It's the middle of March and that means just one thing to sports fans - March Madness! Here in Wisconsin we're lucky to have two teams to root for in the Tournament...first the UW- Madison Badgers who were flirting with a #1 seed the last couple weeks and ended up with a #2 seed. The Cinderella UW-Milwaukee Panthers who were pick to finish last in the Horizon League and ended up winning their Conference Tournament which got their "Dance Card" punched with a #15 seed.
Now that Selection Sunday has done it's thing, and I gear up to work my brackets I find myself reminiscing on the past years, and how I fared in various NCAA pools. I've picked some great upsets, and got burned on a few favorites, but none the less it's one of the most fun times a year for myself and any true sports fan.
MY BIGGEST HEART BREAKS:
2001 IOWA STATE: That year Iowa State was a #2 seed out of West Regional with a 25-5 overall record. I thought, rather than take a #1 seed, which everyone seems to take to win it all, buck the system, and come out on top with a decent team that no one else in my pool would pick. Since they are under "Biggest Heart Breaks" you probably guessed, they lost which they did, but it wasn't in the championship, the final four, or even the regional semi's, they lost in the first round to the #15 seeded Hampton Pirates! I still remember as if it were yesterday... it was the night before I left for my yearly pilgrimage to Arizona for Spring Training with my friend John (who was also in the bracket pool), let's just say it was a LONG FLIGHT and a LONG WEEK!
2006 TENNESSEE: It was Bruce Pearl's first year at Tennessee, and I had bought into his whole way of coaching due to his success here in Milwaukee. The year previous he coached (my alma mater) UW-Milwaukee to the Sweet Sixteen and seemed to be a genius. As the days got closer to Selection Sunday all I could think was get me my brackets! With out a second thought I filled it out, the Volunteers were going to be NCAA Champs, and I was going to laughing all the way to the bank. That didn't happen, the #2 ranked Tennessee barely got out of the first game with a win against #15 Winthrop (63-61), before losing in the second round to #7 Wichita St. (80-73).
1997 CINCINNATI: In the 90's Bob Huggins had some sort of spell on me and his teams lost me a few NCAA pools. The Bearcats were a #3 seed boasting a 25-7 regular season record so I picked them again in '97, with the same thought process of staying away from the #1 seeds, so I would be standing alone "when" my team took everything in the end. Cincinnati got out of their first game against #14 Butler (86-69) and looked strong. The second round was different story, they lost a heart breaker 67-66 to #6 Iowa State.
MY BRIDGE BETWEEN LOSING AND WINNING
2005 UW-MILWAUKEE: It would be Bruce Pearl's last season of magic in Milwaukee. The Panthers went into the tournament STRONG, with a 24-5 record in the Horizon League winning both their Conference and their Conference Tournament. They received a #12 seed, and promptly beat up on #5 Alabama by 10 points (83-73). In their next game against #4 seeded Boston College the hot shooting Panthers defeated the Eagles 83-75. Cinderella's slipper broke when UWM took on #1 seeded Illinois and lost 77-63. The reason why this is the "bridge" for me, is because of my loyalty... I picked UWM to go only as far as they did, which netted me points...but their loss was crushing, and no amount of points in any pool could mend those wounds.
MY BIGGEST VICTORIES
1987 INDIANA: Bobby Knight's team was a machine and held the #1 seed in the Mid-West Region, entering the NCAA Tournament with a 24-4 record. Everything went as planned, right down to the end when junior college transfer Keith Smart hit the jumper with :05 on the clock at the Louisiana Superdome giving the Hoosiers a 72-73 win over Rony Seikaly and the Orangemen of Syracuse. It also gave the "General" his third and final National Championship as head coach.
1985 VILLANOVA: By far this has been, and will always be my BIGGEST WIN, and hold a special place in my heart. The Wildcats came into the 64 team tournament unranked and the #8 seed in the Southeast Region with a 19-10 season record. I picked them to win it all which they did. Looking back on it, I don't know how or why I did. I had won 79% of the games in that pool, something I have not been able to do since. It's the tournament I will never forget, three teams out of the Big East making it to the Final Four, the Wildcats facing Georgetown for the third time that season (the Hoyas won the two regular season games), and 'Nova shooting lights out with 22-28 from the field, missing only one shot in the second half. It was AWESOME! Final score Rollie Massimino's Wildcats 66, John Thompson's Hoyas 64.
That's all it took, it 1985 was my first NCAA pool, I was hooked, and March Madness has become a MUST SEE T.V. for me ever since!
Whether you pick a favorite or a dog to win it all, good luck, and let the MADNESS begin!