Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XIIIPosted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010
Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys debate the teams they will choose to hate during the NCAA Tournament this year.
DAVE ZEITLIN: We’ve written a lot of words throughout this college basketball season, and let’s be honest: most of them haven’t been very good. But there was at least one column I hold a particular affinity for — our mid-December piece where we all picked different teams to support. Our reasoning was simple enough. Knowing full well our mid-major alma maters weren’t going anywhere this year (although Steve’s Boston U. team made a cute little tournament run), we each decided to throw our allegiances behind a likable team with a more realistic chance of going dancing. After not-so-careful consideration, I chose Maryland, Mike chose Ohio State and Steve chose Temple.
Which brings us to today. As the greatest sporting event in the world is set to tip off, we don’t even need to worry about brackets or silly office pools. Those are for idiots who only root for teams like Penn and St. Joe’s. We’ve got our squads, all of whom are playing great basketball at the right time. And even though I really like Ohio State and Temple (especially the Buckeyes’ Evan Turner and his love for Lady Gaga) I’m up for a friendly wager that involves Maryland crab cakes, Philly cheesesteaks and whatever people eat in Ohio. Let’s do this thing, Terps.
But I also say we expand on this idea. In addition to our new teams to root for, I say we all pick new teams to root AGAINST. And it can’t be Duke. Hating Duke is kind of like Madonna: It’s old and it’s been done way too much. But since it obviously shouldn’t be one of the little guys (how can we hate on our own people?), that narrows the choices. I’ll save Kentucky for Steve, since he likes Calipari about as much as those little buggers you get around your eyes when you wake up. And I have a feeling Mike will pick Oklahoma State because he just can’t get over 2004 (sorry, Mike, had to do it again). So after eliminating those schools, as well as the University of Phoenix Online, I’m deciding to go with … Kansas. Why? Well, what better team to root against than the team everyone will pick to win it all? Also, I’ve actually picked the Jayhawks many years, but they’ve usually let me down. Finally, my oldest friend is a dieahard Kansas fan and he doesn’t even know what “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” means while screaming it over and over again. I mean, come on! Are you allowed to just put any two nouns in front of your team nickname and have it be a saying? Next year at the Palestra, I’m going to start a “Textbook Ruler Quakers” chant and hope it catches on. But I digress. Um, which teams are you guys choosing?
Ok, so team to love? Team to hate? What else should we root for in our forget-office-pools-because-we-devised-our-own-system-and-no-one-else-can-play bracket?
MIKE WALSH: What are we, mayors? The food thing is just as old and played out as hating Duke and Madonna. What do you guys say we raise the stakes? Maybe the losers have to write their next column naked … we’re talking fourth base here (as if people didn’t think our infatuation with college hoops wasn’t weird enough). Or better yet, maybe the losers have to shave their dogs. Or maybe the losers have to get their wife or fiance pregna … on second though, food works. Yeah, food is fine.
Then what should I get when I win? While I’ve never actually been to Ohio, I hear they fancy themselves quite the chili connoisseurs. So when my Buckeyes are still hitting the hardwood long after Maryland and Temple have hung up their hightops, you guys can get me a big ‘ol bowl of Cincinnati-style chili. Just put it in an envelope and send it my way, I’m sure it will travel just fine.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, if I add another school to the list of teams I root against, there won’t be many left for me to cheer for. There are very few things in this world that make me hold a grudge as strongly and irrationally as college basketball. I’m pretty sure they put something in the water at St. Joe’s that just makes you hate Villanova. I held no ill will toward that school until I stepped foot on Hawk Hill, and now, just seeing a ‘Nova sticker on a car makes me want to run it off the road. The fact that they were inexplicably gift-wrapped a No. 2 seed in what is arguably the easiest region makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Let’s just move on before I light my computer on fire …
And yes, Dave, I have also held a grudge against Oklahoma State ever since that fateful night back in 2004 … so thanks for bringing that up again, jerk. They could invent an environment-saving car that runs solely on rainbows and happy thoughts on the Cowboys’ campus and they’d still be a bunch of buttheads as far as I’m concerned. Did I mention that these basketball grudges also make me about as mature as a third-grader? No? Oh well, moving on … Oklahoma St. is also connected to the team that I am going to be whole-heartedly rooting against in this tournament and have quietly blamed for that last-second loss back in ’04, too … the Baylor Bears.
