I said in last week's column this time of the year is my favorite, better than any time on the sports calendar. My primary reason for liking the Big Dance is it pureness, one very different from any other sport. The passion by which it is played, the never-say-die, do-anything-but-lose spirit of the NCAA Tournament.
Better than the smell of fresh cut grass or your grandmother's apple pie.
But the one thing even better than all of that is the unexpected, the one aspect which can truly define the 2006 NCAA Tournament so far.
And boy have there been plenty of them?
Out of 48 tournament games played so far in this Dance, there have been 12 upsets, the most upsets since the 2001 season. But do I ever know. I filled out my bracket and got in a couple of those tournament pools, you know those $5-10 contests that you can join with a group of friends online.
It took me all of the first round to find myself at the bottom of each pool. It's is easy as picking Seton Hall to reach the Elite Eight and Iowa going all the way to the Final Four to kiss any chance of winning goodbye.
Seton Hall got the first round boot
However, I do feel better having
learned Tiger Rag columnist and college hoops extraordinaire
Have you ever noticed that the people who always win those pools are some guy's wife or girlfriend who chooses the teams solely on the mascot or color of the uniforms. Maybe that might be my approach next year.
This year, I actually sat down,
went through schedules and results, team trends and statistics to determine my
picks on the 64-team bracket. After day one, things looked peachy as I called
Wisconsin-Milwaukee's upset of
But by the end of the day two, it was all over but the crying. With special thanks to the aforementioned Demons, obscure teams like George Mason, Montana, Bradley and Wichita State or the big boys who totally choked in the first round like Syracuse, Michigan State and Kansas, my bracket was busted long before the end of the first round.
While my bubble was burst in the tournament's opening round, for the first time in three trips to the Big Dance, the LSU's Tigers' bubble was not. After disappointing losses to Purdue and UAB in its last two trips to the NCAA Tournament, LSU took care of Iona in the first round then advanced to the Sweet 16 with a stunning, last-second win over Texas A&M in the second.
Coach John Brady's team gets No. 1
overall seed Duke in the Round of 16 taking on the Blue Devils in
While we like the Tigers chances against the Devils, especially in the Georgia Dome (a building in which LSU plays well), it will be interesting to see if those who picked the Tigers two weeks ago will sing the same tune now that it has come to pass.
LSU has proven it can play and win the big game, in the hostile environment against good teams. A tough non-conference schedule has paid dividends with an SEC title, the program's first NCAA Tournament victories in six seasons. Can the Tigers take it to the next level? Can the Tigers beat the most successful team in NCAA Tournament history, with arguably its greatest player ever leading the way?
It should be fun to watch.
Matt Deville is the editor
of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at email@example.com.