Bracketscapes: Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas – Reliant Stadium (Final Four: April 2&4)

Why your dad likes Houston: Because every dad born during the Baby Boom wanted to be an astronaut when they were kids.  Thanks to JFK, my  dear old dad wanted to fly when he was younger only to have his dreams derailed due to poor eyesight. (Be aware that my dad also credits his poor eyesight for ending any chance he ever had of playing in the NFL.)

Signature Food/Drink: With its surprising proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Houston has some of the finest seafood in the continental US. (Although since the BP disaster I am sure many local Houston eateries have been forced to adjust their menus.) For drinks, it’s tough to uncover an abundance of local craft brews so I am willing to bet that the people of the “Outer Loop” appreciate a good Bud Light while the fine, privileged folks of the “Inner Loop” enjoy themselves some sarsaparilla.

College Basketball History: The city of Houston has a fine tradition of college basketball. The University of Houston boasted one of the best, most prolific programs during the early 1980’s. In 1982-83, Phi Slamma Jamma made it all the way to the National Championship game only to be upset by Jim Valvano and the North Carolina State Wolfpack. That Houston Cougar team featured two of the NBA’s Top 50 players in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

Bracket Predictions: Butler over VCU. UConn over Kentucky. Butler over UConn. (And the final score won’t even come down to a Gordon Hayward missed half court shot.)

view from Reliant Stadium courtesy of @RiceSportMgmt

Bracketscapes: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma – BOK Center (March 18 & 20: Rounds 2,3)

Why your dad likes Tulsa: Fair to say some dads don’t even know what state Tulsa is in. Most common incorrect guesses: 1) Texas 2) Nebraska 3) Saskatchewan. I mean no disrespect to the fine people of Oklahoma, your love for the OKC Thunder is proving that you can support a big time sports franchise. I do intend to imply that Tulsa seems like a rather random choice to host the NCAA tournament. I wonder how the NCAA chooses host cities. I’m guessing the location must have a sizable arena to fit a large crowd and a local university/athletic conference to sponsor the event but beyond that…

Signature Food/Drink: Tulsa seems like your quintessential steak and potato type destination. Of course, I associate any state referenced in Lonesome Dove as having good steer. Speaking of good steak from the Great Plains, I had an Omaha steak a few weeks ago, not terrible but definitely not worth the hype.  Perhaps the fact that they’re delivered frozen had something to do with the overall quality.

College Basketball History: Tulsa hasn’t hosted a NCAA tournament game since 1985. It also boasts the second smallest population, a little over 900K, of any 2011 host city. Smallest? Dayton, Ohio. If the city of Tulsa can successfully pull this weekend off and attract people to the arena/downtown area there is a chance the tourney could return to Oklahoma in the future but only after Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Portland, Maine get their fair shot first.

Bracket Predictions: Round 2 – (13) Oakland over (4) Texas, (5) Arizona over (12) Memphis, (1) Kansas over (16) BU, (8) UNLV over (9) Illinois Round 3 – Arizona over Oakland, Kansas over UNLV

view from the BOK Center courtesy of @KCTVphotog_Bill

Bracketscapes: Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina – Time Warner Cable Arena (March 18&20: Rounds 2,3)

Why your dad likes Charlotte: If your dad likes NASCAR he’s going to love Charlotte. Charlotte, NC is the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which includes a whole lot of old race cars and plaques honoring past racing greats like Richard Petty and the late great Dale Earnhardt. If your dad is an Evangelical Christian, tell him to visit the Billy Graham Library which includes an enormous barn w/ a cross carved into one of its sides. Can’t make this stuff up.

Signature Food/Drink: Gotta be the BBQ. This past summer I went to a BBQ festival called the “Pig in the Pines” in of all places St. Germain, Wisconsin. One of the vendors at this gluttonfest was called the Carolina Rib King. So simple, yet so good. How come when I smoke ribs/brisket it never turns out as good? What’s the secret? Furthermore, why can’t I find good BBQ in Connecticut? The Northeast needs to band together and pledge to create a formidable BBQ recipe that rivals the quality and quantity of the Carolina Rib King, Famous Dave’s, and Texas Outlaws. Who’s coming with me?

