Game Time: Your March Madness Preview, Complete With WARNING LABEL

"If Kansas is the best team in the country, college basketball is going to suck this season." -- @SeanCablinasian on Twitter

That was a post I had on Twitter, dated and time stamped 10:29 PM on November 17. Kansas was the top-ranked team in the country at the time, and they were plodding their way through a hideous 57-55 win over what turned out to be a very average Memphis team in some nondescript preseason tournament. Here we are about four months and a few thousand games later, and in a way, we're back where we started -- Kansas is a clear-cut number one and everything after that is pretty balanced and, frankly, pretty messy.

Go back and look at the rankings from the first week of the season and in addition to Kansas, you'll see two of the other number-one seeds in this year's tournament getting healthy respect (Kentucky and Duke, both in the top eight), the other number one (Syracuse) almost totally off the radar, and the other teams that are in the team picture as national-title contenders sort of hanging around (Villanova, West Virginia, Ohio State).

What the pundits (and frankly all of us non-pundits) didn't see was the NIT becoming a de facto "Basketball Program Legends Tour" with North Carolina and Connecticut headlining, although just watching both (especially UNC) made those who wager on the games very thankful that it took Vegas so long to catch up with them. Thank you, Coach Williams and Coach Calhoun!

And that brings me to my March Madness "Warning Label" -- a lot of you are getting ready to fill out brackets without having watched a lick of college basketball all year, or perhaps you've been dialed in on only the Big XII and have not taken the time to watch Gonzaga or St. Mary's in the WCC. You wouldn't know Omar Samhan from Omar Little. (Point of clarification -- Samhan is the somewhat flabby, but surprisingly athletic big man for 10th-seeded St. Mary's; Little is the somewhat psychotic, surprisingly gay drug dealer killer from The Wire.)

Because you haven't taken in much college hoops this season, either from indifference or having a life, you will rely on the opinions of those whom you perceive to be in the know so that you can fill out a somewhat educated bracket and sound reasonably intelligent in defending your requisite upset picks, mostly because you don't want to be the guy using the same methodology as your company's receptionist in filling out your bracket. Those assumed "hoops connaisseurs" will include people you hear on sports talk radio.

Here is my warning to you -- ninety five percent of the people in my industry are just like you when it comes to college basketball; they've watched virtually ZERO college hoops all year. Yet they will still try and pass themselves off as experts in the field, when in fact they are experts at two things -- staying employed and looking like a finalist in a Peter Griffin lookalike contest.

So how do you sniff out a March Madness Phony? Well, quite simply, you ask questions. You grill the so-called sports expert like he is interviewing to be the nanny for your children and you're leaving the country for six months, because it's just that important. As questions go, there are really two important ones --

1.) Is your name Rich Lord?

If the answer is yes, hang up and go ask your company's receptionist if you can copy her bracket. Your chances of success just doubled.

2.) Do you wager on college basketball during the season?

Why is this important? Well, I'll let Gordon Gekko explain....


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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast