Need a reason to get excited for the NCAA Tournament? How about 68 reasons instead?
One of my favorite annual columns: 68 Reasons to be Excited for the NCAA Tournament, the 2013 Edition!
1. Office Pools Everywhere: I say it every year, and will keep saying it until the day or die (or more likely, until ya’ll start tuning me out for good): Guys, the best way to get your girl to sit down and watch sports with you is to have her fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket.
As the old saying goes, “The couple who picks South Dakota State to pull an upset in Round 1 together, stays together.”
(And while we’re on the subject, do yourself a favor and sign up for MY office pool by clicking here, for the chance to win books, gift cards and much, much more. Invite your lady to sign up as well.)
2. Charles Barkley: Who kicked off year three of his NCAA Tournament coverage by calling the Big Ten overrated (comparing them to an ugly prom queen in the process) and saying that the Pac-12 and Mountain West were the two best conferences in the country, and doing it all within his first 10 seconds on-air.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: It’s good to have Charles Barkley back this March.
3. Kansas’ Ben McLemore: Whether he leads Kansas to the Final Four or not, can we all agree that no one in college basketball has a better set of tattoos than McLemore does?
4. The Pittsburgh Panthers: Who are back after a one-year NCAA Tournament hiatus, and ready to reclaim their throne as “The team most likely to ruin your bracket with an early round tourney loss.”
5. That One Shining Moment: Where a Duke senior will inevitably end his career by crying into Coach K’s arms at some point this March. And not after winning the National Championship (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mason Plumlee).
6. The NC State Wolfpack: Who put the “fun” in dysfunction more than any team in college basketball this season. Admit it, in the same way that you miss your crazy ex-girlfriend who used to drive by your house at midnight with her car lights off, you’re going to miss the Wolfpack when their season ends this March. Aren’t you?
7. Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk: Who is not only a major National Player of the Year candidate, but also the first person since Pocahontas to make a string headband look cool.
8. The Unofficial End of the Shabazz Muhammad Era at UCLA: Wait, given that he was suspended part of the season, and also played half his games on the Pac-12 Network (which my cable system doesn’t even provide), did the Shabazz Muhammad Era at UCLA ever really begin?
9. Ole Miss’s Marshall Henderson: Question, am I allowed to say that I don’t really find Henderson entertaining at all? Or will that upset all the college basketball blogger bros out there?
10. The South Regional Final in Dallas, TX: Which also means…College Basketball at Jerry’s World!! And really, who isn’t totally cool with that?
11. Louisville Forward Montrezl Harrell: Who has the single toughest name in college basketball to spell, and was also part of maybe my single favorite moment of Championship Week, when Jay Bilas said the following about him: “How the heck did a kid that young, get so big? What, did he throw barrels of hay around with one hand as a kid?”
12. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo: Who makes this list because according to Bylaw 8, Article 4, Section 3 of the College Basketball Bloggers manual, every college basketball article this month has to include at least one mention of Oladipo.
He also makes this list because of THAT dunk below.
13. James Madison Forward Rayshawn Goins: Who apparently celebrated his team’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1994…by getting thrown in the clink late last night. Yes, that actually happened.
14. The Colorado Buffaloes: Because if I don’t mention them, who will?
15. The Colorado State Rams: Admit it, you don’t know anything about the Rams and neither do I. Of course that’s not stopping you from picking them to upset Missouri in Round 1 of the tournament, is it?
16. The Baylor Bears: Who aren’t in this year’s field after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA…for wearing these uniforms at the Big XII Tournament.
17. Florida Forward Will Yeguete: Who has by far, the best… and worst Mohawk in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Speaking of which,
18. I’ve got to ask…: At what point did it become mandatory for every walk-on, bench player, and non-starting scrub in college basketball to shave a Mohawk into their head? More importantly, how do we make this trend stop immediately?
19. The Wisconsin Badgers: Am I allowed to say that along with the Bermuda Triangle and Bigfoot, I consider “How does Wisconsin keep winning all these games” to be one of the three great mysteries of the modern world? It is, and don’t be surprised when the Badgers somehow find their way into another Sweet 16 this March.
20. New Mexico’s Hugh Greenwood: Who is undoubtedly my favorite Australian player with a tattoo on the back of his neck in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
21. No Kentucky Wildcats in This Year’s Big Dance: Laugh now, non-UK fans. I’ve seen the guys John Calipari has coming in next year, and yeah, the Wildcats are going to be right in the mix for a National Championship in 2014. I can promise you that.
Actually, the same with…
22. The 2014 UConn Huskies: Who should be in play for a No. 1 seed next year, assuming no one does anything stupid and enter the NBA Draft.
23. Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones: Who should end America’s long national nightmare, and eliminate Notre Dame in Round 1 of this year’s NCAA Tournament. And really, isn’t that something we can all be thankful for?
