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Greetings from The Booth!
The best laid plans of mice and men. I had planned to write this week’s VFB about Shenandoah University baseball coach Kevin Anderson, in anticipation of a Tuesday win over W&L, which would have given him 700 career victories. As of this writing, he’s still at 699, thanks to the Generals’ 5-2 triumph over the Hornets. So, we’ll just stick that one in the back pocket and save it for next week, hoping for a win or two this weekend.
Instead, let’s do an NCAA bracket reset. Surely by now, yours looks like a crumbled piece of origami or is in ashes at the bottom of your firepit. In my office pool (for entertainment purposes only), I was a respectable 27-5 after round one, and I still have 12 teams alive in the Sweet Sixteen. On the surface that is pretty good, good enough for a pretty good lead over my co-workers going into this weekend. But, a closer look shows that only 2 of my Final Four teams are still alive.
Let’s have a show of hands. Who saw 15-seed, St. Peters, a Jesuit school in Jersey City with an enrollment of 3-thousand, taking down mighty Kentucky in the first round, then advancing to the Sweet Sixteen with a win over Murray State? Maybe Tony Soprano or Henry Hill, but that’s it. That’s the list. The Peacocks could be this year’s George Mason.
Michigan and Miami, while not as big a surprise as St. Peters, beat much higher seeds to get to the round of 16. I told my friend and Sports Dog Coach C that I liked Miami’s athleticism and I always feel like Michigan always plays well in the NCAA Tournament, no matter what kind of regular season they have. If they get to the Dance, they will be a tough out. All that being said, I didn’t see the Canes taking out Auburn, who was one of my Final Four teams.
And, you can never count out North Carolina. For all the talk about this being a “down year” in the ACC, the Tar Heels seem to be peaking at the right time. After ruining Coach K’s big night at Cameron Indoor, UNC fell to surprising Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament, but then beat Marquette easily in the first round of the NCAA before taking down number-one seed Baylor in an overtime dogfight. Carolina will now have to beat a UCLA team that doesn’t have Alcindor or Walton or Wooden, but like UNC, has plenty of tradition.
So let’s do our reset. I see Gonzaga advancing with a win over Arkansas. I think Carolina moves to the Elite Eight by eliminating UCLA in a classic matchup. This weekend, the dream finally ends for St. Peters, who will lose to a very physical Purdue team. Arizona will get past Houston, but it won’t be easy. The Michigan magic will end against Villanova, while Big-12 battle tested Iowa State beats Miami in an 11 versus 10 showdown. I have nothing but disdain for Bill Self and Kansas and will be rooting for Providence, but I think the 1-seed Jayhawks get to the next round.
And then there’s Duke versus Texas Tech. The saving grace of my bracket is that I picked the Blue Devils to win the whole thing. I truly feel like the NCAA would love to see Coach K ride into the sunset on a white steed with a farewell Championship.
Folks, I’m riding that horse until it bucks me.
Until the next visit…enjoy the hoop this weekend…and GO HORNETS!
Greetings from The Booth!
Whew! Saved by the running gods and Old Man Winter. This past Saturday was to have been the running of the Edward Jones 5k Race For Education, and in last week’s VFB, I wrote about my commitment to running/walking the race. On Friday I received an email that the event was going to happen rain or shine. The weather forecast for race time Saturday wasn’t promising. Blizzard conditions were predicted for the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and Kemp Miller was right on the money, as I woke to blowing snow, and icy roads, not ideal conditions for running a 5k race. Reluctantly, race director Bret Hrbek had to pivot and make the race virtual instead of in-person. I felt like the kid who didn’t do his homework the night before and prayed for a snowstorm to cancel school. That being said, I will be running a 5k on my own and sending the time to Bret sometime in the next few weeks…
Well, there’s a pandemic sweeping through the nation this week, and I’m not talking about COVID or some mutated variant. It’s Basketball Flu. You know, the ailment that sends millions away from the office and into local watering holes all over the USA. March Madness is here as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins in earnest this Thursday and Friday with first round games (let’s not have the tired old debate as to whether the First Four is part of the tournament). From noon until midnight it’s wall-to-wall basketball, and a steady menu of buzzer-beaters and upsets (watch those 12 versus 5 games!) as the pupils in your eyes turn to roundballs. You’ll find the games on multiple channels these days, but back in the day, CBS was the sole network showing games, as they took you in rapid-fire succession around the tournament.
This year, I don’t have a horse in the race, as the only playing my WVU Mountaineers will be doing is foozeball in the student union. The Mounties started 13-2 and finished 16-17. Bob Huggins lobbied strongly for an NIT bid, but he was living in a fantasy world. West Virginia won’t even be playing in the iconic CBI, where they were waxed several years ago by Coastal Carolina. I begrudgingly have adopted rival Virginia Tech in this years dance, because of their improbable run in the ACC Tournament which took them from a bubble team to an 11-seed. This Hokie team could be this year’s Jimmy V NC State squad from ’83-’84, My feelings for Tech have mellowed over the years, I guess.
That being said, I really really really don’t care much for Duke, but they are the team I have going all the way. Yes, they have flaws, but I think the NCAA wants a going-away title for Coach K, and until a potential matchup against Gonzaga in the regional finals, they don’t have the toughest road to the Final Four. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might think the NCAA is setting up the Blue Devils for the National Championship.
Unlike chicken wings and cheap gas, the truth is out there! (Cue the theme from the X-Files)
Enjoy the hoop, good luck with your bracket, and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!