Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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The Real Madness Only Lasts for 4 Days

We’re in the thick of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Though the entire tournament takes 3 weeks, the 4 days that comprise the first 2 rounds are possibly my favorite part of the of the whole sports year. 64 teams (65 if you count the play-in game) take part in a single elimination tournament. It’s a chance to see a lot of unusual match-ups (e.g., Arizona vs. Cleveland State) that would hardly ever occur if not for this tournament. It’s also a chance to see a lot of different venues, which can be fun. With so many games taking place simultaneously in different cities, watching the action on TV is a giddy kaleidoscope of cutting from game to game, trying to keep up with the latest scores and the close finishes. And most of all, every game is played with a level of commitment and passion that the pro game rarely, if ever, achieves. Storylines abound – should the aforementioned University of Arizona even be in the tournament? Is the Big East as dominant a conference as its many supporters believe? Here’s their chance to prove it! Will a Cinderella team emerge and knock off a string of mightily favored opponents?

As an Illinoian and former Michiganian, my sympathies are always with teams from the Big 10 conference. There were 7 teams from the Big 10 invited to play this year, though as of this writing, only Purdue, Wisconsin, and Michigan State remain. Of those three, I must certainly root for MSU, though not with a great deal of hope. Oh, I think they’re pretty good, but a couple of things stand in their way, IMHO. Yes, they are capable of total domination on occasion, but I haven’t seen the kind of consistency from game to game this season that leads me to feel good about their chances of playing 6 excellent games in a row. The biggest problem, though, is that as good as they are, I think there are several teams that are better than MSU if they’re on top of their game. North Carolina, Connecticut, and Memphis all look awesome, and if Villanova keeps playing the way they have in the first two rounds, the sky’s the limit for them. Still, I’d be happy to be wrong about all that. This tournament invariably finds ways to shock and delight, so I’ll stay tuned.

I also want to mention the gambling angle to this tournament. Most any decent-sized office in the country has a pool allowing people to try their luck at picking the winners. It may be the single most wagered-upon sports event of the year. I used to take part in such gambles, but I gave it up about a decade ago. Mind you, I haven’t given up gambling – I still play the lottery, but I gave up gambling on this tournament for simple, hedonistic reasons: I found that I enjoy the tournament a lot more if I don’t have money riding on it, and that consideration outweighed any thought of winning money in an office betting pool. I’ve seen too many people simply lose interest and stop following the tournament results once it was clear that they were out of the running, and I saw that attitude beginning to affect my own enjoyment of the tournament. So I’ve kept my money and greatly increased my pleasure – a double victory in my book!

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