It is the surest sign of spring that there is. Better than a woodland creature poking his head out of a hole. (Let's be honest. There will be six more weeks of winter either way.) Better than the stores putting out Easter candy for sale. (Let's be honest. They put that out in mid-January. And we eat it in April.) Not quite as good as spring training baseball, but no one bets on spring training baseball. (Let's be honest. That "pool" you enter is nothing more than a cleverly disguised gambling ploy.)
It's time for the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. (It's apparently also time for the women's tournament, but no one watches that one. Or bets on it. Incidentally, while I'm in these parentheses, the Women's Final Four is in my beloved Cleveland. How did that happen and no one told me?) Once again, millions of men (and twenty-three women) will be attempting to show how knowledgeable they are about college basketball by filling out their brackets. This always ends in a great deal of hilarity, as most men know little about college basketball.
I, on the other hand, revel in my ignorance. I know nothing about college basketball. Absolutely nothing. I go to DePaul University, and I don't even know if they're any good this year. (Seeing that they didn't make the tournament, apparently not.) The thing is, I pick my games the same way that you do, based on stupid reasons like "I have an aunt who lives in Arizona" or "I'd rather go to Texas than North Carolina for vacation." Actually, you pick games based on reasons that involve your "knowledge" of basketball, and I win the pool every year. Life isn't fair.
This year, my fifth year doing this (seriously), I can get a little more interactive with the picks because I'm putting it in blog form. So sit back and enjoy as the master picks all 64 games for you and tells you the reasons for why the game will end that way. As always, don't use these as the basis for any real wager. It's not that I mind that you'd gamble, it's that I just don't want you to lose money.
Thr first round or the "So you won an irrelevant conference tournament" Sixty-four:
St. Louis Regional
(1) Florida over (16) Jackson State
Let's think about all the famous Jacksons that there have been. Seventh President Andrew Jackson. Abstract artist Jackson Pollock. And, of course, Michael Jackson (who for some reason is in the news greeting U.S. troops in Japan.) I think the last thing we need is another famous Jackson.
(9) Purdue over (8) Arizona
When was the last time you got a good chicken from Arizona?
(5) Butler over (12) Old Dominion
Everyone knows that the butler is always the killer.
(4) Maryland over (13) Davidson
One of those iron-clad rules of NCAA tournament picking (#3): Never pick a school if you don't know where it is.
(6) Notre Dame over (11) Winthrop
A thought: Had Old Dominion and Winthrop changed places (or ND and Butler), then Butler could have played Winthrop. An Englishman's delight! Rule #6: Never bet against God.
(14) Miami of Ohio over (3) Oregon
A friend of mine went to Miami, and I actually talked to him earlier tonight. He told me that MofO (read that carefully) got in. I said, "So I'm gonna have to pick them to go to the Final Four, aren't I?" He said yes.
(10) Georgia Tech over (7) UNLV
This year, the Final Four is in Atlanta. Tech is in Atlanta. I'm starting to see a pattern here.
(2) Wisconsin over (15) Texas A&M - CC
I have no idea what CC means. Did they let a community college in? Corpus Christi? (Kristy, Kristy, Kristy!) This really confused me when I saw that the "real" Texas A&M is also in the tournament along with the University of Texas, Texas Tech, and North Texas.
San Jose Regional
(1) Kansas over (16) play-in game winner
I went to KU for a conference. Nice place. Yes, that's my entire reason for picking them.
(8) Kentucky over (9) Villanova
(12) Illinois over (5) Virginia Tech
I took a look around at where I was sitting. Never bet against your own state. Besides, Virginia Tech sounds like something that Bible Belt girls say about themselves. (Think about that one for a minute.)
(4) Southern Illinois over (13) Holy Cross
Yeah, I don't know either. So, rule #9 applies. Pick the team ranked higher.
(6) Duke over (11) VCU
Rule #5: Never pick a school if you have no idea what their acronym stands for.
(3) Pitt over (14) Wright State
Wright State. Rong city. Nothing wrong with Dayton, mind you...
(10) GONZAGA! over (7) Indiana
Every year, Gonzaga gets in, and everyone loves screaming "GONZAGA!" Well, by "everyone", I mean "me."
(2) UCLA over (15) Weber State
Weber is not actually a state. And we all know that Webber doesn't have a good history in the NCAA tournament.
