It's time to jump into the (office) pool. Time to prep your picks and get your brackets in order. Time to say goodbye to reality and to enter a parallel universe.
Yes kids, the 2013 National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Championship, a.k.a. March Madness, tips-off Tuesday, March 19 in Dayton, Ohio, with what is known as the First Four, wherein eight teams fight over the course of two nights for the right to be subsequently squashed by the top seeds. For all but the fanatical First Four followers, the tournament begins in earnest on Thursday. Giddy up!
Ah, the Madness. Buzzer beaters. Bracket busters. Cinderella stories (if the shoe fits, baby, wear it). More excitement than a heart can handle courtesy of a do-or-die, one-and-done format. And numbers that boggle the brain.
Sixty-eight teams. More than $3-billion wagered over the course of the 20-day tourney, between the First Four and the Final on Monday, April 8, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (helpful tip: given that the Final tends to end late and be so exciting that you'll need an extra cup of decaf tea before being able to even think about going to bed, call in sick now. I'm sure your boss will understand).
So, you think time is not on your side now, before the tournament even begins? Well, how you will ever manage to cram an estimated 160 hours of basketball into your tight schedule? Corners will have to be cut (honestly, do you really need to shave, shower and trim those unsightly nose hairs between now and the Final)? Creativity will be called upon ("Honey, for the next three weeks, I don't have time to put the toilet seat down, so be aware!"). And necessity will become the mother of invention (you're not a lousy parent, so of course you can help little Janey with her science project. During commercial timeouts).
If the wild and woolly regular season in U.S. college hoops is any indication, this year's tournament could be nuts. There's been no dominating force in the sport this year. It's been all about parity. In one memorable five-week period, five new teams emerged as No. 1. Entering the tournament, the top seeds are Louisville (overall top seed), Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga.
Yes, Virginia, there really is a Gonzaga. The little Jesuit school in Spokane, Wash., (undergrad pop: 4,900) has become a big basketball deal, and is led this year by (cue O Canada) Canuck Kelly Olynyk, the pride of Kamloops, B.C., who ESPN says (set down your Timbit and brush back those patriotic tears) "can rightly be called the nation's best big man." Did I mention he's Canadian?
I keep hearing that the so-called 'smart money' in the tournament is on the Louisville Cardinals. But in a tourney like this where anything can happen, where one sub-par game can send you packing, where one magical moment by a team playing David to your Goliath can leave you collapsed on the court blinking back tears, 'smart money' is money that remains in your pocket. No bets are safe. No bets are ensured to not seem silly three weeks from now.
And yet, we try to crack the code. We become Bracket Heads (as defined by USA Today: "Those individuals who apply logic, trends and higher math to find the teams that will survive and advance"); ignorant of the fact (or simply ignoring it) that "knowledge is not always power," and the person who tends to win the office pool -- picking way more winners than wieners -- is someone who wouldn't know a Lobo from a Hoya. Granted nobody outside of Georgetown University really knows what a Hoya is...
Last week House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested that President Barack Obama spends more time filling out his March Madness brackets than he does writing a budget...
Sounds right to me. And to about a gazillion other March Madness devotees who are about to spend three weeks trying to steal time to devour this bodacious bounty of basketball, served up piping hot in a parallel universe known as Hoop Heaven.
With just 2.1 seconds left, Duke's Grant Hill heaved a pass down to Christian Laettner, who was all the way at the free throw line. Laettner caught it, stepped back and swished a fade away jumper to beat Kentucky as the Blue Devils advanced to the Final four.
Tied at 52, Lornezo Charles put back Derrick Whittenburg's air ball and dunked it as time expired to give N.C State a 74-72 victory over Houston in the 1983 National Championship game.
In the first round, No. 14 seed Valparaiso's Bryce Drew nailed a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Rebels a 70-69 victory over Ole Miss.
Down 73-72 with five seconds left in regulation, Maryland's Drew Nicholas dribbled down the court and nailed a desperation 3-pointer to put away UNCW in the first round, 75-73.
Down 74-73 in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tournament, Tyus Edney of UCLA drove the ball the full length of the court and made a tough layup, leading the Bruins past Missouri and into the Sweet 16.
Down 74-73 in the Sweet 16, Rip Hamilton of Connecticut grabbed the loose ball and hit a fade away jumper at the buzzer to beat Washington 75-74.
After West Virginia tied the game at 71 with five seconds remaining, Texas' Kenton Paulino knocked down a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Mountaineers 74-71.
In the second round of the 1981 NCAA tournament, U.S Reed nailed a half court shot at the buzzer, giving Arkansas the victory over the defending champs Louisville.
Down 70-69 to Clemson with just one second on the clock, Connecticut's Tate George caught a full court pass, turned around and made a short jumper as time expired and Uconn won 71-70.
James Forrest of Georgia Tech <a href="http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2004/03/21/gat_409468.shtml" target="_blank">hadn't made a 3-pointer all season. </a>With one second showing on the clock, Forrest received the inbound pass and threw up a 3-pointer. It fell right in, giving the Yellow Jackets a 79-78 victory over USC.
After Greivis Vasquez and the Terps rallied to take a one-point lead with 6.6 seconds remaining, Korie Lucious nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Michigan State into the Sweet 16.
Trailing by one point with 4.2 seconds left, Murray State's Danero Thomas received a pass at the top of the key and took one dribble to his right. Then he stopped, took a fadeaway jumper and nailed a game-winning buzzer beater to upset Vanderbilt.
With his team trailing Jim Calhoun's Northeastern squad 69-68 with two seconds remaining, VCU's Rolando Lamb received the inbounds pass just inside the 3-point line. Lamb then turned around and threw up a quick shot and made it at the buzzer. The No. 6 Rams avoided the upset.
With just two seconds remaining and the score tied at 79, Iowa State's Jeff Hornacek received the inbounds pass just beyond the 3-point line. He took one dribble, turned and nailed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Butler's Matt Howard was in the right place at the right time after a desperation shot missed in the final seconds. Howard was there for the rebound and quick put-back just as time expired, giving the No. 8 Bulldogs a 60-58 win.
No. 8 UNC inbounded the ball underneath the Oklahoma basket with eight seconds remaining and the score tied at 77. Rick Fox got the ball on the right wing, drove the baseline and made a running layup as time expired to knock off the No. 1 Sooners.
Trailing by one point with time winding down, No. 12 Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers got the ball well behind the 3-point line on the right wing. He hoisted a desperation 3-pointer and hit nothing but net, ending No. 5 Drake's season.
Marquette had to inbound the ball from under its own basket and score in three seconds to avoid overtime. Butch Lee launched a pass toward Jerome Whitehead all the way in the far paint. Whitehead recovered the deflected ball, turned around and made a layup at the buzzer to send Marquette into the championship game.
Trailing by one with seven seconds remaining, Mike Miller of the No. 5 Florida Gators got the ball on the left wing. He dribbled to his right and through the lane, throwing up a running layup. It fell through the net as time expired, sending Florida to the second round.
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