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Matt Spaulding




It's my favorite time of year.

Not the Road to WrestleMania... the Road to the Final Four.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament starts this week, and while I can't speak for anyone else, I, for one, am pumped. But something odd happened while I was watching the tournament selection show at work on Sunday night. As they went through all of the brackets, I'd look up and think to myself: "Due for a push... jobber... jobber... jobber to the stars... overpushed..."

Needless to say, I thought I was going nuts.

But later, I stopped to think about it, and I realized just how right my analysis was. Professional wrestling and this tournament (and all major sports to a degree) have all kinds of parallels. The whole thing is like the King of the Ring tournament, but on a much bigger scale, and it doesn't sell out quite as fast. You've also got your own personal favorite players and teams, babyfaces and heels, and rivalry angles.

So what I decided to do (without the aid of medication, no less) was write up a guide to this year's NCAA tournament, but in wrestling terms. Is it a unique, noble undertaking, or proof that I truly do not have a life? That's for you, the reader, to decide, although I lean towards the latter.

Curtain Jerkers: Every No. 16 seed. These teams are usually from the smallest of the small conferences and are in strictly as cannon fodder for the top draws. No 16th-seeded team has ever won a game in the men's tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and only one women's team has done it. That type of won-loss record would make the Brooklyn Brawler proud.

Jobbers: Any team seeded from Nos. 13-15. Beat them, pay them. Although one of these teams may occasionally pull off an upset, it doesn't happen often enough to make them anything more than jobbers.

Best Workers: Duke and Stanford are full of smart kids who know the psychology of basketball; Michigan State always rolls out a senior-dominated, Benoit-like effort, and Temple plays a defensive style that continually frustrates opponents.

Best Brawlers: Syracuse and Oklahoma love to get physical.

Best Flyers: UCLA, DePaul, and the University of Tennessee (where Big But Not Particularly Sexy Kevin Nash played basketball in the early 1980s) both have plenty of players who specialize in high-flying action. Special mention to Dayton, whose nickname just happens to be "Flyers."

Rookie Sensations: Like The Rock and Rhino when they first arrived, youth and potential are the name of the game at Duke, Arizona, Illinois, Florida, and UCLA.

Jobbers to the Stars: Purdue is the long-reigning king of this category for always finding a way to blow a chance to upset a better team. Missouri and Louisville also have solid strings of JTTS losses.

Due For a Push: The Rock's alma mater, the University of Miami-Florida (the distinction is made because there is also one in Ohio), Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Tulsa all have enough talent to get over and make a decent run in the tourney.

Possible Hotshot Angle: Little Washington Catholic school Gonzaga could find itself making a second straight Cinderella run through the tournament. Iona, Penn, and Arkansas are other low seeds that could do something.

Overpushed: I've never been impressed with Kansas teams, and this year I'm even less impressed.

Top Faces: There really isn't a team anywhere that everybody likes, but Duke is always a common fan favorite.

Top Heels: People have loved to hate Indiana's Bobby Knight for years, but the new top bad man is University of Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins. His players don't graduate, and he's, to borrow from Jim Ross, "a first-class jerk."

Top Angle: Huggins is a key figure here as well: he's pissed because he feels his team was jobbed out of a No. 1 seed when their best player was injured during their conference tournament.

Your Time Is Up: This year's North Carolina team is best compared to Hulk Hogan: they shouldn't be where they are, but they're being rewarded for their work in the past. This leads us to:

Jobbed Out: If I'm Vanderbilt, I'm going to load up the car with 2x4's wrapped in barbed wire, drive to North Carolina, and administer a beatdown the likes of which has not been seen since... well, the street fight at the Royal Rumble, but you smell what I'm cookin'.

Shameless Attempt To Put Myself Over: Remember, the regular "Idea Man" column runs on Friday. This week I'll be picking Uncensored and discussing how and when I would have put the Rock into WrestleMania's main event.

Matt Spaulding

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Guest column text copyright (C) 2000 by the individual author and used with permission