It's about time we treated Selection Sunday with the same respect as its big brother. No, you don't have to mix up your finest buffalo dip -- I'm just suggesting that we get the betting started early. After all, it takes only the most novice of a fan to fill out a bracket ... but it takes a true degenerative gambler to wager on the actual announcement. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets ...
There are few things in life -- the phases of the moon, gravity, compasses pointing north, etc. -- more predictable than Dick Vitale's angry tirade following the release of the official tournament brackets. It seems the man takes issue every year with a handful of teams being left in the cold. So the only way to add any element of difficulty here is to specify an exact phrase that must be spoken during that rant. Currently, we're on year eight of a nine-phrase, British Open-style rotation, and "It is not fair" is the saying that will show you the money. Stay tuned in 2009 for "I feel bad for the kids from [insert disappointed bubble team]."
Simply put, Vitale is the anti-Packer in more ways than I could possibly explain. This tends to stick out like a sore thumb on Selection Sunday: Dickie V's arguments favor the small, overachieving programs, while Packer seems most content sinking those teams like the Lusitania.
Placing your money on this proposition implies that (1) you recognize Billy Packer's Hidden Agenda (BPHA) for the living, breathing, small-school-hating organism that it is, and (2) you feel confident that at least one mid-major will supplant a school from a power conference and make the Big Dance ... or that (3) you just don't like Packer. That pretty much sums it up. Indeed, the BPHA is wired to react harshly to the mere mention of smaller schools in the same instinctive way that snow geese know to migrate south. Factor in a perfect storm of circumstances this year -- a gaggle of upsets in championship tournaments among mid-majors and a grouping of big-name teams with underwhelming accomplishments -- and the bubble figures to be bigger and more uncertain than ever. A small wager here could easily fund a few bracket pools.
No, all the "experts" don't read from the same fortune cookie before picking mostly the same teams. In reality, the people on television have only a few short minutes to digest the official tournament brackets and make their permanent selections before trotting them out to a worldwide audience. And with guns to their heads, they're usually forced to pick all the teams that should win their respective games, not the ones they think will. So, alas, the same predictions show up over and over, and most boring office pool on earth is born. The only reason we're looking at 10-1 is because CBS and ESPN have a combined 50 analysts (give or take a few dozen), and somebody is bound to go against the two darling teams that everyone seems to love.
(Quick new theory: Since most fans second-guess and revise their predictions a half dozen times after listening to a week's worth of knee-jerk advice from analysts, and since the analysts are rarely right without ample time to dissect each game, wouldn't it be best for society if all the experts announced their picks at 11 a.m. Eastern on Thursday morning? Wouldn't this benefit everyone?)
Knight made his much-anticipated debut on ESPN this week, electing against wearing a suit, refusing to look directly into the camera and seeming genuinely perturbed to be part of any media production. In other words, it was kind of like when he was still a coach, only now he'll have an easier time hunting down Jeremy Schaap and scaring him up a tree. This can't miss.
So with Knight's surly demeanor still intact, you'd have to assume it'll eventually manifest itself during a live broadcast. And with a long weekend of hanging out in the studio lurking around the corner, that broadcast could very well happen sometime this Sunday ... and bracketologist Joe Lunardi seems the likeliest target for Knight's frustration. Ever notice the way Lunardi puts on a defiant smirk after correctly predicting 98 percent of the 65-team field? (Wouldn't you do the same?) Well, combine that with Knight's short fuse and you could be looking at a recipe for disaster, whether Lunardi's in studio or not. It's a long shot, but the odds are better than they should be.
You don't call Kelvin Sampson -- he calls you. Moving on ...
I don't claim to know the inner-workings of CBS Sports' deal with the NCAA, but I'd imagine that somewhere within the official stipulations, the network is contractually obligated to show a certain number of gratuitous team reactions. You know, to make the committee feel special and all ... as if there'd ever be a team disappointed with making the field.
Just to be clear, you're looking for a very definitive series of events. First, Greg Gumbel reads a team's name with a nondescript, electric guitar track playing in the background. Second, the cameras cut to a shot of said team watching the show with a number of its closest supporters from a gymnasium or banquet hall. Finally, the group is shown going crazy. Lather, rinse, repeat. There is absolutely no guesswork in this process; the only question is how many times it will occur. Still confused? Check out this video.
Perhaps the real question is not whether Digger Phelps picks the Irish to the Elite Eight, but instead if he'll show up wearing a full-fledged leprechaun suit to complement his matching tie and highlighter. Don't get me wrong ... Phelps is an extremely likeable character; he just does very little to conceal his overt allegiance to Notre Dame -- to the point now that it's become a major part of his little shtick on College Gameday. So there's no telling how he'll react when the Irish are awarded a high seed in next week's tournament. And I can't help but be giddy in anticipation. It's totally within reason to expect an overzealous response, potentially landing the Irish -- in the opinion of one man, at least -- in the Final Four, national championship, or an all-time, "what-if" match-up against the 1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels.
Ty Hildenbrandt writes for SI On Campus every week. E-mail him at email@example.com with your comments, questions and random observations.