Plenty to smile about this spring

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There are a number of things this spring that bring a smile to my face, including the fact that there no high temperatures in the 30's in the extended forecast.

Let's take a look around the local and national sports scene to see the good news.

By far the biggest story in Wisconsin is the performance of the Milwaukee Bucks. Monday night, they completed a sweep of the Detroit Pistons in dominating fashion.

• The Bucks have been a "haven't done fill-in-the-black since" team all season long. While they don't measure up to the Lew Alcindor-led teams of the early 1970's, the Bucks are a legitimate candidate to win the NBA Finals.

Yes, win the Finals. While the Golden State Warriors have been besieged by chemistry and injury issues, the Bucks are only getting healthier, and are the best "team" in the true sense of the word in the NBA.

Talent-for-talent, the Bucks don't stack up with the Warriors. But as we've seen in basketball, and other sports for that matter, it's not pure talent that wins championship. While the Bucks will have the best player on the floor in every series they play (yes, I would take Giannis over Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kahwi Leonard, et cetera), it's the unselfish nature and ability to get stops on the defensive end that sets this team apart. And, home court advantage doesn't hurt, either. The next two series to get to the Finals certainly won't be easy. But the Bucks simply have to play at the level they have been all season, and they can make their first NBA finals appearance since 1974.

• The Brewers are off to a 13-11 start, and are one of four teams within two games in the NL Central. In other words, pretty much exactly what they could have hoped for, given their brutal schedule in the first month of the season.

While the vibes aren't as good as they were when the team began the season with a 12-6 mark, there are still a lot of reasons for optimism.

No, the team doesn't have the pitching, at least at this juncture, to win 96 games like they did last year. The loss of Corey Knebel really messed up that flow to the back end of the bullpen, and the Brewers' three young starters have all fallen short of expectations by some measure.

My view on this year's team hasn't really changed since the start of the season, however: They will hang around. I don't think any team in the Central wins more than, say, 91 games, and there could easily be three playoff teams coming out of the Central.

I still believe that one, two, or all three of those young starters can positively contribute to the team, and Jimmy Nelson isn't far away, either. The team can hit enough to compete. It's going to be a fun summer.

• On to the prep scene. Bottom line: Who's going far? There are four legitimate candidates to make a state run in my estimation.

Most likely is the Hononegah baseball team. These guys are good. Their 12-6 record might not be overwhelming, but the six losses have all come against tough suburban opponents, many of those defeats coming by one run.

The Indians are undefeated and unchallenged in NIC-10 play, and might well finish the regular season undefeated in conference play. The lineup is hitting, and the Indians have the area's best pitcher, Tyler Statler, to go along with Payton Mather on the mound. That's a heck of a one-two punch, exactly what is needed when it comes to playoff time.

The Indians' softball team has a chance, too, but that might rely largely on the health of ace pitcher Ashton Melaas' shoulder. That lineup can mash the ball with anyone in the area, and they certainly have the look of a conference champion.

But while freshman Emma Schroeder has to be the top number two pitcher in the area, Melaas is at times unhittable in the circle.

The Turner baseball team is the third team to watch. I wasn't sure what to expect out of a team that lost guys like Hunter Waldsmith and Mitch Seager. All they've done this spring is beat everyone they've played.

They have a difficult sectional to get out of, and lack the star power of years past. But they have to be considered a major threat until they show otherwise. We'll find out a lot more about the Trojans this week when they play traditional power Jefferson twice.

Parkview softball has been outstanding all season, and the Vikings are currently ranked fifth in the WIAA Division 4 softball poll. They are a legitimate threat to end their season at Goodman Diamond in Madison.

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