With what many people call the best spectacle in sports starting tomorrow I felt like it was only appropriate for me to jot down some thoughts regarding the men’s basketball 2014 NCAA Tournament. For this post I am going to go David Letterman on you all and categorize my nuggets of tourney wisdom top ten style. But if you despise Letterman’s nightly top ten list don’t worry: I am not counting down nor am I making an attempt to be humorous…well unless you consider my awful writing skills humorous.
1. Sitting Out the Dance: After two straight years of the Griz making the NCAA Tournament the streak has come to an end. It is definitely a bit of a letdown not marketing the team on such a large level and not attending the tourney but I try to keep things in perspective. You can’t go to the Big Dance every year and on the bright side I will actually get to enjoy the tournament and watch the games from my own home. Yesterday I felt so weird watching the Selection Show on my couch without the pressure of capturing the moment our team was announced live and then racing to get all the information out to our fans.
2. Love the Coverage: I know it was just a matter of time before it happened but I am so thankful for the comprehensive coverage of every single tournament game. For the past few years CBS has utilized its family of networks to give fans the option to watch any game they want in its entirety on television. I used to go insane when CBS wouldn’t show the game I wanted to see in my regional market or when it would cut away to another game. I spent way too much time during my younger years yelling at the score ticker at the bottom of the screen rather than watching the actual game.
3. Dislike the First Four: I used to not mind when the tournament just featured one play-in game because I found it cool that two random teams got national exposure along with infinite punchlines on how bad the winning team would get beat by the #1 seed. However, I think four games is overkill. I also dislike the fact that two of the play-in games grant the winning teams a seed higher than 16 into the tournament. I know the NCAA has its reasons for these games but I think they are gimmicky.
4. Hate the Terminology: Adding to my dislike of the First Four is that those games are now classified as the “first round.” This means once the tournament actually gets started with the round of 64 those games are classified as the “second round.” Which of course means the original second round of games are now classified as the “third round.” I hated denoting this technicality last year when talking about our team’s matchup with Syracuse. Although it sounds more important to say Montana played Syracuse in the second round of the tournament give me a break. It was the first round and now everyone will have to make distinctions between a team that made it to the second round in 2009 versus a team that made it to the second round in 2014.
5. Warren Buffet’s Billion Dollar Bracket: I love the rejuvenated bolt of excitement this stunt by Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans has given bracket picking this year. Although I can’t participate because of NCAA regulations I have enjoyed the uproar and excitement it has caused. Buffet has made the rounds on radio shows promoting his competition and he is a lot of fun to hear talk. He crunches numbers and probability right on the spot. On every program he has said that if someone manages to make it to the national championship game with a perfect bracket and if Quicken Loans allows him to, he will try to broker a deal with the fan and cut his losses. How cool would it be to see that happen?
6. Cue the Corny ESPN Tweets: While I love ESPN I hate its main Twitter account. Yes, even though I cringe at what it sends out I still have the tweets sent directly to my phone because I need to stay informed. However, I can only handle so many clichés and cheesy statements before I get fed up. With the NCAA Tournament here I am mentally preparing myself for loads of silly and unprofessional updates.
7. Why Michigan State?: Because I am deeply involved in the Griz and Lady Griz basketball seasons I don’t usually get to follow the college basketball season as a whole as much as I would like to. There was no exception this year. With my ignorance freely admitted, can anyone tell me why everyone and their dogs are choosing Michigan State to win it all? I watched yesterday as ESPN’s whole college basketball studio panel plus Dick Vitale practically crowned them champs. As a #4 seed I am just a little puzzled at why the Spartans are so highly regarded. BONUS: Michigan State will begin its tourney journey in Spokane this year. Four years ago they started there as well and I got to witness it as they won both games to advance to the Sweet 16. They ended up making it all the way to the Final Four.
8. NCAA Tournament Doesn’t Determine Champion in a Legitimate Way?….BULL: Last week as I turned on Mike and Mike I listened as Mike Greenberg bashed the tournament as an inefficient way of selecting a champion. He believes the best teams don’t get a big enough advantage and that the single elimination format doesn’t do enough to establish a true champ. I think he must have just been trying to generate controversy that day because I honestly don’t see a better system out there. You got a large representation of both bigger and smaller schools battling it out on neutral courts in a well-structured format. Who would ever want to see a college basketball national championship series where you watched Kentucky and Georgetown play in a best of five series? Yuck. A team that is able to win six straight games against the best competition at the end of the season earns the right to be called CHAMPS.
9. My Favorite Part of the Tournament: I think you kind of have to attend an NCAA Tournament to really understand this but there is nothing cooler than going to a tourney site and experiencing the true collegiate atmosphere. Besides eight different teams in one arena you also got eight different cheer squads, eight different mascots, eight different bands, and eight different fan bases. Cultures collide and it is all under the bright lights on sports’ biggest stage. There is nothing better.
10. Who I am Cheering For: Here are the teams I am cheering for in each region…UCLA (South), Coastal Carolina (East), Gonzaga (West), and Iowa (Midwest).
Enjoy the tournament everyone! Best of luck winning that billion dollars and I hope you all get your own personal “one shining moment” at some point during the Madness. Don’t Blink.