Soldiering on across the brackets, we hit the bottom half of the DC region, home to some bizarre seeding and potential strong second round games. Ahoy!
Michigan St v George Mason
Coming from the mean streets of East Lansing (West Lansing is for sissies) Michigan are the Michigan St Spartans. Coached by Tom Izzo (who if you did not know is childhood friends with Steve Mariucci….and I guarantee you that at some point CBS will pound this tidbit into your head), the Spartans are one of the best tournament teams in recent years, making 5 of the last 8 Final Fours. This Spartan team is Senior dominated, with key components Paul Davis, Shannon Brown and Maurice Ager in their final go-around for good old State. Ager also has a second career as a rapper, owning a company called “Mo Ager Beats” which drops old-school beats that Paul Davis cannot understand. Of course the greatest Spartan of them all was Magic Johnson who, when not overseeing a failing late-night talk show or spouting off incoherantly on TNT, visits the land of Spartan, where young fans ask, “hey is that Mateen Cleaves?”
The opponent for the Spartans is George Mason, a school located just outside of DC and often confused with its better academic and athletic comrade, George Washington. George Mason is the new “it” school amongst members of the right-wing community and has been given boatloads of money by followers of Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity in order to set up a right-wing haven to help mold the young minds of America against all things evil, such as gay marriage and the estate tax. The Patriots (see they even have a right wing nickname) cracked the Top 25 for the first time ever this season, beating Wichita St and seeing their prestige rocket over such no-names as Hofstra. However the tournament begins on a sour note as George Mason’s top player, guard Tony “Show me Some” Skinn is suspended for the first game, thanks to his decision to punch a Hofstra player in his private area in the last game. Upon hearing this news, the administration was shocked, but Tom Delay made the young man Chief of Staff.
Michigan St by 17
North Carolina v Murray St
I know there were many of you out there who were crying tears of pity for this next team going into the season. Poor, poor North Carolina. Yes they won the championship last season, but they were losing their top 6 scorers….what shall they do? Well if you are Roy Williams, you have a little cry and then pull up your pants and go to work, taking his band of freshman to a 3 seed and a solid season in the ACC. The Tar Heels are led in the paint by the extremely cute, according to my coworker, Tyler Hansborough, who combines a solid post game, with an athletic physique and an affinity for singing in the shower to Clay Aiken (his choice, not mine). In addition, they have the outside shooting threat of former walk-on Wes Miller, who came to Carolina expecting to be a part of the neverending parade of short white guys at the end of the UNC bench whose job it is to hold each other back when Jordan/Carter/McCants got a nasty dunk. But this walk-in has found himself on the court, shooting as well as former Heel Dante Calabria, without the nasty arm hair.
The Heels find themselves matched up against a team from the Bluegrass State, the Murray St. Racers. Murray St comes out of the OVC, a conference that it has dominated over the years and one that has seen its share of upsets in the tournament. The Racers’ most famous upset was authored by its most famous alumnus, Jerome “Popeye” Jones who burst onto the national scene with his trademark overbite, bug eyes and stellar jump shot, helping the Racers to three consecutive NCAA bids. This Murray St team has no one interesting on it and thus forces us to talk about the University itself, which has labeled itself “Kentucky’s Public Ivy”, a flabbergasting statement that even made Morehead St shake its head in shock. Located in Calloway County, Murray St has not been recently confused with Brown or Dartmouth, but does share one thing in common with the Ivy League institutions, it has a co…..oh nevermind, it shares nothing in common with any Ivy League institution except Kudzu St.
UNC by 16
Wichita St v Seton Hall
Wichita St comes to us out of the resurgent Missouri Valley Conference and enters the field as a very generous seven seed. Located, not surprisingly, in Wichita, Kansas (where no one I know has ever been), Wichita St is known primarily for its nickname, the Shockers. When not competing with South Carolina and UC-Irvine for school hat most desired by stupid college frat guys, the Shockers are actually not a dirty nickname, but rather refer to a “shock” of wheat, the product most associated with Wichita. This name was chosen over other choices including the Wichita St Ears and Bales, but has come to symbolize the down-home nature of the university. The Shockers most famous alumnus may be Bill Parcells, who when not cutting top players or making ethnic jokes about Asians, can be found roaming the sidelines for the Dallas Cowboys, where he spends most of his time trying not to laugh at Jerry Jones’ botched face lift.
The Shockers find themselves up against the mighty Seton Hall Pirates. The Pirates were thought to be one of the casualties of the new Big East Conference as their talent level seemed dwarfed by new entries, Cincinnati and Louisville. But while both of those teams sit home, the Pirates move on, hoping to move the state of New Jersey to stop its pollution for just a minute and cheer them on to victory. The Pirates are coached by Louis Orr, a devout Baptist coaching at a Catholic institution and a man who won the “Lindsey Lohan” Coaching Award for most disgustingly skinny coach on a Division I bench. Most remember Seton Hall for the PJ Carlesimo pre-choking era when the Hall were led by such notables as Terry Dehere and Aussie Terry Dehere and found themselves in a championship game against Michigan. I watched that game in 1989 in the Willard Hotel (still the nicest hotel I have been in) with my parents who had taken me on a trip to learn about government and tour the Capitol. I still remember the sight of PJ Carlesimo’s beard and thinking “I never want to look like that.” And thankfully, as of now, I dont.
Wichita St by 2
Tennessee v Winthrop
In the game most likely to be predicted as an upset, the Tennessee Volunteers take on Winthrop. The Vols are known as the team I love to make fun of, in large part because of my friend Dewayne who loves UT basketball and joins KSR Radio contributor Duncan Cavanah (who loves Kentucky football) as official “fan of the wrong team at his school.” A burst of energy has been injected into the Vols this year, as new Coach Bruce Pearl has come sweating his way into Knoxville, teaching the kids how to press and shoot the three pointer, but retaining the Tennessee tradition of crime, allowing two of his kids to get arrested for possession of crack cocaine. Pearl is genuinely disliked by his fellow coaches in part because of his brashness (he has been kicked out of his son’s high school game and ripped his shirt off after beating Kentucky) but also because of his smell, as anyone who has stood next to him after a virtuoso sweating performance can attest. The Vols are led by Chris Lofton, a shooting guard from Kentucky who is on pace to break SEC scoring records but was deemed not talented enough to play for in-state NIT-bound Louisville or Shagari Alleyne-infested Kentucky.
The otherside of the draw finds the Winthrop Eagles. From just outside fo Charlotte, NC, the Winthrop Eagles are the forgotten team in the Tarheel state. Led by “Best Coach you dont know” Gregg Marshall, the Eagles are a consistent NCAA Tournament team, winning the Big South six of the last eight seasons. Marshall knows that one big win….this one….would give him the exposure necessary to get a bigger job and leave this godforsaken school. This Eagle team is led by a group of four seniors, all of whom have played together for four years and are truly sick of each other and thus may want to lose in order to keep from having to spend two more days in each other’s company. When deciding whether to pick Winthrop, you might heed the advice of friend of KSR Radio, Chris Perry, who once said to me, “I refuse to bet on a team that sounds like something my grandmother would wear to get her hair fixed.” So before you watch this game tomorrow, put on your Winthrops and pull for the Golden Eagles.
Could be close, but I say Tennessee by 11
Second round finds Michigan St and UNC in a CBS dream game. I say the proven tourney team takes it and Michigan St wins by 8…..Wichita St upsets Tenn in the second round thus setting up the Spartans and the Shockers for a trip to the Elite 8