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Friday, October 11
'Midnight Madness' Bracket ... Why not?

By Joe Lunardi
Special to ESPN.com

Only in America can a person be paid to write the names of universities into an empty bracket. And only at ESPN.com would someone attempt to do so with any degree of intelligence more than five months before the actual NCAA Tournament bracket is revealed. On that hopeful note, welcome to Bracketology '03. I'm back, but only you can decide the "intelligence" part. In the meantime, we'll continue to project the 2003 NCAA men's basketball championship field with our usual combination of insight and irreverence.

This first-ever "Midnight Madness" edition of Bracketology is a mixture of conjecture and common sense. We know, for instance, the identity of the conferences that are most likely to send five, six or even seven teams to the NCAA Tournament (that's the common sense part). What we don't know are the identity of the teams who will over- (or under-) achieve in the middle of those power conferences. We also don't have much of a clue in a few of the traditional "one bid" leagues. Some have clear-cut favorites in the preseason; the rest are pure conjecture.

But an absence of knowledge has never stopped us in the past.

History suggests that at least two of the obvious preseason Final Four teams will be No. 1 seeds come Selection Sunday (can you say Arizona and Kansas?). History also suggests the actual Final Four will include one or two other teams -- clubs that get hot after being beaten down by the toughest conferences -- that may be projected fairly low in these October brackets (or not even listed at all). Think Indiana, 2002.

All I know for sure is that I'll be right more often than not, and that plenty of you will disagree with me along the way. That's what makes Bracketology the taproom of college basketball. Bring your hopes and fears here, and we'll put them on the bar for continued discussion. We'll post new and improved brackets every Monday starting in January, with a couple pre-conference updates sprinkled in for good measure. And, as always, you are welcome to get involved in the conversation. The most "enlightening" comments appear a few days after each new set of projections in our popular Bracket Banter column.

Finally, I encourage all amateur bracketologists to view the FAQ from our Bracketology home page. It will answer many of your questions about the geographic placement and seeding of teams, along with some of the other rules the NCAA men's basketball committee must follow in attempting to be as smart as we are.

One other thing: Selection Sunday (March 16, 2003) is a week later than usual this year. That means you're stuck with me for an extra seven days. Don't you just love it?

Joe Lunardi is the resident Bracketologist for ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN Radio. He is also editor and publisher of www.bracketology.net. Contact Joe Lunardi at jlunardi@comcast.net.

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With less that four weeks until Selection Sunday, Mr. Bracketology, Joe Lunardi breaks down the latest scenarios.
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