By Doug Halberstadt
The Super Bowl, the World Series, the Daytona 500, the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA Finals, the Indianapolis 500, the Kentucky Derby and the Masters Tournament. Arguably, these are eight of the biggest sporting events in America. I didn’t list them in any particular order, but I’d claim none is as large as what is about to happen in the world of college basketball.
March Madness, it’s here! The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins this week. Sixty-five teams and their legions of fans from all across the country will dominate the headlines and airwaves over the next three weeks. Men, women and even children will turn their collective attention to filling out, and then continuously checking, their bracket sheets to see how their picks are advancing toward the “Sweet Sixteen,” the “Elite Eight,” the “Final Four,” and eventually that championship game.
That game won’t be played until April 5 in Indianapolis. What captivates the imaginations of the experts and the casual fans alike are the multitude of games that will transpire between now and then.
These games will feature the Cinderellas vs. the Goliaths; the mid-level conference champions will take on some of the perennial premier college basketball programs in the country. The one thing they all have in common is the pressure and the feeling of desperation. A loss means the end of the season and a trip back home. A win means the dream continues, and you’re one step closer to winning a national championship.
No team from Illinois made this year’s tournament. Marquette and Wisconsin will be the two teams closest to our area trying to make it to the championship game. Marquette (22-11) will face Washington (24-9) tomorrow (Thursday, March 18) at 2 p.m. Wisconsin (23-8) meets Wofford (26-8) in their opening-round game Friday (March 19) at 11 a.m.
Willie Veasley played high school basketball at Freeport. Now, he is a senior at Butler University. He’ll be the lone representative from our area to compete in the tourney. His Butler Bulldogs (28-4) will tip off against UTEP (26-6) at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, March 18).
Whether you’re cheering for Baylor or Xavier, or any one of the other 63 teams in this year’s tournament, good luck with your picks, and let the madness begin!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the March 17-23, 2010 issue