Thursday, March 17, 2011

Whodathunkit!? The 64... make that 68... Best Things You REALLY WANT To Know About This Year's NCAA Mens' Tournament.

HOORAY! It's Tournament Time again, and the return of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament -- now with 6.1% MORE basketball! -- means that it's time, also, for the return of the one thing everyone loves even more than the Tournament, the Whodathunkit!?: The 64 Best Things You WANT To Know About the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

This feature -- shared between The Best Of Everything and Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! -- returns annually, like the swallows to Capistrano, the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, and Bugs Bunny to Pismo Beach... almost. (Why will he NEVER remember to take that right turn at Albuquerque? Oh, Bugs!)

And, just like the NCAA Mens Tournament -- which I can't call March Madness because the NCAA might just sue me for doing so -- this year's Whodathunkit!? also features a bonus extravaganza of information; just as the NCAA Tournament this year features not one, but four "play-in" games, expanding the tournament from 64 to 68 teams (but not officially, as four of those play-in teams aren't actually seeded, so technically speaking the four teams that are seeded have already made the tournament while the four play-in teams haven't, and technically the NCAA Tournament, which has long been lauded for being the perfect postseason playoff system when it isn't really, has become a little less perfect by further slanting the field against the lowest-seeded teams, making four 16-seeds* (and, for some reason, some 11 and 12 seeds?) play an extra game before advancing on to the Tournament proper.

Note: when this sentence was first written, it wasn't clear that some of the teams weren't 16-seeds, and that all were, technically, seeded even though they were seeded at the same level, which isn't seeding at all, but, as we know now, if you say something enough, it's deemed true, so for as long as the NCAA and ESPN insist that the Fake First Round is part of the Tournament and those teams were seeded, it's the truth, even if it's not true, per se.

Why do you suppose the NCAA added that extra game for only three of the 16-seeds, and not the fourth sixteen seed? What's so great about Hampton and BU, the 16-seeds that don't play-in, that it doesn't have to qualify like the rest of them? And what did the 11 and 12-seeds do to have to play-in, in only some brackets?

Here I thought that the NCAA Tournament, unlike the BCS, avoided all controversy every year because the NCAA Tournament, unlike the BCS, didn't depend on arcane, back-room decision making that wasn't publicized and would reward little schools that win while not automatically letting the big sports factories dominate. What happened? How did the system break!? HOW?!

Or was it that the NCAA smarted over my pointing out last year that no 16-seed has ever won an NCAA Tournament game, which I pointed out first to note that it made the idea of expanding the Tournament -- which I can't call March Madness, remember, so I'll have to come up with another nickname for it -- is kind of silly, because what you were expanding was bad games that featured teams with no chance to win; expanding the playoffs is always popular with fans whose teams wouldn't otherwise make the playoffs at all, but shouldn't be popular with people who like the sport: close, exciting, well-played games are fun and good for sports. Boring, lopsided defeats may be entertaining for a certain demographic of fan (drunken fratboys with hats on sideways) but are not fun for anyone else, so adding more teams to the mix means that you're adding poorer teams into the playoffs, which generally results in more lopsided, boring games and lowers the quality of the product you're trying to sell.

(You can see the NCAA didn't take my advice on that one.)

Or was the NCAA instead trying to make my new quest even more difficult, and therefore more rewarding? If you read last year's NCAA WHODATHUNKIT!? then you know that my new sports quest, my new ultimate sports achievement to root for, is to see a 16-seed not just win a game, since that'll happen one way or the other, now: the NCAA has paired 16-seeds against each other, so 16-seeds will, for the first time ever, win a game this year, as decreed by the NCAA, which certainly doesn't decide who is the national champion through an arcane system of back-room dealing and unquantifiable factors.

No, my sports quest is to see a 16-seed win the entire tournament, thereby achieving the hardest thing to do in sports. (Previously, my sports quest was to see an NFL team go 0-for-Everything, but the Detroit Lions achieved that in a decidely anticlimactic way, so I settled on this one.)

That's enough introduction; with only a little bit of further ado, let's get on to:

The 64... make that 68!
Best Things You REALLY WANT To Know About the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Now, by the time you read this, some of these teams may already be out of the tournament, but don't let that bother you; they didn't have a chance in the first place, and only losers actually watch the Fake First Round. Plus, there's only about five teams in the entire Tournament that anyone cares about, anyway, with the rest being just afterthoughts to everyone except their fans, so let's be honest: you didn't know who was in the Tournament, and you still don't. I could list 68 random names here and tell you those are the teams in the Tournament, and most of you wouldn't blink, so long as I said something about Duke.

(And how do you know I didn't do that?)

Let's get on with the blogging equivalent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Yep. That's what I came up with to replace "March Madness." No copyright problems with that, right?)

UT-San Antonio: Listed as UTSA in the official NCAA Bracket, UTSA plays ALST in the first of the play-in games designed to get a 16-seed a win so that the NCAA doesn't have to hear people complain that no 16-seeds ever get a win; expanding the playoffs indefinitely has that effect, which is how I just now came up with an ingenious idea to end the NFL lockout: Expand the playoffs to include preseason games!

That's so crazy it just might work: Don't call them preseason or exhibition games; just do what the NCAA has done with "play-ins" and call the preseason The Playoff First Round, and by doing so, every single NFL team will make the playoffs, and many of them will win playoff games. And, as an added bonus, team owners don't pay players during the playoffs, so there's no additional payroll, and we'll get to see Peyton Manning and other superstars in August, because nobody sits out the playoffs, right?

I think at least $1 billion of that money they're fighting over should go to me for that idea. I've got a Paypal account, so I'll expect it by the end of the day, Mr. Goodell.

Oh, you wanted something about UTSA? I heard the other day a guy on the radio say he was majoring in American Sign Language at his college, and majoring in a language seems to me to be elevating a hobby to the level of a degree, so I thought I'd look through the 130 disciplines that UTSA offers majors in to see what the adults (they're not kids; all college students who aren't Doogie Howser are adults and calling them kids is dumb) are majoring in these days.

