Although my first and most enduring sporting love is baseball, there's no event that is more fun than the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. I don't really have time to an in-depth analysis of the field and since there are thousands of such analyses available all over the Internet, there's no reason for me to do so. But I do have a few thoughts on teams that I follow.
My childhood team was the Marquette Warriors of Al McGuire. Those teams were the most colorful road show in college basketball, with their nationwide roster and garish uniforms (gotta love the shiny gold lame shorts they wore in their run in 1977), but the thing that was interesting about them was that they were really a defensive-minded club. They didn't really blow too many teams out, but they would win games by 8-12 points, whether the opponent was Stetson or Notre Dame. After Al left MU went through a long, steady decline in the 1980s and 1990s, but lately they've been better. They made the Final Four in 2003 with Dwayne Wade and this year's squad was deep and talented. Then they lost a key player, guard Dominic James, and they lost a bunch of games down the stretch in the brutal Big East. There's no shame in losing to UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and Villanova -- that was the gantelet that MU ran. They get Utah State first, a tough but winnable game. After that it gets harder.
The Badgers weren't really very good this year. They started out well, had a horrid stretch in the middle of the Big 10 season, then righted the ship and played pretty well. Still, they were a bubble team and deservedly so. They are in as a 12 seed against a deep and talented Florida State team. They will have a chance in that game but it won't be easy and I suspect they are one and done.
The Gophers are a year away, I think. They did very well this year because they have young talent and Tubby Smith is an excellent coach. Next year they get a major talent infusion and it would not surprise me at all if they win the Big 10 and have a deep tourney run. As for this year, Texas is a tough draw, but I think the Gophers have a pretty good chance to win. If Lawrence Westbrook gets hot, the Gophers are tough to beat.