Although March Madness has more to do with anger over depleted rosters than mania over keen competition, shreds of the old feelings remain. The NCAA championship does force a champion to actually win on the court. Six wins will do, spread over three weekends, against increasingly deserving competition each time. One loss will indeed end a season, no matter how grand it has been, and there are no reunion shows. Drop a game to Eastern-Midwestern Nokahoma State because of boredom or a bad call and you get to go back to the classroom, or NBA draft camp, no lovely parting prizes.
All that is good.
On the other hand, the really great talent, after freshman year, is in the NBA, most of the time. No great programs exist, just year to year winners. There is a difference. We will never again see Christian Laettner take eight seconds to shoot a game winner off a five second clock against a senior laden opponent. Dean Smith would never get a title because his seniors would all be calling him from LA.
Bitter? For years I looked forward to the first Thursday of the NCAA like a nine year oldLego Lover awaits Christmas, when his birthday also comes on December 25. The radical notion that someone could beat Duke, Indiana or North Carolina or Kansas or, well, you know, kept me up going over my bracket the night before the games started. I took days off to see the early games, when teams not slated to be around by noon (CDT), would throwdown with the giants and hilarity, aka high drama, would often ensue.
Then, along came one and done. A free market capitalist eighteen year old was suddenly free to take his wares to Minneapolis instead of Rochester. He could forego college altogether and cash in more money than the mint prints when the Pause light burns out on the Main Money Machine. Kobe Bryant never played college ball, or King James, or, well, it just hurts to say.
Understand, I am a Labor guy. I take the side of the little guy, who has only his spirit, bare sinew, sweet outside shot, wicked crossover and seven feet of height to earn his way in the world. Against him stands the Man, with legions of bean counters, mounds of media money, government protections and lawyers arrayed in a three deep zone. The little fellow, 7’8″ and 354 pounds has a career shelf life measured in years, while the owner will still be lobbying congress into the next millenium . I go with the little guy.
This is true even when it spoils my early spring gift giving holiday, March Madness. And it is spoiled. The next three weekends we will witness more ill-placed bricks than the whole Tower of Babel thing. You will see basketballs dribbled off the feet of perfectly competent two guards forced to play point because the real point guard is the third guy off the bench in the Developmental League team in Dubuque.
More like March Sadness.
Still, for those of you who are either die-hard MM watchers, or, perhaps, just a degenerat gamblers, who would rather lose your money to a bookie than give it to Reverend Creeplo Dollar for his new plane (I need a new truck by the way, my ten year old Toyota is now daily making noises like it will go to be with its ancestors soon. I can get that done for a lot less than Creeplo’s scheme and I won’t rub your gift in your face after. Sigh.), I choose to lay out Rick’s Guidelines for March Madness, 2015 Bracket.
Do not wager on games. Do not do so. This is for entertainment purposes only, no other reason. Do not bet on anything except the unconditional love of God, which has paid off for generations. Count on it.
Rick’s Top Ten Rules for Bracketology, 2015
1. Kentucky will win. Kentucky will win. Kentucky has six to eight players on the roster who will play real NBA minutes soon. UK. Will Win.
2. In moments of distress and worry because you lost in the office pool last year to the girl who picks her brackets by team colors, ignore all fears and look at rule one. Close your eyes and pick Kentucky to win the whole thing. Kentucky will win.
3. Wisconsin might win. They do not have to see Kentucky until the semifinals of the Final Four. Along the way, if form holds, they may have to play Oregon, North Carolina and Arizona. They can beat all three, if the three even get to see the Badgers. Baylor could beat Arizona, or lose to BYUs thirty year old seniors fresh back from mission in the first round. Wisconsin could win, tag them along to the semis, but they lose to Kentucky, because, as we know, Kentucky will win it all.
4. Duke has the best freshman. He is good for two wins, which will come against North Florida and Fresno State. In that bracket some are picking Stephen F. Austin to get through two games, but I am not. Utah is taller, much longer, and this is still a game with a basket teen feet high. Utah by five over SFA in round one, though I would prefer the other way. After the obligatory talent wins, Duke’s one and done wonder will have to lead through EITHER Iowa State or Gonzaga (eventually). I think it will be Iowa State, battle tested in the Big-12, but I am going with Gonzaga. In an upset again, I pick the Zags to beat Duke and go Final Fouring.
5. Kentucky will win it all. Just reminding us.
6. The East Regional looks the weakest, top to bottom, to me. This means they will be more fun that the others hands down. I do not see a clear cut winner, which means, sadly, one team will emerge with the fewest warts, and win four games hands-down and happy. If that happens, I think it will be Michigan State, not Villanova. Problem here is that MSU has to face UVA early. UVA matches well with MSU and could send them back to Michigan for the early spring, not a bad place to be, but not their preference. Still, I am picking MSU to hold serve and beat a slightly over-valued ACC team.
7. Which brings me to my rants on conferences. To wit, ACC teams tend to be over-rated and more highly seeded. Great coaches, great traditions and all that business. But MJ is retired, Dean Smith is dead and Tobacco Road is not as strong as it was, top to bottom. Do not over-value the ACC.
8. Do not over-value the Pac-12. Bill Walton is talking somewhere, but this is not a debate competition. Mr. Wooden is being called Coach in Heaven now. The PAC-12 gets overvalued these days. Do not overvalue the Pac-12.
9. The Big-12 is undervalued in the early rounds and overvalued thereafter. Kansas will have to do if something good is to happen for this conference for this year. UT has found it difficult to play basketball with both hands around their necks and Baylor is not going deep. Forget it. That leaves about thirteen othetr BIg 12 teams to get there but they won’t. The deepest conference in the land cannot send an all-star team, so, if Iowa State cannot pick up sticks, the Big-12 will all be home soon.
10. I miss the Big-East. I cannot say more. I miss the Big East.
So, with fear and trembling, my Final Four -Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, Gonzaga vs. MSU, with Kentucky over MSU in the Final.
Do not bet the games. Do not bet. No wagering.
Kentucky will win it all.