Like we try to do at least once a month here at the Bay Area Sports Journal, we wanted to take a look around the sports world, beyond what's happening just here in the Bay Area. With MLB baseball underway, the NCAA tournament just finished and the NFL draft and NBA playoffs just around the corner, their is certainly no shortage of topics to discuss.
MLB: We'll start in the MLB, where the season is barely a week old, and a few surprises have stuck out early. A few of the teams that are off to the hottest starts, are the teams that a lot of people had finishing in the cellar of their division. Perhaps the most impressive of all have been the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. Both are stocked with young talent, but neither looked to have much of a shot in the tough AL East, but they are off to terrific starts. In the AL Central, the Royals are atop early with a 5-1 record as they're finally getting some production from Alex Gordon and the rest of that young roster. The AL West holds Baseball's only undefeated team in the reigning AL Champion Texas Rangers, also a team that not a lot of people were expecting to strive like they have, even after their World Series appearance last fall. Over in the NL, things are a little more to script, with the Phills on top in East, Cinci in the Central and the Rockies taking the early lead in a struggling NL West. Much like in 2010, it looks 2011 could have some playoff teams that surprise you.
NCAA Basketball: We'll move onto NCAA hoops, where I'll admit, I didn't get into as much as I have in years past. I was so focused on spring training and the leading up the 2011 MLB season to put much stock into the tourney, but I did watch some of that National Championship game, in which Connecticut dominated with defense. UConn was the clear-cut favorites, but Butler hung in there in the first half. But in the 2nd half, the Huskies pulled away, getting good performances out of their star, Kemba Walker (16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists) and sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi (11 pts, 11 boards) and ended Butler's Cinderella story.
NBA: Like with the NCAA Tourney, I haven't been nearly as focused on the NBA as I have with baseball and football, but it's almost playoff time, and that's going to change. The Spurs and the Bulls are the top teams from their respective conferences, record-wise at least, but I don't think those two will necessarily be representing the East and West in the Finals. The Spurs aren't the league's youngest team, and they are dealing with some health issues. Tim Duncan is battling nagging injuries that have tremendously cut into his production this season, and I just don't know if they'll beat the Lakers in a best of 7. If LA gets knocked out before the Spurs would have to face them, then I think they can pull it off, but LA is the one team that can stop them, I believe. In the East, the Bulls have the record, the Heat have the talent and Boston has the experience. So they have 3 teams with a legit shot. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on a 2010 repeat or Boston vs. LA.
NFL: We'll finish up with the NFL today, where there just hasn't been much to talk about, unless you really like discussing Lockout terms and news, which I can't stand and won't do. With this lockout keeping teams from doing anything with current NFL players and free agents, the draft is about the only thing we get to focus on right now, and it's approaching quickly (April 28th). This is one of the oddest drafts in recent years, not only because of the lockout, but because there is such uncertainty surrounding the #1 pick. In years past, it's been pretty clear leading up to the draft, who would go #1, but right now, it really could be 1 of 6 or 7 players. The Panthers are a team with a lot of needs, but they just drafted Jimmy Clausen last year and I don't think they're ready to just cast him aside. I'm thinking they'll go defense or possibly grab star receiver A.J. Green. They could even trade down a few slots with a team who wants to ensure they get their pick of the litter at quarterback, like Arizona, Buffalo, Tennessee or Washington. If your into the NFL draft, then this is a site you'll want to be frequenting, because between now and April 28th, I'd say the NFL draft will get about 75% of our focus.