‘Tis the season for Tournament dreaming. Please excuse us, the rest of the college basketball world if we seem a tad obsessive compulsive about all of this March Madness talk. You can understand we’re novices at this. All you need to do is turn on ESPN and watch any of their seemingly dozen networks to see the Joe Lunardi “Last Four In/Last Four Out” board to see why we’re hyperventilating on the hour. Army, St. Francis, The Citadel and William & Mary, let us tell you, this drama may not be worth getting this close (our bedfellows in infamy who have been around since the start of the NCAA Tournament but have yet to experience One Shining Moment).
When you’ve hosted the damn thing twice and still haven’t been invited to the Big Dance, we can tend to be a little testy. However, recent changes to the 64-team tournament have many of us, the obsessive purple mafia, fulfilling some stereotypes and playing all sorts of pointless scenarios out in our collective minds. It is now a 68-team tournament, with the “First Four” getting a shot to play their way in to the Tournament. Those of us that are TV ratings conspiracy theorists, have already arrived at the foregone conclusion that we’ll be playing in Dayton on March 13 on a Tuesday night, which technically counts as making it – I think – but deprives us of true legitimacy. Those of you that are saying “nonsense – it counts!” hear me out.
I remember as a kid getting Sports Illustrated, tearing out the centerfold, which was an empty NCAA Tournament bracket and filling it in. This thing would be dog-eared by April, but it became a part of my childhood wall. It’s how I got to know geographically challenged hoops destinations like Austin Peay (home of my alltime favorite “Let’s Go Peay (pronounced Pee)” chant). Things have been modernized quite a bit and CBS, Turner and ESPN all make very friendly computerized brackets. Yet, if NU would be so lucky to squeak in via Dayton, we don’t even get our own line in said bracket.
Are you kidding me? If we are in a play-in game against, say VCU or Texas, the bracket entry will be shared. We’ll have waited 73 years and we won’t even get the marketing moxie of having our own damn line in the millions of computer brackets. Some will say 12-seed, some will say a butchered abbreviation of Northwestern and it will be shared with some other school. My hunch is it will say something like “N’West/VCU”. After all of this, we as NU fans will get to go to fill out our computerized bracket and won’t even be able to click on, drag or even type in the name “Northwestern”. There is zero doubt, if we do make it that the conspiracy storyline creators will pit us against Notre Dame and in the same bracket as Harvard (should they make it). No doubt Duk will be in there as well.
I don’t think you can actually, techincally pick Northwestern to go to the Final Four. We’d have to print out a blank copy and write it in. This may seem trivial to most, but the very first bracket we ever make, I want to see the damn name of my school on a line with a First Round site, date and opponent. This thing is frame-worthy by the tens of thousands of alums that will do just that for posterity sake.
There is such little time left and so much to fret about. Perhaps I should shutter LTP or convert it in to a travel agency. What if we get selected for Dayton and then have to go to Portland, or Albuquerque 48 hours later? Many will be jumping in their cars from all points on the night after Selection Sunday (have you scanned for flights yet to Dayton? thought so!), but egads, what if we win? We’re on to the next city and it may not be conceivable to get their by car. Perhaps an LTP chartered flight from Dayton to points TBD? Good God is this getting complicated and we’re not even in yet!
No, tonight the prayer is that Sparty beats up on Indiana somehow making tomorrow night’s Ohio State game less important (yeah, right) to the Buckeyes. Stop the nonsense right now, folks. The Buckeyes are pissed off and wanting to gain style points as they’re just 6-4 on the road this year and have lost three of the last five. Have your senior day ruined, ruin someone else’s the saying that doesn’t exist now goes. Perhaps there is some kind of Rookie Fan Orientation for those that have yet to go to the Tournament? Is it a secret club we don’t know about?
How can I possibly have this much angst and we have yet to even lose to Ohio State yet? Oh yeah, here comes the true confessions part. I am traveling out of the country, gulp, at tip-off time of the Iowa game (no, it’s not because of the fact I’m freaking out – it was because what NU fan takes basketball’s regular season finale in to consideration when planning a vacation?!!!). This is good news, folks. It ensures we will win, because why should a guy who writes a daily blog for half a decade get the simple pleasure of enjoying that kind of “oh my God, we’re now THIS close to making it!” enjoyment?
OK, if nothing else, can someone please forward this post to the committee members and all of you NU alums working at the sports media companies (and there are a TON of you that read this) make sure this plea is heard. Absolutely no tolerance for a “NWU” slash anything. If you can’t fit our damn name on the play-in line for the computerized bracket, at least give us the N’Western. Yes, you know it’s not NU, but in this case, I don’t think “NU” actually cuts it. We may not believe it is actually us. What has happened to all of us that we’ve devolved in to not being able to even enjoy the ride and that I’m already playing spoiler to a victory that is so far from happening? I thought this was supposed to be fun.