Madness in March back once more

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By Tommie Kendall

It's that time of the year once more - time to put on your dancing shoes for the Big Dance, ready yourself for some March Madness, and sharpen your pencils for the Henry Hoopla contest.

March is here, and the madness in the air feels so good. It's time to brace yourself for the unexpected over the next few weeks, which will provide enough entertainment to keep us smiling for the next 11 months.

As for me - now that Selection Sunday has passed - the excitement will keep me drooling for a while. Can someone get me a napkin, please?

For the next three weeks, my life will be completely dominated by college basketball, which suits me just fine. Honestly, it's hard for me to even think about anything other than basketball during this time. My mind just doesn't work properly - it's kind of a rough period in my life actually.

The NCAA tournament tips off this Thursday and ends April 7. Hopefully you already have your best bracket filled out to submit in this year's Henry Hoopla contest. Of course I, the supposed expert, have the best bracket - as I think each year before the first-round games roll around and reality sets in that I'm awful at picking winners. In actuality, I'm no expert and if I get that title than we're all in trouble.

Of course I have to tell you my predictions, which in a good thing for you because it means you get the opportunity to take notes of which teams not to choose. So get your pen and pad... are you ready?

My Elite Eight teams include North Carolina, Louisville, Clemson, Georgetown, Memphis, Stanford, UCLA and Duke. My Final Four teams include Louisville, Georgetown, Stanford and UCLA. My championship teams include Georgetown and UCLA. And my champion is Georgetown.

Sorry Georgetown - there's no way you're going to win it all now.

As for me this year, it's a lot of first: the first time I'm picking Kentucky to lose in the opening round of the tournament, the first time I'm advancing Louisville to the Final Four, and the first time I'm actually predicting Western Kentucky to go farther than Kentucky. (I have Western upsetting both Drake and Connecticut before losing to UCLA.)

Also, for the first time, I think I actually stopped breathing a few times Sunday during the Selection Sunday Show. Although I'm not really sure if the Wildcats deserved to be in the tournament, I was about to pull my hair out to see if they would make it. I remember a time when I would anxiously wait to see if UK would be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but this time around I was glued to the TV in hopes that they would just make it. I never thought I would see that day.

While the Cats will be fighting just to get out of first-round action, contestants in this year's Henry Hoopla contest will be crossing their fingers, pulling for the teams they picked to move on. Last year's winner was Harold Frazier with 119 total points. Frazier successfully picked Florida to defeat Ohio State in the championship contest. And just so you know, I predict those two teams will be playing for the title again this year - in the NIT that is.

Now that UK is officially in, the headache is behind me and I'm excited for the tournament and Henry Hoopla once again. It's time to sit back and enjoy the show. I'm just glad March is here again, and all the madness that goes along with it.

Tommie Kendall can be reached at sports@hclocal.com. To enter the Hoopla contest, submit a bracket no later than noon this Thursday. There is a limit of one bracket per person. Points will be awarded using the 1-2-3-4-8-12 scoring system. See page B3 for more details.