Forecasting what to come in spring

Some observations on what will happen in New York sports and pro sports.

After a usual depressing February of sports that comes after the Super Bowl, we have hit the start of a new sports season. March is known for March Madness that bridges the start of the baseball season, Stanley Cup playoffs and NBA playoffs. It isn’t just NCAA teams fighting for positioning to be in the tournament and winning a championship. It’s about NHL and NBA teams fighting for playoff positioning down the stretch. It’s about guys trying to make the Opening Day roster in baseball.

Here’s what to forecast:

The Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden should be interesting next week. There are no absolutes in that conference. Anyone can beat anyone. Villanova is good, but they are beatable.

Would it surprise anyone if Iona wins the MAAC Tournament in Albany? Iona is hot at the right time as they have won seven in a row entering their conference tournament. This may be Tim Cluess’ best job yet as Iona coach. Watching them play against Siena at New Rochelle this season, the feeling was Iona would have a long season after struggling offensively in their 56-54 loss to the upstart Siena Saints. Somehow, he has gotten results out of his team.

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For my money, Myles Powell should win the Frank Haggerty Award (the best college basketball player in the New York metropolitan area). He has been so clutch for Seton Hall when it comes to giving them much-needed basket down the stretch this season. Look at his performance against Kentucky, Xavier, Georgetown and Marquette. He has been more clutch than St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, who has regressed the last few weeks, not to mention disappearing in big moments lately. If Powell does not win the award this year, he should be the favorite next year. He definitely is the favorite for the Big East Preseason Player of the Year when next season starts.

I have to admit I thought the game has past Rutgers women’s basketball coach coach C. Vivian Stringer by in recent years. Shame on me for betting against this Hall of Fame coach. She still has it. Rutgers is 21-8 as they are in position to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in three seasons. I am sorry to ever doubt you, Vivian.

Rutgers’ men’s basketball is on the upswing. Forget the wins and losses for a second. Their young stars such as Ron Harper Jr., Geo Baker and Montez Mathis gained experience when it comes to development and knowing how to win games. This bodes well for the team and their players heading to next season. Rutgers has made strides under third-year coach Steve Pikiell, and it will only get better, especially when recruits are loving what he is doing with the program.

Jamion Christian has done a great job in his first year as Siena’s basketball coach. He has been able to get seniors in Evan Fisher and Kadeem Smithen feel like they are part of his program and foundation, which is one reason they both performed well this year. He was able to get his first recruit in Jalen Pickett, and he got the most out of his young guard in his first season. The Saints should benefit from this season moving forward.

Best bet for the NCAA Championship Game: Duke vs. Gonzaga

The Rangers have a decision to make. Do they keep and start Henrik Lundqvist next season or do they hand the starting goalie job to Alexandar Georgiev, who has showed he can be a capable starting goaltender when he starts? The problem is Lundqvist has a no-trade clause, and he has no interest in being traded. He wants to play, and he wants to do it in New York. This is going to be a problem.

There has been so much great moments in this Islanders season. For me, it’s the development of Anthony Beauvillier. He has played 66 games this season, and he played his 200th game of his NHL career recently. He is on pace to score 25 goals after breaking a 2-2 tie in the third period by scoring the go-ahead goal in the Islanders’ 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. What stands out about him is that he has the ability to be clutch in scoring much-needed goals at the right time like Thursday night. With the way he is going in his career, he could be the Islanders captain in due time.

Here’s why the Islanders will make the playoffs this season: They have a head coach that knows what he is doing in Barry Trotz. This is a coach coming off a Stanley Cup championship with the Washington Capitals. That goes a long way for players who need that type of leadership to lead them through the final stretch of the season where every game is huge. Trotz’s ability to coach and his even-keel style give the Islanders a chance to win down the stretch.

David Fizdale strikes me as the worst Knicks coach ever, and Kevin Knox is a bust in the making.

Laugh at the Boston Celtics now because come playoff time, no one will be laughing when they are playing in the NBA Finals.

It’s hard to take the Philadelphia Phillies seriously as a National League East contender when they only have good starter in Aaron Nola and bunch of guys masquerading as pitchers.

Don’t be surprised if the Tampa Bay Rays have a better record than the Yankees this season.

Gabe Kapler is fired as Phillies manager by Memorial Day.

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