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March Madness: Class is in Session

by on March 17, 2010 7:00 AM

Top of the mornin’ to you all!

Laddies and lassies, this is the start of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. May the luck of the Irish be with you today (and if you are entering any "for amusement only" office pools for March Madness, may the luck continue for the next couple of weeks)!

If you are indeed after that pot of gold in your "for amusement only" bracket contest amongst your friends, colleagues, family or a combination of all the previously stated, I’d like to offer some tip-offs... I mean tips (I’m already thinking of game time).

My wife, a teacher, gave me the idea to go with more of an educational approach rather than relying on the luck of the Irish for this upcoming Division 1 Men’s Basketball tournament.

I’ll start with English. This year’s 65 teams include almost every letter of the alphabet in the team names from play-in team Arkansas-Pine Bluff to the West Division's No. 6 Xavier.

Moving on to art. Perhaps you should pick some teams that have green in their school colors (Siena, Ohio University, Michigan State and, of course, Notre Dame).

If there were a "Media Focus" class, its lesson plans would be set for the next several weeks. From tomorrow through April 5, there are going to be many basketball games to watch. Between the Men’s and Women’s Division 1, 2 and 3 NCAA tourneys (not including the NIT and others), you could fill an entire day by watching games.

The one thing I love about this tournament is that I actually do root for all of the teams, especially the ones I've selected, except one. If you are a true basketball fan, you know exactly which team I am talking about. Continuing the education theme, it would get "D" on its report card.

Getting back on track with school subjects, let’s take a look at the mathematics side of this tournament.

There are 9.2 quintillion (yes, that it is real figure) possible bracket options. Those of you betting in Vegas should know the odds are 9.2 quintillion to 1 (not exactly the best odds).

Saving one of my favorite subjects in school for last, let me present the history of all of this madness.

  • 1939-1950: Eight teams competed in the tournament.
  • 1951-1952: 16 teams
  • 1953-1974: Between 22 and 25 teams
  • 1975-1978: 34 teams
  • 1979: 40 teams
  • 1980-1982: 48 teams
  • 1983: 52 teams (four teams in a pre-tournament play-in game)
  • 1984: 53 teams (five play-in games)
  • 1985-2000: 64 teams
  • 2001-present: 64 (one play-in game)

There has been speculation of expanding the number of teams to 128, however no formal talks of this have actually come to fruition. The current format has proved to be very successful.

My only wish is that universities involved remember this is indeed a game and you can’t win them all. I am astounded by how many coaches lose their jobs because of a losing season. I hope that this doesn’t convey the wrong message to our youth, who learn not only from teachers, but also from role models and authoritative figures.

Should I indulge in the phrase "A for effort?"

Speaking of A, call me the April fool, but the final four teams I have chosen to still be dancing in the end are the following: Kansas, Kansas St., Kentucky and Villanova.

If you would like to review all of my selections, I encourage you to enter the bracket contest to go up against me. Though seeking to beat me this year is much like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And, as fitting for this day, good luck! Let the madness begin.

Mike (The Mailman) Herr gives his stamp of approval to all visitors Monday through Friday at the University Park post office in the ground floor of McAllister Building, adjacent to the HUB. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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