UTSA's catalog is pretty straightforward - -aside from offering a certificate in jazz, which is probably pretty useful... in Texas -- until you get to the Graduate level programs, which offers something called "M.B.A. Noon Time," a program that isn't explained when you click on the link, but which I'm pretty sure gives you a master's degree in taking three-martini lunches. (That joke brought to you by 1950s-era comedians, who just flew in from Toronto, and are their arms tired!)

Alabama State: At first I was confused by the acronym ALST on the bracket, because everyone knows that ALST stands for Aborginal Legal Services of Toronto, and I thought they only had a D-2 program. But then I realized that it stood for Alabama State, which marks that school as a second-tier school at best. Remember this order:

Top tier: Many fine schools.
2nd Tier: Schools with "State" in their name.
3rd Tier: Schools that pair the word "State" with a word that isn't a State.
4th Tier: Schools with a direction in their name. (E.g., Northern ___ U.)
5th Tier: Schools with a direction that isn't a cardinal point of the compass in their name. (Northeastern ___ College)
6th Tier: Schools that combine any feature from the 2nd-3rd tier with the 4th-5th tiers.
7th Tier: Schools your guidance counselor went to.

University of Alabama-Birmingham: Alabama has two colleges? So why ... never mind. UAB boasts that they are a "nationally-ranked" university, and includes that description in articles about specific things at the University, like this article about a contest-winning photo that mentions a "nationally ranked team" that wears scrubs, and students put "nationally ranked" magnets on vehicles.

I didn't see what they were ranked -- what number they were -- and isn't every college "nationally ranked," even the one on the lowest rung of the rankings?

I was interested in winning the $10 gift card for the photo contest, though, and I've signed up for the newsletter just for that purpose.

Clemson: Bleacher Report has a special "Hottest Alumni of Every School in The NCAA Tournament" slideshow, which is, I think we can all agree, an excellent example of the kind of reporting that "new journalism" will specialize in, and which the Huffington Post will then reprint, for free, somehow becoming worth billions doing that while your site remains entirely worthless.

The "hottest alum" from Clemson, according to Bleacher Report, is Nancy O'Dell, who hosts "Showbiz Tonight" on the increasingly-misnomered "CNN Headline News." Or so I thought. Turns out that O'Dell doesn't host "Showbiz Tonight," but instead hosts "Entertainment Tonight," which would seem to be the same thing, but is not.

And speaking of things which would seem to be the same but are not, here's Nancy O'Dell:

And here's Brooke Anderson:

... Brooke being the actual host of Showbiz Tonight, which in the interest of accuracy, I'll point out frequently airs during the daytime and accordingly is ripe to be sued for deceptive advertising.

Is Nancy O'Dell the hottest Clemson alum? Fans of Strom Thurmond (R, Deceased) would say otherwise -- he's an alum, too, but both Nancy and Strom fans might have to bow to those who say Shawn Weatherly was the hottest Clemsonian ever:

Because neither Nancy NOR Strom was ever on the cover of "Celebrity Sleuth" and neither Nancy nor Strom were Miss Universe, the way Shawn was in 1980. (Strom was second runner up that year.)

USC: How seriously do colleges take NCAA rules violations? Very seriously, judging by the extremely harsh punishment USC recently handed down to Coach Kevin O'Neill. Coach K (not that Coach K) got into an altercation with an opposing team's booster on Sunday, and was suspended by USC, only to be unsuspended once it was learned that the team "made" the Tournament (USC will play in the Fake First Round, so it technically made the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride).

Ben Roethlisberger could learn something from O'Neill, whose ability to learn from his mistakes, and quickly is seemingly unparalleled. O'Neill addressed the press, saying "My job is not to screw up again," which surprised those who thought his job might include, as duties, not screwing up in the first place.

Virginia Commonwealth U: The Rams are "seeded" 11 but still have to play in the Fake First Round against "11-Seed" USC, which makes it clear how the NCAA Mens' Tournament is WAY better than the BCS, and also should make playoff fans happy because NCAA Football playoff fans always want a "Plus One" playoff system -- and now they've gotten that for a bunch of teams in basketball.

VCU doesn't just have a couple of buildings around town, like many colleges -- it also has a branch in Qatar, the cleverly-titled "VCUQatar" branch campus in Education City, Qatar, where you can learn graphic design and related arts while ALSO living in a repressive culture amidst 110-degree average daily temperatures.

UNC-Asheville: By beating number 16 UA-Little Rock, UNC-Asheville became the first 16-seed ever to win a game in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. So someday, you'll get to hear Watson repeat that fact to you in the form of an awkwardly-worded question.

University of Arkansas-Little Rock: Poor UALR: not only were they the first team to ever lose to a 16-seed, but they didn't even merit an alum mention in that Bleacher Report article, which claims to feature one hot woman from every team in the tournament but left out UALR. Apparently, there's nobody famous and hot that ever graduated from UALR. If you are currently attending that school and are considered hot, guess what that means for your career. (On the other hand, if you're a UALR student intending on making a name for yourself, that statistic says a lot about what your social life will be like.)

UALR has other problems: for some reason, its homecoming celebration is in February, meaning that their Homecoming Cardboard Boat Race has to be held, inside in the pool.

Ohio State University:
Number one seeded OSU seems to me to be the favorite to win the whole tournament, which is to be expected given that OSU has even less regard for NCAA rules than USC; it recently "punished" football Coach Jim Tressel for not reporting NCAA rules violations, the "punishment" being to the coach a couple of extra weekends off during the nonconference portion of OSU's football season, and fining him 1/16 of his annual salary. It could take several "meetings" with boosters to make up that hit to his pocketbook!

You know what's awesome, though? As of today, if you Google "OSU Basketball coach" the first result you get is a link to the Oklahoma State athletics website. So Ohio State is the second best known OSU in basketball.

