By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
I guess this whole Bracket Ball thing could be construed as collegiate, frivolous and juvenile. But it's my sports section and it's don't-take-yourself-too-seriously day to today.
After all, how can you not be happy about the fact that the NCAA tournament is starting today. There are few sporting events that live up to the media hype surrounding them better than March Madness.
Think about it.
It's basically four weeks of action with people fretting over busted brackets, cheering colossal upsets and fantastic college basketball action.
Initially, I wasn't going run the bracket ball contest this year. It seemed a little sophomoric, maybe too college newspaper-esque. But a few people asked me about it, and as my colleague, George pointed out, "That's who you are."
You know what? He's right. I make no apologies for wanting to lighten things up in the sports page with references to Britney Spears, or "The Real World" or beating up Ben Affleck.
Somebody once said, "the more serious you take yourself, the less serious everyone else takes you."
I'm not going to be a pompous know-it-all jerk, who thinks that everything needs to be serious and sober (maybe be a bad word choice there), how about solemn.
Realistically, it is the sports page. And sports were created first and foremost to be fun for the participants - not for credibility and popularity.
So let's lighten the mood. Lace up your sneakers, find your favorite college sweatshirt, turn your hat backwards and yell like a lunatic at the television because Bracket Ball is back.
HDN Sports Editor
I'll go first, because, well, I am writing this. You may not believe it, but this is my best chance for redeeming myself from this embarrassing football season.
One problem I have when it comes to picking things is that I still go with my heart over my head. I can't help it. That is why you will never see the Duke Blue Devils winning the title or even making the Final Four in my brackets.
As a University of North Carolina fan, I would sooner jam a blazing hot fire poker in my eye before picking Duke to win anything. It's just that simple. Also, Duke cheats. The refs give them more calls. Don't believe me, watch closely and count how many Duke players, besides Shavlik Randolph, foul out in the tourney.
Since, I always pick Carolina, I am at an advantage this year, because they have more talent than any team in the country.
However, filling out brackets is about picking upsets, especially early rounds. For my upsets, I like UM-Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Creighton, New Mexico and Old Dominion in first-round upsets.
I've got Kentucky, Illinois, Wake Forest and the mighty, mighty Tarheels in the Final Four with North Carolina knocking off the Illini in the championship.
HDN Sports Editor
Besides being shorter than 5-9, watching way too much television and having an unnatural obsession for Griz football, George and I also have something else in common: he's a diehard Tarheel fan. So you would think that he has the Tarheels penciled in every bracket. Nope. The little pessimist never picks his own team. He instead subscribes to the reverse psychology theory, believing if he picks Carolina to lose in the finals, they will actually win.
Are you asking yourself some questions about George? Well here's the answer: "Yes, he does have too much free time to think this stuff up."
As for first-round upsets, he also has UM-Milwaukee knocking off Alabama. He also took Pittsburgh, New Mexico, North Carolina State and Iowa in other upsets.
He also is anti-Duke, picking Syracuse, UNC, Illinois and Wake Forest in the Final Four with the Illini edging the Tarheels in the championship.
I was actually surprised to see Harvey in the office today. After all, he was in Boise all week and his beloved Arizona Wildcats open the tournament in Boise today. However, he didn't know the Cats were there until it was too late. So instead of seeing a very talented Arizona team and even more talented Arizona cheerleader squad, he gets to see my smiling face. Not much of a trade off is it?
So being a diehard Arizona fan, Harvey has the Cats going to the Final Four in St. Louis. Nope, maybe he's following George's reverse psychology theory. Actually, Harvey is a bigger pessimist than George when it comes to cheering for his own team. But I guess that happens when you also cheer for Montana State.
Harvey has second-seeded Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech making the Final Four along with fourth-seeded Syracuse and North Carolina, with OSU knocking off UNC in an upset in the championship game.
You know he picked against Carolina just to spite me.
