Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Predictions sure to go wrong

Six pools, one Sheet of Integrity, countless hours of gutless chalk and baseless punts on underdogs -- it must be March Madness time again! Yes, it's those magical few weeks when national productivity plummets as everyone who's been ignoring college basketball up until this point suddenly becomes keenly interested in the sport (or at least in the prize money for winning their office pool).

I make no claims of great insight or analysis; the vast majority of college basketball games I watched this season were with the sound off and podcasts playing instead. Still, I would be remiss if I, too, didn't jump into the pool with both feet. It's only a matter of time before my bracket is irreparably busted, of course, at which point I do like any self-respecting observer and cheer for chaos.

Midwest Region
First-round upsets: Missouri (9) def. Colorado State (8), Oregon (12) def. Oklahoma State (5), St. Mary's (11) def. Memphis (6).
Second round: Louisville (1) def. Missouri; Oregon def. St. Louis (4); Michigan State (3) def. St. Mary's; Duke (2) def. Creighton (7).
Sweet 16: Louisville def. Oregon; Michigan State def. Duke. Elite Eight: Louisville def. Michigan State.

West Region
First-round upsets: Wichita State (9) def. Pittsburgh (8); Iowa State (10) def. Notre Dame (7).
Second round: Gonzaga (1) def. Wichita State; Wisconsin (5) def. Kansas State (4); New Mexico (3) def. Arizona (6); Ohio State (2) def. Iowa State.
Sweet 16: Gonzaga def. Wisconsin; New Mexico def. Ohio State. Elite Eight: Gonzaga def. New Mexico.

South Region
First-round upsets: None. I know Minnesota (11) over UCLA (6) is a popular pick, but did you see how the Gophers finished the season? The same Gophers who lost to Nebraska while an NCAA bid was on the line?
Second round: Kansas (1) def. North Carolina (8); VCU (5) def. Michigan (4); Florida (3) def. UCLA; Georgetown (2) def. San Diego State (7).
Sweet 16: Kansas def. VCU; Florida def. Georgetown. Elite Eight: Florida def. Kansas.

East Region
First-round upsets: Temple (9) def. North Carolina State (8). I just can't pull the trigger on another sexy pick, Bucknell (11) over Butler (6).
Second round: Indiana (1) def. Temple; Syracuse (4) def. UNLV (5); Butler def. Marquette (3); Miami (2) def. Illinois (7).
Sweet 16: Syracuse def. Indiana; Miami def. Butler. Elite Eight: Miami def. Syracuse.

Final Four
Louisville def. Gonzaga; Florida def. Miami.

National Championship Game
Louisville 71, Florida 63


If the United States qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it will be this country's most white-knuckle ride to soccer's showcase event since Paul Caligiuri uncorked the Shot Heard Round the World and helped send the Yanks to Italia '90. Almost a generation since the days of Bob Gansler's college all-stars, the US national team is in anything but rude health as it prepares for two critical World Cup qualifiers in the next week.

US coach Juergen Klinsmann released on Monday his roster for the qualifiers at home against Costa Rica (on Friday) and at Mexico (March 26). However, the absences were just as noteworthy, if not more so, than the players included.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The summer of Indonesia?

Stop me if you've heard this one. A big European club announces it's going to visit Indonesia, cites the country's huge fan base and love of soccer, promises it'll bring its best squad and makes positive noises about starting an academy in the country. Sound familiar? Well, you can add Chelsea to the conga line of European clubs hoping to exploit tap into Indonesia's love of the beautiful game.
Chelsea will follow on the heels of English Premier League foe Arsenal as the second big-time club from England’s top flight to play in the capital this year, with the match scheduled for July 25.

Sponsored by lender Bank Negara Indonesia, the 2012 European Champions League winner will face the Indonesia All Stars, a team that will be selected by BNI customers via a poll starting today.

“We are very pleased to announce this historic fixture — Chelsea’s first game in Indonesia,” club CEO Ron Gourlay told a press conference in Jakarta on Thursday.

“We know there is huge support for the team in the country. The fan [base] here is enormous. A figure of over 2 million fans in Indonesia on our Facebook page demonstrates that, and we are delighted our supporters will have the chance to watch us play in Jakarta.”
The London rivals could be just part of the cavalcade of stars passing through Gelora Bung Karno this summer, though. If you believe Wikipedia, the Internet's most unimpeachable source, fans in Indonesia could find their wallets tapped out long before Ramadan ends on August 7.