March Madness is in full swing and its been a lot of fun covering the Marquette University Golden Eagles as they've made yet another trip to the Sweet 16.
That has been a new experience for me, as the Golden Eagles were already in the midst of their run last year when I started at OnMilwaukee.com and no college I covered previously even made the Division I NCAA Tournament.
I'm coming around a bit on college sports – well, basketball at least – and enjoying it a bit more. This weekend added to that as I took a brief respite from the day-to-day grind and shot out to Las Vegas for a three night sojourn.
The purpose of the trip was to be there for the madness – and it definitely colored in the picture of college sports a lot more for me.
You had your bettors, sure, but alumni from nearly every team in the tournament (except for Florida Gulf Coast) packed the hotel, casino, sports book and the strip.
It was a fascinating mix of people becoming friends due to wagers or like-minded rooting interests. Then, in the next game, the same two dudes hugging each other over Ohio State don't speak a word to one another because they're on opposite betting lines the next game.
It was great to hear people cheer for individual baskets like there was no tomorrow, or the literal fall-on-the-floor heartbreak of a long 3-pointer that got the favorite to 20 points first.
I've heard NFL Sundays in Vegas are fun too, but watching the mix of college spirit, liquid spirits, and the volatile nature of the NCAA Tournament all together definitely added another level to the "madness" for me and honestly – it made me like the sport a little more.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.