2011 Big Dance Opening Night Thread: Dreaming of My U.C.L.A.

Bruin Magiv v. Tom Izzo's Michigan State, (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Oh, hey there everyone. No, this is not some kind of "comeback."

This community has been doing just fine last few months with the incredible blogging of Patroclus, Tydides, Ryebreadaz (yeah, he has a real name but whatever he is "ryebreadaz" to us), DC Bruins, Bellerophon, Achilles, gbruin, tasser10 and rest of you guys. So no need for me to hog the frontpage.

But I wanted to make one exception for this week and get out in the open what may be many of us are going through. I will let Pete Rossman from the Only Colors - the superb Spartan blog we have been going back and forth this game week - lay out the question:

Every March,  a critical existential question must be asked - how far ahead do I move  Michigan State in the bracket?  This question goes to the core of a person's philosophy as a fan.  If you have MSU going down to UCLA this year you'd have a good basis for this, but you run the risk of being labeled as a "downer" - rooting for Michigan State is fun, and what fun is it to have a bracket that has your favorite team losing in its first game?

On the opposite end of the fan spectrum, if you have MSU winning the NCAA title this year...well, there's no logical explanation for that.  While it's fun to have faith in State, if and when they go out (and it looks more like "when" this year than in previous years) your bracket is almost certain to be shot, which can cast a pall on the rest of the tournament.

I find myself struggling with this conundrum every year.  I want Michigan State to win it all, but almost every year I see a team (Kansas last year, Florida or BYU this year) that I can't see Michigan State beating more than three times out of ten.  It's also a defense mechanism for me to hold the Spartans back.  I feel like moving them farther ahead than their seed indicates will reverse jinx the team, they'll lose by 20 in their first game, and IT'S ALL MY FAULT.  Sorry guys, I knew I shouldn't have picked you to beat Kentucky and Duke this year (unless it's 2005, which can it be 2005 again?).

Guess the idea of "negative karma" is not monopolized just by us on BN. :-)

Pete is a wise man. He is approaching all of this with his head. Unfortunately for yours truly impossible to accomplish that during this time of the year. The only time I ever came close to winning these pools was in 2006, when nobody else around me was thinking about U.C.L.A. making that Final-4 run. I wasn't alone. Back in 1995 - almost all of us on campus picked the four letters to go all the way. Thank heavens for Tyus and those magical 4.8 seconds.

What is going to happen this year? While you all enjoy this post as an open thread for tonight's "First 4" games (still think the concept is silly but whatever it's on now), let me walk you through all of it after the jump.

I have already done two different brackets.

The Final-3 looks like to be the following combinations:

Either it is going to be UNC, Texas, Louisville and ________.
Or it is going to be Syracuse, Texas, Louisville and ________.

Some notes:

  • Michigan is my second favorite team (Maize n Brew easily is my second favorite sports blog). I think Wolverines advance to the Elite 8 take on our friends from Burnt Orange Nation and Barking Carnival.
  • Bucknell is going to advance to Steve-16 and shock the world just like they took care of Kansas few years ago. It will also make fellow BNer bucknellbruin ecstatic.
  • I want to throw up. But in one bracket I do have Southern Cal advancing to the Steve-16 to take on Notre Dame (goes to show how meaningless appearances in Steve-16 can really be).
  • Richmond is my 12/5 pick over Vanderbilt.

Then there is the bracket in Southeast. So how is it going to go? DC Bruins and others are in process of breaking down the matchups and exploring every angle to this matchup (a little zone defense from us might help but that is topic for someone else). I do think the Bruins will come out inspired - breathing FIRE. Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith will be ready to dominate inside. Tyler - with NBA scouts watching from all over the country -  will finally find his shooting stroke. We get heroic efforts from our two junior in the back court and will get past State.

In the second round we will have some business to take care of against a certain someone. Orlandobruin has some early thoughts on Florida v. U.C.L.A..:

[M]ost importantly, Kentucky is also in the Tampa subregional. UK is in a different regional, but due to "pod seeding" of the subregionals, UK is n Tampa this Thursday and, if they win, Saturday. UK fans, unlike Florida fans, LOVE their basketball. These fans (unlike Florida fans who will wait and see how they do and perhaps be thinking ahead to book a trip to New Orleans-Mardi Gras!-or Houston if they get there rather than to Tampa for this Saturday) have already blocked this weekend off on their calendar and will be buying all 3 sessions in advance, expecting to advance to Saturday. If UK advances to Saturday, with tickets in hand they likely will outnumber the Florida fans at session 3. And guess what, UK fans HATE Florida basketball. If UCLA manages to match up against Florida and UK advances to the Saturday game as well, you can bet that each and every UK fan in the house (they will outnumber UF fans notwithstanding the distance issue) will be rooting for UCLA.

We will also have a little extra emotion on our side. Dontcha think? Bruins advance to Steve-16.

Now many of you might have the Lizard of Westwood penciled in Steve-16. Tough not to have in him there. It's an unexplainable thing. The guy has some kind of magical, mystical power thing going that lets him waltz into that round. But I don't see it happening this time. gbruin will be in the building to make sure the curse of entire Bruin Nation is directed on the next generation of Dick Vitale (TV talking pundit blowhard, pretending to be a "coach"). Gonzaga advances but falls to BYU which will essentially play in front of a home crowd in Denver (not too far from SLC).

So it's a UCLA-BYU rematch in New Orleans. Bruins took care of the Cougars when they were at full strength. You can bet on history repeating and a valiant Lee shutting down Jimmer. Meanwhile, on the other side of Southeaster bracket, Pitt will stumble against tourney tested Butler, who will prevail over Utah State in Steve-16.

So it will be a UCLA-Butler matchup in the Elite 8. You think Coach and Nell will be a little excited to see their Bruins taking on a college team from their home state? Butler will fight hard, but our Bruins will be on a mission. We will end up in Louisville setting up an epic matchup between Howland and Pitino.

This means I will most likely be traveling to Houston because I have already made a promise to Classof66 that when we end up in Houston, I am crashing Classof66's BN party and gobbling up Texas barbecue.

We can revisit what happens in Texas when we get to the Final-4. Hey, maybe I will write something again then.  In the mean time, don't forget to fill out your BN brackets (the deadline is 9 am PDT, Thursday, March 17). I will leave you with this:

Let's go DANCING everyone.

Fire away in the opening night thread.

GO BRUINS.

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