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From March Madness to the NBA playoffs


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- The madness that is college basketball has swept the sports nation once again this past few weeks. Brackets have been filled, wagers made, and we all get to ride the thrills and spills all the way to the National Championship game this coming Monday.

NBA players are active followers of all this hoopla and they've been known to head out to games and feverishly root for their respective alma maters. Here in Chicago, for instance, Bulls players Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler actually traveled to watch Florida and Marquette in live tournament play.

That's just one of the many beauties of college basketball -- the renewed sense of family showing its glow through the simple joy of college pride.

And now that March has departed and the field reduced to the Final Four, the fun is about to end, like all good things do. But worry not, because pro basketball is nearing its climax. In 1fact, the NBA playoffs will arrive in 18 days. .

Unlike the unforgiving one-and-done deal that is college hoops, the NBA playoffs is a different beast where a team needs to beat the other at least four times in no more than seven tries to advance to the next round. The purity of amateurism isn't there but the splendor of watching the world's best athletes provides a uniquely different excitement.

Although they seem to be staggering toward the finish line, the Chicago Bulls have already clinched a playoffs berth. What is yet to be determined, though, is whether the Bulls will climb higher than a No.6 seed and get homecourt advantage in the opening round.

The highly-anticipated return of superstar Derrick Rose, who had surgery last May 12 to repair a torn ACL, remains doubtful. But with or without the ace point guard, trust Bulls fans to rally behind their team, which hasn't tasted a championship since 1998, the last year of the Jordan Era.

Besides, Rose, Rip Hamilton is also out with an injury while Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) are day-to-day. Still, the United Center, also known as the Madhouse on Madison, continues to be a hot ticket, a testament to the fierce loyalty of the Bulls' fan base.

Although they are severely, painfully depleted, the Bulls showed some toughness and resiliency last week when they dumped the spectacular Miami Heat, who were on a 27-game win streak and chasing the 1971-72 L.A. Lakers' all-time record of 33 consecutive wins.

Not only did the Bulls avenge their 86-67 February loss to the Heat, they showed that when playing their best, they can be a dangerous force to reckon with,

Let the NBA playoffs begin. (KA)



Click here to view a list of other articles written by Katrina Barnett.


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