George Mason University: GMU's basketball coach preaches what he calls "The Ten Commitments," a list of things that his team is going to do. You can find them here, but I wouldn't spend much time looking them over: they amount to we are going to play defense, play offense, not foul, and pass the ball. The coach outlined, in ten lines, not one, a commitment to doing the things it takes to play basketball, but not just that: doing them well. You can see why he's a D-1 basketball coach; many people forget, when coaching a sport, that it's important to tell the players to do things well.

I'm frequently amazed that coaches get credit for "philosophies" like "The Ten Commitments," which includes, as an "actual commitment" this one:

"We will create good shots from inside and outside."

How has no other basketball coach ever thought of that important strategy? Let alone thought to write it down and teach it to players. I picture Bo Ryan at Wisconsin looking at that and shouting "That's it! That's what we've been doing wrong. Guys! Guys! Come in here" and then pointing excitedly at the website, and saying "We could do that, guys! Let's try it!"

But far be it from me to make fun -- because I, using my insider access, got an advance look at the GMU playbook, and I was able to find the coach's surefire play for use at the very end of close games, and it... is ... genius. In fact, he allowed me to reprint that play, and here it is:

You can't teach that kind of thing. You either have it or you don't.

Villanova: College Prowler -- an actual website that boasts it has the "only college guides written by college students" shows that Villanova students have a pretty high opinion of each other: guys generally ranks girls as "A" in looks, while girls rank the Villanova guys at "A-." The guide says this:

Walk around for five minutes, and there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of students on campus are hot. With an almost perfect balance of male and female students, there is always someone out there you haven’t met. Overall, the campus is well dressed year round, which can be a good and bad thing. In either case, both sexes are just an added benefit of going to the school.
So that's worth $53,000 a year, I guess.

West Virginia University: You've heard of documentaries, and mockumentaries, but have you ever watched a BrockUmentary:

I haven't either -- I didn't bother watching that after I clicked the link from the WVU main website. The name comes from Brock Burwell, the WVU Mountaineer mascot who tried for two years to get the job before earning it. Burwell's uncle, too, was once the WVU mascot, according to that article which I skimmed. Burwell kept the job for a second year running, something WVU actually issued a press release about. Burwell is said to be studying coaching, but his best years may be behind him: in addition to two years as the WVU mascot, Burwell once served as "chairperson of the Mountaineer Week Beard Growing Competition."

Hard to top that.

University of Kentucky: One of the guys in my office is from Kentucky, and he thinks they're going to win. They're not. The UK's promotional efforts, like its basketball program, seem to fall a little short: Its website says "As we strive to become a Top-20 public research university..." a sentence I found odd for two reasons:

First, is it that hard to say you're number one or in the top of something? Why not say "We're the number one public research university in this particular region of Kentucky, not counting the other two public research universities here..."

And, second, you're only trying to be top 20? Way to reach for the stars, UK. I've written your next campaign for you:

"Some universities might want to be number one. Not the UK. We're content to be in the top-20. If university rankings were American Idol, we'd be happy to get invited to Hollywood. We don't have to be on TV or get to meet J-Lo. Not us. We're just happy to be in there somewhere. So come to UK, where the pressure to excel doesn't exist. We'll push you to be slightly above average, if that's okay with you."

Princeton: For Princeton, that Bleacher Report article picked Brooke Shields as the hottest alum (and ranked her 42nd of the 61 it listed.) In doing so, the site overlooked the many fictional alumni that Princeton boasts of. Not so Wikipedia, which has a whole section devoted to fake people who have graduated (or will attend) Princeton, including Fred Flintstone, who, the site accurately notes, attended Princestone.

Is Fred Flintstone the most fictional character ever to go to Princeton? No -- that honor goes to Fred Flintstone's dream of himself, as in the episode "Cinderella Stone," Fred dreams that he attended "Princestone."

Incidentally, there might be some inexplicable connection between Cinderella and "That other Ivy League School," as Princeton should be called: Hillary Duff's character in the movie A Cinderella Story planned on attending Princeton.

Xavier University: Since I really have nothing else to say about Xavier, this would be an excellent time to point out that Xavier is also the full name of X-Men leader/teacher Professor X, which, in turn, allows me to continue my campaign to get people to quit mispronouncing the name of his archrival.

It's not Mag-neet-oh. It's Mag-net-oh. With net pronounced like butterfly net. It doesn't make any sense any other way. You don't say that iron filings are attracted to magneets, do you? Not unless you're a poorly-accented 1920s villain, you don't.

Marquette U niversity: Marquette-- which X-Men fans apparently would pronounce Markeet -- had Disgraced-For-24-hours USC Coach Kevin O'Neill coach their team from 1989-1994. Maybe that's where he learned to drunkenly pick on 70-year-old men -- that being what O'Neill was almost-but-not-quite suspended for by USC.

Syracuse: Syracuse is located in Syracuse, New York, as you'd guess -- but did you know that it was the site of a major World War II naval battle?

No, I just made that up. For all I know, Syracuse didn't even fight in World War II, or, as the veterans call that war, "Magneto." But what Syracuse lacks in wartime glory, it more than makes up for in the way it markets itself now. Take this actual quote from the "Our History" page of the "Syracuse: Then And Now" website:

If you were traveling through Central New York two centuries ago, unless you had a death wish, there is little likelihood you would have spent much time in the dismal, fetid swamp that occupied what is now downtown Syracuse.

It's no wonder Kentucky had to go with "we're trying for top 20" as their slogan, since "dismal, fetid swamp" was already taken.

Indiana State: Occupying the second tier of colleges, Indiana State is the only school in the country that adopted another school's official colors as its own, and then bragged about it. It's website notes that:

In 1899, it was announced that Yale Blue and White would replace the colors of Salmon Pink and White. The colors are also applied to the Blue and White Parade and the Blue and White Dance held during Homecoming each fall.
It's lucky for Indiana State that it opted to pick Blue and White -- even if it did have to pay Yale to do so -- since it already had the Blue and White Parade and Dance.

