My NCAA tournament bracket is not exactly on life support, but several unsuccessful upset picks have me itching for a second chance. Writing a sports column gives me that chance, complete with accountability.
In case you have been out herding sheep for the past week, I will bring you up to speed conference by conference.
The Big 12 is the big winner in the tournament so far, placing all four of its first-round winners into the Sweet Sixteen. With upstarts Missouri and Texas joining Kansas and Oklahoma, the conference has posted an 8-2 record in the tournament.
The Pac-10 also got out of the gate well, posting a 5-1 mark during the first two days of play and joins the Big 12 with eight total wins to this point. The two conferences will go head-to-head in three different games in the Sweet Sixteen.
In contrast to the Big 12, SEC teams petered out in the second round. Kentucky advanced, but Alabama, Mississippi State and Georgia ' all were top three seeds ' all were upset.
Members of the Big East are proving that the conference has been overrated. Only No. 2 seed Connecticut and No. 3 seed Pittsburgh made the round of 16. Cincinnati's loss to UCLA Sunday signaled the end of Conference USA's tournament hopes as well.
And the Big Ten? Well, it's right where it should be at this point. Both Illinois and Indiana are still alive and the conference has a 6-3 record.
Surprisingly, the Missouri Valley Conference and the Mid-American Conference are both alive. Southern Illinois, this year's tourney Cinderella, took down Texas Tech and Georgia, while fellow MVC representative Creighton upset Florida. Kent State, a No. 10 seed out of the MAC, toppled Alabama to make the Sweet Sixteen.
I know the odds are against me picking all the Sweet Sixteen games correctly, but that won't stop me from trying.
The Big 12/Pac-10 matchups are a crapshoot. Both UCLA and Missouri are playing excellent, but I think Missouri's veteran backcourt gives them the edge. Oklahoma will bully Arizona and then red-hot Missouri to come out of the West bracket. All is not lost for the Pac-10 though because Oregon will outlast Texas in a Midwest Region track meet.
In the South, Duke tops Indiana just because they can. Kent State is on a roll that even the Big East's best team (Pittsburgh) cannot stop. After that, the Golden Flashes will throw their MAC on Duke, who cannot resist and will fall in overtime (and no, I'm not on medication).
Connecticut's Caron Butler will single-handedly beat Southern Illinois, so pencil UConn in for the Elite Eight.
Unfortunately, Maryland will paste Kentucky and the Huskies en route to the Final Four.
That leaves the Midwest's other game, where Kansas is bound to fail. Illinois does the dirty deed dirt-cheap before it runs into the trey-happy Ducks from Oregon.
In the Final Four, betting men will put Maryland over Oregon and magical Kent State over Oklahoma.
The Golden Flashes are just too good'that is why I pick them to beat the Terrapins 79-75 for the National Championship.
I urge everyone to start spring break off right by making the NCAA Tournament priority number one this weekend. Every game out there is a good one, especially those at the Kohl Center.
By the way, if anyone has tickets, I'll trade you my Jerry Rice rookie card for them. Any takers? What if I throw in a Kurt Rambis?