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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Mar 12, 2007 12:00 am
My most eagerly-anticipated day of the sports calendar is a day away.
Actually, it's less than a day away thanks to daylight-saving time. By the way, if you have plans for 2:30 Sunday morning, scrap them because the 2 o'clock hour will vanish.
But back to my main topic. Selection Sunday is my favorite day of the year as the NCAA announces the bracket for its mens' basketball tournament.
It's the official beginning of March Madness. But in actuality, the insanity began days ago with the conference tournaments. If tomorrow is basketball's Christmas, today is Christmas Eve and the last two weeks have been full of office parties and family get-togethers. Actually, Christmas Eve will last until Santa Claus, or CBS' Greg Gumbel [or whoever is hosting the studio show this year] announces the pairings as decided upon by the elves, otherwise known as the tournament-selection committee.
Only 65 teams have been deemed to be good enough for the NCAA tournament, but the majority of Division I teams have the opportunity to play their way in. If you're in the Ohio Valley or Atlantic Sun conferences, otherwise known as the mid-major leagues, it's win or there are no presents under the NCAA tree. You mmmiiight get an NIT stocking-stuffer bid if you have 25 wins. Otherwise, your 20 wins and regular-season championship mean nothing.
In the SEC and other power conferences, several teams already know they're in and some others can play their way in, either by winning a game or two or, and this is generally unlikely, by taking the tournament.
But these events are filled with anticipation as hoopheads everywhere speculate on who's in and where they'll be seeded.
And the power-conference teams take their league tournaments just as seriously as their less-endowed brethren. Thursday night, I witnessed two games go to overtime with favorites Duke and Tennessee losing to N.C. State and LSU, respectively, both teams who need to win their tourneys to advance to the Big Dance while the Blue Devils and Big Orange will have their names called tomorrow evening.
Looking at the scores from Thursday, eight games went into overtime. including two in the Pac 10. Three went double overtime. As I write this, at least one went to OT yesterday and Vanderbilt lost by a single point. Talk about free basketball.
After this weekend, people will fill out their brackets and await the first-round games Thursday and Friday. These are the games which give the NCAA tournament its soul as the mid-majors look for their 15 hours of fame by knocking off a power team. George Mason gained 15 days of immortality by advancing to the Final Four.
Another reason this is my favorite sports time of the years is baseball is here. Spring training is underway and Cumberland has been playing great in weather just as good this week. Anticipation is great among The Boys of Summer as everybody is in first place. The anticipation is even more acute where the ball is much bigger.
Let the Madness begin? It already has.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.