Seedy K’s almost annual ABCs of the NCAA tournament
Automatic Bids: They go to winners of conference tournaments, except the Ivy League, which doesn’t conduct one. These are especially cherished by qualifiers from one-bid, geographical-directional leagues. Like Southwestern Athletic, Big South. Southern, Mid-Eastern Athletic, to name those from but one quadrant of the country.
Bracketology: A relatively new “science” by which basketball “experts” forecast the tournament field. The discipline becomes irrelevant and its half-life terminates annually at 6 p.m. on Selection Sunday, when the actual field is announced. The most famous of these “scientists” is Joe Lunardi, who invented it.
Charity Stripe: An alternative moniker for the free-throw line, at which this championship shall be won or lost. As in, “You’ve got to hit your free throws.”
Dance, Big: An alternative moniker for the NCAA basketball tournament.
Ejim, Melvin: Glue guy for Iowa State. Rebounds, scores, holds his team together. The three-ball firing Cyclones, a 10 seed, will cause major problems for Notre Dame if those treys are falling.
Florida Gulf Coast: First team to earn an automatic bid to the Big Dance. First time ever in the Dance.
Gus Johnson: The best play-by-play announcer in college hoops. He will not be heard during the Dance because of a contract dispute with CBS that’s left him doing soccer for Fox. Gus Johnson calling Champions League futbol during March Madness is like Michael Jordan playing baseball during the NBA playoffs.
Havoc: A term used to describe the harum-scarum full-court defensive pressure employed by Virginia Commonwealth. Also played by Louisville, but without the snappy nickname.
Iona: The second-highest scoring team in the country, featuring Mo Mo Jones, the second-highest scorer in the country. A tough first-round matchup for Ohio State.
Jackrabbits: Mascot of South Dakota State, Summit Conference champs. Star Nate Wolters may be the best player you’ve never heard of. The school has won two FCS football championships in a row. Which, while of mild interest, won’t be a factor in this tournament.
Kentucky: The defending champion did not qualify for the tournament, the second time that’s occurred in the last four years.
Liberty: School founder Jerry Falwell is smiling from his grave at the infidels and non-believers. The Big South champion Flames enter the tournament with a less than glossy 15-20 record, but with You Know Who on their side.
Mike Muscala: The Bucknell center is another great player you may have never heard of. He leads the nation in double doubles with 22 in 33 games.
Nifty Nicknames: Besides the Jackrabbits, there are Blackbirds (LIU Brooklyn), Great Danes (Albany), Bluejays (Creighton), Lobos (New Mexico), Zips (Akron) and Dukes (James Madison).
Olynick, Kelly: If the long-haired, geeky-looking leaper showed up unknown on Tuesday at the Y, he’d never get picked for shirts and skins because of that goofy rubber headband. The legitimate POY candidate has led Gonzaga to a No. 1 seed.
Ramblers, Loyola: Fifty seasons ago, the Chicago school upset Cincinnati for the title, becoming the first champ with a majority of African-American starters.
Smart, Marcus: The Oklahoma State guard, aptly named and mature beyond his years, is the best freshman in the country
Tiernan Peter: The respected techno-nerd has eight metrics that crunch out which schools can actually win the title based on past results. IU, Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse and Louisville were the only possible tournament champions (as of March 5).
Upsets: One guy’s guess of possibilities in the first round. Minnesota over UCLA. Bucknell over Butler. Iowa State over Notre Dame. Colorado over Illinois.
Valpo: As in Valparaiso, Horizon League champs. Because, well, because the school’s name starts with a V. What, you were expecting Victor Oladipo?
Western Kentucky: Ray Harper’s Hilltoppers upset their way to the Sun Belt title for the second season in a row.
Xs and 0s: Some coaches have proven to be better come tournament time. The five whose teams best perform statistically beyond seeding expectations are Tom Izzo, Jim Beilein, Steve Fisher, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan.
Yogi Ferrell: Can the Hoosier point guard be the second first-year player in a row to lead his school to the championship?
Zubaz: The early-’90s zebra-print pants that inspired those, uh, different uniforms being worn by the U of L Cardinals and several other schools.