- Tim Keown, ESPN Senior Writer
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It's starting to look as if the refs have a choice: be vigilant or tolerant. There's just a vibe out there that indicates everybody's on edge as we approach Thursday's start of the NCAA tournament. The evidence can begin and end with this one statement: Even No. 1 seeds are complaining about their seeding.
There used to be a time when the griping was limited to the teams that were left out (we've had plenty of that) or teams that feel unjustly persecuted by poor seeding (some, not a lot), but now we've entered a different realm. We have coaches parsing the difference between a high No. 2 seed and a low No. 2 seed (West Virginia) or the meaning of a No. 1 seed with an unfairly difficult path to the Final Four (Kentucky).
In the age of statistics, maybe it was inevitable.
Instead of adding to the confusion, what follows is a list of 64 truths that sort through the clutter. It's cutthroat around here, which is why we don't recognize Tuesday's Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop loser.
1. What about East Tennessee State's little corner of the world? DeMarcus Cousins reportedly reacted with severe displeasure at Kentucky's potential opponents in the East Regional, and coach John Calipari said, "Our little corner of the world is hard."
2. The guy with the best chance to finish off a season that cements a well-earned reputation as the one coach who can do the least with the most: Rick Barnes, Texas.
3. Coach most likely to splatter all over the court in an epic eruption of rage: Buzz Williams, Marquette.
4. However, just imagine this for a moment: Williams coaching Barnes' roster.
5. Well now, aren't we all glad we played along with that little saga? Solely because Northwestern has an excellent journalism school with a lot of talented graduates, a lot of wasted time and effort went into documenting the Wildcats' potential to make the tournament for the first time.
6. The weekend's biggest winner: Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech, who got a lot more play out of his snub than he would have if his team had sneaked into the tournament and lost quietly to BYU or Louisville.
7. If they'd just scheduled Iona instead of ITT Technical Institute on that one Wednesday in December, things might have turned out differently: Virginia Tech's nonconference strength of schedule -- 339.
8. Team most dumbfounded by Utah State's entry into the field despite not getting the automatic bid from a third-tier conference: Last year's Saint Mary's Gaels.
9. If the committee really did downgrade Purdue for Robbie Hummel's injury: It should have given the Boilermakers a 7- or 8-seed.
10. Silver lining for supposedly snubbed Illinois: Stony Brook is an awfully good draw in the first round of the NIT.
11. Apparently someone in facilities planning was expecting a bigger season from Bruce Weber and the boys: Illinois has to travel to Stony Brook because Cirque du Soleil has the gym that night.
12. Weakest of the many weak excuses Weber made for his team's failing to reach the tournament: Minnesota lucked out by finishing lower than the Illini in the Big Ten, because a lower seeding put the Gophers in line to play a Purdue team weakened by Hummel's injury.
13. A statistic that seems more impressive the more you think about it: Tubby Smith has taken four teams (Georgia, Tulsa, Kentucky, Minnesota) to the tournament, each at least twice.
14. Stats gone wild! Every year, much is made of the ultradangerous No. 12 seeds, which have won 34 first-round games; No. 11 seeds, by comparison, have won a paltry 31.
15. Team that will go quietly and early, thereby making the trendy wink-wink know-it-all experts look bad: Cornell, whose "big wins" were against Princeton, Harvard and Vermont.
16. Say this about Cornell: Never before has a team gotten such mileage out of a close loss as the Big Red got out of almost not losing to Kansas.
17. Be brave, be bold: Pick Wofford.
18. What we learn from TV: Seeding announcements inspire an inordinate amount of crotch-grabbing among today's collegians.
19. Eric Maynor, Stephen Curry -- every year it's someone, and this year it's this guy: Darington Hobson, New Mexico.
20. Oh, and one other guy: Houston's Aubrey Coleman, who averages nearly 26 points per game.
21. How does he do it? Calipari, the unchallenged master of recruiting the one-and-done, has entered the tournament the past three years with Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall at point guard.
22. Most pointless bit of nostalgia: Vermont-Syracuse, otherwise known as remembering a game from five years ago that has no bearing whatsoever on this one.
23. Least interesting first-round matchup: Clemson versus Missouri.
24. There's a saying in sports, and it goes something like this -- win the damn game: Northern Iowa can't complain about its seeding with losses to DePaul and Evansville.
25. Mr. Big Shot: Sherron Collins.
26. He had Occidental and Pacific Lutheran in the BCS title game: CBS morning man Harry Smith revealed his Final Four: Northern Iowa, Butler, Cornell and Robert Morris.
