Last year around this time I was eagerly awaiting the normal insanity brought about by the first two rounds of the Men’s Tournament only to find a rather lame series of results. Nine and ten seeds do not get upset status in the first round. So, there were five upsets in the first 32 games. That was not a very exciting development.
The second round had some promise with Davidson pulling off another amazing win and West Virginia blowing by the hated Duke Blue Devils. As much as my second condition for a great tournament (Duke folding early) was satisfied, my first (at least five complete shockers in the Sweet 16) was sadly not. The rest of the tourney limped along with four number one seeds making the Final Four.
What was that? I like the college basketball tournament because the four top-polling teams do not end up in the Final Four. If I wanted such lack of imagination I would be watching a college bowl game.
This season the tournament was decided by a lot more conference tournament action than years past. This season I get to bring my Big Ten pom-poms out and root for the Wisconsin Badgers to make an improbable run ala 2000. I get to keep the cheers going when I realize that I do not believe in the University of Louisville. I think this stems from the fact that I believe it is unnatural for a team from Kentucky to be playing in the Big East. I have to begrudgingly pick against the University of Illinois Illini because of the absence of Chester Frazier.
Enough with my Big Ten hopes and dreams though. The reality is that I think the Final Four will have Michigan State taking on the Memphis Tigers and the University of Pittsburgh taking on the UNC Tar Heels. I know the Tigers dominated a junior conference, but I think their athleticism will be rewarded and any rough play will whistled by the always overly cautious Men’s Tournament refs. In the championship the Memphis Tigers will be dismantled by Pittsburgh, who will get more than their share of calls thanks to the number one seed.
My single hope for a double digit elite eight team is Mississippi State University or Maryland, but both of those squads are in the weak West region. This also gives the Purdue Boilermakers a chance, but I think they will foul out their starting backcourt in the Sweet Sixteen (those boys play rough and rough does not go over well on national television). Sadly my March Madness picks are not as mad ass they generally are, but I have a feeling last season’s top seed heavy tourney has spoiled my appreciation for a 65-team single elimination tournament.