University of Washington: Wash U gets it right, saying on its front page that it is "one of the preeminent research universities" around. See how it's done, Kentucky? (And, they hardly mention fetid swamps, so, kudos!) One thing they're researching? Gambit, the Chess-Playing Robot Arm:

A robot who can not only beat Watson mentally, but can then beat him literally.

University of Georgia: UGA is a land-grant and sea-grant university, which made me wonder "What's a sea grant?"

The answer, of course, is "Nothing! What's a sea-grant with you?" Ha!

Don't tell me you don't get it.

It turns out that "Sea Grant" means:

Environmental stewardship, long-term economic development and responsible use of America’s coastal, ocean and Great Lakes resources are at the heart of Sea Grant’s mission. Sea Grant is a nationwide network (administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]), of 32 university-based programs that work with coastal communities. The National Sea Grant College Program engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.

That's from the NOAA website, and it sounds high-minded, but in reality, "sea grant" funds are being used to teach Minnesotans how to cook a fish. Has anyone alerted the John Boehner?

University of North Carolina: Highlighed on UNC's website right now is "bacteria bully" Scott Singleton. I didn't read the whole article, but it seems that Singleton has found a way to help antibiotics fight "superbacteria" that are created when people like you don't take all your antibiotics, leaving a few hardy germs inside you to reproduce over and over and eventually raise the level of resistance to antibiotics to the current point we've reached -- that is, the point where they can actually leave our bodies and band together into a single organism that can then be elected governor of Wisconsin and insist that ending collective bargaining is a "fiscal measure."

See what you've done, you people? Why didn't you take those pills for another day?

In any event, Singleton's method, whatever it is, promises to reverse that trend, which means I can go back to insisting that my doctor give me antibiotics for every single thing that bothers me, including that hangnail I've had for a day or two.

We're probably stuck with Governor Patsy, though. Recalls don't work on bacteria.

Long Island University: Seriously? I thought that only existed in The King Of Queens or some similar sitcom.

I'm kidding, of course. Long Island University is a totally serious, totally respectable university that only happens to offer a course in "Hip Hop and Spoken Word." Exactly what employers are looking for. If those employers are Kanye West, or baristas at the local free-range coffee shop.

Duke: Can we get an agreement among sportswriters, and everyone else for that matter, that we won't say someone is the "First to do [something] since..." if the last time that thing happened was 10 or fewer years ago?

Duke, sportswriters keep saying, might be the first team to have a chance to repeat as NCAA winners since Florida did it... a few years back.

If something happened that recently -- 10 years or less ago-- it's not that rare a thing. "Obama, if re-elected, would be the first president to do so since George W. Bush was re-elected immediately before him."

Hampton: I was all set to write up something about Hampton's nickname - - the Pirates -- but I noticed on their website that they have a "Proton Therapy Institute," which sounded like an excellent way to get superpowers, if I know anything about science (and obviously I do, given my educational background.)

It turns out that Proton Therapy can't make me able to shoot beams of energy from my fingertips the way the superhero I created can, but it can reduce the side effects of cancer treatment, which is even better. The program is run by Hampton because it has ties to the "Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility." The GOP-led Congress is preparing to cut funding for that facility, among many others. So apparently, we've got no money to cure cancer anymore. Or maybe it's that John Boehner, a shill for the tobacco lobby, wants to ensure that his employers are allowed to kill people with lethal-but-legal products without anything pesky like cures getting in the way.

Michigan: Michigan is best known for having a terrible football program these days, so they might do better to focus on more positive sports stories, like the one about a Michigan gymnast who volunteers his time for "Mikey's Way," a charity that collects used videogames, which it then sells and uses the funds to buy newer games and electronic devices, which it in turn donates to pediatric cancer patients.

The idea is to give kids something to "distract" them in between treatments -- or, in the future, after the GOP wins yet again, I guess it'll be to give kids something to divert their attention while they die because we don't want to raise taxes on the wealthy.
(I've probably got that out of my system for a while now, so if the fact that I'm talking about actual serious political issues bums you out, feel free to read on for a while, and also ask yourself why you get bothered when someone tries to mention something that actually matters, instead of sports.)

Tennessee: Bleacher Report picked "Diane Gallagher" as number 52 on their list, representing Tennessee's hottest famous alum. I don't know who she is, and I'd give her a five at best.

You know who they should've picked? Cormac McCarthy, who also went there. He's not only a great writer, but he's hot, right? Take a look:

Sure, you don't see it now, but close your eyes and picture him in a bikini on the cover of Celebrity Sleuth magazine. See what I mean?

Arizona: People at the U. of Arizona are excited about "MESSENGER" which to them is a satellite that's going to begin orbiting Mercury on March 17, and which to me is a chance to complain about the increasing misuse of acronyms.

"MESSENGER" stands for

MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging

And that's not right. You can't use the first letters of some words, the first two letters of some words, and no letters of other words.

And, more importantly, why does it have to stand for anything? Why can't you just call the satellite Messenger and then have its mission spelled out elsewhere? Nobody remembers those things, anyway, and it's not like the words Apollo or Saturn stood for anything.

I know it makes you feel cool, scientists, like you combined a crossword puzzle with a haiku, but it's lame.

MESSENGER will help study Mercury by going down to the surface of the planet, buying a couple of the local papers, asking a few questions of the locals, and discreetly snapping some photos. That, and by analyzing the light reflected off the surface of the planet.

Memphis: Time for a music break. Can you name five songs that mention Memphis? I can, but I cheated and looked at the Rock'n'Soul Museum site, which lists over 1,000 songs that mention "Memphis" in the lyrics. Here's one of my favorites:

And here's another I like:

You know who shows up a lot in that list? The Three 6 Mafia -- over 20 times. Of course, they're from Memphis, so that's to be expected.

