As the busy sports month of March winds down, here are the winners and losers from the past week.
Winner: South Carolina
Coming off of three consecutives upsets in the NCAA Tournament, the South Carolina men’s basketball team is headed to their first Final Four in school history. They powered through No. 10 Marquette, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor and No. 4 Florida, shocking people across the country.
South Carolina, predominantly a football school, was a team that most people overlooked when filling out their brackets. Picking them to get past Marquette was no lock, and then choosing them to beat Duke seemed downright dumb. After all, they stumbled into the tournament, losing six of their last nine games.
But before you could blink, the buzzer was going off for an Elite Eight win over Florida. Sindarius Thornwell chucked the ball into space, and the Gamecocks were headed for Phoenix.
South Carolina has won each tournament game in impressive fashion, winning by at least seven points each time. They hope to continue their success against Gonzaga, who ended Xavier’s cinderella run on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the school’s women’s team advanced to the final four as well Tuesday night, making South Carolina the only school in both the men’s and women’s Final Four. Sound familiar? UConn has done this four times, and is the only school to achieve this more than once.
Winner: Team USA Stars Who Shined
Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer and Sonny Gary make up a nice array of starters, but they certainly are not the most formidable group of American starting pitchers available. This trio, along with some other complimentary pitchers, were the ones who chose to show up to the World Baseball Classic after many of baseball’s best hurlers declined to participate.
In the field, tremendous players like Adam Jones, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey led the way. Like the rotation, many of the game’s biggest names were missing.
Despite so many absences, Team USA was able to drive towards the country’s first ever World Baseball Classic title in its fourth attempt. The team’s pitching was virtually unbeatable, evidenced by Stroman’s one hitter in the championship game against Puerto Rico. The players who participated deserve credit for representing America and giving the event more traction.
Loser: Harper, Syndergaard, and the Stars Who Sat
While Jones and his teammates were enjoying a rare March celebration, superstars like Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were busy playing a couple innings each day in meaningless spring training games.
The World Baseball Classic has never had significant popularity in the United States, and many of the game’s superstars did not want to risk injury playing in the tournament. Players’ disdain towards the event over potential injuries show how weak and fragile baseball's stars can be in comparison to other sports. Soccer and hockey players are always eager to play on the international level.
Syndergaard explained that he declined to play because it would not help him win the World Series and that no one has ever made the Hall of Fame based on the World Baseball Classic. It is understandable that the Mets season is dependant on Thor taking the mound every five days. Losing him to injury would be devastating.
But he could easily get injured in any spring training game too. Pitching in meaningful situations could be useful in preparing for the season. Saying that playing in the tournament is not going to help him make the Hall of Fame is just ignorant. Not only does he sound completely selfish, but he also disregards the honor of playing for the United States.
Bryce Harper cited the lack of star power playing for America as his reason for opting out. As one of these stars, he makes himself into a hypocrite. Harper is supposed to be one of the faces of baseball, but meanwhile acts like he wants no part of being one of the game’s ambassadors. He should be leading the way for other all stars to join him on the team, but would rather be a follower.
Syndergaard’s Mets and Harper’s Nationals may get to compete for the National League East division crown all year, but when the teams end up choking in the playoffs yet again, they can look back on another empty year.
At least their division foes, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich of the lowly Miami Marlins, will have something positive to look back on in 2017 with their World Baseball Classic win. Harper’s teammate, Daniel Murphy, will also have something to take home.
Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.