Commentary

Plenty of reasons to love tourney time

Updated: March 19, 2009, 11:51 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

Thirty-three games this week (hey, the opening round counts), so 33 reasons we love the NCAA tournament:

1. The leader of the free world hates the BCS but loves the playoff format of March Madness. President Barack Obama even filled out a bracket for us. (I'll give him this much: He's no homer. The prez didn't pick Washington, D.C.'s, very own American University of the Patriot League over Villanova.) Watch -- he'll win the White House office pool but have to give all the cash to AIG.

2. Verne Lundquist. I could listen to Lundquist do play-by-play of U.S. tax code. He understands the game is the star, not he.

3. Screamin' Gus Johnson. The exception to the rule.

4. Redemption. Banished eight long years by the NCAA for money-whipping a recruit's family, former California Bears coach Todd Bozeman is back on the sideline and back in the Big Dance. Weird how it works out. This time he leads the Bears of Morgan State.

5. Kobe and KG have won NBA championships, but they'll never know what it was like to do what MJ did -- play in (and win) an NCAA tournament.

[+] EnlargeBlake Griffin
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiBlake Griffin may get a shot at No. 1 seed North Carolina -- and Tyler Hansbrough.
6. The 10 members of the selection committee probably will never admit it, but here's guessing they're sweating bullets over No. 12 seed Arizona's first-round game against No. 5 seed Utah. The committee invited the Wildcats but stiffed Saint Mary's, which on Tuesday beat Washington State by 11 points in the NIT -- the same Washington State team that beat Arizona by 16 points on Feb. 26. Patrick Mills, who would have looked good on CBS air, scored 27 points for the Gaels.

7. The potential of a South Regional final matchup between North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.

8. Bruce Pearl's orange sport coat. (Because it's the Big Dance, it'd be nice to see Pearl unveil an orange tux.)

9. Rick Pitino's salute-to-the-Bee Gees white suit.

10. Sleeper picks.

11. Boss buttons.

12. Planting yourself and your school flag in a Vegas sports book Thursday through Sunday of opening week -- just to hear the groans.

13. Bill Raftery. "And the kissssss."

14. The satisfying feeling that comes with knowing that Kentucky is an NCAA tournament no-show, but the coach it all but forced out -- Minnesota's Tubby Smith -- is in.

15. The microscopic odds of a No. 16 seed's beating a No. 1 seed. It has never happened, which means the newest 16s -- Morehead State, Chattanooga, Radford and East Tennessee State -- are on the clock.

North Dakota State
AP Photo/Eric LandwehrNorth Dakota State celebrated a Summit League title. But can it beat Kansas?
16. Picking Kansas to advance, yet rooting for first-time Big Dance entry North Dakota State to upset the Rock Chalks.

17. Figuring out the over/under on how many times UNC coach Roy Williams will cry.

18. Always persuade your ball and chain to fill out a bracket. Mention how many "units" are at stake. She'll become instantly interested in the tournament (even though she doesn't know Robert Morris from Van Morrison) and, in a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, actually encourage you to watch more sports on TV.

19. Pep bands, good … male cheerleaders, bad.

20. Picking the annual 12 versus 5 upset.

21. Sixty-four games of hoops heaven.

22. Crammed into a combined 11 days.

23. There's the 'Cuse, as in Syracuse. But during the Madness, there's the ex-cuse, as in, "What kind of excuse am I going to use to call in sick so I can watch the tournament?" Some time-honored favorites: grandmother died … stomach virus … caught my neck in the car door.

24. It helps the economy: Snack foods, pizza and HDTV sales spike.

25. The mascot box. See how creative mascots can be in their NCAA-designated areas.

26. To all those BCS honks who insist fans can't make travel arrangements on short notice, I'd like to remind them of the Sunday regional final, followed by the national semifinal the next Saturday. Always seems as though plenty of fans make the trip and fill up those huge indoor stadiums.

27. It's a bargain: At the regional in Minneapolis, your $180 ticket is good for six games.

28. Here's what the tournament does to you: Before it's over, there will be a team you've never watched, coached by a guy you've never heard of, played by kids you'll never see in the NBA -- yet you'll be on your knees in front of your plasma rooting … begging like an alumnus for it to pull off the upset.

29. It's the tournament of guards.

30. Other than maybe when the NFL plays its two conference championships on the same day, there isn't a better sports day than the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament. Check that: Semifinal Saturday is the best day in sports.

31. Legends are made. You think Bryce Drew will ever have to buy a meal in the greater Valparaiso, Ind., area again after his buzzer-beater gave 13th-seeded Valpo the improbable win against No. 4 seed Ole Miss in 1998? Christian Laettner probably won't pay for as much as a parking meter when he visits Durham.

32. Disturbing body painting.

33. A tradition like no other? It isn't the Masters, it's net cutting and "One Shining Moment." Gets me every time.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's Podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter