The games. The brackets. The takeout food. The lost sleep. The last-second shots that remind you this is the best three weeks in sports, even once your bracket is toast.
March Madness is back and we’re here to bring you our annual A to Z look at the whole glorious spectacle.
If you need an excuse for the boss, we’ll write you one.
We’re good at writing things.
A is for Akeem Springs, a senior guard for Minnesota. I’ve been to Akeem Springs in Minnesota. Lovely lodge there. Good fly fishing.
B is for the best names in the NCAA men’s tournament. There are so many good ones this year, Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee and Dayton’s Scooche Smith didn’t make the starting five. These names did: Deng Adel, Louisville (say it fast, it’s fun); Norbertas Giga, Jacksonville State; Nana Foulland, Bucknell; Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Svi to his friends), Kansas; and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr., Michigan State.
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C is for the UConn Invitational that the NCAA women’s tournament has become. Connecticut has won an NCAA record 107 straight games and is going for its fifth straight NCAA title and 12th overall. Great for UConn, but bad for women’s basketball, which needs more contenders, not one superpower.
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D is for Dick Vitale, who is in a running war of words with Arkansas coach Mike Anderson after the Razorbacks’ Moses Kingsley was ejected for a hard foul on Kentucky’s DeAaron Fox in the SEC tournament. “That doesn’t make you a man, that makes you a mouse,” Vitale said. Anderson said Vitale didn’t even know Kingsley’s name, calling him “Beasley.”
E is Elaine Benes of “Seinfeld” fame. Work with me here. Elaine was played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her son, Charlie Hall, is a sophomore walk-on for Northwestern, which is in the NCAA tournament for the first time. Louis-Dreyfus and actor hubby Brad Hall are Northwestern alums, by the way.
F is for NCAA first timers. Aside from Northwestern, there’s UC Davis, Jacksonville State, North Dakota and Northern Kentucky in the men’s tournament; Elon and Texas Southern in the women’s. LSU would play TSU in the second round if the Lady Tigers beat California and the other Lady Tigers beat Baylor in Waco.
G is for Glendale, Arizona, not Phoenix, which is hosting the Final Four for the first time. It’s also the first time the Final Four has been west of San Antonio since 1995.
H is for the Harvard women, still the only No. 16 seed in either tournament to upset a No. 1 (Stanford, 1998). Men’s No. 16s are a combined 0-128 … and counting.
I is for Rhode Island’s Kuran Iverson, cousin of Allen Iverson. He got the boot at Memphis in 2015, transferred to URI and is a big reason the Rams made the NCAA for the first time since 1999.
J is for Junior Robinson, the 5-foot-5 Mount St. Mary’s guard who is the shortest starter in Division I men’s basketball. He’ll have to stand tall Thursday against No. 1 overall seed Villanova.
K is for Mike Krzyzewski. Would you believe I spelled it right without looking? Neither would I.
L is for 15 losses, which is how many Vanderbilt (19-15) has, most ever for an at-large team in the NCAA men’s tourney.
M is for Michigan, whose plane skidded off a runway en route to the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines won it and are now a trendy No. 7 seed in the Midwest.
N is for the No. 1 seeds. You know some of them are going to get through, but how many? Only one time, in 2008, have all four men’s No. 1s reached the Final Four.
UNO junior forward Travin Thibodeaux released a letter of apology late Tuesday night on UNO’…
O is for the odds of filling out a perfect NCAA tournament bracket, going 63-0 (we’ll spot you the First Four — isn’t that generous?). DePaul University mathematics professor Jeffrey Bergen pegs the odds at 1 in 9.2 quintillion in raw numbers, or a mere 1:128 billion if you factor in a reasonable amount of basketball knowledge.
P is for Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, who paid for Tech students to attend the Yellow Jackets’ NIT home game Tuesday with Indiana. Eleven hundred students showed up at $4 each, making Pastner’s bill $4,400. “Money well spent,” he said.
Q is for hot-shooting North Dakota guard Quinton Hooker. Hooker averages 19 points per game, 88 percent from the free-throw line and 44 percent from 3-point range. More importantly, I really needed a Q since I couldn’t go with quintillion.
R is for NIT rules experiments. According to the NCAA, team fouls will be reset to zero after the 10-minute mark of each half and the shot clock will be reset at :20 instead of :30 when the ball is inbounded in the front court. Leave it to the NCAA to make radical experiments sound boring.
S is for second-round setups. Baylor-SMU, Louisville-Michigan and Oregon-Creighton (coach Dana Altman left Creighton for Oregon in 2010) don’t look like accidents.
T is for Texas Southern coach Mike Davis, who also took Indiana and UAB to the NCAA tournament. Shouldn’t Davis at least get mentioned for the LSU job?
U is for the UNO Privateers, who fell to Mount St. Mary’s in the NCAA tournament opener Tuesday in Dayton (why didn’t they foul?). UNO was in the tournament for the first time since 1996.
V is for Luther Vandross. The soulful singer died in 2005, but CBS makes his version of “One Shining Moment” live on at the end of the Final Four each year.
W is for Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha has offered his Berkshire Hathaway employees $1 million a year for life if they can correctly pick the Sweet 16. He’s offering another $1 million if an employee can pick the first 32 games right. Even the employee whose bracket stays perfect longest gets 100 grand. “I don’t think there’s anything like this,” Buffett told Yahoo.com. Probably not.
X is for xylophone. Shouldn’t a basketball band have a xylophone?
Y is for Brigham Young, which is in the NIT. Thank goodness.
Z is for the Gonzaga Zags (also Bulldogs), a No. 1 regional seed once again. Maybe this year at last they can reach the Final Four. Gonzaga got as far as the Elite Eight in 2015 and 1999.
Either way, we’ve reached the end of our basketball alphabet. Enjoy the madness, and may the brackets be with you.