Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

March Madness: Who’s your Final Four?

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NCAA/The Ides of March may be looming for Greece and the EU, but stateside this month means only one thing: March Madness. It is estimated that as many as 50 million people will fill out a bracket for the collegiate basketball tournament this year. This has led to wild speculation that this annual event could cost companies millions of dollars in lost productivity.

March Madness is driven by several factors. Alumni bias comes into play, as pride and tradition associated with their collegiate teams drives fan into a frenzy. Others tend to be more analytical, attempting to predict the inevitable upsets and shockers.

So who do I think will win? Let me share some quick thoughts broken down by region. Please feel free to let me know where I’ve gone wrong.

Midwest:

Kansas (#1 seed) is the powerhouse of this region and a general favorite to win it all. Georgetown (#3) and Ohio State (#2) could both pose a serious challenge to Kansas. I think the potential Georgetown-Ohio State game could be one of the most entertaining of the entire tournament.

Arenas under fire for gun incident

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Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas is introduced before the team's NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Washington, March 28, 2009. It was Arenas's first game back after a lengthy knee injury rehab. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstAlthough it is not exactly clear what transpired between Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton last month at the Verizon Center, we do know Arenas brought four unloaded handguns from his home to his locker and in a “misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate,” Arenas took the weapons out of his locker.

According to a statement released by his lawyers, Arenas voluntarily met with federal prosecutors and detectives of the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday to explain why he had firearms inside the team’s locker room.

Ricky Rubio and the Sportswrap speed special

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Ricky Rubio is the one that got away from the NBA. The number five draft pick opted to spend another year or two in Spain rather than join the Minnesota Timberwolves and FC Barcelona are understandably elated to have got him.

Click the video above to see Rubio celebrate his 19th birthday by helping Barcelona demolish Fenerbahce in the Euroleague. We also take a look at Jenson Button’s homecoming after his Formula 1 world title victory, and why batsmen the world over should be glad a certain Usain Bolt opted for track and field over cricket.

The Brooklyn Nets and the battle for Big Apple affections

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CHINA/The Brooklyn Nets …. LeBron James …. Battle for Big Apple affections …. Hot topics for sure among New York-area hoops fans with news that Russia’s richest man is riding to the $200 million rescue of the Nets, and Brooklyn may once again rise to alter the sports landscape of The City.

The long-ago announced plan to relocate the Nets — struggling to establish an identity and profitability in the swamplands of northern New Jersey — to Brooklyn has been an on-again, off-again mess with team owner, real estate mogul Bruce Ratner, fighting zoning boards, politicians, preservationists, environmentalists and the general economic morass for a mega development deal that included a new arena for the NBA club.

Chris Paul’s Ricky Rubio regret

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paulNew Orleans point guard extraordinaire Chris Paul told Reuters he was dreaming big about the Hornets this upcoming season, setting his sights on an NBA title, but he was also realistic about how stiff the competition would be.

Asked who he regarded as improving teams, Paul went right to the reigning champions.

from Changing China:

China’s infertile ground for (some) Western sports

Soccer is in a tight spot in China -- literally. Huge crowds roar for Manchester United but the national team is a laughing stock at 108th in FIFA world rankings. Poor coaching, lack of grassroots development, even corruption and violence are variously cited as reasons for the sport's demise. But the real reason may be more basic: the fact of physical space, or the lack thereof, in China.

If geography is a determinant of economic development, then it is fair to extrapolate that urban geography underpins the development of sports. And here's the rub for soccer, not to mention American football and baseball. With few parks, small concrete schoolyards and a dearth of quiet streets, urban China offers little of the space needed for the sprawling play that defines those sports. Soccer has deep roots in China, but playing space has been squeezed as cities sprawl and swallow land in big gulps.

Breaking news: Yao Ming to have surgery, will miss whole of 2009-10 season

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yaomingHouston Rockets’ Chinese center Yao Ming is to undergo surgery on his foot injury and has been ruled out for the whole of next season.

Yao will have surgery next week to repair the broken bone in his left foot and the Rockets said on their official site that he would have to sit out the 2009-10 season.

Is Phil Jackson the best coach in NBA history or just lucky?

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jacksonThe man who’s become known as the “Zen Master” for tapping Buddhist teachings has been fortunate enough to coach the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant as they grew into dominant superstars, but rounding their games into championship form was a never-ending battle of wills.

In his 2006 memoir, Jackson refers to Kobe as “uncoachable” for his tendency to try to win games as a solo artist. After breaking the late Red Auerbach’s record to stand alone as the first coach to win 10 NBA championships, Jackson paid tribute to Bryant for his maturity as he accepted his very first MVP award.

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