Here’s why: Before hitting that punch-to-the-gut of a shot against St. Joe’s, John Lucas III (or as we call him in the Walsh household, that no good son of a …. basketball coach) played at Baylor before transferring to Oklahoma St. following one of the ugliest NCAA scandals in recent history. Now I can’t blame Lucas for transferring, and frankly, I would have too, but I can (and do) blame then-head coach Dave Bliss, his staff, and the athletics department at Baylor for allowing things to get so out of control. And while absolutely none of that has to do with this year’s Baylor squad, they just seem to be one of those teams that everyone is all hot and bothered over, and I’m just not sure I get why. So get ready, Bears, there’s some bad juju headed your way courtesy of this guy.
So that means I’m pulling for you Georgia Tech, Sam Houston St. and Robert Morris … even if two of you do sound like you’re just one guy.
STEVE MOORE: Mike is getting really close to crossing the line of blog etiquette and appropriateness. What do you think this is, Michael, Deadspin? This isn’t Deadspin. Is this Deadspin?
Anyway, I love the idea of a friendly wager on this topic. I’m quite confident in my Temple Owls (even if Jay Bilas is on the Cornell bandwagon) and will stand behind them with great pride. Unfortunately, Maryland and Ohio State are also teams that I like a lot in this bracket. I think they will all make it to the second weekend, but I will stay with my pick, and predict that the Owls will go as far or farther than the Terps or Buckeyes. Juan Fernandez has my back on this one. Gracias, Juan!
As for the terms of the bet, I’m on a diet, so we’ll skip the food idea. Although it is the Rick Majerus diet, so it’s flexible. And Mike’s naked-blog-writing idea, well that just freaks me out a little. Especially since Mike works from home most of the time. With no one home. And you wonder where he gets these ideas.
As far as teams to root AGAINST in this tournament, it’s almost too hard to pick — too many choices. There’s the obvious ones like Calipari’s Kentucy Wildcats (slimy cheater) and Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse don’t-call-us-OrangeMEN (the loudest proponent of the ridiculous 96-team naval-gazing fest). But, since college basketball is all about your own team and standing behind your allegiances, my two nominees have both slighted my tiny alma mater (which will win the prestigious College Basketball Invitational this year).
Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals: You would think that I would be supportive of Pitino, who actually started his coaching career at Boston University and took the Terriers to the tournament. But after his team’s recent win over Syracuse in the Freedom Hall finale, Pitino was praising the atmosphere at Freedom Hall and started rattling off all his prior coaching jobs — Providence, Celtics, Kentucky, etc. But did he mention BU? Nope.
Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers: Not only did Bobby bitch and complain about getting a #2 seed instead of a #1 seed (all this complaining about the bubble and seeding drives me crazy — Virginia Tech and Illinois weren’t gonna win the tournament, so who cares if they’re in the field), but he also left the starters in and needlessly routed my Terriers in the 2003 tournament for no apparent reason. What? I mentioned this already? No, I’m not bitter. Not at all.
Anyway, all of this is just my way of killing time before Thursday’s opener — a day I now have off thanks to a swapped work schedule (stay tuned for a potential Backdoor Cuts live chat to get you through your Thursday!). What’s that you say, NCAA? The tournament started already on Tuesday night? Arkansas-Pine Bluff has an official Tourney win? Yeah, sure. And you’re gonna add 32 teams to the bracket. That’s funny.
DAVE ZEITLIN: Wow, there are a lot of really good teams we all don’t like … which means there a lot of good teams we’re going to pick against in our pools .. which means our brackets will likely be destroyed by rush hour Thursday. Luckily, that’s why we have our new teams to root for. And if my Terps lose in the first round? Then, I’m taking Mike’s advice and running a car with a Houston bumper sticker off the road. Though since I live in Philly, I probably wouldn’t see any, so I’ll just run any random car off the road. Just kidding, law.
And yes, if you can’t get enough irreverent college hoops talk, it looks like your favorite Backdoor Cuts columnists will be hosting a live chat through the afternoon slate of Thursday games. Be sure to join us during the greatest day of sports as we root for upsets, buzzer-beaters and Bill Raftery to say “Onions!”