Hello again everybody...
TGIF. Perhaps the four greatest letters in the English language, at least when they're combined.
As you may have guessed, they have extra special importance for me today since we're officially at 7 days until my Phoenix vacation. Yes, one week from tomorrow (you never count the current day in your countdowns people) I'm wheels up for the sun, warmth and baseball of it all in the Valley of the Sun.
More importantly for you we're exactly 6 days from the beginning of my 2009 MLB Preview. That's right, baseball season is nearly upon us. So for 7 straight columns (6 divisions, 1 playoff), I'll be bringing you the finest in baseball prognostication ("finest" here having the meaning of: the best I can do, which last year sucked the bag).
Actually, I shouldn't say 7 straight, since I'm toying with the idea of mixing in a Photo Post or Running Game Commentary from one of the Spring Training games I attend while I'm down there.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I value your readership so much that I may actually *increase* my column output while I'm on vacation. No, no, no. Don't thank me. It's my pleasure to serve!
But before all that, we've got to get to this week's DFTU. So without further ado, let us away!
"Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care."
- William Safire (1929 - ), American author
Any quote that makes me laugh out loud immediately goes in the blog, and this one did. Plus Mr. Safire gets extra points for appearing in Ken Burns' "The Civil War" documentary. He's not in it much, but any appearance at all makes you aces in my book!
You've waited all week, you know it, you love it, and now it's here. That's right, it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!
Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 32-28-7 which gives them 71 points. They're in 4th place in the Northwest division, but more importantly, they're tied for 9th place in the Western Conference playoff race a mere 1 point behind the hated Dallas Stars for 8th.
So close! The Wild played terribly in Colorado last night and somehow managed to hold on and send the game into overtime where they lost in a shootout. Getting one point out of that debacle was nice, but sneaking two points out of the jaws of a doughnut would've been incredible. A win last night would have put the Wild into a 3-way tie with Edmonton and Dallas for 8th place, and I believe the Wild hold tiebreakers over both of those teams.
An opportunity lost? Perhaps. But working in the Wild's favor is that they play Dallas Saturday night, and the Oilers a week and a day later. I've said it before, but games against teams in that scrum at the bottom of the Western Conference are going to be the key to making the playoffs. Win those in regulation, and you're probably in. Lose, or win in overtimes/shootouts, and you're probably out. It's all about creating separation from the teams you're directly competing with.
It's hard for me to believe that there are only 15 regular season games remaining. Where has the season gone?! I guess I should be happy that the Wild are at least in the playoff hunt at this point. But the team has been so maddeningly inconsistent, that it's hard not to lament where they could be with a more even effort.
Wild fans should also keep in mind that Marian Gaborik is due back sometime next week. He won't be "the savior", but he'll at least give opposing teams something else to think about.
This weekend the Wild play back-to-back on the road. As mentioned, Saturday they're at Dallas. Then Sunday they travel to St. Louis. Next week, a home game Tuesday versus Colorado and a road game Thursday at New Jersey await. Pins and needles folks. Pins and needles!
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers finished the regular season 19-11 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten. That tied them for 4th with Ohio State, but by virtue of their win over the Buckeyes, the Badgers are officially the 4-seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
At the time of this writing, the Badgers and Buckeyes have just tipped off. The winner is set to play top-seeded Michigan State, who've just beaten the Gophers, tomorrow in the Big Ten semifinals.
It was my contention last week that the Badgers need to win at least this game against Ohio State to get into the NCAA Tournament. And I'm not 100% sold that that will get it done. If you assume that the selection committee will take around 6 teams from the Big Ten, then as the 4-seed, the Badgers should be in. But beating Ohio State would pretty much clinch it. Beating the Spartans in the semi-finals (and the Badgers have played them close in both match-ups this year) would make it an absolute lock.
As for their prospects in the Tournament itself? It's all about the match-up. If they are paired against a team with one primary scorer? They've got a shot. If they're matched-up against an athletic team that likes to run the floor? They could be in a lot of trouble.
The NCAA Selection show is Sunday afternoon. Check your local listings!
Short and sweet, and off to the weekend! That's all for today folks. I'll be back on Monday, hopefully with a brand new segment for your reading pleasure. Until then, thanks for reading!