(#1 seed) Kansas vs. (#16 seed) Winner of Niagara-Florida A&M Game
Just 10 miles west of Lawrence, Kansas (home of KU) is the town of Stull, Kansas. According to Wikipedia, Stull is:
- named for postmaster Sylvester Stull
- known for its cemetery, rumored to be one of the seven gateways to hell
- the inspiration for an Urge Overkill song and album cover
(#2) UCLA vs. (#15) Weber State
UCLA is the bitter rival of my current employer. UCLA, as has been documented in this space, screwed me over by not giving me that job back in summer '04. Or that other one in spring '04. UCLA is coached by control freak Ben Howland, who calls more time-outs than a rookie teacher in an ADHD-only preschool. Howland also makes more substitutions than The Who make comeback tours. And if you thought those analogies were weak, wait 'til you see how poorly Weber State plays against them. UCLA, as much as it pains me to say it, will win many games in this tournament, starting with this one.
(#3) Pittsburgh vs. (#14) Wright State
Pittsburgh is the hometown of Andy Warhol. Wright State (in Dayton, Ohio) is named for the Wright Brothers. So this game comes down to modern art vs. airplanes. This comes down to Interview Magazine vs. in-flight magazines. This comes down to Campbell's Soup and Marilyn Monroe vs. airplane food and Pushing Tin. I have to give it to Warhol. Because he was involved in this, if only tangentially.
(#4) Southern Illinois vs. (#13) Holy Cross
Holy Cross is located in Worcester, Massachusetts. During my legendary 12-day residence in Amherst, Mass. in the summer of 1996, I once took a country drive to Worcester. I remember listening to Everclear's Santa Monica during the drive and wondering why I left California to go to grad school in rural New England. I remember, as I drove through Worcester's mean streets, wondering if my old friend Rich from the movie theater in Minnesota was back in Worcester, his hometown. Apparently, he wasn't too far away. And I think he reads this blog so if I got your hometown wrong, please correct me. I also remember that 12 days were enough. I left UMass (1 week before the semester started), packed up the cats and the boxes, my big black boots and my old suitcase, in the U-Haul and the Accord and headed west, settling in Minneapolis, with its big river, medium-sized lakes, and ridiculously late starting fall semester (seven commas in one sentence). I never looked back. Except, I always look back. Holy Cross wins in an upset because of the guilt I carry for not giving Massachusetts enough of a chance.
(#5) Virginia Tech vs. (#12) Illinois
Sufjan Stevens' Illinois album wasn't as good as his Michigan one. But it was good enough. Illinois in another upset.
(#6) Duke vs. (#11) Virginia Commonwealth
It's hard to think about Duke, let alone write about them, without thinking of former Providence coach Pete Gillen's famous quote from 1997:
"Duke... Duke is Duke. They're on TV more than Leave It To Beaver reruns."He was bemoaning the fact that Duke always got the attention, always made it to the final rounds of the tournament, always got the best recruits. But it wasn't what Gillen said as much as how he said it. I wish I could link to some audio of this quote but I can't find it. The cadence, the timing, the New England accent, the petty bitterness cloaked by a basketball coach's professional remove ... all of it combine to make this quote rank up there with Lincoln's "four score...", King's "...dream..." and Kennedy's Berliner thing in historical importance. You see, Gillen empasized the wrong words. He chose to robotically stress "more than," "beaver," and "reruns." In fact, the way he said "reruns" still sends chills up and down my arms. Ask me to do my Gillen impersonation for you some day. But the best part was that Gillen's quote was dated, even back in '97. No one showed Leave It to Beaver reruns back then! Today, you have to go to museums to see Beaver clips. But, Duke is really not Duke this year. VCU wins.
(#7) Indiana vs. (#10) Gonzaga
One of Gonzaga's best players was suspended from the team for possession of psychedelic mushrooms. Indiana University is in Bloomington, where the bicycle movie Breaking Away was set. Gonzaga is the alma mater of dreadlocked Laker forward Ronny Turiaf. 'Shrooms + Dreads vs. Bicycles? Who wins? It's just too damn difficult to decide.
Wait a second....IU is the alma mater of New York Times and NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz. Will Shortz!!!. Hoosiers win.
(#8) Kentucky vs. (#9) Villanova
Folk genius Will Oldham (aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) is from Kentucky. Villanova is in Philadelphia. Daryl Hall and John Oates are from Philadelphia. Oldham vs. Hall & Oates? One against two? That's not fair. Okay, H&O, you only get to pick one. Who's it gonna be? Oates, of course.
So, now we have Oldham vs. Oates. How can I decide?
Oldham wrote I Am A Cinematographer and Gulf Shores.
Oates co-wrote Rich Girl and Method of Modern Love.
Oldham acted in Junebug.
Oates acted on Will and Grace.
If only there were pictures of each of them communing with nature, then we'd be able to decide:
Oates in a sincerity landslide. Villanova wins.