I will continue my sort-of annual habit of predicting the NCAA basketball tournament. I will blend my half-assed knowledge of college basketball (some years I know a lot; this year I do not) with my personal experiences with each college and/or city, throwing in pop culture references. Seeds in parentheses (lower number = better team). Enjoy.
Louisville (1) vs. Morehead State (16) Again, I struggle with the karmic clash between loathsome Louisville coach Rick Pitino and heroic/brilliant Louisville singer-songwriter Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy). I say that the two cancel each other out. But do they? Is Billy's new album cover really enough to nullify Pitino's arrogant asshole-ish talentless arrogance? Maybe not but Louisville is a far better basketball team. My pick: Louisville.
Ohio State (8) vs. Siena (9)
I got nothing. My pick: Siena.
Utah (5) vs. Arizona (12)
Big Love vs. the Meat Puppets. Uh oh. That's a close one. Big Love is having its best season. My pick: Utah.
Wake Forest (4) vs. Cleveland State (13)
I once spent an amazing few hours in Cleveland one summer night in the 1980s. My pick: Cleveland State.
West Virginia (6) vs. Dayton (11)
Struggling to come up with something funny. My pick: West Virginia.
Kansas (3) vs. North Dakota State (14)
I would love if the gutty hoopsters from Fargo won in a Coen Bros.-inspired upset in a game played in Minneapolis of all places. Marge Gunderson could roll down south and east over the white prairie sheets while her husband hits the buffet back home. She could have lunch with her old crying friend at the Radisson and maybe catch a Jose Feliciano show over at the Carlton Celebrity Room. Maybe that one girl from White Bear and the other one from Normandale could hang out with her. Yeah if NSDU won, it would be a good story. Even if it might hurt (it wouldn't) my friend who spent some time at KU. It would be pretty cool. But god people from the Dakotas are annoying and potentially insufferable. But that's mostly South Dakota. And even within SD that's mostly those upriver folk. Or is it downriver? My pick: North Dakota State.
Boston College (7) vs. USC (10)
This is my first year of employment at USC where I haven't attended at least one basketball game. But I have a feeling this is the year they will go far. Besides, my nephew applied to USC but explicitly told me he would attend Boston College if both schools admitted him so it would be fun to see BC lose. Really? You'd turn down an offer to join the #27 school in the country, to be part of the Trojan Family, you'd turn that down to spend four years in hellhole Boston with its pale drunk college students and its horrid infrastructure at a school that doesn't even get close to the top 40, academics-wise? Would you really do that Tommy? You would? Yeah so would I. My pick: USC.
Michigan State (2) vs. Robert Morris (15)
Abbreviated version of my history with an MSU grad: "It could have been me." Collectible tourist spoons. Pensions. Indian food. Grosse Pointe Blank. Soul Coughing. My pick: Michigan State.
Connecticut (1) vs. Chattanooga (16)
Whatever. My pick: Connecticut because it's easier not to misspell.
BYU (8) vs. Texas A&M (9)
LDS vs. buzz-cut Texans? LDS. My pick: BYU.
Purdue (5) vs. Northern Iowa (12)
The Big Ten is a horrid horrible horrific basketball conference. My pick: Northern Iowa.
Washington (4) vs. Mississippi State (13)
What I wouldn't do to be offered a magical job with a big salary at the University of Washington. I just might have to take it. Seattle = awesome. UW = great school, cool neighborhood. I might have to work on that one. My pick: Washington.
Marquette (6) vs. Utah State (11)
I've been to Milwaukee three times in my life. Two of those times were among the 20 greatest days of the 2000s. Marquette is in Milwaukee. My pick: Marquette.
Missouri (3) vs. Cornell (14)
My pick: Cornell. Because of that guy <<:
California (7) vs. Maryland (10)
Berkeley. Whatever. Really? My pick: Maryland.
Memphis (2) vs. Cal. State Northridge (15)
When the Northridge quake of '94 hit, my cats were freaked out. They hid under the bed. They shuddered at any noise within 1000 feet. Nobody does that to my cats. My pick: Memphis.
