Forde Breaks Down the Field of 65

Sixty-five names, games, teams and minutiae making news in the NCAA Tournament ("One Shining Moment" sold separately):

Brian Greene and Florida A&M are living the dream. The greatest three weeks on the calendar have finally arrived, and not a banked-in 3 too soon (thanks for that Championship Week highlight, Miami RedHawks guard Doug Penno [1]). As of 6 p.m. ET, bubble talk and tournament résumés are old news. On to the best sporting event on Earth.

It's now time for those of us who have been living and dying with every dribble since November to look on in disgust as the office pools are won by secretaries who make their picks based on team colors. But before we pack up our pompoms and relocate to Bracketville until early April, The Minutes wants to celebrate the bigness of this coast-to-coast carnival.

The scope of the Big Dance. The diversity under the Big Top. The cast of millions who stage the Big Show.

We've got 65 tickled-pink teams -- none more so than Florida A&M (2), No. 184 in the RPI but No. 1 in the MEAC after scoring on an inbounds alley-oop at the buzzer.

We've got 195 clipboard-carrying assistant coaches -- half of whom will be working the Final Four hotel lobbies trying to land head-coaching jobs. The other half will be working the Final Four bars trying to pick up chicks.

We've got 800 players living a dream. And as the NCAA promotional ads say, most of them will be going pro in something other than sports.

We've got about 1,300 pep band members. All of whom can play "Carry On Wayward Son" in their sleep.

We've got hundreds of thousands of fans who paid good money to get in the arenas and scream at the refs.

We've got millions more fans screaming at the refs at home.

This dance has room enough for both the Mean Green (3) and Tom Crean (4). (That's North Texas and the Marquette coach, if you're scoring at home. Crean has coached seven NCAA Tournament games, which is six more than North Texas has played in its history.)

It has room for all that's Wright (5) in college basketball (Julian, Brandan and State).

Room for former NBA stars (New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus [6]). Offspring of former NBA stars (Georgetown forward Patrick Ewing Jr. [7], among others). And future NBA stars (Messrs. Durant [8] and Oden [9] leading the way).

Room for two sets of Blue Devils (10). (Central Connecticut State has won 17 of its past 18, Duke has lost seven of its past 11.)

And room for a whole flock of Eagles, be they Purple (Niagara [11]), Golden (Marquette [12] and Oral Roberts [13]), or non-color-specific (Boston College [14], Winthrop [15]).

Keeping the Big theme going:


The Minutes applies its pressure gauge to the Tournament field and finds out who will be feeling it most: Freshmen (16). A rookie class The Minutes believes to be the best college basketball has ever seen will have an unprecedented impact on this tourney. In fact, it's not hard to envision somebody in this group going Melo (17) and taking his team all the way to the national title.

Strong contenders like North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio State all rely heavily on multiple freshmen. So do second-tier teams like Texas, Louisville, Duke and Notre Dame. Several other tourney teams count on major contributions from freshmen (including the Wildcat triumvirate of Villanova, Arizona, Davidson).

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