SPORTS

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February 27, 2004

AKs are team to beat in b-ball

It's getting to be that time of year again. Buzzer-beaters, frenzied crowds, storming of courts, game after gameĀ—the madness is upon us.

"Wait," you say, "isn't that aforementioned madness usually associated with a different month, perhaps March?" No, the real madness has come to reside right here at the U of C during late February in the form of the intramural basketball playoffs.

The IM basketball regular season is over, the playoffs have already begun, and the best time of the year has finally arrived. With no actual NCAA postseason occurring involving Chicago, the IM playoffs will have to suffice for those of us harboring dreams of cutting down the nets in San Antonio.

Here are the final rankings as we enter the playoffs. Men's League: 1) The AKs 2) Hustle 3) The Flying Isenbergs II 4) The Plumbers 5) Soccer Ballers 6) The Revolution 7) Atropine 8) The Geriatrics 9) Hoover 10)Vincent Large Roosters.

In the coed league: 1) Malpractice 2) Flint House 3) Mercenaries 4) SSA Coed 5) Kings and Queens. Finally the women's league: 1) Chicago Soccer 2) SSA Women 3) Undefeated.

In the men's side of the action, five teams made it through the regular season undefeated. Of those teams, it appears the AKs of the independent league have the best opportunity of winning it all this year.

The AKs defeated their opponents by an impressive 32.8 points per game, winning their first contest of the year by 95 points. They played in one of the toughest leagues in IM basketball this year, having to face the defending champion Soccer Ballers during the regular season.

The AKs, much like the New Jersey Nets but better, run a fast-break offense and pressure opponents into turnovers by full-court pressing as often as possible.

"We're pretty confident," said AKs team member Mahfuz Sultan. "I know Revolution is a good team, but other than that, we're not very worried about teams in the playoffs."

Coming out of the same league, the Soccer Ballers are looking to repeat as champions again this year. In their only loss of the season, the Ballers took the AKs to the final shot before losing 63-60. This team can do damage in the tournament, but it needs to regain its injured shooter, second-year Joe Frontczak. If he can return to his pre-injury form, the Ballers once again will become the team to beat.

"Being the defending champs, you have a [target] on your back, and everyone gives you his best shot," said second-year Soccer Baller Jim Logan. "I'm not worried though; we seem to play our best basketball come tournament time."

In terms of the playoffs, the Soccer Ballers have a tough possible second round match- up against defending independent champs Revolution, which could turn into an upset. The AKs appear to have a relatively easy road to the final four, where they will finally be tested. The Flying Isenbergs II face a dangerous Atropine team in the second round, and I predict an upset win for Atropine in that game.

I believe the AKs will win the men's tournament, despite their relative inexperience on the IM basketball stage. They have only one quality win this year, though, and could be caught off- guard by an experienced graduate team such as Hustle or the Geriatrics.

The Plumbers should win the house tournament, their only possible challengers being either Hoover or Vincent.

In the absence of last year's champions Hitchcock-Snell, Chicago Soccer will win the women's bracket.

Finally, in the co-ed league, I see Malpractice and Flint House meeting in the finals, and the game being decided in the final minute.

In co-ed playoff action on Wednesday night, Gangrene, a team from Burton-Judson's Linn and Mathews houses, upset the hot-shooting squad from Palmer House.

With 15 seconds to go and Gangrene down 51-50, Palmer house had control of the ball and was two or three easy passes away from running out the clock. Instead, Mathews House Resident Head Manuel Borobia slapped the ball away at half court, gained control of it, and then was fouled as he hit the easy lay-up with time running out.

"That was awesome," Borobia said. "I'm really good at basketball.