Jussel: CSU, CU have winnable NCAA tourney games

Good news area hoop fans: Colorado State and Colorado are in the dance.

Personally, I’m happy because the two are on opposite sides of the bracket and should end up playing each other April 8 for the NCAA men’s basketball title in Atlanta.

OK, just joshing. While both teams would appear to have winnable first-round games, the task for both would take a huge step up in the second round.

Colorado State, 25-8 on the season and Mountain West Conference regular-season runner-up, plays Thursday at 7:20 p.m. at Lexington, Ky., against Missouri. The Tigers finished 23-10 on the season and fifth in the Southeastern Conference. The game will be televised by TBS.

Normally, that MWC vs. SEC would be a nightmare matchup, but the SEC has been woefully weak this season, and the task at hand for Larry Eustachy’s Rams is doable.

A Ram win would surely bring on Louisville, top seed in the Midwest Region and the entire 68-team tournament.

Colorado has roughly the same type of matchup, with the Buffs, 21-11 overall and fifth in the Pac-12, taking on Illinois, 22-12 overall, but just a seventh-place finish in the Big Ten. The game will be in Austin, Texas, starting Friday at 2:40 p.m. and televised by TNT.

Win that one, however, and Tad Boyle’s Buffs have a likely matchup against Miami, second seed in the East Region and the ACC champion.

■ The 240-pound Bronco running back (to be named later) turns upfield, only a smallish cornerback in his way.

Our runner makes the decision to mash through the defender, not dance around. After all, he is 240 pounds of mean, nasty critter, and the opponent is just a wimpy cornerback.

There is a crash, and the twosome tumbles to the ground.

Touchdown, signals the referee.

Er, hold on; there’s a flag.

Officials huddle, the referee faces the crowd and speaks into the microphone.

“Ten yards against the Broncos,” says the referee.  “The runner initiated contact with the crown of his helmet.”

What? The runner is penalized for dropping his head? What else is he going to do, other than, of course, dance around the small defender?

Yes, this is what football is coming to. In the interest of safety, this is the next big rule change that will be voted upon by National Football League owners this week in Phoenix.

It’s all part of the league’s attempt at staying out of court — oh, excuse me — to make the game safer.

I can see the replays coming now: Here’s the run, here’s the flag, here’s your replay.

Give us a break NFL.

We’ve already got defensive backs who can’t hit receivers too hard, blockers who can’t block too low, defenders who can’t touch too far down the field ... and on and on.

And now, the runner’s only defense is literally going to be to run faster.

In another decade, it will be the National Two-Hands Touch Football League.

Another couple of rules and the folks footing the bills may decide this isn’t as much fun to watch as it once was.

■ Closing thoughts on Rockies and spring training (for now): Nolan Arenado is 22 years old, plays an incredible third base and has been the team’s best hitter in spring training. Eric Young Jr. is lightning in a bottle and, reaching only slightly, the best leadoff hitter in the National League.

Problem is neither of them may be in the lineup for a team that is definitely in no position to make the playoffs as we speak.

Arenado adds power, defense and excitement to the team, even if he hits .210 with 20 homers as a rookie, and he should do significantly better than that.

Young makes the offense go. He gets on base, steals bases, scores and drives the opposition nuts. Problem is there’s no place to play him on a regular basis.

Solution?

Simple: The Rox need pitching.

And they have Chris Nelson, a .300 hitter last year who can play second or third.

They have Jordan Pacheco, a .300 hitter last year who can play catcher, second, third or first.

You have Ramon Hernandez as a second-string catcher who has power and a number of teams that need catching.

You have outfielders who can play first base, second basemen who can play shortstop, second basemen who can play third. Everywhere, there is depth and versatility.

Hello! Anybody home?

Figure out some trade package for a starting pitcher, any starting pitcher, and get the bonus of Arenado and Young in the lineup every day.

If the Rockies can’t win, at least they could be entertaining.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.

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