For the first time since probably high school — or whenever it was that UCLA first became the Boston Celtics of college basketball — I’m just not into the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament this year.
This is a first for me. Like a lot of sports fans, March Madness is almost as much of a religion as Lent, which will — oddly enough — end the day after Easter this season. Final Four night will be during the Easter Vigil, which always means tough choices in the Krause House. Do I risk the weary resignation of a wife who’d rather see me next to her at the 3-hour service at St. Pius for the sake of two games I wouldn’t watch during January if they were the only ones on?
Or do I shrug, say I don’t care that much anyway, and go to church and endure the lengthy service? At least there’s are refreshments afterward.
This year, I may go to St. Pius willingly. I just have no interest.
Much of it has to do with the way my favorite college basketball program — Michigan State — has been tarnished by the Larry Nassar scandal. Nassar is the pedophile who assaulted so many U.S. Olympic gymnasts over the years, including Needham’s Aly Raisman. And his longtime association with Michigan State has put the school in the nation’s crosshairs.
Similar to the Jerry Sandusky mess at Penn State, it’s hard to imagine so many people at Michigan State, with all its resources, being oblivious to the presence of such an absolute creep in its midst, especially since he’s been such a national presence over the years.
MSU’s president had to resign, and there has been some pressure on basketball coach Tom Izzo to do the same.
I’d hate to think he was involved. He, and MSU, are my favorites when it comes to college hoop.
Boston College hasn’t been to the Big Dance in a while; and Northeastern, my alma mater, despite a 20-win season and appearing in its conference final, was snubbed by the NIT. Can you imagine, getting snubbed by the NIT?
Anyway, because there’s never anyone around here to root for, I’ve adopted the Spartans as my team. There’s a curious reason why, too. Long ago, when I used to do a column the week before the tournament began, Sparty came in as a fourth seed, with seven losses. No way, I wrote (rather sanctimoniously at that) would State win. In fact, I remember writing, that if any other college came into the tournament with seven losses, they’d be eighth or ninth. Not fourth.
Of course, Izzo went out and put together a killer schedule, especially on the road, which explained the high number of losses for a fourth seed. And of course, the Spartans made me look foolish by winning the. Whole. Darn. Thing.
Along the way, I found I liked the way Izzo coached. And you know what they say about “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” I became a fan.
And while I can’t bring myself to hold Izzo or his program directly accountable for this Nassar situation, I will say that the scandal, plus the FBI investigation into the recruiting shenanigans of several major colleges (Izzo and MSU was drawn peripherally into this one, too), I can’t get interested. All of a sudden, I don’t care if some good mid-majors got snubbed so that a pretty bad Syracuse team got to go (the idea of Syracuse in this tournament is yet another reason I am boycotting this year).
The NCAA is corrupt. Its selection process is corrupt. There were quite a few good teams — teams that don’t have much of a national reputation — that got left out in the cold so that a 20-12 team (Syracuse) could get in? I don’t care if it’s just a play-in game. It’s just wrong.
Maybe something will happen that draws me in, but right now, I can’t think of what it would be. Nothing I see in the next three weeks is going to rival the Swampscott-Lynn hockey game I saw last Friday at Cronin Rink in Revere. That was about as good as it gets for sports.
So mark me absent. I won’t make any predictions. I’m not going to be in any pools, or any of those kinds of things.
Come the weekend, I will (hopefully) be watching Bishop Fenwick’s girls basketball team in Springfield Saturday in the state final; and then Swampscott playing hockey at the TD Garden in the state final Sunday.
By next weekend, when everybody starts getting serious, it’s all downhill for me. The best weekend, normally, is the first, with 64 teams in play. After that it gets predictable.
The only other prediction I make is this: Virginia will not win.
OK, Father Robert Poitras at St. Pius. Remember what the Pope said last month, OK?