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The madness

Paul E. AnnaAspen, CO Colorado

Bracketology.So our long national nightmare is nearly over.Sunday at 4 p.m., the drought ends as the NCAA selection committee names the 65 teams that will play in the 2008 NCAA Mens College Basketball Tournament. Ever since Eli and the Giants gave those cheating Patriots their comeuppance the first Sunday in February, we have had scant little to root for or care about.The dead zone that begins with the final whistle of the Super Bowl and lasts until the opening tip off of the play in game is arguably the driest patch of the year for fans of the major sports. Oh sure, the NBA has been great and the Avalanche, with Foote and Forsberg back in the fold, have been making a fine run. But, assuming either or both make the playoffs, they still wont be staring at a championship run for sometime to come.But all of that goes to the sidelines come Sunday. As Dick Vitale will surely intone this weekend, Its all about the brackets, Baby!!! For the uninitiated, the college basketball regular season is played in order to determine which 65 teams deserve to be selected to play in the postseason tournament. A committee of wise men (or not, if your team is left out) uses a sophisticated and unexplainable system to select the teams and then seed them in an order of 1 to 65 based on merit. They then break the teams into four brackets and the No.1 team plays the No. 16 team, the No. 2 team plays No. 15 and so on and so forth. The loser of each game is eliminated while the winner continues through the bracket. That is all after the 64th seeded team plays the 65th seeded team in that play in game we mentioned above.Got that?Ok, so when all is said and done and all 63 games have been contested (that includes the play in game) there will be two teams left to battle it out for the NCAA Basketball Championship on Monday, April 7 in San Antonio, Texas.Each March, madness infects fans of college basketball who fill out brackets in which they select the winners of all the games right through the tournament. It is a fun exercise that has exploded in popularity over the years. You can enter any number of such contests on the Internet though the easiest to use may be on CBSsports.com. It lets you set up your own group of players and keeps track of how your office or class or gondola group does.The Aspen Times has a link this year to something called March Frenzy. While it is not a sanctioned site and bears none of the official logos and marks that youll find on the CBS site, it does have the advantage of allowing players to pick the games up to 20 minutes before the tip off. In other words, you dont have to fill out a complete bracket, just log on and pick the winners of each game played that day. There are cash prizes up to $100,000 in that game. Go to the aspentimes.com and scroll down to the March Frenzy link.Three suggestions for you. First, it all begins next Thursday and from the first tip through the 48th game on Sunday is some of the best sports television action of the year. Tune in. Second, a No. 16 seed has never and will never beat a No. 1 seed. That means you have four free games if you simply pick No. 1 in their first game.And finally, pick UCLA to win it all. You can thank me later.