Archive for Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Journey through Holton puts spin on Big Dance

March 23, 2005

I paid heed to the signs.

While driving Sunday through Holton, my mind was wandering.

Still in a daze after Friday's Bucknell victory against Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, something caught my eye.

It was a simple street sign, blue in color, at an intersection along Kansas Highway 16 in Holton.

It read "Wisconsin," denoting the name of the street.

Oh, an omen, I thought to myself. Wisconsin, after all, would have been Kansas' second-round opponent had Wayne Simien's last-minute fade-away jumper been a few inches longer.

Next I detected a road named "Vermont." Ah, the Catamounts of Vermont, KU's season-opening opponent that defeated Syracuse in the first round.

A few blocks later I saw "Indiana."

Hmmm. That threw a wrench in things. The Hoosiers weren't even in the NCAA. Indiana did make it into the NIT, but fell to Vanderbilt in the opening round.

Next up, I noticed "Illinois." Now we're getting somewhere.

Illinois is a No. 1 seed in the tournament and has a good shot at a Final Four berth.

OK, so aside from Indiana, I noticed three NCAA tournament teams while in Holton -- all of which still were in the tournament as I ventured back to Tonganoxie.

This, I thought, would be my signs from the heavens as to whom would be advancing in the tournament. After all, I needed something to hold on to. KU was out in the first round for the first time since 1978 and my bracket picks had never looked worse.

Illinois and Wisconsin both advanced to the Sweet 16, while Vermont lost in the second round.

As much as this could have been an omen, I'm doubting it was a good one. I'm not ready to bet the farm on Illinois or Wisconsin. After all, you have to pull for Eddie Sutton's Oklahoma State squad in Illinois' regional. And in Wisconsin's regional, where Kansas briefly played, North Carolina, Villanova and NC State also are vying for a Final Four berth.

Then again, maybe I shouldn't go with my heart anymore. I had Oklahoma State and Kansas meeting in the national championship. That dream match-up was scuttled late Friday.

This isn't the first time I've had a possible twist of fate around tournament time.

While in college, friends decided to break out a Ouija board. I know, if it were a prop in "The Exorcist," it's probably best to leave it alone.

But we broke out the board and "concentrated all our energy" on the Milton Bradley product.

I, of course, had pressing questions to ask.

Would Kansas win the Big 12 tournament?

Yes, it replied, but would lose to Oklahoma State.

Would Kansas win the NCAA tournament?

Yes, with a championship win against Navy.

Well, this truly was a farce. Unless David Robinson was suiting up again for the Midshipmen, Navy would be nowhere near the NCAA finals.

Then came the Big 12 tournament. KU defeated Oklahoma State, so I know this Ouija board was inaccurate.

Later that day, I purchased a Mountain Dew. The Pepsi product always had those twist-and-win caps. If the team under the cap won the tournament, you won some great prize.

My cap read "NAVY."

That was a tad creepy.

But Kansas didn't win the NCAA tournament that year and I now rarely drink Mountain Dew. In fact, I usually give up soft drinks for Lent.

I hope that will nullify my participation with the Ouija board.

For research purposes, I surfed the Internet regarding the Ouija. One site actually had an Internet board one could use by simply moving computer cursors over the planchette.

Oklahoma State, by the way, will win the NCAA Tournament. The Internet Ouija board told me so.

My apologies. Whether it be signs the city of Holton put up or an online Ouija board, I need something to occupy my time until the tournament ends.

Bucknell made sure of that Friday.

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