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Tourney mayhem

The NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off this week, with 68 of the nation's best teams ready to battle. In this one-and-done format, each team has a theoretical chance of being crowned champion in three weeks' time.

The reality is certain squads are better than others. For example, the overall top seed 29-5 Louisville Cardinals more than likely will survive and advance longer than the 15-20 Liberty Flames from Lynchburg, Va.

Somewhere between possible and probable is where the fun comes into play. No matter how well-seeded the bracket is, upsets will take place. Anything can happen, which is part of the allure.

Fans in this state, for example, can see all kinds of scenarios with three teams in the tourney. KU could face North Carolina in the second round. K-State and Wichita State could square off in the Sweet 16. KU and K-State could meet in the Final Four. KU might play Missouri for the national title.

On the flip side, all sorts of teams that have beaten KU in this tournament are in as well this year. Not Kentucky, which bested KU in last year's championship game. The Wildcats are playing in the NIT. Kansas' first game is against Western Kentucky, which beat the Jayhawks in 1971. Bucknell's in, as well as Virginia Commonwealth. So is UCLA, Michigan State, Syracuse, Illinois, Duke and Arizona -- all teams that have had success against Kansas in the past 20 years.

Previous years' results should be tossed out the window, however. There are eight coaches in the field that already have won at least one title in the past.

And, as so many non-basketball experts end up winning the friendly office pool, you might be better off examining something other than statistics.

Team nicknames are always popular. There are Great Danes and Billikens, there are Gails and Gaels, not to mention the Zips, Jackrabbits, Blackbirds and Dukes. There are Bison and Buffaloes, Crimson and Orange, Devils and Demons, and Ducks and Eagles. Take your pick.

Whether you subscribe to the theory that the tournament reduces workplace productivity or boosts morale, odds are good that brackets are being filled out all around you. One Las Vegas betting site estimates 100 million people worldwide will wager some $12 billion on the trademarked "March Madness." The odds of filling out a perfect bracket? One in 9.2 quintillion. Even if you simply choose the higher seed in each game, the odds of that happening is 35 billion to one.

Let the madness begin.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net