JUPITER, Fla. (KMOX) – Sitting in the Roger Dean Stadium press box this afternoon, I have a few thoughts…
- Let me say this first: How about those Blues? Goodness. This has been one of the most thrilling, unexpected, delightful seasons in years. And we’re only in March. If Blues fans get even a sniff of the Stanley Cup later this spring, look out. The city will explode. As is almost always the case in the playoffs, great goaltending will take you a long way. Is any team better equipped in that area than the Blues? Jaroslav Halak is the hottest netminder in the game. And his backup is an All-Star. Brian Elliott just comes in occasionally and stops pucks. We’ve seen a lot of Blues teams through the years that get our hopes up, but somehow this seems different. Ken Hitchcock’s team is playing terrific defensive hockey and getting scoring up and down the roster. The Blues don’t seem to be bothered by much anymore. Especially this brutal NHL schedule that has them traveling more than Christopher Columbus.
- Before we look at the NCAA Tournament bracket, let me update you on a few Cardinals items down here at spring training. With the regular season just three weeks away, the Cardinals have formulated a backup plan, just in case Chris Carpenter is not ready to pitch by Opening Day. While Carpenter continues to progress from a bulging cervical disc, Lance Lynn will begin preparing as if he has a spot in the starting rotation. Lynn is scheduled to start on Wednesday unless something changes with Carpenter. For now, Carpenter is doing better each day, receiving treatment, but still isn’t ready to throw. “It’s something they’re going to take slowly and make sure everything’s right before we start pushing it,” Carpenter said.
- I think Missouri has a decent shot of getting to the Final Four. After Norfolk State, the Tigers have a potential date with Florida. The Gators have plenty of offensive talent (including Chaminade grad Bradley Beal), but the Tigers should be able to neutralize them with their stellar guard play. A tough matchup with Marquette looms in the West Regional, as well as a possible meeting with Michigan State — a strong, well-coached outfit. Mizzou will be challenged by any team with good inside play, but if the opponent tends to turn the ball over, Mizzou will run them over.
- SLU received a tough draw from the NCAA Selection Committee. Memphis is going to be a difficult team to put away in the opening round. But the story remains the same with the Billikens. They’ll defend you like crazy, and if their outside shots are going down, SLU is a pain in the neck to play against. Rick Majerus is so good at scouting the opponent, he could almost coach them. If I’m a coach, I’m not thrilled to see Majerus holding the clipboard on the other end of the court. If they can slip by Memphis, the Billikens get Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans. I’d love to see that chess match.
- The city of St. Louis has a chance to see four schools in the Midwest Regional with national championship banners: North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown and Michigan. It might not break records for attendance (as it might have with Kentucky or Missouri), but the Edward Jones Dome will be a lot of fun next weekend. I wish I could be there, but I’ll be covering the World Champions. Poor me.
Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX. He can be heard weekday mornings at :15 and :45 past the hour on “Total Information A.M.” Follow him on Twitter: @Ackerman1120.