And finally, the first two torturous rounds of the NCAA tournament are complete. This morning, I couldn’t help but look at all 24 of my brackets with a sigh of disdain. “Why?” you should ask…. I’ll tell you why. My red pen has run out of ink! I think that maybe 2 of my 24 brackets have remained quasi-intact. My first mistake was choosing Illinois over Western Kentucky in the first round. My second mistake was choosing Ohio State to beat Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen. The Buckeyes? They have enough trouble with Siena. Does anybody have a coin? I might as well have flipped it for all my picks.
This year’s tourney hasn’t been devoid of excitement, as it has had its share of upsets. Three different #12 seeds (Arizona, Western Kentucky, and Wisconsin) made it past the first round by defeating some overrated #5 seeds (Utah, Illinois, and Florida State). One #13 seed (Cleveland State) was able to pull off the upset against Wake Forest and make it to the second round, before falling to #12 Arizona. All #1, #2, and #3 seeds have made it to the Sweet Sixteen, as well as two of the four #4 seeds. So that leaves two teams that are the “oddballs” in the tournament: #12 Arizona, and #5 Purdue. If we based the tournament strictly by ranking, they would be the only 2 teams that shouldn’t still be in the tournament. If I were a betting man I would pick Purdue to make it further than Arizona. And maybe, just maybe, I have Purdue making it to the Final Four in several of my brackets. But the Big East has shown how dominant of a basketball force they are, with 5 of their teams representing the Sweet Sixteen (Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova, and Pitt).
So what can we expect in the Sweet Sixteen? Well, I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t quivering with anticipation to see #2 Michigan State against #3 Kansas, #1 Connecticut vs. #5 Purdue, #2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Syracuse, and #2 Duke vs. #3 Villanova. Honestly, I believe that any of the #1, #2, and #3 seeds could win it all. In my mind, the only team that has the smallest chance of making it to the Championship is Arizona. But history has taught us that it is not impossible for a team with a double digit seed to make it to the Final Four (George Mason in 2006). But that is the mystery in the tournament isn’t it? You never know who is gonna win. Its like playing the hand crane game at the local bowling alley. You never know which cheap stuffed animal you’ll pick. Ok, well maybe I’m the only one thinking that, but it brought back nostalgic memories of my time at Wheaton Bowl growing up.
So when Thursday arrives, get in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage, and get ready for some serious excitement!