There was once a time when college basketball was my favorite sport. During this time, I also detested the fact that college football was discussed on the Atlanta radio airways during the spring. I'm pretty sure I was also watching like four episodes of Saved By The Bell each day, and I definitely didn't have a girlfriend.
So while the mid-nineties may have been the halcyon days of college basketball, it definitely wasn't a time period I personally enjoy remembering. But just for the sake of this post, allow me to take a step back to the 1995-1996 college basketball season, the year after Kevin Garnett opened the floodgates to the NBA. Kobe Bryant was still a high school senior, and the following players were playing college basketball that season:
Keith Van Horn
Todd Fuller - eh, he was good in college...not "pick him ahead of Kobe good," but still.
So anyways, yeah...it was an awesome season and an excellent tourney, highlighted by a Tubby Smith-coached, senior-heavy Georgia team reaching the Sweet 16 and losing in triple overtime to eventual national runner-up Syracuse on a last second 3-pointer by John Wallace. Rick Pitino's final Kentucky team won the whole thing with a loaded roster featuring seven future pro players (Toine, Mercer, Delk, Anderson, Walter McCarty, Mark Pope, and ole boy Jeff Sheppard- I'm pretty sure he was on a crappy Hawks team at some point).
Anyways, since that season, the talent level, quality of play, Georgia's success and my overall interest in college basketball has diminished over time. It has now reached a point where other than following the Hoop Dawgs, I don't even know what's going on in the sport until the tournament. In fact, I get pissed it seems that 95% of all prime-time sports programming in January-mid March is some college basketball game I couldn't care less about. Hey, it happens. I used to be a hockey fan as well.
Still though, there is nothing like the NCAA tournament. Don't worry, I'm not about to pull a Wilbon turn this into a pulpit on why college football needs a playoff, but since I really don't have a vested interest in the regular season, the tournament makes for a fun three weeks of single elimination basketball, similar to the World Cup or the WBC. Who can't get behind that?
Anyways, enough of my gay thoughts and feelings about college basketball. Onto some final thoughts and then predictions from two guys that have watched a combined 16 minutes of action thus far this season (14 of which were by accident):
- I've finished in the Top 3 of my bracket pool each of the last three seasons. Prior to that, I'd never finished in the Top 10. On a related note, the only thing lamer than listening to someone talk about their fantasy team is hearing them talk about their fucking bracket. Oh you almost picked B.C. over Michigan State? WHO FUCKING CARES?
- Anyways, if you want to do well in your bracket, here's a trick: pick (mostly) all the favorites. Just to prove I'm not a sadist, I make it a point to take one "sleeper" to the Sweet Sixteen each year - this year's is WKU. I guess their win over that hoss UGA team just suckered me right in - but other than that, I'm playing it safe the rest of the way. Because, after all, that's why these teams are favored, damnit. You wouldn't bet the moneyline on an underdog just because it's "more fun to pick that team!" So why would you not apply the same mentality to a pool where you could win hundreds of dollars?
- Memo to ESPN: "President has 11 of 16 picks correct on first day" is NOT a fucking news story.
- If Big East fans want to borrow the SEC Snobbery handbook for this tournament, you've earned it. As many #1 seeds as the SEC has teams in the whole tourney is impressive, no doubt. Just make sure it's returned by August.
- And finally, here's Runaround Sue's degenerate gambling game for NCAA '09. $25 to each other for every Sweet 16 team correctly picked. $50 for every Elite 8 squad. $75 for each Final Four participant, $100 per team in the championship game, and another $100 for the champion (yes, even gamblers feel the economic crunch). This may seem like alot of scrilla is changing hands but not so, seeing as how OBJ is apparantly following the "pick the favorite" strategy, which will make for one boring pool! Onto the picks:
Maryland (Shanoff alert!)
(I'm telling you...BALLS OF STEEL, ladies)
Pittsburgh over Louisville
Louisville over UNC
Just to let y'all know ahead of time...I almost picked Oklahoma over North Carolina.