Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 9:37 AM
If it's okay with you, we'll take a little breather here regarding this week's NCAA Tournament Final Four games - but there is still some college hoops action to tackle as tonight it's the NIT Championship Game with Pac-12 playing Big 10 for all the marbles and we haven't forgotten this 2012 Major-League Baseball season that got underway in the early morning hours on Wednesday with Seattle's 3-1 extra-innings win against Oakland in Japan ... what, you hit the snooze button and missed it?
Our Jim Sez MLB 2012 Preview comes your way next week and so make sure you stay tuned for that as we predict who wins what including all the individual awards and the like but we get things started here with a look at the aforementioned NIT Championship Game this evening from New York's Madison Square Garden:
STANFORD (25-11) vs. MINNESOTA (23-14) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
The Minny Golden Gophers want to stamp their identity as true road warriors this spring - Tubby Smith's crew won three in a row in enemy backyards in this year's NIT (see LaSalle, Miami and Middle Tennessee State) and than somehow held off Washington in overtime the other night at MSG to gain entrance into this tourney final but besting Stanford in this pick 'em affair will require the Big 10 guys to nail a few triples (just 3-of-13 trifecta shooting in the 68-67 win against Washington) and this three-headed guard monster must take care of the ball a bit better after committing 19 turnovers against the Huskies. No doubt that frosh star 'Dre Hollins (20 points and 5 assists in the semis) was the go-to guy for Minnesota the other night but here expect heady Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins to put a "longer" defender on him here so that Hollins has a tough time seeing above the fray.
The Cardinal - 74-64 winners against gritty 2 ½-point underdog UMass the other night - did snag 15 offensive boards in that triumph and F/C Josh Owens (six offensive rebounds against the Minutemen) must be able to put back some of the "garbage" here as Stanford missed lots of in-close shots after getting second/third opportunities at the rim. If Stanford's bench becomes a negative factor here - and note the Cardinal reserves shot a collective 7-of-24 from the floor against Massachusetts and that included shoddy 1-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc - than Minny will be able to hang tough even if 'Dre Hollins gets shut down on some of his trips to the offensive end.
Remember that Stanford out-boarded UMass 45-to-35 in the semifinals and must own a decent board advantage here ... or else!
MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL'S WIN TOTALS FOR 2012
It's always a lot of fun to check out the Las Vegas over/under wins totals for the 30 MLB teams and so here's what is on tap. Note that there are six teams expected to win 90-or-more games this year including Boston, Detroit, the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Yankees, Philadelphia (the only National League team here) and Texas. Conversely, there are two teams not even expected to win 70 games this season - that's Baltimore and Houston.
|Arizona Diamondbacks||86.5 over/under 115|
|Atlanta Braves||87 under 120|
|Baltimore Orioles||69 under 120|
|Boston Red Sox||90 under 120|
|Chicago Cubs||73.5 under 130|
|Chicago White Sox||74.5 over 125|
|Cincinnati Reds||87.5 over 125|
|Cleveland Indians||78.5 under 120|
|Colorado Rockies||81 over/under 115|
|Detroit Tigers||92.5 over/under 115|
|Houston Astros||62.5 over/under 115|
|Kansas City Royals||78.5 over/under 115|
|Los Angeles Angels||93 over/under 115|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||81.5 under 120|
|Miami Marlins||85 over/under 115|
|Milwaukee Brewers||84.5 over 130|
|Minnesota Twins||73 over/under 115|
|New York Mets||72 over 120|
|New York Yankees||94.5 over 125|
|Oakland A's||72.5 under 135|
|Philadelphia Phillies||93.5 under 125|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||73.5 under 120|
|San Diego Padres||73 over/under 115|
|San Francisco Giants||87.5 over/under 115|
|Seattle Mariners||72 over/under 115|
|St. Louis Cardinals||84.5 over 120|
|Tampa Bay Rays||87 under 120|
|Texas Rangers||92 over/under 115|
|Toronto Blue Jays||81.5 over 120|
|Washington Nationals||83.5 over 135|
More MLB Over/Under Wins Total Notes ...
Just a few words regarding last year's Major-League Baseball wins totals as "over" the team win totals went 14-15-1 with the lone "push" being the Los Angeles Dodgers who won 82 games but whose backers were truly "jobbed" because the National League West club played only 161 games, thanks to an early September rainout in Washington that was never made up (the cancelled game did not effect the Nationals who won 80 games in all and easily went "over" their 72 wins totals price).
The biggest overachiever in the 2011 MLB season was the Arizona Diamondbacks who were slated to win 72.5 games and instead snagged a spiffy 94-68 regular-season record (a plus 21.5 difference) while the biggest loser was the Minnesota Twins who were forecast at 87 wins and instead finished the '11 season at 63-99 - a hard-to-believe minus 24-game difference.
In all, last year there were three teams that won 10-or-more games that the forecasted total including aforementioned Arizona, Detroit (+ 11.5) and Milwaukee (+ 10.5) while there were four teams that lost 10-or-more games than were forecast including the Chicago Cubs (- 10.5), Colorado (- 14), Houston (- 17.5) and aforementioned Minnesota.
NOTE: Get our NCAA Tournament Final Four extensive game previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez!