Dance Begins: Sizing Up Cal's Opening Foes

Today it is finally on! The greatest annual sports tournament, wagering phenomenon and workplace productivity drain in America begins this morning as the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament tips off.

Little teams with crazy names will knock off national favorites, cult heroes will be born, and winners must immediately prepare to play another opponent that same weekend. 

This tournament is so unpredictable that no one even knows for sure what time the games are going to start. The first batch starts at 9:20 a.m. Pacific Time, and games will continue for about ten hours nonstop. Same thing again all day Friday and Saturday.

All games will be web cast live at

The Cal Golden Bears get their Big Dance on today at a projected 11:55 a.m., and Berkeley restaurants possessing alcohol licenses have to be pretty thrilled with how that schedule worked out. The Bears will be playing the tenth-seeded Maryland Terrapins, and Cal are slight favorites to win and advance. Odds makers list Cal as either 1 or 1.5-point favorites, and that spread has been reduced over the last 48 hours. Odds makers are extremely important people this time of year.

This game pits a seven-seed against a ten-seed, so the teams are seen as fairly evenly-matched. But Cal may have a few advantages -- they're known as the best three-point shooting team in the country. Maryland, on the other hand, are not known for their marksmanship -- they have the lowest field goal shooting percentage of any team in the tournament. Maryland are also the worst rebounding team in the tournament, on average.

But if the Bears get past Maryland, they'd likely face second ranked Memphis on Saturday. Memphis will be feeling some deja vu, as they'll have just played Cal State Northridge. Memphis made the National Championship game last year, so Cal would be an official Cinderella if they could pull of that upset.

 Joe Kukura is a freelance writer whose odds maker is an extremely important person.

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