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Wednesday December 8th

Around the Dorm

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In Week 10 of AtD staff writer Chris Rotolo and correspondents Michael McLoughlin and Dan Neyman look to lock up spots for the AtD playoffs. Staff writer Michael ODonnell will ask our contestants if the lack of truly elite teams hurt the NCAA Tournament, if the Seattle Mariners are going to win the American League West and whether or not Brett Yormark was out of line getting in a fight with a fan.

1) This year, it is quite apparent that there is much parity going around in the NCAA Tournament. Is that good for college basketball, or is it bad to not have elite teams for more major upsets?

: Look at the advertising associated with the tournament and the answer is clear. CBS and ESPN don’t show champions cutting down nets, instead, it’s Bryce Drew diving across the hardwood after drilling a three-pointer to upset Ole Miss in 1998. These broadcasting networks are selling the NCAA tournament through the excitement of past upsets. Professional marketers know the audience better than we do and they are clearly stating that Americans love watching an underdog prevail. The fact that there is lack of elite teams in the tourney this year is great for college basketball because it is the more the merrier when it comes to March Madness upsets.

MM: The way things are going this year is great for college basketball. Casual fans usually root for the underdog, unless they are fans of the big time schools or have money riding on the game. Also, when these underdog teams get further they attract attention to their basketball programs. Where was Gonzaga roughly 10 years ago? A couple of upset victories thrust them into the limelight and they were able to recruit better players which led to another big time program. So long as these upsets do not lead to completely lopsided losses later in the tournament, the Cinderella stories are great for the game.

DN: The more parity in the NCAA Tournament, the better. Period. No one cares in the slightest bit that perennial powerhouses, such as UCLA, Memphis and UNC were left out of the tournament because most of these games have been incredibly entertaining and very shocking, to say the least. Aside from gambling, the only reason people pay attention to the tournament is because of overtime thrillers and potential upsets. We have to remember that the athletes playing are students, not professionals, so the landscape of these teams change annually. Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, but at the end of the day, a well-played game between two No. 1 seeds is just as good.

MO: I have got to give it to Chris here. The marketing is a very good way of putting what sells when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, and you’re absolutely right about what types of clips they show to advertise. It was close for the two-point answer, but I’m giving it to McLoughlin simply because Dan said no one watches the tourney other than to see upsets. Sorry Dan, but there is something called “school pride.” One point.

2) I'm just saying, I'm calling it now: The Seattle Mariners are going to win the AL West in 2010. Do you agree with me? Disagree? Let me know who's winning the division and why.

: The Angels are still the king of the hill in this division. They lost John Lackey but I think Jered Weaver is about to emerge as a star and will fill the No. 1 spot nicely. The loss of Chone Figgins should not hinder the team too much either because at 26 years old, Angels switch hitting short stop Erik Aybar, who hit .312 in his first full season in 2009, is primed and ready to step in for the departed. Another thing the Angels possess are plenty of professional hitters with Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui and Torii Hunter hitting in the middle of their order, not to mention a 27-year-old switch-hitting phenom named Kendry Morales. The only question marks are the back of the rotation and the middle of the bullpen. However, the rotation is full of experienced veterans (Kazmir, Saunders and Pineiro) and Brian Fuentes, Scott Shields, and Fernando Rodney should be able to help the younger arms in the pen through a long season.

MM: While the division is wide open, I’m going to have to disagree. The Mariners are scary in a short series with the 1-2 punch of Hernandez and Lee. However, last year they already gave up the fewest runs in the AL, and only won only 85 games. The reason was they scored 17 less runs than any other team in baseball. Their offense this year is even worse without Branyon and Beltre (Figgins and Bradley cannot match their run production), and I cannot see them improving enough with a paltry offense to take the division. Texas can mash, and has one of the best crop of rising prospects, so I’ll pick them to pull a Tampa Bay Rays this year and eek out the division.

DN: While the Mariners have made significant strides this past off season to improving their team, I still believe that the Angels will once again win the AL West. The Angels have a solid, well-balanced offense, and, arguably, the best starting staff in all of baseball. Even with the loss of John Lackey, the Angels starting pitchers are Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro. It's gonna be pretty hard to beat a staff who boasts a No. 1 starter as their number four pitcher. Combined with a solid bullpen and a lineup that is unchanged, except for the addition of Hideki Matsui, the Angels will win the West.

MO: Haha thanks for the support guys. I like McLoughlin’s argument best. Seattle did give up next to nothing, but their offense may have a question mark or two. Chris, you and Dan both had similar arguments, but you put more detail in why the Angels would win, so you get the two. Dan, I feel for ya man. I really do. One.

3) Recently, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark got into a shouting match with a fan during a game against the Miami Heat for wearing a paper bag to a game. Did Yormark cross the line in doing so? Or should teams restrict the use of paper bags as masks because of what they represent?

CR: If Yormark had a problem with the fan’s mask the Russian billionaire should have pulled out a $100 and purchased it from the guy. However, he chose to verbally berate the fan, and I have no problem with that. In fact, by vocally attacking the spectator, Yormark showed the most fire and backbone any member of the Nets has displayed all season. It’s called having pride in your establishment and your organization. His players should have taken notes. I think Yormark gained a lot of respect from his team by sticking up for the organization as he did. At least he cares, at least he is willing to put money into the team, at the very least, Nets fans should not have to endure another fire sale any time soon with Yormark at the helm. As for a bag restriction, just as it is your right to wear one, it is the right of the owner to accost you when you enter his establishment and mock his property.

MM: I have no problem with Yormark’s actions or the fans. The Nets are terrible, and fans should be able to express their opinions without being stifled by the teams they pay to see. As far as Yormark, I like the fire he brought to the table, and if I was the fan getting yelled at I would respect him for it. Dana White, the president of the UFC is loud, abrasive and very outspoken. But no one doubts he cares about the product he puts on television. Nets fans should be happy their CEO cares enough to get ticked off. I know, as a Knicks fan, I would love for James Dolan to show any sign of life while his team constantly struggles.

DN: Clearly, what Yormark did was out of order. It is easy to understand his frustration?with the team this year, but it is unacceptable to take it out on a fan. Yormark, as a CEO,?should know that shouting at a fan is wrong. Especially considering the fact that this fan?represents about half of the Nets current fan base. It was a mistake that Yormark has since?apologized for and resolved, but should have never happened in the first place. On the plus?side, it did get some much-needed publicity for the Nets, even forcing SportsCenter to ?show the highlights of the game. Maybe this guy should be in charge of PR for the Nets. At ?this point, what do they have to lose?

MO: This was a toughie to judge, but I’m giving the three to Chris. You make a good point when you say it is the right of the ticket holder to bring a paper bag to the game. Dan, I like your joke about the Nets’ fan base, and he was quite unprofessional when it came to yelling at the fan. Mike, you get the one. Dana White is definitely outspoken, but he’s running an entire league, so to speak, where he’s successful no matter what. Yormark has to deal with the likelihood of failure every single year.

Chris wins this round 8 – 6 – 4


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