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South Williamsport, PA
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Move Over March

Begrudgingly, we have to give Punxsutawney Phil his due. The furry varmint’s unwelcomed prediction of ‘six more weeks of winter’ certainly rang true. But now that spring has officially made its presence on the calendar; we can all turn our thoughts to the more pleasant days ahead. March’s ending brings with it a trio of

Begrudgingly, we have to give Punxsutawney Phil his due. The furry varmint’s unwelcomed prediction of ‘six more weeks of winter’ certainly rang true. But now that spring has officially made its presence on the calendar; we can all turn our thoughts to the more pleasant days ahead.

March’s ending brings with it a trio of sports happenings that capture the attention of sports fans. This weekend will see the crowning of a new NCAA hoop champion, the Major League Baseball season swings into action, and locally, the spring sports season is hoping for some cooperation from Mother Nature as teams escape the inside gym workouts for real action on the diamond and track.

Many of you may have been among the millions filling out brackets attempting to predict how the NCAA basketball tournament would evolve. I’ve done so for many years and once in all those attempts emerged victorious over my fellow prognosticators. Everyone has their own system, none is foolproof, and most go up in smoke long before the Final Four are determined. This year is no exception! It has been estimated that tens of millions submitted brackets to various online services and millions more likely played along in office or family pools.

This year’s biggest ‘bracket buster’ was the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s (UMBC) win over top-seeded Virginia. The Retrievers’ 74-54 triumph in the tournament’s opening round marked the first time a 16-seed defeated a number 1 seed in 136 tries. Before UMBC’s win — through 28 games of the tournament — there were 25 perfect brackets left across all major bracket games. All had Virginia winning. This bracket games included the Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge Game, ESPN, Bleacher Report, Yahoo and CBS.

Only 2% of all these bracket games picked UMBC to pull off the upset. For reference, 13% of these bracket players picked Virginia to win the whole thing. You are not alone if your bracket was soon in shambles.

The ‘bracket busting’ started early. After the first game of the tournament — 7-seed Rhode Island’s overtime win against Oklahoma — only 45% of the brackets submitted were still perfect. Upset wins by 11-seed Loyola Chicago over 6-seed Miami and 14-seed Buffalo over 3-seed Arizona continued the bracket carnage. When 13-seed Marshall beat 4-seed Wichita State, the number of perfect brackets dropped from a few thousand to a couple hundred.

UMBC’s win tore them all to shreds. This year, the final 25 brackets all bowed out after their stunning victory. By comparison, in last year’s tournament, there was one bracket that stayed perfect for a record 39 games before busting in the final matchup on the first Saturday night.

At this writing, it is unknown which teams advanced to this weekend’s Final Four. But despite all the upsets, which left no number one or two seeds in the South and West brackets, the East and Midwest brackets saw both top two seeds advancing. Villanova, Kansas, Purdue, and Duke, along with Michigan and Kentucky could emerge in the Final Four making those early upsets a thing of the past.

Thursday, the 2018 Major League Baseball season swings into action with all 30 teams playing in the earliest Opening Day is history. The early start is the result of the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, which creates three or four additional days off for teams throughout the season. The regular season will conclude Sunday, September 30.

Unless you’ve been slumbering along with Punxsutawney Phil, you are aware of the ongoing attempts by MLB to address ‘pace of play’ issues. Among changes instituted for the coming season:

• Each team will be limited to six mound visits by the manager, coach or players to the mound during a game. The visits do not include instances where a pitching change is made. Teams will be permitted one additional visit per inning for extra-inning games.
• The time between innings will be 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games.
• Pitchers must throw their final warm-up pitch between innings by the time the between innings counter hits 20 seconds.

Teams commanding the attention of local interest — the Yankees will open the season in Toronto, the Phillies in Atlanta, the Pirates in Detroit and the Red Sox play in Tampa Bay. Home openers will see the Mets hosting St. Louis and the Orioles doing the same with Minnesota.

While local weather elements may alter the schedule of high school teams, plan on getting out and support your favorite baseball, softball or track team this spring. We wish them all the best of luck, especially those seniors wearing their school colors for the last time.

Welcome, April!

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