68 real truths about the Madness

We never know what's going to happen, do we? March Madness, upsets all over the place, teams coming out of nowhere, stars born overnight, coaches coaching their way into the big money. It's a three-week crapshoot, isn't it?

Not really. The idea that we're about to embark on the craziest three weeks of the year sells a lot of advertising and creates a lot of interest, but remember: There's a lot of dream-selling going on, too. Just like most years, there are only six or seven teams with a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing; and, just like most years, they come from the same familiar places.

The last non-BCS school to win a title was UNLV in 1990, and nobody was making horrible slipper metaphors for Jerry Tarkanian and his guys back then.

But is this the year for all of that to change? A national title for a so-called mid-major is the next logical step, isn't it? One mid-major in the Final Four two years ago (Butler), two last year (Butler, VCU), so it makes sense, doesn't it?

No. Not even close. Kentucky's going to win. Unless North Carolina does.

But there's nothing wrong with believing. And there'd be nothing better than being wrong. So …

Sixty-Eight Not-So-Self-Evident Truths

1. One team you don't want to challenge to a 400-meter relay: Missouri.

2. If you're not looking at the television and someone says, "Wow, that guy just banked in a 3," the proper question in response is: "Cool -- Long Beach winning?"

3. And now a word on Northwestern: No.

4. An almost mythical convergence of man and place: Montana's bearded 7-foot forward Derek Selvig, from Glendive, Mont.

5. Glendive's motto: "Good People Surrounded by Badlands."

6. As Syracuse advances through the field, gird yourself for the inevitable: Nothing will be spared -- not even the harp section -- to provide the soundtrack for Jim Boeheim's year of trial and tribulation.

7. And now a few words on UConn: At some point, if you're on the bubble, shouldn't the sheer volume of past indiscretions count against you?

8. If you're not looking at the television and someone says, "Wow, that coach is really up in that kid's face," the proper question in response is: "Typical of that guy -- is Kansas State winning?"

9. And now a word on snubs: With a field of 68, the number of teams that got into the tourney with a shrug and a hearty "Why not?" far exceeds the number that has a gripe about being left out.

10. But for those needing a torch-bearer for the flickering flame of the snubbed: "There must be a lot of people on the basketball committee who don't know too much about basketball."
-- Drexel coach Bruiser Flint.

11. Hunch: Don't be fooled by Vanderbilt's SEC tourney run, especially the win over Kentucky.

Let's drop the anything-can-happen-in-March charade for a moment and answer this question: If Kentucky were to play Vanderbilt 20 times in a do-or-die national tournament situation, how many times would Kentucky win?

13. Answer: 25.

14. Sentence from a major American newspaper that makes you wonder if Bracketology exists in a parallel universe: "The bubble teams, not a particularly deep field this year, also took a hit when St. Bonaventure (21-10) earned the Atlantic 10's automatic bid by beating Xavier in the title game."

15. "Field of Bubble Teams:" Or, as some call it, the NIT.

16. Turnovers will be the end of them: Murray State, Long Beach State.

17. With any luck, the guy from "Hardcore Pawn" will be trying to sell Cameron a cheap tea set he bought off a Detroit drug addict: President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron will be on at halftime Tuesday night on TruTV.

18. Stop with the pretense and call them what they are -- two preliminary games to get rid of a couple of bad teams and two other preliminary games created so the committee had to make fewer hard decisions: Nobody considers Tuesday's and Wednesday's games "the first round of the NCAA tournament," and they never will.

19. Despite the clamoring of the nostalgics, UConn will not threaten Kentucky in the round of 32, for one simple reason: Iowa State will beat UConn before that even happens.

20. Matchup we'd like to see but won't: Wisconsin-Long Beach State.

21.And one more: Wisconsin-Murray State.

22. In other words: Wisconsin against pretty much any team that runs up and down the court as fast as it can and tries to have as much fun as possible.

23. Oh, one other one: Wisconsin-New Mexico State.

24. You can look smart by raising your eyebrows just right while you're saying it, but don't because it isn't happening: Belmont over Georgetown.

25. Not many people are saying this, but it's got a far better chance of happening: New Mexico State over Indiana.

26. Break down to build up: New Mexico's Drew Gordon, reportedly one of the reasons UCLA's program is such a mess, is now a big reason New Mexico is a trendy pick to advance.

27. Range is simply a state of mind: Long Beach State's Casper Ware, South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos.

28. None of that "if I offended anyone" garbage for this guy: Florida State center Bernard James, who kicked Virginia's Joe Harris during a March 5 game, sent a written apology to Virginia coach Tony Bennett that included the line, "I am both embarrassed and remorseful for my actions."

29. And for that, there's only one thing left to say: Root for the man.

30. The power of numbers, and the calendar: If Long Beach State beat New Mexico in the middle of January on a neutral court, it wouldn't be considered much of an upset.

31. At some point, when you run the thing the way he runs it, you better win everything: John Calipari.

32. Best human story of the tournament: Louisville's Peyton Siva and his father.

33. You buy into the idea that anything can happen in the NCAA tournament: Fine, bet big on Western Kentucky, the only team in the tournament with a losing record.

