The Sports Section

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College Hoops

Well Villanova held on longer than most of the others, but yet again there is a new #1 team in the nation. After Nova lost to #5 Xavier and it looked like the Musketeers (Xavier) were going to move into the top 4, but it’s been a very strange season. Xavier turned around and lost to Seton Hall the very next game. The new #1 team is now Kansas, and it looks like they are now the team to beat. Michigan State has come on strong going into the conference tournaments and they are now #2. The Villanova Wildcats fell only two spots after the loss to Xavier leaving them at #3. Although Virginia lost to Duke and Miami last month, after wins over #8 North Carolina and #17 Duke they are still at #4. Even after losing to an unranked team, Xavier’s win over Villanova remained at #5.

There have been some crazy games the last few weeks, and it seems that the tournament is going to be next to impossible to predict. Here in Florida, #7 Miami is a legitimate contender to make it to the Final Four. In the Big Ten, it’s anyone’s guess as to who might shine come tourney time. The #12 Indiana Hoosiers secured a Big Ten Conference championship when they defeated the #16 Iowa Hawkeyes. The conference has 5 teams ranked in the top 25 and could put 8 teams in the NCAA tournament. You can never count out #17 Duke and #22 Kentucky from making some big noise come “Madness” time.

The conference tournaments started on Thursday and “selection Sunday” should start around 6pm on Sunday night. It’s not going out on a limb to say that Kansas will more than likely be the top seed in the NCAA tournament with Villanova not far behind. That being said, Miami and Michigan State fans have to be feeling really good about their chances.

   MLB

Baseball is back. Here in Florida there a lot fewer signs of spring than there are up north, but no matter where you are from, when preseason baseball starts it means spring is not only right around the corner, it’s here. Spring training games started on Tuesday with Pittsburgh Pirates picking up where they left off by winning their first spring training game over the Detroit Tigers 4-2. On Wednesday, our two local teams went head to head at JetBlue Ballpark, and the following day they travelled to Hammond Stadium.

   NASCAR

Jimmy Johnson used pit strategy and a late caution flag to claim the 76th victory of his career on Sunday. Johnson’s victory tied him with the late Dale “the Intimidator” Earnhardt on the all-time NASCAR career list at seventh. The victory came in overtime on the only caution flag of the day. It was only fitting that his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was the runner up. When Johnson realized what he had accomplished he spun out in front of the grandstand and put his hand out the window while holding up three fingers. Earnhardt drove the #3 car.

Johnson didn’t dominate the entire race, however. Kevin Harvick led more laps than any other driver (131). Harvick gave up the lead after making his last green-flag pit stop nine laps after Johnson. Johnson made a quicker pit stop and had about a 14-second lead, but it faded away with Harvick on fresh tires. Ryan Newman was about 5 seconds in front of Harvick when he cut a tire and spun on the front stretch with three laps to go. That brought out the only yellow flag of the race and with overtime looming, everyone went to the pits for new tires. The crash on the backstretch took out four cars and because Johnson returned to the track still leading, the race was his for the taking.

It was another crushing defeat for Harvick. He finished a sixth, which wasn’t nearly how he should have finished considering how well he ran the race. He led more that 100 laps in four of his last five races on the track, however he hasn’t won there since early in the 2001 season. It was his third race after taking over at RCR.

Kyle Busch posted the fastest qualifying time, but had to start from the back of the field when his car failed inspection. Busch rallied to third, just ahead of his brother Kurt who got the pole after Kyle faltered.

Harvick is hoping that he can dominate like he did in Atlanta, but if he hopes to repeat as champion in Vegas he will have to finish as strong as he starts. The Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is at 3:46pm.

 Mike Yost

NASCAR SPRINT CUP

  1. Kyle Busch (18) 78
  2. Martin Truex Jr. (78) 75
  3. Kevin Harvick (4) 74
  4. Carl Edwards (19) 73
  5. Denny Hamlin (11) 70
  6. Jimmy Johnson (48) 70
  7. Kurt Busch (41) 69
  8. Joey Logano (22) 64
  9. Austin Dillon (3) 63
  10. Aric Almirola (43) 55