A few sporadic snippets as I ponder what went wrong with my bracket for the umpteenth year in a row …

• John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats are on the cusp of one of the greatest — if not the greatest — seasons in men’s college basketball history. I will watch the Final Four with the hopes their quest for a perfect 40-0 season is derailed. As an (unapologetic) Massachusetts native, I fell in love with the State U’s hoop team, beginning when Calipari came to Amherst in 1988. In 1996, the affable Coach Cal and his dynamic starting five of Donta Bright, Carmelo Travieso, Dana Dingle, Edgar Padilla and a big man named Marcus Camby led the Minutemen to the program’s first Final Four. UMass did not win the national title that season — it fell to, ironically, Kentucky.

Later, of course, UMass was forced to vacate its Final Four appearance altogether because Camby reportedly accepted cash from an agent. That’s a big no-no in collegiate athletics, even in Division I.

It wouldn’t be the last time a Calipari-run program would be forced to vacate a Final Four berth, either. Memphis, with Calipari at the helm, would also vacate a Final Four appearance — this one in 2008 — because an academically ineligible Derrick Rose played with an invalid SAT score. Calipari, of course, denied any wrongdoing in this case as well.

At UMass, when the hammer was falling, Calipari hopped on his giddy-up and raced out of town to greener pastures in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, all the while denying any wrongdoing. I didn’t buy it then and still don’t now.

Calipari cashed in with the Nets, signing a $15 million, five-year deal, and assumed the fancy title of executive vice president of basketball operations.

He also left a UMass program saddled with sanctions and plenty of questions. All these years later and UMass is nowhere near another Final Four run.

Coach Cal? He’s all smiles.

Sure, he may be a fantastic coach, recruiter and motivator, and his teams admittedly play entertaining basketball.

But that’s not enough to pull for some history-making this weekend in Indianapolis.

• • •

The field for the men’s college hockey Frozen Four is set, with North Dakota, Boston University, Providence and Nebraska-Omaha set to compete for a national title beginning April 9 at TD Garden in Boston.

Providence goalie and the pride of South Portland Jon Gillies is coming off an impressive showing in the East Regional last weekend. Gillies stopped 52 shots combined in wins over top-seeded Miami of Ohio and Denver. He was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week for the 12th time in his career.

The Friars will open the Frozen Four against the Mavericks at 5 p.m. that day, and all eyes will be on the concrete-solid Gillies.

BU and North Dakota will follow at 8:30 p.m. The winners will then square off April 11 for the title.

Do yourself a favor and try to watch BU freshman sensation and Hobey Baker favorite Jack Eichel, who is the real deal, folks. The Massachusetts native took home Hockey East Player and Rookie of Year honors.

The last player to do that?

Former University of Maine standout Paul Kariya in 1992-93.

Eichel leads the nation in scoring (67 points), assists (43) and plus-minus (+49). He is exciting to watch and a name hockey fans should hear a lot in the coming years.

As good as Eichel is, his numbers also put in perspective the season Kariya had for the Black Bears in 1992-93. Kariya scored an incredible 100 points (25 goals, 75 assists) in 39 games his freshman season.

He helped Maine win the national title that season, and we’ll see if Eichel can do the same for BU in a little more than a week.

• • •

The Bruins have been a tough team to figure out much of this season. They started slow then pulled it together before a late six-game losing skid nearly torpedoed their playoff hopes. Still, the B’s have won three straight heading into a showdown Thursday night at Detroit.

Boston is locked in a tight battle with Ottawa and Florida for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Moving up the standings is also within reach as the Bruins trail the sixth-place Red Wings by a mere two points.

The Bruins — on most nights anyway — are fun to watch, particularly when David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner are on top of their games. The duo have combined for 44 points. Boston selected Pastrnak in the first round (25th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Just 18 years old, he is the youngest player in the league. Spooner, 23, has 17 points in 23 games heading into Thursday’s action.

While the Bruins — who lead the Senators by three points with just five regular season games remaining — are immersed in the present, the future looks good.

• • •

Wonder when we’ll hear anything from Ted Wells regarding the much ballyhooed Deflategate. The NFL wrapped up investigations into the Falcons (artificial crowd noise) and the Browns (prohibited text messages sent to sideline), but so far nothing on the Pats. The NFL said it would be a lengthy probe and it wasn’t kidding.

The NFL draft begins April 30 in Chicago. The guess (hope) here is that we’ll have some answers well before then.

Bill Stewart — 621-5618

[email protected]

Twitter: @billstewartmtm


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