34. This, apparently, counts as six degrees of … something or other: Mississippi Valley State coach Sean Woods made the shot for Kentucky that led to Christian Laettner's shot for Duke; and if MVSU beats Western Kentucky on Tuesday, Woods will coach against his alma mater.

35. Here's a "next level" stat for you: There are almost as many teams in the tournament from Kansas (Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita State) as California (San Diego State, Cal, Saint Mary's, Long Beach State).

36. As pointed out by the ESPN research team: Both Cincinnati (Xavier and Cincinnati) and Nashville (Vanderbilt and Belmont) have two.

37. Feel free to hate Duke all you want -- after all, it's the tried-and-true repository of reflexive college basketball hate -- but all the hip kids have moved on to hate someone else: Kentucky.

38. Guy most likely to make the most of his 15 minutes: Loyola Maryland coach Jimmy Patsos, who invoked Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers at halftime of the MAAC final to get his players to play "militant."

39. And no: I don't think his players had a clue who he was, either, and probably don't to this day.

40. Sentences that get written when people have too much time to think, Part I: "No. 15 seed Detroit could be a tricky hurdle for Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament."

41. Someday, we'll know the Ivy League has arrived when it has its first one-and-done: Zena Edosomwan, a 6-foot-9 forward from the Los Angeles area and one of ESPN's top 100 recruits in the nation, announced Sunday he will spend next year at a Massachusetts prep school (his test scores were a bit shy) before enrolling at Harvard.

42. Stuff that sounds good but means absolutely nothing, Part I: Syracuse won its last national championship in 2003 when the Final Four was held in New Orleans.

43. Profiles in courage: Tulsa fired coach Doug Wojcik, the guy with the most wins in school history, an hour before the NCAA tournament brackets were announced.

44. You can go ahead and call it a comeback -- everybody else is -- but only if your definition of "adversity" is being photographed drinking cheap beer with coeds at Iowa State: Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy.

45. Which explains Dan Monson's doctoral thesis, "Understanding the Value of the Good Loss:" Of Long Beach's eight losses, seven were to teams in the tournament, and three of those were to North Carolina, Kansas and Louisville.

46. Player most likely to run up against a defense that forces him into a 7-for-23 shooting night: Creighton's Doug McDermott.

47. Best on-ball backcourt defender in the field: Cal's Jorge Gutierrez.

48. Just for the heck of it: Mouse McFadden, Kevin Mackey and Cleveland State.

49. Player to watch: Robbie Hummel, wrapping up his ninth or 10th season at Purdue.

50. Sentences that get written when people have too much time to think, Part II: "It would not be a monumental surprise to see this team [Florida] advance to the Elite Eight or further, but it would be a bit of a shock."

51. If you're not looking at the television and someone says, "I can't believe that coach just sits over there looking confused while his team falls apart," the only proper response is: "Oh, that's right, Texas is on now."

52. Funkiest look in the tournament: Saint Mary's point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who simply doesn't care.

53. Guys destined to go from under-known to over-known if their teams manage a win or two: Long Beach State's Casper Ware, Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, New Mexico State's Wendell McKines.

54. Sentences that get written when people have too much time to think, Part III: "If, and that's a big 'if,' [Creighton] can beat North Carolina in the third round, this team could go all the way."

55. You know, come to think of it: I can pretty much make a case for any team going "all the way" if it manages to beat a No. 1 seed.

56. Three schools that have no excuse for being as consistently bad as they are in basketball: Arizona State, Auburn, Nebraska.

57. Reality check, please: If Detroit and Kansas were playing on a neutral court in the middle of December, would anyone be issuing any of these ominous warnings about the Jayhawks' supposed vulnerability?

58. Of course, we're not supposed to question the behavior of coaches -- only players -- but here's a question worth asking: Has Louisville taken all the Rick Pitino-related hits to its dignity to reach one Final Four in the man's 10 years there?

59. And then there's this: Consecutive losses in the first round.

60. Now, apparently, they're all growed up: Lamar's seniors, who took a verbal thrashing from coach Pat Knight a couple of weeks ago, went on to win the Southland tournament and strike a blow for tough love, surrogate parenting and Knight Family Values all at once.

61. And this is undeniable: If Lamar can beat No. 1 seed North Carolina, that team could go all the way.

62. One guy whose odd season has made a lot of people -- especially NBA people -- highly interested in how he plays in the tournament: Baylor's Perry Jones III.

63. First-round game most likely to be a 40-point blowout: Marquette over BYU.

64. Best possible Sweet 16 matchup: Marquette-Missouri.

65. Team that won't break a sweat until the Elite Eight: North Carolina.

66. If you're not looking at the television and somebody says, "Man, that coach is marching from one end of the bench to the other like a caffeinated Charlie Chaplin," the only proper response is: "I love what Crean's done with the Hoosiers."

67. One thing we always forget until the games start: The tournament's interminable timeouts.

68. And finally, a rite of spring: An adoring country gazes expectantly as supremely wealthy men scream with bug-eyed rage into the faces of young men -- mostly poor young men - who are the reason for that wealth.