|If you were in Times Square last Wednesday night, this is what you saw, courtesy of the Big East Conference.|
By now, you can pretty much tell I’m a football fan first, everything else a distant second.
Yet I’ve been saying this for the last 30 years or so and I believe it today more strongly than ever:
THE THURSDAY THAT OPENS THE NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT IS THE GREATEST DAY ON THE SPORTS CALENDAR.
Yes, better than Super Bowl Sunday.
Better than the seventh game of the World Series.
Better than any game of the Stanley Cup.
Better than the NBA finals.
Better than the National Championship game in football (unless Temple is in it and then I reserve my right to change my mind).
Sports, to me, is about the fairness of competition and no sport provides that like the NCAA.
Sixty-eight teams start out and have to win their way to the next level.
Today is the day 64 of those teams have hope to win it all. No other day will match it.
Sixty-four teams have that hope and millions of fans fill out brackets on sites like Yahoo.com, Foxsports and ESPN hoping for a perfect bracket that would turn them from middle-class citizens into millionaires in less than one month.
All over America, offices are holding their own pools for some major coin. I won the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News major pool last year, beating out hundreds of employees in both the main building on North Broad Street and the new one in Conshohocken. It took me 15 years to win that pool. If I had only won it 15 years ago, I would have pocketed $2,000. Since then, though, with massive layoffs over that time period, I got roughly one-tenth of that last year.
Still, a source of great pride to know I came out on top despite my competition included those of the college basketball “experts” working both both newspapers.
If only NCAA football could build an interest vehicle like that for their fans, we’d have something. (They could easily do that. Have the three BCS bowl game winners play the best at-large team and you’d have a four-game, two week playoff after the bowl games. Have the top four bowl games rotate home sites. It’s a win-win for everyone.)
But NCAA football doesn’t, so NCAA basketball holds my attention for this month, something to hold me over until Cherry and White day.
My Final Four this year includes Syracuse (despite the Melo injury), Kentucky, Missouri and Georgetown. I don’t get the love for Michigan State. I think Missouri will knock off the Spartans in an Elite Eight game. The Hoyas are my sleeper team. I think they upset a disinterested Kansas team in St. Louis in the Elite Eight.
I also have North Carolina knocking off our beloved Owls in an Elite Eight game, but Temple can beat anyone on any given night if the Owls stay out of foul trouble, particularly along the interior.
Imagine, if you will, what a national championship in basketball would do for Temple as a whole and football specifically.
I’ll leave you with that thought for today and hope that remains a delicious possibility for at least a few more weeks.