March Madness Primer, Part Two
The defending champions in both basketball and football, which makes that there is no more insufferable person in the world right now than the Florida athletic director. Look at him, all smug in his office, pouring himself an extra glass of that expensive brandy because he thinks himself the ruler of American collegiate athletics. Do you want to see this man win? This Jeremy Foley? HELL NO, AMERICA. Get your torches and pitchforks and burn! Burn! Burn his brandy warehouse to the ground! Just remember to use your torches to burn, since if you try to start a fire with the pitchfork, you'll be there all day! Fun fact: Florida's team nickname is the Gators, which is short for 'alligators.'
Perhaps my favourite of my many favourite Johnny Cash songs is 'Jackson,' the duet between Johnny and his wife, June Carter. You may have seen it immortalized in Walk the Line by Phoenix and Witherspoon. If that's the only place you've heard it, please get the thousand-times better original recording. I mean, come on. What possessed Joaquim Phoenix to think he could emulate Johnny Cash's voice? He didn't even look like him, so he figured he might as well not sing like him either and the two would cancel out? Oscar nomination, my right foot. Anyway, Jackson State is a #16 seed, so their chances of winning are about as dead as Johnny Cash.
Purdue's team nickname is the Boilermakers, based on the fact that a century or so ago, their working-class student body was seen as giving a blue-collar effort on the field. Other nicknames used in the days before Boilermakers included Cornfield Sailors, Blacksmiths, Foundry Hands and (my personal favourite) the Pumpkin-Shuckers. You can shuck a pumpkin? Purdue's chances of advancing in March Madness have to be improved since they are no longer coached by the ugliest man in America, Gene Keady. I couldn't find a large enough photo of him to post, but it's just as well. I don't want to be responsible for your retinas committing suicide. Keady is a gargoyle of a man. He's like a Conan O'Brien "If They Mated" mashup of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, except with a horrible combover.
Arizona is another of the traditional powers (like Kentucky and Duke) who are getting a lower seed than usual in the tournament due to subpar seasons. This could mean that Zona is either ready to turn it on after a season of rope-a-doping the opposition, or they're just not all that good. The Wildcats do have the most diverse roster of any team in the tournament. Look at these player names: Bagga, Brielmaier, Budinger, Onobun, Radenovic, Shakur and Tangara. It's like a United Colors of Benetton ad up in there. Unfortunately for rap fans, the Shakur in question isn't Tupac. He's too busy releasing albums to be playing basketball.
Old Dominion University likes to hedge their bets. Their school motto is 'Changing Lives.' Well hell, if a student attends your school, their life is changed whether they succeed or not. If a butterfly flaps his wings in Peking, it sets off a hurricane in the Gulf. Changing lives...what horsecrap. Speaking of butterflies, Old Dominion's team nickname is the Monarchs. How pretty. Their school is also known as OD for short by me. Old Dominion will not old dominate anything in the tournament, though they have a shot at making it past the first round.
After all, Old Dominion playing Butler, for God's sake. Butler lost to Wright State. Just disgraceful. You expect to beat a team called the Monarchs when you can't even beat Wright State? What's wrong with you, Butler? I....I just can't even look at you right now.
I'd decided to rate Davidson's chances based on the Facebook profile of my friend Jen Davidson. She and I share a birthday: +1. Her favourite song of the moment is something called 'Hold My Beer While I Kiss Your Girlfriend.' In such a scenario I'd use said beer as a projectile, which would get me thrown out of the bar and end my night, so -1. Her favourite TV shows are The Hour (+1) and House (-1...come on people, it's the same damn plot every week). Her list of favourite movies is pretty good (+4). She is a member of a group celebrating Ananas, the Telefrancais pineapple (+two million). Clearly, Davidson is going to cause a racket in the bracket.
Here's an idea of how clueless I am about college basketball: Maryland won the NCAA title in 2002. I have no recollection of this whatsoever. Honestly, I kind of stop caring about March Madness after I run out of all these pretty slots in my bracket to fill out.
