From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / March 1, 2000

As if March Madness is not wild enough, this year it might be even crazier.

There is not a dominating team going into the month, not like Duke last year.

Just look at this past weekend. No. 2 Duke, No. 5 Michigan State, No. 7Tennessee and No. 17 Oklahoma State all lost to lower ranked teams. No. 3Cincinnati was upset by Temple last week and No. 4 Arizona was blown out atLSU just over a month ago.

It could be that any of the teams currently ranked in the top 20 could make a run to the Final Four. Even Purdue, Connecticut, Kansas and Utah could bedangerous. Being a No. 1 seed this year might not be all that it is cracked upto be.

What’s wrong with Tiger Woods? He’s played in three straight tournaments without winning, including the Match Play Championships this weekend.

Actually, except for a few missed short putts Sunday, there is nothing wrong with Woods’ game. In two of those weeks, Woods finished second. Both timesit took an outstanding performance by the winner (Phil Mickelson three weeks ago, Darren Clarke this weekend) and a few mistakes by Woods for him to lose.

Clarke played as solid a round as seen on the PGA Tour this year Sunday. Itcapped a week that saw him defeat Hal Sutton, second-seeded David Duval and the top-seeded Woods. It also capped a week that saw the best golfers inthe world rise to the top after seeing so many of the favorites go down early in last year’s event.

You can book this – Woods will be back, probably right around the time that the azaleas will be in full bloom in Augusta.

There are some guys who just know how to perform when the cameras are on them – Reggie Jackson, Deion Sanders, Michael Jordan, to name a few.

You can add Toronto’s Vince Carter to that list. Carter, making his Americantelevision debut with the Raptors Sunday, poured in a NBA-season high 51 points in a 103-102 victory over Phoenix. He also added nine rebounds andthree steals.

It was not the first time this season that Carter has excelled on television.

Last month, he was the winner of the Slam Dunk Contest prior to the All- Star game. A few more spectacular dunks and a couple more performanceslike Sunday and Carter and Raptors might be a fixture on Sunday telecasts.

Don’t look now, Skip Bertman, but you have the second best diamond team on the LSU campus. The LSU softball team is ranked fourth in the country andis coming off a victory over No. 10 Southern Mississippi in the Purple andGold Championship this weekend. On the other hand, the baseball team iscoming off a three-game sweep at the hands of Houston and has lost five in a row.

So, what’s gone wrong so far? First, the Tigers lost their leadoff hitter, David Raymer, last Saturday with a broken collarbone. LSU has not won since.And the pitching staff, which looked so impressive over the first two weeks of the season, has been getting lit up like a cheap cigar lately.

If anybody can turn around the team it’s Bertman, but so far it appears that when Tiger fans mention hosting regionals this year, they might be talking about Lady Tiger Stadium.

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