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Season Of The Oaf, With Ken Pomeroy

Purdue center Zach Edey scowls at and squeezes a basketball during the Big Ten Championship Game against Penn State.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The HD version of TruTV is channel 658 on my local cable package. I am not just putting this here so that I will be more likely to remember it, although that is admittedly part of my calculus. I am noting it because, just as I do every year around this time, I have just become aware of it. For the next few days, there will simply be too much basketball happening to fit on channels whose numbers I know off the top of my head because they often or even just sometimes have sports on them. I, and everyone else who cares about the NCAA Tournament for reasons having to do with basketball or gambling or the unbeatable thrill of playing hooky as an adult, will have to spend some time on the channel that used to be known—and, as our buddy Emma Baccellieri pointed out, should still be during this week—as Court TV. This is what it has come to, in the way that it always comes to this.

This is March, in short, which means that this is the episode of The Distraction on which we are joined by the legendary college basketball mage Ken Pomeroy, and we try to make sense of college basketball's annual orgiastic celebration of nonsense and front-rimmed jumpers.

Ken runs kenpom.com, which is something that you already know if you care about college basketball, or just are thoughtful about filling out your bracket. It's one of the great sports websites because it is authoritative, unfussy, and accessible, and the same can be said about Ken as a guest (and, when we're lucky enough to have him, a Defector contributor). It is not his fault, and not even our fault, that college basketball is so hilariously volatile and unpredictable. That is its nature, and the condensed and chaotic format of March Madness only serves to enhance it, so talking about it naturally feels, and is, somewhat futile. It's like talking about the weather—there are atmospheric phenomena that can be identified and explained, but there is nothing much that can be done about them from below. There is a reason why people don't usually bet on what the weather is going to be like.

But this is not the time for that, and so for something like an hour Drew and Ken and I talked about what strange weather we will have. We made our requisite Final Four picks at the end—and Ken's might even mean something—but, as always with this kind of thing, a lot of it was just about figuring out what to expect and how we might feel about it. There are the teams that are fun, and the teams that are good, and the players who are hurt and might come back, and the players that no one really knows about yet, and then there is the battle for the soul of the Republican party that is the Duke-Oral Roberts matchup. We talked about all of that, and about the new frontiers of Guy Remembering that have been opened by the NCAA's streamlined transfer portal, and considered Zach Edey's groundbreaking work in the field of Purdue oafdom. It's March stuff and, if none of us really know what's going to happen, it was a pleasure to have Ken, who at least knows what he's talking about. Now, all that's left is finding out how wrong all of us can be. This is the good part.

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