It's usually about this time of year when I have to fight the urge to prematurely rip February from the calendar and skip right ahead to March. It's the brackets. I love them.
In fact, I find myself making up excuses to visit my general bracketologist for a checkup every week (for the choking fit whenever I watch Duke play, for feigning back pain when I think about how much weight Kevin Durant is carrying at Texas).
But any good bracketologist knows you don't need to wait until March. In fact, February's mock bracket is pretty intriguing in its own right.
No. 1 seeds
Family values: Anyone else find it odd that we're debating the morality of a gay ex-basketball player when Jason Kidd allegedly is writing a sequel to Wilt Chamberlain's autobiography? In her response to divorce papers, Joumana Kidd charged, in addition to emotional and physical abuse, that the eight-time All-Star has admitted to affairs with strippers in Arizona, Sacramento, Miami, Dallas and Indiana. And then there was the Nets season-ticket holder, a Nets employee, a cheerleader in New Orleans and a few other women.
Idea for ABC's fall lineup: Despited NBA Housewives.
ACC lobbying: Men's basketball coaches in the ACC have been relentless in their praise of their own conference. But there's no way nine teams reach the tournament this year. In fact, the guess here is seven. And if Duke continues to stumble, its expected inclusion will likely break the hearts of a more deserving ACC school.
Agent Zero: Anyone else hoping that Gilbert Arenas follows through on his threat to defy the commish's order and wear "Agent Zero" on his All-Star jersey? While visions of "Ocho Cinco" and "He Hate Me" dance in your head, a friend reminded me of Andy Messersmith. In 1976, when Ted Turner was a fledging TV mogul, he made Messersmith his first free agent in Atlanta. Above Messersmith's uniform number - 17 - Turner wanted to stitch "Channel" for some easy advertising.
Sports should be fun, and this might be a cool trend. Can you think of a better way to put a permanent "Kick me" sign on Barry Bonds' back?
Maryland women's basketball: I can appreciate losing big games and learning big lessons in the process, but enough already. Today against Duke, the Terps need to show what exactly they've learned in the season's three losses.
Last two out
Britney Spears: Did she really shave her head and go get a tattoo? Hey, I'm excited about the NBA All-Star Game, too, but doesn't this sound a bit extreme?
Duke men's basketball: Just because.
Last two in
Maryland men's basketball: The Terps could've disappeared for good after the loss to Virginia, but for a group that's been hampered this season by inconsistent effort, they're suddenly showing some heart and wisely playing as if every game could be their last. It's a good mentality to have, especially when you reach the part of the schedule where there's little margin for error.
Laser eye surgery: Forget offseason conditioning and learning new pitches and seeking out spiritual gurus. The best bit of news to come out of Week 1 of spring training was that Daniel Cabrera underwent corrective surgery on his eyes. If he pitches as wildly and inconsistently as last season, Orioles fans will start undergoing deconstructive eye surgery, so they don't have to witness the carnage again.
Signing day: I've studied the incoming classes of all 119 Division I-A football teams, and for the 100th consecutive year, every head coach in the country declared the recruiting season a staggering success. Signing day is like a third-grade science fair: Everyone takes home a ribbon.
Rex Ryan: Looks like the Chargers will interview about 500 candidates for their coaching vacancy. With the defensive talent they have returning, team officials should've just watched a Ravens highlight tape from last season and handed Ryan a headset.
Ed Reed: The NFL is a ruthless business, and Adalius Thomas' uncertain future with the Ravens is drawing some attention to this dark side of the sport. "That goes to show you how shady and how bad the business is," Reed told Yahoo Sports last weekend, "and how bad certain organizations are."
If I were Reed, and I'm just eight months removed from a six-year, $40 million extension, I'd probably hold my tongue a little bit. If he wants to help clear some cap space, I'm sure the Ravens would be willing to restructure his deal.
ESPN: In case you aren't keeping track at home, ESPN publishes a book about a former NBA player's sexual preference. Its Web site breaks the story on the identity of the book's author. Its TV personalities talk about the book ad nauseam. One of its former TV analysts tells its Miami radio station - in a show hosted by one of its contributing writers - that he hates gay people. The author of that book it published then goes on its radio network to discuss the latest comments with a couple of its radio hosts. And its TV personalities talk about it some more.
ESPN continues to redefine what it means to own a story.