Reason #53445 to like March Madness: Gus Johnson. Honestly this guy could make my life seem interesting with his play by play. "Henseler dips into the Folgers, takes it strong to the filter RISE AND FIRE, OHHHHHHHHHHH HE GOT IT! ALL IN THE FILTER! MADNESS!! HA HAAAAAA!" And the ironic thing is that while these are all game winning clips, Gus calls the entire game like this. From the opening tip to the end. Now I've been calling high school and college ball for 8 years, and Gus breaks cardinal rule #1 by being overly intense the whole time, you're supposed to be calm in the beginning and build up the whole game blah blah blah. I'll take Gus Johnson calling every major sporting event 7 days a week and twice on Sunday.
So yesterday I went through the Midwest region, today the West. And in true NCAA tournament form I read back my picks from yesterday and immediately regretted all my decisions. It just wouldn't be tournament time without 24 hour a day angst.
#1 Syracuse vs. #16 Vermont: Of all of the 16's versus 1's this is the one I think could be the big upset. Syracuse is an east coast team playing on the west coast, Vermont upset them as a 13 seed five years ago and could be confident because of that, plus Syracuse has some injury issues. With that said Syracuse wins by 30.
#8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida St: Gonzaga is such a maddening team to me. Every year I pick against them they go to the Sweet 16. Every year I pick with them they are bounced in the first round. So my gut tells me Florida St. will win this game, which means the Zags are a lock. Gonzaga the pick.
#5 Butler vs. #12 UTEP: Ahhhh Butler, Gonzaga version 2.0. In the interest of full disclosure I had to look up what conference UTEP even plays for (Conference USA, thank you google), and what UTEP even means (University of Texas El Paso). On top of that last winter I went to visit historic Hinkle Fieldhouse where Butler plays. It's the same arena that Hoosiers filmed in. Ironically the seats I sat in were right next to the seats where the live Bulldog sat, and I was able to pet the venerable mascot. So because of that Butler>UTEP. Simple math.
#4 Vanderbilt vs. #13 Murray State: This is one of those games I'm going to have to put money on to make interesting. I have no idea what either of these teams brings to the table, but I do know I'm starting to get nervous that the only upset I've picked so far is a 9 over an 8. It's like when you have 3 straight 'c' answers on a scantron. Even if the next answer is obviously 'c' you have to pick a different one because there can never be 4 in a row. It's the rules. So Murray State is the pick.
#6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota: Remember that rule of having to root for Big Ten teams because my primary team of interest is from the Big Ten and you want to see the conference do well? That does not apply to Minnesota. Xavier big.
#3 Pittsburgh vs. #14 Oakland: Truthfully I thought about picking the upset here initially. But that's when I thought Oakland was a team from the west coast. Turns out they are from Michigan, near Detroit. And no team that is remotely close to the Lions can win anything. Pitt is the pick.
#7 BYU vs #10 Florida: Florida is athletic and play an up temo style. But BYU has a team full of guys that can shoot 3's. And last time I checked 3's are greater than 2's. BYU for the win.
#2 Kansas St. vs. #15 North Texas: Kansas St. is not only my pick in this game, but my pick for the championship. That plus I'm not even sure North Texas is a real college. The word 'North' in front of 'Texas' seems like an oxymoron to me. You can't fool me North Texas. Kansas St. wins big.
Tomorrow's a big day, both the East and South, my final four, and champion. Time to rest up and prepare to work overtime. Bonus word: march.