Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Sunday, March 27, 2005

On March Madness

Okay, we are now at the Final Four of the NCAA's Men's Basketball Tournament. I had been planning on doing a March Madness post quite some time ago, but, events had a way of distracting me. (More on that later) But, for what it's worth, here are my observations and thoughts about the Tournament.

First of all, I was pleasantly surprised to see my Wisconsin Badgers get as far as they did, and to play the teams that they did as tough as they did. I have always had a feeling that Coach Bo Ryan was going to do good things for Bucky, but, I couldn't have hoped that Bo was going to turn the Badgers from a dangerous, got-to-beat-them-if-you-want-to-be-taken-seriously team, to a near-powerhouse team within the NCAA, or even just the Big 10. Three straight appearances in the Big 10 Tournament finals, Big 10 champion, or co-Big 10 champion, for three straight years, three straight 20+ win years, appearances in the NCAA Tournament for five straight years, two Sweet Sixteen appearances...and Bo's only been the coach for five years. Within the next three years, I have a feeling I will get to see my Beloved Badgers in a Final Four game, and maybe even the Tournament Finals. Bo knows winning...he was the winningest coach in NCAA basketball in the 1990s, but, at Division 3 UW-Platteville, where he *only* won four Division 3 National Titles.

I have also been pleased to see the Big 10 make such a strong showing in the Tournament. Big 10 basketball is a different style of basketball than most of the other conferences play. It's not as athletic, it's not as high-scoring, it's not a casual fan friendly. But, it's a winning style of basketball. The Big 10 plays it's basketball the same way it plays it's football; hardnosed and defense oriented. Big 10 teams tend to use their defense as an offensive weapon: if they force enough turnovers and force enough low-percentage shots, the Big 10 team will get the ball, and start running the clock out with it's SLOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW offense. More possessions means more points, which means more wins. Don't get me wrong, the majority of the Big 10 stunk on ice this year. But, the top 3 teams in the Big 10 (Illios, Michigan State, and Wisconsin) have proven in this tournament that they are the equals of any team in the nation.

This tournament has also been one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory, possibly even ever. We've had upsets, thrilling finishes, come-from-behind victories, overtime, and buzzer beaters...and that was in the past two days alone. Illinois coming from 14 points down with 4 minutes left to beat Arizona was a thrilling finish. Michigan State outlasting Kentucky in double overtime to advance was a nail-biter. North Carolina winning a heavy-weight slugfest against Wisconsin was a game where each team wouldn't quit. Louisville coming from 20 points down to beat West Virginia was near-miraculous. The whole tournament has been like that.

If forced to make a pick on the Finals, I would have to say Illinois will beat North Carolina by 6. I know every one is impressed with North Carolina's athleticism, and I would agree, except that North Carolina has to beat 2 Big 10 teams in a row to advance to the Finals, and I'm not sure they will have anything left after that. If Illinois beats Louisville, which I'm sure they will, because Illinios is just that good, North Carolina will have to beat a 3rd Big 10 team, in a row, to win. Athleticism got North Carolina this far, but, I think that it will fail when their athletes have to be pounded into hamburger by yet another Big 10 team. It's hard to be athletic when your body is a bruise. So, if I was a bettin' man, Illinois by 6.

I really want to see a Big 10 Finals, though. Illinois v. Michigan State. Maybe that will shut up all the Big 10 haters. Probably not, though. But, I can hope, can't I?

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country