Pittsburgh (1) vs. East Tennessee State (16)
Jamie Dixon = coolest coach in basketball, the anti-Pitino, born in Burbank, raised in NoHo, schooled all over the place, coaching a fun-to-watch team in a city I've never seen. My pick: Pittsburgh.
Oklahoma State (8) vs. Tennessee (9)
Another reason to note what is special about the state of Tennessee:
1. The blood there runneth orange.
2. It is the land of hot middle-aged women.
3. And it is the land of club soda unbridled.
That's enough to say: My pick: Tennessee
Florida State (5) vs. Wisconsin (12)
The Big Ten is just awful. It's hideous. It's an embarrassment to basketball. None of its teams (except for one) should be eligible for tournament play. My (reluctant because it's FSU) pick: Florida State.
Xavier (4) vs. Portland State (13)
Along with UW, I would totally accept a job at Portland State - great campus, lots of trees, nice neighborhood, amazing town, etc. Xavier, on the other hand, is in Cincinnati. My pick: Portland State.
UCLA (6) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (11)
Number of dates I have gone out on with students of / alumni of UCLA: 11
Number of dates I have gone out on with students of / alumni of Virginia Commonwealth: 0
My pick: UCLA.
Villanova (3) vs. American (14)
My favorite basketball team between 1982 and 1985? Villanova. My pick: Villanova.
Texas (7) vs. Minnesota (10)
Yes, the Big Ten is awful. But there are 11 teams in the Big Ten. This leaves room for one of them not to be awful. Here are 9 reasons why Minnesota will win:
1. I went to school there. Twice.
2. They opened a Chick-Fil-A at the remodeled Coffman Union.
3. They remodeled Coffman Union.
4. I lost my virginity on that campus. Sort of.
5. Espresso Royale in Dinkytown kicks ass. (The other location, less so.)
6. Tubby Smith
7. Bell Auditorium on the campus of the UofM is where I saw: Being John Malkovich, Lola, Judy Berlin, The American Astronaut, American Pimp, Dancer in the Dark, and Vertigo, among others. (Yes I know that two of those films are awful but still.)
8. I saw Soul Coughing on campus back in '00.
9. I liked it there. A lot.
Duke (2) Binghamton (15)
Binghamton? Binghamton??? My family used to stop there on its way to visit relatives in Wellsville, NY. Long time ago. Duke? Well, Duke is Duke. God, I hate to pick another upset but Binghamton fills me with warm memories because it wasn't yet Wellsville. My pick: Binghamton.
North Carolina (1) vs. Radford (16)
My friend Patrick's cousin went to Radford. In fact, here is Patrick wearing a Radford sweatshirt in the 1980s. I had a crush on Patrick's Radford cousin. Which I probably already wrote about here once. But still - is it enough to go against a number one seed? Well, a number 1 seed has to lose at some point in our history. Here goes. My pick: Radford.
LSU (8) vs. Butler (9)
Nothing to see here, nothing to say. My pick: LSU.
Illinois (5) vs. Western Kentucky (12)
See my above Big Ten-related comments. My pick: Western Kentucky.
Gonzaga (4) vs. Akron (13)
Gonzaga pros: Fun team, lots of talent, been there before
Gonzaga cons: Miniature tea cups!!!!!
Akron pros: That one short story about cheese I wrote in 2000, Chrissie Hynde
Akron cons: In Ohio, smells like rubber.
My pick: Gonzaga.
Arizona State (6) vs. Temple (11)
I've been to Tempe. Oh how I've been to Tempe (interestingly, one letter off from Temple). I've been to Philadelphia. Yeah. I grew up near there, came of age near there, almost went to school at Temple. My pick: Arizona State. Because of that Harden guy.
Syracuse (3) vs. Stephen F. Austin (14)
I have never not liked Syracuse basketball. My pick: Syracuse.
Clemson (7) vs. Michigan (10)
Yes I know someone at Michigan, someone slogging through the Ann Arbor late-winter at this very moment. But you're in the Big Ten, artist friend. My pick: Clemson.
Oklahoma (2) vs. Morgan State (15)
My fingers are tired. My pick: Oklahoma.