Time to continue moving on down the list and looking at the Atlanta Region. In part 1 we identified Duke and LSU as the Sweet 16 teams....here we go with some more:
West Virginia v. Southern Illinois
The West Virginia Mountaineers began this season as everyone's second favorite team, thanks in large part to their countrified big man, Kevin Pittsnogle. Pittsnogle led the nation this season in all things absurd, carrying with him a splendid display of tattoos, making him look like a C level rocker from the mid 1980s. His gap teeth, buzz cut and goofy last name were his calling cards until late January, when it was revealed that at his recent wedding to his baby mama, the food served at the reception was Corn dogs and RC Cola. I admit that when I heard this news, I thought it was fake, but after some searching, found his wedding album online (all class) and sure enough, it was true. But the Mountaineers are not only Pittsnogle, they have shooters, driv....oh what am I talking about, you only care about Pittsnogle. This is his senior season and the NBA may not come a callin, so enjoy your Pittsnogle while you can.....his time is running out.
West Virginia's opponent is Southern Illinois, a team best known for its nickname (the Salukis....a name that always prompts my friend Dewayne to ask, "what is a Saluki anyway?") and its role as everyone's "sleeper" team even though virtually no one that picks them has ever seen them play. My interaction with Southern Illinois is limited, but it was the impetus for a bet between myself and Larry Conley (who according to some music videos, works for JP!!!). At a late season home game, I found myself in the middle of a conversation between Larry Conley and the artist formerly known as Alan Cutler. They were debating the merits of Kentucky making the tournament and Cutler said, "Southern Illinois will take their spot." Besides being nonsensical, it was said with Cutler's trademark bravado and led Conley to just shake his head and say, "there is NO WAY that Southern Illinois makes it." I found it odd that they both had such strong opinons about the Salukis so I volunteered, "I think they may get in." Conley then bet me dinner they would not. I accepted the bet, knowing full well that he would never pay up (Conley is French for "renigs on bets") and now I am going to demand that Conley take me to dinner....maybe even to Gattitown. You will pay Conley....you will pay!!!
West Va by 8
Iowa v. Northwestern St.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are in many ways America's team, led by the best prematurely balding basketball player in America, Jeff "no I am not related to Bob" Horner. They are the definition of a scrappy team and are led by a coach that is bizarrely always on the hot seat, Steve Alford. The Iowa basketball program is not one that really has much of a history, and are likely best known for producing the absurdly long careers of Acie Earl and Jess Settles, both of who played for the Hawkeyes for 13 seasons. Yet the fanbase wants to get rid of Alford for having the sin of recruiting good players and winning the Big Ten Tournament. As a 3 seed, the Hawkeyes may be a bit overinflated, but their propensity to hit big three pointers could get them far in the tournament and get Horner an endorsement deal with Propecia upon graduation (Disclaimer: if you are pregnant, you should not touch Propecia).
Northwestern St. is a team that I can guarantee you no one reading this blog knows anything about. Coming out of the Southland Conference, Northwestern St pulled off one of the early season upsets of note, knocking off Rick Stansbury and his pretty eyes in a road victory at Mississippi St. Northwestern St is one of a host of teams that continue to call themselves "State" while not actually being a state. This used to be extremely upsetting to my grandfather, who would see these teams and say, "Morgan St....there isnt any state Morgan!" Without my grandfather's approval, I sincerely doubt that Northwestern St can get by the mighty Hawkeyes.
Iowa by 22
California v. North Carolina St
In a matchup that hits close to home for me, the Cal Bears take on the Wolfpack in an intriguing first round battle. Cal is likely best known as the favorite school of frequent Kentucky Sports Radio poster, Sarah Citrin, who counts herself as one of the Bears truest fans. The Bears (who are still basking in the glow of the Jason Kidd-led upset of Duke and their high SAT scores) are led by Leon "All my life been" Powe "But it really dont matter no mo'", a player who was recruited by everyone in America but landed in America's heartland....the campus at Berkeley. When not protesting society's inequities, the Bears have become a fairly successful basketball program in recent years and are trying to match the successes of the "it" coach in college football, Jeff Tedford, who has brought the football Bears much success. The Bears succeeded in a weak Pac 10 this season, but are on the upward swing, in contrast to....
the North Carolina State Wolfpack, a team literally falling all over itself trying not to pass out before entering the Big Dance. The Wolfpack struggled coming down the stretch, losing by over 20 points in the ACC Tournament to the awful Wake Forest Demon Deacons and getting blown out at home by Seton Hall. As the official "Second Favorite team of Matt Jones" thanks to my time in the Raleigh area and my affinity for Herb Sendek's neurotic ways, the Wolfpack have been disappointing to me. They are led by a number of foreign shooting guards (which they grow at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh) and big man Cedric Simmons who is known in Raleigh as the "Anti-Kentucky 7 footer" thanks to his wide array of post moves and propensity to rebound. The Pack miss the scoring of departed guard Julius Hodge who, when not being punched by Chris Paul, is now averaging 7 points a game in the Developmental League.
Cal by 10
Texas v. Penn
The final game of the Atlanta bracket matches up the "Hook Em Horns" of Texas versus the Penn Quakers. The Texas athletic program is truly on a roll right now having won the most recent College World Series, the NCAA Football National Championship and now being a legitimate contender for college basketball's biggest crown. The Horns came into the season picked as a favorite and then proceeded to be humiliated not only be Duke but also by Tennessee in a home game that made Matthew McConaughey cry. The Horns are led by Daniel Gibson, a point guard who has seen his NBA draft stock fall farther than the standards of newly-single Jessica Simpson and Brad Buckman, who has been playing for Texas since the Carter Administration. Texas has a legitimate shot at the national title, but first will have to overcome the coaching of Rick Barnes, a strategist on the basketball floor that makes Mark Gottfried look like Dean Smith.
Their opponent is of course the Penn Quakers, a team best known for having a number of interchangable white guys and getting confused with Princeton by the average college basketball fan. Penn is of course an Ivy League school, which means its players are liberal, out of touch with mainstream America and find the New Yorker cartoons clever and witty. Penn is led by longtime Coach Fran Dunphy, a graduate of Lasalle (arent all great coaches?) who is best known for not being known at all. Few see any real chance of an upset in this game and thus most of the student body is not taking time off from the filming of their Spring Break video, "Protracters Gone Wild" to actually go to the game.
Texas by 19
In the second round, I like West Virginia over Iowa in a game that will see more white people on the floor than at a David Allan Coe break dancing contest. Texas will take Cal out by shutting down Powe, thus setting up a Pittsnogle-Texas game for the Sweet 16. Next up....Oakland!