DAVID BIANCULLI

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The Mania of March Madness
March 10, 2018  | By Gerald Jordan
 

The countdown is well underway. True basketball fans already have a full weekend of conference tournaments under their belts, and we’ll wrap up all of it this week before the NCAA tournament tips off.

This is the time of year when the most obscure conferences (leagues for the uninitiated) find their way into the national conversation. I mean, really, did you know there was a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference? Or that Quinnipiac was more than a political poll? And when’s the last time you heard Marist yelled and it wasn’t a Frasier rerun?

It’s as though Oprah stood at center court in Madison Square Garden and exclaimed: “You get a conference and you get a conference and you get a conference…”

'Tis the season.

All basketball-orange eyes will be locked on TBS at 6 p.m. ET Sunday evening to learn of the destination of their favorite team then eagerly peruse the tournament bracket to plot a course to the national championship. Oh, and TBS already has drawn fire for its changed format. The network will announce all 68 of the teams that are in the tournament then reveal the brackets that show who’s playing whom.

And in the over-used parlance of “bracketology,” this year – more than any recently – might produce a champion from among the ranks of working stiffs.

Think about it.

Not one team is so damn scary good that every tout sheet lists them as a prohibitive favorite.

Of course, basketball royalty still occupy their thrones: Virginia, Villanova, Duke, Michigan State, Michigan, Kansas…you get the picture. What if Xavier plays lights out or Gonzaga goes on a tear or Cincinnati summons echoes of Oscar Robertson?

In a year in which Wichita State is ranked higher than North Carolina (speaking of basketball royalty), who knows what bracket evil might befall bettors.

When Nevada – not the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (they of the Running Rebels), but plain old garden variety Nevada – and Rhode Island wrap up the year ranked in the top 25, this certainly portends the end of days.

Beginning Tuesday and repeating on Wednesday, the quaint NCAA “First Four” games get underway in Dayton. The remaining 64 teams in the tournament that slows office productivity to a crawl will tip off in regional sites from Charlotte to San Diego.

Set your remotes to find TBS, CBS, TNT, TruTV and any of the downloadable apps on which you hear sneakers squeaking on hardwood floors or see an assortment of some of the oddest team mascots ever to grace a screen.

By April 2, when “One Shining Moment” is playing, any one of a dozen teams could be hoisting college basketball’s most coveted trophy.
 
 
 
 
 
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