For a lot of us, college basketball started Sunday. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The entire sport has become defined by its postseason, and in some ways determining the champion should define a sport. But that pursuit has made every other step to the top of the ladder as meaningless as a practice game.
Sadly, too, the college basketball champ is the hottest team in the final month, not necessarily the best team.
Either way you view the Dance, the excitement is undeniable and everyone gets a chance now. A chance to cut down the nets. A chance to grab bragging rights in your office. A chance at Warren Buffett's billion-dollar dreams of bracket perfection.
It's the time for the dreams to be the reality. Here is a list of takeaways from the bracket:
• 1. The committee gave Wichita State a No. 1 seed and said, "Be careful what you want," because the Shockers' draw is filled with land mines. Kentucky in round two is tough. A potential date with Louisville in the Sweet 16. Duke or Michigan on the other side. Man. Shockers awed indeed.
• 2. If the brackets had been drawn in January -- back when we said we were riding Syracuse to the title -- there's a chance that three No. 1 seeds back then landed Sunday in the South: the Orange, Florida and Kansas. And for Florida to be the overall No. 1 seed and get the most dangerous No. 2 in Kansas does not make sense.
• 3. We will stay with North Carolina as the biggest bracket buster in this draw. The No. 6-seeded Tar Heels could be a Final Four team; they could lose to Providence and star senior point guard Bryce Cotton in round one.
• 4. There are two four seeds that are as good as anyone: Michigan State and Louisville. Happiest coach alive: Rick Pitino, who now gets two full weeks of "No one thinks you're anything. You won it all last year and they think you are the 16th best team in the country."
• 5. Here's one guy's Final Four: Florida, Arizona, Louisville and Michigan State, with Florida and Louisville meeting in the title game. Yes, we picked Syracuse in January, but the current is more tangible than the dream.
As for discussing two things beyond the pieces of paper that everyone will be filling out and handing to some guy named Bill or Dave or Jay, who will be moving between departments and pandering for everyone's $5 entry fee. It's the gambling version of Girl Scout cookies.
First, enter a bracket. It's good for company morale. In fact, let the Mrs. enter one, too. It's the perfect way to get her hooked on the festivities. We're all about family time. Family time and gambling.
Second, this is the perfect time to discuss the conference tournament as the dinosaur of major TV sports. Quick, other than UK's final-minute hiccups -- which marred an inspired performance that otherwise bodes well for the youthful and talented and enigmatic bunch -- what was the lasting moment of actual action Sunday? Anyone?
Nope, the brackets and the selection and the drama have left conference title games with the shelf life of day-old bread. It's time to kill conference tournaments and give the NCAA bids to the regular-season champs. We could even expand the NCAA tournament another weekend with the extra time. (Side note: The only reason the tournament has not expanded already is that CBS has said no because it does not want the Final Four and the Masters on the same weekend, and since the Masters is the only sporting event anywhere that really does not care about the money and CBS can't move that, well, the tournament stays as a three-week entity.)
You could explore a number of ideas. Start the regular season later. Let much smaller sites host those first-round games. It could even be an exaggerated version of the play-in games, just with 32 of them played out between 64 teams to face the 1 through 8 seeds that get a weekend off. And that bye means the regular season and playing well on a nightly basis -- and scheduling -- is even more important. So you have 96 teams in the real dance and 64 on an opening weekend filled with 32 games spaced among the channels to fill the void left in the TV schedule as opposed to almost a couple dozen teams playing in a weekend that no one remembers.
That way the tournament starts sooner, and the real season starts sooner, too.
Email Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.