Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Because Royal Blue and Yellow Just Look Nice

...I admit it, that's the reason I became a UCLA basketball fan way back in the day. It's inexcusable, it's the reason every sports columnists imaginary "wife or girlfriend" pick's their bracket winners, and it belies the general front-runner fair-weather-fan nature of the pick. But when I bought an Ed O'Bannon jersey during spring break of my 12th year, and sat glued to a TV in Florida with awe as one of the most exciting sports team I have ever seen picked apart an overmatched and worn-down Razorbacks press, I fell in love with a basketball team for the first, and honestly, only time. I root for UCLA now, sure. I get bummed when they lose, I love when they win. I hate Steve Lavin with a passion, I hold a special place in my heart for Jim Harrick. When I see replays of the Princeton 43 UCLA 41 game in 1996, I still change the channel. I was in a bad mood for a good two days after the Bruins followed up their most exciting victory in 10 years (defeating Gonzaga in a nail-biter that made Adam Morrison an infamous cry-baby) by throwing out a typical lackluster, "do we really have to play again?" performance in the Championship game against the Gators last year.

That's been the thing about the Bruins, though. They don't really lose heart-breaking games, and under Ben Howland, they don't really win convincing ones, either. They are a deliberate, defensive team that goes on spurts without much pizzaz. They're either getting trounced by a team that shouldn't be waxing the court on which the Bruins play; or they are inexplicably making very, very good teams look very, very shoddy. They win 68-60, and their style of play is--frankly--quite boring. I'll root like hell for 'em, sure. And if they win it all, perhaps in ten years I will blog about them as one of the most exciting teams I've ever seen. But that's what the tournament does. The fast-paced, win-and-in, buzzer beaters, tearful losers, upset special style makes legends out of otherwise flawed teams. It's the nature of the beast, whoever wins it all becomes immortalized as being perfect: because that's what it takes, despite all your ugly regular season moments, and all of your shortcomings, if you can be perfect for 5 games, you make history, and no matter what you do for the rest of your life, certain people will sing your name like a beautiful hymn each time they recall you slashing to the basket one March many years prior. Just ask Ed O'Bannon. The Brackets:

Midwest Round 1:

Fla. d. Jackson St.
Heard a nice interview with the coah of Jackson State on NPR this morning. I'll feel bad for him when they lose by thirty.

Arizona d. Purdue
Good chicken. Mediocre basketball. Lute can pull out a win or two in this bracket.

ODU d. Butler
I know very little about either of these teams, but ODU just sounds like a 12 seed that upsets a 5 seed...and maybe even a 4 seed.

Maryland d. Davidson
DJ Strawberry wins em one game. Daryls wrists are finally unshackled enough to applaud.

Oregon d. Miami(not Florida)
Oregon may arguably be the most overlooked team (not underrated, just overlooked.)

UNLV d. Ga. Tech
I smell a fix. I think I may be the only person picking the Rebs

Wisconson d. TAMCC
I wonder how many people thought A&M just got a really, really poor seed, and picked Wisconsin to lose this one?

West Round 1:

Kansas d. Niagra

Kentucky d. Nova
Nova is the first of the overrated Big East teams to drop.

Virginia Tech d. Illinois
How did the Illini get in over Drexel again?!

So. Ill. d. Holy Cross
As much as I'd love to pick the Patriot League and go with the underdog here, So. Ill. is one of those unheard of teams that is actually damn good. They have dominant guard play, and suffocating defense. The poor man's UCLA.

Duke d. VCU
Two things: it pains me to pick Duke; and this is a particularly weak Duke team. Two other things: Duke at their best are better than VCU at their best no matter what way you slice it; If EVERYBODY is picking an upset, and you dont think either team is going far in the tourney, it always makes sense to stay safe in a bracket challenge.

Wright St. d. Pittsburgh
Second overrated Big East Team to fall.

Indiana d. Gonzaga
This was a coin-flip. Neither team is very good, and neither team is winning the next game. I went with the team I have seen more of.

UCLA d. Weber State
Weber State scores fewer than 50 in this match-up.

East Round 1:

Eastern Kentucky keeps it close and possibly has a lead at the half. People in offices around the country are glued to for the first 5 minutes of the second half. UNC blows them out in the end by 15 or so.

Mich St. d. Marquette
Third overrated Big East team to fall.

USC d. Arkansas
Drexel fans watch with an emotional mix of glee, lament, and disgust. Syracuse fans do the same, although they dont deserve it.

Texas d. NMSU
Kevin Durant has 22 points, 11 boards and eighteen bajillion blocked shots.

GWU d. Vanderbilt
A vastly underrated GWU team...just kidding. I have no idea. I just dont see Vanderbilt winning an NCAA tournament game.

Wash. State d. Oral Roberts
(Insert joke about Oral here) Washington State has three viable scorers, and plays an excellent midcourt trap. They play the kind of basketball that has become very popular in the pac10 of late--namely, deliberate, and chess-like in pace.

