Bob Kemp

Bottom Line 3/30/21

BOTTOMLINE

MORE MARCH MADNESS KNOWLEDGE

        *THE CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS WILL BE REPRESENTED AT THE FINAL FOUR: UCLA is in The Final Four for the first time since 2008 after Michigan missed its last eight field-goal attempts in the 51-49 slugfest … STATISTICALLY SPEAKING – UCLA’s defense dominated Michigan’s usual efficient offense – 20 of 51 from the field (39.2%), three of 11 behind the arc (27.3%) with just 12 assists and 14 turnovers … CLOSING LAS VEGAS LINE – Michigan 6 ½ (137) … THE BOTTOM LINE – UCLA is the second double-digit seed ever to beat first and second seeds to reach a Final Four (1986 LSU was the first).
        *MAYBE JALEN SUGGS SHOULD THE FIRST PICK OF THE NBA DRAFT AHEAD OF ISAIAH MOBLEY AND CADE CUNNINGHAM: Gonzaga is headed to its second Final Four after leading wire-to-wire and never threatened by USC, which also lost its heart after falling behind 17-4 … STATISTICALLY SPEAKING – Suggs nearly had a triple-double (18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) … CLOSING LAS VEGAS LINE – Gonzaga 8½ (152) … THE BOTTOM LINE – Gonzaga remained perfect with 29 of its 30 wins by double digits.
         *THE LATEST LINE: With three tournament games remaining, underdogs are 33-30 ATS and 39 of 63 games have gone under the total.

 2021 AMERICAN LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

EAST
        *1. NEW YORK: Still the most top-shelf talent in the AL even after spring training with injuries to 2019 MLB home run leader Luke Voit and key bullpen piece Zack Britton.
        *2. TAMPA BAY (OVER 86 WINS): No organization has a deeper 40-man roster of 2021 contributors, but losing difference-making starting pitchers Charlie Morton and Blake Snell means no repeat World Series appearance.
        *3. BOSTON: Not a good roster, but this division has declined.
        *4. TORONTO: Overrated offense, highly questionable defense, and a pitching staff littered with injury risks, with some already ailing.
        *5. BALTIMORE: Matt Harvey making the rotation is a combination of his perseverance and the team’s desperation.
CENTRAL
        *1. MINNESOTA: The pitching staff depth (rotation and bullpen) and improved infield defense up the middle at both positions are the difference.
        *2. CHICAGO: Too many questions in the rotation and poor defense make it difficult to overcome the loss of Eli Jimenez.
        *3. KANSAS CITY (OVER 72½ WINS): A nice mix of developing pitchers and position players – also, don’t be surprised if it buys at the trade deadline.
        *4. CLEVELAND: Not even Terry Francona can overcome the losses of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, plus an everyday lineup that is average at best everywhere, except Jose Ramirez at 3B.
        *5. DETROIT: The young arms and bats aren’t ready, yet the organization is heading in the right direction – also, don’t be surprised if the free agent to be Justin Verlander doesn’t return in 2022 to conclude his career where it started.
WEST
        *1. OAKLAND: Bob Melvin remains the best manager in the league, but the depth has taken a step back.
        *2. HOUSTON: The starting rotation is not division-winning material and the lineup isn’t deep enough to compensate.
        *3. LOS ANGELES: Might actually contend in the division if Shohei Ohtani can stay healthy and enough to hit and pitch all season.       
        *4. SEATTLE: Another AL team with young talent that is at least a couple of seasons away from contending.
        *5. TEXAS: The Rangers are expected to add before the 2022 season, which might start with Irving native Trevor Story.
POST-SEASON
        AL PLAYOFFS: Wild Card – Tampa Bay over Chicago
        ALDS – New York over Tampa, Oakland over Minnesota
        ALCS – New York over Oakland
        WORLD SERIES WINNER: LA Dodgers over NY Yankees