- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some regions have all the fun.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament continues this weekend in four cities, including our very own. In the West Region (Los Angeles), La Salle and Wichita State play each other. That means one of the “mid-majors” in the field will be playing for a spot in the Final Four. Tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast is headed to Arlington, Texas, to play in the South Region. The Midwest (Indianapolis) gets a double-digit seed, too, in an Oregon team that will play tournament top seed Louisville.

D.C.? The answer to a trivia question — which is the only region in the tournament where the top four seeds advanced through the first weekend? Yep, Verizon Center is stuck Thursday night with No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 4 Syracuse and No. 2 Miami against No. 3 Marquette.


Maybe so, but here’s a bold prediction: While Washington doesn’t have the “wacky” factor the other regions have, it has the one thing they don’t. Head to Vegas and book this now. The eventual champion is playing here.

Verizon Center has the magic touch. Two years ago, Connecticut and Butler left here after the early rounds as the only teams to win two games and advance. All they did was end up playing for the championship, won by Connecticut.

The trail to the top runs through Washington. Yeah, sure, some of you with steel-trap minds may remember reading a prediction of Louisville as eventual champ in this space a week or so ago. We’re taking our mulligan and making another call. Whichever team wins the East Region title Saturday at Verizon will be the survivor of the Final Four.

Which team will that be? C’mon, you want everything? We can’t give you that. The crystal ball is recharging. We can tell you shooting and rebounding well, playing defense, that kind of thing probably won’t have much to do with it.

Which team has the right karma? Let’s take a look at the participants, in no particular order.

⦁ Miami: Where to even begin? The Hurricanes had to pay an extra bag fee to get all their karma to town.

For starters, coach Jim Larranaga was in charge at George Mason when the Patriots became the “it” story in 2006 by advancing to the Final Four. Where did Mason play its regional semis and final that year? How did you guess? Verizon Center, where it beat Connecticut in the region final.

There’s more. Miami’s point guard is a terrific player named Shane Larkin. His father is Barry Larkin, a shortstop who is in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Barry Larkin spent some time as a special assistant to the general manager of the Washington Nationals.

The Washington Nationals play in Washington, duh. Not terribly far from Verizon Center.

As if any more was needed, do yourself a favor and google “Jim Larranaga dancing.” Or click here if you are reading online. The man is 63 years old and has an artificial hip. Yet there he is, auditioning for a spot on “Dancing With the Stars.”  How can you not love that?

⦁ Indiana: Tom Crean, the Hoosiers coach, looks just like the guy who plays Dwight Schrute on “The Office.” That isn’t his biggest claim to fame.

Crean’s wife is Joani. Nee Harbaugh. Yes, that Harbaugh. Her brothers are San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh. You might have read they played each other in the Super Bowl. You might even see John Harbaugh in attendance this weekend.

From a family standpoint, Crean and Indiana have it all over everybody this weekend. He’s a de facto Harbaugh and Harbaughs win.

⦁ Marquette: Coach Buzz Williams can dance, too. Check that one out as well, here if you are reading online. Maybe if the Golden Eagles’ game against Miami goes into too many overtimes, they can just do a coaches dance-off as a tiebreaker (my vote goes to Larranaga). But even if he can’t dance as well as a man 23 years his senior, there’s a ton to like about Williams. He may be the best coach who isn’t really a household name. This is his fifth year at Marquette and his fifth NCAA appearance. He has a 120-52 record.

He has a master’s degree in kinesiology. He runs a program in Milwaukee called Buzz’s Bunch to help special needs children attend camps and games.

And his nickname has taken firm hold. His official Marquette bio calls him Buzz and makes no mention that his real first name is Brent. At least according to chacha.com.

⦁ Syracuse: If you’re into Winnie the Pooh, this is your team. Think of Eeyore and you pretty much have Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. He always seems a bit dour. At 68, he’s the oldest coach here. He’s been at it a LONG time and has done it pretty darn well. He’s been at Syracuse since 1976 and his consistency is amazing. His next losing season will be his first and he’s won fewer than 20 games only twice.

Boeheim has won 915 games and his team won the national title in 2003. Retirement rumors have been following him around, rumors he has refuted. Plenty of time to help Pooh find the hunnie tree later.

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