Anagrams for Winthrop include Nip Worth, Worth Pin, Whip Torn, With Porn, Thrown Pi, How Print and Who Print. Ironically, I think I once threw a pie at Rip Torn while watching a porn and discussing how much the porn star's fake nipples were worth. I couldn't come up with jokes for the print ones, sorry. :(
They have a basketball team? Do they have a lovably undersized coal miner who just wants to be on the floor for one play? Will Notre Dame coach Mike Brey put this scamp in for the final moments of the first-round game? Will this scamp then collect a sack on the last play to put his name into the record books? Hopefully not...you can't sack in basketball. That would be a huge flagrant foul. It would probably cause Notre Dame to losethrop to Winthrop. What a downer. This is why football is better than basketball.
Speaking of football, Oregon's men's football team are well-known for having the ugliest uniforms in athletics. Even worse, they change them virtually every season, and it never seems to get better. Does the basketball team have the same problem? I wish I could spend ten seconds of research to look this up. Oh well. Fun fact: Oregon's school motto is 'Minds Move Mountains.' So, pick them to win, since you can't stop a team of telekinetics.
MIAMI OF OHIO
*Scene: the office of Oxford, Ohio mayor Jerome Conley. The phone rings.*
Roger Goodell: Well hello there, Mr. Mayor. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell here.
Conley: Wow, the NFL Commissioner! On my own phone! What can I do for you, commish?
Goodell: Well, you guys did such a great job hosting the Super Bowl this year that we'd like to book you again as soon as possible.
Goodell: How does 2013 sound?
Conley: Uh, Mr. Goodell, I think there's...
Goodell: I think we can go with the same financial split as last time, don't you? After all, your city did generate millions in tourism revenue.
Conley: Millions, you say?
Goodell: Most definitely! That's a rapper's name! Anyway, I'm sure you've got a busy schedule, so I'll let you get back to it. Those drug cartels won't shut themselves down, eh?
Conley: No, they certainly won't.
Goodell: Talk to you later, Jerome!
Conley: We're Miami of Ohio!
Conley: I'm....I'm sorry. I just couldn't let this charade (ed. note: he pronounces it char-odd) continue. You've got the wrong Miami. This isn't the one in Florida, but rather I'm Mayor of Oxford, Ohio. Our school here in town is called Miami University.
Conley: It's true. You must've dialed the wrong number.
Goodell: Let me get this straight, there's a Miami in Ohio??
Goodell: In a town called Oxford??
Goodell: Do you people have even an ounce of originality?
Conley: Well, our school motto is 'To Accomplish Rathern Than Be Conspicuous.'
Goodell: Your school is named after a major American city in another state, and your town is named after arguably the most famous college town in the world! How can you be inconspicuous!
Conley: I didn't say it was a good motto.
Goodell: I'll be damned...well, needless to say there's been a mistake. You are mostly assuredly not getting the Super Bowl. In fact, I just might go out of my way to ensure your local TV stations don't carry the game.
Conley: That seems a bit much!
Goodell: I'm hardcore.
Conley: Don't you appreciate my honesty in forgoing millions of dollars that could've helped my town immensely?
Goodell: No. I don't.
Conley: Oh. Wow. Really?
Goodell: Like I said...hardcore.
Conley: I see.
Goodell: Goodbye, Mayor Conley. May you rest in peace.
Goodell: This has been Goodell.
*The line goes dead. Conley sits at his desk with a concerned look on his face. Suddenly, a meteor hits Oxford, Ohio and everyone dies. End scene.*
This is one of those teams that everyone thinks is better than they actually are. They look at their name in the bracket, and think back to the program's glory days of the late 80's and early 90's. Don't be fooled. This team ain't much nowadays. It's possible they might pull off a Sweet Sixteen berth, maybe even an Elite Eight or Final Four. Or they might win the whole thing. But don't be fooled. If they win the tournament, it's only because they won six single-elimination tournament games in a row.
