Palmetto State gets left out of March Madness hoopla

Call me a homer or a hater, but March Madness just doesn’t seem all that maddening this year, especially with no South Carolina teams to pull for in the NCAA Tournament.

Perhaps because it wasn’t even close in the conference tournaments, which our Palmetto State teams had to win to have a chance to play in the Big Dance but instead did the one-and-done two step. South Carolina, Clemson and Coastal all hit the drive-through window at their respective tourneys, and Coastal laid a goose egg at home.

I do have a bit of a rooting interest from my former home. It seems my alma mater, Middle Tennessee State, took the final spot in the field from my almost mater, Tennessee, where I went for four years and got about two years of college accomplished. It seems the final bubble burst somewhere between Knoxville and Murfreesboro.

But you really don’t have to have a favorite team in the tourney to get all fired up about the NCAA Tournament, just a bracket and pen. … make that a pencil, with an eraser. That’s because this year, perhaps more than any other in recent memory, features a field of 68 with at least 25 different teams capable of winning it all.

The No. 1 ranking in the polls was more of a curse than a reward this season, with the team taking the title biting the dust the following week. If that’s the kind of season it’s been, just imagine what the tournament will be like. Particulary when you don’t have a dog in the hunt, you can afford to root for the underdogs

That’s what I’ve done with my bracket. Right when the pairing are released I like to do a fast-paced, stream of conscience sheet that allows no time for deep thought or analysis. No BPI, RPI, strength of schedule, common opponents – just intuition. For example, I picked Oregon and St. Louis to advance based on nicknames alone – the Ducks and Billlikins.

Although my Final Four features a pair of top seeds (Louisville looks unbeatable right now and Indiana can play its way as a home team), my Elite 8 are littered with longshots – No. 4 seeds Michigan and Syracuse, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 6 Memphis. In fact, I’ve got a No. 3 seed, Florida, winning it all over Louisville.

Cheering for your bracket is what makes March Madness such fun, at least until it’s time to rip it up and use it for firewood. But that’s the good thing about the Palmetto State being shut out of the hoops hoopla. Between now and the cutting down of the nets, we’ll have spring football and baseball to take over our sports interest … and those are the sports we do best.

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