"This house had actually been condemned two years ago," I was told while being given a tour. "There was a Goth group in here that absolutely trashed the place."

Somehow, this did not come as a shock. The only surprising thing, actually, was that the house was not currently condemned. Then again, for all I know, maybe it is.

I was shown to my bedroom on the third floor, a tiny room with a window that won't shut, a stained carpet, a lamp without a shade, a lumpy mattress and a two-word expletive painted on the ceiling. It did, however, have a mini-fridge stocked with the essentials for a college student suffering from a severe cold – two cases of beer and two jugs of orange juice.

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Jim Caple is turning back the clock and living the college life during the NCAA Tournament:

His stops so far:

Tobacco Road
Day 1: Love and hate on Chapel Hill
Day 2: Duke isn't just a four-letter word
Day 3: N.C. State of the union

University of Illinois
Day 1: The fountain of youth
Day 2: Hanging with Sigma Phi Epsilon
Day 3: Hoops unites Illinois campus
Day 4: Five girls and a middle-aged man
Motion: Caple at Illinois ESPN Motion

And just why, I asked, is this room available? What happened to the person who was staying here?

Much stammering and avoidance of eye contact. "Ummm, that's kind of a strange story."

"The guy who was here just disappeared one day without paying his rent. He left a couple months ago and we haven't seen him since."

"Yeah, he was kind of a weird guy."

Suffice to say, after a subsequent story that involved an open door and things best done behind closed doors, I was no more sold on the mattress.

"Your bathroom is right here," I'm told, as they point to a small closet with a sink and a toilet next to the bedroom. "Just don't [insert bodily function] in there. The water pressure is pretty low and can't handle it."

And to think, I chose this house over more than 400 other invitations.

I'm beginning to seriously consider calling the sorority house that offered a clean room to myself when a voice rings out,

"Hey, you want to play Beer Taps?"

And with that, we're headed downstairs for beer. And why not? After all, the less sober I am, the better the place will seem.

I had hoped to spend this final week of the NCAA Tournament on my old campus at Washington – I had even entertained hopes of moving into my old dorm room with my old roommate – but as it turns out, my final stop on this three-week tour of Bracketville schools is a logical one. Not only is Michigan State playing in the men's Final Four, but the women's team has qualified as well, making MSU just the sixth school in NCAA history to reach the Final Four in both sports in the same year.

All the national attention goes to North Carolina and Duke, but Michigan State is the new heart of college basketball – coach Tom Izzo's Spartans are playing in their fourth Final Four in the past seven years, more than any other team during that span. This is the home of the 2000 national champions. This is the school of Magic Johnson and the 1979 champs. This is the school I should be at.

Continued...


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