27. Since everyone has to pretend to know more than he really does, here's one: San Diego State will defeat Tennessee.
28. Tough draw: Lehigh, hoping for a 15-seed, gets Kansas instead.
29. Evidence that Vegas pays no attention to seeds, and neither should you: Washington (11) versus Marquette (6) is pick 'em.
30. A spread too big: Michigan State favored by 13 over New Mexico State.
31. A spread too small: Pitt by 11 over Oakland.
32. If guard play, perimeter shooting and foul shots really do matter more in the tournament: Cal's looking good.
33. Worth rooting for: Villanova's Scottie Reynolds and his parents, who had three children of their own and adopted three more, including Scottie.
34. Player who looks as though he spends his downtime hanging out at the skate park at the local middle school: Saint Mary's Matthew Dellavedova.
35. Gus Johnson's first overmodulation prediction: At 12:27 p.m. ET on Friday, with the score Morgan State 9, West Virginia 7.
37. And looking at the broadcasting schedule: Good luck with that, Dick Enberg.
38. A little Steve Nash, a little Pete Maravich, but not enough of either to get past the first weekend: Jimmer Fredette, BYU.
39. Second-round fun: Fredette versus Kansas State's Denis Clemente.
40. Least competitive 8-9 game: Gonzaga over Florida State, big.
41. Hey, Mr. Committee Member: Would it kill you to go Louisville-Saint Mary's and Cal-Richmond instead of Louisville-Cal and Saint Mary's-Richmond?
42. Just for the heck of it: U.S. Reed.
43. Of all the rotten luck -- the woman in our accounting office really likes sunflowers: In another section of the cybersphere, in a column about the unpredictability of the NCAA tournament (largely a fallacy), a guy wrote, "Get ready for that woman in accounting who bases her picks on state flowers to walk away with the money."
44. Here's a headline sure to fill the alumni with pride: "Oregon State back in CBI to defend title."
45. And on the women's side: Larry King thinks those UConn girls have a shot at making it to the Final Four, and with a few breaks they might surprise some people.
46. There are few certainties in life, but here's one: We're all going to be sick of the Ivan Brothers before we reach the Sweet 16.
47. Weird thing: Larry King has the Ivan Brothers getting knocked out in the round of 32.
48. Then again: Better them than another shot of Christian Laettner with his arms over his head and his mouth wide open.
49. He's Harry Smith in short pants: Warriors guard Stephen Curry offered up his tournament insights to USA Today, and he picks Siena as a dark horse in part because "my college roommate from Davidson (Steve Rossiter), his brother (Ryan Rossiter) plays for Siena."
50. And for an even darker horse: Curry has Washington in the Elite Eight.
51. Hey Coach, if you're thinking of complaining about playing on Thursday, please shut up and do the math: You've got a 50 percent chance of playing on Thursday.
52. Or, looking at it another way, maybe it's further proof that everybody's right: Given the world's penchant for believing Duke gets preferential treatment every year, wouldn't you think the committee would go out of its way to make sure it doesn't happen -- just once?
53. By the way, in the interest of quenching our unquenchable thirst for logic: Is it too much to expect the winner of the play-in game to play the team you designate as the No. 1 seed in the whole tournament?
54. When your best win is against Oregon, you're going to have to step it up quite a bit to challenge New Mexico.
55. When Kentucky will go down: In the Sweet 16, against Wisconsin, a team that will impose its will on the Wildcats and force the youngsters into foul trouble and general impatience.
56. Coach Cal seems like a nice guy and all, but seriously: Outside of Bob Knight, is it against the rules for broadcast journalists to mention Calipari's record of erased Final Four appearances (two)?
57. Then again, most people -- including Bill Self -- believe Kansas has the toughest road of any No. 1 seed, and the Jayhawks are the No. 1est of all No. 1s.
58. Remember back when this was considered a good thing? Oakland's best attribute is starting two seniors and three juniors.
59. Now, a major-conference coach who starts two seniors and three juniors is known as one thing: a bad recruiter.
60. Except, of course, with one exception: the Cal Bears, who start four seniors.
61. In other words, they'll share pleasant conversation on the plane ride home this weekend: UCSB's notable stat is being tied for the Big West lead in assists.
62. Free throw shooting could kill: Ohio State.
63. Man who knows no range: Cal's Jerome Randle.
64. Once again, it's time for the timeless piece of advice concerning that most valuable of all your possessions, your bracket: Nobody cares.
A list of 64 truths that cuts through the NCAA tournament whining. It's cutthroat around here, which is why we don't recognize Tuesday's Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Winthrop loser.