Mad about March, but not angry
Published: Monday, March 24, 2008 - 6:09pm
For four months, I really didn’t care about college basketball.
My team (everyone’s team) — Illinois — was having an unusually dreadful season. My interest waned as the Illini floundered at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, losing to Tennessee State, Ohio State, and Penn State (all in a row). Illinois’ other team and the NFL’s most hated team diverted my attention from college basketball entirely.
Then a few weeks ago I noticed that Illinois had come back to win a game against Penn State — in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The next day I saw the Illini taking on Purdue, saw them winning, and saw them win a game against a ranked team for the first time this season.
I was hooked, again.
I watched those games and got caught in the drama — so much that I passed over watching the Cubs to see the Purdue game. Illinois missed out on the NCAA Tournament (by that one loss to Wisconsin), but I had contracted that dangerous disease — March Madness.
Nonetheless, I filled out my tournament bracket on Facebook nonchalantly. It seemed odd not having Illinois among the matchups, so I didn’t do much (if any) research on my picks. But I was still confident that a 12 seed would upset a five, and I had a vague suspicion that a 13 would take out a four. And of course, Duke wasn’t coming anywhere close to the Elite Eight.
I did an abysmal job in the first round, but I still had a good time watching the games. I called San Diego taking out UConn, but that was one of only two upsets I got right. None of my picks was really “bad” per se, but those Kentuckys, Baylors and Kent States add up (or more correctly, they didn’t add up for me). I was a dismal 19/32 in the first round, but there was hope — I only had two of those 13 losing teams in the Sweet 16.
In the second round I felt like a genius, and though I was probably just lucky, don’t tell me that. Of the 14 Sweet 16 teams I could have chosen, 13 advanced. Davidson, Washington State, and Wisconsin weren’t very popular picks, but apparently I can see the future. Or maybe I was just lucky. Or good.
So I see Stanford and Michigan State pulling off upsets in the South Region, North Carolina and Tennessee holding on in the East, Kansas and Wisconsin advancing in the Midwest, and UCLA and Xavier in the finals of the West. Somehow, my entire Elite Eight is still intact.
Tennessee, Kansas, Stanford, and UCLA make up my Final Four — two ones, a two, and a three. I have UCLA beating Tennessee in the championship. Maybe my remaining predictions will be perfect, or maybe I'll be dead wrong, but I do know this: If this tournament ends as well as it’s started, it’s going to be a spectacular March (and early April).