The Ottumwa Courier

March 16, 2007

TERPSTRA’S TWO CENTS: My sheet of integrity

By KELLY TERPSTRA, Courier sports writer

They come out of hiding every year about now and try to enter my world — and yours.

I know these “people” and you know these “people”. Maybe you’re one of them. They’re scary and make me feel inadequate.

These bastions of athletic understanding walk up to your desk and say, ‘Hey, are you having an office pool this year for the NCAA Basketball Tournament’?

My reply?

“I haven’t heard anything, but if I do, I’ll let you know.”

They’ll get in some office pool, but hopefully not mine.

Reason — because every pool I’m in, they end up winning it.

That’s the beauty of the tournament and these “stupid” brackets — anybody can win. Zero sports knowledge apparently equals expert in March Madness terminology.

I was asked the other day about what I thought about Gonzaga and whether this person should pick them over UCLA in the second round. The Bruins are the NCAA’s defending runner-up finisher and No. 2 seed. Gonzaga is seeded seventh and lost one of its best players to suspension.

I told them to go with the ‘Zags, — at least that’s what my insiders are telling me.

Now watch that actually happen.

The NCAA Tournament started yesterday, (actually on Tuesday with the play-in game) but I have my brackets filled out. Mike Greenberg of ESPN, who teams up with Mike Golic for the ESPN radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning, talked about these brackets the other day.

Greenberg prefers to fill out just one sheet, while Golic fills out many. I go the route of Golic, because the more the merrier, right?

Greenberg calls his picks for the tourney the “Sheet of Integrity.”

I wish I would have come up with that name, because it’s cool. Did I just sound like John Travolta right there? Oh well, there is no integrity, that’s why Greenberg laughs every time he says it.

I’d have a better chance of getting 70 percent of my picks right in an NCAA bracket than understanding and deciphering Japanese secret code.

By the way, “Mike and Mike” is one of my favorite shows that I tape on a regular basis because I’m never up at 5 a.m. to watch it live. Yeah, right.

As hard as it is, I’ve tried to master this new science known as “bracketology.”

I’ve tried strategies, read countless magazines, watched every single screaming “expert” dissect each and every team. I’ve invested my energy on a massive scale — only to come up dry.

The most success I can recall having in these pools was in eighth grade when I got three out of four teams right in the Final Four. Michigan ended up winning it that year and my formula was simple — pure instinct.

My best friend at the time didn’t want any part of that philosophy. His study halls were spent analyzing, breaking down and extracting all the inside info he could get his hands on. He finished around near the bottom that year.

I will give you one team that I really like and I made my mind up on before I heard any of these “experts” touting their “hot” teams.

I like Billy Gillispie and the Texas A&M; Aggies. Three years ago the Aggies went 0-16 in conference play. It’s been 27 years since A&M; won a NCAA first round game when they went to the Sweet Sixteen and lost to the eventual champion Louisville in overtime.

A@M won its first round game on Thursday and is 26-6 overall. They play sixth-seeded Louisville in the second round on Saturday.

Plan your trip for Atlanta Aggie fans, I’m certain of it.

We won’t talk about the egg I’m still trying to clean off my face when I backed Iowa to win the Big Ten Conference Tournament.

By the way, I’m not responsible for any advice or insight that you might get from this column. If your bracket flops, call Dick Vitale.

*******

I was thankful for one of my Christmas presents this season. I received a year’s subscription to Sports Illustrated. I mainly received it because of the St. Louis Cardinals’ promotion that they ran in which you receive a hard-bound leather commemorative book honoring St. Louis’ national title in 2006. You also get a neat baseball set and a DVD chronicling the Cards improbable run. It’s narrated by Billy Bob Thornton.

But my point here is I hope you saw the story on Iowa wrestling in last week’s issue. It was the issue inspired by Al Gore that had Dontrelle Willis standing in knee deep water in Florida because of the global warming epidemic.

Check out page 59. I hope you recognize him. It’s former all-state wrestler Tiegen Podliska of Ottumwa. He’s the one wearing the “O” on his chest. He’s standing right next to Oskaloosa’s Jake Kerr, who sports the “I”. Kerr wrestles for Iowa and had several high finishes at state for the Indians. Podliska placed at state as well his senior season.

That’s what I love about Iowa. The state is small enough where you page through one of the most storied of magazines and see someone you know.

I can’t wait to get next week’s issue, maybe they’ll be something about El Nino on the cover.



Courier sports writer Kelly Terpstra can be reached at kgterpstra@mchsi.com.