If you want a real Cinderella this year, ignore those overdogs from Omaha and look lower. How about 15-seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, a senior-laden team that has a real shot to take out injury-riddled Wisconsin. Now that's a real underdog. Creighton is just Indiana with a lamer name.—Pete Segall
University of Tennessee, Southeastern Conference, No. 5 in South Region
In just two years, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl has become college basketball's greatest nuisance. He's whored out his locker room to ESPN cameras. He's stood on chairs in campus cafeterias to drum up student support. He's painted his chest orange and gone shirtless for the cameras at a Lady Vols basketball game. All this would be faintly entertaining if Pearl didn't look and sound as genuine as a carny at the ring-toss tent.
I am an Illinoisan, Urbana-born, and thus an extreme partisan on the topic of Bruce Freaking Pearl. In 1989, when he was an assistant at Iowa, Pearl secretly taped a recruit, Deon Thomas, "admitting" that he'd been offered a Chevy Blazer and $80,000 to join the Illini. The charges proved unfounded but ultimately led to NCAA sanctions against Illinois for a "lack of institutional control." As a consequence, Pearl was foremost among my childhood sports villains—and that was before I fully perceived the creepy Nixonian overtones of what he had done.
Pearl, of course, insists he was merely ferreting out the cheaters, a characterization that's been scooped up by those members of the media who think of basketball coaches as a congregation of Trappists. I disagree. This is a lifelong careerist who wears his ambition like a cheap mango blazer. A man who had his wife induce their son's birth so he could visit a recruit, who watched game tape at the hospital during his daughter's delivery. "I'm a cad," Pearl told a reporter, joking around about his fatherly negligence. "An absolute scoundrel." For once he wasn't lying.—Tommy Craggs
University at Albany, America East Conference, No. 13 in South Region The nation as a whole might find the Albany Great Danes rather inoffensive. I find them despicable. Let's begin with the uniforms, which read "UAlbany." That's not a word, and it isn't the name of the school. You don't see UKansas or UFlorida, do you?
And consider the home arena. Once upon a time, it was simply the Recreation and Convocation Center, euphonically shortened to "RACC." But money came calling, and the front office sold out. Now the Great Danes play in the State Employees Federal Credit Union Arena, aka "the SEFCU." It's probably the only arena in America whose name sounds like an Eastern European curse word.
Mostly, I hate Albany because my brother Mark went there. He knows in his heart that his school is inferior to my alma mater, Syracuse, but has still always argued the case—except when it comes to sports. Until recently, it was like comparing plankton to a whale shark. Now he finally has cause to gloat.
Mark got a little obnoxious after last year's close shave against Connecticut, when Albany almost became the first 16 seed to win a first-round game. Now that Syracuse has been jobbed by the NCAA selection committee, my brother can sniggle away, bragging that his school's the finest in New York state. And until next March, I have to take it. SEFCU, bro, SEFCU.—Robert Weintraub