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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March’s Mad Men

The Fairly Detached Observers

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And so it begins: three weekends of hysteria known as the NCAA basketball tournament, when players vie for glory and bracket scholars chase an economic stimulus package called the office pool. The Observers’ predictions, of course, are for entertainment purposes only.

Artie: I think I filled out my bracket too quickly. I have the Sorbonne in the Final Four.

Frank: Edging Oxford in the semifinals? Let’s start over together.

Artie: I get so excited because Thursday begins the best four days of a couch potato’s year. Forty-eight games, with staggered start times so’s a guy can watch at least part of every single one!

Frank: Speaking of potatoes, the NCAA has both of our tournament teams playing Friday in Idaho.

Artie: Beautiful Boise, capital of Potato Land or Siberia, maybe both. It’s one thing to stick the Badgers out there as a lowly No. 12 seed. But for Marquette, as a No. 6, it seems harsh. Ohio State’s a No. 8 but gets to play in Dayton.

Frank: Seems like MU could have been sent to Minneapolis as No. 6 in the Midwest regional rather than the East. Lots of MU and UW fans will hit Minneapolis anyway, as they switch planes to get to Boise.

Artie: It was “good news, bad news” for the Golden Eagles. Their slump since Dominic James’ injury didn’t sink below No. 6, but off they go to the middle of nowhere.

Frank: To play Utah State, which will be in its own back yard.

Artie: I look at two things in my bracketology. One: free-throw percentage— remember how Memphis coughed up the title last year at the charity stripe? And two: where a team has its opening games. I notice that both Duke and North Carolina will be in Greensboro and Villanova will be in Philly. Not too much home-cooking there, ain’a?

Frank: As for Wisconsin, I can’t argue with them being a No. 12. After their sixgame losing streak in January the Badgers rallied, but they were one-and-done in the Big Ten tournament and stand at 19-12.

Artie: Any Madison radical-commie-pinkos better be alert in Boise. That’s survivalist territory.

Frank: Let’s talk about who’ll survive to play next week in the Sweet Sixteen.

West Regional

Artie: Utah State brings a 30-4 record in against Marquette’s 24-9. I don’t care what league you’re in, 30-4 is impressive.

Frank: My instinct is that with a full week of rest, the undermanned Golden Eagles should handle the Aggies but fall to thirdseeded Missouri on Sunday.

Artie: Very often those games where it’s 6 vs. 11 or 5 vs. 12 are upset specials.

Frank: And that’s why, although it figures that MU should win, I’m predicting a Utah State surprise.

Artie: I’ll stick with the Eagles in Round 1, but not against Missouri.

Frank: Elsewhere in the West, I think we agree that UConn and Memphis will stroll through this weekend.

Artie: Although Memphis is a No. 2 based on what? They kicked the hell out of Conference USA, but that league is nothing.

Frank: One foursome to go: Purdue vs. Northern Iowa and Mississippi State vs. Washington. I’m taking Mississippi State to beat Purdue for the Sweet Sixteen spot.

Artie: I’ve got the Boilermakers in that matchup of conference tournament winners.

SWEET SIXTEEN VOTES: Two for Connecticut, Memphis and Missouri. Artie for Purdue, Frank for Mississippi State.

MARQUETTE’S FATE: Frank says a loss to Utah State; Artie says one win and a loss to Missouri.

East Regional

Artie: Wisconsin plays Florida State, which is 25-9 and made it to the ACC final. I think the Seminoles will be in the Sweet Sixteen. They have an excellent guard in Toney Douglas and a deep supporting cast.

Frank: My instinct is that the Badgers can’t beat FSU. So of course I’ll predict that they will—getting revenge for the Champs Sports Bowl, if anyone remembers.

Artie: It would be nice to see one game where they don’t fall apart in the last five minutes. But I don’t think it’ll happen.

Frank: And I figure the Badgers to lose to Xavier on Sunday.

