Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Never on Sunday

In the grand scheme of things, with war upon us, the economy still tanking, and gasoline pushing two bucks a gallon, it hardly matters that this year's NCAA basketball tournament faces an embarrassment that threatens millions of office pools from coast to coast.

The NCAA selection committee completely overlooked the fact that one of the tournament's 65 teams, Brigham Young University, is a Mormon school, and does not allow its team to play on Sundays.

It will only become an issue should BYU win its first two games. That would put the school into a regional bracket that would require a Sunday contest.

By the time the bracket blunder was addressed, office pools from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon - pools based on the announced matchups all the way through to the Final Four - had already been launched, upsets picked, and cash invested.

Realistically, BYU has a tough hill to climb. As a 12th seed in its bracket, it must beat No. 5 seed Connecticut tonight and then either Stanford or San Diego on Saturday. However, stranger things have happened; this tournament produces at least one Cinderella team every year, it seems.

The NCAA's plan, should the Cougars catch some magic, is to move BYU to another regional that would involve no Sunday games. But that would then wreak havoc with the betting pool frenzy that sweeps almost every workplace in the land.

The BYU coaches and players could not care less about jeopardizing a technically illegal national passion; they want to win. But it's safe to say that most basketball fans who don't live in Salt Lake City are rooting for form to hold and the Cougars to lose.

Certainly the NCAA selection committee - chaired, interestingly enough, by a BYU alum, Jim Livengood - is hoping that the better team wins tonight in Spokane and reshuffling the deck won't be necessary. Even the BYU athletic director was quoted as saying he's sure his team won't catch a break from the referees (he was kidding, we think).

It would be nice if March Madness referred only to basketball this year, but no matter how this BYU thing turns out, it is a relatively harmless diversion from the stuff that really matters this week.

Events on the other side of the planet warrant all the harmless diversions we can get.

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