Disclaimer: I realize that Iowa is NOT playing in the NCAA Tournament. I am completely aware that this is a Hawkeye web site. But, I cannot stop myself from writing about the Big Dance. If you are worried you will be offended by any of this, please click on another link on this page. If you are not at all worried that you will be offended, but become offended as you read this column, please don't hesitate to click another link. If you are offended that Air Force has been invited to The Dance, please contact Jay Bilas…I'm sure that he will visit with you for the next six weeks about that very subject.
OK, so all of you who are still reading must be die-hard college basketball fans. And that's good. Because the NCAA Tournament (pronounced "TORE-nament" by everybody on ESPN on Sunday night) is the single-greatest sporting event in America. Year after year. It beats everything. You know it. I know it. CBS knows it. Bob Dole knows it.
About the only people who DON'T know it are the goofballs who have put together the BCS "not-really-a-playoff-but-sort-of" playoff system that makes absolutely no sense and crowns teams as national champions almost at random. In fact, if college basketball were run like college football, Kentucky would've just been voted the 2004 National Champions.
And so would Duke.
And possibly St. Joseph's, Stanford and Oklahoma State.
Boy, that would be fun, wouldn't it? Who needs a 65-team TORE-nament when you could just have some writers, coaches and computers VOTE on the champs. Great idea. Just stellar.
Anyway, I watched some of the Selection Shows on Sunday night and I've thought a little bit about the brackets, so I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts about the entire state of affairs as we near the "Greatest Weekend of the Year" (the first four days of The Dance)…
1) Some images and memories never get old, do they? Watching Jim Valvano run around aimlessly, looking for someone to hug, for example. You just KNOW that CBS will still be showing that highlight in 15 years…and I'll explain NC State's magical run in 1983 to my son, for probably the umpteenth time. It's kind of like seeing Jack Nicklaus make that downhill putt in the Masters commercial… "YESSSSIRRRR!" It will never get old.
2) Who gives a rip if the brackets are called East, West, South and Midwest? What the heck? Does someone actually think it's easier to SAY or REMEMBER "East Rutherford Regional?" What am I missing here? It's like there has to be at least ONE ridiculously meaningless—but very "official"—move made at the outset for the Committee to get its bearings. Or something.
3) So, Pittsburgh got ripped off. Yeah, the Panthers might have to play Wisconsin in Wisconsin in the second round. So what? Doesn't anyone remember how Pitt got to play two games in its own backyard two years ago? What comes around, goes around. Too bad, Pitt. I was never especially fond of Dan Marino, anyway.
4) Duke is a # 1 seed? Yawwwwwwwn. One thing is for certain, as long as the Blue Devils are in the TORE-nament, I'll have at least one team to cheer for: Whoever is playing Duke. I can't stand this team…and I really don't care for Coach Krarazzdfkdjsdfweifhyi, either.
5) The only time I EVER think of Miles Simon is on Selection Sunday. Someone always works in a highlight of Miles Simon. Count on it.
6) Tate George. See above.
7) Bryce Drew's shot on that in-bounds play will still be incredible 30 years from now. And you'll still remember Bryce Drew's name. Or at least my buddy Bob will.
8) I wish that UCLA could make the NCAA Tourney EVERY year and get beat by Princeton EVERY year. That NEVER gets old. Never ever. "Ohhh, look at that 5-11 guard backdoor the 6-5 McDonald's All-American for a layup!" Pure basketball. Yesssss!
9) Phil Martelli used to be funny and quirky. This season, though, he has really seemed to turn into sort of an edgy, defensive jerk. Where's the smile, Phil? You're living a dream right now. I don't know what the deal is, maybe it's the pressure…St. Joe's was always the underdog before. He's really not all that funny anymore. And his comments about Billy Packer's thoughts were pretty stupid, really. Just because Packer can't go out there and guard Jameer Nelson, that doesn't make him WRONG…or incapable of making an assessment of St. Joe's ability. Helllooooo, Phil. Earth to Phil. But then, Packer (not surprisingly) made his arrogant, mouthy little rebuttal about some game played back in 1846 and it made me dislike Packer all the more. I would really like Martelli to go back to being funny and quirky…but if he wants to rumble with Packer on national TV first, that's certainly OK with me, I guess.
