Archive for Monday, March 19, 2007

Commentary: Funny how money changes things

A little greed makes everyone a college basketball fan once March arrives

March 19, 2007

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This column might be even more disjointed than usual, because as I write, my Badgers are losing to hated UNLV, my Gators are fighting with odious Purdue, and my Ducks are mucking it up with Who Dat? Winthrop, one of the many squads hailing from the IUTTC - the Invisible Until Tournament Time Conference.

Until Wednesday night, I cared less about this Division I college basketball season than I did about the identity of what's-her-name's baby's supposed father's financial future.

Then it hit me: I care about March Madness. I care deeply, right to the bottom of my wallet.

This epiphany arrived not because basketball might be the most uniquely American sport, considering baseball and football are cousins of cricket and rugby. Nor because March Madness presents the polished illusion of anonymous young athletes playing for love of sport and school.

No, the desire to watch every NCAA Tournament game was born of another all-American motivation- greed.

A buddy dropped off a backet on Wednesday night, I filled it out in three minutes, and I was hooked.

Suddenly even a jaded sportswriter, to coin a redundancy, was pumping his fist when the Winthrop point guard tried a 360 reverse layup against Notre Dame, or the VCU point guard went full-court for a game-winning shot against Duke.

After filling out one bracket, I became USC - the Ultimate Sports Chameleon. Thursday I was a Spartan, Friday a Boilermaker, Saturday a Commodore and Sunday a Volunteer, Duck and, briefly and painfully, a Badger.

This enthusiasm for March Madness is easily explained. I'm winning. I think. And I'll give you my tips for making highly scientific stone-cold lead-pipe lock-cinch picks if you'll call my 900 number ... or read on.

I picked all 16 winners on Thursday, including VCU over Duke. After missing four on Friday, all eight of my picks advanced a second time on Saturday.

Sunday, only two of my picks failed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen - Wisconsin and Texas.

Here's my advice on becoming an expert on filling out NCAA Tournament brackets:

1. Choose mostly favorites. Exceptions to follow.

2. Watch as little college basketball as possible during the winter. Anything you see, other than the Gophers losing, will fool you.

3. Pick against coaches you find annoying. I had Duke and Texas Tech losing in the first round.

4. Pick teams you like. All four teams at last year's Minneapolis region - Georgetown, Boston College, Villanova and especially Florida - had charming coaches and likeable kids. I picked them all to win in the first round, and missed only with 'Nova.

5. Pick either one or two No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four. Mine: Florida and Kansas.

6. Pick the bracket quickly enough that no negatives - "I'm picking VCU?" - cloud your thinking.

Wednesday, I didn't plan to watch much March Madness. By Sunday night, I had HD vision and 14 of my Sweet 16 teams alive, all for the love of sport.

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