If I could marry March Madness, I would

Nathan Crosby, Contributor Ω

Kelly Olynyk (13) of Gonzaga is a player to watch during this year's March Madness. He also happens to hail from Kamloops. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SD DIRK/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk (13) is a player to watch during this year’s March Madness. He also happens to hail from Kamloops. – PHOTO COURTESY OF SD DIRK/FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

I remember my first year at TRU trying to watch March Madness in Heroes. It was St. Patrick’s Day, 2011 and I was wearing my festive green Michigan State shirt.

It was a great Patty’s day; the tournament started on the same day you get to drink green beer. Actually, that might go down as one of the greatest days of my life. I also missed my afternoon classes; which led to a valuable lesson in priorities. Back then I didn’t have PVR.

The greatest tournament in sports is about to begin. I say it’s the greatest tournament in sports because no other sport would have the guts to organize a one-and-done scenario challenge like NCAA men’s basketball provides us. If this is new to you, think of it as a warm-up to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There are five rules about making your bracket; 1) History often repeats itself; 2) Don’t pick Syracuse; 3) the person who wins probably doesn’t watch basketball; 4) Don’t pick teams based on nicknames, team colours, logos or if they are “Your Team;” and 5) balance adventurous with realistic when filling out your sheet.

Rule four can be flipped if you just want to go crazy and pick whoever. Save the headache.

The universal agreement this year is there is no consensus pick to run the table.  It’s anyone’s tournament.  So it’s the opposite of last year when everyone picked Kentucky and everyone was right.

There are 11 teams that will be favoured to win it all.

The Usual Suspects: Kansas, Ohio State and Duke

The Blasts from the Past: Indiana, Michigan and Georgetown

The Cautionary Picks: Louisville, Michigan State and Gonzaga

If you slept through the men’s basketball season, here are some stories you should be aware of before you turn on your TV Thursday morning:

  1. The fall of Kentucky: Once again, the Wildcats were built for another long run. Then, their highly touted NBA prospect Nerlens Noel, proud owner of the flat top hairdo, tore his ACL in a game against Florida in February. The team has been okay since, but that’s not an adjective people use to describe Kentucky.
  2. The Dunk Tank: Louisville’s Chane Behanan (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) had the dunk of the year and mismatch of the year by ploughing through DePaul’s Worrel Clahar (5-foot-11, 186 pounds).
  3. Wolverines and Hoosiers: The rebirth of the two once-powerhouses, Michigan and Indiana, has them as popular picks to go deep after years of mediocrity and NCAA violations.
  4. A Non-Major Number One: Gonzaga went two weeks atop the AP poll, led by Kamloops’ own Kelly Olynyk (son of TRU athletic director, Ken Olynyk). The Mullet is scoring 17.7 points and shooting 65.2 per cent this season.  The Zags, who play in the obscure WCC, have their share of critics but have owned their conference, only losing to non-conference opponents Illinois and Butler early in the season.

Speaking of Canadians, here are some key ones that you should cheer for: Olynyk’s teammate Kevin Pangos, Anthony Bennett of UNLV, Bryson Johnson of Bucknell and freshmen Nik Stauskas of Michigan and Olivier Hanlan of Boston College.

Continue reading if you want my advice.

VCU and Butler are as well-coached as any team and have the goods to give the top seeds a run for the Final Four and they have done it before. Rule 1; History repeats itself.

I like Georgetown and Creighton. Otto Porter Jr. for the Hoyas and Doug McDermott for the Bluejays are game changing players; guys who even the best defenses can’t stop when the game is on the line.  The Hoyas blew up Syracuse 61-39 in February.

Remember Rule 2; don’t pick Syracuse.  Every year I tell myself they are going to break through and then they disappoint. So this year I’m not picking them, which means they will probably win the National Championship.

Never be afraid to go for upsets, even if they’re ridiculous. Every year the tournament gets more competitive. Remember, two 15 seeds won last year, Lehigh and Norfolk State.

Two teams I’d be careful with are Miami and Michigan State.  The Hurricanes destroyed Duke 90-63 in January but stumbled at the end of the season, losing three of their last five, including a loss to Wake Forest (13-18). The Spartans can never be counted out when coach Tom Izzo is at the helm, but down the stretch they lost three in a row to Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State.

So organize your time well, accept that you have no clue who will win and if you miss class trying to watch the round of 64, I hold no responsibility.

Nathan Crosby, a graduate of TRU’s bachelor of journalism program, was the 2011-12 Omega sports editor, WolfPack basketball and volleyball play-by-play announcer, host of Tournament Capital Sports on 92.5 CFBX and recipient of the 2011 James McCreath Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism. 

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