Okay, it's Tournament Time, March Madness, the Big Dance! Who's a Cinderella, who's a pumpkin, whose dance card is full, who's going to get left at the altar. Ow, ow, ow, I think I just hyperextended my anterior metaphor. No problem though, I'll just get it taped up so I can get back in and give this column 110%. This time of year, you have to suck it up and play through the pain.
Now, if you are looking for help filling out your bracket, you have come to the wrong place. Not only have I never won an NCAA Tournament pool, I don't think I have ever finished in the top half. Besides, the only thing more boring than hearing people talk about their NCAA picks is hearing a guy talk about his fantasy league transactions. And I never claimed I was here to inform, just to entertain, and mostly myself. So, without further ado, here is my bracket rundown.
Let's start with the region that has GW. Because they are my favorite team and because they are pretty good this year, I will have a hard time picking against the Colonials. UNC-Wilmington is exactly the kind of team that can give them trouble: patient on offense, don't turn the ball over, plenty of depth to counteract GW's press. (Did you know that Wilmington is not far from Cape Fear? Who did you like better as the villain in that movie, Robert Mitchum in the original or Robert DeNiro in the remake? Me, I'd go with Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons version). My only hope is that the Seawawks have not seen and cannot handle the kind of athleticism that GW puts on the floor and that Pops Mensah-Bonsu is in fact able to contribute. So, if I think GW might struggle against UNCW, how can I have any hope against Duke? Well, who says that Duke will get by their first round opponent, Southern University? The last time Southern University, George Washington, and an ACC team were all in the same subregional (Tempe, 1993), #13 seed Southern upset #4 Georgia Tech; GW beat New Mexico and then beat Southern to get to the Sweet 16. Also, Southern, being a member of the SWAC, has a fantastic band (if you haven't seen the movie "Drumline," don't bother, just make sure you get to one SWAC football game in your lifetime. If you are late, don't sweat it, because the real show starts at halftime). So, are you starting to understand why I am so bad at picking games?
GW will face Iona in the regional semifinal, because the Gaels are coached by Jeff Ruland who was coached in college by the patron saint of NCAA Cinderella teams, Jim Valvano. You have to love the excitement of teams that don't get to the NCAA's every year; check out the countdown clock on the Iona basketball website. Syracuse will continue its win streak against Texas A&M, but will fall to Iona because the game is the day after St. Patrick's Day, Syracuse is led by Gerry McNamara, and do I really have to spell it out for you?
In the bottom half of the Atlanta bracket, Texas will get past Penn because it's a basketball game not a Wonderlic Test, but none of the games really matter because all contenders will be forced to bow to the power of Pittsnogle, West Virginia sweet-shooting center. Besides the great name, Kevin Pittsnogle has enough tattoos to make a Hell's Angel blush, and he can also wear the hell out of a tuxedo. Talk about versatility.
Iona's clock will run out against GW, and then Pops will paralyze Pittsnogle to bring GW to its first ever Final Four.
This is the religious bracket: Oral Roberts, Xavier, Marquette, Gonzaga, and Belmont representing the Judeo-Christian tradition and Indiana, Kansas and UCLA from the Church of Naismith. I had twelve years of Catholic school, four of them Jesuit, but, bless me, Father, for I have sinned, because I am going with the hardwood deities here. I'll give my high school namesake Gonzaga a break with a last second miracle from Adam Morrisson to beat Indiana, but the Zags are going down against UCLA. In the top half, Bucknell will upset Arkansas because the Bison can always beat a tourney team with Kansas in the name. Unfortunately, they struggle with teams that have Memphis in their name, so look for the Tigers to advance, thereby denying CBS the dream rematch of Kansas-Bucknell. I'll take Kansas in this one simply because I have disliked John Calipari since he was at UMass. In the final, look for UCLA to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 1995, also the last time the Bruins won it all.
Pretty tough to pick against Connecticut here until the regional final where I think they will meet North Carolina. The Tarheels looked great in the last month of the season, and they have the advantage of facing a highly suspect #2 seed in Tennessee. Before I start to sound like I know what I am talking about, let me throw out a couple upsets that have no basis in logic, just karma. How about George Mason over Michigan State to shut up all the whining from Hofstra about how they should have gotten in ahead of Mason (right, like you could ever stop Long Islanders from whining). And Air Force over Illinois because no service academy has won a tournament game since David Robinson was at Navy (I think). I'll stick with UConn in the final because I haven't picked a #1 seed yet, because UNC's young guys are going to run out of gas, and because I could not bear the week of hype around Roy Williams if he got back to the Final Four after losing seven players from last year's championship team.
#1 seed Villanova's hopes depend on Allan Ray's recovery from the eye injury he suffered in the Big East Tournament. He has been cleared to play, but I have always felt that in terms of the senses, sight is tied for first with touch when it comes to basketball, followed closely by hearing, with taste and smell a good ways back. So I can't go with the Wildcats, and I think Ohio State will lose to Georgetown because I was a year behind Hoyas head coach John Thompson in high school (he used to be pretty skinny, but didn't we all). Florida has Joakim Noah, the son of former tennis star Yannick Noah, but they also have Billy Donovan, who has to be the highest paid coach never to have won an NCAA Championship. Florida's first game is against the University of South Alabama, coached another Rick Pitino disciple, John Pelphrey. Prediction: the Gators go down in first round flames as the crowd chants, "USA! USA!" What the heck, USA also beats Oklahoma to get to the Sweet 16. That leaves #4 Boston College, which has great inside and outside balance and took Duke to the limit twice during the season. Last year's Cinderella UW-Milwaukee won't get it done this year, but I'll take #12 Montana over #5 Nevada and #9 Wisconsin in a mild, boring, low-scoring upset over #8 Arizona.
GW over UCLA
UConn over BC
Karl Hobbs defeats his mentor Jim Calhoun to bring the National Championship to Foggy Bottom. Come on, did you really think it would end any other way?
Oh, and Hampton over Monmouth tonight. Bet the house!