It’s the most wonderful time of the year for basketball fans. In my house, my wife Vicki and I love March Madness.
A few years ago I wrote a column entitled “I created a March Madness Monster.” When Vicki and I first got married, she wasn’t a basketball fan. However I guess being a sports writer and seeing my interest rubbed off on her.
After that first year, where she was new to the whole college basketball experience, she did her homework and soon won the office pool at the old Williamson Daily News site, against a huge group of players, 10 years in a row.
Vicki became such a fan of March Madness and the NCAA tournament, she even took vacation days to stay home and watch the early games. Now that is a die-hard fan.
My love for West Virginia University also rubbed off on Vicki and she lives and dies with me on the ups and downs of the Mountaineers.
Our kids love March Madness too. Even though they are adults now, this is one time we’ll get phone calls for advice. Not about life, but about who we are picking in our brackets and who we think will make it to the Final Four. We couldn’t be more proud!
We still enjoy picking our brackets each year and we love selection Sunday. Even though we just do it for fun. I still try to beat Vicki, but honestly that doesn’t happen very much.
We’ll be checking our notes and listening to the “experts” to make our picks again this week.
It’s a fun time for hoops fans and the excitement in the Lovern house and the screams will once again echo off the hills of the Tug Valley area.
… Here are some thoughts I have heading into the NCAA tourney in regards to teams local fans cheer for.
Teams have started to do better against WVU’s pestering non-stop full-court pressure. In the Big 12 championship game, Iowa State shot the lights out. The Mountaineers’ weakness, poor free throw shooting, reared its ugly head in the closing minutes. Still, a 27 win season in a conference like the Big 12, with quality wins against No. 1 Kansas, No. 1 Baylor, two victories against Iowa State, and an out-of- conference road win against Virginia, WVU has had a good season. They were ranked in the top 10 for much of the season.
Depending on the pairings, they should do okay in the NCAA tourney. I’ll pit Coach Bob Huggins up against any other coach in the country.
… Kentucky is once again a team to watch in the tournament. They always have plenty of talent and McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster. John Calapari is a great recruiter and the Wildcats are a team to favor, depending on the pairings and where they end up in the bracket.
… I would have loved to seen Marshall in the “Big Dance” for the first time in 30 years (1987 was the last time) when the late Rick Huckabay was coach. The Herd fell a game short, losing in the Conference USA final to Middle Tennessee. Marshall has a lot of local talent with kids from the region on their roster. Coach Dan D’Antoni of nearby Mullens and assistant coach Mark Cline of Williamson have recruited many local and in-state kids.
Their exciting offense and 3-point shooting is fun for the fans. Hopefully they can make some noise in one of the other post season tourneys and build toward making the NCAA tourney in the next couple of years.
… I have to mention Duke, which is the favorite team of my sister Karen. She and many others in the area are Blue Devils fans. The ACC powerhouse will once again be a team to be reckoned with and it seems like they have peaked at the right time, after some problems in the regular season. Duke is always a team to watch in the NCAA post season.
… It’s always fun to see the Cinderella teams, those small schools who rarely get an invitation to the Big Dance, pull off an upset over a bigger school. Much like Vicki did a few years ago when she picked Gonzaga, before they became a household name and a school ranked No. 1 in the country. Or teams like Butler, Florida Gulf Coast and many others who have found their glass slipper and pulled off the biggest win(s) in school history. This year Northwestern and North Dakota both make it for the first time in school history. There are other schools from smaller D-1 conferences that many have never heard of, but could be the team to make history and put their school on the proverbial basketball map.
… West Virginia’s first round NCAA tournament game against Bucknell on Thursday, March 16 will be the second game of the afternoon session at KeyBank Center. The game will be televised by CBS. Game times on Thursday in Buffalo, New York are as follows: Notre Dame vs. Princeton – 12:15 p.m., West Virginia vs. Bucknell – 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first game (approx. 2:45 p.m.).
… Throw in the state high school basketball tournaments this week and it will be a busy time for local fans. But I know one household that will be rocking and wearing out the remote control going from game to game and cringing when someone they picked to win – loses in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament.
It doesn’t get any better than this – unless our WVU Mountaineers could pull off a miracle and win their first-ever championship.
If you dream – you might as well dream big.