In a Topsy-Turvy Season, Bracketology Nearly Rendered Moot

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2009

We've all heard of the Madden Curse. 

And perhaps even of the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. 

Yet who knew that being the number one team in the country would carry such dubious distinction in this, the most mercurial of all college basketball seasons? 

Be it the UConn Huskies, Pittsburg Panthers, the North Carolina Tar Heels, no one is safe this year.  Call it the much sought-after parity that the uber-popular NFL enjoys year after year, but this is the best thing that has happened to the NCAA since two young men named Earvin and Larry haunted the hardwoods.

This is the tournament bracket that finally blurs the line between the die hard, pre-season tourney fans and the detached, aloof office pool observers who casually fill out their brackets every year in hopes of winning a much-coveted gift certificate.   

I don't mean to jump to conclusions, but in light of all that was just mentioned, I don't envy Louisville.  At the time of this writing, they are the darlings of the media; the champions of a tough-as-nails conference that has been rivaled by only the ACC in terms of respectability. 

They emerged almost out of nowhere to garner the overall number one seed in the tournament.  Yet given the way things have played out this year, do you really want to be the favorite? 

But hey, that's why they play the game (unlike other NCAA sports, ahem).  Message boards are lighting up from Bellingham to Bangladesh with armchair quaterback predictions that prognosticate everyone from Portland State (a Cinderalla "favorite") to Florida State winning it all. 

Oftentimes in other sports, it is preached that it is not who has the best record during the regular season, but who gets hot at the right time.  Which certainly makes Syracuse and Memphis sexy picks to make the Final Four.  Truth be told, I, being unashamed and biased, have no qualms about picking a Tigers-Orangemen national final.   

Filling out my bracket today, I found myself on the verge of a migraine.  And $75 gift certificate aside, I didn't necessarily find that to be a bad thing.  I like the fact that my bracket could be turned upside down.

Much like a back-and-forth, epic football game between two offensive juggernauts that hinges on who has the ball last, this tournament ultimately depends on who, as mentioned, streaks at the right time. 

The Big East contingency has already been discussed, but for the sake of bracket balance, let's look at North Carolina, who, amazingly, is many sports writers' pick to win it all. 

Granted, they were certainly the tour-de-force for the first third of the season, but they, like their Big East compadre's, seemed vulnerable to the most unlikely of opponents, depending on the week (see: the inconsistent Maryland Terrapins or Florida State Seminoles). 

So how could they possibly be counted on to win six straight games?  


It's 2008-2009, the quintessential "anything goes" season; almost the embodiment of the Wild West.  Truth be told, we could just as easily see a Dayton or Siena cutting down the nets come March 28, when the regional finals take place and tickets to the Final Four are punched. 

Hey, everybody loves a George Mason or Davidson.  The glass slipper is always available for Spring rentals.   

This time of year, about once a week, after perusing the online sports authorities' men's basketball respective homepages, you will inevitably find your favortie team dissected, praised or possibly critiqued. 

"Hey, it's acknowledged we don't get no respect!"

"Yep, we're the best!"

"I can't BELIEVE they got in and we didn't!"

At any rate, enjoy it.  Because no matter who you follow, we all know that this is the best three weeks in sports.  And with all that was just argued, it promises to be an even better three weeks. 

So savor the upsets.  The disappointment.  The ecstasy.  The smack talk.  The brackets. 

Why ELSE would you be calling in sick so much this time of year?