In case you missed the non-stop television coverage of the brackets that began last night (I love how ESPN makes up for not having the selection show by running 4 straight days of analysis), the Kansas Jayhawks are the kings of the basketball worlds and, for their efforts, received the top seed in the NCAA tournament and the hardest bracket ever. So they say. Things get kicking on Thursday in Oklahoma City and, before you saddle up on the couch and root for all things corn and community-driven, it’s time to make sure you really know the Midwest.
Regional locations that are not regional
A few years ago, the NCAA tournament committee made an awful decision to do away with the regionals as a literal destination and use them as more theoretical sites. So, that gave birth to an interesting set of destinations for teams sent to each region. Behold, your "Midwest" tourney sites.
Oklahoma City (Thurs. & Sat.) - Oklahoma City was founded in 1889 and named under the premise of “Oklahoma is such an awesome place, let’s claim it twice”. Similar to Simon & Simon, but not nearly as bad ass.
Spokane (Fri. & Sun.) - Spokane, Washington is not in the mid or the west of the state of Washington, let alone the country. In fact, it’s a cool 25 hour drive from the next closest site, Oklahoma City, and 42 hours away from the Midwest games in Providence. There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes and most of them are going pro in something other than cartography.
Providence (Thurs. & Sat.) - The capital of Rhode Island is the second largest city in the Midwest Northeast and has changed nicknames more than Sean Combs. Providence has called itself “The Beehive of Industry”, the “Creative Capital” and “The Renaissance City”. If Providence was a person, it would drive an F450 and threaten people on message boards.
Milwaukee (Fri. & Sun.) - Beer and cheese! Beer and cheese! Bud Selig! Beer and cheese!
Important Mascot Information
Jayhawk – Not to be confused with a Ray hawk , Le Hawk , a gay hawk , a mayhawk , a Mohawk , a faux hawk , a hawkeye , Hawk Hogan , or a Hawk block , Kansas’ mascot is a combination of a sparrow hawk and a blue jay that's as made up as Darrell Arthur's high school grades.
Buckeye – Ohio State earned their nickname from the name of the nut that falls from the ohio state tree. And, no, that’s not a Greg Oden joke.
Guacho – A little known fact about UC-Santa Barbara's mascot is that it was actually created out of a typo. This is a Gaucho . This is a Groucho . My great-grandfather is laughing out loud right now.
Panther – When I originally typed this, I wrote “Panter”, which is not Northern Iowa’s mascot. That’s a name in Rick Pitino’s black book. (boom! Recycled jokes!)
Cougar – The easy way out here would be to make another Pitino/Karen Sypher joke. But I’m not going there. It wouldn’t be fair to Sypher, who cringes every time she hears the word “Cougar”. You would too if that's where all of your kids were conceived.
Non-Jayhawk All-Region Team
Let's be honest. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are everywhere and no one wants to really talk about either one of them anymore. But, if we didn't put them on this list, we'd get tons (two maybe?) comments from Jayhawk fans complaining. So, in order to avoid that type of internet showdown, we've removed them from consideration. They totally would have made it, Jayhawk fans. Had they been eligible.
Aubrey Coleman (Houston) – 25.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, nation’s leading scorer, lead singer for Danity Kane
Evil Greivis Vasquez (Maryland) – 19.5 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.6 rpg, leads nation in hair gel, frequently drives on left side of the road
Evan Turner (Ohio State) – 20.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.9 apg, came back from a broken back after six games, feels no pain, fears nothing
James Anderson (Oklahoma State) - 22.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, relocated to Stillwater as part of Witness Protection, originally named Sebastian von Klinkshtenberg
Greg Monroe (Georgetown) – 16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, wears cardigans, loves Matlock
Little Guys to Know
C.J. McCollum (Lehigh) – McCollum’s appearance in the tournament is going to be brief, but it could only be the beginning of a very memorable college career for the freshman sharpshooter. The 6’3” guard hails from Canton and, despite being named Ohio’s Player of the Year last year, didn’t get much attention on the recruiting trail before arriving at Lehigh. Now, 32 games later, his 19 points and 5 rebounds per game are the centerpiece of the Patriot League champions.
Jahmar Young (New Mexico State) – The 6’5” junior guard earned WAC tourney MVP honors despite actually putting up numbers slightly lower than his season averages, though a game-winning shot against Nevada didn’t hurt his case. If the Aggies are going to upset Michigan State in the first round, the burden will fall heavily on Young. He’s also a theatre major, proving again to my dad that there actually is a major worse than journalism. Take that, pops. Also, I believe his first name is uttered in several Michael Jackson songs.
Armon Bassett (Ohio) – An Indiana transfer, Bassett has found his place in Ohio, leading the Bobcats in scoring. In the MAC tournament, Bassett carried his ninth-seeded team on his back, averaging 29 points per game in four upsets. Even better for him, he's no longer in Indiana.
1. Someone you know will ask “What is on Aubrey Coleman’s neck?” – I’ll admit it. I Googled it during the Conference USA tournament. However, I felt bad afterward when I found out it wasn’t a scar from something cool like taking a sword to the neck while conquering a rival army. Turns out his family has a history of abscesses. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
2. Bruce Pearl is angry – Reports leaked out after brackets were announced that the Tennessee coach was not pleased with his team’s seeding. It turns out he was actually just upset when he found out that Northern Iowa’s Lucas O’Rear and Ohio State’s Dallas Lauderdale were real basketball players and not the adult film stars he thought they were. He then unpacked his DVDs and put them back on his coffee table – still unsigned.
3. You'll want to hate Greivis Vasquez, but you won't be able to – There is no college basketball player of my lifetime who is more hateable than Greivis Vasquez. And it's not even close. He taunts his opponents, he taunts their teammates on the bench, he runs his mouth to the crowd, he makes demonstrative hand gestures, all while flat-out killing you on the court. Add that to the fact that he has the nation’s worst haircut and his unathletic appearance fails the “eye test” worse than Stevie Wonder would and you have a final masterpiece less likeable than Joakim Noah, Christian Laettner or J.J. Redick ever dreamed of being. But, yet, you cannot stop watching him. And, ultimately, loving him.
I was on the floor (no Pitino) for his manhandling of Virginia Tech a few weeks ago and wanted to despise him. He was really Vasquezing around that day, putting up a First Team All-A-hole performance in front of ravenous Tech fans. But, if it's possible to have an underrated 41 point, 7 rebound, 6 assist performance, this was it. His absurd stats only told part of the story. Vasquez passed to guys who you wouldn't have thought were open and he dribbled through holes that I swear weren't there. He knocked down shots you didn't think he'd get off and he played with a passion that every college basketball fan will find to be refreshing. He was magical with the ball in his hands and had the type of something extra that willed his teammates to be better than they were. Vasquez was so mesmerizing and masterful with the ball, he should have been wearing a cape. A black, bloody cape. Maybe with skulls or a flaming dragon. Trust me, though, you will want to hate Greivis Vasquez. You just won't be able to do it. And, before the end of March, you will be trying to convince your boss that the Vas-hawk is acceptable in a business environment.
The Midwest is more stacked than Hugh Hefner's girlfriends in a dog pile and Ohio State, Georgetown, Maryland and Michigan State are all ready to charge toward the Final Four. But, ask any expert (or random guy CBS hired to blog this), and they'll say the Midwest still goes through Kansas. And apparently Oklahoma City, Spokane, Providence and Milwaukee.
Let's do this!