24. Marquette Coach Buzz Williams: Random thought, but does anyone else feel like Buzz probably spends an inordinate amount of his free time in a mustard-stained t-shirt and boxers? Or is that just me?
25. The Syracuse Orange: Who played just well enough in last week’s Big East Tournament that I’ll be genuinely surprised… when they get upset two rounds too early this year.
Because really, is there any team that perennially achieves in the NCAA Tournament quite like Syracuse does?
26. A Potential Second Round Matchup Between North Carolina and Kansas: The story here isn’t “Self vs. Roy.” The story is that, no matter what their resume says, North Carolina is playing much better than a No. 8 seed right now.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: Be very wary Jayhawks fans…
27. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders: Who, as best I can tell, are the only team in the 2013 NCAA Tournament coached by a man named “Kermit.” And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the NCAA Tournament can never have too many “Kermit’s”
28. The Final College Game for St. Mary’s Guard Matthew Dellavedova… and His Mouth Guard: Both will be sorely missed when they’re gone.
29. The St. Louis Billikens: Who were everyone’s trendy pick to make it to Atlanta… right up until they got stuck in a region with Louisville, Duke and Michigan State.
So yeah, enjoy that St. Louis fans.
30. The Gonzaga Bulldogs: Make fun of their schedule. Make fun of Kelly Olynk’s hair. Heck, make fun of David Stockton’s short shorts if you please. Just don’t make fun of their game. These dudes can play.
31. The No. 12 seeded Oregon Ducks: Remember when Charles Barkley called the Pac-12 one of the best conferences in college basketball? Yeah, apparently the Selection Committee disagreed.
32. Valparaiso Head Coach Bryce Drew: One of the defining moments of my childhood was seeing Drew’s catch, shoot and slide against Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament (hey, whatever happened to Ansu Sesay, by the way?). Regardless, there’s no joke to make here: It’s just damn cool to see Drew back involved in the tournament and the fact that it’s at Valparaiso makes it even better.
33. Florida Guard Scottie Wilbekin: Who, despite his unconscionably bad Mohawk, still takes home the title of my 2013 College Basketball Man-Crush. Go ahead and watch Wilbekin closely during this year’s tournament and you’ll notice him do 5-7 things that don’t show up in the box score but help the Gators win games.
34. Georgetown Guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera: Who doesn’t even start for the Hoyas, yet you could argue is their second most important player over the last month.
35. The Northwestern State Demons: Who, when they take the court against Florida on Friday will have officially played one more game in the 2013 NCAA Tournament than the Northwestern Wildcats have played in their entire program’s history.
Good times! Well, unless you’re a Northwestern fan anyway.
36. The Minnesota Golden Gophers: Who are everyone’s favorite to pull off a first round NCAA Tournament upset… a pick which shocks just about everyone who actually watched Minnesota play basketball games this year.
37. The final game of Brandon Triche’s career at Syracuse: Which is coming to an end after (what seems like) 17 years, and a grand total of zero memorable moments. I mean seriously, go ahead and name me your favorite moment of the Brandon Triche era? You can’t, can you?
38. The Duke Blue Devils: Who capped a really solid season… by getting stuck with a potential draw of Creighton in the second round, Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and Louisville in the Elite Eight. Apparently someone on the Selection Committee hates Duke as much as the rest of us do.
39. Because it’s thanks to the NCAA Tournament: That we’ll be exposed to even more Chris Paul/Cliff Paul commercials than ever before. That is something I’m not complaining about, by the way.
Speaking of commercials:
40. When Did Charles Barkley Become the New Peyton Manning: As in, “The guy that is in every commercial, every time I turn on my television?” I mean seriously, would anyone be surprised to see Barkley kayaking down a river in a Cialis commercial at this point? More importantly, would anyone blame me for moving to Canada if that actually happened?
41. New Mexico’s Tony Snell: Who not only had a national coming out party in the Mountain West Tournament, but also wins the award for “Worst hair in all of college basketball during the 2013 season.” Question: If I offered to pay for Snell to get a haircut, would that be considered to be an NCAA violation?
42. Doug Gottlieb Calling NCAA Tournament Games: I know some people don’t much care for the guy, but just take my word on this: If you listen closely, there isn’t a single person in the media who knows the coaches, players and teams in this sport as well as Gottlieb does. There also isn’t a single person who cares more about the sport of college basketball as a whole than he does either.
43. The Memphis Tigers First World Problems: Did anyone else see the Memphis player with the broken iPhone during Sunday’s Selection Show? More importantly, can we all agree that no matter how far the Tigers go this March, that the broken iPhone will undoubtedly be the highlight of their tournament?
44. Miami Guard Durand Scott: Who at one point in his career was an AAU teammate of Kemba Walker’s. And as far as I’m concerned, if you’re cool with Kemba, you’re cool with me too.
