By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Apr 04, 2003 at 5:19 AM

Yours truly is one of a handful of current Milwaukee sportswriters who actually were around when Al McGuire and the Marquette Warriors won the 1977 NCAA tournament.

This year's Golden Eagles, who play Kansas Saturday in The Final Four, compare rather nicely to that national championship team position by position. Let's take a look:

Small forward -- Bill Neary was a hustling defensive player with very few offensive skills. He would give way to talented Bernard Toone when the Warriors needed points from the position. You'd have to give an edge to this combo over Todd Townsend, who has been starting for the current Golden Eagles.

Power forward -- Bo Ellis was an experienced player by the time MU won the 1977 title and gets the nod over the Golden Eagles' Scott Merritt. But, that is primarily because the latter is still developing.

Center -- Jerome Whitehead was a rugged rebounder and defender, who went on to a NBA career, but give the Golden Eagles' Robert Jackson a slight edge, primarily because of his offensive skills around the basket.

Shooting guard -- When it was BLT -- Butch Lee Time -- you often could count on a basket, but Lee didn't have the overall talent of Dwayne Wade, who might be the most talented Marquette offensive player ever.

Point guard -- Jim Boylan and Travis Diener actually compare rather closely. Boylan was, and Diener is, a savvy player, who does a good job of directing the floor game. Give Boylan the edge primarily on experience.

The Bench -- The Warriors were not exceptionally deep in 1977. In fact, Toone and Gary Rosenberger were the only guys to come off the bench for McGuire in the championship game. Ulice Payne, now CEO of the Brewers, played in 21 of the 32 games. Steve Novak and company give the Golden Eagles a depth advantage.

Coaching -- Tom Crean is a fine young coach, who might be spoken of some day in similar terms as McGuire. But, Coach Al is a legend, and his assistants, Hank Raymonds and Rick Majerus, knew a few things about basketball, too.

So, it looks like the Warriors get a 4-3 advantage in this breakdown. Does that mean the 1977 Warriors would beat the Golden Eagles? You won't get this writer to touch that one with a 10-foot pole. But, look for MU to give Kansas a great game and sneak into the championship game.

Brew Crew Review

Opening Day might as well be a holiday in Milwaukee, no matter how good or bad the Brewers are. It's good that the team went back to a day game (1:05 p.m. Friday) after a couple years of opening the season at night at Miller Park. It better fits the tradition, and makes us all feel like we're playing hooky.

The Brewers should be able to improve on their 106-loss season by at least 10-12 games, but they are a long way from being a .500 team. The bullpen shouldn't be too bad, although it blew the game in the season opener at St. Louis. The starting rotation has question marks after Ben Sheets.

Geoff Jenkins has to find a way to stay healthy if the outfield is to solidify. Royce Clayton looks like a good addition at shortstop. Wes Helms still has to prove he can play every day at third. Predictions follow for all the divisions in baseball:

NL East -- 1. Expos, 2. Phillies, 3. Braves, 4. Mets, 5. Marlins.

NL Central -- 1. Astros, 2. Cardinals, 3. Cubs, 4. Pirates, 5. Reds, 6. Brewers.

NL West -- 1. D-Backs, 2. Giants, 3. Dodgers, 4. Padres, 5. Rockies.

AL East -- 1. Yankees, 2. Red Sox, 3. Blue Jays, 4. Orioles, 5. Devil Rays.

AL Central -- 1. Twins, 2. White Sox, 3. Indians, 4. Royals, 5. Tigers.

AL West -- 1. Angels, 2. As, 3. Rangers, 4. Mariners.

Look for a small market World Series with the Twins beating the Expos. Hey, we can dream. It's spring.

Women's Football Expanding

Madison has been granted a franchise in the Women's Professional Football League. The Northern Ice will kick off its season in August. The Ice joins the Wisconsin Riveters, who play in Kenosha, in the WPFL. The league expects to have 19 teams by the time the season starts.

The Name Game

Could Bucks' coach George Karl head for North Carolina now that Matt Doherty got fired at NC? Karl's contract has a clause that allows him to leave the Bucks if the UNC job would come up. He said Wednesday night that he had not been contacted by UNC and was concentrating on getting the Bucks into the playoffs ... UWM basketball coach Bruce Pearl signed a contract extension through the 2007-2008 season. Meanwhile, former UW coach Dick Bennett did take that Washington State job, and as mentioned in last week's column, took his son, Tony, an assistant with the Badgers, with him. ... Former UW-Eau Claire coach Lisa Stone, who most recently coached at Drake, has taken the UW women's basketball coaching job.

Hot Tix

The Brewers' opener will be the hottest ticket in town, but plenty of good sections will be available at Miller Park on Saturday and Sunday. Announcer Bob Uecker, the newest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame's broadcasting wing, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday.

Dreamworks recording artist, Darryl Worley, will perform the National Anthem prior to the game. All fans will receive a magnetic Brewers schedule courtesy of Edy's Grand Ice Cream and Pick 'n Save.


The parking lots at Miller Park will open at 10 am with the gates to the ballpark opening at 11 a.m. Pre-game ceremonies will start at 12:15 pm with a pre-game performance by new Brewers organist Dean Rosko. Game time is slated for 1:05 p.m. as Todd Ritchie will face Kurt Ainsworth in game one of a three-game weekend series against the Giants.

After Saturday's game, you might want to stick around after the opener to watch UWM play Valpo in a college baseball game at 5 p.m. It's free.

Karl's Bucks host the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at the Bradley Center. They need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Wave starts Major Indoor Soccer League playoff action at 1 p.m. Sunday at the BC. Milwaukee will meet Kansas City in a winner-take-all Western Conference finals game. Fans will get a Victor Nogueira bobblehead.

The Admirals will play Utah Saturday night (7:40) and Sunday at 5:12 p.m. The starting time of the Saturday game has been moved back to not conflict with the Marquette game on TV. The Admirals are playing for playoff position in the American Hockey League.

Of course, the biggest event will be watched by most of us on TV, when the Golden Eagles meet Kansas in New Orleans.

Gregg Hoffmann writes The State Sports Buzz on Fridays on OMC. Look for The Brew Crew Review selection of Player, Play and Goat of the Week on the OMC message boards.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.