Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The NCAA Tournament

The weather is starting to break, St. Patrick's day is this weekend, and the NCAA tournament begins this Thursday. Two out of three of those events I regard as very positive. I have very mixed feelings on the NCAA tournament. I think my feelings can be best distilled in two lists:

Five Reasons I really like the NCAA basketball tournament:

1.) Gives you something sports related to watch on TV while binge drinking during St. Patrick's day, which always seems to fall around the first few days of the tournament.

2.) Mindless sports gambling in the form of bracket pools. Filling out the brackets is always fun as you track the winners and losers through the first 4 days of the tournament.

3.) Upsets. The Cinderella team that enters the tournament and surprises the hell out of everyone. Think George Mason. Admit it: You love it, every year, when a snooty basketball oriented school like Duke gets beat by the likes of Coppin State.

4.) The NCAA basketball tournament is very American in the sense that all types of schools have a chance. I especially like spotlight on smaller colleges. Villanova, St. Joe's, Gonzaga, Santa Clara, Creighton, College of Charleston, Southern Illinois, etc. These are schools you never think about on the National level, in terms of college athletics, until the NCAA basketball tournament.

5.) Except for *maybe* the NBA Finals, the quality of play, in terms of pure basketball, is as good as it gets for the entire sport. I prefer to watch well coached college basketball players than watch well coached professional players everytime.

Five reasons I absolutely hate the NCAA basketball tournament:

1.) The personalities and writers that come out of the woodwork this time of year. Billy Packer is a bitter, loathesome human being, who is an unabashed apologist for the ACC conference. Dick Vitale's enthusiasm becomes an extreme annoyance when exposed to his broadcasting for prolonged periods of time. Why do I even know of a dork like Joe Lunardi, a self-appointed "bracketologist"?

2.) The complete non-event that is "selection Sunday". If people think the NFL draft is boring, they should get a load of the TV programming involved in simply selecting the teams to play in the tournament.

3.) How in the hell can anyone think they know something about all 64 teams in the field, let alone those teams that didn't make the tournament and may have deserved to? My point: it is impossible to handicap all of these games and the various potential permutations of games down the road in this tournament with any semblance of skill. I believe the tournament and bracket pools are all about luck and that annoys me. I think it is more likely to win a multi-million dollar lottery than it is to win a $10 bracket pool. Please note: I have never come close to winning a bracket pool, but that doesn't stop me from playing them.

4.) The entire tournament is insufferably long. They call it "March Madness", but the Championship game is always played in April. Are you telling me they can't get this whole thing done in two weeks? No way this tournament should be allowed to extend into April.

5.) If a player has even a modicum of success in NCAA tournament, they always seem a little too eager to declare for the professional draft, even if their game isn't ready.

I guess the overriding conclusions about the tournament is that it gives us something to get worked up over until baseball season starts and the winter sports playoffs start. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to fill out my bracket pools and buy beer for the weekend......

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