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By Sean Keane

The NCAA Tournament officially kicked off Tuesday. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s like the NBA, but there’s 400% more white players and the referees occasionally call traveling. It’s known as The Big Dance, March Madness, and The Cause Of A 65% Drop In Workplace Productivity Every Spring. It’s a magical time of year where America is united in obsessing over their impossibly-wrong brackets, and
re-learning how to spell “Krzyzewski,” because typing “Coach K can suck my dick” on Twitter isn’t nearly as classy as typing the whole thing out.

Tuesday and Wednesday featured the four games, formerly known as “play-in” games. The tournament field is made up of a mixture of 31 automatic bids, awarded to conference champions, no matter how small and shitty, and 37 “at-large” bids, which go to the best teams, regardless of where they play. It’s
not unlike the US Congress; it’s a bicameral tournament. The automatic qualifiers are like Senators: even though Alabama State was a pretty crappy 17-17 on the year, they won the Southwestern Athletic Conference, so they get to play in the tournament to represent their conference. Alabama is a pretty crappy state, but they still get two Senators, after all. The at-large bids are like Congressmen, except that their representation is not determined by population, but by TV appearances, wealthiness of the school’s boosters, and the coach’s shoe deals. However, like Congressmen, many of these teams are getting illegal bribes.

There used to be only 30 conferences and 34 at-large bids, preserving the elegance of the 64-team (2 to the sixth power) bracket. But when the Mountain West Conference emerged, the selection committee decided to keep 34 at-large bids, and force two of the crappiest teams to play off for a chance to get demolished by a #1 seed. This game invariably featured at least one team from a historically-black college, making the play-in game the equivalent of a Jim Crow-era poll tax. This year, a new TV deal with TNT and TBS means that there are 68 teams in the field, and four play-in games. Perhaps to answer these allegations of racism, TBS has agreed to show no less than 400 commercials for Tyler Perry’s “Meet The Browns” over the course of the weekend.

Tuesday, #16 seed UNC-Asheville defeated Arkansas-Little Rock in an overtime thriller. Any time you’ve got colleges with the [State] – [City within that state] naming convention, you know you’re not dealing with title contenders. They might as well officially add, “No, not that one” to the middle.

“I go to Arkansas.”
“Oh, in Fayetteville.”
“No, not that one. Arkansas-Little Rock.”
“I’m so sorry.”

UNC-Asheville’s presence in March Madness seems designed solely to confuse viewer or gamblers who don’t realize they’re not regular North Carolina (or should I say, UNC-Chapel Hill?) In the other game, #12 seed Clemson defeated #12 Alabama-Birmingham (no, not that one), and as a reward, had to fly to Florida and play their next game 36 hours later. Because these teams weren’t getting screwed enough otherwise.

Wednesday saw another epic clash of #16 seeds, with Texas – no, not that one – San Antonio prevailing over Alabama State. As their reward, they play the tournament’s overall top seed, Ohio State. These #16 seed battles are kind of like making cows compete in a mooing contest for the right to go into the slaughterhouse first. In the other game, Virginia Commonwealth defeated USC, who make just one basket in the game’s final nine minutes. Combined with Arkansas-Little Rock’s defeat, that’s two losses for Trojans in the opening round. Coaches blamed lack of preparation, their folly in pissing off the goddess Athena, and the wooden horse full of groupies that was wheeled into the arena an hour before tip-off. Since most brackets didn’t make you pick a winner of the play-in games, no one in America really cared.

Thursday morning, the Madness starts for real. Prepare for your long lunches and mysterious sudden illnesses and remember, there’s still one Hansbrough brother left to hate.

For more sports related laughs, read Sportscentr, Sean’s tumblr about all things sports. Except for tumbling.

Follow Sean Keane on Twitter.