Column: Mad for March

The Breslin proved to be an empty atmosphere, with few GV fans scattered around on Sundays game against the Spartans

Eric Coulter

The Breslin proved to be an empty atmosphere, with few GV fans scattered around on Sunday’s game against the Spartans

Pete Barrows

Scene: Breslin Center, East Lansing – Nov. 2, 2007:

Callistus “Bean” Eziukwu collects a dish from a driving Jason Jamerson in the paint with his left hand, throws up a runner with his right and strikes the heel of the rim. The ball bounces straight up into the air, and then gently and purposefully cascades through the net with 10.4 seconds showing on the clock.

Preseason Big 10 Player of the Year Drew Neitzel’s desperation 3-pointer on the other end falls ‘Muggsy Bogues’ short, and the Grand Valley State men’s basketball team escapes with an 85-82 victory in double overtime over No. 8 Michigan State.

Eziukwu, GVSU’s career leader in blocks (329), scored eight of his 15 points in the second overtime while Jamerson, the program’s career leader in 3-point makes (303), netted 19 points in the stunning upset victory.

It was just an exhibition game, but it was magic and still stands out as one of the most storied moments in the history of GVSU basketball.

“Remember that time GVSU beat MSU at something?” Lucy Laker will remark as she strolls out of the Mary Idema Pew library with her study buddy.

“GVSU beat MSU?” Johnny GVSU exclaims. “Where was I?”

“Don’t you remember the 30-second clip on Sports Center that aired back when we were freshman in high school?” Lucy said. “It was rad.”

Johnny and Lucy segue the conversation by professing a shared love for college basketball. Johnny proclaims that he expects GVSU to win it all this year, and Lucy boasts that her bracket selections will decimate Johnny’s. The pair continues talks at the Connection, where Johnny offers to spring for the five-plus debit dollars Lucy needs to buy a regular sized salad.

What a guy. Johnny is in like Flynn – atta boy, Johnny – and March Madness is kept alive and well at GVSU. Only that conversation never happens.

The Lakers’ multiple Elite 8 appearances in the Division II tournament, as well as a Final Four finish in the 1977 NAIA Division I tourney, aren’t readily mentioned, and GVSU basketball pillars like career rebound leader Danny Poole are enigmas that exist to the Laker faithful only in record books.

Students and water cooler-gathering office workers across the country are just as likely to fill out a NIT bracket as they are to enter a Division II bracket pool, and it would be all too easy for all the “Johnny and Lucy/general population” students enrolled at GVSU to miss out on the majesty of March Madness.

The joy that can be exhumed from finding a basketball game every time you flip on a T.V. for a week, the vicarious energy shared when an underdog upsets a power, the satisfaction experienced every time one of your bracket picks moves on and the devastation felt when one of your Final Four teams bows out before the Sweet 16.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Do it for Dickie V. and all the diaper dandies. Do it for yourself, and for Louie. For all the Lucys and Johnnies out there, in tribute to the memory of GVSU’s one shining moment against MSU, and start here with the official Lanthorn-sanctioned guide to March Madness.

STEP 1: Print off a bracket

It can be men’s or women’s (or both) – whatever floats your boat – but fill out one and only one of each. Sure, there are over 9.2 quintillion (that’s 9, followed by 18 more digits) possible brackets and if you filled out one bracket per second, it would take you 292 billion years to fill out every possible outcome – but have some pride. Be confident and brash as you sit down to make your picks as LSU Shaq dunking on everything that moves, spike your pen on the ground, pick it back up and then taunt your bracket with gusto about how perfect it’s about to be.

STEP 2: Pick a method

You can go as complex as re-watching game tape from the season while digesting advanced metrics and statistical trends. You can go as simple as siding with which team has the cuter uniform. You can flip a coin, draw names from a hat, close your eyes, copy Obama, go chalk, honor the spirit of Che Guevera with upset picks, let the mascots decide or use some combination thereof. Just make sure whatever method you apply is plenty mad.

STEP 3: Make your picks

No. 1 seeds never lose game one and advance to the Sweet 16.88 percent of the time. No. 5 seeds often do, and you’d be smart to pick at least one No. 12 seed in the first round. Vegas is putting out 20/1 odds that Kentucky never trails in a tournament game, and you’d be smart to ride the Wildcats all the way to the title game. Play the odds when you can, but being smart only takes you so far in March. Conviction, intuition and blind luck are equally essential parts of a balanced bracket, and remember – you have to be different to win.

STEP 4: Show off

Once you have your winning picks in place, brag like it’s your job. Enter a pool, and explain why it’s you and no one else that got it right. Make outlandish bets with your friends, and expand your experience by doing a player draft. Grab Jerian Grant, Buddy Heid, Devin Booker, Seth Tuttle and Jordan Mickey and laugh. Most importantly, submit your bracket to the Lanthorn and see if you can beat our carefully and collectively analyzed picks (I doubt it). Repeat until your interest is entirely vested.

STEP 5: Watch

Should you skip class to watch a game? Probably not. Should you not not skip a class to watch a game? Only you can answer that. Adopt a rooting claim in a team or player that strikes you, and don’t confine yourself to cheering for or against Sparty. Keep a trained eye for the next Steph Curry, remember what it was like to watch Mateen Cleeves cry tears of joy and do so in a group whenever possible. The impact of a game-winning shot pulsates through a crowd, and can be felt tangibly through a T.V. miles away.

Step 6 (for good luck): Enjoy

There are only five or so weeks left in the semester. I say this not to send you into a spiraling panic, but to gently remind you that college is about balance. About knowing when what must be done must be done, and when what must be done can wait. So study for your exams, apply for your internships, write a letter to your state rep and then go out to enjoy the sun by working a White Men Can’t Jump hustle on someone at an outdoor court. Challenge your roommate to H-O-R-S-E, and shout “J.J. Redick” every shot you take. Make time to watch the “I Hate Christian Laettner” 30 for 30 and soak up all the pageantry March has to offer.

If you don’t stop to smell the freshly snipped nylon netting every once in a while, you might just miss it.