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Bracket Insanity

Western Michigan, Eastern Washington, North Carolina, Southern Illinois.

If you picked any of them to win in round one and they did — or do — at least some of your brackets live. Maybe you are about to emerge as the upset basketball genius of your office pool. And you made your picks while your were ordering lunch.

Memphis, Manhattan, Maryland, Michigan State, and, if your strategy for beating the experts is finding a ridiculously unlikely first round upset, Monmouth. Why not? Unless Mississippi State has already malevolently mauled Monmouth by more than many by the time I mention that match-up.

The NCAA Tournament is popular with fans, excitable commentators, and gamblers. Most of all, gamblers. According to one estimate, $3.5 billion will be wagered illegally on the men's tournament this year.

To put that number in context, it's enough to fund 14 contracts the size of the one shortstop Alex Rodriguez hauled to New York when the Texas Rangers traded him to the New York Yankees. It's also more money than President Bush has risen for his re-election campaign, but he's got a dinner tonight. It is not, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as much as it cost the U.S. to occupy Iraq for the month of July in the strategy that, it could be argued, is a dumber bet than 11th seeded Air Force to win the tournament.

Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Washington. Valparaiso, Vanderbilt, Vermont.

In my dream bracket breakdown, in the regionals,
Princeton, which graduates pretty much everybody, faces Alabama State, which graduates pretty much nobody. Under pressure from folks outraged by the sham of the student-athlete ideal, the NCAA decides to scrap that game and make the players on each team write essays. The guys who frame the more convincing arguments in the more precise and powerful prose get to face Stanford in the semi-final, which will begin with a basketball game and end with one hundred multiple choice questions about history and economics. Even serious basketball fans don't object to the decision, because they realize that strong writing skills and academic competence are a great deal more likely to benefit the rangy lads than being able to stick the three.

Syracuse, Seton Hall, San Antonio, sure. Depaul, Dayton, Duke...dream on.

This program aired on March 17, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.

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