Monday, March 12, 2007

Paying Homage to the 'Hoff

Who Else Could Pull This Off but the 'Hoff, Himself?

Love him or hate him, you gotta respect the 'Hoff. I mean, who else in the history of mankind has done more with less? Somehow, the guy managed to parlay slightly above average looks (ummm, so I've been told) with minimal acting and singing skills into an extraordinarily successful career in TV and music. You don't know how he did it, and it sure doesn't seem fair, but you can't argue with the results.

And that, my friends, is why David Hasselhoff is my patron saint of March Madness. Look, I don't consider myself a college basketball expert. Odds are, I'm probably just like you. I don't really start paying close attention to college hoops until football season is over. I check out the box scores, watch bits and pieces of certain games during the week and then start cranking it up when the conference tournaments rolls around. But that's the beautiful thing about filling out a bracket; none of that information really helps you, anyway. That's why the office secretary who's more interested in a peanut buster parfait than a bracket buster walks away with the cash every year. So who cares about skill and expertise? It never got in the way of the 'Hoff. And it shouldn't be a roadblock for you either.

So with Mr. Baywatch as our guide, there's no reason to go into intricate detail of each and every match-up. Instead, I'll provide a few helpful dos and don'ts, as well as my own personal Final Four.

DON'T place too much stock into what happened last year: Last season, not a single #1 seed made it to the Final Four. There's a reason that's never happened before. It was a fluke occurrence made possible by the near absence of truly elite teams. Outside of Connecticut, no club really possessed a roster that struck fear in the hearts of opponents. And while Florida, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio State won't all make the trip to Atlanta, I guarantee at least one (and probably two) will be there.

DO believe in the power of Kevin Durant. I imagine I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but there's no way KD will allow his team to fall short of the Sweet 16. Yes, the Longhorns play matador defense and, yes, you'll want to strangle Rick Barnes for his strategy at times, but the NCAA wants its marquee player to showcase his stuff for a couple games at least, and I have no doubt Durant will happily oblige them.

DON'T use "up" as a suffix anymore. It was bad enough when the Red Sox turned the term "cowboy-up" into a national phenomenon in 2004. Now, similar words are being coined on a seemingly daily basis. In the last 24 hours alone, I've heard "orange-up", "bracket-up" and "lawyer-up". Seriously, people, this has got to stop. It's just as annoying, unoriginal and ubiquitous as the whole "first letter of first name, first three letters of last name" nickname craze (like A-Rod, K-Rod, F-Rod, etc.). Are we that devoid of creative ideas that this is what we're left with? I refuse to believe it. So from now on, let's make an effort to vocab-up and figure out a better way to express ourselves.

DO feel free to laugh at the Knicks for handing Isiah Thomas a multi-year contract extension. I know this has nothing to do with March Madness, but I had to work it in somehow. I just love the fact Knicks' brass thinks a 29-34 record in the pathetic Eastern Conference is a sign of "evident progress". Has the bar been lowered that far in the Big Apple? Sure, New York is better this year, but how hard is it to improve upon the 23 win season of a year ago? I hate the Knicks, yet even I feel sorry for the fans who are now destined to live in basketball purgatory for a few more years (at least). Actually, check that. I don't feel sorry for them at all. As far as I'm concerned, this is what they deserve for cheering on Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks and Anthony Mason when the Knicks' version of thugball nearly brought the NBA to its knees. Losers.

DON'T believe in a Florida repeat. There will obviously be many who disagree with me. I don't blame them. When the Gators are playing their best ball, NOBODY can beat them. And certainly, this past weekend saw them round into form much the same way they did at this time last year. But something's not quite right in the Swamp. Some will brush it aside saying they've just been a little bit bored waiting for the "real" games to begin. Maybe so. But I think there's something larger at work here. The Gators are vulnerable. And someone is going to unseat the champs.

DO believe in Acie Law IV. This guy is lugging around stones the size of Dick Vitale's mouth these days (Awful mix of imagery, I know. My bad). If you're playing against the Aggies, you better pray he doesn't have the ball in his hands with a chance to win. Because if he does, you're going home. Plus, he looks more like Humpty Hump than even Scottie Pippen does. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.

He's Spunky and Likes His Oatmeal Lumpy

Fearless Final Four Forecast:
  • Florida: Yes, they're going down, but not before they reach Atlanta. No team in their region has what it takes to knock off the champs.
  • Georgetown: I've been on their bandwagon for awhile and it pains me to see so many others hopping on after their impressive showing at the Big East Tourney. That's not a good sign. But they have tons of size, experience and big game players. Plus, they play great defense and do a fabulous job of dictating tempo. In the bracket's toughest region, the Hoyas are my pick to survive.
  • Texas A&M: All the things I just wrote about Georgetown are also true of the Aggies. Plus, I think they match up very well with Ohio State (the South region's #1 seed).
  • Kansas: Two teams from the Big 12? Hey, nobody's more frightened than I am with this pick. Not only would it be wild to see a pair of Big 12 clubs in the Final Four, but the Jayhawks are notorious for choking when the stakes are raised. Yet, they've got as much talent as anyone and, yes, I think they're the team to take out the big, bad Gators.
As for the champ? That answer comes later this week. Until then, peace, love and Humptiness forever.

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