It's almost here. At some point this evening the field will finally be set. Once we know who the 64 teams are all sorts of people will hunker down in smoke filled sports bars with murky types who prefer to remain anonymous to the general public. Indeed, think of the scenes in Rick's Café Americain with far less class and a lot more beer.
Yes, it is time for the NCAA men's basketball tournament--the most spectacular one and done tournament in all of sports. Unlike the NCAA football final four, this event is the great equalizer among those with a taste for wagering. It annually makes fools and losers of amateurs and experts alike. Betting on the brackets is rather like playing a game of poker where aces, jokers, and deuces are wild. All the normal rules of gaming go straight out the window.
Usually I have my brackets done by now, because I write off the four teams who have to play their way into the tournament as first round cannon fodder. This year I'm not so sure. Tonight, Dayton plays Boise State in, you guessed it, Dayton. The winner plays Providence on Friday. The Flyers have a dangerous vibe to them. Later this evening they get the only true home court advantage in the entire tournament. If they do beat Boise State they can kick back in their own beds before making a 70 mile bus trip to Columbus tomorrow for what amounts to a second home game on Friday.
I never bet on the play in games, but the feeling is if Dayton wins later today they could pull an upset Friday, something I don't think Boise is capable of doing.
The president of these United States, Barack H. Obama is betting on Kentucky to win the tournament. Admittedly he has some talent for this sort of thing, but he isn't a pro. Kentucky is a solid choice since they are undefeated so far. And despite the tears and fears of Ashley Judd, not to mention the tongue of Dick Vitale, the Wildcats never trailed in the SEC championship game against Arkansas. In fact UK hasn't really been pushed all year. Therein lies a potentially fatal weakness. There is no telling how they will react if things get dicey at the very end of a game against say, Notre Dame, or Arizona.
Of course there are always a bunch of posers and choke artists who make the tournament. Kansas has traditionally been wildly inconsistent and the curse of the Dukies is well known. In fact Duke and Coach Mike Krzyzewski have made it their mission to put the screws to me on a yearly basis. If I pick them to fold they will happily march straight into the final four. If I think they can make a deep run some hungry bunch of nobodies will chew them up and spit them out. Last year it was Mercer, a couple of years ago it was Lehigh. Friday they open with the winner of the North Florida-Robert Morris play in game. If those sons of bitches tank in the first round again against either outfit, Coach K can count on me coming to Durham with my trusty Louisville Slugger to go all Barry Bonds on his car. So win Krzyzewski, or find a place to hide your ride.
Tomorrow and Friday huge numbers of The Volk will call into work with mysterious fevers, stomach ailments, and unexplained rashes. Entire businesses will grind to a halt as all semblance of responsibility is thrown to wind.
Yes, for a fleeting few moments, we can turn away from vicious political hacks, legions of armed lunatics, and snarling beasts who insist virulent racism is simply freedom of speech. For a blessed couple of days none of those vile fucks will exist and even as we look on in astonished horror while the Belmont Bruins take Virginia into overtime, the world will be good. Well, at least until someone like my wife smiles and says she picked Belmont, because she preferred red and blue uniforms to orange and blue.
Hey, there is a reason they call it March Madness. Everyone has a system and even if it doesn't make any sense, sometimes it works.