Nothing elicits passion like the NCAA tournament, and passion has come pouring through in this week's feedback. People sent in expressions of joy, pain, frustration, death threats – and those were just the comments about CBS.
Now on to The People's Voice. My comments, as always, appear in italics. ...
AMERICA'S TOURNAMENT (March 17: "Truly America's tourney")
You are right Mr. Wetzel when you say this is America's tournament. I loved your column and it actually brought chills to my spine.
I can tell you where I was for the upset Valpo laid down in '98 (in Chicago eating pizza at Unos, cheering with people whom I had never met and will probably never see again), when Indiana lost a heartbreaker in '92 to Duke (annoying my sister in law while my brother and I were screaming after every basket) and then for redemption for IU in '02 when they upset Duke in the Sweet Sixteen when no one gave IU a Seabiscuit's chance in Hoopshysteriaville.
You said it best when you said this is America's tournament.
Brett A. Strauch
There are a class of people – allergic to football – loosely called "Super Bowl widows," and every year I've got to listen to them moaning and groaning about having to adjust their lives around an eight-hour sporting and entertainment spectacle.
Now, what about people like me who abhor NCAA basketball as hypocritical, corrupt and tedious? We've got to dodge the whole ridiculous circus not just for hours, but for weeks! That's just not fair!
New York, N.Y.
You did a great job describing the appeal of the NCAA tournament, but you underestimated the range of its appeal. I'm a die-hard Canucks fan, but there's something I get from watching the tourney that I will never get from a Canucks playoff run or watching the Eagles try to get to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps it has something to do with finality of watching seniors play the last game in their college careers, knowing that this really is it ... there really will be no tomorrow. I never get to experience that kind of emotion watching any pro game.
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Excellent use of the "So you're saying there's a chance" quote from "Dumb & Dumber." Your genius knows no bounds.
The NCAA tournament is still a tournament where teams with non-winning records playing in the equivalent of Division II conferences are invited. This is America's tournament because just like America it is full of undeserved charity.
I absolutely love the NCAA tournament more than any other 'big' event. I love NBA basketball, but they are millionaires who get paid well whether they play good or not. The NCAA tournament is about the guys playing who don't get paid (not officially anyway).
What I don't like is that the universities benefit financially from the schools that play, even though the players don't get a dime (not officially anyway). And I don't like that it is so hard to get a ticket to go to the Final Four. But I understand because everybody wants to be there.
I go through withdrawal every year when the final game is played after watching basketball for those two weeks. I wish the last two teams could play three games and the winner of two take all because as John Thompson put it so eloquently after Georgetown's Final Four win: Anybody can win one game.
I love it, I love it, I love it. The only thing I love more is the television show "Law and Order."
How did you find out about what goes on in Nutt, New Mexico?
Little Rock, Ark.
No rock is left unturned here at Yahoo! Sports. I've been to Nutt to drink beer at the Middle of Nowhere Cafe and Bar. See, this isn't USA Today or The New York Times. We are willing to sacrifice like that for the readers.
WATCHING THE TOURNEY (March 18: "Watch with Wetzel")
You're killing me with the running commentary – a March Madness junkie's dream job.
Your minute-by-minute description mirrors what hoops fans everywhere are thinking. That's the way it is with the tourney, and you've got to love it. I'm a teacher and a basketball coach, and in the middle of a discussion yesterday afternoon (medieval romance was the topic) one of my students raised his hand to ask a question.
I called on him, failing to notice the glint in his eye that should've told me he was up to something.
His question? "Do you think Syracuse should be going to the zone?"
How am I supposed to concentrate on King Arthur after that?
You are making too big an issue out of parity. Yes, there were some close calls. The operative word there is "close." There is definitely a discernible talent disparity between mids and high-majors. I think the close games are a result of high-majors looking past the first round and playing down to their opponent rather than mid-majors making huge strides in talent equality. After all, for all the ballyhoo about mid-majors this year, keep this in mind: Marquette is the only mid-major since 1979's Indiana State to reach a Final Four.
Laguna Hills, Calif.
While Marquette doesn't have a football team, I wouldn't classify the program as mid-major. They have plenty of resources and fans. I do think the early defections of top players has narrowed the talent gap. But you are correct; there is still a gap.
A Dr. Brown of Lynchburg invented Chap Stick? Is that what sportswriters use Lexis-Nexis for? Ah, the life! (And thank you, Dr. Brown.)
Lexis-Nexis? Come on, we are all about Yahoo! Search here. And yes, Dr. Brown is the man. Can't think of a single downside to the invention of Chap Stick.
WINNERS/LOSERS (March 21: "First-round winners and losers")
There is a town in Montana named Manhattan. In Gallatin County near Bozeman, zip code 59741.
That must have been what confused Anthony Roberson.
Couldn't help myself. If you remember, I wrote in last week when you were saying the most likely upset in the Atlanta bracket was Murray St. over Illinois because Murray was so hot winning like 14 out of 15 or something like that. Like I said then, Illinois is pretty hot themselves and now they are looking only that much hotter.
I said that you would have an "I told you so" coming so here it is. If Illinois can put together another game like they had against Cincy, they could give Duke a run for their money.
