A food lover's guide to the Sweet 16

CHICAGO – When I was younger I would make the NCAA Tournament a big production. I would plan ahead, make sure I had good food on hand for each game. Heck, in college I would cut spring break short to be home in time to watch Tournament games.

Food played a role in my tournament experience. I would actually plan my menus around games. During the first round I would make sure I had enough food on hand so that I did not have to leave the house until the morning sessions were over. I conveniently had all of the numbers of delivery places close by so that I could make the call if I needed more. In college I did not have a cordless phone, but I made sure I had the extra long phone cord in case I needed to call Dominoes or a sandwich shop.

Now things are different. I travel to games and miss most of those while working. I eat the food provided by the NCAA and all of my plans involve deadlines and getting things posted to the net.

Just because my Tournament experience does not revolve around food, does not mean yours shouldn't. Here is one way to plan a menu around the teams who are still playing.


Washington vs. Louisville
Seattle has great sea food. With all the fish markets, you could get a huge variety of things to eat from the ocean. My pick, fresh Pacific salmon. For the Salmon I'd personally use a little dry rub (brown sugar, season salt, garlic salt, onion salt, Old Bay, chili powder and pepper) and throw the bad boy on a grill. Halfway through the cooking I'd start brushing on a combination of BBQ sauce mixed with orange juice concentrate.

To further the Seattle experience I'd go get a venti White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks.

As for Louisville, that is the home base of Papa Johns Pizza. Easier than a salmon to get and prepare, all you have to do is call up your closest outlet and they will deliver a Pizza right to your door.

If we use food to pick the winner the Salmon gets it over the chain store pizza.

Illinois vs. UW-Milwaukee
This is the prime time food game of the day. For Illinois you have to go with a Chicago style deep-dish pizza. Although you can get them frozen, I'd recommend one from your local pizzeria. In Tucson both Zachary's and Roccos are pretty darn good.

Of course with UW-Milwaukee you have to have brats. My personal recipe is to boil your brats in beer, then grill them outside or on the stove. I love caramelized onions with mine. I also suggest either spicy mustard or a spicy BBQ sauce with the brat.

With Milwaukee you have to have some beer. There are both good and bad beers from the city, so get what your budget allows.

This is a close call, but I'll go with the pizza.

Texas Tech vs. West Virginia
You have a lot of options with Texas Tech. You could go with Tex Mex or with Texas BBQ. I'd do both. How about a brisket sandwich with a big bowl of Texas red (red chili con carne)?

To be honest, I have no idea what they eat in West Virginia, but I think they have moonshine there. I'm sure in the hills they have some good old fashioned bathtub stills.

This one is no contest, give me the sandwich and the chili.

Arizona vs. Oklahoma State
The final game of the night. Tucson has some of the finest Mexican food in the nation. While rooting for the Wildcats get yourself a plate of tacos, or maybe a chimi verde style. You could also cook up a big plate of nachos. Although there are some world-class restaurants in town, the corner taco shops have quality food as well. Grab yourself a carne asada burro.

Oklahoma may not have a real famous food, but they do have beef. What's more synonymous with beef than a Cowboy? For Oklahoma State we'll dish up a nice, juicy steak. I'll have mine rare.

Both are good, but I'll take the uniqueness of the burrito.

Duke vs. Michigan State
Well, Dick Vitale promotes DiGiorno pizza with almost as much fervor as he does Duke. So, we'll go with the self rising crust of the frozen pizza for the Blue Devils.

Dominoes was founded in Detroit and East Lansing is not too far from there, so we'll order a Dominoes pizza. They have that five for five deal, so you can get five medium, on topping pizzas for just $25.

I'm not a fan of Dominoes pizza, but I like it better than frozen.

Wisconsin vs. North Carolina State
We've already had brats with the UW-Milwaukee game, so then we'll just have a nice cheese tray to go along with the Badgers. I'm thinking some cheddar, Swiss and maybe a nice soft cheese. We'll throw in some crackers and maybe some little toasts or something to go with.

Since UNC is the higher seed, they get the best Carolina has to offer (see below). Since NC State is on Tobacco Road we'll have tobacco string onions. Thinly sliced, deep fried, seasoned onion rings.

This one is tough, but I'll go with the cheese.

Utah vs. Kentucky
Utah is another state that lacks a real food identity. It does snow a lot there, so we'll go with snow cones. Buy enough syrup, and you can have all kinds of fun flavors.

With Kentucky we'll have some good old KFC. A big bucket of fried chicken, both original recipe and crispy, plus some of those tasty mashed potatoes and gravy.

Take the Wildcats and the Colonel.

North Carolina vs. Villanova
Since UNC is the highest rated of the North Carolina teams, they get to fly the flag of the Carolina style pulled pork. Tender, juicy shredded pork with a tangy, vinegar based sauce. It's not the red , tomato based BBQ sauce you are used to but it is very good.

Villanova is from Philadelphia, home of the cheese steak. Whether you like them with provolone or cheese whiz, they are both very tasty. I'll have mine with the provolone and some grilled onions.

This is tough, but I'll take the sandwich in the upset.

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