The media calls it March Madness, the journey of the NCAAB season to the Final Four that determines the bragging rights of university dudes and their dudettes. I call it April fooled. The Final Four hits the backboards on April 4 and 6 in Indianapolis, so it is not March Madness if the word “march” is used as a noun rather than as a verb.
Predictors of the Dirty 32, Sweet 16, and the Elite 8 were pretty much consistent across the board save for Nova sent home by NC State but Kentucky was popularly crowned the winner from the first round of 64!
Even Obama, a fan and occasional player, who roots for Wisconsin, had Nova playing Duke and Kentucky hoop-to-hoop locked with Arizona, with Nova and Kentucky vying for the Final Four (NCSU sent Nova packing) all the way to the trophy. His predictions were very conventional but the history of NCAAB on March Madness hoopla days excite precisely because upsets are very common. College basketball’s volatility compared to the cold predictability of NBA pros is what makes college hustlers very compelling!
On the initial 64, my old alma matter in the South region got upset by the UCLA Bruins in a controversial goal tending call that sent SMU back to the lawns of Dallas, Texas’ Highland Park where Mustangs proudly strut their developed but solid posteriors.
Georgia State upset Baylor while UAB edged favored Iowa State in the South region but yielded to the Bruins on the Dirty 32. Georgetown was outplayed by Utah but Dayton took out lower-seed Providence, only to bow out to Oklahoma.
For Paddy’s boys, Notre Dame du Lac almost went back to South Bend to gulp their green Irish brew but they sent fellow Indiana denizen Butler home to Indianapolis instead. The Fighting Irish has yet to be the national champs but they broke UCLA’s winning streak of 88 in ‘74! They joined the Sweet 16 but no one expected them to go home with the trophy with Kentucky lurking ahead.
Only UCLA remained above the magic 8-seed line at Sweet 16. Nova was the first to fall of the 1-seeds, leaving Duke, Wisconsin, and Kentucky to join the midpoint contest. Upsets on the way included Michigan State outscoring Virginia while Wichita State upset cross-State colleagues Kansas. West Virginia over Maryland, and Louisville over University of Northern Iowa were between even odds.
The Sweet 16 commenced Thursday in a shocker to my limited but wide-eyed vision. Dayton defeats Kentucky, the headline blared, but I could not find the details until I discovered, it was the women’s division. Had to hang on to my emotions.
But there were no surprises in the men’s section except Michigan State upending Oklahoma. Kentucky clobbered West Virginia. Notre Dame buried Wichita State, Wisconsin outplayed North Carolina, and Xavier could not catch up with Arizona. Then Louisville drove NC State out while Gonzaga ended UCLA’s Cinderella run, and Duke methodically stifled Utah.
The Elite Eight was set and the biggies left were the Wisconsin’s Badgers who edged the Wildcats of Arizona, and Kentucky’s Wildcats barely made it past very poised Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish who had to go back to South Bend’s spring greens on just a two-point spread. Louisville and Michigan State went even down the wire, with MSU prevailing at OT. Duke, well, just duked out Gonzaga, the Blue Devils running over the Bulldogs!
We are down to the Final Four. Kentucky plays Wisconsin while Duke takes on 7-seed MSU (rather than 4-seed Louisville). April 4 and 6 will have America on the tube, or in today’s technology, on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The bet on Kentucky going undefeated at the start was 50:1, now down to 1:1 with the odd makers egging bettors to put their money to “long shots” as the seemingly unstoppable Kentucky edged the Irish!
Of course, if all the March Madness did was make us into couch potatoes, then college basketball had lost its verve. Obama occasionally puts on his shorts to shoot the ball at the WH hoops, and if we do not have a ball to dribble, we can always foray into the NMC gym, or the one across Kilili Beach, and join the shooters. The gyms keep extra balls and welcomes rubber-shoed enthusiasts. (The Chamorro midsection my Pinoy cholesterol appropriated in Saipan’s wildly saliva-drooling cuisine could use some trimming.)
Basketball is a year-round sport on Saipan with the sun-rain constancy of tropical weather. The Xterra uns on our street, bike rides on our trails, and swims on our shore, why not basketball tourism for the lithe ladies and the quick toed Joes of Sinosphere and elsewhere? That’s a whole year preoccupation, Perry!
We started on March Madness, April fooled, but we spilled into April’s flame trees starting to bloom. Will keep the madness moving.