Thursday, March 19, 2009


I'm not talking about a semi-permanent, severe mental disorder typically stemming from a form of mental illness (thanks Wikipedia). Nor am I talking about the British ska band made famous for "Our House."

No, I'm talking about the fanaticism that captures the nation this time of year: March Madness. There are a hundred different ways I can approach this topic. I'm not going to go into any of them. Listen, the reality is that I don't know a whole lot about college basketball, and I know less now than I've known in the past. The best players only stay for a year or two, which means that some of the lesser-known schools with senior leaders have a greater opportunity for success than in the 80s and 90s (see George Mason from a couple years ago). The moving on of the most talented players means I pay less attention, because the rewards only exist for a couple months, then they're riding the pine in the NBA, and I'm back to knowing nothing about the players on Texas or UConn.

What I am is a casual fan of college basketball who loves tournament time. I love the "underdog," as do most Americans, and the great stories like Davidson last year are what make watching the tournament so exciting. The possibility that a 10 seed from a no-name conference can rumble to the round of eight is a great, great thing. One of the amazing things about most of the first round matchups involving 1-4 seeds is that almost every neutral party in the arena or at a bar will be rooting like crazy for the 13-16 seeds. As a country, we root for Hickory High School. We root for Rudy (even those of us who wish Notre Dame would implode). The NCAA Tournament gives Americans twenty or thirty chances to root for underdogs.

Well, except for this season. This season, 30 of the 34 at-large bids went to teams from power conferences (also known as BCS conferences). Four teams from mid-major and small conferences were invited as at-large teams, down from six in each of the two previous years. The selection committee chose Arizona over Saint Mary's, which seems to be the most derided choice this season. I don't know enough about either team to say which is the better squad, though my guess would be Arizona. But I don't (and can't) know that for sure. All I know is that I have a lot tougher time seeing #12 seeds Wisconsin or Arizona as Hickory High than I would have with Saint Mary's or San Diego State. And that makes the tournament less fun to watch, which is all I care about. Thanks a lot, committee.

Don't forget, you can go here to see how Joe and Joe picked and how we're doing when compared with fans of Joe and Joe Sports.

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