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SPOTLIGHT
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Tourney madness

Published on -3/18/2014, 9:25 AM

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The office pools have begun, which can mean only one thing: The NCAA men's basketball tournament is about to begin. Billions of dollars will change hands in sports' biggest betting extravaganza, while TV sets, desktop computers and mobile devices bring live video to even the most casual observer.

And remember, odds are good it will be the most casual observer that will win the office pool. Don't take it too personally, sports fans.

Storylines are aplenty every tournament, but the 2014 version seems to have even more than usual. Of course, that could be because we're in Kansas. The Sunflower State has plenty to boast about, as Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Wichita State University all made it to the Big Dance.

The Shockers are the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. They simply haven't lost since being upended in the Final Four last year by eventual national champion Louisville. At 34-0, Wichita State is the first team to enter the tournament undefeated since UNLV in 1990-91. The Shockers could face K-State in the third round if the Wildcats survive their first game with Wildcats of the Kentucky variety. The Midwest Region is considered the toughest draw this year, as Michigan, Duke and Louisville also are in the bracket.

KU has an easier bracket, but the team is second-seeded to the tournament's overall top squad, Florida. The two elite programs could be on a collision course for the Elite Eight round. The Jayhawks feature two freshmen who could be the top two picks in the next NBA draft. It will be interesting to see Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid play in their one and only NCAA tourney. Of course, Embiid's back has to heal first, but he's expected back by the fourth round.

Speaking of coming back, former KU superstar Danny Manning is dancing this year as a coach. The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are in the South Region along with Kansas.

Of the 14 schools that have won multiple NCAA championships, only two didn't make it to this year's tourney -- Indiana and San Francisco. The other 12 ready to add to their legacies are UCLA, KU, Florida, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, North Carolina, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, North Carolina State and Louisville.

Two teams made the tourney for the first time: North Carolina Central and California Polytechnic State University -- or Cal Poly. The Big 12 has the most representation in the tournament with seven teams.

We could throw more trivia your way, but time's a-wastin'. You've got a bracket or two to fill out. If you're feeling particularly knowledgeable or lucky, check out Warren Buffett's challenge. He's taken out an insurance policy that will pay $1 billion for a perfect bracket.

Odds of that happening are 1:9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

Good luck, and enjoy the madness.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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