Eight teams in a double elimination tournament jammed into five days---it can really stress a pitching staff. So, as Illinois State and Dallas Baptist get ready to play their biggest game of the year in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament final tonight, they do so largely with a group of guys who haven’t thrown many meaningful innings this season.
Conference tournaments used to get teams ready for NCAA Regionals, but that’s when they were six team affairs instead of the current format with four. Pitching depth used to be at a premium in the NCAA’s and while it’s still important, it’s not the overriding factor it once was. You can win a regional in just three games now; when Wichita State won the National Championship in 1989 it needed six regional games to get to Omaha.
I really like the concept of a league tourney, of bringing everyone together in one location—but the current format can make teams play like they haven’t had to all season. If a couple of guys at the end of the roster haven’t seen the light of day all season --should they really be expected to perform in the glare of the most meaningful game of their season? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Then again, maybe that’s the point---finding the true measure of a team by putting it in unfamiliar circumstances and seeing who reacts to it the best.
The Royals continue to be about as offensive as a Disney movie, but last night in Anaheim they added a head scratching move to the growing pile of…frustration. Down just 3-1 in the fifth, Norichika Aoki was at second with one out when Eric Hosmer lifted a fly ball to center—inexplicably, Aoki tagged on Mike Trout who just happens to have one of the best arms in baseball and was toast. One of the cardinal rules of base running is to never make the first or last out of an inning at third, a big leaguer simply has to know better, especially in such a close game.
By the way, the Royals have all of 20 home runs---that’s the fewest through 46 games in the Majors in 22 years.
Turning up the Heat?
Miami and Indy have a very interesting game of give and take going through their rivalry; the two have alternated wins for 13 straight games dating back to last season. The Pacers are a perfect 5-0 in games after a loss in these playoffs, but tonight’s game is back in Miami. Paul George being cleared to play for the Pacers is huge—Indianapolis has outscored playoff opponents by 64 points with him on the floor, they’ve been outscored by 27 without him.
As key as George is to Indy, he’s still not the best player on the floor. LeBron and Dwayne Wade were unbelievable in crunch time of game two, of course, it helps that LeBron gets every call known to man.
I won’t know how invested I’ll be in the World Cup until I start seeing players sprawled out over the fields of Brazil feigning injury. Ok, sorry—that was my one shot at soccer, I promise –no more. Actually, I am a little intrigued, especially since Team USA Head Coach Jürgen Klinsman left Landon Donovan off the roster for Brazil. Donovan was one of the few soccer guys I knew, although, how good can he be if he doesn’t have a one-name handle?
I realize, at 32, Donovan’s best years may be behind him (did I really just say that)—but I also know that he has 5 goals in World Cup play, two more than the collective total of the 23 players who make up the American roster. Ole…Ole, Ole, Ole. Cue the Vuvuzela.