Sunday, March 20, 2005

Diary Of A Bracket Gone Horribly Wrong, Pt.2

It's all gone wrong. Oh, it's all gone horribly wrong. My bracket has fallen apart faster than Mark McGwire with his legacy on the line and the scornful eyes of angry parents directly upon him. The only difference being, my tears are real.

Syracuse? Damn all those people who said the Big East was a beast. Damn all those people who said Syracuse was hot at precisely the right time. And, most of all, damn me for drinking the Syracuse Kool Aid like Glenn Robinson on nickel night.

On the plus side, I still have three of my Final Four picks alive, which only means the basketball gods want to torture me a bit longer before fully pulling the rug out from beneath my feet.

If there is a positive to watching your bracket crumble it's the newfound ability to just sit back and watch the tourney without the pressure of pulling for some team that, in actuality, you hate, but are forced to root for in the hope that somehow, some way, your bracket will remain intact. To this I say, just give it up and enjoy the basketball. You've never won a tourney pool, and you never will. Deal with it.

Illinois seemed to enjoy themselves in yesterday's 71-59 win over Nevada. After going through their usual routine of toying with an opponent in the first half, allowing Nevada to stay close, the Illini emerged after halftime and played the free-flowing, beautiful-to-watch ball that has been absent of late. At least for a brief period. The passes were crisp, the shots were falling, the TV announcers were drooling, and the lead ballooned to 20 points.

Of course, the Illini continued their alarming habit of taking their foot off the gas and letting Nevada close the gap. The Illini do this often, and a team like Oklahoma State or Arizona will be more than willing to take advantage.

James Augustine and Jack Ingram each had career highs in points, meaning the continual cries that the Illini big men are a weakness will subside - at least for a few hours, or until a reporter needs an angle and all the old, go-to material comes bubbling to the surface yet again.

Next up for the Illini is a date with Milwaukee at the Allstate Arena. This is an interesting matchup because Bruce Pearl, then an assistant at Iowa, turned rat and offered the NCAA taped phone conversations of ex-Illini assistant Jimmy Collins allegedly offering Deon Thomas cash and a car. How nice of him to assist the NCAA like that. Man, Pearl just looks like the type of guy who would do such a thing. He looks he could easily fit into any movie involving the mafia, probably in a role where he squeals on someone and ends up looking into the wrong end of a gun. Nobody likes a snitch, and Illinois fans have no doubt locked up their feelings towards Pearl in a special place where they won't soon be forgotten.

That said, Pearl is a good coach and the Panthers are a dangerous team. I, for one, am very appreciative of the Panthers for knocking out Cincinnati East (i.e., Boston College), meaning we will no longer have to watch Jared Dudley being Jared Dudley. Thank God for that.

Boston College? Pittsburgh? Syracuse? UConn? How overrated was the Big East this year?

You knew it wasn't UConn's day when CBS selected Ed Nelson as the Huskies' Player of the Game against NC State. Ed Nelson? Ed friggin' Nelson? Nelson can't possibly be on scholarship, can he? He looks like Jim Calhoun grabbed him off the football team to use as a body at practice. Ed Nelson?

North Carolina is looking unstoppable right now. I guess that will make Roy Williams' annual collapse that much more shocking.

I love that Bob Knight is back in the Sweet Sixteen. Love it. All of his critics can kiss his ass. By the way, it's interesting that his son, Pat, sits next him on the Texas Tech bench as an assistant coach. Don't Knight detractors love to bring up the time the elder Knight supposedly slapped him during a timeout as if he banished him into the abyss never to be heard from again? "Oooh, ooh, he touched his son. He's...he's...he's evil." Shut up.

Someone tell Jihad Muhammad that he's not Allen Iverson. And to go by a different first name.


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