Marching to a different beat |

Marching to a different beat

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Did you hear who Dick Vitale picked to win the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball tournament?

How about the team occupying the final rectangle in Donnie Davenport’s 64-team bracket?

As ESPN’s incurable college basketball junkie you probably do care that Vitale has selected Tubby Smith’s Kentucky Wildcats to cut down the nets next month in New Orleans.

As for the fictitious Davenport, you take little stock in the fact that he has picked Kelvin Sampson’s Oklahoma Sooners to win it all.

There isn’t an exact science to sorting out March Madness, no matter how many times you miss a morning class or business appointment to catch the latest installment of “Bracketology 101.”

With 63 of the tournament’s 65 teams needing six straight victories to claim the title, anything can happen and it usually does.

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However, don’t be too hasty eliminating your No. 1 and No. 2 seeds like you were cutting classified employees from a tightening school district budget. Let them mingle with the 16 and 14 and even eight seeds for a while. They’ll be worth the investment.

After all, a pair of No. 1s — Maryland and Kansas — advanced to the Final Four a year ago, with the Terps capturing their first national championship.

Two years ago, preseason No. 1 and No. 2, Arizona and Duke met in the finals, with the Blue Devils taking home the largest trophy. Duke was a No. 1 seed and Arizona was a two. The other Final Four contestants that year — Michigan State and Maryland — were No. 1 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.

So obviously it pays to give your top seeds more respect than UCLA gave coach Steve Lavin for six 20-win seasons and a 65-percent winning rate. Support them; they won’t disappoint.

As for narrowing down the field of 65 to one, let’s examine a few more facts.

n Anybody who picks a No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 must have picked Iraq to win it all in their war bracket.

n RPI or is it RIP? In any case, Fresno State, Villanova and Georgia sure made it easy on the selection committee with their scandalous behavior.

n Iowa, oops. What happened to the Hawkeye state? Not even one school is represented. This state obviously has increased lobbying for a college football tournament.

n Zags are lucky they aren’t in the NIT this year. Gonzaga finished runner-up to San Diego in the West Coast Conference tournament but got an NCAA bid anyway. The Zags’ tournament stay will be brief because they don’t have the extraordinary guard play that they have enjoyed in past Cinderella seasons.

n Oregon Ducks have one of the best players in the tournament in Pac-10 Player of the Year Luke Ridnour. Although it goes against everything an Oregon State alum was ever taught, Oregon deserved a better seeding, given that the Ducks won the Pac-10 tournament. If the Ducks dispatch Utah in round one, they must play tournament favorite Kentucky.

n Notre Dame. How did the Irish wind up with a five seed and a first-round game in Indianapolis? It seems that a team that barely stayed above .500 in its last 19 games, winning 10, should be thankful that Digger Phelps can smooth things over as an ESPN analyst.

n ACC dominance can’t go on forever. Maryland and Duke have provided the conference with the past two national champions, but will be hard-pressed to make it three.

Let me see, if I take the first letter in each of the seven paragraphs above, that spells Arizona. My work is done.

Arizona will win it all.

Good luck to all of the bracketeers out there.

— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or