The teams are set for the NCAA mens basketball tournament.
Out of the 65 teams chosen, six are from our area of the Midwest. The state of Illinois will send three teams to the tournament, as will the state of Wisconsin.
Carrying the banner for the state of Illinois will be Bradley University in Peoria, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale. Marquette, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison will represent our neighbors to the north.
The highest-seeded team of the six is UIUC, coming in as the No. 4 seed. Bradley is the lowest-seeded team at a 13. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and SIU are both 11 seeds. UW-Madison is a No. 9 and Marquette is a No. 7.
Duke, Connecticut, Memphis and Villanova are the No. 1 seeds in the respective regions. Monmouth and Hampton will meet in the first game today (March 15) to decide who gets to play Villanova. The rest of the tournament gets into full swing March 16 and continues until a champion is crowned Monday, April 3. The championship game will be played at the RCA dome in Indianapolis, Ind.
Since its inception in 1939, the tournament has grown from eight teams to the current format of 65 teams. The tournament grew from 53 teams in 1984 to 64 teams in 1985. It maintained that number until the play-in game was added in 2000.
In the history of the tournament, only one team from Illinois has ever won the championship. Loyola of Chicago defeated Cincinnati in overtime 60-58 in 1963.
UIUC finished last seasons tournament as the runner-up, losing the championship game to North Carolina 75-70.
The most recent champion from our area of the Midwest were the Warriors of Marquette, led by coach Al McGuire in 1977. They defeated the Tar Heels of North Carolina 67-59.
Could this be the year for a team from our area? I dont think so. Our highest-seeded area team, UIUC, probably has the best chance out of the six. If things go as expected, they would eventually meet up with the Huskies from U Conn, who have been ranked in the top three in national polls all season. They would have to get by them just to make it to the Final Four. This would be a tough task for a team that lost to a No. 6 seed, Michigan State, in the Big 10 conference tournament.
When it comes to this years championship game, Im afraid fans will have to root for someone other than one of our area favorites.
This tournament has become a part of American sports culture. Every year, millions of fans across the country participate in March Madness. Men and women alike will fill out their brackets based on everything from season records, to color of uniforms, and every imaginable reason in between. Regardless of your reasons, good luck! (Unless, of course, you are in the same pool I am.)
Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the March 15-21, 2006, issue