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Random Tournament Thoughts

Admit it, you've sneaked a look at the brackets already today. Face it, is your boss really going to buy into your plan that you suddenly got the flu at 12:03PM this Thursday? Can Butler make the Sweet 16... or can Old Dominion? It's tournament time, and it's a magical time when everyone's bracket is still correct, everyone in the nation is having fun speculating who to pick in their office pools, and Office Depot's stock goes through the roof as companies desperately look for printing supplies and copier toner.

Some random thoughts to whet your appetite for the tournament.

* I don't know about you, but every year I enter every contest that I can think of. Not only the office pool, but I submit everything I can find on the internet for men's brackets on CBS Sportsline, ESPN, and others. Irrational? Probably. But it's like this: if I (for some reason) ever pick the perfect bracket that nobody can beat, brother, I'm going to be ready.

* Of course, this doesn't explain my brackets for the NCAA Women's tournament and the NIT. I think in gambling parlance the existence of these brackets are commonly called "hedging one's bets". More accurately, when three of my final four get eliminated by dinnertime on Sunday, I'll still be rooting for the Lady Huskies the next weekend.

* It's funny how some of the teams seem like old friends you see once a year. Butler. Gonzaga. Long Beach State. Seriously, I'm a nut for NCAA football and the NCAA tournament, and I only hear about these schools once a year, when the brackets are announced - and after that, I study up on all of them looking for strengths and weaknesses. (If only I could have channeled this energy to, say, my schoolwork. I coulda been a Rhodes Scholar.)

* Seriously, aren't you surprised nobody has done a study for heart attack rates during the television broadcasts of the NCAA tournament? You have to believe when George Mason upset UConn last year to make the Final Four, cardiac arrest rates had to have hit some sort of record - not only in Connecticut and the D.C. suburbs, but in Las Vegas as well as punters who sunk their life savings into UConn as a "sure thing" started to turn a shade of shamrock green.

* My friend Ray always had the best line during the tournament - at the moment when his NCAA pool was officially finished. "That's it - I'm going to root for who I want to win!"
The best was when this happened on Saturday in Round 2 - a treasured memory.

* The best thing about Syracuse not being selected for the tournament is that it's one less maddening team you have to pick that has the talent to reach the Elite 8 or get eliminated by (say) Central Connecticut State. In the day, I used to call this the "Temple problem" - every year, you'd pick Temple to lose to (say) Princeton in the first round in a 6-11 game, and somehow they'd be playing North Carolina for the Final Four. But if you pick them, all of a sudden the guards would forget how to shoot and a team like Providence would knock them out easily.

I attribute any loss of hair I have to Temple's basketball team in the 80s and 90s, though there are other great candidates - Syracuse, Arizona, even (lately) Duke. If you lived through it, you know what I mean.

* Speaking of Providence, whatever happened to God Shamggod? Still playing in China? Isn't that proof that the Big Guy Up Above has a great sense of humor?

* Exactly why are all the writers and pundits saying that the mid-majors aren't going to make the same type of push to the Final Four that George Mason did a year ago? Sure, the NCAA did their best to stiff deserving mid-major at-large teams. But that has all the whiff of bluster and being out-of-touch. Have Southern Illinois, Wright State, Creighton, Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, and Gonzaga all of a sudden become terrible? I'm betting not. The trend has been the "mid-majors" have all gotten better, and I see no reason to doubt that this isn't still true.

* I really don't know why, but whenever I see Winthrop in the NCAA tournament, I have to fight the urge to say, "I picked Winthrop when it wasn't cool to pick Winthrop!" If their 1998 game had ended after about ten minutes of play I would have had a chance when #16 Winthrop was ahead of #1 Auburn. I don't know why I remember that so well. Maybe picking a #16 to beat a #1 is kind of like hang-gliding or tasting your first beer - memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. (80 reasons to 41 reasons.)

* I hate #3 seeds. It seems like their only purpose is to tease you to pick them for the final four, while you watch them on Thursday afternoon lose to a team like Manhattan and thereby eliminating your pool from contention. When you combine this with the fact that the 14 seed YOU picked gets drilled by Kentucky, it makes you want to tear your hair out even more.

* It's awfully easy to pick the favorites to advance (and it's probably better for your pool too), but nothing comes close to the rush of adrenaline you get when you pick the correct upsets, especially in the 13-14-15 range. I still remember Siena upending Stanford, Richmond upending Syracuse, and (my favorite) Bucknell over Kansas. I can't remember the title game two years ago, but I remember that Kansas hook shot clanging off the iron very, very well.

* And, yes, I had picked the Patriot League winner for a while to advance out of the first round, because I wanted to be able to say that I picked it when it happened. (Well, at least since 2001.)


Anonymous said…
Chuck - you are beginning to sound like the mad ravings of Larry King!!!

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