We need two things badly right now — a twinge of joy and a sense of normalcy. We need an NCAA Tournament bracket, even if we no longer have an NCAA Tournament.
It sounds absurd. It is absurd. The selection committee has dispersed. Even if members telecommunicated, they would be picking teams from an incomplete season to play games that will never happen. It’s madness.
I don’t care. Because we need Madness, even if it’s just a taste.
We need Oklahoma in the field of 68 and playing old pal Kelvin Sampson and the Houston Cougars in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game in the West Region.
We need Kansas as the overall No. 1 seed and facing a tripwire of a game against Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.
We need Prairie View A&M sent to the First Four just so we can imagine the Panthers’ brilliant pep band shaking Dayton’s UD Arena.
We need a bracket.
A bracket in March is like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in June and a fantasy football lineup in October. These are comfortable, delightful pastimes within the games they represent.
There is no comfort or delight in COVID-19 interrupting sports and everything else in our lives right now. Our calendars are a wreck. Our sanity might soon follow.
We need sources of stability, the happier the better. They don’t come any stabler or happier than an NCAA Tournament bracket on a sheet of paper, 68 teams on the first line, a pencil in our hand and a world of possibilities in our head as we make our way through the matrix to a national champion.
It’s a beautiful thing, but only if it’s our bracket. Not Joe Lunardi’s. Not Jerry Palm’s. Not Charles Barkley’s. Ours.
And the only way it becomes ours is if the selection committee gives us its.
Couldn’t committee members Skype for just a few hours? Couldn’t they do their best to incorporate conference regular-season winners with conference tournament winners and at-large contenders?
Couldn’t they solve some logistical puzzles, bang out a 68-team field and then send it to CBS for a Sunday Selection Show? Have Greg Gumbel take us along for the ride? Leave the rest to our imagination?
It is wonderful to imagine at a time like this. It is wonderful to talk about something besides hand sanitizer, toilet paper and a global pandemic.
We could talk about the bracket, even celebrate it. Anything to compete with all of the dread.
You know who would really celebrate it? The players. Never mind us, put out a bracket for them.
On Selection Sunday 2017, Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans said something about “an experience I always wanted to be involved in.” The unveiling of the teams, Evans was referring to, not playing in the tournament itself ... although that was pretty darn cool, too.
On Selection Sunday 2013, Oklahoma made the field and Lon Kruger noticed the glee. It might have been routine for the veteran coach of multiple NCAA experiences, but it sure wasn’t for his OU players.
“To see them on their phones calling family and calling friends right afterwards ...” Kruger said. “This is about a lot of things, but just to be able to have those memories for a lifetime ...”
It’s as good as it gets, short of making memories in the actual tournament.
Players don’t have the tournament this year. None of us do. We are all dejected by that.
We are dejected by so much in our virus-infested country right now. We are desperate for some relief, for some joy and some normalcy.
We are desperate for an NCAA Tournament bracket on a Selection Sunday that I’m afraid we are never going to forget, as much as we’ll always want to.
A pity the NCAA can’t give us one.