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All sixteen might not be so sweet

by Mickey Charles

The second largest money machine in college sports, running behind the football bowl games, is now winding down and we are faced with elimination from the March Madness pool(s) you have entered as we welcome the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four and Championship Game over the next two weeks.

Florida Celebration
Celebrating is what Florida did alot of in last year's NCAA Tournament.
For most of you out there, Florida, Ohio State, UCLA and North Carolina are the front-runners. Georgetown is hanging around the lifeguard stand and wondering whether it will make it into the final splashdown. As for the others, if you have any of them, hang tough since any of those mentioned above swallowing too much water and sinking to the bottom, is going to eliminate thousands and thousands of entries into your particular Madness. This is the one that it is too late to change now that you have had the opportunity to actually watch the teams play instead of just seeing their individual seedings and reading about them in articles written by pundits that never really knew any more than yourself when putting forth their choices.

Personally, and do not reach for your checkbook yet, I like Kansas, UCLA and Ohio State to advance after Thursday. Not exactly prognosticatory genius evinced there. Are upsets possible? Obviously. Texas A&M and Memphis is a toss-up from this vantage point but the winner should be eliminated next game by the Buckeyes.

Florida and North Carolina appear to be a ?lock? to move on, Georgetown and Vanderbilt present another flip of the coin and UNLV has the horses to upset Oregon but that is about as convincing a choice as water being poured through a sieve. Sorry about that. But, after all, some games are meant to be watched, enjoyed and absent an investment of any sort. C?mon, you can do it!! On the other hand, if you have your own conviction, ?feeling? or studied prognosis on those games, go for it.

Roy Williams
UNC's Roy Williams won the NCAA Tournament two years ago with the Tar Heels.
Spring is here, baseball?s opening day is approximately two weeks distant, the NBA is busily readying all but a scant few teams for their own playoff push, the NHL has carried fighting to a new level with paramedics standing by at most arenas these days, while the players banter constantly about who is going to win, kiss and drink from Lord Stanley?s cup and the NFL is grabbing as many signing headlines as possible with free agents jockeying for dollars more than they are winners. Whew!

And, in the midst of it all, March Madness prevails. Remember when sports were just that, sports? For those not in the know, colleges have turned it into a business, complete with corporate machinations and contracts. Coaches are getting bonuses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each new level attained ? conference championship, post season conference win to advance to the NCAA insanity, more money with each game won, etc., etc., etc. Nike is pumping as much money, cumulatively, into colleges and the coffers of many coaches as they give to Tiger Woods annually.

Tens of millions of dollars are at stake with March Madness, for the networks, NCAA and the individual schools, particularly those coming down to the wire. Any protestations about gaming and March Madness pools across the nation are drowned out in the fervor of the tournament and the coverage given to it. Reality is dismissed and/or avoided as long as the games go on, TV coverage remains huge, every seat is filled, colleges are preening to attract the next crop of high school stalwarts, there are scholarships for cheerleaders and band members these days and a corporate mentality has become pervasive in the offices and hallways of the coaches, SIDs, alumni and presidents of the universities when it comes to sports.

From the perspective of sports within the college ranks, having been elevated to big business, there is no denying it but there is a head in the sand mentality that is ubiquitous on college campuses from coast to coast. Sad, very sad.

March Madness is fun, it is entertainment, it is college basketball at its exciting best. Last minute three-pointers, overtime, even the bad calls that have reached new levels of ineptitude coupled with nineteen TV and clock reviews in the final minute, the jubilation and free-flowing tears at game?s end. That is what it is all about.

But, truthfully, would you be as excited, as interested, as anxious to be home in front of the tube tonight if you were not still splashing around in your office pool? You gotta be kidding!