Henry Pym is a Marvel comics hero who has been known over the years as Ant Man, Giant Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket. How tough is it to find a consistent name for a character and stick to it? With this sort of confusion, the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets can't possibly hope to go deep in the tournament. Hank Pym's power was to increase and decrease his size and body mass, so Georgia Tech can be successful if they suddenly grow to twenty times their height, like the Mon-Stars in Space Jam. Stealing the talents of modern NBA players will also be a key to a Jackets win. They will also have to block out the UNLV fans who will be referring to them as the Jackoffs in loud and boisterous cheers.
Facebook has an option for people who don't want to take five goddamn minutes and fill out their bracket. It's the 'random bracket' button, and pressing it will (you guessed it) fill out your tournament picks totally at the will of the fates. I did this twice just for kicks. The first time, I got no team higher than a #13 seed in the Final Four. The second time, it picked Wisconsin at the national champions. So there you have it. Fate has smiled on this school and its boring, plodding basketball.
TEXAS A&M C.C.
Not to be confused with Texas A&M, TAMCC is based in Corpus Christi. The team celebrates wins with a bottle of Canadian Club, delivered by Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia. TAMCC pride themselves on never giving up, much like the actual corpse of Christ himself. Has anyone ever stopped to realize the shocking similarites between Jesus and Jason Voorhees? Nothing seems to slow either of them down. Both have similar distastes for pre-marital sex. And James Cameron found a hockey mask in that alleged tomb of Christ he found in the desert. I want to see an all-heavenly Final Four of Corpus Christi, Holy Cross, Oral Roberts and BYU.
Or, 'The' Ohio State, if you go to that school, or are an overly literal asshole. Ohio State is the #1 team in the nation and is led by their superstar center, Greg Oden. Unlike the Odin of norse myth, who looked like an old man was but thousands of years old, Oden is 18 but could easily pass for 40. I feel his pain. My premature baldness meant that I was never carded at a bar unless accompanied by my baby-faced friends. Unfortunately, I never shot up to seven feet tall like I thought I would as a 5'10 grade sixer -- I stayed the same damn average height. My trauma is probably not unlike the trauma that Ohio State felt last January, when their heavily favoured football team got obliterated by Florida in the national title game. Central Connecticut State may be heavy underdogs, but their plan of showing up dressed as alligators (remember, Florida's school nickname is the Gators, which is short for alligator) just may throw the Buckeyes off their game.
CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE
But just who are these reptile-impersonating young lads from central Connecticut? Yahoo Sports was no help. Each team has their own individual page with current scores, rosters and news, except for CCS. There is no news to report about this team. Nothing. Not even a past archive. Is this how it is, Yahoo Sports? If I'm Coach Howie Dickenman, I'm printing off copies of this page and waving them in the locker room as a sign of how little people respect his team. Thus fired up, the players will go out and only lose by 20. Fun fact: there is an Eastern, Western and Southern Connecticut State, but no Northern. In Connecticut, the North doesn't exist. If only Elijah Wood's resume was so lucky.
I once wrote a story about a Mormon. Back in grade four, I was in the habit of writing James Bond-esque adventures about a spy, but I needed a name for him. So I randomly thought up combinations of letters and came up with Mormon. Pete Mormon was his name. Looking back on it, I surely must've heard the word 'Mormon' at some point, since it seems unlikely that I would randomly create a character name that happened to match a major religion. At no point in my stories did Pete have three wives. I was an odd child.
How did these previews turn into my memories of grade school? Let's get back to making fun of team nicknames. Xavier are known as the Musketeers, which would be kind of lame except for the fact that the Musketeers were fairly bad-ass. Remember the 1993 Three Musketeers movie, where the trio was played by Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt and Kiefer Sutherland? Would you really want to mess with a sword-wielding Jack Bauer, a coked-out Chazz Sheen and a probably-a-terror-when-he's-angry Oliver Platt? I think not.
LONG BEACH STATE
Here's a school I had no idea existed until I saw them in the bracket. You've got to love a school established by noted stripper Earl Warren. "Earl Warren wasn't a stripper!" "Now who's being naive?"