There's also a song on that list called "Elvis Ate America" credited to U2:

Bono didn't sound like he was really trying, did he? Kind of like what they're saying about Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

Texas: Aren't we all a little sick of Texas? I know I am. I think from now on the only thing people should ever know, say, repeat, or even think about Texas is this story from Hyperbole and A Half.

Oakland: The Oakland Golden Grizzlies have appeared in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride twice before, winning only one game. Their all-time best NCAA player is a guy by the name of "Rawie Marshall." He's now a Dallas Maverick, I believe, which I guess will be the other thing people can all know about Texas. But that's it. Other than that, we're through with Texas. Let's focus on some other states for a while. What's Nebraska been up to? See? You don't even know, do you? Would it kill you to look at Nebraska's Facebook page once in a while?

Yes, the State of Nebraska has a Facebook page, which means that Facebook officially is 0% cool.

I'd tell you more about the page, but I was kicked off of Facebook. Facebook lets criminals have pages, but not me.

Cincinnati: Cinncinatus was a Roman dictator who got the name Cincinnatus for his curly hair; his full name was Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, and he was a farmer who was appointed dictator -- why would anyone appoint a dictator? Did they ever think about appointing a gentle, term-limited ruler? Who said the ancients were smart? Not me. -- finding out that he'd been appointed in order to defend Rome from the "Aequi," who were a race of blue, cat-like seven foot tall people that looked vaguely like Sigourney Weaver, only more annoying.

Oh, and he actually was appointed only for a limited term of six months, but he was so popular that when he was 80, they made him dictator again, making him kind of the Jay Leno of Roman dictators.

Also, as far as anybody knows, there's never been anything even remotely resembling a Bearcat, which is Cincinnati's mascot. If you're going to have an animal hybrid for your symbol, why go with the often-used "Bearcat?" Why not pick the most popular hybrid of all, the Liger?

Missouri: Or Mizzou, as people who are lame like to call it. Why does everything in sports need a stupid nickname? Why do home runs have to be taters and Missouri have to be Mizzou and the like? What's wrong with saying Missouri? When I listen to ESPN, or any other sports cast, or read any sports blog, it's like translating Valley Girl talk only far more annoying, as the sportscasters appear to try to one-up each other.

Blond Random Guy One: Today, the Ol' Ball Coach took the Bruinsies and with the help of johnnycakes they plumped the goiter.

Blond Random Guy Two: Don-O, the pitcher for the other side, was so abnoggled he nocked the Dune!

Woman on the Set: I'm wearing a miniskirt. Men watching the show, pretend for a moment that women really go for guys who talk sports 24 hours a day.

Blond Random Guy One: Hullaballoo!

Only, somehow, ESPN is worse. If only because they also have Erin Andrews.

Yahoo! Answers says the name Mizzou comes from the old chant, Mizzou Rah Rah!, and that's it's a shortening of the old school initials, "MSU," which stood for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging. Yahoo! Answers apparently is unfamiliar with the pronunciation of the first two syllables of the word Missouri.

Maybe people say Mizzou because they're not sure if it's Missour-i or Missour-ah. That topic was actually debated by people on this site, because they need hobbies and/or children to occupy their time.

They're both wrong, by the way. It's pronounced Mag-neet-o.

Connecticut: Speaking of pronunciations, how about a silent "C?"
"Connecticut" is said to come from an Indian word, quonehtacut, the Indian word for "place of long tidal river."

Did you ever notice how foreign words and old-timey words and everything Geoffrey Chaucer ever said has some complicated long meaning? Every Indian word, for example, means an entire sentence. Indians could say "Wampahoa," and it would mean "Remember that time we took the horse and rode for like two days to where the women go bathing, and we watched them bathe and you saw Red Robin totally naked, and then she saw you looking and screamed and the Chief got SO mad he made you dig burial mounds for a year? That was awesome."

And then we would take that and make it the first name of a Minimall, but we would end the word with "e" to note how classy we are: Wampahoa Towne Malle.

More importantly, Connecticut's little-known nickname is "The Land Of Steady Habits." It got that because in colonial times, Connecticut was known for its strict morals, and back then they couldn't call it "The Land Where It's Going To Take You Far More Than Dinner and A Movie To Get To Second Base."

Bucknell: Bucknell has an impressive array of Intramural Sports for those who aren't lucky enough to get a free ride to college in exchange for their college making millions off of them. The sports include "platform tennis," which is essentially life-size ping pong, and "squash," which is essentially a vegetable.

Athletes who do go to Bucknell on a full athletic scholarship save $40,954 per year in tuition, and there are 13 kids on its roster, so that's $520,000 or so per year it costs Bucknell to let those students attend. Bucknell's a private school, so reports from it's athletic department aren't freely available. but 74 public schools make $500,000 or more a year from their basketball program's ticket sales alone, so if Bucknell makes just that, it breaks even every year.

(If you want to know what your favorite school makes in ticket revenues from sports, click this link to go to a searchable database compiled by IndyStar detailing public school revenues.)

Temple: Did you know the Temple Owls won the first-ever National Championship in college basketball? Now you do -- and that's actually a fact that you learned from me. Temple won that after a 20-2 regular season in 1938 -- but not in the NCAA Tournament. Oh, no. It won the National Invitational Tournament, which used to be the big deal back then, before being supplanted by Mr. Toad's Wild Ride; now, as we know, the NIT is just a big loser's bracket filled with teams pretending they're not PO'd to be having to play for no reason in games nobody watches... just like Major League Soccer.

Penn State: Where to rank Penn State on the hierarchy of schools? I'm going to go with third tier because Penn isn't actually a state and abbreviations don't count. Plus, I'm pretty sure that Penn isn't actually short for Pennsylvania, but simply re-stating the name Penn, which is who Pennsylvania was named for, which raises this important question:

Why is "sylvania" a common ending to place names? The word "sylvania" is translated by various people more or less to mean "woodland" or "place in the woods." So Pennsylvania is Penn's Place In The Woods, and so on. Some places don't bother being a specific place in the woods, such as Sylvania, Georgia, which recently released its annual water quality report, a report that it claims shows exemplary compliance with safety standards while still admitting that the water may have radioactive elements in it.

