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Cheers for Columbia and Wisconsin Basketball on The Eve of Spring Training 2014

February 26, 2014

Tags: Wisconsin and Columbia basketball, Kyle Smith, Brett Boretti, Mike Fischer, Aaron Silbar, David Speer, Donna Shalala, Barry Alvarez, Bo Ryan, Frank Kaminsky, Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz

I have long believed that bad winters create good baseball fans. If so, 2014 should be a banner season because we are enduring in New York City and much of the country the worst winter in recent memory. There is no relief in sight as March is coming in as a lion with more snow predicted for next week.

At least my Columbia Lions are providing thrills and hopes for the future on the basketball court. Picked for the basement by the pre-season "experts," Columbia has established itself as a first-division team with four games to play in the Ivy League season. With no seniors on the team, the prospects are seemingly bright for the future.

Under fourth-year head coach Kyle Smith, Columbia has an aggressive team with two possible All-Ivy players in forward Alex Rosenberg and guard Maado Lo providing consistent double-digit scoring. The roster is versatile and talented and Smith is using almost all of them. They provide "deep depth," to use Earl Weaver's wonderful phrase
to describe a winning team.

Columbia baseball won the Ivy League last year and beat New Mexico in a NCAA tournament game, a first-time achievement for a Lions nine. Those dreaded "experts" now pick us to repeat but it will depend of course on merit on the field beginning at U of South Florida in Tampa Feb 28 through Mar 2.

Coach Brett Boretti enters his 9th year as head coach with a balanced squad led by tri-captains, catcher Mike Fischer, shortstop Aaron Silbar and southpaw ace David Speer. It is very pleasant to be talking about successful Lions teams and not hearing the tired jokes about moribund Columbia football that has nowhere to go but up in 2014.

The cagers at my graduate alma mater the University of Wisconsin-Madison started the year with 16 straight W's, then lost five out of six in the tough Big Ten. They now have righted the ship with seven straight wins and look poised to give a good showing in March Madness.

Spunky 66-year-old Badger coach Bo Ryan has gone to the tourney every year since he became head man in Madison in 2001. I'm rooting hard for this year's edition to go all the way into April. The emergence of 7' foot center Frank Kaminsky as an offensive threat has given Wisconsin a very potent lineup.

I spent five winters in graduate school in Wisconsin in the 1960s and bigtime sports were mediocre until Cleveland-born Donna Shalala, the former president of Hunter College of the City of New York, arrived in the 1980s. Her hiring of Barry Alvarez as football coach brought the pigskin boys to national attention and Bo Ryan has done the same for basketball. On Wisconsin!

It's been a long time since my alma maters have done so well in college basketball and I'm savoring every moment. With the opening of the baseball exhibition season I am experiencing additional pleasure..

I'm sorry, marketers, they will always be exhibition and not pre-season games for yours truly. I still cherish memories from the 1950s of listening to games from Florida on the radio. Oh, how the sounds of bat on ball and softly buzzing crowds warmed me in my eighth floor apartment in midtown Manhattan.

The Orioles have suddenly been active on the free agent front, signing RHP Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract and former Texas Ranger slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year contract. I love the latter - I wish most players in baseball were on one-year deals because the desire to get another deal next year by playing hard this year would never be doubted. Wishful thinking I know. More on spring training and how the season looks in the next post.

That's all for now. Always remember - take it easy but take it!

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