Well ladies and germs, tomorrow the madness begins. I hyped the NCAA Tournament in my last post and tomorrow the games begin. As always, the most exciting part of the pre-tournament psych-up was filling out my bracket, which I did with my usual mix of deliberation and speed. I'll try to explain my thought process when it comes to bracketology as succinctly as possible before this thing starts to read like the fine-print on a car loan. Every year, I like to think about my Final Four before I put my pen to the page or my finger to the mouse in order to give myself a touchstone for who I think are the four or five best teams in the tournament. After that, I take a look at the bracket itself and how the regional match-ups have shaken out. With my prejudicial list of four or five championship contenders as a road map, I move through each region round by round. This way, match-ups and my gut combine with my knowledge from the regular season for what is hopefully a winning bracket.

What follows is how I arrived at my Final Four squads and my pick for the tourney champ:

Before I filled out (my bracket, you jerk; are you trying to say I've put on weight?), I thought that North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas and Tennessee were the best teams going. I mentioned in the last post that I thought Louisville was a very dangerous team and they were hanging at the back of my mind as my fifth best, and would be used if necessary. I also mentioned after the Tennessee/Memphis game that I think the Tigers' foul shooting woes will cost them a sustained tourney run and therefore had an interesting dilemma in the South region, as they were selected (rightfully so) as its No. 1 seed. That being said, someone else has to come out of their region in order for my logic to be correct. Another dilemma comes in Carolina's end of the bracket, as Tennessee will likely be a stop on their road through the East region. Louisville is also in this region, which I think is stacked with quality squads the likes of which Tar Heel nation cannot be entirely excited about. So in order to stick with my personal top 4, Louisville has to fall by the wayside in order to make way for Tennessee, who in turn has to lose to UNC. So right there, two of my top five are out of logical contention. That leaves me with North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas and a surprise even to me in Pittsburgh as my Final Four. Pitt made my Final Four on the strength of their Big East Tournament run and the fact that they are healthy for the first time in a grip. They replaced Memphis in my mind as the team to beat in the South region via a series of quick and decisive picks. Once I decided Memphis had to go, a little logic and a lot of noise from my gut made it clear who will take their spot coming out of the South.

So that's my Final Four. Phew. I've got UCLA and Kansas in the championship game and Kansas taking home the trophy. Their athleticism and experience make them a clear choice as a No. 1 Seed, a Final Four team, and in the end a tournament champion. My picks in the early rounds, which are damn near impossible to predict this year, came about in much the same way that Pitt ended up in my Final Four. I just felt my way through those games. They don't matter as much as predicting the later rounds as far as winning any bracket pool and most of the time I pick with my heart early on, like taking Kent State over UNLV because they're a MAC school or believing yet again (are you with me Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue?) that the Big Ten is a better conference than everyone gives it credit for.

As a field of 65 (or 64, whatever) in general, I think this year's tournament participants were selected adequately and seeded accordingly. By that of course I mean that seeding doesn't matter whatsoever. Who cares if Xavier ended up with a 3 or that the majority of the non-power conference teams were seeded lower than they probably deserved? The level of parity in college hoops, which is a byproduct of the ridiculous one-and-done rule about entering the NBA, makes seeding increasingly less important when March rolls around. The teams in this tournament, apart from the upper crust of the field, say around 10-15 teams, could be thrown into a basket and selected at random as far as their seeding is concerned. Seeding is only important if you happen to be say, a certain school in powder blue that doesn't have to leave its home state until the Final Four. Ah, the perks of the overall No. 1. I will say that I think Arizona making the field and Arizona State being omitted is an offense of the highest order. ASU beat the Wildcats twice this season. I don't care about their RPI or strength of schedule, Arizona is the wrong school from its state in the tournament. In my mind there aren't any other glaring wrongs that scream to be righted this year (even as a die-hard Buckeye, I'll admit that my boys from Columbus didn't warrant an appearance in the Big Dance, but don't worry fans of the scarlet and gray, good news has arrived on the gridiron, more on that in a minute...).

So now that I have predicted exactly what will happen in this years NCAA's, you can kick back and watch my picks unfold on your television set. I think...


I wouldn't normally do this, but I've decided to give a few thoughts on the PGA Tour as a result of an e-mail my father sent me a couple of days ago. I hope he doesn't mind, but here is the message in its entirety:

I watched Tiger win the PGA tournament yesterday on the last last hole with his last putt of the day. I know some people think the only thing more boring than watching golf on TV is watching fishing on TV, but I feel I am blessed. Blessed by the fact I have been able to watch two of the greatest golfers of all time, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, from the comfort of my own living room and now in high definition. Aside from the fact Tiger found a way to be in contention for the last round, I just knew he was going to sink the putt! I don't think he will be able to pass Byron Nelson and win 12 in a row but what a joy to watch an athlete compete at the top of his form. Golfers like Jack and Tiger only come along once every generation or so. That Tiger will easily set the record for tour victories and wins in majors is no longer in doubt. And if anyone could win the grand slam all in the same year it is Tiger. Keep going Tiger and rest assured the golfer who is going to break your records hasn't even been born yet - hell, the grandfather of that golfer probably hasn't been born yet.

Well said. I used to speak often to my buddies in Toledo about the fact that we were truly privileged to grow up watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Not only did we get to witness his greatness, but we grew up with it, were affected by it, and for the most part, became obsessed with it. I think that Tiger is to professional sports (not just to golf) what Jordan was in his time. I know I didn't get to grow up with Tiger like I did with MJ, but as my father has illustrated, we are all lucky witnesses to his greatness, a talent that has no current peer in professional golf or the sporting world in general. I can't argue with anything the old man said in his e-mail. He's right about Tiger and Nicklaus being the big two in PGA tour history, he's right about the records Tiger will eventually call his own, and right that his ability is a once-in-a generation phenomenon. I feel like Michael Jordan is clearly the best athlete to ever play professional basketball. I don't think that any other sport has that kind of unanimity in its discussion of "greatest of all time". I think Tiger, if he has not achieved the honor yet, will soon be crowned the greatest golfer of all time--end of discussion. He will live alongside Jordan in the legend of American sport in this regard and even to a guy like me who doesn't watch golf, Eldrich is truly awe-inspiring.


A little out of context for March right? Wrong. If you're an Ohio State fan, there is no off-season and like me you're happy as a pig in shit that high-school quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the highest-profile college recruit of the year, has decided to be a Buckeye. According to Pryor, Rich Rodriguez from the team up north was calling him all the way down to the wire to try and get him to play for Michigan. The kid is from Pennsylvania, could've started as a freshman in Ann Arbor and still chose to be a Buckeye over attending Penn State or Michigan. I bet his ACT scores are through the roof with decision making capability like that. I know we've lost consecutive National Championship games, but goddamnit if I'm not considering naming my first born Tressel. A good day to be a Buckeye indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Stop me if you've seen this, but I think everybody should look at this old putt of Tiger's...it's shaped like a question mark. I'm pretty sure nobody else ever did that (excluding, of course, Kevin Costner in Tin Cup).


    Tiger is definitely the Jordan-esque ambassador of golf, because people who know nothing about the sport know his name, and follow just enough golf to see what Tiger's doing. What would there be to follow in golf if we weren't all wowed by Tiger Woods?


    [crickets chirping, tumbleweeds blowing, talk among yourselves]