Nothing gets a sports junky”s juices secreting like the climax of college basketball. The event buildup from the exciting conclusion of conference seasons to tournament week to the Big Dance is orgasmic. Over the next week and a half, there will be plenty of time to get three sheets to the wind drunk and dance “La Cucaracha” in your skivvies in foreign nationsor for freshmen, to dine with your folks. You owe it to yourself to pencil-in several hours for roundball viewin” (in Mexico, Hooters gets ESPN via satellite).
Tomorrow, 7 p.m. No. 4 Illinois at Ohio State: This appears to be Illinois” last hurdle on the way to sole possession of the Big Ten title. The Fighting Illini should breeze through their other two depleted opponents Iowa at home and Minnesota away. The Buckeyes, however, have been pesky homecourt defenders. They”ve already upset Wisconsin and Michigan State in Value City Arena.
Illinois has topped the Big Ten by having superior size, balance and depth, which is why it should win this game and make a run at the Final Four.
It”s easy for Michigan fans to root for Illinois not because they haven”t tasted success in Champaign or because Lucas Johnson is a fine young man but because it means those damn Spartans fall to second best. And if you aren”t the winner, there”s really no difference between second and 10th right?
Illinois 75, Ohio State 65
Saturday, Mar. 3, 4 p.m. No. 1 Stanford at No. 15 UCLA: After a shaky start, UCLA has come on strong to secure a top position in the Pac-10 and a position for its head coach, Steve Lavin whose pants are melted to his butt from being on the hot seat for so long.
The Bruins have had Stanford”s number as of late, defeating the Cardinal in their past two meetings, both of which were in Palo Alto.
Stanford has benefited from a somewhat mild schedule this season and will have something to prove to the nation as it once again finds itself ranked No. 1 and atop the Pac-10. The Cardinal defeated No. 3 Duke at home with a miracle comeback and defeated a slumping Arizona team that was without coach Lute Olsen.
Both the Cardinal and the Bruins are led by young California natives in Casey Jacobsen and Jason Kapono, respectively. With their white-boy moxy these two could have done Patrick Dempsey”s stunts in “Can”t Buy Me Love” both draw a needless comparison to Larry Bird with each national television appearance. Their outside shot is as good as their attire is hideous.
With Jacobsen and Kapono negating each other, the deciding factor in this game comes down to whose over-hyped talent will produce. Feisty point guard Earl Watson stepped up for the Bruins in the first meeting while the Collins twins were shut down offensively, scoring a combined 18 points.
Stanford will likely come away with this one as UCLA has become complacent with its position.
Stanford 75, UCLA 69
Sunday, Mar. 4, 3:30 p.m. No. 3 Duke at No. 4 North Carolina: The teams you hate the game you”ve gotta watch. Between ESPN and ESPN Classic, Duke and North Carolina are on TV every night. If you don”t know the background information on these two lineups, you probably would rather study or paint your toenails on a Sunday afternoon anyway.
If you are familiar with the rivalry, then you”re probably like most Michigan fans and root for the Dean Dome to explode rather than choose a side. But since that”s unlikely, here”s a guide for which one to root against.
Against Duke: One player embodies the reason why Michigan fans should root against Duke: Shane Battier. After the Country Day star spurned the Wolverines five years ago, Battier has seen far too much success. Every time a charge is called his way or every time he sinks a 3-pointer, it is a dagger to the heart of the Michigan faithful. Battier is truly part of the Duke family. Dick Vitale sings his praises and he is a model citizen in Coach K”s four-year plan.
That plan is another reason disgruntled fans root against Duke. As other programs are depleted by early-draft entrees and ineligibilities, Duke puts four-year players in the limelight that have no business being there (read: Chris Carawell). Sometimes Kryzyewski can even bring these leaders back home to work for the family business. A quick scan of the bench reveals Steve Wojciechowski, Johnny Dawkins and Chris Collins dressed in suits like they have real coaching gigs.
They are too good and need to be put down, even if it is by the second most hated team for Michigan fans.
Against Carolina: The greatest reason to abhor any team is because it has really ugly players. As always, North Carolina excels in unsightliness.
Even though Dean Smith retired four years ago, the Old Smokestack continues to build Carolina players in his basement. In the tradition of Kevin Salvadori, Henrik Rodl and Serge Zwikker, Kris Lang is the latest monster-creation from Dr. Dean. As Lang fights for rebounds and interior position, his grotesque facial contortions and oversized mouthpiece make the nation queasy. While not man-made, Jason Capel is also an eyesore.
Furthermore, if you don”t know much about the Tar Hole”s fans, they lead the country in dirty old men. If you ever see a cigar-toting 70-year old proposition an 18-year old waitress, the former is probably a Carolina grad.
Neither, The Dean Dome explodes