10) I used to really like Jim Nantz. What's happened to him? Is his "schtick" getting old? Or is it just the fact that Packer is bringing him down? And why does he have to have his face two millimeters from Packer's face when they're talking about the seeds? Geez, Jim…we're not watching this on an 8-inch TV here. (I actually just worked "millimeters" and "inches" into the same paragraph…proof that hammering the metric system into our heads back in fifth grade only served to confuse us.)
11) When asked about St. Joseph's chances to make the Final Four, Jay Bilas said, "I can't believe Air Force is in this tournament! The Committee made a HUUUUGE mistake! Air Force? Are you KIDDING me?"
12) I would like Kentucky and Duke to both lose on terrible calls at the end of games to teams they should've beaten by 25 points.
13) I'm guessing that Tom Penders did not sleep at all in February, just to get his face into that perfect "I haven't slept in two months" expression that you KNOW he'll have this weekend at 11:30 on ESPN.
14) Actual quote from Clark Kellogg on Sunday night: "That created a jam there and when you have a jam, that's what makes it so exciting." This is ABSOLUTELY the best time of year…there is no other time that you get a quote like that. And there will be plenty more where that came from.
15) Dick Vitale said, "the bottom line is…" exactly 5,783 times Sunday night in a two-hour span.
16) Too many people are giving Washington a good chance of beating Kentucky. That leads me to believe that the Huskies will lose to UAB in the first round. After all, this is a Washington team that got thumped earlier this season by Wyoming and Houston, before starting out 0-5 in the Pac-10.
17) Bill Raftery is awesome.
18) Michigan State is a heckuva lot better than people think…and I think they're Sweet 16—and possibly Elite 8—good. Don't under-estimate Tom Izzo. Having said that, watch the Spahhhh-ins lose to either Nevada or Gonzaga. Oh well, I'm sure we'll see several shots of Mateen Cleaves and his family sitting in the stands, regardless.
19) I would LOVE to see Charlotte knock Texas Tech out in the first round. The last time I picked a Bob Knight team to do anything in the NCAA Tourney, the Hoosiers got stomped on by Pepperdine. I won't make that mistake again. Go Charlotte!
20) I would also LOVE to see Manhattan take Florida out of the picture in the first round. Billy Donovan is simply too greasy for me. And he's a whiner…remember his reaction(s) after losing to Creighton two years ago. Boo.
21) I would LOVE to see Lute Olson's Arizona team defeat Coach Krazvjksdfh;kei's Duke team in the second round. That would be just great! I'm sure that Coach Kay would find a way to blame it on the officiating, despite the fact that he's got a roster full of McD's All-Americans.
22) The over/under on Clark Kellogg's usage of the word "spurtability" during Round One highlights: 158.
23) Murray State is caught up in a scandal involving a pair of key players. Looks like Illinois will avoid the "Austin Peay Syndrome" this year.
24) Jay Bilas just awoke from a deep sleep, screaming something about "Air Force really STINKS! They shouldn't be in this tournament…it's a TERRIBLE MISTAKE! No, Air Force! NOOOOOOOO!"
25) Most people will take Southern Illinois to beat Alabama in Round One. But, it's always dangerous when everybody's on the bandwagon of a mid-major. Remember how high everyone was about Creighton last season? I'm just saying.
26) Just TRY to catch Dick Vitale get through a single sentence this week without using the following words or phrases: "The bottom line is…", "I really believe…" and "When you talk about…" If you can accomplish this more than twice, it's the equivalent of Texas-San Antonio beating Stanford.
27) If a 7-9 team from the ACC deserves a better seed than ANY team from the Big Ten, then perhaps EVERY team in the ACC should be in the TORE-nament…and they should all receive at least one bye. What a joke. Oklahoma State (27-3 overall and 14-2 in the Big 12) is a # 2 seed…but Maryland (7-9 in its league) is a # 4 seed? Let me get this straight…Wisconsin is ranked #10 in the nation, but gets a # 6 seed in The Dance? Did the roof cave in and knock the entire Selection Committee unconscious for an hour, while Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and Billy Packer took over the controls?
28) Actual quote from Digger Phelps on Sunday night: "He is probably the best scoring player in the country when it comes to getting points." Fantastic insight from a man who can talk for a week straight without making a single cogent point…let alone any meaningful analysis.
29) Another actual quote from Digger: "Nobody's giving Washington the respect yet that they have." Uhh…yeah…that's what I thought.
30) If you find yourself watching a game being called by Dick Enberg and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the next few days—and you manage to NOT think of Kareem in his role in the movie "Airplane" a single time—then you have officially become immersed in "The Madness." Enjoy.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)