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Before I go on, I must apologize to any Badger fans who may have been offended by my Big Ten Tournament picks last week. But can you blame me for thinking that Michigan State had Bucky’s number? Anyway, the Badgers played a great game on Friday against Tom Izzo’s team, then took care of Illinois before predictably falling to Ohio State on Sunday.

I’m not the only one not showing Bucky basketball a lot of love these days — chances are if you’re following what the “experts” say about the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, you’ve noticed that not too many are predicting much for the Badgers. Usually citing Brian’s Butch’s injury and its negative impact on Bucky’s offense, I haven’t seen too many thinking Bo Ryan’s club can make it to the Elite Eight (as their seeding suggests they should; but we all know that seedings rarely hold up throughout the tournament). Many think the UNLV Hey Hey Hey I Was Born A Rebel Down In Dixie on a Sunday Morning With One Foot in the Grave and One Foot On The Pedal I Was Born a Rebels can oust Bucky in the 2nd round, denying the team even a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

I think Wisconsin will make it to the Elite Eight and then they’ll run into the defending national champs Florida, where Bucky’s great season will come to a end and probably would have come to an end even with Butch in the lineup. For whatever it’s worth, I believe that Wisconsin will be the last Big Ten team standing, as Ohio State’s youth will catch up to them and they will fall in the Sweet Sixteen to Tennessee. Yeah, I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but you gotta make those kinds of predictions come bracket time. Otherwise, what are you going to do, pick all four number one seeds to make the final four? Crack Kellogg will forever be known for making that silly prediction a couple of years ago. I’m not going out like that.

My final four: Florida, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Texas A&M. Florida and Georgetown in the finals, with Florida scoring the very rare repeat as champs. Upsets in the early round: I like the teams that everybody’s dogging on: Illinois and Arkansas. I think both teams will play with a chip on their shoulder and shut all the naysayers up. Possible Cinderella, which I define as a team seeded in the double digits who make it at least to the Sweet Sixteen: I like Old Dominion, who as a 12 seed get to play a 5 seed Butler team that has faltered down the stretch, then they move on to play probably Maryland, a team that features two freshman point guards who could be easily rattled when playing in their first tournament.

While we’re talking about the NCAA men’s tournament (and who isn’t), what about expanding the field from 64/65? This idea always comes up as everyone from head coaches of snubbed bubble teams to Dick Vitale to the guy at Arby’s when I’m waiting for my potato cakes start whining about certain teams not getting in. The obvious response to these complaints is: Did the teams that didn’t get in the tournament have a legitimate chance to win? Were the Gators of 2007 nervous about the possibility of having to face Drexel, Syracuse, NC State, or Florida State this year? Of course not. Which to me ends the discussion.

But then I continue to think about it. America is a country that loves excess. Bigger is almost always better. We love guzzling Fresca out of 2-liter bottles, we love Hungryman XXL TV dinners, we love TVs the size of the moon, we love Hummers and motor homes and double-decker jet airplanes. So why not make the tournament bigger? Why not do away with the lame play-in game that nobody cares about and double the size of the tournament field from 64 to 128? That would be 64 more games, so 16 could be played on each of the tournament’s first four days, which would be completely doable for TV — four games in each broadcast window, as CBS does now in the early rounds. Each team would only have to play one more game and the tournament would only be one weekend longer. I can see it now: “Say, who do you like in the first round, Louisiana-Monroe or Coastal Carolina?” “Oh, that’s a 16 seed versus a 17 seed. Those are tough. At least I don’t have to worry about Ohio State. You know a 32 seed has never beaten a 1 seed.”

Hey, nobody’s saying a tournament expanded to 128 teams wouldn’t be ridiculous. But I’m still on board. Hey, Awesome Blossoms, wine in a box, and four-hour Oscar telecasts are ridiculous too, but people sign up for those.

Hey, remember to play in my “Beat the Blogger” contest. You can find information about the contest right by my blog on Channel 3000. Fill out a better bracket than me and win. Trust me, it won’t be hard to do.


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