By Ken DeLaat
Sunday morning and I am truly broken.
I mean as in tossed to the ground, squashed like a grape, beat like a rented goalie and basically smashed to smithereens (what are smithereens, anyway?).
As coined so well by Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) if my NCAA bracket looked any uglier you could mash its face into dough and make gorilla cookies.
But I gotta say despite the sorry-looking chart currently in shreds,I have loved this tournament from the get go and am looking forward to what it’s yet to bring. Over the years my interest has waxed and waned a bit over the March Madness thing. I really like basketball even after spending a whole lot of evenings in area high school gyms throughout the winter but I don’t watch much college ball until this time of year.
Personal Bracketology? My selections are not generally based on information gleaned from the so called experts, but more a combination of a strong geographic attachment, a rather faulty intuitive side and this tendency to pick schools because of some random connection. Like Loyola of Chicago because they were defending national champs the year Cazzie Russell and co. had Michigan in the final four. That led to my first interest in the tournament.
It was the year the Wolverines lost to Duke who lost in the finals to UCLA. It was the first in a unprecedented run that saw the Bruins win 10 of the next 12 titles including an amazing 7 in a row. From Gail Goodrich to Kareem Abdul Jabbar (as Lew Alcindor) to Bill Walton they had dominant players and a brilliant coach and they generally mowed through the opposition at one point winning 88 straight games..
And I rooted against them every time.
It’s that underdog thing born out of a childhood that saw the freaking Yankees break hearts year after year in dominating the American League as they did.
I like to see teams accustomed to winning take it on the chin now and then. It’s good for character (mine mostly).
Nowadays every team that gets here is really really good because there are a whole lot of teams not in the tournament that are also really really good. Some are stronger and deeper and more talented than others but each of them can get hot and if they can sustain it….who knows?
But Friday night after a couple of high seeds had already fallen to relative unknowns the unknownest of them all Maryland Baltimore County put a smackdown on the number one seeded and, by the way, number one in the whole stinking country Cavaliers of Virginia. For the first time ever a number 16 seed had beaten a number 1.
The Cavs had an injury to a key player but hey, they were numero uno right? If the best team in college basketball loses a guy, even a star caliber guy, they still got a team that is better than most I’d say and hopefully better than the second place finisher in the America East Conference. The Retrievers wouldn’t even be here but when they got to the conference finals against a Vermont team that twice manhandled them they squeaked out a win. A win that obviously made them believers because they brought some swagger into the tournament and just absolutely took Virginia apart. Whipped ‘em and looked every minute of the game as though they expected to do it. That is was almost a given.
Then late last night sitting alone in the living room and resigned to having the teams I came into the tournament with a strong geographic interest in reduced by half, this freshman from Michigan launches an improbable shot that cannot go in. In fact with the way U-M was shooting during the game it was unlikely to have a chance. But Jordan Poole did indeed rip the nets for the win and a late night scream and yell that may result in a couple of apologies. One to my eternally patient LSC Lil who had been sleeping upstairs prior to being awakened by what she thought might be some impending disaster. She spoke few words when she came down to discover the noise was about a game and those were barely audible but once she’s been up for a bit we’ve had a chance to chat pardon will likely be sought.
The other is a possible plea for forgiveness to the neighbors if what Lil said about the decibel level is to be believed.
So now it’s State’s turn today. They take on a dangerous Syracuse team that had to win a play-in game just to get here then knocked off higher seeded Texas Christian. The Orange finished 10th in the ACC and here they are playing for the Sweet 16. It’s an afternoon game and if all goes well State will advance and there will be more Mitten based basketball ahead next week with both schools in.
But beyond that?
The #16 seeded Retrievers will be going at the Wildcats of Kansas State in the early evening and the #13 Thundering Herd of Marshall take on interstate rival West Virginia later on.
And while both teams will come in as decided underdogs?
It’s March, man. Anything can happen, right?
(cue ‘Rocky’ music)
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