Sweet Sixteen!

Just in case you have not been paying attention, the Sweet Sixteen is upon us.  What is the Sweet Sixteen?  I am not referring to a young person’s birthday.  I am referring to the 16 teams that are left in the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.  As usual, there have been plenty of upsets which leaves a lot of “broken” brackets.  I wanted to take a look at some of the upsets that have occurred as well as the surprises early on in the tournament.  Also, we can not overlook the story lines that have developed during the tournament.

Let’s take a look at the upsets that have occurred in the first two rounds.  The region with the most upsets is the south region.  For the first time in history a #1 seed lost to #16 seed.  UMBC knocked off Virginia in that shocker.  Another favorite for the region was Arizona and they lost in the first round.  The #2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats lost in the second round to Nevada after being up by 22 in the second half.  The #3 seed Tennessee Volunteers lost in the second round to the Loyola Ramblers.  So far they are one of the tournament darlings. Nevada, Loyola, Kansas St., and Kentucky are the remaining teams in the south region. The west region did not have any significant upsets in the first round, but the second round brought the #1 seed Xavier and the #2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels being beaten. The remaining teams are Florida St., Gonzaga, Michigan, and Texas A&M.

The east region has held true to form for the most part.  There was one major upset with Marshall knocking off the #4 seed Wichita St. Shockers.  Villanova, Purdue, West Virginia, and Texas Tech remain in the region.  The midwest region has had a couple of upsets and both have come at the hands of Syracuse.  They have beaten TCU and Michigan State to get to this point.  Their next matchup will be against the mighty Duke Blue Devils.  The other match-up in the region will be Kansas vs. Clemson.

When you have this many games in such a short time you tend to get some type of “madness”.  You also get to see teams and hear stories that you may not have heard during the regular season.  People seem to love the underdog, so this year the tourney darlings are the Loyola Ramblers.  Their biggest star is not even a player, it is Sister Jean.  It is a pretty nice story line to follow. I especially love that she picked Loyola to get to the Sweet Sixteen.  How about the story of Isaac Haas?  He plays for Purdue, a legitimate contender until he broke his elbow in the first round.  Purdue announced he would be done for the season.  Purdue happens to be an engineering school, so some grad students have been trying to get a brace designed for his elbow that the NCAA will approve.  It looks like they have, but I can’t imagine playing with a fractured elbow.  We will soon find out. Here is another great article that covers the meaning of a win for each team left.  Clearly, they all want to win, but it means something different for each team.

A total of 48 games have been played.  Not all 48 have been fun games to watch, buzzer beaters, or upsets.  What you do have is a great tournament that can be won by a team that is not necessarily the best.  I would think fans of Virginia felt they were the best team coming into the tourney and they were gone in the first round.  If you have one bad game or one match-up that does not play into your favor you can be sent packing.  One thing that the tournament does not lack is drama and suspense.  I personally love the tourney and I watch as much as I can even if my favorite team gets eliminated.

—Victor Mandalawi




Is Tiger Back?

If you are a golf fan you know that the PGA Tour is at the Bay Hill Invitation this week.  It has been known as Arnold Palmer’s tournament for a long time.  He was always the host of the event until his recent passing.  You also know that the Masters is in a few weeks.  If you are not a fan of golf, you may not have heard of the Bay Hill or The Masters.  You do not have to be a fan of golf to know who Tiger Woods is and I would assume everyone has heard of Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods has been in and out of golf for some time now because of injuries.  He is healthy now and has played in a few tournaments and “Tiger Mania” is already in full effect.  Let’s take a look at how he has already moved the needle since his return.

Tiger has not won a tournament since 2013.  He has had a couple of back surgeries and at times it has looked as if he may not make it back onto the course.  If he did make it, there are certainly no guarantees in getting back to the level he was once at.  He is getting older and the level of competition is so great now that even if he plays well he might not be able to get to previous levels.  Tiger has played in 5 events since his most recent comeback.  He has finished in 9th, 23rd, missed cut, 12th, and 2nd place.  I think that any player on the PGA tour would settle for those finishes, they are especially great for Tiger considering the long layoff and injury concerns.  These recent finishes have given life to “Tiger Mania”.

What is Tiger Mania?  It is alot of things!  How about the fact that he was the odds on favorite to win the Bay Hill at 6-1.  That seems crazy that he is the favorite of a real tournament this soon after his comeback but it makes sense for a couple of reasons.  Just like all sports gambling, the Vegas odds have to account for the public money that comes in on a team or player.  Tiger receives so many casual bets from fans that Vegas has to keep his odds low.  He has also won the event 8 times in his career, so there is quite a bit of experience on the course.  A very similar thing is happening for the odds of the Masters.  Tiger’s odds started the Bay Hill in 3rd place.  His first few holes were birdied and his odds changed mid-round and he is now the favorite to win the Masters. Again, Vegas has to take into account the amount of money being played on Tiger but he has also won the event 4 times.  He knows the course and always seems to play well at Augusta. It will certainly be must watch TV if he is in contention.

Speaking of TV, the ratings for the Valspar were tremendous.  Why?  Well, Tiger was in contention on the weekend.  Sunday’s ratings were the highest of any non-major tournament since 2013. Surprise, surprise, Tiger was playing well in 2013. The Saturday round drew the highest rated audience since 2006 and it was the highest rating ever for the Valspar.  Viewership was up 181% year over year for the Valspar.  Quite simply, that is because of Tiger Woods.

