© Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
One-and-dones have killed name recognition. The Pac-12 is a disaster. The rise of the NBA in the past few years has only served to show how limited the skill sets are.
And yet, who among us is not totally fired up for March Madness?
That’s right. It’s tourney time, and the most surefire way to get everyone in this country going bananas for college basketball is also back: your brackets.
The symmetry of the 64-teams on your sheet (to heck with “play-in” games). The constant barrage of action from 9 a.m. Thursday through 10 p.m. Sunday. The geographical spread of teams from UC Irvine to Buffalo, from Gonzaga to Northeastern.
It’s all a heady brew and I am ready to drink from it, even if my alma mater’s total disappearance from relevance and the tournament is a pitiful reflection of our athletic director and his hiring choices. But my feelings about UCLA and Steve Alford are not relevant to you right now. I do thank you for letting me vent, however.
Admittedly, the knowledge of the field is slim for most of us. What, you have the 3-seed Houston Cougars rotation down? You know precisely why 7-seed Wofford is a sleeper team? You have knowledge of 12-seed Liberty’s chances of taking down Ben Howland’s Mississippi State Bulldogs?
Of course you do not. But that doesn’t stop you from the thrill of a game of chance, of reading a capsule that says 9-seed Oklahoma’s quality wins over Kansas, Florida and, yes, Wofford make you pay attention. Your lack of knowledge doesn’t prevent you from reading about Oregon’s late surge into relevance, or UC Irvine’s 30-win season.
And then there are the things you DO know: Like, Zion. And more Zion. And then even more Zion.
The presence of man child Zion Williamson and Duke make every bracket lively. You either love Duke, or hate them. You either think Zion is making a foolish decision to risk injury before his projected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, or you love Zion’s devotion to a cause, to create lifetime memories by winning a national championship for Duke and Coach K.
And you know Coach K, and his 12 Final Fours (same as John Wooden!) and five national championships (!). And you know 2-seed Michigan State, and Tom Izzo and his seven Final Fours (!). And you know last year that Virginia became the first 1-seed ever to lose to a 16-seed, and bounced back into a 1-seed again this year. And you know North Carolina is back as a 1-seed, and Gonzaga, the greatest thing out of Spokane since Bing Crosby, is back as a 1-seed, a tiny school of Jesuits throwing haymakers with the boys from Tobacco Road.
So much to know, and so much to learn. So much to enjoy, even if you don’t know. Who knew Sister Jean a year ago? Now, I’m pretty sure she has an agent.
Here’s to your bracket. Here’s to your bracket getting busted. Here’s to your Survivor Pool and the agony of saving Duke for the title game. Here’s to all the skipped work hours, and to the greatest games of office pool chance our country has ever offered.
It’s March. Go mad, sports fans.