What a way to ingratiate yourself to West Coast fans, Dan. Yeah, the results were not particularly great for the Pac-10, but did one really expect Arizona and Washington to get out of their regions, much less the Second Round? Notwithstanding the early exits, the three teams looked good – Arizona and Stanford had sizable leads in their games – all just lacked commitment to finish.
I long for the day that the Pac-10 consistently receives 5-6 bids with seedings no worse than the 6th spot (ACC, anyone?). Such treatment generally supports a team's ability to move forward. Of course, you do not want to point out that fact.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Are you saying the first weekend of the NCAA tournament was a good one for West Coast basketball? Three years ago the Pac-10 had four teams in the Sweet Sixteen. Now that was a good year. This wasn't.
Nice words for the Illini! I'll stop short of predicting victory over Duke, but if they can contain J.J. Reddick in the same manner that they took care of Bobbins, then they may find success! I'd like to hear your opinion on the great job that Jeff Capel has done with VCU, and where you see him in the not-too-distant future.
What I love about Capel is that, when he was hired, most of the coaches in the country complained that he only got the job because he had gone to Duke, that he wasn't qualified and that Duke-mania in the hiring process was out of hand. And they had a point. Capel's response: "We'll see how it will turn out."
Well, it turned out great. He's done a fabulous job. While I think he is a hot coach, I don't think he jumps right away to a high-major job. He is still just 29. But his future is very bright.
Really a nice "touch of class" on your Air Force commentary. Their "big test" is yet to come and I'm sure they will all be heroes.
As of Sunday the 21st, the Big East Conference is a combined 14-3 in postseason play (8-3 in the NCAA, and 6-0 in the NIT). Is it time for the Big East's detractors to eat crow and acknowledge that they continue to be one of the nation's premier conferences?
Huntington Beach, Calif.
How come you don't mention in your summary the Big 12 as having the best subregional won-loss percentage of all major conferences heading into the Sweet Sixteen? The West can't complain but the Mighty 12 has a valid one: No respect. BTW: They also had two in the Final Four last year and one in the title game. Wake up!
Las Vegas, Nev.
This is the time of the year I can't keep up with all of my biases. The Big 12 has been great.
Why do all the players from the big-name basketball schools look as if they are on steroids and the guys from the no-name schools look like normal people?
Not sure, but I do find it a bit coincidental that the BALCO labs were a corporate sponsors of a number of big conferences.
UAB got it done against one of the nation's perennial powers. Kansas next. If we can take them, downing two legendary programs in one tournament, well, anything's possible, right?
You were out front in pointing out the Blazers. Let's hope we're still talking about them this time next week. What is your unvarnished opinion of their chances vs. Kansas?
After watching the Blazers in the C-USA tournament I was completely sold. I love this team, a frightening group to play in the NCAA tournament. Squeaky Johnson is the ultimate point guard for this style of play. Can they beat Kansas? Absolutely.
Perhaps the next time you would like to point out upsets, you could start with your own crummy system of picking those upsets. Georgia Tech played a gritty Northern Iowa team today, but for some reason, unknown to you, they won.
Enough about the upsets. Let's talk about your failures as a sportswriter. We'll save that for another day.
Would you like some salt and pepper with that crow?
I picked a 14 over a 3 and the 14 had a shot to tie with 1.8 seconds left. Tech won, but that wasn't a bad pick. I made many, many worse than that.
By the way, since we have readers everywhere, including, I am sure, places where crow is actually eaten, can anyone write in and share a good crow recipe? Is with salt and pepper the best way to eat it? With a hearty sauce? El dente? Any help would be appreciated.
Maybe I'm beating a dead horse, but does anyone think CBS can even remotely do justice to the NCAA tourney during the first weekend? CBS must be paying a pile of money, because I can't believe the NCAA thinks this is really better than ABC, which could show at least three games simultaneously with ESPN & ESPN2.
It's just plain weird, what with all of these ESPN games and Dicky V and the whole bit, then the tourney comes, and then ... nothing. Sure, you can get commentary on ESPN, but it ain't the same. I know it must be the almighty dollar, but mightn't the NCAA consider taking a little less money but increasing the visibility of the game? Probably too much to ask. ...
Taking less money? Not going to happen. I agree though. I miss the ESPN commentators. And there is no question CBS continues to struggle with shifting games at critical moments.
Nice piece about C-USA outclassing the Big Ten. I missed what happened in the Illinois/Cincy game. Did you catch what happened?
Laguna Hills, Calif.
Illinois crushed them. But with each conference having one team in the Sweet Sixteen, I don't think the Big Ten should be patting itself on the back too much. C-USA was better this year, mainly because the Big Ten had such a down season.
I'm headed up to the Merrick Inn to watch a little NIT action and look for the silver lining. I'm not sure if I can find one. Who knows, maybe it will come in the form of a 750 ml bottle with a red wax top. Congrats on another great year of reporting.
Joseph E. Mainous, Jr.
People always ask what the best strategy is to get a letter printed. Well, here you go. This is tremendous. It shows regular readership by referencing our dining choice in Lexington during the preseason college hoops tour, is painfully honest and witty and hints at possible alcohol abuse courtesy of the good folks at Maker's Mark. The triple crown of valued reader emails.