Last chance to sign up for the Daily Quickie Readers group of the Tournament Challenge!
I am honored and thrilled that more than 300 of you have chosen to join the group this year -- with plenty of room for more! (It remains a source of pride for me that the Quickie Readers group total from 2006 -- more than 10,000 entries -- would have been the 11th-biggest group in the Tournament Challenge this year. I'm sure many of you were a part of that.)
Today's SN column has an annual tradition: The best quick-hit viewing guide you'll find, with each game of the day laid out -- by time, the only way that matters -- and complete with prediction and typically brief-yet-shallow analysis.
Here is the big point from the column: Today is precisely the reason why the hysterics about a 96-team Tournament are overblown. Anti-96ers continue to think that "dilution" would be a problem to people. And it might -- to the 99th percentile of sports fans, the ones who follow college hoops enough to pay close attention to it before March 1. Even most of those fans probably never saw Top 10 New Mexico play a regular-season game and are guessing if they can figure out Richmond-St. Mary's.
But everyone else really dives in after Selection Sunday. And today showcases why fans really care: They get a distraction from work during the day, they get to compete/gamble with their friends or co-workers. Hopefully, they get the rush of a buzzer-beater or upset. That's it.
College basketball's media intelligentsia don't like to hear that, because it offends their sensibilities -- not to mention diminishes their life's work and passion. But it's just that simple. And whether the pairing is Kansas-Kentucky or Richmond-St. Mary's, fans will watch because the game is on during the work day and you have basically gambled on it against your friends. There are plenty of lame NCAA Tournament games; fans remember buzzer-beaters and fans remember upsets. And it doesn't matter what the names are on the front of the jerseys, as long as the higher-seed beats the lower-seed or a team wins at the last second.
That's why last night, while watching the NIT, it was so clear to me: The only difference between no one caring about Northwestern-Rhode Island and everyone caring about Northwestern-Rhode Island is calling them "NIT" games vs. "NCAA Tournament" games.
If they were on an NCAA Tournament bracket and on at 2:30 in the afternoon on a work day -- ideally featuring some kind of down-to-the-wire finish -- fans would care. It's just that simple. And 32 more games -- two more workday 16-game diversions -- would be as enthusiastically welcomed as the 16-game workday diversions that happen today and tomorrow.
There's a lot more in today's SN column, including an analysis of Tebow's Pro Day workout, which did exactly what it had to do: It shifted the conversation from "his mechanics suck" to "his mechanics are improving." All he had to do was show improvement -- ironically, the bearish draftniks themselves are responsible for that absurdly low bar. After a month of focused work with tutors and experts, they couldn't NOT improve.
Oh, and be sure to check out the Obama bracket analysis I did for Newsweek.
Enjoy what will hopefully be a wild day of games!