Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March Madness With Little Surprises

One of the most intense team competitions in NCAA (AKA collegiate) sports is soon to unfold, guaranteeing to capture the attention of most TV viewers, potentially wiping out competing TV programs for the next three weeks. This is also the time when colleagues will close rank to throw in a wager or two, euphemistically called the office poll, as to the members of the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and the eventual national collegiate champion.

This is March Madness, and the game in town is college basketball. For the next three weeks, the list of 64 pretenders to the coveted championship will slug it out, progressively being pared down to the Final Four, the winner of which will be decided in the Georgia Dome come early April.

Those college teams who did not merit entry into the elite group will have their own tournament to claim their fame, the second-tier NIT championship.

In my office poll for the previous year championship, I came out top as I was the only one who went out on a limb for the Gators. Kind of unwavering faith, being a Gator myself. I even predicted correctly the total score of the final game, which stood at 131. Talk about clairvoyance, or luck.

Unlike last year, the Gators are ranked number 1 in one of the four regions, fresh from a blow-out series in the SEC championship where they swept their opponents (three in all) by an average margin of 19+ points. So the team morale is high, and all of the starting five have been there, done that. In fact, the Gators are the only team which returns the starting five.

So, for me, the pick for this year’s office poll is easy. And I see no reason to doubt the team’s passion, firing up for the first repeat national champion since Duke did that in the early 1990s. Despite a brief slump toward the end of the regular season when the Gator lost three of their last 5 regular games, all on the road, they recovered in time to dominate their opponents and are poised to start another mini-winning streak right up to the end of the national championship games.

Picking a worthy opponent for the Gators in the final takes some analytical work, which to me is a toss up between North Carolina and Ohio State. In the end I’m going with NC, which has a more balanced team makeup. That means Ohio State will inevitably suffer the same fate as their football brethren but in the hand/foot/head of the mighty Gators earlier in the year, but one game removed from the national championship game this time.

In the other semi-final, I pick UCLA to emerge as the regional champion, but only to be crushed by the Gators in a repeat of last year’s championship game.

In a nutshell, I don't see any George Mason reincarnate this year, the only mild surprise, thought not from my perspective, is UCLA upending Kansas according to my projection.

The only thing left to do now is to enjoy the championship game series, potentially savoring Gators’ every victory along the way. So in this case, the pleasant surprise may just lie in the event that there is no surprise, which I surely can live with.

Is this (courtesy of the GatorZone) becoming a familiar sight or what? Go Gators!

No comments: