It was a chilly March day in 1987. I remember jumping off the school bus and running inside to check on the Missouri score. As I opened the door, I noticed my dad turning off the TV …
“How’d they do, Dad?” I asked.
“Not good, son. They lost to Xavier,” he said.
“Who?” I asked, beginning to tear up.
“Xavier. It’s a small school in Ohio,” he said.
I remember crying for several minutes. That was my first experience with the NCAA Tournament, as a disappointed 10-year-old whose team wasn’t going to make a run to the Final Four.
Twenty-five years later, the Tigers still haven’t made a run to the Final Four. They’ve been close a few times (Elite Eights in 1994, 2002 and 2009). More often than not, they’ve disappointed or had their hearts broken (Tyus Edney’s mad dash in 1995, Maurice Newby’s 25-footer footer in 1990).
That explains why, in a season filled with promise and a team loaded with moxie, that it makes me cringe when the experts at ESPN, Yahoo!, Sporting News and CBS pick Missouri to reach its first Final Four.
Hell, I even put Missouri in New Orléans on my brackets. It’s the first time in 20 years it actually makes sense.
Who else do I have in the Final Four? Kentucky, Ohio State and North Carolina.
Here are my first-round picks, done in the pop culture/hodgepodge/pure nonsense format many of you (OK, about seven of you) enjoyed in the good old days of 2011:
SOUTH REGION (MUSIC/COMEDY REGION)
KENTUCKY: Like AC/DC, Kentucky is the biggest badass of them all and the prohibitive favorite to win the national title.
WESTERN KENTUCKY: Not that the Hilltoppers sucks as much as the Backstreet Boys. Hell, let’s be honest, they’re 16-18. They suck.
WINNER: Kentucky, by 200.
IOWA STATE: Just as Patton Oswalt hasn’t been funny for a long time (maybe ever), the Cyclones haven’t played well of late.
UCONN: Much like Chris Brown, I expect the Huskies to beat the tar out of the Clones.
WICHITA STATE: As Kansas said, VCU will be dust in the wind.
VIRGINIA COMMOMWEALTH: Shaka Smart has to be related to Shock G from Digital Underground.
WINNER: Wichita State.
INDIANA: John Cougar Mellencamp is from Indiana, which was “Crumblin’ Down” before Tom Crean arrived.
NEW MEXICO STATE: Stretching it here, but the pickins are slim in New Mexico, home state of Neil Patrick Harris, star of two comedy series.
UNLV: Could it be anybody other than Vegas legend Wayne Newton?
COLORADO: John Denver and his “Rocky Mountain High” still plays on those 3 a.m. infomercials, though in this game Colorado will resemble John Denver the pilot.
BAYLOR: If you’ve read this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of Scott Drew, who reminds me of Jeff Dunham, the overrated hack comic (also a Baylor grad).
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE: Dunham is to Baylor what George Lopez is to comedy, even worse. Painfully unfunny man.
NOTRE DAME: Think Joe Pesci the rapper, not the actor.
XAVIER: Think Robert Romanus, as in Mike Damone from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Romanus is a former Muskateer.
DUKE: Never has a coach looked more like Remy from “Ratatouille.”
LEHIGH: Again, slim pickins, as in Ralph Malph from “Happy Days.” Don Most, who portrayed Ralph, attended Lehigh. Like I said, slim pickins.
REGION’S SWEET 16 TEAMS: Kentucky, Wichita State, Baylor and Duke.
REGIONAL FINAL: Kentucky over Duke.
WEST REGION (MOVIE REGION)
MICHIGAN STATE: Tom Izzo is “The Godfather.”
LIU-BROOKLYN: The Blackbirds are Khartoum (the horse).
WINNER: Michigan State.
MEMPHIS: This isn’t the slick Elvis-like Memphis of the mid- to late 2000s. More like the Fat Elvis of the mid- to late 1970s.
ST. LOUIS: If there’s ever a movie about Rick Majerus, it’s too bad John Candy’s not around to play the role.
WINNER: St. Louis.
NEW MEXICO: We haven’t heard much from native Demi Moore, much like we won’t hear much from the Lobos in this tournament.
LONG BEACH STATE: Think Snoop Dogg the actor. Even as an actor, Snoop is bad-ass.
WINNER: The LBC (er S).
LOUISVILLE: Speaking of “The Godfather,” Rick Pitino reminds me of the quick-tempered and unfaithful Sonny Corleone.
DAVIDSON: Alumnae Laeta Kalogridis was a producer for the movie “Avatar,” which I haven’t seen and don’t plan to any time soon.
MURRAY STATE: The national media’s darling story, just like “Hoosiers.”
