subtle, early signs of madness


Just checked the college basketball menu for things that are scheduled to appear on my television tonight. I’m pretty excited about it.

  • Mount St. Mary’s vs. LIU Brooklyn in the Northeast tournament final at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
  • North Dakota State vs. South Dakota State in the Summit tournament final at 8 p.m. on ESPN2


  • Wright State vs. Valparaiso in the Horizon League tournament final at 8 p.m. on ESPN

Am I serious about this? Absolutely. I’m as excited to track these three basketball games as any three I’ve watched all season. This is truly the beginning of March Madness as the winners of these games will move on to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament while the losers will either pack up their gear for next season or move on to the Purgatory of a lesser postseason tournament.

Part of me feels no need to offer any further explanation. If you’re reading this blog and you get why I’m excited about this then you understand why a basketball game apparently being played in a high school gym that is only partially filled by fans could be more interesting than a game at a sold-out Madison Square Garden. And if you don’t quite get it, you will probably just smile and nod and think “Well, that’s a weird thing to claim to be excited about, but pretty innocuous and not that interesting.” That was the look in my roommates eyes, anyway.

It occurred to me today that I’m liking this in the same way that someone might like a band that no one has ever heard of because the music-lover wants to be in on the discovery of said band. And then I wanted to make a list of NCAA Tournament-bound squads and their rock n’ roll equivalent, mostly because I wanted to compare Gonzaga to Mumford & Sons. But I know I’m not going to impress anyone next week when I say “You know, I watched Iona play in its conference tournament final and I could see Lamont Jones has the ability to take over a game.”

And I know I’m not going to excel in picking my bracket next week because I watched these games. If I were watching these games in order to see a potential Cinderella in them, I would be more likely to unduly fall in love with Iona or Valpo, pick them to go to the Sweet 16 and cause even more problems with my picks than would just naturally occur.

So I’m not trying to seem cool or smart.

My love of the Horizon League and Summit and NEAC conference tournament finals is actually more similar to my love of Van Halen and the Drive-By Truckers. I like them because I like them and I don’t need anyone to understand why I like them in order to validate my choices.

I hope there are never more than the current 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Actually, the NCAA watered it down enough when it added the play-in games. There’s something beautiful about supposedly deserving teams being left out. That comes from someone who can still remember what it felt like when his beloved Red Raiders were left out in 1995.

If you want more March Madness drama, you only have to realize that games like the ones on TV tonight are the rumbling of the coming storm.

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