45. Louisville Forward Luke Hancock: Who may very well have the best beard in the NCAA Tournament.
46. Creighton Forward Gregory Echineque On The Other Hand: Does not.
47. That Awkward Moment: When Michigan guard Trey Burke gets named National Player of the Year… just weeks after his team gets upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We all know it’s coming.
48. Peyton Siva: Who in three short years has evolved from my 2011 College Basketball Man-Crush to one of the most significant players in Big East Tournament history. Seriously, who thought two years ago that we’d have to mention him alongside names like Ewing and McNamara when talking about the greatest players in the history of the Big East Tournament?
49. The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles: Admit it, when the CBS cameras panned to them cheering on Sunday, it got a little dusty in your house, didn’t it? How is it that I’m 27-years-old, yet still get a huge kick out of seeing teams celebrate their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance?
50. North Carolina Shooting Guard P.J. Hairston: Who might be my favorite, “I have no idea why I love him so much, but I just do” guy in this year’s tourney.
Seriously, go ahead and look up the word “Swag” in the Dictionary. My guess is there’s a pretty good chance Hairston’s name is next to it.
51. UNLV’s First Round Matchup with Cal in San Jose: Which on paper seems like a huge disadvantage for the Rebels… right up until you remember that Cal doesn’t actually have basketball fans. What a relief for UNLV, huh?
52. The Miami Hurricanes: Maybe I’m still drunk from St. Patty’s Day (actually, I know I’m still drunk from St. Patty’s Day) but can anyone else see a very likely scenario where this team makes a Final Four run? Because I sure can.
53. No Vanderbilt Commodores: Which means that for the first time in four years, there’s no way they ruin your NCAA Tournament bracket with an early round, upset loss.
That also means…
54. For the First Time in Four Years: I won’t even have the opportunity to make fun of Kevin Stallings’ ugly suits… which somehow were uglier in 2013 than ever before.
I know that doesn’t look that funny on paper, but just take my word: In live-action, it was comedy gold.
55. Kansas State Guard Rodney McGruder: Who is not only a damn good ball-player… but also sounds like he’d make a helluva detective on a 1960’s TV crime drama.
Unfortunately, that’s the only analysis I have on K-State for you this afternoon.
56. Akron Head Coach Keith Dambrot: Who will always be better known as “LeBron James’ first high school coach” than for anything he actually does with the Zips.
57. Marcus Paige: Who continues the long-standing tradition of great players from the state of Iowa who end up North Carolina, a list which includes Harrison Barnes and… actually, those are the only two. Still, what are the odds of two guys from Iowa ending up at Carolina in three years?
58. Butler Guard Rotnei Clarke: Who is doing way bigger things as a 5’10, unathletic white guy than this 5’10 unathletic white guy could’ve ever imagined.
59. The Selection Committee Placing Louisville and Duke in the Same Region: Which ended a potential nightmare scenario for any Kentucky fan dreading the possibility of a Louisville-Duke-Florida-Indiana Final Four.
As one of my Twitter followers said to me on Selection Sunday: Sometimes, it’s about the little things in life, right?
60. Because It’s Thanks to the NCAA Tournament: That we can go another three weeks without having to pretend to care about Major League Baseball. And can’t we all be thankful for that?
Not to mention that…
61. Without the NCAA Tournament: I would have nothing to look forward to other than “Bar Rescue” re-runs until the start of college football season in September.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: The NCAA Tournament really is the gift that keeps on giving.
62. Pittsburgh Forward Talib Zanna: Who undoubtedly has the best flat-top of any of player in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
63. Tuesday’s Play-In Game between Liberty and North Carolina A&T: Which I mention here, since it might be the only opportunity I ever have to type the words “North Carolina A&T” onto my computer screen.
64. A Potential First Round Upset for Stephen Curry and Davidso–: Oh wait, Curry doesn’t play for Davidson anymore? Never mind then. They’re screwed.
65. Creighton’s Opening Round Match-Up with Cincinnati: You’ve heard about Doug McDermott since November, but admit it; you haven’t actually taken the time to sit down and watch him play yet, have you?
Well, now’s your chance.
66. Oklahoma Head Coach Lon Kruger: Who set a record this year by bringing his fifth team to the NCAA Tournament. Sure, he only set that record by job hopping in the same way that George Clooney changes out girlfriends every six months, but still. It’s pretty cool none the less.
67. A First Glance Final Four Of: Louisville (Midwest), Florida (South), New Mexico (West) and Indiana (East). I’ll explain why later in the week, but just know that those picks are subject to change roughly 867 times between now and the tip-off Thursday.
What won’t however is my selection of…
68. The Louisville Cardinals as Your 2013 National Champions: After watching them this weekend, I don’t know how anyone could make any other pick.
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