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Bracket time:?‘Who you got?’

March 2, 2012
By MIKE HUGHES - The Scene , Times Leader

In a little more than a week, the American sports viewing collective will be glued to the television for the remaining days of March.

For those who count basketball as their pinnacle of sport, this is their Super Bowl.

For everyone else, it's time for what's simply known as March Madness.

Yes folks, it's time for the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, or simply, the tourney.

What the NCAA lacks in determining a Division I FBS champion in football, it more than makes up for in basketball.

By know you've settled in nicely, catching conference tournaments and seeing which teams, both in large and small conferences, have earned their automatic bids.

All eyes are fixated to next weekend, March 11, for Selection Sunday.

That's the official kickoff to Madness when 68 teams, now in the second year of the increase from 65, are tabbed to compete in the Big Dance to see who makes it to the Superdome in New Orleans for the April 2 championship game.

There will be 31 teams selected that receive an automatic bid to the tournament. These teams won their respective conference tournaments and earned the right to play in the tourney.

Actually, 30 of the 31 won their tournaments. The Ivy League's champion is crowned by whichever team sits atop the league standings at the end of the regular season.

For many teams, especially the smaller schools from the lesser known conferences teams that, if this was football and not basketball being discussed would be from the FCS and not FBS this is there only chance at getting noticed and making the tournament.

The remaining 37 teams are selected by receiving at-large berths, which is always a heated topic of discussion, both for sports pundits and the millions of fans.

Arguments will carry on well into the night and spill over to sports talk shows the day following Selection Sunday.

With so many teams eligible and only 37 selected at large, undoubtedly, some teams are going to feel slighted.

So have a legitimate gripe. Others perhaps are from a traditionally stronger college that were dishonest with themselves about how good their season actually was.

Fans from the power conferences will complain about the number of small schools, conferences like the Missouri Valley, Atlantic 10 and the Horizon League, dubbed mid-majors, that gain entrance.

But as the 2011 tournament proved, when Butler and Virginia Commonwealth not only played well but met one another in the Final Four, that conference doesn't always determine success.

That's what makes the NCAA Tournament so fun to watch the upsets, the match ups, the disappointments and the surprises.

It's not always about name recognition or even record. A highly seeded team can get derailed because it doesn't match up well its opponent.

Basketball, perhaps more so than any other sports, is a game of match ups. A dominant pitcher can nearly single-handily win a game in baseball. In football, the team with the better quarterback usually wins. Like baseball, a goalie standing on his head in hockey can win the day for his team.

But in basketball, with just five men per team on the court, each match up can have a positive or negative effect on the outcome.

It makes it exciting. It also makes the practice of "Bracketology" all the more frustrating.

That's the term given for filling out your tournament bracket by picking who you think will win which games and how far they might advance.

Sure, the No. 1 seed is 108-0 against No. 16 and No. 2 is 104-4 against No. 2.

But ponder these tourney statistics. The No. 8 seed is actually 51-57 against No. 9. The top seeds in 5-12, 6-11 and 7-10 match ups only win between 60-66 percent of the time.

And that's just the first round.

Should a team you picked to reach the final four lose in the first round, your bracket may be shot before the opening weekend is over.

Some people put immense thought into their bracket, breaking down every game and potential match up beyond the first round.

Others may pick a winner based on favorite mascot or the aesthetic appeal of their uniform colors.

There is no rhyme nor reason to why some people make selections the way they do.

There's also no explanation for why some people, who the most off the wall method of selecting teams, occasionally win their office pools.

That too adds to the mystery and fun of the tournament for the spectator. Some pools are played for fun. Others are high-stakes games with large entry fees and big payoffs.

But even a casual office bracket pool amongst coworkers for fun can lead to bragging rights for at least the next week at the water cooler.

The bracket gives fans a reason to watch games not involving their favorite team.

So round up some snacks, do a little research if you wish and get ready to print out those brackets.

March Madness is coming.

Hughes may be reached online at



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