Jon Stevens

Spring ushers in March Madness

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Two days ago, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and now tomorrow, after what has seemed like an interminable wait, we regroup and welcome with open arms the first day of spring.


Will this madness never end?


Ah, speaking of madness. I am willing to bet that when the vernal equinox does arrive shortly before 1 p.m., it will mean little to the college basketball fanatics glued to television sets after a final tweak of the holy grail known as Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Bracketology. At this time of the year, we have to accept that what we think is important, is important.


Imagine if the Albany-St. Mary’s winner upsets Florida. Will those who picked Florida really care about the latest scenario and conspiracy theories circulating around the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? Maybe eventually, but not at this moment.


While this will be a very unlikely bracket buster, there undoubtedly will be upsets as the 68 teams are reduced to 16 by Sunday, the Elite 8 is determined by March 28 and the Final Four is celebrated March 30.


Then, we move into April, the month T.S. Eliot called “the cruellest month” in his signature poem, “The Waste Land.” The Final Four face off April 5, and the national champion is crowned April 7. April will indeed be cruel to three of those teams that end up in Arlington, Texas.


But let’s try and remember that while this tournament is just a series of games played mostly by teenagers and by some who may have just turned old enough to legally buy a drink, it is in fact, not just another series of basketball games, just as the seventh game of the World Series is not another baseball game, or the Super Bowl is not just another football game.


There will be, I am sure, those who enter the well-publicized challenge from Warren Buffet, who will pay $1 billion to anyone who has the filled out the perfect bracket. Most believe that just isn’t going to happen. The odds, people say, are one in one quintillion of getting it right.


If I had the slightest interest in who wins this tournament and I pored over strength of schedules, considered injuries to key players and examined which conferences historically had the best success in the tournament, I would still be disappointed after the first round. Yet, I suppose conventional wisdom dictates you don’t pick against the No. 1 seeds, who are playing 16th seeds. The difficulty is trying to figure out which ninth seed is going to defeat an eighth seed.


So I ask, would it be better for ratings, and the game, to have Virginia playing Wichita State in the final, or Mercer battling Western Michigan?


Relative to the latter matchup and referring to what the oddsmakers in the Buffet challenge said, it just isn’t going to happen.


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