Let the 'bracketology' beginMarch Madness fires up talent in Buffalo
By ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun
BUFFALO -- It's a mad, mad world when people who haven't watched a college basketball game all winter suddenly know that a Catamount plays at the University of Vermont.
It's an even madder planet when "bracketology" -- the process of studying and filling out an NCAA pool sheet -- becomes an oft-used if not entirely acceptable word.
Welcome to the lovable lunacy of the U.S. college basketball championship better known as March Madness.
Of the eight sites which play host to first and second-round games over the next four days, Buffalo's HSBC Arena arguably is the most attractive of the bunch.
It is equally arguable that the short span in which those 32 games are played is among the most exciting 48-hour stretches in all of sport.
Beginning today at 12:25 when the Texas Tech Red Raiders tip off against the Charlotte 49ers and ending around midnight, four first-round matchups will be decided here.
And if you thought the Maple Leafs' come-from-behind win over the Sabres Monday night at this same arena was exciting, get ready for some more.
"It doesn't matter what seed you are -- whether it's one, two, three, four or five, or wherever you may be, you can get beat," UConn Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said last night. "There are too many great teams and too much parity for people to get too confident."
Calhoun's Huskies are one of the big draws in Buffalo as the No. 2 seed in the Phoenix arm of the tournament bracket. A team that spent the first seven weeks of the season as the top-ranked team in the country, struggled later, then rallied last weekend to win the Big East Championship.
They are a whopping 20-point favourite over those green-clad Catamounts, champions of the America East.
Then there is the Cinderella story of the Saint Joseph's Hawks who were ranked No. 1 two weeks ago before losing their conference final to Xavier by 20 points.
Saint Joe's was unwittingly thrust in a mild controversy when they were seeded first in the East Rutherford, N.J. bracket. Their biggest critic, CBS blabber-mouth Billy Packer, accused the Hawks of profiting from a lightweight schedule.
"People will say negative and positive things about you," Saint Joe's guard Jameer Nelson said when asked about Packer's comments. "Let's just play."
Play they will in somewhat of a holy war. A small catholic school near Philadelphia, St. Joes is a 23 1/2-point pick against equally tiny Liberty, a small baptist school in Virginia founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
And the story lines just keep on humming. Also here is the poster boy for hoops madness, Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight. Given his success in recent years as Red Raiders coach, Knight isn't the compelling story he was when he was tossing furniture at Indiana University.
When asked yesterday whether Knight's language gets salty at times, forward Devon Giles deadpanned: "I'm from Newark (N.J.), I hear that stuff all the time."
For sheer viewing pleasure, the NCAA Tournament has had its reputation blossom by big upsets and buzzer-beater drama. Perpetuated by wall-to-wall television, the event has become a huge cash cow for the NCAA.
In the unlikely event you aren't yet convinced of the madness, consider this: A Hartford paper reported this week that "bracketology" talk around the water cooler will cost U.S. business some $1.5 million in lost work time.