College Basketball History: With 80 games hosted, Charlotte ranks 3rd in total NCAA tournament games behind Kansas City, 116, and Salt Lake City, 83. Not surprisingly, Duke and North Carolina have played in 60 of those 80 games. (I totally made that number up but doesn’t it feel like the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are always playing NCAA tournament games in their backyard? And why is Jim Nantz always assigned to those game?

Bracket Predictions: Round 2 – (1) Duke over (16) Hampton, (8) Michigan over (9) Tennessee, (2) North Carolina over (15) LIU, (7) Washington over (10) Georgia Round 3 – Duke over Michigan, Washington over UNC

view from Time Warner Cable Arena courtesy of @cwalts79

Bracketscapes: Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio – Quicken Loans Arena (March 18 & 20 – Rounds 2,3)

Why your dad likes Cleveland: Cause your dad sure does love him some Rock ‘n’ Roll music.  On the banks of Lake Erie, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has been memorializing things like leather pants, sequined jumpers, and Keith Richards since doors opened in 1995.  This years inductees included Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond, which would make for a heck of a duet.

Signature Food/Drink: Cleveland is home to a few fairly well-known chefs, most notably The Food Network’s “Iron Chef” Michael Symon.  His specialty?  Offal.  That’s right: there’s another guy in Cleveland dishing up “nasty bits” besides Dan Gilbert.  If you do find yourself in Cleveland, in need of some elbow-bending to get the taste of sheep diaphragm out of your mouth, make sure to try the local microbrews, like those offered from Buckeye Brewing and The Great Lakes Brewing Company.  The Forest City is known for it craft beer, and you can find them all at any of The Winking Lizard Tavern outposts, all over metro Cleveland.  (NB: There’s a chance that the name of that bar is gross.)

College Basketball History: College hoops in Cleveland starts and ends with Cleveland State, and an unknown history of March upsets.   In 1986, the Vikings upended Bob Knight’s 3rd-seeded Indiana Hoosiers, on their way to their first and only Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history. In 2009, the Vikes knocked off 4th-seeded Wake Forest, before bowing out in the second round.  Also, the 6th-leading scorer in CSU history is James Madison – the guard, not the president.

Bracket Predictions: March 18th: (1)Ohio State over (16) Texas-San Antonio, (9)Villanova over (8)George Mason, (6)Xavier over (11)Marquette, (3)Syracuse over (14)Indiana State; March 20th: (1)Ohio State over (9)Villanova, (6)Xavier over (3)Syracuse

view from Quicken Loans Arena courtesy of @kevinkugler

Bracketscapes: Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona – McKale Center (March 17 & 19: Rounds 2,3)

Why your dad likes Tucson: This one was too easy for me because my dad loves Tucson and has visited the area several times. He likes to tell us all the story of when he was walking through the Sonoran Desert and almost stepped on a rattlesnake. The story is only funny if you know that my dad has an Indiana Jones sized fear of snakes. The other remarkable thing about Tucson is the climate diversity. There aren’t many places on this earth where you can find snow covered cacti in the middle of March. There’s a reason why Saguaro National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States.

Signature Food/Drink: Mojitos are really not worth the effort. I once had a friend spend an entire party making mojitos for his guests.  Guy must have spent 4 hours grinding fresh mint leaves. Not to mention, the drink is way to sugary for me. After only one mojito I feel like I may slip into a diabetic coma. Tucson has plenty of food options including fresh Mexican, Indian, and Thai. The food options are reflective of a very diverse population.

College Basketball History: The McKale Center has hosted its fair share of 1st and 2nd round tournament games. In 2005, Adam Morrison – yeah remember him – led the Gonzaga Bulldogs into the second round before they were upset by Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech Red Raiders. Here’s hoping Jon Leuer finds greater NBA success than Morrison.

Bracket Predictions: Round 2 – (7) Temple over (10) Penn St., (2) San Diego St. over (15) No. Colorado, (4) Wisconsin over (13) Belmont, (12) Utah St., over (5) Kansas St. Round 3 – SDSU over Temple, Wisconsin over Utah St.

view from Tucson courtesy of @corygiger