The NCAA Tournament kicks off on Thursday and America's collective work production will take a hit that even a Bernake bailout cannot prevent. Its March Madness time and we kick it off with 16 games on Thursday that will get your juices flowing. Now in the first round, we know that there is a lot of action going in every direction and it can be difficult to keep up with what is going on at any given moment. That is what we are for, to make the complex manageable. So as you watch on Thursday, keep this list in front of you and refer to it often. It is your Twenty-Five for Thursday NCAA Guarantees:
1. BYU vs Florida Will Make You Very Happy: It doesnt matter what game is actually the first action of the NCAA Tournament, I look forward to it with eager anticipation. This year it happens to be BYU vs Florida, which means that I will watch the opening tap, comment on how BYU looks "better than I would have thought" and place a "friendly" wager on two teams who if they played during the regular season, I would choose working out on a gazelle over watching. That is just what March does.
2. Florida's Dan Werner Will Have You Shaking Your Head: It is not often that a player is so consistenly awful that you wonder how he not only plays, but is able to function in society. Dan Werner is that player. Dont say you have not been warned.
3. Sam Houston State Will Make Announcers Make Stupid Puns: I probably like Jay Bilas more than any other announcer in America. But as my former assistant in Washington DC used to say about women who wore to much makeup, "he think he cute!" I can guarantee some pun about "remembering the Alamo" or "Sam Houston State wont go down like Sam Houston, etc. He has to do it. Just forgive him.
4. You Will be Angry About Which Game You are Getting Assigned at Some Point During the Day: One of the great parts of the first round of the NCAA Tournament is the fact that there are four games going on at any given moment. However what is assured is that the game you will want to see wont be on wherever you happen to live. There is really nothing you can do about this except (a) go watch at a bar, (b) watch the Mega March Madness feature on CBSSports.com or (c) hope that Greg Gumbel will interrupt the game you are watching with updates. What wont work is throwing your remote at the screen at cursing at Seth Davis. Trust me, I have tried.
5. David Koresh's Name Will Come Up in your Bar: At some point during the telecast, they will mention that Baylor is in Waco, Texas. Then someone in your group will say, "how do I know Waco?" Then Branch Dividians are brought up and David Koresh will be mentioned. Just go ahead and do it early and then you will look like the smart one of the group.
6. Verne Lundquist Will Mispronounce Names: This is a guarantee, but I dont look at it as a negative. In fact, if you play a drinking game for each name that Verne butchers, you are guaranteed fun and a raucous crowd by 3:30 pm. Just take "Verne" shots (something foreign and exotic) and sit back and smile. It will make Villanova vs Robert Morris much more entertaining.
7. Scottie Reynolds Is Still in School: You know how some guys just seem to be in school forever? Scottie Reynolds is that guy for me. I am fairly sure he played with Ed Pickney and Harold McClain after being recruited by old Rollie. Also on this list, Jon Scheyer, Greivis Vasquez and Luke Harangody.
8. Murray State Will Beat Vanderbilt: This is a given. Everyone has it in their bracket. Just mark it down.
9. Your Friend Will Tell You He Had Murray State Beating Vanderbilt: Tell him to just shut about it. We all had that game and we also had Siena beating Purdue. You aren't special. In fact, you would have been more special had you picked Vanderbilt, so seriously shut your mouth before I come over there and show you how little I care about your bracket.
10. Frank Martin Will Scare Your Children: Kansas State coach Frank Martin is clinically insane. Just watch him. He is an exact twin of the gym teacher on "Beavis and Butthead" and he looks at any point like the vein that is piercing through his skin will simply burst and cause his head to explode, thus forcing Teddy Valentine to give him a technical foul. It is strange to remember, but he coached Michael Beasley. How in the world did they not kill each other?
11. An Old White Guy Will Tell You He Likes Luke Harangody: Every time I have watched a Notre Dame game, some person (usually old, white and cranky) tells me that Luke Harangody plays "the game the right way" and that he is his favorite player. Sometimes that person is a former Indiana coach and is paid by a national network to call the games. Either way it is sad.
12. You Will Be Fascinated by ODU Coach Blaine Taylor's Moustache: Seriously it is amazing. Black, bushy and extending over his lip. There hasnt been a better one since Magnum P.I. Watch the Old Dominion vs Notre Dame game just for the moustache. You wont be disappointed.
