March Madness

I love tournament time.  Especially high school tournaments.  My friend coaches at a small high school in Michigan.  They won the district championship last night. Another friend of mine has a son who plays on a team that is 32-0.  One player hit a 3 pointer at the buzzer to keep their state championship hopes alive.  High school basketball is so pure.

We see agony and ecstasy played out on television over and over again.  Since the hype started in the late 1990s, the NCAA’s have gotten a lot more commercial.  They aren’t as fun. Although this year, Northwestern will make the tourney for the first time in school history.  I’d like to see them go far.  I am going to remind NU grads, they aren’t the Cubs.  My undergrad alma mater Illinois was pitiful this year.  So was the rest of the Big 10.  What happened?

With the amount of talent the state of Illinois turns out in basketball year after year, there is no good reason why Illinois shouldn’t be a top ten program every year.  Northwestern should be a lot better too.  It looks like things are turning with Chris Collins as head coach.

I was thinking of doing a tournament pool but there are so many I am not sure how much participation we’d have.  Back in the day on the trading floor we figured out many many ways to gamble on the tournament.  Of course, there were brackets.  But, we had NCAA options.  In 1987, we traded more in NCAA options in the Eurodollar Option pit than we did actual Eurodollar options.  The exchange formally put a stop to it but the market went on anyway.  Keith Smart’s jumper from the corner had more than $100k riding on it.  We had different permutations of bracket bets where one team had to beat the other team by the spread.  Chris Duhon’s shot for Duke at the buzzer against UConn sweetened my wallet a bit.

Friends of mine from my neighborhood in Geneva, IL will recall the old Bambi party we used to do.  A bunch of us would get together, drink wine, watch the tourney and a local wine merchant and I would prepare a gourmet dinner with a deer I shot the previous fall.

Who do you like this year?  There are obvious choices, and they all reside in the ACC.  Duke, NC, Notre Dame all could go far.  I am not sure what to think about Gonzaga.  They always seem to bust my bracket.  Villanova looks good again.  Oregon might be a team to watch.  Of course, the trick is to find that 6-12 seed that goes far.  Michigan is hot.  They should just play the tourney in their practice jerseys since they crushed Illinois wearing them.