Why March Madness will be More Maddening than Ever

This might even be the year when filling out the brackets based on mascots and color schemes is potentially as legitimate a method of selection as any other handicapping tool.

 

The current climate in college basketball is best characterized by the presence of Duke at No. 20 in this week’s AP Top 25 as a newsworthy development.

The Blue Devils hadn’t been recognized in the Feb. 2 poll, the first time in 168 consecutive rankings, the first time since the 2007-08 preseason listing that Duke hadn’t been included.

When you can’t even count on Coach K anymore, anything truly is possible.

Already, more Top 5 teams have been beaten this season (29) than all of last season (21).

Already, six teams have claimed the No. 1 ranking (North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas, Oklahoma and Villanova).

Last season, Kentucky was No. 1 until the Final Four, until Duke took over.

There isn’t a Kentucky or a Duke this season, not as we’ve come to know Kentucky and Duke as NCAA absolutes (or, at least, the closest thing to it).

There isn’t a perceived “team to beat.”

There isn’t one power conference that stands above all others.

There isn’t even a clear-cut favorite for Player of the Year.

All of which means anything can happen once we get to March Madness.

That’s always the mantra, but this year’s tournament promises to be particularly maddening.

This might even be the year when filling out the brackets based on mascots and color schemes is potentially as legitimate a method of selection as any other handicapping tool.

That’s good news for West Virginia, which checked in at No. 10 in this week’s poll. The Mountaineers went to the Final Four in 2010 and head coach Bob Huggins absolutely knows the way there.
 

And that’s good news for Pitt, which still has significant work beyond Tuesday night’s double overtime survival of Wake Forest. The Panthers have fallen as a higher-seeded team too often in recent seasons (2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2003 and 2002 come to mind). This might be the year to try the underdog approach.

That’s bad news for Duquesne, which hasn’t participated since 1977. The Dukes are having a respectable season at 15-10 overall but short of a magical run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament figure to end up on the outside looking in, again.

And that’s really bad news for Robert Morris, which has work to do down the stretch before assuring itself of a spot in the Northeast Conference Tournament. The Colonials are no stranger to the NCAA event. They made an appearance last season and even survived a “First Four” matchup with fellow No. 16-seed North Florida.

Unfortunately, No. 1-seed Duke was waiting.

And last season Duke was Duke.

This is the season to take on a No. 1 with a legitimate optimism and with a legitimate shot.

This is the season not to worry about the region or the venue as much as just getting there, anywhere.

This is the season to show up and play your best ball and find out what’s possible and what isn’t by leaving it all on the floor.

This is the season to play Duke, or anyone else for that matter, and get knee deep in the Madness.
 

  

Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section