13. "The Butler Did It" Will Be Said by Someone: Every year that Butler plays, someone makes that reference. It is like clockwork. And there hasn't been a working butler in this country outside of the Hamptons and Hollywood in thirty years. This year it will be Spero Dedes. Book it.
14. By The Way, Who is Spero Dedes?: He is calling the games in San Jose. I have never heard of him and dont believe there has been a notable Spero since Vice President Agnew. This must be investigated.
15. UTEP's Derrick Caracter Will Dominate and Frustrate: He is big, he is chubby and he is talented. However Derrick Caracter has burned bridges everywhere he has been, most famously under Rick Pitino at Louisville. At one time he was known as the best high school player in America. He now finds himself at UTEP with a chance to redeem his reputation nationally in this Tournament. What will he do? Probably a bit of everything.
16. You Will Hate Whatever Commercials Are Playing: If you are a true fan, and I know you are or you would not be reading this article, then you will watch every moment of the First and Second Round. If you do, you will hate whatever commercials are on the air by the end of the weekend. I still remember the Enterprise Rent-a-Car one where the woman asks if she should take "red or black" lingerie on their trip and her husband gets a goofy smile and says "both." The first time I saw it, I had a crush on the woman...by the 500th, I wanted her to take the lingerie and strangle her husband, while the Enterprise Rent-a-Car SUV ran over them both.
17. Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh Will Impress: Every year there is that one team that has a player who shoots from 25 feet and gets you out of your chair. This year it is Ali from Northern Iowa. He may be the best shooter in the Tournament and he is barely 6 feet tall. He will hit at least one bomb against UNLV that will make you jump up and say "Wow."
18. A Picture of Jerry Tarkanian Chewing a Towel Will Come on the Screen: You can't show a UNLV game on television without at least one shot of Tark and a towel. Its mandated by Congress.
19. Demarcus Cousins' Attitude Will Be Mentioned: During every Kentucky game played, there will be a skirmish for a loose ball, Demarcus Cousins will be involved and the announcer will say "he has a temper, he needs to calm down." It happens every game, quickly followed by the announcer saying, "if Kentucky is going to win in this Tournament, Cousins will have to keep his cool."
20. You Will Not Watch Marquette vs Washington: Its totally unwatchable basketball. Grind it out, punch each other in the face, game in the 50s. If this game were a movie, it would be anything starring Sandra Bullock, pre-"Blind Side." Avoid at all costs.
21. Having Said That, Marquette is the Lock of the Year: Washington has literally no chance of winning this game...NO CHANCE. Right now the line is a pick 'em...Vegas didnt watch Washington play and neither did you. They won the Pac 10 Tournament, but you, me, Spero Dedes, Dan Werner and Ali from Northern Iowa could have won the Pac 10 Tournament this year. Put it all on Marquette.
22. A Shot of John Thompson Will Come on the Screen: I dont mean JT III, who coaches Georgetown now, but the elder Thompson. And I will continue to be amazed at how large that man is. 6'8" (at least), probably 325 pounds and a towering figure like none other. The thought of him even scares me right now.
23. You Wont Be Able to Tell the Morris Twins Apart: Absolutely impossible to do. Their parents named them Marcus and Markieff, the oddest assortment of names for twins since my high school's Nathan and Nathaniel. Look at the two of them and try to figure out which is which. You know how they say that parents can tell twins apart based on slight physical differences? For the Morris Twins, the only differences are in the tattoos.
24. Rick Barnes Is Not Coaching: Rick Barnes has not coached a game in the last two months of this season. Actually let me strike that...Rick Barnes has not coached a game WELL in the last two months of this season. On Thursday night versus Wake Forest, he will be on the sideline talking, but rest assured what he is doing can't be quantified as "coaching." His players aren't listening, no plays are being executed and chaos is reigning. But be calm, this is normal.
25. The Night Will End with the Biggest Upset of the Day: San Diego State is going to beat Tennessee. The Fighting Headbands from Knoxville will fall on a late three by Steve Fisher's bunch and Bruce Pearl will walk into the locker room dejected, ending the year with yet another disappointing postseason.
So there you go. Twenty-five guarantees for Day One. There were going to be more, but Frank Martin is outside my window and I need to go lock the door.