The NCAA tournament has had a special place in my heart since I was 12 years old. From playing out the tournaments with my brother to skipping school on the first Thursday to when I was a teacher passing out teams to students as part of a lesson so we could have an excuse to watch the games in class to hanging out at the bar for four straight days watching basketball.
So with this latest economic downturn looking like I will never get paid to write again, I needed this tournament. Having Cleveland State, Akron and Ohio State all in the dance seemed like it would just add to the fun.
But never in my life has there been a more frustrating bracket. I can't find a way to fill out a satisfying one. And it is not that I can't make up my mind because I have so many choices but because I don't have any.
I don't pick teams I don't like to win. That may mean I will never win a bracket but I gave up gambling for money a while ago. If I am in a group playing for pride I want to win and keep my pride by not selling out and taking the teams I dislike. I am all about picking upsets but you just can't honestly pick a seed under six to make the Final Four and have respect for yourself.
Let's start in the East, obviously I can't take the one seed in Pitt for obvious reasons. I have nothing against the Panthers but I can't stand the thought of another title in Yinzer land. So fine you move to the two seed and they draw friggin Duke. That would be like cheering for the Yankees. So let's move to three where we find Villanova. On the surface that would be OK but then I find out they are playing the first two games in their home city of Philadelphia. First you can't cheer for the home favorite and screw Philly. That leaves Xaiver or Florida State and with a straight face you believe either of those squads are Final Four worthy. Errrrrrrrrrrrg.
In the South, the one seed is North Carolina. That would be like rooting for the Red Sox. And I am not going to do that. Oklahoma always reminds me of Oooooooooooooooooooooooklahoma and musicals have no place in basketball. I have always liked Syracuse but now after the Big East tournament that bandwagon is overwhelming. And frankly I am starting to get sick of Gonzaga. You can't be a Cinderella for a decade before you just become an overweight step-sister. And at the five is Illinois who scored 33 points in a game this year. Seriously that alone should have kept the Illini out of the tournament altogether.
In the Midwest the top five seeds are Louisville, Michigan State, Kansas, Wake Forest and Utah. Well since I am taking Cleveland State to knock off Wake and Utah. That leaves me with just three choices. And there are two reasons to pick Kansas to lose in the first round. First they are the defending champs and it is always good to see the champs go down early and they drew North Dakota State. The Bison are the true underdog story. First year in D-I eligibility for the tourney and the entire state is travelling to the game in Minnesota. I thought about Louisville but the last time I rooted for Rick Pitino he was at Providence and Billy Donovan hoisting up threes. So that leaves Michigan State which I was OK being Big Ten and all but the Final Four is in Detroit and I don't want to hear all the sappy stories about the Spartans winning at home. And it would just give Magic Johnson more face time and no one needs that.
In the West, we have UConn, Memphis, Missouri, Washington and Purdue. I get the feeling UConn isn't the real deal and Calhoun has basically become Crankshaft. Memphis is intriguing because they are not a part of the BCS and they came so close last year. But Calipari is basically Pitino Jr. so that ways on me. I know it isn't fair but both men just seem shady. Missouri is a fraud. And I just can't believe in Purdue. Washington is intriguing to me. But not sure the ghost of Antoine Tyler is enough for me to pull for them.
So what can bracket filler do?