Help, I’m stuck in Bracketville and I can’t get out!

I’d like to take you, reader, on an exciting tour of a town I know well. There are 65 “families” in this community, but soon many of them will leave and the neighborhood will be on the verge of extinction.

With the start of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament, this is the place everyone wants to be. Welcome to Bracketville, and let the tour begin.

An idyllic family setting, Bracketville has big city appeal with a small town feel. The neighbors are friendly, but when the whistle sounds and the basketball is tossed in the air, you can expect a good ol’ fight, like the Hatfields and McCoys.

The NCAA Tournament has been the nation’s longest running basketball soap opera-even older than Susan Lucci. Every example of the human condition is on display. You have the unfaithful husbands (coaches leaving schools to go elsewhere), strict parents (loud, perfectionist coaches), family arguments (press conferences) and even a wacky uncle (Dick Vitale).

The one thing that really annoys me about the tournament is the announcers. As they would with any overbearing mother, most viewers tune them out. All of a sudden, Gonzaga should be taken seriously, when all year the media has ignored it. Remember to watch out for Georgia State from the powerhouse Trans America Athletic Conference. Please, guys, all of a sudden these teams are dangerous? The NCAA Tourney is not rocket science, fellas. Any team can beat any other on a given night. Close your yaps and let the real drama unfold.

The NCAAs are truly a wacky family reunion. Charles “Lefty” Driesell got fired by Maryland and now coaches Georgia State, Quinn Buckner, coach of Mississippi, played for Mike Kryzewski at Duke, Dan Dickau, point guard supreme for Gonzaga, used to play for Minnesota. The plot lines are as thick as the family tree of coaches and players criss-crossing the nation.

Family is even more clearly defined at Penn State and Stanford, where Joe and John Crispin and Jarron and Jason Collins play together, respectively.

Imagine brothers playing against each other for all the marbles. I’m sure their mothers are pleased their boys are on the same team, if not to just keep family dinners a non-violent affair.

As for me, I am putting my money on Duke. This might be the most cohesive “family” unit the Blue Devils have had in a while. Imagine if they still had Corey Maggette and Elton Brand. Watch out for Michigan State or Maryland as well. Even though the Dukies beat Maryland at the Cole Field House, the Terps beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Could it be an Atlantic Coast Conference Final Four game? Dickie V. would have died and gone to heaven. Duke will survive Bracketville and Nate James and Mike Dunleavy are the keys. If they play in the next stratosphere, it will take a superhuman effort to bring the boys from Carolina down.

Coach K has really got team chemistry down to an exact science. There are no dysfunctional children in Duke’s playpen. The Blue Devils have the perfect blend of veteran leadership to go along with a peppering of fresh blood. Shane Battier is the big brother on this team. He is the prototypical college basketball player and does a little bit of everything-very, very well. He would get my vote for the John R. Wooden Award, handed out each year to college basketball’s best player.

This Duke family is tighter than the Sopranos. They will be America’s next elite family. As Tony would say, “bada bing!”