College basketball season begins for me with the purchase of a magazine. Every year since my sophomore year of college (17 years ago for those keeping score), I have bought the same preview magazine in October and made my Final Four prediction. Here is this year's:
Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia
Kansas over Kentucky in the final
I have picked the champion two out of the past three years. Now, neither North Carolina last year nor Florida three years ago was a particularly daring pick. But there have been plenty of "sure things" over the years that didn't pan out. Admittedly, I didn't pick Syracuse to win when they did but neither did anyone else.
The magazine used to be called Street & Smith's College Basketball Preview. The S&S line existed entirely for sports annuals but it was bought out a couple of years ago by The Sporting News, who now publish essentially the same magazine under their own name. I'm not entirely sure why I picked that one in particular off of the rack but I've always been able to find it - even for two years in Japan. It has served my purposes quite well.
I have other basketball rituals. I watch Hoosiers once a year. My parents, certainly not fans themselves but well aware of my quirks, sent me a VHS copy while I was abroad so I wouldn't miss out. I cannot claim to be unloved!
Before men's tennis took up residence at the forefront of my sports interests, I'd have considered myself a college basketball fan. Even now, I would say that basketball is the most spectator-friendly sport in the world: big people, big ball, relatively small playing area with play generally concentrated on a small portion of it, fast pace, high scores and breath-taking athletic feats. The electricity which envelops a crowd during a close game is without compare in my experience. The greatest job I've ever had in my life was public address announcer for men's and women's basketball games in college. I had the best seat in the house with a microphone on the table in front of me. I'd have done the job for nothing and yet they paid me.
I have no interest in the NBA (Not Basketball, Actually) and will not write about it in this space unless I absolutely must. But anything at the college level or lower is wonderful. Games tip off next month. Can't wait.
In case you were wondering (and I know you were), Andy Roddick is my pick to win the Shanghai title next week.