There aren't many specific days on the calendar that, professionally, I enjoyed more before I got into sports talk radio than I do now that I'm in sports talk radio. Generally speaking, almost every day at my job is way more fun, stimulating, and satisfyingly exhausting in my job now than it was in my pre-radio life.
(Telecom sales, in case you're wondering what my previous career was. Needless to say, I'm also more interesting at parties now, too.)
However, these next two days -- the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA basketball tournament -- were actually more fun before I got into radio, in large part because now I'm actually working during the games, which makes gambling on the games tricky and enjoying them damn near impossible.
I guess my point is, tomorrow and Friday, from 11 a.m. until the nighttime, if you're playing hooky and watching all the games, be as thankful as I am the other 363 days out of the year.
Now onto my picks...
In case you're one of the roughly jillion people filling out a bracket, here are my "for what it's worth" picks. As I outlined yesterday, I am in the "pick someone other than Kentucky" camp, even though they're the most prohibitive favorite since windshield versus bug. So here are my picks for the entire tournament along with a few wagering plays for the first full day of action today.
MIDWEST REGION Round of 64 1 Kentucky over 16 Hampton 9 Purdue over 8 Cincinnati 5 West Virginia over 12 Buffalo 13 Valparaiso over 4 Maryland 6 Butler over 11 Texas 3 Notre Dame over 14 Northeastern 7 Wichita State over 10 Indiana 2 Kansas over 15 New Mexico State
Round of 32 1 Kentucky over 9 Purdue 5 West Virginia over 13 Valparaiso 3 Notre Dame over 6 Butler 2 Kansas over 7 Wichita State
Sweet Sixteen 1 Kentucky over 5 West Virginia 3 Notre Dame over 2 Kansas
Elite Eight 1 Kentucky over 3 Notre Dame
WEST REGION Round of 64 1 Wisconsin over 16 Coastal Carolina 8 Oregon over 9 Oklahoma State 12 Wofford over 5 Arkansas 4 North Carolina over 13 Harvard 11 Ole Miss over 6 Xavier 3 Baylor over 14 Georgia State 10 Ohio State over 7 VCU 2 Arizona over 15 Texas Southern
Round of 32 1 Wisconsin over 8 Oregon 4 North Carolina over 12 Wofford 11 Ole Miss over 3 Baylor 2 Arizona over 10 Ohio State
Sweet Sixteen 1 Wisconsin over 4 North Carolina 2 Arizona over 11 Ole Miss
Elite Eight 1 Wisconsin over 2 Arizona
EAST REGION Round of 64 1 Villanova over 16 Lafayette 8 NC State over 9 LSU 5 Northern Iowa over 12 Wyoming 13 UC-Irvine over 4 Louisville 6 Providence over 11 Dayton 3 Oklahoma over 14 Albany 10 Georgia over 7 Michigan State 2 Virginia over 15 Belmont
Round of 32 8 NC State over 1 Villanova 5 Northern Iowa over 13 UC-Irvine 3 Oklahoma over 6 Providence 2 Virginia over 10 Georgia
Sweet Sixteen 8 NC State over 5 Northern Iowa 2 Virginia over 3 Oklahoma
Elite Eight 2 Virginia over 8 NC State
SOUTH REGION Round of 64 1 Duke over 16 Robert Morris 9 St. John's over 8 San Diego State 5 Utah over 12 Stephen F. Austin 13 Eastern Washington over 4 Georgetown 6 SMU over 11 UCLA 3 Iowa State over 14 UAB 10 Davidson over 7 Iowa 2 Gonzaga over 15 N. Dakota State
Round of 32 1 Duke over 9 St. John's 5 Utah over 13 Eastern Washington 6 SMU over 3 Iowa State 2 Gonzaga over 10 Davidson
Sweet Sixteen 1 Duke over 5 Utah 6 SMU over 2 Gonzaga
Elite Eight 1 Duke over 6 SMU
FINAL FOUR National Semifinals Wisconsin over Kentucky Duke over Virginia
Championship Game WISCONSIN 78, DUKE 73
THURSDAY BEST BETS
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Arizona -23.5 over Texas Southern Arizona ended the season on an eleven game winning streak during which they went 9-2 ATS. They have as much NBA talent as any team in the field not named Kentucky. Mike Davis has done a great job resurrecting TSU, but 15 seeds often get thrown to the wolves. Or the Wildcats, as it were.
SMU -4 over UCLA For as much grief as UCLA caught for making the field at all, let alone without having to play in the First Four, they did finish the season 10-3 ATS in their final 13 games. SMU, though, will have Larry Brown on the bench and Nic Moore at the point. They themselves are 17-2 SU over their last 19 games.
Eastern Washington +8 over Georgetown The Eagles have two things going for them -- 1. Tyler Harvey, the nation's leading scorer and 2. Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who routinely makes stars of unknown coaches this time of year, having gone 1-5 SU and ATS in his last six tournament games.