Sugar, spice and everything nice. These are the ingredients to the perfect ... NCAA March Madness?
As scary as it may seem, the Powerpuff Girls (yes, the late 90's-early 2000's cartoon trio phenomenon of crime-fighting girls) and the NCAA college basketball postseason tournament have some things in common.
Now before you go writing this notion off, keep in mind that the cartoon was nominated for an Emmy five times for various animation achievements, winning twice, and boys watched it, too. About the same amount of recognition would be given to March Madness if it, too, were a TV show narrated by CBS commentator Gus Johnson, and boys and girls of all ages would love it, too.
Let's start with the characters in the cartoon. The three girls created by Professor Utonium were Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, all with unique qualities, colors, tendencies and attitudes. Keep in mind that Professor Utonium accidently added "Chemical X" into the mixture to make the perfect little girl, instead creating three girls rather than one and giving them unique superpowers and qualities.
Now that we've jogged our youthful euphoric cartoon memories, let's look at the current college basketball tournament system that is March Madness. This year, 68 teams will make up the tournament, adding three more play-in games, compared to the traditional one that no one ever watches. 31 teams will get automatic bids. One set of No. 16-seed versus No. 17-seed teams will play one of the No. 1 seeds, and the other two play-in winners will face a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.
The 37 at-large teams will be ranked according to their sugar, spice and everything that is nice about them. These "First Four" will create some early excitement for this year's tournament.
Back to the perfect little girls. No team this season is "perfect" (the closest teams to a Powderpuff Girl, for better or for worse, are Ohio State and Kansas at 28-2). It is the Selection Committee's job to label and weigh the remaining 37 at-large teams according to their RPI (ratings percentage index), which takes into account a team's strength of schedule, record, record against other top-ranked RPI teams, etc. Essentially, it comes down to teams of Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup.
Your "Blossom" teams in the tournament are going to be the conference tournament winners, made up of top-50 RPI-ranked teams and/or teams that didn't win their conference tournament but were favored to and are in the top 15 of the RPI. Just as the character Blossom carried herself with her head held high in the face of danger, these teams are smart and were the commanders and leaders of their conference during the regular season. They will be the most mature, tested, heavily favored teams in this year's tournament; but buyer beware of the upset bug that always seems to plague a few regions. Examples of Blossoms are Kansas, Duke, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
Next up are the "Bubbles" of the tournament. Literally, this works out perfectly: the "Bubble" teams are those that have performed decently well in their respective power conference but have not been quite as mature as the Blossoms. Perhaps they have stumbled frequently on the road or versus the RPI top-50 this year, but the fact of the matter is they have been too shy and too temperamental in key moments to steal the show. These teams will be weighed very carefully by the tournament selection committee and will consist of at-large teams, unless they decide to find the sugar and win their conference tournament for an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Examples of Bubbles this year include Virginia Tech, Clemson, Marquette, Michigan State, Washington, Memphis and Butler.
Finally, we're to the nitty-gritty teams, the upset specials, the "Buttercups." These Buttercups, however, are not to be taken lightly. Woe is last year's No.1 Blossom team Kansas after facing the No. 9-seeded Buttercup, Northern Iowa, capping last season's greatest tournament upset in the second round 69-67. These tough fighters are usually teams that have won their conference tournament in a mid-major conference, a smaller conference with little RPI significance. Buttercups may be reckless, aggressive and have nothing to lose but everything to gain, and all-in-all, stubborn. Examples include George Mason, Utah State, St. Mary's, Missouri State and UAB. Look out Blossoms, the Buttercups will be ready: You can count on that every March.
— Colin Skinner is a junior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.