San Diego State University: I would want to live in San Diego except that I've heard they have a rattlesnake problem and black widow spiders, and trading winter for two fatal animals that can hide in my shoes seems like a bad decision.

Still, it has its charms:

That, you should know, is the official SDSU playbook for their basketball team, and it explains why not a single San Diego player has ever missed practice, and also explains why they call an average of 47 time outs per game.

The SDSU Aztec Recreation Center has an "Aztec Adventures" group that includes activities like "Sea Kayaking" but makes no reference to ripping out the hearts of sacrifices in order to appease the gods and repel Cortes' invasion. Bummer.

University of Northern Colorado: You know the drill: they're a third-tier school because of the direction in their name, but they're also a first-timer in Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It's nice to see small schools who aren't ordinarily in the limelight given the chance to fail on a national stage.

You know what I wonder? When will the NCAA open up the Tournament to online schools. I'd like to see the University of Phoenix competing... online. I imagine it'd look something like this:

UNCO's motto is "Bringing Education To Life," something I bet they thought up to tie into the current zombie craze. Or would that be "Bringing Education BACK to Life?" Either way, it's played out. We're all through with zombies, vampires, and werewolves. Now, we're into witches, I'm told. So look for that one hack writer guy to emit another ripoff job, probably called something like "Witchering Heights." (See what I did there? That's what amounts to writing these days in the major publishing houses, which is why I prefer not to go through major publishing houses: I exchange creative freedom for a complete lack of sales.)

I bring that up because UNCO is also hosting a conference of what it calls "acclaimed" authors. While I've never heard of them, I did see the movie Big Fish and kind of liked it, and one of the authors got a poem published in The New Yorker, which is like the second hardest thing to do in sports. (Trust me. I know.)

Kansas: What is up with Kansas and the porn? Isn't Kansas supposed to be all strait-laced? As I noted last year and the year before, KU players once appeared in one of Linda Lovelace's movies. I thought this year I'd let that slide, but I couldn't help googling "Kansas Porn Movie" -- it's almost a reflex, now -- and found out that adult film star Samantha Ryan was born in Kansas and is a KU fan and got free tickets from a Kansas assistant coach to a game. (That's her, hugging the Jayhawk to the right.)

Not only that, but Miss Kansas 1991, former star of Passions, the soap opera, began a career in porn in 2009.

I'm rooting for Kansas, is what I'm trying to say here. Not that anyone in Kansas is paying attention to the tournament.

Boston University: While Boston students are off on Alternative Spring Break -- learning how to help people in such far-flung exotic locales as Omaha -- the students who stayed back home can enjoy eating at the Busy Bee Restaurant, which features some truly delicious looking toasted cornbread. But the review warns that the waitresses are testy, so be polite.

UNLV: What must it be like to go to college in Las Vegas? I'm picturing a cross between Good Will Hunting and Showgirls, which, coincidentally, is the spec script I'm working on this weekend, in case any showbiz types read this. (Nancy O'Dell? Cormac McCarthy?)

The catalog for the school has a disappointing lack of "Introduction to Casino Heist" classes, and the Dance Department in particular says nothing about poles.

There is an "Entertainment Engineering and Design" program, which promises to teach you to use technology in entertainment -- making a better robot opera, perhaps? -- and has a group called the Lady Da Vincis, the description for which is written, e e cummings style, without capital letters.

I would say that if you're trying to inspire women to become engineers, should you use a male as a role model? Why not pick someone like Lillian Moller Gilbreth, the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering and inventor of that trash can with the lid that flips up when you step on a pedal? (She also came up with the concept of putting shelves in refrigerator doors. That's right, guys: A woman came up with that. You feel pretty dumb now, don't you? Not me. I'd have totally invented that if she didn't.)

Illinois: Groundbreaking news from the U Of I, Urbana-Champaign branch: Old people can't walk and talk at the same time!

A recent U of I study simulated street crossings in a lab... how, and why, exactly, did they do that? ...:

18 older adults aged 59 to 81 and 18 undergraduates aged 18 to 26 crossed streets of varying difficulty under three circumstances: undistracted, listening to music on an iPod, or talking on a hands-free cell phone.

Compared to the younger adults, the older group had far more difficulty crossing when walking while distracted by another task, with the most pronounced impairment occurring during cell phone conversations.
(Source.) The younger people were, though, less able to shake their fist impotently and mutter about the Great Depression as they were hauled off to the curb by helpful volunteers. The study appears to have been a way for U of I researchers to kill some time until they came up with something more scientific to do:

"If you asked us before the study if we would see a difference in age-related effects, we would have said it was highly likely," said study author Mark Neider, a postdoctoral associate...."Older adults showed lots of dual-task impairment," Neider added. "As we age, we aren't able to do these tasks together as well." .... "What's important here is, people generally think of walking as an automatic activity," Neider said. "When you start to introduce competing tasks, we know both young and older people [don't do as well]."

Which we didn't need a study to prove. Just Youtube:

Vanderbilt: The Vanderbilt team is named the Commodores. Ooohh, swanky!

Richmond: At the Richmond athletics store -- where they sell stuff with their team logo on it, their team animal being spiders, which is gross -- you can get a "Fanface," which looks like this:

And is about the freakiest thing I've ever seen for sale at a pro shop. Freakiest thing, that is, until I saw this:

Who wouldn't want to buy something that makes it look like their baby is covered in spiders? Honestly, I'm about to throw up just thinking about it.

Thanks, again, Hyperbole and a Half. And for this, too:

Seriously: you should be reading that blog, and not dressing your babies in spiders.

