Ahead of the Game: Bracket madness - Tucson Local Media: Import

Ahead of the Game: Bracket madness

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Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 12:00 am

March 15, 2006 - There is water in outer space. Scientists have found evidence of geyser-type plumes, the kind found in Yellowstone National Park, on the surface of Enceladus, a distant moon of the planet Saturn.

The discovery does not answer whether life can be found on other planets in the cold vastness of space. So for now, it is safe to assume that Earth - and the United States to be more specific - is the only celestial orb in the universe that could concoct a word such as "Bracketology."

The etymology suggests that it's the study of brackets - in this case, NCAA March Madness men's basketball brackets. It's another way of describing the sweet science of flushing money down the toilet. In essence, bracketology is not a science at all and there are no experts. You've never seen anyone get an NCAA bracket completely correct. Bracketology is the hype that surrounds the NCAA's annual season-ending basketball tourney and simply another name to go along with March Madness. Due to the nature of the sports world, bracketology has more to do with gambling, from the office pool to Las Vegas, than love of college basketball.

Either way, I've got brackets on the brain. And I'm not alone.

On Saturday, I found myself staring at the volleyball brackets of the Hitman Classic on the walls of the Canyon Del Oro High School gym and all I could see was NCAA brackets.

If the word "bracketology" exists, and thankfully Webster's hasn't given in to this yet, then I've got bracketitis.

The problem this year is, with the University of Arizona's men's team facing what's likely to be a quick exit, there are no local angles to pull for. In 2004, the Wildcats were a No. 9 seed. This year they are No. 8. Folks in Tucson aren't used to having their home team be anything less than a No. 4.

The recent memory of painful tourney chokes, however, is still too much for many to bear - especially after the rollercoaster regular season that was 2005-06 for the Wildcats.

With random teams such as Air Force, Albany and Monmouth University qualifying for the field of 65, it's no wonder that Enceladus State didn't send a squad to this year's March Madness.

With this crop of mediocre teams, it's difficult to pick a Cinderella from the start.

So we find ourselves rooting not for the hometown hero or the fate of a Cinderella, but rather for a handful of teams who legitimately have a chance at winning us money. In truth, the whole tournament could probably be pared down to about 16 teams. But what fun is that?

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't completely consumed by Bracketology. Before the NCAA tournament even selected its field, I had already taken part in bracket pools for the Pac-10, Big-10 and Big East tournaments. And I must sheepishly admit, I even did one for the NIT and NCAA Women's tourney - Go Lady Vols.

Think others aren't swept in the undercurrent of bracketology?

A Google search on the Wednesday before the brackets were released turned up 461,000 websites in .12 seconds involving the pseudo-word. It only took .4 seconds to find 813,000 sites on the following Monday.

All those sites and all that advice from people who think they are experts only serve to sully the bracketologist name. It also further complicates whom we should root for: hometown teams or money?

My pick? I'm pulling for Monmouth University, one of two teams in the tourney from my home state of New Jersey. Should Monmouth run the table and win perhaps I can cure myself of this plague. Or maybe it will only make it worse. Go Hawks.

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