In just under three days, work productivity across the nation will decline, inter-office betting will increase and extended lunch hours will be taken. It will happen all in the name of the NCAA basketball tournament.

No other sporting event has this type of impact on non-sports fans or draws this much attention. Not even the Super Bowl can claim the amount of recognition the NCAA tournament receives. The Super Bowl, after all, lasts only one day – or two weeks full of hype. March Madness consumes an entire month.

The official madness began on Sunday when the teams and pairings were announced. What usually follows is three days of bickering on what teams should have made it that didn’t, which teams made the tournament but were treated unfairly by the committee and predictions of what upsets will happen. That mostly hasn’t happened so far. In reality, the committee got it right this year.

Most people expected North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville to get No. 1 seeds and they did. The most shocking part might have been Louisville receiving the No. 1 overall seed, but while the others may be considered stronger teams, Louisville is the only team from a power conference that can say it won its regular season conference championship as well as its conference tournament. While North Carolina watched from home after being ousted by Florida State, and Pitt and UConn watched their Big East foe cut down the nets from home, Louisville made a case for being the hottest No. 1 entering the tournament.

But looking from the outside, the losses by UConn and North Carolina gave another team reason to complain. The Memphis Tigers aren’t making a stink about getting snubbed and instead have chosen to do their talking on the court. With the exception of Missouri standing in their way, it looks like Memphis might just do that.

The Tigers got seeded second in the West Region setting up a potential Elite Eight meeting with UConn. And even if that happens, Memphis will still be the only team of the upper seeds that can boast a long winning streak at the end of the 2008-2009 season. If any team in this year’s tournament can say it is carrying momentum into the tournament, it is Memphis. The No. 2 seed and Conference USA champions have won their last 25 games and have done so outscoring its opponents by an average of 19 points per game. The Tigers’ last loss came on Dec. 20 against Syracuse – hardly surprising if you consider how hot the Orange have got in the last half of the season. Conference USA by nature isn’t considered the most powerful of conferences, and by comparison the Big East has received the most hype as this year’s toughest conference. En route to their impressive regular season-ending run, the Tigers defeated both Tennessee and Gonzaga. Like Memphis, Gonzaga went undefeated in conference play but still dropped its last loss of the season to the Tigers by 18 points.

Memphis made it to last year’s championship game, and having as much or possibly more success without NBA No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, the Tigers have the potential to make it back to this year’s title game. Look for them to meet up with Pitt in the championship.


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