Time to March to a different beat | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Time to March to a different beat

Column by Matt O'Neill

Call a doctor, lock me up.

I’m suffering from March Madness.

This weekend marks the end of the slow month of Februrary for sports and begins my favorite month of the year – March. A time when schools will punch their cards for the “Big Dance,” or go home and figure out how to make it there next year.

When I was in school, my friends and I would sit through Asia club meetings and learn the art of Origami, just to watch the games on the classroom television during the lunch hour.

Now, I can watch them without worrying about missing class (like I did a lot in college) and just enjoy the games for what they’re worth.

There are always the small schools that have hopes of toppling the giants in NCAA tournament – to be the Loyola Marymounts or Valparaisos of the 2001 tourney.

Then there are the giants who hope to coast through the bracket as the high seeds.

This year is no different.

North Carolina is there, so is Duke and Stanford as well as Michigan State and Arizona.

But there are also others. Everyone has their dark horses – including me.

Now I’m not going to claim that I’m Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, or Billy Packer (I did, however, finish in the top 5 in the state of Oregon for the 1996 ESPN bracket challenge).

As this season has worn on, I’ve kept a close eye on some teams that could surprise some people in the tourney.

As anyone on the night desk at the Tribune can attest, I picked Illinois back in November and I’m still sticking by that pick.

But there are some teams who I like for upsets (pending the brackets) in the tournament.

Georgia State (Steve Yingling’s pet team for the year) has quietly amassed one of the better records in the nation as Lefty Drisell has the Panthers rolling into the tournament for the first time in school history.

Some other teams are playing well right now and could roll into March with some momentum: Holy Cross, which is playing like it did with Bob Cousey was a Crusader; the Richmond Spiders; St. Joseph’s, which has finally crept out of the long shadow of Temple as Philadelphia’s best college team; and Utah State and UC Irvine have been battling it out all season long for the Big West title. Although only one gets the automatic Big West bid, both schools are virtually assured of joining the dance. All these teams have a chance to upset some teams and last a few rounds.

Of the top 10, the teams I like (other than Illinois) are Duke (probably the best in the ACC), Michigan State (don’t forget they’re the defending national champs), Florida (making a late-season run), North Carolina (Matt Doherty has them playing as well as they did under some guy named Dean) and Stanford (the best team-oriented team in the land).

For what’s it worth, there are my picks – take them or leave ’em.

But one thing is for sure, the next month is going to be a lot of fun.

Count on it!

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