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ESPN Would Like to Take Over Your Saturday

I've never gotten particularly pumped fro spring football. The concept comes from the once basketball-starved SEC, where after a long winter the fans are chomping at the bit to see any sort of action. For me, spring is the occasional trip to the baseball parks and the beginning of road racing season – a good chunk of day will be spent at packet pick-up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler tomorrow morning – not football. Come talk to me right as the heat gets unbearable in August. That's when I'm ready to start looking at quarterbacks again.

(For what it's worth, this isn't a basketball bias talking. I don't really care for Midnight Madness or much of the basketball exhibitions either. It's not until the leaves have changed that I'm ready to contemplate basketball.)

That being said, with ESPN airing UNC's practice today, Butch Davis seems to have gone out of his way to make it something worth watching. The teams weren't picked by draft, but to specifically provide match-ups the coaches want to see, with Travis Bond on Marvin Austin being an example the coaches gave. They're also abandoning the scrimmage concept of the last few years for an actual game, if a time-compressed one to suit ESPN's schedule. But it's basically a chance to see players after a long drought, and to focus on where the improvement has come from and what needs work. And if you're not a T.J. Yates fan, a chance to see what alternative you'll be pushing for come fall.

The problem is, an hour into the two hours ESPN has devoted to the game, ESPNU is throwing Carolina lacrosse at you, with the Big City Classic up in New York. This is the first event at the New Meadowlands Stadium, and the organizers have aired the undefeated, second-ranked Heels against the top-ranked, also undefeated Virginia Cavaliers. (Your rankings may vary. The Washington Examiner, for instance, has Carolina as No. 1. It's also a horrible paper.) UNC hasn't beaten UVa in six years, but recently got back the services of attack Billy Bitter, who had been out with a leg injury. Bitter had four goals in last week's 11-7 victory over Johns Hopkins and five in last year's 11-10 loss to the Cavaliers. The two teams are the last two undefeated schools in Division I lacrosse, and play right before a meeting of third and fourth ranked Syracuse and Princeton in the second game. This is a likely preview of what we'll see in the playoffs, and I think ESPN might lose some of its audience to its sister network come four o'clock. Me, I just hope to be through the lines and received my race bib at that point.

There'a good article on Bitter and UVa defenseman Ken Clausen here, and a good overview of the resurgence in the UNC program here