Kris Joseph will slide into the starting lineup in place of the injured Arinze Onuaku. Can the Orange regain its swagger and make a run to Indy? (Source: Dennis Nett)

March Madness: Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard?


Could Howard and Pujols trade places one day? (Source: Yardbarker)

March Madness has officially begun. The brackets came out and everyone’s making their picks for the Final Four. Kansas is the favorite. Kentucky, Duke, and Syracuse round out the No. 1 seeds. After looking at the bracket, there are some surprises.

Despite being the No. 1 overall seed, Kansas has a tough road to the Final Four in the Midwest region. Michigan State and Maryland will wait for the Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen, and both have experienced coaches in Tom Izzo and Gary Williams on the sidelines. Tennessee is the No. 6 seed, and is also one of the few teams that beat the Jayhawks this year. Throw in Georgetown and Ohio State, and you have the toughest region.

Duke has the easiest region, even though it was the latest addition as a No. 1. Its toughest matchup may be in the second round with a Louisville team that beat Syracuse twice or a dangerous Cal team. After that, Purdue is far from a top team without Robbie Hummel. Baylor is an exciting team, but also an unknown in the tournament that could lose to Notre Dame and Luke Harangody. Finally, Villanova is the weakest No. 2 coming into the tournament losing five of its last seven.

Come Thursday, brackets will be busted and the madness will set in with this year’s Cinderella. It is always an exciting and hectic scene when the top team goes down.

The madness wasn’t just reserved for bracketology this morning. When printing out the bracket this morning, some baseball news in the headlines fit the theme perfectly:

“Pujols for Howard?”

“Howard for Pujols?”

“Trade Rumor: Albert Pujols to Philly for Ryan Howard”

Beware the Ides of March, Cards fans.

OK, both clubs denied any talks of a trade involving Pujols and Howard. Ruben Amaro called the reports “a lie” but he wouldn’t admit the thought crossed his mind anyway. Earlier this offseason, he seemed content with Cliff Lee headlining the Phillies rotation only to turnaround and get Roy Halladay instead. In baseball today, anything can happen.

And until Pujols is signed for the long haul, expect more crazy rumors that have him wearing different uniforms. Most will probably involve pinstripes of some sort, whether it is the Phillies red or The Pinstripes everyone loves to hate. Pujols is the best player in the game by far, and many teams would love to have him in their lineup. He is set to become a free agent after the 2011 season, and he is set to command a huge contract. The Cardinals could go for a deal before then – if it determines it cannot meet slugger’s demands. Howard would be a nice replacement. He is a top power hitter in the game, he’s clutch, and he’s from St. Louis.

Still, at least at this point, a deal is highly unlikely. Both players have two years left on their

deals, and St. Louis will not trade Pujols unless it absolutely has to. He means too much to the organization – both on an off the field. He is already one of the greatest of all-time, and could break many records to become the best ever. The Cardinals cannot justify trading away the best player in baseball history at any point in his career. Pujols is very active in the community with his family foundation, and St. Louis loves him.

I don’t see him playing anywhere else in his career. He feels comfortable in St. Louis. The team is good. The organization is top-notch. Money is the only factor that could get in the way, but Pujols seems to understand there is more to life than money.

Redbird nation, ignore these rumors for now. Get lost in the real March Madness today and fill out your brackets.

Who do you have making the trip to Indy?

Kansas? Syracuse? Baylor? Cornell?

Anything can happen in March.

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