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Madness marches in
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Forsyth County News
It’s tournament time.

And if ever there was a tournament that’s wide open, this is it. Louisville heads into the playoffs as the nation’s top-ranked team. Look out, Cardinals. North Carolina’s loss in the ACC tournament marked the eighth time this season the top-ranked team has fallen off its perch. Et tu, Louisville?

Rick Pitino’s lads also grabbed the top seed in the entire tournament when they managed to add the Big East tournament title to their Big East regular season title.

No small feat there. The Tournament Selection Committee considered this year’s Big East conglomeration the greatest college basketball league in the history of the free world. How else to interpret the awarding of three-fourths of the number one seeds to Big East teams?

Now consider this: those three teams combined for 13 losses. Louisville garnered five. The team with the fewest losses in the country — Memphis, with three — couldn’t even wrangle a number one seed.

In the final USA Today coaches’ poll, the top 11 teams all had three to six losses. No team in the top 25 had more than nine. 62 of the 65 teams in the tournament field had four to 13 losses. But get this: 40 of the 65 teams had seven to 11 losses. And we thought parity was spelled N-F-L.

All of which bodes well for an event with a long history of unexpected results. No doubt we won’t bear witness to a repeat of last year, when all four top seeds comprised the Final Four.

No, this year’s tournament is such a muddled mess that you need a professional to sort it out. ESPN has Dickie V and Jay Bilas. CBS chimes in with Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis. But they’ve got nothing on us.

We get to trot out the bookmaker to the rich and infamous, the Maestro of March Madness, Uncle Vinnie Mariglianni. And what does Uncle Vinnie make of all this parity?

“I dunno, ya know? I dunno.”

Can you expound on that a little bit?

“I told yer Aunt Isabelle, ‘Iz, hang on ta ya nylons. Dis thing is wide open dis year.’”

Well, is there any team you can pick out of the morass that you like to win the tournament?


Okay, Uncle Vinnie, I know your reputation is on the line. I tell you, I kind of like Memphis. They know from last year how to survive and advance. And losing in the final game to Kansas last year probably gives them a little added incentive.

They also played in a relatively weak conference, which means they weren’t battered every night like Big East and ACC teams were. They haven’t lost this year, either. Their last loss was in December. No other team can say that. What do you think?

“Yer full a donkey dust. Memphis has three losses. Ones to Syracuse, ones to Georgetown. If dey wuz in da Big East, dey might not even be in da Tournament.”

Okay, I know. You’re a Jersey guy. You like the Big East?

“Well, I’m biased, ya know? I’m a Pitino guy. Big surprise. Heh, heh, heh.”

Yeah, but they lost at Notre Dame, 90-57.

“Yeah, but dey ain’t lost since. Ricky got his guys’ attention.”

Pitt? UConn? Villanova? The ironmen from Syracuse?

“I dunno. Dey beat each other up so bad in da season, ya know? I’m afraid dey got nuttin left in da tank.”

Well, the way this season has gone, maybe you’d be better off going with a team that had lost right before the tournament. How about North Carolina?

“Ty Lawson, dat guard, dey need dat guy. And dat coach, Williams, he cries a lot. Very unmanly. But da big kid, Hansbrough, he can really play. An dey play fast. I like dat.”

How about Oklahoma?

“Blake Griffin, de best player in da country. But it seemed like every time dey had a statement game, dey lost. Coachin’, maybe? I dunno.”

Okay, since 1985, when the current format was adopted, 14 number one seeds have won the tournament; 21-of-24 winners were seeded one, two, or three. Only two teams seeded below eight ever reached the Final Four. So, even though it’s a real long shot, are there any lower seeds that you really like?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like Virginia Commonwealth. Hey, isn’t deir coach, Antny (Anthony) Grant, movin’ on to UGA? Or is dat Bob Knight? Heh, heh, heh. Dey got dis guard (Eric Maynor) who led an upset of Duke two years ago, and a good big guy (Larry Sanders). I can’t wait ta see Maynor play against UCLA’s Darren Collison.

“An ya know what? I love Siena. Hey, didn’t dey send a coach down your way a while back? What’s his name, Hewitt? How’s he doin’? Anyway, dey got all five guys back from da team dat beat Vanderbilt last year, and dey played some good teams in December, and I think dey’ll make Ohio State take notice.”

So, Uncle Vinnie, from what I gather, you can flip a coin, roll the dice, or pick names out of a hat as far as this year’s tournament goes.

“Dat’s right.”

Boy, this is going to be great. For the next three weeks, absolutely anything can, and will happen. I wonder why they don’t do this for football?

“I dunno, ya know? I dunno.”