Tennessee is one of those rare schools where the women's team is much more high-profile than the men's. As a result, Vols coach Bruce Pearl recently attended a woman's game with a few buddies, and the quartet had 'VOLS' painted in letters across their bare bellies. Not to be outdone, legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt showed up at a men's game in full cheerleader regalia. What's the lesson to be learned here? Tennessee has been dicking around too much to concentrate on the tournament.
Poor old Virginia got upset in the second round of their conference tournament, which has to rank almost as highly on the disappointment scale as having your husband write and star in a movie basically as himself and having that film be titled "I Think I Love My Wife." Chris Rock's nonsense might end up being the funniest marriage-related film incident since Howard Stern made Private Parts an ode to his marriage, only to divorce about a year after it came out. Fun fact: none of the players on the Virginia roster are virgins.
In my aforementioned random Facebook bracket, I mentioned that my first random bracket featured a Final Four of no teams higher than a #13 seed. Albany were the winners in this fantasy bracket. The losers were NCAA officials, who would be jumping out a window if this nightmare TV ratings scenario ever occurred. On the bright side, it would be the biggest thing to hit Albany since the Simpsons credited them with inventing steamed hams.
Ah, the Sluggers! It really should be their name, but the school went with the much more boring 'Cardinals' instead. Just walk on Stan Musial's grave, whydoncha. Fun fact: Stan Musial isn't dead.
Riddle me this: Stanford students are supposed to be smart. So their team name is the Cardinal. Not CardinalS, but just 'The Cardinal.' Thus making this a Cardinals vs. Cardinal first-round matchup. What gives, The Stanford? You named your school after a colour? Is there some other school that's the Oakland State Puce or something? Given how much it costs to go there, you'd think they would've called themselves the Stanford Green.
Jesus, how many teams from Texas are in this damn tournament? I blame Dick Cheney.
Like Pittsburgh/Pitt, the University of Pennsylvania are commonly known as Penn. Do people from this state hate the ends of words? The 'Sylvania' part sounds so cool, too. It's like they're a team of vampires. Penn qualified for the tourney by winning the Ivy League, which is sort of like qualifying for a pie-eating contest by eating a 14-ounce porterhouse that has the word '30 Pies' written on it in steak sauce. If you pick them to go far, you have much more respect for the memory of actor Chris Penn than I do (none!).
The University of Nevada is pretty dull. Here they are in Nevada, the swingingest state in all the union, and their list of distinguished alumni doesn't have one single notable pop-culture figure. It's just a bunch of 'distinguished' and 'acclaimed' Nobel Prize winners. Why don't you just wear a tie and sweater-vest to a kegger, University of Nevada?
Hey, here's a team I can get behind: the Creighton Blue Jays! Expect them to keep it close in the first half, have a really good opening five minutes of the second half and make the fans think they have a chance to actually cause some ruckus. Then they'll just totally shit the bed for the next 10 minutes. Then they'll play decently in the last five to make the score respectable and make you think they're not so bad after all. Then you'll be seduced into picking them in next year's tournament. And then the J-Force dancers will dance your troubles away.
Seriously now, another Texan team? Is this the frickin' rodeo? North Texas is a #15 seed, so their stay will likely not last too long, but their nickname is one of the most notable in the field. Get ready opponents, to face the North Texas Mean Green! Snicker. Is the fat kid from the Sandlot their goalie? Will they face the Cardinal in the biggest all-colour matchup since the red guy faced the blue guy in Tron? Why does Texas have a north and Connecticut does not? These questions and more will be answered on the next episode of Soap.
And finally, we end things off with Memphis. Strong team, possible darkhorses to win it all, nothing really overtly wacky to say about them. See, I had enough funny material for 64 teams, but not 65. Damn you, play-in game.
So, you're now officially caught up on all your pre-Madness info. Stay tuned tomorrow for my 80,000 word preview of the NIT tournament.
I love Bill Nighy
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