Last time I tried to hype you up on March Madness, get you excited about the Big Dance. I even tried to pander to your writerly sense of romanticism with a silly ass poem. But I’m not gonna lie to you. College basketball sucks.
The shot clock’s too long, resulting in low scoring games and/or a ton of fouls to stop the clock at the end, which causes the whole damned thing to drag on and on and on forever. The three point line’s so close to the basket a kindergartener could drain treys all afternoon. And let’s face it, most of these kids are only a couple years removed from high school, and all the talented ones go to the NBA after their freshman year anyway, so you’re pretty much watching a buncha nineteen and twenty year-old scrubs, who will never make it anywhere, trying to impress you with crisp chest passes and their inability to dunk in an entertaining fashion.
March Madness is all of that compressed into a single over-hyped ratings extravaganza that peters out almost as soon as it begins. The best way to describe it is with a quote from the late great Mitch Hedberg:
As a comedian you have to start the show strong and finish the show strong. Those are the two key elements. You can’t be like pancakes: All exciting at first, but by the end you’re fuckin sick of ‘em.
March Madness is like pancakes. If you follow this thing through to the end, trust me, you’ll be fuckin sick of college basketball.
Why am I telling you this? Because there are only two exciting things about March Madness, and I want to make sure you don’t miss them.
The first is the week beginning this Sunday, Selection Sunday, and ending the following Sunday after the last game of the second round. The atmosphere during this period is electric. From Selection Sunday when the bracket seedings are announced until the first tip-off on Thursday, everyone is scrambling to complete their picks, guessing who’s gonna upset who in which round, and trying to convince themselves they actually know what they’re doing. Then, Thursday through Sunday, the first four days of the tournament, everyone is glued to the TV, trying to watch seven games at once hoping they picked all winners. Some of my fondest March Madness memories are from these first four days, when, in high school, we’d all skip class and gather in the AV room to watch the afternoon games with the football and basketball coaches and other right minded teachers who were also skipping class. Goooooood times, good times.
The second exciting thing about March Madness, as you can probably guess, is gambling. There aren’t many things in this world that can bring such a disparate group of individuals together for brief, yet intense, shared experience and camaraderie. But amateur sports gambling is one of them. And the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament exemplifies this phenomenon like no other sport. I mean, c’mon. In what other sport, at the end of the regular season, do sixty-five teams have at least a theoretical chance at being crowned champion? Okay, maybe hockey. But that’s it. And that feeling of hopefulness that all these teams have washes over you, the gambler, as well. Enjoy it. Savor it. Cause it ain’t gonna last long. On Thursday morning the players and coaches and fans of these teams will be filled with optimism and delusions of grandeur, and by Sunday evening, forty-nine teams will have had their hopes and dreams flushed right down the toilet, along with your twenty bucks. So please, don’t take the first four days of the tournament for granted, and whatever you do, never ever pass up a trash talking opportunity. It may be your only one. Or, you might make a new friend.
Last time I mentioned something about bracketology, but really, that shit is pointless. Bracketology is the method of predicting, by scientific means, which teams will get into the tourney, which ones won’t, and what their seedings will be. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of websites devoted to this crap. For those of us with a life, we can wait till Sunday.
I also promised to explain Dick Vitale. Here’s what you need to know:
PTP = Prime Time Player
As in, “PEEEE TEEEE PEEEE, BAY-BEEEEE! HE’S A PRIME! TIME! PLAY-YERRRR!”
If that’s all you ever understand about Dick Vitale, then you understand as much as 95% of the population. However, if you plan to spend some Q.T. with a Surf and Turfer fan during a Knee-Knocker, there’s an advanced course available here.
I probably won’t post Part 3 until next week, a day or two after Selection Sunday, and that’s when we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of picking the correct teams. But for those of you itching to fill out your brackets, here are a few statistical March Madness tips to get you started:
1) A #16 seeded team has never beaten a #1 seeded team.
2) A #1 seeded team has never lost to a #16 seeded team.
3) In the 22 years since the tournament expanded to include 64 teams, at total of 92 games have been played between #1 seeded teams and #16 seeded teams, and in all of those 92 games neither has a #1 seeded team lost to a #16 seeded team, nor has a #16 seeded team beaten a #1 seeded team.
With those three tips, I just gave you four correct picks. You're welcome.