When I realized that once again this column was several hours past due, I quickly thought back to what I could possibly write to start off the new year at this prestigious college newspaper. The BCS scandal was muted by Miami’s victory, even though the Big Red made a big mistake in flying to Pasadena. Then there are the professional football playoffs, which were, as usual, exceptionally boring this weekend. The most exciting sports event in the NFL this week was Tony Dungy sparring with the Buc’s front office and then turning over his door plate to Steve Spurrier, the visor-sporting visionary who created yet another unfair Florida powerhouse in college football. I’d always like to take the opportunity to note that draft-bound Miami running back Clinton Portis took his mom to his senior prom, which means that he was either beating girls back with a stick or he was really unpopular in high school. For some reason, the latter makes little sense considering his future professional career.

No, what I really think deserves some awesome attention in this great nation is that pre-March madness. Some uninformed sports fans claim that until the bracket is formed, college basketball’s excitement level rivals that of the women’s senior golf circuit during the Super Bowl. I disagree, based on some of the most amusing anecdotes to come out of Dick Vitale’s mouth in the past few months. So, let’s take a look at the most recent quandaries of the current NCAA Men’s Basketball season.

Matt Doherty is bringing new meaning to the words “rebuilding year.” After losing his star player to the football team, the UNC coach is resenting Tarheel football, a rather perverse position considering the storied history of the traditional powerhouse. It’s not like North Carolina doesn’t stand a fighting chance; I actually think that the baby blue is going to be playing in the bracket, by virtue only of their capability to win in the post-season. No, it’s rather that the Tarheels are an embarrassment to storied programs everywhere. Their rather Notre Dame-esque fall from grace might only be stopped by a scandalous hiring of a liar and scumbag, or the return of Julius Peppers. Davidson? Come on.

For some reason, Dick Vitale’s obsession with Bobby Knight is starting to irk me. Furthermore, consider this: Latrell Sprewell strangles his coach, is fined, suspended, and ridiculed for being a “baby” by the sports media. The Indiana coach strangles his player, throws chairs, and causes problems, and is fired. A movie is made, to be aired on one of the most successful cable channels in the history of the world March 10. Texas Tech should be happy to get the press; basically, Knight’s salary is cheaper than paying off ESPN producers and hiring Dick Vitale to actually care about this lackluster program. Furthermore, those Indiana fans that have abandoned the school and have all of a sudden focused on Lubbock are the most disgusting and pathetic creatures to enter a sports arena since the Cleveland Brown fans pelted officials and players on the field over a blown call.

Gonzaga University for the third year in a row is “coming out of nowhere” to contend among the nation’s elite come March. You’d think that someone might start looking to Spokompton and realize that perhaps this burgeoning program can’t be Cinderella every year. At some point, they have to be guaranteed an invitation to the ball. I’ll admit, I’m partial to my father’s alma mater, but then again, you have to love a team whose greatest bench player adds an S.J. after his name.

So, as I look forward to Friday’s grudge match against Amherst, I ponder these quandaries of college basketball. I imagine packed arenas with huge sponsors. I visualize thousands of Duke students watching tents outside Cameron. And then this image of Bobby Knight in a red sweater smiling smugly as Dick Vitale interviews him, and I get queasy in my stomach, and it has nothing to do with Dick Vitale’s insanely intense voice. I love basketball, and I love this time of year.

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