Artie: Xavier is always dangerous. They didn’t win their conference tournament but still got a No. 4.

Frank: Which shows the true value of the conference tournaments. Pittsburgh didn’t reach the Big East semifinals and still got a No. 1. Michigan State lost in the Big Ten semis but has a No. 2.

Artie: So why do the conference tourneys exist, except to mess up the bracket? Oh yeah, to keep the cash registers jingling.

Frank: So what if the tournaments overburden the teams and show the hypocrisy of the NCAA’s blather about the well-being of student-athletes? As that commercial for a local lawyer says, when everyone gets paid, everyone’s happy.

Artie: So I have Florida State in the Sweet Sixteen and you have Xavier. I think we agree that Pitt and Duke also grab two wins.

Frank: For the other Sweet Sixteen pick in the East, I’ve got UCLA beating Villanova.

Artie: I say ‘Nova wins on its home turf.

SWEET SIXTEEN VOTES: Two for Pitt and Duke. Artie for Florida State and Villanova, Frank for Xavier and UCLA.

WISCONSIN’S FATE: Artie says a loss to Florida State. Frank says one win and a loss to Xavier.

South Regional

Frank: Did you hear CBS touting “corporate champions” for three regionals? Coca- Cola, AT&T and Pontiac, to be exact. But the South had no sugar daddy.

Artie: Cripes, this really must be a recession. Why wouldn’t Coke grab the South?

Frank: More importantly, why would Pontiac be involved, since General Motors has grabbed billions in federal bailout money? What do taxpayers get?

Artie: They get stuffed into the trunk for a cruise to the poorhouse.

Frank: On the court, it looks like North Carolina rolls in Greensboro and Oklahoma does likewise in Kansas City. I think Butler will beat LSU in the first round before getting Tar Heeled.

Artie: I always get betrayed by SEC teams, so LSU probably will gag.

Frank: In another foursome, we have Illinois and Western Kentucky in one of those 5 vs. 12 games.

Artie: WKU is one of those ambush-type teams. It’s a coin-flip game.

Frank: Whoever wins that, I think Gonzaga beats ‘em for a Sweet Sixteen spot.

Artie: I’m with you on the Zags. The 6 vs. 11 game, Arizona State vs. Temple, is another coin flip. I take the Sun Devils and their monster guard, James Harden.

Frank: I think Syracuse catches its breath from all those Big East overtimes and beats either ASU or Temple.

Artie: Jonny Flynn is a terrific guard, too, but I’ve never been a Syracuse fan.

SWEET SIXTEEN VOTES: Two for North Carolina, Gonzaga and Oklahoma. Artie for Arizona State, Frank for Syracuse.

Midwest Regional

Frank: Here we have the first among equals, Louisville, which is the No. 1 overall seed.

Artie: Here’s my beef: How the hell do you say the name of that city? I’ve always said “LOO-ee-vill,” but every dang announcer has his own special way. They say it like they’re trying to keep down a bad breakfast.

Frank: I’ve heard the natives say “LULLvill,” but I wouldn’t know.

Artie: And what’s with Rick Pitino? He looks like Al Pacino but sounds like Regis Philbin.

Frank: Even Regis could coach the Cardinals past the play-in team and then either Ohio State or Siena.

Artie: Same for Wake Forest in the second round against Utah or Arizona. I also think Michigan State will get past either Boston College or USC in the second round.

Frank: Because I know nothing about USC’s team, I’ll pick the Trojans to upset Michigan State. And I say West Virginia beats defending champ Kansas for the last Sweet Sixteen spot.

Artie: I don’t even think Kansas gets to the second round! I’m going with North Dakota State, which came to Madison last season and beat the Badgers. The Bison are this year’s Davidson! Take that to the bank, if you still have a bank.

SWEET SIXTEEN VOTES: Two for Louisville and Wake Forest. Artie for North Dakota State and Michigan State, Frank for West Virginia and USC.

Photo: Bustling Boise awaits Cheesehead invasion