Monday, March 14, 2005

Random Thoughs of (March) Madness, Pt. 1

Let's take an in-depth look at the Chicago Region as we all eagerly await to see what tie Digger Phelps wears today. It's going to be hard to top that pink tie/pink shirt fashion statement he made a few days ago.

1. Illinois - The Illini are winning. In fact, other than the last seven seconds of the Ohio State game, they barely ever trail...Dee Brown has been cold, but he'll come around...Roger Powell has been a beast of late, while also running prayer services on the side, which can't hurt the karma...And, of course, Bruce Weber is still answering questions with a really high voice. Come on, it's funny.

2 - Oklahoma St. - OK, the Cowboys were one of the few teams that I told myself to immediately lock in as a Final Four candidate before I even saw the bracket. What bracket they ended up in was not important...Tough draw for the Illini, or anybody else....If Eddie Sutton actually gets off the bench and stands, look out...Tell me I'm not the only one who saw John Lucas, Sr. grabbing his heart in jest after his son (Jr., for short) hit a big shot against Texas Tech and immediately thought of cocaine jokes...

3 Arizona - The Wildcats had a typically impressive season, but here's the thing: they have a tendency to advance really deep, or to go down shockingly early in a massive upset. The Cats have been prone to end up on the wrong end of a few Cinderella stories. There's not usually much middle ground. If Stoudemire starts shooting poorly, the Cats can be had...Between Lute Olson and Stoudemire, Arizona has cornered the market on nice hair, though this helps them in no way...How tough is the Pac 10?...Will Jenny Finch be in the crowd?

4. Boston College - Anyone get the feeling that Boston College is turning into the Cincinnati of the East Coast? I mean, they have dudes dropping out of buildings to escape death by beating or gunshot. The fact that this was happening on the weekend of the Big East tournament only makes this story that much more classic. The ACC must be feeling real comfortable with this. Meanwhile, and as I've said before, Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall annoy to no end. They're always yapping like tiny dogs. This even as they collapsed late in the season...They do play hard, though, so they could be dangerous...If the Eagles falter early, and/or rack up any arrests this week, Al Skinner and Bobby Huggins might consider playing one another in a nonconference game.

5. Alabama - The Tide are a scary team. I like their track record in the NCAA tourney over the years. They know how to wreck havoc on a bracket. Just ask Stanford...They're so athletic that if they get on a roll they might beat anybody...Is the university doing anything to help Latrell Sprewell raise his kids?

6. LSU - I'm still not over the fact that LSU never won it all when Shaq, Chris Jackson, and the legendary Stanley Roberts were on the team together...Has anyone seen LSU play? Ever? Do the Tigers even exist?

7. Southern Illinois - Now that the Salukis have got their annual MVC tourney collapse out of the way, they can get down to doing what they do best, which is coming to play in the big tourney. They show up ready, having made the Sweet 16 in 2002, and losing to Missouri and Alabama the past two years, both games by a single point. (The Missouri loss was partially the result of a terrible call at the end, but I digress.)...Darren Brooks is a player more people need to know about...The fact that they are called the Salukis, I believe, automatically gives them a 5-point edge over any opponent...Bruce Weber started SIU's current run. Chris Lowery, at 32, is one of college basketball's youngest coaches.

8. Texas - The Longhorns have beaten Oklahoma St. Twice. Enough said.

9. Nevada - Not quite as cool as the old Runnin’ Rebels, but doing the state of Nevada proud. No word on if they also like to hang out with prostitutes in hot tubs. Let's hope so.

10. St. Mary's - No school named for a woman shall advance deep into the tourney. If I had a list of set rules, this would be one of them...And "the Gaels" sounds pretty gay, too...Then again, the Gaels roster is loaded with foreigners, and we all know foreigners play much better basketball these days. Australia, France, Brazil, Morocco...When did Australia become a basketball breeding ground?...Is it just me or does Australia seem like it has the potential to come up with more hot chicks than it does? I'm still waiting for the next Elle McPherson.

11. UAB - The Blazers may be the South's most underrated team. I like these guys. I'm a little pissed that they ended DePaul's tourney hopes, but whatever...After knocking off Kentucky last year, they'll get a shot at another SEC school in LSU...Tell me Demario Eddins doesn't look like Sprewell...Mike Anderson might be one of the college game's best young coaches. And the word is he wants to stay in his hometown and coach UAB rather than take a so-called bigger job. I like that.

12. Wisconsin-Milwaukee - Bruce Pearl has quietly turned UWM into a mid-major power. They could be dangerous...They'd be more dangerous if they stopped with the hyphenated crap and just called themselves Milwaukee...Their loss to Notre Dame in the tourney two years ago - when their big guy missed a wide-open layup at the buzzer - was painful to watch...Jimmy Collins can't be happy about this.

13. Penn - I would love to see these guys upset Boston College. Watching Dudley and Marshall implode would be priceless.

14 - Utah St. - The Aggies were left out last year after going 25-3. They might be pissed off. Pissed off teams can be dangerous.

15 - Southeastern Louisiana - (Insert standard "directional school" joke here.)

16. Fairleigh Dickinson - Didn't he write nursery rhymes?

Sweet 16: Illinois, Alabama, Southern Illinois, Oklahoma St.

The pick: Illinois. Twinkle, twinkle, baby. Twinkle, twinkle. On paper at least, the Illini have a nice road to St. Louis, particularly because it passes through Chicago. The Rosemont Horizon - yes, I still call it that - can be a cauldron of an arena when it's packed. And it will be packed, not to mention decked in orange. It's going to be a party.


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