A Mid-March Shoutout

by

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

March is undoubtedly my favorite month of the year when it comes to sports. In the professional world baseball is underway, and teams have now reached the point where rotations and lineups are starting to solidify. The NHL playoff hunt is in full swing, with a bevy of teams vying for a spot in the postseason. The NBA is heating up down the stretch, and if it were a normal year the hype surrounding the NFL, free agency and the impending draft would also be in the forefront.

In college basketball, the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have once again captured the nation, drawing in fans of all levels of college basketball knowledge to see who can pick the best bracket. Even the woman in the cubicle next to you who hasn’t watched one minute of college basketball this year participates, picking her favorite teams based on mascots instead of seed or overall record (which, amazingly, can sometimes pay dividends). The Division I men’s hockey conference tournaments (my love) are underway, and the women’s hockey tournament has already progressed to the Frozen Four. High school tournaments are also underway, with my heart holding a big spot for the wrestling, basketball and hockey tournaments back in Sconnie.

And in Lexington, the winter sports have drawn to a close and the spring sports are in full swing. I love the spring season because I get to spend gamedays at the gorgeous Watt Field watching women’s lacrosse, and on days I don’t have anything to cover a trip out to Dick Smith Field to hang in the pressbox and chat with the groundscrew is always a welcome adventure.

Instead of waxing poetic about the spring and my love for the season, I am dedicating today’s blog to shout-outs for some of my favorite teams (outside of Lex) in competition this month.

Buzz and the Golden Eagles have a good matchup against Xavier in the first round

1. Marquette Golden Eagles (or as so many old-school broadcasters still like to call them, the Warriors).
My boys made the big dance! I will be the first to say that I didn’t fully agree that they deserved the nomination, but I won’t lie and say I’m not excited that they did make it. Sometimes lacking in senior leadership on the court (Jimmy Butler, bless his heart, is trying), it really depends on what team decides to show up whether or not they win. But I think the matchup against Xavier in the opening round is a good one and I am trying to remain a little more optimistic than I was during the Big East Tournament (unless they wear those bad luck powder blue uni’s again). Heck, my boys even got a shoutout in the Wall Street Journal today !
And I’ll simply end this segment with those lovely words, RING OUT AHOYA!

2. University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers women’s hockey
I love watching these girls play. I also admire their head coach, Mark Johnson, of 1980 Miracle on Ice fame, who also coached the USA women’s team to a silver medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Badgers are currently in the hunt for their fourth NCAA championship in program history, and are coming off their second-consecutive WCHA championship. The No. 1 seed in the tournament, they will face No. 4 seed Boston College on Friday in the Frozen Four semifinals, and look to advance to the finals on Sunday. I wish I could say the UW-Madison’s men’s team was doing as well, but just one season after advancing to the championship game of the Frozen Four they didn’t even qualify for the WCHA Final Five, which means I probably won’t see them in postseason play.

3. Merrill High School Bluejays, Merrill, Wis.
Yes, my alma mater spells bluejay as one word, and I am OK with that. Especially considering how its winter sports have played recently. The wrestling team advanced to the WIAA state tournament for the 25th consecutive year (wrestling is our No. 1 men’s winter sport) and had individual qualifiers for what I believe is the 37th consecutive year. The men’s hockey team made it to the WIAA postseason, and our men’s basketball team advanced to the WIAA state tournament for the first time since 1964 and only the second time in school history (yeah, yeah, it’s a long time, but basketball is not our marquis winter sport).
Also, a big shoutout to senior basketball player Paul Jesperson, who made the SportsCenter Top 10 plays last Friday with this awesome three-quarter court shot. Jesperson is a University of Virginia recruit, so I can’t wait to see him next year in Charlottesville!

The Wild are in line for a playoff berth this year

4. Minnesota Wild
My boys are hurting right now with some serious injuries to key players, but somehow are managing to hang in for a playoff spot. Right now they sit in the 11th spot with 77 points, only four points out of eighth place, six points out of fifth place and seven points out of fourth…so it’s pretty wide-open. I would love to see them make the playoffs, but right now they are in a little bit of a slump, right when you don’t want them to be in a downward trend. Although if they keep hanging around, my April could be quite interesting: when I’m back in Minnesota for the Frozen Four (April 7-9), the Wild will play their final contest of the regular season the day after the tourney ends. Against the Dallas Stars. At the Xcel. Which means not only will I get to enjoy hockey four days in a row at my favorite barn, but my boys could also be fighting for a playoff spot on the final day of regular-season competition against a team that the State of Hockey fans have the most hatred toward. Alright, it’s really towards Norman Green, who is no longer associated with the Stars, but the bad blood still boils. I can’t wait!

5. Milwaukee Brewers
Earlier this month I got back into baseball mode by listening to my first game called by Bob Uecker on the radio. There is not much better listening on the radio than hearing Uke call a Brewers game, and it was my official signal that the boys of summer were back on the diamond. I’m really excited about my boys this year, even with a new manager, especially because the team went ahead and added pitching in the offseason. Granted, Greinke is not in good graces right now with the Brewers faithful after breaking his ribs playing basketball in the offseason, but when you look at the schedule, it may not hurt the Crew early on. The team should only need to go five-deep with the pitching rotation Opening Weekend, and after that they should be all right with a four-man rotation through April. Gallardo, Marcum, Wolf and Narveson look like they will be a solid rotation, and the bullpen can lean on former starter Parra to play long innings, with Axford, Braddock, Saito and Hawkins also decent in relief. Baseball is my favorite sport after hockey, and I really can’t wait for the season to get underway.

So there you have it, a big shoutout to some of my favorite March competitors. Good luck for the remainder of your seasons and in the playoffs!

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