COLORADO STATE: The Rams are a little like the Wolverines from “Red Dawn,” which as filmed in Colorado. Things didn’t work out all that great for the Wolverines.
WINNER: Murray State
MARQUETTE: Buzz Williams really should get a casting call as Curly from The Three Stooges.
BYU: Alumnus Aaron Eckhart was Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight.” Seems fitting, considering his team was two-faced on its play-in game (down 25 in the first half, ended up winning).
FLORIDA: Billy Donovan is Joe Pesci, the actor.
VIRGINIA: Think Count of Monte Christo, back essentially from the dead.
MISSOURI: Counted out so many times, especially this year, but making a comeback, like Mickey Rourke.
NORFOLK STATE: The Necro Butcher, who Rourke destroys in “The Wrestler.”
REGION’S SWEET 16 TEAMS: Michigan State, Long Beach State, Marquette and Missouri.
ELITE EIGHT: Missouri over Michigan State.
EAST REGION (PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING REGION)
SYRACUSE: Take your pick of any who have had a drug problem, or about 95 percent of wrestlers.
NORTH CAROLINA-ASHEVILLE: For this matchup, the Gobbledy Gooker, one of the worst wrestling gimmicks of all time, seems fitting.
KANSAS STATE: Not that the Wildcats are a giant, but they play like Andre the Giant – brutally physical.
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI: Larry Eustachy is the Jake “The Snake” Roberts of college coaching, theatrics included.
WINNER: Kansas State.
VANDERBILT: “Superstar” Billy Graham never lived up to the hype, much like the Commodores.
HARVARD: The Genius, who happens to be The Macho Man Randy Savage’s brother, has little chance in this matchup.
WISCONSIN: The Badgers are to basketball what Hulk Hogan is to the technical side of wrestling – painful to watch, yet effective.
MONTANA: Virgil, or any other wrestler who had no chance against Hulk Hogan.
CINCINNATI: The late, great Macho Man, who made a solid comeback in the WCW, much like the Bearcats did after their brawl with Xavier.
TEXAS: Terry Funk never won the big one, at least in a legitimate promotion, but he was always there, as Texas has been under Rick Barnes.
FLORIDA STATE: John Cena is one of the most overhyped, overrated wrestlers of all-time. The Seminoles strike me as wildly overvalued in this tournament.
ST. BONAVENTURE: The Miz. I have nothing against St. Bonaventure … just looking for a crap wrestler who is even worse than Cena.
WINNER: Florida State.
GONZAGA: Like Dusty Rhodes, the Zags will be facing hard times early.
WEST VIRGINIA: Ric Flair. Greatest wrestler of all time. But he’s still wrestling. At age 150. And it isn’t pretty, much like the Mountaineers over the last month.
WINNER: West Virginia
OHIO STATE: Triple H. Still a force to be reckoned with.
LOYOLA, MD.: Adrian Adonis. They have no chance.
WINNER: Ohio State.
REGION’S SWEET 16 TEAMS: Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Florida State and Ohio State.
MIDWEST REGION (TV REGION)
NORTH CAROLINA: Roy Williams = Andy Griffith and his “aw shucks” shtick.
VERMONT: “Cop Rock,” which was on TV about as long as Vermont will be this week.
WINNER: North Carolina.
CREIGHTON: The McDermotts have a relationship like “The Beav” and his old man did.
ALABAMA: “Cops.” The Tide has had its share of disciplinary issues.
TEMPLE: The next-to-last season of “The Sopranos.” Solid and entertaining.
SOUTH FLORIDA: The last season of “The Sopranos.” Overhyped.
MICHIGAN: “The Wonder Years.” Mostly because it’s one of my all-time favorites. Good show, good team.
OHIO: “Family Ties.” Simply not as good as Michigan, like “Family Ties” isn’t as good as “The Wonder Years.”
SAN DIEGO STATE: “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Both are surprisingly good.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Same era, completely different impact. In other words, it sucked.
WINNER: San Diego State.
GEORGETOWN: “Transformers.” Very good cartoon, very good team.
BELMONT: “Smurfs.” Georgetown isn’t exactly Gargamel.
SAINT MARY’S: Butthead. The better of the teenage idiots.
PURDUE: Beavis. The worse of the teenage idiots.
WINNER: Saint Mary’s.
KANSAS: “Family Guy.” If you’ve read this blog, you know of my disdain for the show.
DETROIT: “Pokemon.” Few animated shows are worse than “Family Guy.” This is one of them.
REGION’S SWEET 16 TEAMS: North Carolina, Michigan, Georgetown and Kansas.
ELITE EIGHT: North Carolina over Kansas.
FINAL FOUR: Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio State and North Carolina.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Kentucky over North Carolina.