This week's Chain Reactions deals with VCU's run to the 2011 Final Four, making it the "new George Mason." We also discuss whether the Capitals can afford to keep their hottest Goalie off ice, more NBA Draft thoughts with the Wizards, Maryland potentially losing Jordan Williams and the Nationals' new look in center field.
VCU Pulls a George Mason
It took five years but we finally have "this year's George Mason:" conference rival Virginia Commonwealth. However, the Rams are a super-sized addition if you consider they had to win an extra game to get to the Final Four. They also had to endure the scrutiny from most of the NCAA basketball media for their inclusion as an at-large team in the first-ever field of 68. Talk about making the most of your opportunity.
The No. 11 seed in the Southwest Region of the NCAA bracket took down the top-seeded Kansas 71-61 to punch its ticket to Houston. (FUN FACT: a Jayhawk is a bird that chokes in March). The Rams are the first team ever to make the Final Four by winning five games, and they won four of them by double digits. Next up for the Rams is this year's Butler Bulldogs, who look a lot like last year's team that lost to Duke in the NCAA championship game. This means the title game is guaranteed to include another Mid-Major.
Can the Capitals Ride a Pair of Rookie Goalies in Postseason
The Capitals just wrapped up a really good six-game road trip, winning four of six after a 2-0 shutout win in Montreal Saturday. This is really impressive, considering Alex Ovechkin remains sidelined. Goalie Braden Holtby was called up from Hershey the day of the game (Michael Neuvirth was sick) and earned his second shutout of his career. Shortly after the win, he was sent back to Hershey. Will he get another call up for the post season?
Coach Bruce Boudreau has talked about not riding just one guy in the playoffs despite history showing that is what championships teams do. The issue though is that none of the Capitals' goalies will be confused with Martin Brodeur or Cam Ward in regards to postseason experience. Semyon Varlamov is the only goalie that has playoff experience, but he has only played in 25 games this season.
Neuvirth has been the franchise's best goalie this season (24-11-4 2.46 GAA), and fellow rookie Holtby hasn't lost in his last nine appearances with the Capitals. It is the most important decision to make before the postseason, and the good news is the Capitals have options. No matter what route Boudreau goes, he leaves himself open for armchair analysis if it doesn't work.
Terps Could Lose Man in the Middle
There is no guarantee the NBA will even have a 2011/12 season with some serious labor issues and an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement this summer. Yet some of college basketball's best underclassman will soon need to make a choice by May 8 to declare for the NBA Draft. That list includes Maryland's Jordan Williams. Terps Coach Gary Williams left this message to the Washington Post's Liz Clarke.
"It's an ongoing process. There hasn't been any decision reached at this point," Gary Williams said in a voicemail. "We're talking with Jordan andjust trying to point out all the things that are out there - his opportunities that are there both in college and in the NCAA. This is kind of a different year with a potential lockout."
Wizards Wish List
Even if Jared Sullinger did change his mind and enter the 2011 NBA Draft, I would still be here selling out for Arizona's Derrick Williams as the Wizards' top draft prospect. Sure, there is the matter of winning the lottery again or getting lucky and have him fall into the Wizards' lap, but Williams has been a human highlight film in anNCAA Tournament run that ended with a loss to UConn. So what makes Williams so right for the Wizards? Please read the breakdown from Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.
While he's not the biggest player in this draft (he's likely to measure somewhere between 6-8 and 6-9), nor the longest, Williams' athleticism, polished skills, high basketball IQ and fantastic scoring instincts are tools that NBA teams are in desperate need of these days. Smart, versatile power forwards who can create their own offense andscore from anywhere on the floor are viewed by many as the second-most coveted players in the league right now after pick-and-roll point guards.
A Williams/John Wall combo with the Wizards would certainly change the outlook for the city's NBA franchise. Williams provides a big man that possesses polished skills and has a high basketball IQ, traits that are currently lacking on the Wizards' roster. Also, it's worth noting that Williams gets the free throw and makes them. Plus, Williams has an improving outside game that was highlighted in the Wildcats' win over Duke.
OK, before I get too far ahead of myself, could Lady Luck strike twice for the Wizards in the lottery? Seems insane, I know, but no team has been more embarrassing on the road in the NBA. Shouldn't that be rewarded?
The Tony Plush Era is Over
The Nyjer Morgan era is officially over, as the Nationals; always entertaining center fielder was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. The Nats are going with former Cardinal Rick Ankiel, who won the job during spring training. There was no off field controversy this time from Morgan: it was a simple baseball decision.
"It wasn't really what (Morgan) didn't show as (much as) what Ankiel did show," [general manager Mike] Rizzo said. "Ankielshowed us he can go get the ball in the outfield. His arm is really a weapon. When he's out there, very few players are going first-to-third, second-to-home, andhe can create a lot of damage with one swing. I focus it more on what Ankiel did than what Nyjer didn't do. Nyjer had a nice spring training. After the first week, he played really well, and did everything he had to do. I feel it was Ankiel winning the job, not Nyjer losing the job
Lenny Dystra's son Cutter joins the Nationals in return. One piece of advice for the Nats' players: if Dykstra says his dad could offer you some investment advice, it would be best to say no thanks.