Spring is only 33 days away. It has been a long, hard winter. But it is also a great time of year for basketball fans. High school, small college and NCAA Division I playoffs are all around the corner.

I have had the chance to do a couple of high school games on the radio the last couple of weeks, and it looks like the high school district tournament will be highly competitive for both the boys and girls.

The MIAA will be having its annual tournament in Kansas City the first week in March. As of the time of this writing, the Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team is the No. 1 Division II team in the country.

The Big 12 Tournament will be in town the second week of March, which is one of the greatest events in town every year. The NAIA tournament will be in Kansas City the third week of March. It is always an exciting tournament. March Madness fans will go wild with their bracketology. Let the upsets begin.

I have a hard time with how the NCAA seems to struggle with fairness in their decisions. Some of their decisions for violations directed at both MU and KU are hard to figure out. KU has been facing a shoe company recruiting situation for almost a year and half and all that came of it was a two-year punishment for a single player, while involved adults have yet to receive any punishment at all.

MU self-reported infractions centered around academic fraud. When rules are broken penalties should be dealt. The issue is the inconsistency of the penalties issued by the NCAA. Academic fraud at North Carolina was swept under the rug.

KU is not the only school in the country with shoe-related problems. Louisville was running a basketball program that Al Capone would have been proud of, but the sanctions for them did not meet the crime. The NCAA has no rhyme or reason for its disciplinary actions. The organization has standard standards and rules but has had no consistency with enforcement. Until an infraction is out in the open and obvious, the NCAA looks the other way.

In addition, it appears that standards are different for different schools – many times dependent on the size of money draw for the program. The NCAA commercials during the NCAA playoff basketball system about student-athletes make me shake my head and laugh. Most of the teams playing in the Final Four are filled with one-and-done players.

The NCAA is about one thing and that is making money. We could all live with that if the “righteous” organization showed more equity. It will throw the book at a kid who lives in the ghetto for taking money so his mom or dad could come and see them play. Yet, it will bend over backwards for a power school to come up with a rationalization to avoid more serious penalties.

For years the NCAA has been one of the most hypocritical organizations in the sports world. They have a tough job but time and time again their choice of discipline for a player or school seems like a flip of a coin.

College sports is big business. Winning and big money is difficult to control fairly, but inconsistency is not the answer. The coaches and administrators are often protected by a good old boy philosophy. College sports obviously needs a governing body, but perhaps it should be more concerned with the welfare of the student-athlete and less concerned about the bottom line.

• Spring training is under way and the Royals seem to be in the market for retreads at a cheap rate in search of a diamond in the rough. It will be interesting to see who comes out of all of the possible candidates for a starting lineup. The bullpen has to be better this year because it was the worst in the league last year. It is hard to believe that Kansas City had one of the greatest bullpens in baseball history in 2014 and 2015 and fell to the bottom in 2018. Let’s hope that the emphasis returns to speed, defense and the bullpen in 2019. We are all in favor of warm weather and the sound of play ball.

• My quote of the week is from American clergyman Henry Ward Beecher: “Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself and be lenient to everybody else.”

– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.