Louisville: The U. of Louisville's slogan is "It's Happening Here." One of the jobs that I think would be really great to have is a job like "Think up bland slogans for colleges and towns." (Another is "pick cool music for commercials.") According to the U.S. News and World Report rankings -- revealed by The New Yorker to be more or less a complete sham --

the greatest way in which UofL is making its mark is through the contributions its students make to society. They graduate to become valuable citizens such as current Republican Leader and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell; U.S. senator and recent presidential candidate Christopher Dodd; Sirius/XM Radio personality Bob Edwards; best-selling author Sue Grafton; and Sharon Darling, founder and president of the National Center for Family Literacy. They truly help demonstrate that UofL's slogan "It's Happening Here" isn't just a marketing tagline - it's a way of life.

(Source.) Mitch McConnell helped hold up a nuclear arms reduction treaty in order to give tax breaks to billionaires. I wouldn't be trumpeting him as an alumnus if I were in charge of things.

Morehead State: Third tier. Morehead plays on their name with the motto "Much More," and part of that much more is to get students involved in politics. Morehead State recently participated in the 10th annual "Posters at the Capitol", putting up more than 100 posters to support political causes.

With all his expertise in lying... that is, estimating, the cost of cleaning up after political movements, Wisconsin's Governor Patsy Walker was asked to weigh in on how much it'll cost to fix up the damage from the Morehead project:

P.S. : I lied about being past the political stuff. It goes on.)

Wouldn't it be great if Georgetown played Washington?

Well, I'd like it.

Purdue: The method of choice for helping out Japan's earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown victims is selling artwork, and one way to help is to buy this:

That's a poster created by Purdue student Zac Neulieb to help get money to Japan; proceeds from the sale of the poster (which also tells how to text money to Red Cross) go to help relief efforts. Click the link for more information. Or text "RedCross" to the number 90999 and you'll have helped, too.

St. Peter's: One of my favorite depictions of St. Peter was in Job: A Comedy of Justice, the first book I ever read by Robert Heinlein, not so much because of St. Peter himself but because another character comments that St. Peter, as the Heavenly gatekeeper, betrayed Jesus three times and has been "making up for it" ever since.

St. Peter's offers tuition waivers for veterans who qualify for the "Post 9/11 GI Bill," making college entirely free for people who served in the armed forces after 9/11. Why that isn't more publicized, I don't know, but I've just done my part. Pass it on.

Texas A&M: Texas A&M's teams are the Fightin' Texas Aggies, and I'm lifting my moratorium on talking about Texas because I like Texas A&M because I once went there on Spring Break and it was my only spring break trip ever.

For $24.98, you can get a DVD of the movie We've Never Been Licked:

It's the story of life in the Corps of Cadets at A&M in 1943... which is not at all what that movie would be if it was for sale in the Kansas bookstore.

Florida State: Second tier. Here's something to ponder. While everyone everywhere assumes that everyone everywhere is broke and we have to reduce teachers' salaries and fire everyone and stop researching cancer cures because we're broke, a recent Florida State study found that 2/3 of the people asked would be willing to pay $87 per year for a government program that would reduce identity theft by 75%.

God. Damn It.

I'm sorry for swearing, but let's walk this back a bit: First of all, identity theft is not that big a concern. I don't know a single person who's ever been the victim of it. Identity theft is on the decline and more than half the people who are victims of this broadly-worded crime suffer losses of less than $5,700.

But more importantly, you will pay for a government program that only works 3/4 of the time, to fill a need that you can do yourself and that isn't that pressing...

...but we
can't pay teachers a living wage?

God. Damn. It. Grow up, America. Quit giving away the country to the rich because you're lazy and selfish and start paying attention.

Notre Dame: Time for a pallet cleanser. You soak in guilt and shame for a while. I'm going to ponder why St. Patrick, and the Irish, get all the fame and glory and green beer and drunken frat boys while St. Piran, the patron saint of tin miners, and a Cornish saint whose day is March 5th and who also is celebrated largely by drinking is relegated to minor (pun intended) celebrations in a small corner of the UK.

After all, did St. Patrick surf on a giant stone from Ireland to Cornwall? No, he did not: but St. Piran did: after the Irish tried to drown him by tying him to a millstone, the stone floated and he surfed it over to a more hospitable country.

Akron: The U of Akron has a steel drum band. How awesome is that?

Pittsburgh: Pitt has a "Supercomputing Center," where they're studying something called "Biomedical Supercomputing," which sounds suspiciously like science-speak for Supersmart Robot Warriors. And I don't want to worry you more, but one of their computers just set a record in protein folding, which is yet another things humans don't do as well anymore.

What good is protein folding? I'm glad you asked, because that article has an answer:

"If you had a better understanding of protein folding, you could understand protein misfolding," says David Baker, a computational structural biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

So there.

Butler: Yeah, yeah, Butler made it to the championship last year. Which just makes them the final loser, right? Losing the championship is horrible, we all know, far worse than not making it to the playoffs in the first place, right, people who rip on the Buffalo Bills?

It's too bad that Butler didn't win, because I have about 25,000,000 "The Butler Did It" t-shirts just sitting around waiting for pop culture to catch up with them.

A Butler student did design an ad that ESPNU (whatever that is) aired recently:

Old Dominion:
Old Dominion's mascot is some kind of lion -- I think it's Aslan:

So why are they selling dolphin keychains in their store?
They've also got bears, bunnies, pigs, and a beaver.

Pretty much, if you like an animal, OD will slap a logo on it and sell it to you. Even Tribbles:

Kansas State: Want proof that putting State in your name drops you a rung on the TBOE College Rankings? Kansas State doesn't have any connection to porn anywhere, at least that I can find... and trust me, I searched.

Kansas State is apparently the Bizarro research university, fighting UNC; their researchers have found a way to protect bacteria, creating a Cloak Of Ultimate Protection for bacteria in order to photograph them better.

