Sunday, March 25, 2007

Of Ducks and Beavers and Blazers On a Sunday

Two great stories for a quintessentially wet Oregon spring day today: first and most obviously, the Ducks men's basketball team meeting Florida in a regional final for a berth in the Final Four. There are several stories on this team, from the formerly and ridiculously embattled Ernie Kent detailed above, to Tao master TaJaun Porter, the 5'6'' guard who is suddenly the darling of the tournament after going unconscious during the UNLV game.

As Brian noted, when he got into the zone it was obvious--his movement was so spontaneous and smooth as he hovered like a hummingbird, 3-plus feet off the ground, 20+ feet from the basket, launching only the sweetest of nylon-kissing shots, time after time. Even on TV you could feel the crowd sucking in its breath watching Porter about to pull up and pop. It was magical. Almost forgotten now (!!) is Aaron Brooks, who only carried the team through the regular season and from it has built himself a major NBA payday later this year as a potential 2nd round pick.

There's a Madness bracket I'm in where I'm running at the top of the pack but to have a shot at the whole enchilada I need Florida to make the final. My heart's not really in it; even though I'm not any kind of loyal Ducks fan, this particular team is just a delight to watch, and both the coach and the program should receive the favorable national attention that comes with being a Final Four team and playing on national TV for huge stakes. I guess I win out either way, but I'll be favoring the soul over the pocketbook this afternoon.

While college hoops winds down college baseball is in full swing, and up the way from Eugene Pete Casey's boys from Corvallis are at it again. The Beavers are simply destroying non-conference play, currently 21-3 and ranked 4th in most polls, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year after winning the championship in 2006. It hasn't been a creampuff schedule either; the Beavers have outplayed a number of tough southern teams so far and look as dominating as ever.

Oregon has almost out of nowhere become a fertile farm for young hands, spawning careers like that of Jacoby Ellsbury, top draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2005. Ellsbury has been the hit of camp, showing skills impressive enough for legend Johnny Pesky to compare him to Fred Lynn, who was only Rookie of the Year and AL MVP his first season. Ellsbury will start in Double A, but will be a regular at Fenway no later than next season.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't tip the hat to the young Blazers who look like they're going to be an extremely exciting team next year. Brandon Roy is already the league's best rookie, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez are right behind him. The latter in particular has simply electrified the team the last few games, and even though it comes on the heels of a pretty frustrating collapse that ended realistic playoff chances for this year, it gives great hope for next season. Can you imagine what a Greg Oden or Kevin Durant would do on that team? Yikes.