The NCAA March Madness “Midwest Swing”


Final Four

By Paul M. Banks

CHICAGO- Is there any better holiday than March Madness? Take it a step further: any better time of year? The long winter is finally over, people are coming out of hibernation, and for one month: everyone you know has a rooting interest in a team; even if it’s only because of office pools. In a couple hours, I’m about to embark on a journey that’s more than March Madness. It’s a whole Bellevue hospital full of madness. The perfect sanctuary for someone who attended a school that’s annually a top twenty national program; and started his MBA at a school the same semester they won the 2000 national title.

I’m about to visit the best basketball state in the union- Indiana. The capitol city, Indianapolis bookends my trip. This is the place that gave us the best basketball movie ever, “Hoosiers,” and where Bill Simmons, the finest basketball mind alive today, believes the new basketball hall of fame should reside. In other words, it’s a pilgrimage to the hardwood Jerusalem. The first destination is the Big Ten tournament, where I will represent The Sports on my way to providing all the Championship Week coverage you could ever want live from Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.

This takes us to one of my favorite days: Selection Sunday, when all the major power conferences play their tournament title games and the brackets are officially announced. For the actual big dance itself, the Washington is sending me to cover the entire tournament!

I’ll begin with the Bradley Center in Milwaukee for the first 2 rounds, the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis for the Regionals, and then finally, the icing on the cake (actually, it is the cake, and the main course) the Final Four, back to Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Field.

It’s all reminiscent of the greatest sports road trip book I ever read, (also the only sports road trip book I ever read) Clay Travis’ “Dixieland Delight.” The Fan House writer hit every single SEC football stadium in the same season. If you’re from Tennessee, and you’re writing about college football in the south, having a country song title is perfect. And Travis picked the exact right tune by the band Alabama for his tour’s moniker.

But I’m from Chicago, and I’m covering basketball in the Midwest. And that game moves to a different beat; hip-hop. Therefore, I’m naming this tour the “Midwest Swing” after the hit song by Nelly and the St. Lunatics. It is without a doubt, the best rap song in history to include barnyard animal sound effects as part of the beat.

Most of the basketball material, on-the-court action will be published on the Washington Times Communities page. A majority of the media events and general bread and circuses surrounding the events I’ll post on The Sports Bank. And of course, these two categories will often intersect quite a bit, and I’ll likely end up breaking my own rules numerous times. So you’ll just have to keep checking in at multiple sites, because who knows what will cross my path, and what people I’ll get to meet and talk to. Hopefully, the Michigan State Dance team is included in that group.

Here are some key numbers essential to what this trip is all about.

0- teams from my home state will be in the Big Dance, seriously, unless one of the two teams I cover on a regular basis, Illinois and Northwestern, run the table in Indy this weekend, it could actually happen.

3- Most points you can score on a single possession and the number of cities on this tour. Milwaukee, St. Louis and Indianapolis are all about equidistant from Champaign, IL, where I attended college. The Midwest Swing tour is reminiscent of my alma mater’s infamous “Tourney Bus Tour.” While other schools are shipped all over the nation to play. My favorite all-time team in any sport, the 2005 Illini went to Chicago, Indianapolis, back to Chicago, and then finally St. Louis in their national title game route. Ths “bus tour” was much publicized that spring.

4- Magical number, the Final Four- also the number of venues I’ll visit.

65- Teams in the tourney, also the over/under on references to Nelly and the St. Lunatics. We’re already at one from the opening paragraph. And most of these will show up when we get to St. Louis for the Sweet Sixteen

Speak Your Mind