Let the madness begin

I am just now getting to look at the NCAA tournament bracket. I know, I know, but I’ve been busy.

It’s not easy, I must say, to simply see a bracket. I don’t want to print it, interact with it, or see videos about every team in it. I just want to look at it.

So, the South region. Overall No. 1 seed and presidential favorite Kansas – thanks, Obama! – should have no trouble with Austin Peay, as inspiring as we all found the Gov’nors run through the Ohio Valley tournament. Colorado vs. UConn is one those 8/9 matchups most of the country will flip a coin or go with a mascot tiebreaker (Buffs!) to decide. I like a good Jackrabbit as much as anyone, but Maryland is a hugely talented team with a history of getting it together at tournament time.

Cal vs. Hawaii. Shit, Hawaii is in the tournament? Really? That’s cool. Let’s pick them. OK, maybe not.

Arizona faces an 11th-seed-despite-a-conference-tournament-upset Wichita State. I never used to believe in Arizona. Always picked them to lose kinda early, and in response, the Wildcats never failed to stage a deep tournament run. The year after their last national title, 1997 (or possibly last Final Four appearance, 2001) I picked them to go all the way. What’d they do? Lose in the first round.

My misguided years of fantasy football taught me the futility of holding grudges in sports. Still, I’m quite tempted to go with the Shocking outcome.

Miami has impressed me all season, even in an early loss to Northeastern that I strung.  Owls are stealthily dangerous. Villanova is smarting from its upset loss in the Big East championship and should have no problem with UNC Asheville –though the Bulldogs do tend to put up a fight in the Big Dance. (But I need to look at Jay Wright deep into March.)

Go West, (not as) young woman. OK. Surprise-to-some one seed Oregon gets Dance crasher Holy Cross, which doesn’t have much of a prayer. (The Crusaders’ purple color scheme, though, could make for some interesting visuals paired with whatever highlighter-vomit uni the Ducks wear.) St. Joe’s over Cincy, because the Hawks’ mascot is really cool (it has to keep one wing flapping at all times); Baylor over Yale and Duke over UNCW (VCU, the Seahawks are not … I don’t think).

Northern Iowa could give Texas a scare, and perhaps a loss. The Aggies will gig Green Bay, the Beavers will try to turn the havoc tables on a VCU team that didn’t look good in the A-10 championship game, and the Sooners will run over the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners. Unless they don’t, which could blow up some brackets and make me happy I don’t fill them out anymore. Beep beep.

The Tar Heels are the top seed in the East and shouldn’t be challenged, assuming they play anything like they did in the ACC tournament, until a possible Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky. Xavier is the two seed and the only other obvious obstacle in UNC’s path to the Final Four, though Wisconsin is always dangerous, if dull, and Weber State has been known to get a little mad in March.

In the Midwest, Hampton gets one of those attractive-only-to-the-selection-committee first-round matchups against in-state foe and No. 1 seed Virginia, so I hope the Pirates enjoy the pre-game festivities. Butler looks good to make another deep run in a region that offers only second seed Michigan State as sure-fire resistance. A six-seeded Seton Hall team that denied Villanova the Big East tournament crown faces 11th-seeded Gonzaga in an intriguing first-round matchup, while Little Rock looks like a good pick to be the annual surprise 12 seed turned Sweet 16 Cinderella.

I’ve always found picking the 1 seeds to make it the Final Four to be incredibly uncreative – not to mention usually wrong. But the temptation is strong this year. Kansas, Virginia, and North Carolina are all solid contenders, though Sparty and Tom Izzo are generally good bets for your March money. And if you don’t believe in the Ducks in the West, who do you believe in? Defending champion Duke? Oklahoma?

I’ll go Kansas, Oklahoma, UNC and … my ACC bias is ingrained, but this could be the Cavaliers’ year … Virginia. Hoos and Jayhawks for the national championship, with a well-coiffed Tony Bennett cutting down the nets to One Shining Moment.

For whatever that’s worth. It’s been my experience that mascot picks do better in March than any sort of analytical thought.

At any rate, happy hooping, and Slainte.