The ball is tipped and there you are—at home, or in a bar, or just following along furtively in a browser tab. There is no gift under heaven quite like unlimited daytime sports, and so there is nothing quite like the first two days of the NCAA Tournament. What college basketball lacks in precision and polish is considerable, but it more than makes it up in volume and amplitude. The messiness of it is central to what makes it work: The slop is load-bearing, and none of this could or should exist without it.
I believe all this, as it happens, but it is worth noting that it is also exactly what I would tell myself if I was trying to justify filling out an extremely incorrect bracket and developing a series of luridly faulty hunches and then defending them far beyond reason. The irrationality of all this is central to my love of it, but this week Drew and I sought to counter that with college basketball’s reigning king of metrics, Ken Pomeroy. He would make us smarter, or we would make him dumber, but surely, surely none of us would emerge from this episode unchanged.
I don’t imagine I’m giving anything important away when I admit that it wound up being a little bit of both. Ken knows a lot, and is a delightful conversationalist, and Drew and I both left feeling both more informed about the state of things going into the Men’s Tournament and notably more favorably disposed towards Iowa. But Ken is also someone who knows a lot about how college basketball works and what it is, which at this time of year means embracing all the preposterous and unpredictable stuff that will eventually rend the nation’s brackets and tank its workday productivity and finally, mercifully, wreck our very minds. So the episode spent a roughly equal amount of time on the inexplicable and ridiculous stuff that breathes life into the tournament. Insofar as that stuff is mostly pretty dumb, I guess that qualifies as a win for us. I managed to shoehorn in a little more shouting about Rutgers before they got eliminated in a heartbreaking and janky double-OT loss in the (ugh) First Four. That was definitely a win for me.
All in all, it was decently substantive without sacrificing the braying idiocy that is The Distraction’s stylistic signature. The Funbag afforded us an opportunity to reconsider the utility of the word “abominable” and celebrate the finer points of air-drumming. Ken was good on this stuff, too, but after all that useful, interesting material that had come before, it was clear that we finally had the advantage. The dumb stuff, as it will, had finally won out. We were on our home court.
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