East Rutherford Regional
(1) North Carolina over (16) Eastern Kentucky
RHIP. The tournament committee put this game in Winston-Salem instead of Lexington. Coincidence? Rule #1: Never bet on a "directional" state school. Except for Northern Carolina.
(8) Marquette over (9) Michigan State
True story: I picked Marquette because I was concerned that there wouldn't be a team in the second round with a Q in its name.
(5) USC over (12) Arkansas
Since we're talking about people who live in Southern California, Pamela Anderson has come forward and stood up for Britney Spears. It's too bad that there's not a team named "Britney" or something like that, and that I already eliminated Jackson State.
(4) Texas over (13) New Mexico State
I know that Mexico is talking about the whole Reconquista thing, but doesn't that part of America sound better as "Texas" than an as-yet-unnamed-New-Mexico-State? Was that too high-level of a joke?
Did anyone get that?
(11) George Washington over (6) Corneilius Vanderbilt.
(3) Washington State over (14) Oral Roberts
Do I even need to make that joke?
(10) Texas Tech over (7) Boston College
God vs. Bobby Knight. I know that Rule #6 says never bet against God. But, this is Bobby Knight. (Long time readers of this annual festival of ignorance will surely groan that my Bob Knight fascination hasn't gone away. Neither has my Kris Benson fetish.)
(15) Belmont over (2) Georgetown
Here's my entire reasoning for why I picked Belmont. We live near Belmont Street. It's a sign! Remember, someone like me wins the pool every year.
San Antonio Regional
(1) Ohio State over (16) Central Connecticut State
A memo to Central Connecticut State: Congratulations on winning the NEC and getting an automatic bid to "The Dance." After 40 minutes with Ohio State, you'll be singing this song. (CCSU's motto: "Start with a dream. End with a future." Catchy. Relevant.)
(9) Xavier over (8) BYU
God vs. God. Draw. Yes, but Ohio vs. Utah. No contest.
(5) Tennessee over (12) Long Beach State
It's Spring Break time and Long Beach State is being punished by being sent to Columbus. Right there, that's plenty of reason to think that they'll throw the game.
(4) Virginia over (13) Albany
Guard play? Better perimeter defense? Trap blocking scheme? Hydrostatic emissions? If I keep this up, I'll eventually say something that sounds intelligent.
(6) Louisville over (11) Stanford
A school's basketball ability is always inversely proportionate to it's IQ. Stanford gets screwed on that one every year... so does...
(3) Texas A&M over (14) Penn
Or whoever comes out of the Ivy League. But then again, if Stanford and Penn both pull upsets, will this be the nerdiest game of NCAA basketball ever played in the second round?
(7) Nevada over (10) Creighton
Problems with Creighton: 1) In Oklahoma. 2) Sounds like a packaging supply store. 3) Not spelled the way it sounds. This will cause them to lose. Also, my exact thought process on picking this one: I picked the #10 teams in the other three brackets. I felt I was being unfair to #7,
(2) Memphis over (15) North Texas
The Round of 32, The Second Round
Which could be a reference to the NCAA toruney or the fight over who Anna Nicole Smith's baby daddy is.
Meet Me in St. Louie Regional
(1) Florida over (9) Purdue
What do you mean I spelled it wrong?
(5) Butler over (4) Maryland
A butler hasn't gotten this much love in prime time since Mr. Belvedere.
(6) Notre Dame over (14) Miami of Ohio
Omar, if you're reading this, I gave Miami one game. C'mon man, there's a limit to how far a #14 seed from Ohio can go. Then, they get beaten by Notre Dame, who ran our high school. Besides, you can't bet against God. Also, a story that I heard from a friend who went to the Michigan-Notre Dame football game this year: Before the football games, the ND players all go to Mass together. A quick reminder that God has better things to do than block field goals. Afterwards, they all emerge to a bunch of cheering ND fans... and jeering Michigan fans. Have we gone so far as a society as to cheer people coming out of church?
(10) Georgia Tech over (2) Wisconsin
When I was in Atlanta last week, I sat down for a dinner with me and eleven Russians. The guy I was sitting next to worked at Georgia Tech. (Not shocking considering that I was in Atlanta...) but he seemed like a nice guy. Ramble on Wreck.
Do you know the way to San Jose regional?
(1) Kansas over (8) Kentucky
Rock chalk, Jayhawk.
(4) Southern Illinois over (12) Illinois
This is breaking another cardinal rule of NCAA picking. Never pick a directional school over it's non-directional counterpart. But, Southern Illinois is the Salukis. You gotta give it to a school that has a mascot that no one knows what exactly it is.
