Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hoop Dreams

The 2012 Edition of March Madness has been - in our home at least - the tale of two brackets. You see in addition to managing the Pool every year, I foolishly participate in it as well. In more than fifteen years of running a Pool of varying size I have never come close to winning it all. Not once. Not ever.

Margaret played for the first time last year and her maiden trip was so decidedly unspectacular that other than recalling that she finished far up the track (a/k/a where I always end up) I remember nothing at all about her picks. This year's tale, while its conclusion remains to be written, has been decidedly different.

Under the rules of the Pool, players are rewarded for picking upsets, which is to say selecting the team the the number closer to 16 to defeat the team with the number closer to 1 in each of the four Regions. A player earns "bonus points" equal to the numerical difference between the lower seed and the higher seed. This year Margaret earned 31 such bonus points through the first two rounds of the tournament. I know not whether anyone in all of the years I have been running the Pool has ever earned more but I sincerely doubt it, given that in Round One my wife picked two #11 seeds to knock off #6 seeds, a #10 over a #7, a #13 over a #4 and - for good measure - #15 Lehigh to knock out #2 Duke.

Her love of the underdog carried over to her selection of National Champion. Forty-five people entered the Pool this year. Only one chose the #4 seed Louisville Cardinals to win it all. Yep, Margaret was the one. How much does she know about her chosen team? Just about as much as I do, which is to say not much at all. Our lack of knowledge meant nothing on Saturday afternoon as we sat in our den letting loose with full-throated roars as Louisville erased a double-digit deficit to defeat the Florida Gators and advance to the Final Four. Other than perhaps at Col. Sanders' house, there was no home in the nation more pro-Pitino's kids on Saturday than ours.

Louisville's reward for making it to the Final Four is a date with its arch-nemesis. The Kentucky Wildcats are not only the overwhelming favorites to win the NCAA title, they are considered the principal threat to emerge from the NBA's Eastern Conference and play for the professional league's title come June. It shall be a tall order for Margaret's new (for the next week anyway) favorite college hoops team to vanquish Goliath on Saturday. A very tall order indeed. And complicating things for the Missus ever so much more is the fact that for her to win the Pool, the Cardinals need to not only defeat Kentucky on Saturday, they need to come back on Monday night and defeat the winner of Saturday's other National Semi-Final between Kansas and Ohio State.

If Louisville springs the upset on Saturday then Monday night might just mark the first time in her life that Margaret watches any portion of the NCAA Championship Game - although I suspect that we will likely flip back and forth between CBS and Fox since Monday night marks the return of Bones and one of the final remaining new episodes of House.

Religous I am not. Yet for one more week here in this Lenten season, I am rooting with all of my mortal might for the College of the Cardinals. And before you ask the question, you better believe that Margaret believes in miracles.

She will be sitting in front of the television on Saturday afternoon awaiting one's arrival.


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