Five stories to follow, plus one thing you won't see
Forget that "First Four" play-in game nonsense. Everyone knows the real first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament comes today. At high noon on the Ides of March we tip-off the World's Most Exciting Sporting Event. Keep your Super Bowl, with its 1,000:1 hype-to-football ratio. Take your World Cup, with its round-robins and nil-nil ties. The NBA Finals, World Series, and Stanley Cup? Even at their best, the championships can only offer two clubs playing a lousy seven games. The Big Dance, though, has 68 teams, with nearly 700 players, plus marching bands, cheerleaders, and thousands of face-painted fans packing venues across the country. For sheer volume of entertainment, nothing compares to March Madness. Today is especially fun, too, because that fussed-over bracket is still immaculate. The elusive dream of perfection still remains. If you are like most of us, though, your bracket will be a shambles by tonight. In that case, we've got a few other stories to watch.
Forget Kentucky's Player of the Year candidate, star-kissed forward Anthony Davis. The real story in Wildcat-land is head coach John Calipari's lifelong, multi-school, twice-asterisked quest to win a title. Calipari's offense, "dribble-drive motion," is based on constant cutting and passing, and puts control of the game in players' hands, NBA-style. Unlike, oh, pretty much every other coach in the college ranks, Calapari won't call time-outs late in close games to draw up a play for his club. He'll trust the players to be good enough to win. The problem, as ESPN The Magazine's Elena Bergeron pointed out, is that they haven't been. At UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky, Calipari's clubs have show a late-game tendency to, shall we say, be in need of the Heimlich. For this year's no. 1 overall seed, so deep and talented, who've clearly the country's best team all year, anything less than cutting down the nets in New Orleans has got to be considered a flop.