1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 8. No live blog chat today due to my being on furlough. Chat will return next Monday. 2) R.I.P. to two women of disparite greatness: Margaret Thatcher, 87, and (pictured) Annette Funicello, 70. 3) Click on Random Evidence for yesterday's latest Sunday notes column. It leads with NCAA's basketball party juxtaposed with group's rough time for scandals. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Shalala's responsibility, UM's risky play with NCAA, Bosh burglarized, Marlins' tough start, Dolphins draft. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.
MAJOR MONDAY: MARLINS DROP HOME OPENER: Marlins opened their 21st season at home tonight with a 2-0 loss to Atlanta and it might be the oddest year yet for the club: A still-sparkling-new 1-year-old ballpark speaking of optimism and better days, but fan unrest and and a low-budget team inside that park. The 1-5 road trip to start the season only underlined forecasts of a long, losing season. Now this. And Giancarlo Stanton's early struggles at the plate are an early concern. You want a bright spot? Despite a blown save that cost him a win, 20-year-old Jose Fernandez (pictured) -- "Kid K" (patent pending) -- pitched five strong innings, giving up only three hits, one walk and one run, and striking out eight in his big-league debut. Very impressive. Very encouraging. As for tonight's opening crowd, the announced gate was a near-sellout 34,439. The actual crowd seemed a bit smaller. Club owner Jeffrey Loria attended outfitted in a bulletproof vest. OK I made up that last part.
MAJOR MONDAY II: LOUISVILLE WINS NCAA: No. 1-seed Louisville was a 4-point favorite over No. 4 Michigan and it was hard not to like the Rick Pitino's Cardinals here. They won 82-76 in a thriller, trailing by as many as 12 but proving to be the better team. Great game. Feels like the NCAA Tournament in men's basketball started months ago, hundreds of teams ago, a million shredded brackets ago. March Madness has been going on so long, March couldn't even contain it. Now, finally, it ended with somebody cutting down the net. My pick was : Louisville, 72-66. The semifinals:
No. 1-ranked Louisville d. No. 9 Wichita State, 72-68 -- Emotional factor clearly resided on this half of the Saturday doubleheader. Wichita State's impossibly nicknamed Shockers were rightly cast as the surviving Cinderella, but heavily favored L'ville took on a whole new level of rootability when guard Kevin Ware suffered that gruesome broken leg last week. I thought only a particularly hot night by W-State's 3-point gunners would keep it close, but the u-dogs led early and kept it tight. Thought the Cardinals were the national champion-designate, and a clear choice here. About the only edge I gave to Wichita State was the mascot. My pick was: Louisville, 78-62.
No. 4-ranked Michigan d. No. 4 Syracuse, 61-56 -- This was doubleheader's better half, what should be and was a great game between contrasting teams. It was Michigan's run-and-gun featuring national player of the year Trey Burke vs. Syracuse's befuddling 2-3 zone defense. Over/under on TV screenshots of ex-Heatnik Tim Hardaway cheering Wolverine Jr.: 4.5. I could see why Michigan was slight favorite, but I just had a hunch about the Orangemen. The hunch was wrong; Wolverines won despite an off-night (7 points) by Burke. But I nailed the score if not the winner. Would have had an exacto if not for Michigan's last-second layup. My pick was: Syracuse, 59-56.
TIGER WOODS BIG BETTING PICK AT MASTERS: El Gato is 5-2 to win this week at The Masters, an usually heavy favorite for golf. Rory McIlroy at 8-1 and Phil Mickelson at 10-1 come next. Defending champ Bubba Watson is 33-1, tied for 12th.
SMART HEAT TELL WADE TO TAKE IT EASY: Dwyane Wade's tempermental right knee needs babying right now, and so the Heat properly are babying it. Wade last played March 29 and could sit until the playoffs. Meantime teammate LeBron James is the NBA's player of the month for March. He also was player of the month for November, December, January and February. No player has ever been POM five straight months in one season. Gee, I wonder if LeBron will be named MVP again!? (Is the Pope Argentine?)
Poll result: Shalala bears responsibility in UM's NCAA mess: We asked what UM president Donna Shalala's responsibilty level is in the Hurricanes' NCAA matter, and 24.3 percent said "a great deal," 32.4% said "moderate," 29.9% said "minimal" and 13.4% said "none."
Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...