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On Thursday the men's NCAA basketball tournament will get underway. Remembering that the "C" in NCAA stands for "collegiate," there could be some surprises.
In first round West Regional action, it will look as if Memphis, a number two seed, is going to overwhelm Cal. State Northridge.
Memphis will lead by as many as twenty six points late in the second half, but just before the buzzer, the starting point guards will be asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the bi-cameral legislature.
The lad from Memphis will be less assured in his presentation, and Cal. State will prevail by virtue of both command of relevant facts and appropriate rhetorical flourishes, despite falling short in such categories as rebounds, steals, blocked shots and actual points scored.
In the South Regional, Morgan State, losers of eleven games during the regular season, probably considered themselves lucky to even make the dance. Certainly nobody could expect them to prevail over number two seed Oklahoma, and indeed, most of the game will play out according to the chalk.
Bigger, faster, and stronger, Oklahoma will regularly rebound their own misses for easy layups and beat Morgan State back on defense. But the tide will turn with under a minute left when the bench players from each team are summoned to center court for a spelling bee.
After the maximum thirty seconds allowed for consultation, the Oklahoma subs will guess that the word "unguiculate" is spelled with a "w" and has something to do with dancing.
Managing the clock brilliantly, the lads from Morgan State will wait several beats before correctly spelling the pesky word, and the fellow who was paying attention in zoology will recall that it means "having nails or claws, as opposed to hooves."
The ref. will blow his whistle and direct the official scorekeeper to award twenty five points and possession of the ball to Morgan State, now leading by two.
The TV cameras will zoom in on the Oklahoma coaching staff and the nation will be rewarded with the unsettling spectacle of several grown men in suits and ties shouting at a group of embarrassed players.
"What were you thinking?!" the coaches, fearing for their jobs, will be screaming. Their eyes will bulge. "Dancing?! For the love of Charles Darwin, you don't know a phylum from a full-court press!"
As Morgan state inbounds the ball, the Oklahoma starters will try to foul somebody, but to no avail. The buzzer will sound. After a brief celebration, the Morgan State players will shower and retire to the library to study for their game against Clemson.
Bill Littlefield comments on sports for WBUR and hosts "Only A Game" each Saturday at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
This program aired on March 18, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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