THIS IS THE YEAR GOD DAMN IT. We're getting this done and dusted and we've narrowed things down to a Top 4 of teams to focus on:
1. FC Dallas... they're good right now, I like their Coaches philosophy and emphasis on player development. The Missus has cousins down in Texas, so there's a halfway decent chance I could get down there now and again to see a game. Their colors are red. Arsenal's colors are red. It's not a big leap, color-wise for me. Here's their season preview.
2. Sporting KC... there's a huge plus here for geographic proximity. Kansas City really isn't that far away from Iowa City in the grand scheme of things, so games are reachable. They've been pretty good and won the MLS Cup a couple of years back I believe, so they should be fun to watch and I keep seeing good things about their fan culture, which is also a bonus. (If I'm in, I want to be all in, you know?)
3. Toronto FC: A Yik-Yak recommendation from the void back when I had Yik-Yak and cared about Yik-Yak and had a mild amount of fun saying provocative things like, 'Bring back petticoats!' and 'What's with all the jorts?'* Toronto FC looked damn good last year and seemed to be a lot of fun to watch. However: I'm not in Canada. Odds of me being in Canada any time soon are slim to none, so chances of seeing a game: low to near zeros. But, they're newish and they're too good not to consider. So: here's their season preview.
4. Minnesota United: I know, I know, I'm kind of a Minnesota Homer already which makes me not want to like them, but at the same time, why not complete the quarter and like the Vikings, Twins, Wild and United? Unfortunately... they're not off to the greatest of starts. A 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Portland could be forgiven for a new expansion side, but a 6-1 thumping by fellow newbies Atlanta United? Not so much. I love their colors. I love their culture. I love that they're the Loons, but... I'd like to see signs of a pulse before I sell my soul to another Minnesota team that sniffs/tastes glory but once in a generation, you know? Here's their season preview.
*I don't get the jorts thing. It's a weird fashion statement that I don't get. But they're back and when I asked the Yik-Yak void 'what's up with all the jorts?' I got my ass handed to me by some militant feminist who thought I was body shaming or something. I wasn't. I was genuinely curious why bad 80s fashion is suddenly trendy again.
When we last checked in with NEC Nijmegen it was January 11th. Now we're in March, so we've got a few results to look at- unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have done anything worthwhile for NEC because they're still sitting solidly at 12th Place. Which isn't bad, but it's not exactly good either... let's see what's transpired since last we checked in:
W over Willem II
W over Roda
L to Feyenoord
L to Go Ahead Eagles
L to Zwolle
L to PSV Eindhoven
L to Sparta
W over Heracles
L to Den Haag
Ouch! Rough stuff for NEC... the losses to PSV and Feyenoord (sitting at 3rd and 1st in the table) are probably to be expected. But ouch ouch ouch, the lossses to dead last (but interestingly named) Go Ahead Eagles and second from bottom Den Haag hurt. As do the losses to fellow mid-to-low table dwellers Zwolle and Sparta. But the schedule for the rest of March and going into early April does NEC no favors. On deck:
FC Utrecht (4th Place currently)
Vitesse (5th Place currently)
Groningen (11th Place, right above them)
Ajax (2nd Place currently)
Ick. Ick. Ick. If they're very very lucky, they could maybe get two out of the four. Groningen looks like the only probable win out of the bunch. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they'll go on a tear and prove me wrong. But I doubt it. Fingers crossed, NEC! You got this!
Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year... time to fill out the old bracket- which I'm doing mainly by feel because I haven't really watched any basketball to speak of this season, so I'm flying blind and by the seat of my pants like I always do. Let's go by region:
'Nova and Wisconsin advance.
UVA and ETSU advance. (UNC Wilmington might screw me here- I've seen them here and there as a trendy upset pick, but I'm going with ETSU here.)
SMU and Baylor advance.
Marquette and Duke advance.
'Nova and UVA advance
SMU and Duke advance.
'Nova and Duke advance.
'Nova to the Final Four.
Kansas and Sparty advance.
Iowa State and Purdue advance.
URI and Oregon advance.
Oklahoma State and Louisville advance.
Kansas and Iowa State advance.
Oregon and Oklahoma State advance.
Oregon and Iowa State advance.
Oregon to the Final Four.
I'm weirdly nervous about Gonzaga here vs SDSU. But, Gonzaga and Northwestern advance.
Notre Dame and WVU advance.
Xavier and FSU advance.
VCU and 'Zona advance.
Gonzaga and Notre Dame advance.
FSU and 'Zona advance.
Gonzaga and 'Zona advance.
Gonzaga to the Final Four.
UNC and Seton Hall advance.
Minnesota and Butler advance. (I've seen people picking both MTSU and Winthrop as upsets here- which means, odds are, one of them is going to screw me.)
Cincinnati and UCLA advance.
Wichita State and Kentucky advance.
UNC and Butler advance.
UCLA and Wichita State advance.
UCLA and UNC advance.
And, I can't believe I'm saying this about a Steve Alford coached team, but UCLA to the Final Four.
Gonzaga over 'Nova
Oregon over UCLA
Gonzaga wins. Yes, I'm sticking with my longtime love affair with Gonzaga and riding it all the way to the bank this year. This will undoubtedly screw me at some point along the way, but damn it- I love my 'Zags. I'm not anywhere geographically close to Gonzaga and I love my 'Zags, damn it. So they're my team this year. As always, I hate Duke. I hope Grayson Allen trips over a towel and breaks both of his ankles. I wouldn't mind either UNC or Arizona winning. I'd say the same about UCLA, but you know, Alford. I think Iowa State could go deeper than I have them going as well and Kansas has screwed me too many times to ever trust them again. So out they go in the Sweet 16. (Randomly: it wouldn't surprise me to see a deep Sparty Run either. March is where Izzo eats.)