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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!