Texas Tech d. BC
Bobby Knight is my favorite villain.

Georgetown d. Belmont
Somewhere a relative of JRFN wallows in pain...or actually...goes skiing and probably couldn't fuckin' care less.

South Round 1:

OSU d. Central Conn

Xavier d. BYU
BYU coach is consoled by his seven wives.

Long Beach St. d. Tenn.
This isn't your grandfathers LBS. But it's a good enough team to beat Tennessee.

UVA d. Albany
Could be your big brothers UVA.

Louisville d. Stanford
It pained me to do this. But Louisville is the better team.

Texas A&M d. Penn
I'm trying to think of a reason A&M doesn't win this bracket. Scorers, Good guard play, leadership, good rebounders, not bad from the line. I'm really trying...

Nevada d. Creighton
Nevada's caoch avoids any conflicts with the police for the first round.

Memphis d. No. Tex.
Memphis is quite good. Quite.

Midwest Rd. 2:

Fla. d. Zona
This will be a mop-up.

ODU d. Maryland
Let the George Mason comparisons begin

Oregon d. Winthrop

Wis. d. UNLV

Enjoy it while it lasts, Badgers.

West Rd. 2

Kansas d. Kentucky
If only Kansas had a tougher road to the elite 8, I'd feel alot better about the Bruins chances.

So. Ill. d. Va. Tech

Duke d. Wright St.

..I know....I know.

UCLA d. Ind.
In a slow and boring 68-60 type game.

East Rd. 2


Texas d. USC


Georgetown d. Texas Tech

Aside from Texas this bracket bores me.

South Rd. 2

Ohio St. d. Xavier
Possibly the easiest road to the Sweet 16 in the tourney (guess they are a 1 seed.)

UVA d. Long Beach

Texas A&M d. Louisville
Experience over youth.

Memphis d. Nevada

MY Super Sweet 16

Florida d. ODU
Joakim Noah does what I hope is his last stupid post-victory dance of the season. It probably won't be.

Oregon d. Wisconsin
This could go either way, but should it happen, this will be a phenomenally fun game to watch next weekend.

Kansas d. So. Ill.
Crap, I hate KU.

UCLA d. Duke
Ok, maybe I set it up so UCLA can slay my biggest nemeses back to back in one weekend.

Texas d. UNC
In what will be a physical, barnburner of a game.

Gtown d. WSU
Georgetown has size, but I'm not sure they have much else. Surprisingly, I wasn't very confident in this pick.

UVA doesn't have the front court to keep Oden out of the paint.

Texas A&M d. Memphis

Elite 8

Fla. d. Orgeon
Joakim Noah and his stupid dance advance. For now.

UCLA d. Kansas
About a potential Pitt-UCLA showdown in the previous round, our friend Jake writes: "I have a wierd preminition that this is going to be a late night game in the 70's that i'm going to be watching while drunk at a bar. Does it feel like that to you?" Since Pitt is losing early, I'll apply that statement here with Jakes compliance.

Texas d. GTown
Man alive, is Texas' road to the final four going to be a rough one.

A&M d. Ohio St.
Couldn't find a reason not to advance them.

Final Four

UCLA d. Florida
Avenge last years loss, make Joakim cry. These are two of the things this years team must do to park themselves in my Sports Pantheon with th 2004 Sox, the '94 Bruins, Oil Can Boyd, and Curtis Martin. Oil's in there for personal reasons. Back off.

Texas A&M d. Texas
Or the other way around. Either way a team from Texas wins. And then loses to UCLA in the Championship game.

Hey, what can I say? I told you I was a fan, didn't I?


At 9:42 PM, Blogger jake said...

You have my permission to use that statement, and truth be told, i'll probably be drunk at a bar watching most of these games.

A few comments/corrections:

1. UCLA followed up their big win over Gonzaga by beating Memphis and LSU, so I don't know if you can use the "do we really have to play again" argument to explain their loss to Florida. I think Florida was just better.

2. "if you can be perfect for 5 games, you make history..." Well, if making history means making it to the championship game, then I guess yes. I think being perfect for 6 is probably better.

Enough nitpicking...

I think UCLA is a good pick, I just hadn't seen enough of them to be confident in putting them real far.

Obviously, I think you are wrong about the big east being overrated. If you look at last year's tournament, they did well (3 teams in the elite 8, for teams in the final 4). I think they are deeeper and more talented this year, and I think that will show over the next three weeks.

But if i'm wrong i'll discretly change my selections after the fact.

Also, I got some pipe-hittin niggas to take care of the dean of the english department, or as I called him at the time "soon to spend the rest of his short-ass life in agonizing pain waitlister."

It was no big deal.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger jake said...

Obviously, the comment about the big east should have read "four teams in the sweet sixteen." In my defense, i'm completely sober.


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