It does not matter what you think of Tiger Woods.  It does not matter what type of golf he is playing.  As long as he is playing, he will be moving the needle in many ways.  If he is playing well and he is contending, the statistics from earlier paint the picture of what will happen.  The numbers show that Tiger is back.  I want just want him to stay healthy all year and play in a few majors.  In 6-8 months, we will know if he is really all of the way back.  For now, sit back and enjoy, I know I will.

–Victor Mandalawi




Spring Break!

How long is winter going to last?  For some it is already over and for others it is getting very close.  The East Coast has been hit with a couple of rough storms in the last few weeks.  I would imagine they are tired of Winter and are dreaming of warm weather and sunny skies. As close as Summer is, you can get a head start by vacationing during Spring break.  Of course, the term Spring break is really only applicable for families with children in school and for college students.  Anyone can go on a vacation, but many use the week students get to escape the cold weather they have been subjected to. Over the next month there will be plenty of vacations taken and many will be to warm weather destinations.  Let’s take a look at the popular destinations this year and some destinations that are not necessarily as popular.

If you are a college student, I would think you are looking at a warm weather location somewhere on a beach.  Many students will leave the country and travel to destinations like Cancun, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta all located in Mexico.  Students also like to travel to Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.  Florida is also a popular destination for college students.  Cities like Panama City, Daytona, and Key West are usually the hot spots for college spring breakers.  I know that they can get pretty rowdy at times, so it makes sense for families to go in another direction with their Spring Break.

The Travel Channel has listed these locations as the top family destinations for Spring Break.  When you think of Spring Break you always think of warm weather and beaches.  This list has a few locations that are not warm weather related and a few more that have nothing to do with the beach.  I would think that an indoor water park in Wisconsin is a great alternative to flying somewhere south for anyone in the upper Midwest.  I also do not think everyone wants to sit on a beach, so hitting up a ski lodge would be a great alternative for a family.

This article details “under the radar” destinations for families.  A family surf camp in Costa Rica sounds like it would be a great time, but does that fit in family budgets?  How about a family backpacking trip in the Smoky Mountains?  Would your family stay for a week at a ranch in Arizona or Texas?  The Grand Canyon rail trip seems to be a great idea.  Some of these ideas are really awesome and I certainly think they are great alternatives to sitting on a beach somewhere.

The month of March and early April will be a busy time for Spring Breakers of all ages.  Many college students will end up on a beach soaking in the sun and sand, can’t forget the beverages!  Families will probably be trying to avoid the college students, but many will end up on sandy beaches as well.  I would think that Orlando will be a hot destination for families because of the theme parks and warmer weather.  The destination of your choice should be one that makes sense for you or your family.  You do not have to sit on a beach to have fun, you do not have to spend a fortune to have fun, I think as long as you have good company it will not matter where you end up.

—Victor Mandalawi




Results of Pyeongchang

A few weeks ago I wrote about the 2018 Olympics in Pyeonchang before the event started.  You can see that article here.  I spoke about the drama of the Olympic Games because of competition, politics, and fantastic stories of perseverance.  I would love to take a look at what did or did not happen in this Olympic Games.  How was the competition?  What athlete and nation stood out in their performance?  How did the U.S. do?  What other weird or odd happenings appeared during the games?

During these games, Norway was dominating.  The won the medal count by a total of 8.  They were also able to tie for having the most gold medal performances.  Norway was particularly dominating in the sports of cross country skiing and the biathlon.  The biathlon is the sport you see when cross country skiing is mixed with shooting.  To be completely honest, I am not a fan of cross country skiing, it seems pretty boring to watch.  However, when you mix it with target shooting, it really adds something to the event and I am willing to watch it then.

The Canadian Ice Dancing pair of Moir and Virtue were able to win another gold in Ice Dancing.  They won gold in 2010 and Silver in 2014.  They have been together for 20 years so it is really nice to see them bear the fruits of their labor.  It had been rumored that this would be their last Olympic games together, so going out on top will be great for them.  Do you remember the shirtless and oiled up Tongan athlete from the 2016 Summer Games?  Well, Pita Taufatofua was back at these games competing for Tonga in cross country skiing.  Was he oiled up again?  Of course he was, the temperature was a chilly 23 degrees during the opening ceremonies.

The Americans were able to earn 24 medals which was good for 4th place overall.  At the 2014 games the Americans finished in 2nd, so there was a slight let down.  However, 4th place is still a great showing.  There were a few teams and Olympians that were able to make quite the splash this year.  The women’s hockey team was able to win gold over the Canadians.  That is quite the accomplishment, but the manner in which they won was full of suspense and quite spectacular.  The Americans were able to tie the game and push it into OT.  The teams were scoreless in overtime and went to a shootout.  The Americans scored on a goal from Lamoureux on their last attempt.  The American goalie needed one more stop to win and it happened!  The Men’s Olympic curling team won an improbable gold medal as well.  They started the games with a 2-4 record and were able to get into the medal round and win all of their remaining matches to earn the gold. There are quite a few performances still worth mentioning but just enough time.

The games seemed to gave no major issues which is a monumental accomplishment.  The Russians were banned from the games for doping and then a few were let back into the games performing under the name OAR(Olympic Athletes from Russia).  Of course, a curler of all sports was caught doping.  I am not sure that makes much sense.  The South Koreans paired with the North Koreans which is a huge step in their diplomacy.  After all has passed I would say that the games were a success.  I know I sure enjoyed watching and following them.  I am looking forward to Beijing in 2022!

—Victor Mandalawi