celtics shamrock cuff-links with his suit.

I can’t wait for the baseball season to start.



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One of ours coaches the Princeton basketball team

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A strange place for Opening Day