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Selection Sunday

And what exactly happened to the ACC? (Updated)

8:14 AM, Mar 13, 2011 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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UPDATE 1:30pm: Speaking of bracket filling, in today's Washington Post, sportswriter Eric Prisbell addresses the growing alarm over the newly expanded field of 68 teams—what critics describe as a shameless ploy to increase ad revenue by offering up more games. Since 2001, NCAA pool participants have had to deal with the odd 65-team bracket—a Tuesday play-in game featuring small schools like Winthrop, which would then have the honor of playing a 1 seed like Ohio State two days later. Pool managers could either decide to force a Tuesday tip-off deadline, meaning players would have less than 48 hours to figure out the field, offer a bonus for getting brackets completed early, or simply ignore the play-in game and enforce the traditional Thursday noon tip-off deadline. The latter also allows for second-guessing to get the better of us: San Diego State is my overall winner? What was I thinking? Duke out in the second round? Wishful thinking!

But as the Post points out, things are more complicated this time:

This year, the three additional teams means there will now be four games playing into the main 64-team bracket. And while two of them can be ignored as competitively insignificant because the winners almost certainly will be pummeled in the next round, the other two will pit higher-caliber teams, such as Michigan State or Villanova, against each other for spots in the main bracket as Nos. 11 or 12 seeds.

So what are the professionals doing?

Turner Sports, which now has the television rights to the tournament along with CBS, declared Monday to be National Bracket Day and is urging everyone to complete brackets before the play-in games. But ESPN.com, which has staged a bracket contest on its Web site since 1998, established a Thursday deadline for all entries, as has The Washington Post for its Bracket Challenge.

As for those individuals not involved in March Madness who are wondering who cares about any of this: Studies have shown productivity comes to a near halt during these next two weeks, whether you are in it or not. "Office pools, despite the warnings of law enforcement officials," writes Prisbell, "are among the country's most popular illegal activities. The FBI estimates that roughly $2.5 billion is gambled on the NCAA tournament, and only $80 million is bet legally through Nevada sports books. A good portion of the rest takes the form of $5 or $10 entry fees to participate in a bracket-pick NCAA tournament pool."

Now enjoy the madness.

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