State of Basketball?

I’ve said it before – March is here, and March equals madness. It’s the part of the year where nearly everyone you know will start saying weird things like, “Dayton might be an Elite 8 team,” or “I think Georgia State has got a real shot today,” or the always fun, “Have you seen Hampton, man? They’re pretty good.” Point being – unlike college football, where we just pen in “Alabama” as the champion – it seems like anything and everything can happen.

And while not as mad, March is a critical stretch in the NBA season where teams can solidify their grasp on a playoff position, or join the also-rans and look to the college draft, and hope for a better season next year. It was during this stretch that the Pelicans, while only going 8-7 in March, kept their heads above water, and showed the league that they were ready to make a run at the 2015 playoffs.

Not so for the 2016 playoffs. The frustrating Pelicans don’t need madness to make the playoffs this year, they need a March Miracle. The Pels (23-35) still sit, with 24 games left in the regular season, 5.5 games back of the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the Western conference (the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs). There’s still a lot of basketball to be played but, unfortunately for the Pelicans, they don’t just need the Rockets to falter, they are also chasing the Utah Jazz (28-30) and Sacramento Kings (24-33). All the while, the Pelicans are also trying to fend off the Denver Nuggets (23-36), who are only a half game behind New Orleans. So, it will be a tricky road for the Pelicans to get back into the playoffs, but that’s not to say it can’t be done. It just seems every time the Pels come out and look like contenders, as they did in their recent 123-119 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, they have a game where Anthony Davis gets hurt in the pre-game shootaround, and the team goes back to the drawing board. As the season edges closer to the homestretch, the Pelicans 1-11 start to the season will loom larger and larger.State of Basketball?

Anyway, enough about the pro ranks. It’s March, and guess who’s making a run to the tourney? No, honestly guess because, I’m not sure. At this point, it feels like it was a year ago (it was two weeks) when I was writing that unless LSU falls apart, they are a lock to get into the NCAA tournament. And then? LSU fell apart. Three losses in a row put LSU back on the outside looking in on the tournament field. More disturbingly were their two blowout losses to mediocre squads from Tennessee and Arkansas, which, at best, would be described as lackluster efforts. However, the Tigers did bounce back with a 96-91 victory over a decent Florida Gators squad, and will have a chance to bolster their resume with another victory over the Kentucky Wildcats. Then it’s on to the SEC tournament in Nashville, which will be a wide-open affair. As has been repeatedly shown at this point, the SEC tournament won’t be “Kentucky vs. everyone else.” This season’s tournament is ripe for the taking. A team, any team, just needs a few good bounces and the slightest of hot streaks and the automatic NCAA tournament berth could be theirs. So, LSU – especially with the big game emergence of Anthonio Blakeney – could be that team.

Even though their record is prettier at 22-7, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs’ name might not be called on Selection Sunday either. Our friends from Ruston have put together a solid season, even besting Ohio State, 82-74, in November. However, that victory has lost its shine as the season went on, as the Buckeyes might not make the tournament this year. The Bulldogs RPI rating of 123 is one the selection committee will frown upon, and the Bulldogs best option to make the tourney is to win Conference USA. Which isn’t a long shot – the Bulldogs will be the second seed in the conference tournament, and they’ve already beaten the top-seeded UAB Blazers once this season.

Spinning around the rest of the basketball dial, Louisiana’s basketball fans are met with some ho-hum (UL-Lafayette (15-12), and more than a dash of bad (Tulane (10-19), University of New Orleans (9-17), McNeese State (7-19), Southeastern Louisiana University (9-19), Northwestern State (8-17)).

The most interesting program could be the UL-Monroe Warhawks. March madness is all about who is hot at the right time, and the Warhawks fit the bill, currently riding a seven-game win-streak (the program’s longest win streak in 17 years). The Warhawks have clinched a double bye into the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference, and won 11 of their last 12 contests. An amazing run for a team that began the season 6-11.

So, keep hope alive, local NBA and college basketball fans. The regular season might not have turned out the way you wanted it to, but it ain’t over until it's over. And it’s March Madness, so whatever you think can’t happen, just might. Now let me tell you how Tulane basketball just might make the Final Four…


And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.


Beer Pairing – St. Arnold Brewing’s “Spring Bock

Playlist Recommendation – Beastie Boys – “Sure Shot” 


Around the Way

Heck, New Orleans is a college baseball town…The Tulane Green Wave shipped out west to San Diego for the Tony Gwynn classic this weekend. The tournament got off to a fun start, with the Green Wave knocking off the No. 23 Arizona Wildcats, 11-10, in a slugfest. The bats for the Wave would stay pretty hot throughout the tourney, however the starting pitchers – the backbone of the team so far – had a rough weekend, as Tulane would go on to lose its next two games. On Saturday, versus the University of San Diego, Alex Massey would give up 6 earned runs in four innings, in a 7-6 loss. On Sunday, it would be Emerson Gibbs getting teed-up for 6 earned runs in 3.1 innings, against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The bats could never dig the team out of the early hole, and Tulane dropped the game, 11-5. In happier news, junior 2B Jake Willsey blasted out his fourth home run of the season over the weekend. Willsey had started 74 games heading into this season, and hit a total of ZERO home runs.State of Basketball?

Speaking of good news, the UNO Privateers kept to their winning ways by sweeping the Valparaiso Crusaders in a three-game series. Coach Blake Dean’s ball club moves to 6-1 on the young season. This is a team that only posted 14 victories during the 2015 campaign. The Privateers get a chance to shock the college ranks tonight, as they travel to Louisiana-Lafayette to take on the No. 16 Ragin’ Cajuns at 6 p.m. Whatever the outcome, this program seems to have a new swagger. The Privateers return home to host the Pitt Panthers this Friday at 6:30 p.m., in the first of a three-game series at Maestri Field.



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