What I'd like to know is whether the K-State researchers have thought about what happens when one of their Next Top Model bacteria sneaks that cloak out into the world, and mass produces Snuggies For Bacteria and we all have to go back to dying in the streets the way the Republicans want us to. Have you thought of that? K-State people? I hope you're taking inventory of those protective capes. Granted they're only one atom thick and small enough to wrap a single molecule, but let's at least try.

Utah State: Second tier Utah State making the tournament gives me a chance to check in on Utah's google preferences, which shows that the number one thing people in Utah are interested in finding more about is... Utah: the number one search term in Utah in 2010 was "Utah," while the number 3 search term was "Salt Lake City."

Things were less innocent for image searches, where the top 10 terms included "girls" at 3, "hot" at 4, "love" at 8 and "women" at 9. But the number 1 image search for Utahns was "pictures."

Really? You go to Google image search and type pictures? Isn't that like bringing sand to the beach?

Wisconsin: The Badgers last won a national championship in basketball in 1941, when the game still hadn't introduced "baskets" yet and players simply hucked the ball at the other end of the court to score 2 points, or, as it was called then, a "bloomer."

Wisconsin's game hasn't advanced much beyond that. Their secret weapon is the bank shot -- bouncing the ball off the backboard, the way that my old gym teacher, Mr. Fry, told me to do, but which I gather is frowned on at the college level. Wisconsin beat Michigan at the buzzer this year with a bank shot:

and beat Iowa in 2005 on a last-minute bank shot, too. A Madison TV station even held a poll to pick the best Wisconsin buzzer-beater bank shot. (The Michigan game won, even though the Iowa 2005 shot won the Big 10 Tournament, proving that being recent is better than being important.)

Belmont: Belmont is tasked with being the overachieving school responsible for knocking Wisconsin out of the tournament early this year; that's the same first step that Butler took to the finals last year, making Wisconsin more of a Wal-Mart Welcomer than a D-1 opponent.

Belmont is a Christian school located in Nashville that can reconcile "Christian" with "dressing babies in miniskirts": the Belmont bookstore sells cheerleader outfits for the Infant-to-Age-4 age range. Chris Hansen is looking into it.

St. John's College: The relative lack of creativity in naming schools after saints -- why no Saint Piran's College, anyway? -- leaves a huge opening for those schools who didn't technically make it into Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but who want to play anyway. Take St. John's College... or, rather, take St. John's College in Annapolis/Santa Fe, St. John's University, the "College of St. Benedict/St. John's University," St. John's River State College, the other St. Johns College in Springfield, IL, and St. John's College at Cambridge University in England.

I stopped looking at Page 2 of the Google results, just like everybody does. Google shouldn't even bother publishing results after Page 2; let Bing do that for them.

Gonzaga: Bing Crosby was a Gonzaga alumnus, probably the most famous to ever go to that school in the 124 years its been around. Mention that during the game as you watch, and you'll see people being seriously impressed. (I hope, as that's what I'm going to try.)

Brigham Young University: I am obligated by federal law to say Jimmer Fredette within 3 seconds of saying Brigham Young, or so I gather from what I hear on sports talk radio.

Wofford: Wofford, or "Tiny Wofford" as NCAA analysts insist on calling it, boasts about its "award winning student housing." That housing, "The Village," promises a "new era" of college living. The "new era" includes, for some reason, rocking chairs on the balconies of the apartments.

Did you know that rocking chairs were invented in the 18th century and were originally for garden use? Me, neither. I also didn't know, until I read Wikipedia, that "rocking chairs are sometimes associated with maturity and class."

Still, if it's a new era of living, I'd expect, I don't know, hover chairs or something.

UCLA: I'm getting near the end, it's Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m., and I've got to move this along. UCLA offers credits for blogging: You can take a class in putting stuff on the Internet, so it's possible, I guess, to get a degree in LOLCats and tweeting death threats to people who upstage Justin Bieber:

C145. Creative Authoring for World Wide Web (4)
Lecture, three hours; laboratory, three hours. Exploration of creative aspects of World Wide Web as medium for personal/collective expression. Students produce Web works and serve them online. Contextualization of medium by looking at its history, embedded ideology, and sociopolitical consequences. May be repeated once for credit.

Yep: You can take it twice. So now you can tell your kids to study hard so that some day they can spent $100,000 to learn how to upload videos to Youtube. But they'll be able to contextualize it.

Michigan State: Over at second-tier school Michigan State, students aren't sitting around asking people to join their LinkedIn network for credit; they're doing real research, and paying students to do it. MSU students can apply to help out on research projects like "Innovations In Nanotechnology." Once they cure Government created nanobots, MSU can look for a cure for the other major disease plaguing us:

Did you know that if Florida wins the championship this year, and then wins it next year, they'll be the first team to repeat as NCAA Tournament champions since Florida did that in 2007?

See what I mean? It's not exactly thrilling, is it? Anyway, they're in the same bracket as Brigham Young University, which means (3...2...1...) they have to go through Jimmer Fredette, and there's no way that sports analysts are going to miss out on a chance to say Jimmer Fredette at least 1 zillion more times before we all forget about him forever, so Florida's not going to be allowed to win.

Try saying Jimmer Fredette aloud. It's fun. And if you say it enough, it kind of morphs:

Jimmer Fredette.
Jim Riferdette.
Jim R. Fredette.

Now I'm sick of him again.

UC Santa Barbera: Santa Barbera might be the most beautiful place in the entire US to live. Beautiful weather, scenic areas, low crime rate, volleyball tournaments, and they even get to host the "Big Dogs Canine Festival." So they don't deserve to have a good basketball team, too. Leave something for the rest of us, Santa Barbera!

That's it. I finished it in time -- and I believe that because I did so, I've actually earned a bachelor's from UCLA -- and now that you're fully armed with knowledge that will be the envy-- and bane -- of your coworkers, friends, family, and people on the bus who couldn't help but sit next to you because it was so crowded, you can go and fully enjoy the Tournament! Which technically ended two days ago. Man, this entry was long.

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