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Mutka: New Year’s tips for impatient NWI jocks

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzijsmiles as he gets ruling strikeout second inning Chicago Cubs-Milwauke Brewers game Wednesday August 29 2012 Wrigley

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija smiles as he gets a ruling on a strikeout in the second inning of the Chicago Cubs-Milwauke Brewers game Wednesday August 29, 2012 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 30, 2012 11:48PM



Another year over, another day older. What will the next 364 days bring?

Darned if I can wait, so here are a few ideas sprinkled with a dose of wishful thinking for impatient jocks.

Basketball

A Final Four appearance for Indiana University, including a vengeful rematch along the way with those pesky Butler Bulldogs … Remind Tom Crean and Matt Painter to put up road blocks to keep Northwest Indiana talent from escaping to Michigan or Michigan State ...

A full house at Valparaiso University with Hobart fans pouring in Saturday to welcome Northern Illinois standout Amanda Corral for the 1:35 p.m. matinee with the Crusaders ... Big Ten freshman of the year honors going to either Glenn Robinson III (Lake Central) or Mitch McGary (Chesterton) of Michigan and all-conference mention to jumping jack Branden Dawson (Lew Wallace), Michigan State’s best inside defender ...

Elusive state championships to Northwest Indiana boys and/or girls ... Bryce Drew guiding Valparaiso to victory over the Detroit Titans for the Horizon League title and its first NCAA bid since departing from the Mid-Continent League for a basketball upgrade ... Now that Andrean’s Nick Davidson has broken the ice, how about more VU recruits from Northwest Indiana? It’s a lot more cost efficient than checking out talent in Australia, Croatia or Nigeria ...

And let’s see Notre Dame’s Scott Martin, a sixth-year senior, collect more than another degree. Would a trip to the Sweet 16 be asking too much for this worthy Valparaiso athlete? ... Let’s hear it for gravel-voiced Dan Dakich, who will continue to entertain with his insight on WFNI, an ESPN affiliate, for three hours each afternoon out of Indianapolis. To see the former Andrean and IU basketball star return to coaching would be nice, but it no longer seems likely as he settles in with a growing audience ...

Football

Wouldn’t it be lovely if bowl-bound Dolapo MacCarthy caught a touchdown pass for Purdue against Oklahoma State, which would be the former Merrillville quarterback’s second since former coach, Danny Hope converted him to wide receiver ... Or defensive MVP Kawaan Short of East Chicago being drafted in the second round and joining Merrillville’s Mike Neal, another Purdue alumnus, at Green Bay, where winning football comes easier than in the Winded City ...

Continued success to Indianapolis coach Bob Bartolomeo, who earned Great Lakes Valley Conference coach of the year honors by guiding the Greyhounds to their first Division II playoff bid. It comes naturally for Bartolomeo, a 1973 Andrean grad who also distinguished himself as a player and coach at Butler ... Ditto for former Hobart star Ted Karras Jr., who needed only six years to take a Marian program from infancy to a NAIA national title ...

Continued kicks at the next level for Marian’s Mike Josifovski and Valparaiso University’s Greg Wood. Josifovski single-footedly booted Marian to victories with seven field goals — two coming with no time left — in the semifinals and finals. Wood continually backed up opponents with unerring punts inside the 15-yard line and wowed fans when his kicks occasionally disappeared into low-flying cumulus clouds. Unfortunately VU’s defense seldom took advantage of the all-conference kicker’s placements …

Some love for Bears coach Lovie Smith, who can’t seem to catch a break. Physical casualties have ruined his last two seasons, but he still owns a .559 percentage (80-63), which compares favorably to the overall record of Da Coach (.560, 121-95). Ditka still milks Chicago for what happened a quarter of a century ago because of his cleverly crafted Bruise Brothers image. Think what calm and cool Lovie could do with an offensive line or a quarterback who understood the need to throw to someone else when Brandon Marshall is double covered. What makes me dovey about Lovie is that he never publicly throws players under the bus unlike that goofball Ozzie Guillen, who wore out his welcome on the south side with his motor mouth ...

At least two more victories for Indiana would end its bowl drought. The Hoosiers made significant strides, but lost four games by a total of 10 points to Ball State, Michigan State, Navy and Ohio State. Turning a 4-8 record into 6-6 or 7-5 next year isn’t far-fetched, considering a favorable schedule. The Hoosiers open with five straight home games and eight overall in Bloomington ...

Closer to home, I’d like to see Valparaiso University beat somebody besides Campbell, which has succumbed to the Crusaders twice in the last two years. I’m also hoping mighty mite Jake Hutson will stay strong enough —  he’s only 5-foot-7 for goodness sake — to rush for 1,000 yards …

Baseball  

Look for a breakout year for Valparaiso’s Jeff Samardzija, starting with an opening day victory at Pittsburgh on April 1 (no fooling). As for the Cubs, pardon me for indulging in uncontrollable fits of laughter. I remain confident they will appear in the World  Series no sooner than 2025, unless the Mayans come out with a more accurate prediction for the apocalypse ...

Expect Adam Dunn to tack 25 more percentage points onto his nearly invisible batting average by mixing in a few singles between his next 40 homers at U.S. Cellular. It won’t be enough to keep the Tigers out of the playoffs, but the White Sox should still be fun to watch, especially with the new guy at third base setting the table. Whiff-proof Jeff Keppinger batted .325 last year and struck out just 31 times in 409 at-bats, a significant upgrade from the overrated Kevin Youkilis ...

Could rubber-armed LaTroy Hawkins squeeze another year out of his 40-year-old right arm? The 17-year veteran toiled only 42 innings with the Angels, but a fractured finger cost him 30 games. Hawkins posted a sizzling 1.35 ERA going into the All-Star break. Then his numbers declined significantly, skewed by a disastrous August. If he’s healthy I’m betting on the Gary reliever to bounce back ...

Speaking of rubber arms, MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac owns the distinction of topping 1,000 in games pitched, innings and strikeouts over an 18-year career with six teams. The Crown Point alumnus and Dakich (see basketball) give Northwest Indiana dual voices on a national and regional level. Congratulations to Plesac, who was recently inducted into the North Carolina State Hall of Fame. Plesac and East Chicago’s Tim Stoddard, another long-time major league reliever, pitched for the Wolfpack.



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