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MARCH MADNESS - HOOPS OR HYPE?
March 16, 2001

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

March Madness is both hoops and hype. But, it happens to be one of the few sporting events that actually live up to all the expectations.

My favorite wordsmith Webster defines hoopla as a "to-do". He must have been watching a NCAA Tournament game when he came up with that. This hoop(la) tournament is a big to-do.

 
 


There is no guarantee what team is going to win. There is, however, a guarantee that, at some point during the next 63 games, somebody is going to be upset. Upset, as in losing a game you should win (easily). Recent history would almost assure that a number 5 seed will not make it to the second round. That means a 12 seed will be playing for the opportunity to become part of the heralded "Sweet 16". That's a hoopla!

I am now facing the same dilemma that millions of Americans, in office pools all over the country, are struggling with. Which teams will be upset?

I don't fill out my bracket sheet with the idea of winning the pool. I want to skip into work on Friday (or Monday) with my chest out because I picked that one major upset:

Hofstra beating UCLA.
Georgia State over Wisconsin.
Hawaii shocking Syracuse.
Butler surprising Wake Forest.

And, of course, Gonzaga pouncing on Virginia. (I'm not sure that this would qualify as an upset given the Zags' recent tournament history).

If I pick enough upsets, I'm bound to get one right! The trick is to harp on how bold and clever that pick was and deflect any attention away from the fact that I will, no doubt, be in last place when they tally up the pool points.

It's worth a last place finish. Every time I hear someone say "can you believe UCLA lost?", I can confidently reply "yup, I had Hofstra". And walk away using my best John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever) strut. I can almost hear the Bee Gee's now!

Speaking of the Bee Gees, "Stayin' Alive" is the battle cry of this great event. It is just as exciting to watch a top seed, on the brink of disaster, pull out a last second victory over a "lesser" opponent. Historically, a close call early almost always leads to success in later rounds.

Major upsets are usually reserved for the early rounds. In the end, it'll be the big boys playing in Minneapolis for the national championship. Until the games start, 64 teams can dare to dream. But it would be a nightmare for CBS if Hofstra, Hawaii, Georgia State and Butler were lacing 'em up at the Metrodome on the last day of March.

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I don't see the need for a play-in game. What kind of message does that send to the teams selected to play in that game? Basically, that they don't deserve to be in the tournament.

A play-in game? These teams just played a play-in game. It's called the conference championship. I'm sure Northwestern State and Winthrop didn't know at the time that being conference champs only earned them the "honor" of being part of yet another play-in game.

What's the point? To get another "bubble" team in the tournament? There are a dozen teams that believe they should have been part of the field of 64. Why not let them participate in a play-in game. After all, if any of them had won their conference championship, they wouldn't have been a "bubble" team to begin with.

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There's a popular soft drink company that is running a tournament contest. If the school printed on the underside of the bottle cap goes to the final four, you can win up to $10 in promotional merchandise.

I've checked under the cap. I've checked a number of times. Two schools keep popping up: Wright State and Winthrop. I looked it up - neither school has ever been a college basketball powerhouse.

How many caffeine free, diet sodas would I have to drink to get a Duke or Stanford bottle cap?

What chance do I have to win $10 worth of promotional merchandise with these schools? They're not giving away a million dollars. At least give me Hofstra, Hawaii, Georgia State or Butler. Then, maybe, I can get excited. If only for a round or two.

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