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Public loves the whirlwind of the NCAA tournament

By Staff | Mar 17, 2017

Back in 1939, the NCAA basketball tournament was first played.

There was no internet, no television, no office pools and no stampede to fill out brackets.

Fast forward to today and interest in the games has taken a firm hold on secretaries, office managers, servicemen overseas and John Q. Public in general.

“March Madness” doesn’t apply to the Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring or bringing in Daylight Savings Time.

About 350 schools scramble to get into the 68-team tournament.

Some schools are joining the potential craziness for the first time.

At Jacksonville State, Northwestern, Northern Kentucky and South Dakota State the students care more about basketball than tweets for a short time.

At Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kansas the tournament is treated like a right of blue-blooded heritage.

There are even “play-in” games for the unwashed to worry about in their pools.

A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. But lowly seeds ramble through the early-round games and reach the Sweet 16 or

Elite 8.

The so-called “Cinderella” teams get their one or two games in the sun but don’t squash enough opponents to get to the Final Four very often.

West Virginia won its way into the Final Four in 2010.

You have to skim the record books and go back to 1959 to find West Virginia’s high-water mark in the NCAA tournament.

That season at Freedom Hall in Louisville the Mountaineers had beaten hometown Louisville in the national semifinals before dropping a one-point verdict to California.

That was the season where California won its only national championship.

Kentucky has won so many national titles that it has done so with five different coaches — Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari.

In recent years many games in the early rounds are not sold out.

The national semifinals and finals are sellouts.

It matters not to the NCAA whether fannies fill every last seat because the television money washes everything in vats of black ink.

Three weekends of madness. And then the championship game on Monday, Apr. 3, for the late-night audience.

None of the aristocrats has to reach the Final Four for television ratings to be satisfying to the NCAA.

All the pre-tournament bilge surrounding the 68 teams to be selected is not remembered any longer.

Oh my, Syracuse and Indiana weren’t two of the “last four in.” Ohio State, California, Utah, Illinois State and Tennessee were left to play in other tournaments.

In the early rounds so many games are being played at the same time that your television has four or more in little pockets on your screen.

ESPN calls your attention to “upset specials” when genuinely gifted teams such as Florida Gulf Coast and Middle Tennessee State tweak the noses of teams not paying attention.

Coaches do win close NCAA games. The faint-hearted and free-throw foolish lose by a scant few points . . . and then wonder why.

In the aftermath of the tournament, coaches at “major” conference schools who missed the field will be sent on their way toward new careers as television analysts, insurance sellers and smiling public relations posers.

North Carolina State, Illinois and Mississippi State have already fired their coaches.

As they shout in Sistersville, Nutter Fort, Gary, Follansbee and Harts, “Let’s Go Mountaineers”. . . and let the madness begin.