Lights head basketball coach
In the past we've made fun of Shawn for picking "chalk," or the higher seed in every game of his bracket. And we'd still probably be making fun of him for it this year.
However, he got a little crazy, or a lot crazy, depending on your point of view. Shawn picked the upset of upsets, going with the 16th-seeded University of Montana to upset top-seeded University of Washington today in Boise.
Let's be clear, no 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed in the tournament. Ever. So yes, this is definitely not chalk.
"I gotta pick the Griz; my brother (Brad) is a coach," he said. "Aren't you picking your alma mater."
"Look, I'm all for supporting my old school, but I'm not stupid," I replied.
As for other first-round upsets, there were none.
Shawn did go a little different picking Illinois, Georgia Tech, Connecticut and Kentucky in the Final Four with Illinois beating UCONN.
HHS boys basketball coach
This is John's debut on Bracket Ball, so there is definitely some pressure. But one thing is for certain, he knows his college hoops. He watches a ton of basketball and knows plenty about the college game.
It showed in his picks. He had several upsets in the first round going with UW-Milwaukee, St. Mary's, Pittsburgh, Texas-El Paso, Mississippi State and Iowa in surprise wins.
For his Final Four picks, he went with Illinois, Wake Forest, Kansas and dark-horse Oklahoma. In the finals, he has Wake Forest knocking off Oklahoma in the finals.
What's even better is that he didn't pick Duke, which is good considering his top assistant Dustin Kraske is a big Blue Devil fan. You gotta respect a head coach that is willing to put his assistants in their place.
HHS girls basketball coach
If anyone would pick against the Tarheels to spite me and George, it would be our childhood buddy Jason. But he didn't, instead going with his obvious smarts, picking Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, UNC and Syracuse in the Final Four.
I would mock Jason's knowledge about hoops but that would be a mistake. If there was ever a person who the new digital video recording service was suited for, it's him.
He's constantly recording games and watching them later. Maybe he's looking for some plays for his girls squad, but I think it's more that he's a basketball junkie.
As for first-round upsets, Jason went with Nevada, Pittsburgh, Mississippi State and New Mexico.
Although Jason did pick Carolina to make the championship, it would be too much to pick the Tarheels as champs. Instead, he went with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
HHS boys freshman coach
'H" as we like to refer to him was always the teacher that incorporated sports into class, whether it was extra credit on tests or just simply having posters of his beloved Green Bay Packers or those rotten New York Yankees in his classroom.
We won't hold the Yankee thing against him, although we should.
When Brett handed me his bracket, he uttered, "I had to follow my Dick Vitale in this."
Okay, don't ever mention Dick Vitale, or should I call him Duke Vitale, to me. I can't stand the guy. If you followed Vitale's advice, you'd have Duke beating an NBA all-star team and then heading out for charity work afterward.
Fortunately, Brett only took Vitale's advice minimally, picking Duke, Carolina, Wake Forest and Illinois in the Final Four with Illinois beating UNC.
Brett went with Nevada, St. Mary's, Pittsburgh and Mississippi State in first-round upsets.
We added a high school player to the group last year with Jeremy Giardina, who subsequently finished last. This year, George nominated "Mills" to be our guest picker and I figured why not. After Giardina's performance last year, I wasn't too worried about getting beat.
After nearly freezing his fingers off at yesterday's tennis practice, Scott thawed out in time to fill out a bracket. With some good picks, he could have bragging rights over his basketball coach (John) and more importantly his tennis coach (George).
As for his bracket, Scott showed a definite willingness to pick some upsets, going with Nevada, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, St. Mary's, Iowa State, Mississippi State and Old Dominion in upset wins.
His Final Four picks have even more surprises with fourth-seed Louisville and Syracuse, second-seed Oklahoma State and of course, North Carolina.
He has North Carolina defeating OSU in the finals. Did I mention what a good kid Scott is? Did I mention how smart he obviously is by picking Carolina? And they say kids today aren't as smart as they used to be.