Inspired insanity

The first two days of March Madness are the best part of the whole thing. Big-shot powerhouse schools are forced to defend their honor against perfectly good teams from colleges you couldn't find on a map. Sixteen games each day. Usually there are four going at once. By the end of the day, the highlight reel takes the better part of an hour, and the commentators are so tired they're delirious.

Half of the games are closer than you would expect, and there are always a few upsets. Many spectators have filled out "brackets," in which they have sought to predict the outcomes of all of the contests. Money has been wagered on these predictions. With the upsets, many people's brackets become worthless.

For the first two days, you can put the games on in the background of what you're doing. In this era, they're all televised in full, on four different cable channels. They all show the scores of the other games in real time, and so when you have some time to watch actively, you can surf to the game that's most interesting to you. With four options, you don't have to watch the commercials much. (Enough with that woman at the AT&T store.)

Toward the end of the tourney, it's not nearly as much fun. I must confess that by the time the Final Four rolls around, I have usually lost interest.

But not this weekend. This is the one I wait for.

Yesterday those of us with one eye on the games were richly rewarded. For me, it was great to see Oregon State, seeded 12th, wipe out Tennessee, a 5 seed. The Beavers took it to them. It wasn't even close. 

The number 12 has been very, very good to Oregon State. They were forecast to come in 12th and last in their conference, and yet they won the conference trophy. To draw a 12 seed at the Big Dance may have been an omen.

Then there was Rutgers, the flagship state university of New Jersey. A 10 seed, they knocked off Clemson, a 7 seed, in a nail-biter at the end of the night. Go, Scarlet Knights!

Oregon State and Rutgers don't make it to the national tournament on a regular basis, and they rarely win a game there. And so those two were worth yelling at the TV over.

But by far, the best game to watch yesterday was the overtime upset of 2 seed Ohio State by 15 seed Oral Roberts. That was a barn-burner. I'm no fan of Oral Roberts or his university – somebody tweeted that it's like what would happen if America had an Isis University – but it's always great to see David take down Goliath.

I missed 13 seed North Texas over 4 seed Purdue, in overtime, but that must have been something to see as well.

And so it starts up again this morning. The Ducks, USC, UCLA against BYU, and Virginia, among the 32 going at it on this first day of spring. Fire up the screens.