University of Georgia, Southeastern Conference, No. 14 in West Region
It's tough enough to deal with UGA's obnoxious, thin-skinned fans during football season. Now, thanks to a miracle run to the SEC Tournament title, the Athens contingent has something else to crow endlessly about. Because a tornado rendered downtown Atlanta unfit for frivolity, the Dawgs did the deed in the home gym of its arch-enemy, Georgia Tech. Suffice it to say, Hotlanta will never hear the end of it.
Georgia fans are so self-righteous, they probably believe the twister (which I heard but didn't see, if you're curious) was sent by the Lord hisself to facilitate the unlikely championship. I prefer to blame Tennessee and Vanderbilt, the conference's two best teams, for gazing toward the bigger tournament that starts this week, thus helping a team that won four conference games all season win four in three days and the SEC's automatic tourney bid.
I'd have liked the Bulldogs' chances if the NCAAs had started Monday. Georgia is like the kid who gets on an ungodly hot streak and makes 30 straight free throws before mom makes him come home. When he heads back out after dinner, the magic is gone, and it's brick after brick after brick. By Thursday afternoon, when the Bulldogs take on Xavier, reality will have set in. That'll shut up those Georgia fans—at least until next month's spring football game.—Robert Weintraub
American University, Patriot League, No. 15 in East Region
At opposite ends of the 20th century, bookending those happy days when the school acted as a supposed front for the CIA, American University found itself thoroughly beset by noxious gasbags. I refer, in the first instance, to the containers of Lewisite and mustard gas buried at the fringe of campus after World War I. On the tail end, I refer, of course, to John Feinstein. There are many fine reasons to root for American, out of the Patriot League, not least because this will be the program's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. But I can't, in good conscience, cheer for any team that inspires Feinstein, America's Favorite Sportswriter™, to inflict his prose on the reading public, especially the sort found in The Last Amateurs, Feinstein's 5,897th book. The book is nominally an account of the Patriot League's 1999-2000 basketball season; the real subject, however, is Feinstein himself, who is sad that he can longer watch major college basketball—with its "win-at-all costs mentality" and "pampered players"—and pretend he's 8 years old. Now, it is not American's fault that Feinstein fashioned the school and its fellow conference members into some ridiculous last redoubt of athletic purity, full of intelligent young men playing for "glory and honor" (as opposed to the kids in Conference USA, who, as we all know, play for hookers and cocaine). But the die has been cast. American University: Basketball that's good for you. Cheering for the Eagles now is like cheering for Brussels sprouts and condoms.— Tommy Craggs
University of Southern California, Pacific-10 Conference, No. 6 in Midwest Region
There was a time when I hated Tim Floyd for mere incompetence—when Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause plucked him from Ames, Iowa, to rebuild a soon-to-be Jordan-and-Pippenless franchise. After compiling a 90-231 NBA record, Floyd returned to college, where his loathsomeness sprouts from seamier endeavors. While USC's mysterious acquisition of prep star O.J. Mayo generated some under-the-breath muttering, I'm willing to believe Floyd's not-really-believable story: that Mayo essentially turned up on his doorstep, having recruited himself. But forget about O.J. Mayo—there's a much more important recruiting scandal going on at USC. The Trojans have spent one of next year's scholarships on Romeo Miller, a mediocre 5-foot-10 point guard better known as wee rapper Lil' Romeo. "The more buzz you can create, the more news stories you can create, the better served you are as a program," Floyd told the Wall Street Journal, explaining why he recruited Master P's hoops-impaired kid. USC and Tim Floyd must be stopped now, before they destroy college basketball for good. Your 2012 NCAA title game: Jonathan Lipnicki and USC vs. Stanford's superstar guard Miley Cyrus.— Mike DeBonis