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Ignorance is bliss in bracket land

| Tuesday, March 23, 2004

This is the point in March Madness when bracket creep, formerly a term referring to edging up the tax brackets, now applies to the moron who's leading your bracket pool because he/she liked a team's uniforms.

Or nickname.

Or cheerleaders.

Or pep band.

Studied consideration has lost out to random thought. No need to be gracious about it.

This is a time to kick yourself because you had serious reservations about Kentucky, but your co-workers loved the Wildcats and the pairings people ranked them first of the first seeds. So, you bowed to the crowd, doubted your evaluation, and projected Kentucky to the Final Four, whereupon the Wildcats came up floaters in the second round.

You picked Stanford for the Final Four as a talented team of destiny. That turned out to be not so talented and destined to go out a whole lot earlier than you'd thought.

When your predicted Final Four field has been halved, and your chances of winning the money are about as slim as UAB's chances of winning the tournament, it's time to look elsewhere for entertainment -- beyond the basketball games themselves.

Fortunately, this tournament doesn't disappoint.

St. Joseph's which has achieved some sort of modern day standard for disrespect accorded a top seed, plays on into the Sweet 16 round. But that's not the half of it.

CBS analyst Billy Packer, who went over the top in criticizing St. Joseph's on selection Sunday, drawing a strong response from Hawks coach Phil Martelli, will be doing the St. Joseph's-Wake Forest game Thursday.

It gets better. Packer is a former Wake Forest player and long-time Atlantic Coast Conference booster. When Martelli wished aloud that his team was playing Packer, Packer retorted that he'd already beaten St. Joseph's during his Wake Forest days.

To recap, we have an announcer who became the story instead of merely covering it, in the position of doing color commentary on a game involving the team he ripped, and his alma mater.

This is almost too good to be true.

But there are other potential story lines of great interest.

If Wake Forest beats St. Joseph's, and if Pitt beats Oklahoma State, the second a given according to my acquaintances who are Pitt fans, we get the matchup of the team coached by the guy Pitt first wanted to replace Ben Howland, Skip Prosser, vs. the guy Pitt settled for, Jamie Dixon, who has had a great first season on the bench.

Dixon and Prosser won't be into this storyline. But that won't stop the rest of us.

Broadening the focus, there's the ongoing World vs. Duke angle. This one, I don't understand. Duke has a great coach, follows the regulations, plays outstanding team basketball, and seems to be hated by the rest of the college basketball world.

Duke's grievous offense is . . . consistent success.

The critics allege favoritism, ranging from seedings and travel, to officiating.

Superior talent and coaching are discounted as possible explanations for why the Dukies keep winning.

Like Packer, I'm wielding some bias here. Duke is my pick to win it all in two bracket pools. I won't win the bucks even if I'm right, but I'll salvage a small measure of pride.

But I wouldn't mind if St. Joseph's went all the way to title Monday. It would make me feel young again, circa 1979, when Packer ripped on Indiana State and Larry Bird all the way to the championship game.

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