Its the last of the tournament previews as we give you the final 4 games out of the Minneapolis region. Thanks for going along for the ride, it is now deboarding....
Oklahoma v Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Coming out of Norman, Oklahoma is my official sleeper team, the Oklahoma Sooners. When trying to pick a sleeper team it is always good to have one, never-fails formula. Pick a team with loads of talent, from a major conference, that has underachieved. That is your sleeper team and that describes perfectly the Sooners. Coached by Kelvin Sampson, a handsome man who has the unfortunate fashion sense to only wear denim shirts, the Sooners were projected to have quite a season with stars such as Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout. But it hasnt happened, leaving most fans to only focus on the interesting part of this team, 6'11" import, Longar Longar. Longar is one of the only players in college basketball history to have dual names (bringing to mind the only one with three, Georgetown's Ja Ja Ja....pronounced "Ya Ya Ja.") and came to Oklahoma from the Sudan, bringing with him a complete game, but leaving behind the abject poverty. Oklahoma has a lot to overcome as they have won the second most tournament games in history without winning a national title. This season is about avenging the losses of the past and glorifying the names of Stacy King and MMMMMMookie Blaylock. It likely wont happen, but a Final 4 is possible if
they can get by the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers. Located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the brats are grilled, the beer is cold and the girls are fat, the Panthers are coming off a Sweet 16 run last season and will take exactly no one by surprise. But this is a Different Wisconsin-Milwaukee team, as they have lost the run-first attitude instituted by former Coach Bruce Pearl who left the Panthers high and dry when he took his sweat with him to Knoxville. This Panther team has good shooter and decent athletes, but is best known as a team that will punch you in your mouth, leading their conference in technical fouls. The Panthers have a lot to play for, specifically the honor of their famous alumnus Frank Caliendo, who has quickly become the Rich Little of his era, sacrificing the voices of famous celebrities for a never-ending parody of John Madden. Many have said Frank is a no-talent, the comedic equivalent of Cheese in a can....if Wisconsin-Milwaukee wins today, that will still be true.
Oklahoma by 8
Florida v South Alabama
From the mean streets of Gainsville comes that always disappointing tournament team, the Florida Gators. Coached by Herman Munster, the Gators have found ways to bust the nation's brackets every season, losing to the Temples of the world by embarassing margins and seeing the continued wasting of talent in Dale Brown-esque proportions. But that was your older brother's Florida team as this one has teamwork, good passing and one of the oddest looking players in Division I. Much has been written about Florida star Joakim Noah and some of it even has to do with basketball. He is the child of tennis star Yannick Noah and a former Miss Sweden, explaining his high cheekbones, feminine eyes and long luscious locks of hair.....but not his pencil-thin moustache or affinity for wearing dresses. Regardless of his personal life, Noah is becoming a star on the court, controlling the land and rebounding over all teams. He is one of the players who has the potential to become a star in this tournament, assuming of course that he doesnt ditch the game and become a Vidal Sassoon hair model instead.
The Gators have drawn a familiar face in the South Alabama Jaguars. Coming out of the Sun Belt Conference (the conference that must have been drawn by a 2nd grade geography class as it extends from South Florida to Western Kentucky to Denver to New Mexico St), the Jaguars are the most patriotic of teams, as their fans chant for them by crying "USA" during games. The Jags are coached by former Kentucky player and Florida assistant, John Pelphrey who is best known as one of the two players who did not jump in front of Christian Laettner in 1992 and prevent the world from seeing endless highlights of him running down the court and not ruining my childhood. Pelphrey seems to have gotten over that event and is one of the "it" coaches of the offseason, rumored to be a favorite for the Ole Miss job. Until then however, he is trying to pull off the upset, which would make him the most famous Jaguar since Terry Catledge, the only first round NBA draft choice in South Alabama history. Catledge's NBA career is best known for being short and uneventful, but Pelphrey hopes that doesnt describe the Jaguar run.
Unfortunately it does....Florida by 19
Georgetown v Northern Iowa
As we head towards the homestretch, we find the Georgetown Hoyas, a team that has finally returned to prominence. Led by official son, John Thompson III, the Hoyas are finally return to the big dance, although this time without a character as bizarrely entertaining as Dikembe Mutombo. Thompson is hoping to return Georgetown to its glory days, when one of the pioneers of the coaching profession, his father, gave the Hoyas national prominence, winning a national championship, producing multiple NBA players and bailing Allen Iverson out of jail. The Thompson legacy is strong at Georgetown, and younger Thompson is hoping to continue to be a molder of men like his father, just without that towel on his shoulder. Georgetown is known as the Hoyas, a nickname that comes from a Greek and Latin chant of "Hoya Saxa" yelled by former students that translates to the phrase "What Rocks". Because "Hoya" means "what", if you are with your friends this NCAA Tournament weekend, tell people that the name should be the "Georgetown Whats." If you dont get punched in the face, you have a good Abbott and Costello routine all ready for consumption.
The Hoyas face off against the scrappy bunch from Northern Iowa. Hailing from the northern section of Iowa (a section of Iowa devoted to corn and open space that puts the Southern part of Iowa and all its corn and open space to shame), the Panthers finished up a stellar Missouri Valley season by choking away their conference tournament and leaving many to wonder if they would even make the Big Dance. Well thankfully for everyone not named Billy Packer, they did, treating us to more Missouri Valley than we can shake a stick at. Northern Iowa is best known as a wrestling school, home to three NCAA Division I wrestling titles and is an institution thankful to Title IX and its ability to make sure that only four wrestling teams actually still exist, giving it a fighting chance. The Panthers' most famous alumnus may be Robert James Waller, who wrote the "Bridges of Madison County," required reading for all middle-aged women and a movie that your father was dragged to see long ago by your mother.
Georgetown by 6
Ohio St v Davidson
Finally, we come to the game involving the institution named "Most Likely to Cheat", the Ohio St Buckeyes. Recent recipients of another NCAA probation, the Buckeyes have had to erase their records from the 1999 and 2000 seasons, a team that was beloved by all for their Scoonie Penn-ness. This group of Buckeyes are coached by Thad Matta who came to Columbus from Xavier University. One of the best young coaches in the nation, Matta helped the Buckeyes become the only team to beat Illinois in the regular season last year and won the Big Ten this year with a team picked to finish 6th. But wait till next year, when Matta brings in his "Thad 5", one of the best recruiting classes in NCAA history, which includes Greg "Why did they have to rescind that freshman to the NBA rule my year" Oden, a powerful 7 footer who currently eats other high school players for lunch. This Buckeye team is a sleeper to take the title, but dont worry if they dont.....they will find a way to cheat even more efficiently next year and will win again in the future.
Finally we hear from the the Davidson Wildcats, a team that finds its way into the NCAA Tournament every third year or so. Hailing from Davidson, North Carolina, the Wildcats only have 1,700 students, one of the smallest co-ed universities in Division I athletics. Davidson is so small, that it doesnt even have its own pep band (hey even Transylvania had that), thus requiring the university to borrow pep bands from local high schools for home games. For these high schoolers, it is a special experience, allowing them to see up close and personal the college women that they will never be able to get because they play in the band. The Wildcats are coached by Bob McKillop, a native of Long Island, who came to Davidson many years ago with the intention of leaving, but has never been able to find that big job to rescue him from this tiny campus. This could be the year however, as Davidson has a good group of seniors but they must watch out as Ohio St will have an actual band, something that could throw them off.
Ohio St by 16.
In the second round I like Oklahoma by 2 over Florida in a great game and Ohio St by 9 over Georgetown, setting up Ohio St and Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.
ITs been fun folks....time for the games....