Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Indy or Berkeley?

Members of the MSU Band had a big choice to make this week, before the women's basketball team tipped off against Duke.

Option A: Commit to go to Indianapolis for the men's Sweet Sixteen matchup against Kansas, and possible Elite Eight game against Louisville or Arizona.

Option B: Take your chances on the women beating top-seeded Duke, with a trip to the Berkeley Regional as the reward if they do.

Now obviously the call has to be guaranteed trip over possible trip. But it got me thinking: What if they'd had until this morning to pick? Assuming MSU is picking up the tab for your trip, where should you go? Let's break it down in five key categories:

1) Chances of Success

The women are already giant-killers, having beat the best team in their regional. Correction: Having horse-whipped that team and sent them back to Durham with their tails between their legs. But it doesn't get any easier from here.

Iowa State is a four seed, and a win brings the winner of two-seed Stanford and three-seed Ohio State. If it's Stanford - and that's my bet - you've got to beat the Cardinal in California. Not an easy task.

The men's side shapes up somewhat more simply. First up is Kansas, the defending national champions and three seed. With a win you get the winner of Arizona and tournament number one Louisville.

Since you can only go to one, you've got to take your best odds at seeing a second State game - and MSU's men have already beaten Kansas once this year. Edge: Indy.

2) Location, Location, Location

Indianapolis is close, Berkeley is far, but since in our scenario MSU is footing the bill, cost to get there doesn't much matter. So now it's a question of where you'd rather be.

And this is easy. No offense to the Hoosier State, but would you rather be in the San Francisco Bay area or smack-dab in the middle of Indiana?

Easy. Edge: Berkeley

3) Atmosphere

Nothing tops an arena full of screaming fans, but unfortunately that's just not usually what happens at any regional in the NCAA Tournament. You're not quite at the Final Four, where people move mountains to get there, nor at the sub-regional, which is often just a cavernous arena full of empty seats.

Instead, the regionals really key off of how many of your own fans you can squeeze into a building - and as well-developed as MSU's alumni groups in San Fran and southern California are, nothing will get fans there like cheap tickets and a short drive.

Edge: Indy

4) Vacation Time

Out in the working world, vacation time is somewhat at a premium. Some folks get two weeks, some lucky ones get three. Others get one week, including sick time and some get none at all. College, therefore, can be your last best chance to do something you ordinarily wouldn't.

And who randomly picks up and takes off to California for the weekend?

The key here is repeatability. Anyone can go to Indianapolis any time. Shoot, for most in the Midwest, you can make it to Indy on a day trip. Not so with Cali. It could be a case of not now, not ever.

Edge: Berkeley

5) Legacy

In other words, peer three or four years into the future. Where do you want to be able to tell your friends and family that you went. In 20 years, what about your kids?

From my own personal experience, having been there in person for everything from the 2001 football win over Michigan to the 2005 men's Final Four, nothing - and I mean nothing - even comes close to the 2005 win over Tennessee that the MSU women engineered in their 2005 Final Four game. They weren't expected to be there, they weren't supposed to win, but they did.

And as loud as the Breslin gets for some men's games, the loudest I've ever heard that building was a few years back for a women's game against Ohio State. Some friends who went to the Duke game said it was even louder than that on Tuesday. That's the sort of passion you can get in MSU women's basketball for a truly huge game.

Look, it would be great if the men went to the Final Four in Detroit, but quite frankly it's well within their expectations. Both of us contributors to this blog have Sparty in the championship game (with one winning, the other falling short). But almost no one outside of the Spartan locker room thought that the women would be where they are right now. Now they've got a chance to keep shocking the world.

And you can't miss that. Edge: Berkeley

Winner: Berkeley
, by a score of 3-2. It's close, and while the trip to Indianapolis would be great, how could you pass up a free ride to Berkeley?

That having been said, location is just one small piece of the puzzle. The Spartan men and women could play in Vladivostok for all I care, so long as they represent the university well and get the W.

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