(6) Duke over (3) Pitt
I always pick Duke.
(2) UCLA over (10) GONZAGA!!!
Becuase you know that Dick Vitale will be there, baybee!
There aren't any songs about East Rutherford regional
(1) North Carolina over (8) Marquette
I asked my wife. She said North Carolina. I figure she knows about as much as I do.
(4) Texas over (5) USC
I don't see any horns on your head.
(3) Washington St. over (11) George Washington
I love it when matchups like this happen.
(10) Texas Tech over (15) Belmont
Did I really pick Belmont over Georgetown? What on earth was I smoking at the time? I don't even know where Belmont is.
Davey Crockett regional.
(1) Ohio State over (9) Xavier
Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on. O! H! I! O! Also, will someone please tell me why North Carolina gets to play in Winston-Salem, but OSU can't play in Columbus?
(5) Tennessee over (4) Virginia
Here was my actual thought process: Tennessee has a nice orange pattern going on there. I don't know what Virginia's colors are. Therefore, Tennessee wins this game. Something to note: I have yet to name one basketball player throughout the entire course of this entry.
(6) Louisville over (3) Texas A&M
Maybe because the game is in Kentucky.
(7) Nevada over (2) Memphis
When I saw these two in the bracket, I thought of Elvis Presley. Do I go with the young Tennessee Elvis or the older Las Vegas Elvis. The post office already tried that one. Then I remembered that Marc Cohn went walking in Memphis and no one has heard from him since. Not a good sign.
The Sweet Sixteen (That awful MTV show)
(1) Florida over (5) Butler
Where would you rather be on March 22nd? Florida or Central Indiana. Thought so.
(10) Georgia Tech over (6) Notre Dame
Georgia Tech have to approach this like any board game. The goal is to move along home, and so Tech stays true to the goal. Has anyone noticed that I haven't yet mentioned Paris Hilton?
(1) Kansas over (4) Southern Illinois
Jayhawk vs. Saluki. Stop and think about that one for a while. The dodo bird meets the wild dog. Kansas gets the edge because there's not only a band named Kansas (and none named "Southern Illinois"), but there's also a band called the Jayhawks.
(2) UCLA over (6) Duke
We've gotten to the point where I start feeling guilty for always picking Duke. Besides I can't spell Krzyzewski.
(1) North Carolina over (4) Texas
(3) Washington State over (10) Texas Tech
I suppose I could have had Texas play Texas Tech. At this rate, Washington State will have beat Oral Roberts (hehe), George Washington, and Bob Knight. Not bad. Perhaps they will also lull Dick Vitale into a deep sleep and drop him off in Antarctica. Now that I think of it, I'll say six words and it will scar you for the rest of the day: March of the Pengins. Dick Vitale.
(1) Ohio State over (5) Tennessee
Special guest appearance by Ted Ginn, Jr. Wait... Greg Oden. There! I know an actual college basketball player! I'm sure there's no relationship (not that anyone will catch that reference, except my wife.)
(6) Louisville ties (7) Nevada
Why not? Like it matters.
The Elite Alliterative Eight. Why does Alliterative start with a vowel?
(1) Florida over (10) Georgia Tech
You know how when you play Candy Land, you have to get a purple card to get to the finishing square. However, no matter how hard you "try", you can't get one. It's like that with Georgia Tech. Florida somehow pulls out a Blue, Orange, and Purple card.
(2) UCLA over (1) Kansas
Quick, name three cities in Kansas. You can't do it. Out of the tournament.
(3) Washington State over (1) North Carolina
Does a 3-seed count as a Cinderella? Watch, Wash St. will be dumped out in the first round by Oral Roberts. That happens in everyone's brackets. One of your Final Four teams will lose in the first or second round. Count on it.
(1) Ohio State over (6/7) Louisville/Nevada
Is it baseball season yet?
The Final Four
This final four features four fine and favored franchises. Why do they call it the final four, when it's really the semi-final four?
Florida over UCLA
Ohio State over Washington State
Funny how those things work out, eh?
Ohio State over Florida
If this final happens, I will personally enroll in Ohio State and play for them to ensure that they win. More to the point, I will enroll at UF to make sure that OSU wins.
The play in game winner
(16a) Florida A&M over (16b) Niagara
Headline: Niagara Falls.