March Madness: Smart Money Says Cornell

Apr 12, 2009 | Updated May 25, 2011

I just Pay Pal'd $25 to enter a 2009 NCAA Basketball Tournament pool. And once again I'm confronted with which of 65 college teams, most of whom I know little or nothing about, to bet on.

This year I've adopted a new system. I'm betting on the colleges with the highest SAT scores and the strictest admission's policies. My reasoning is simple, smart ball players make smart choices on the court. I'm betting on brains with a side order of brawn rather than superior athletes who had trouble bubbling in their birth dates on the SAT.

Though all the tourney invitations haven't been handed out yet, it's pretty clear which teams are going to the dance. And armed with my 2006 copy of the Princeton Review's Best 361 Colleges I can start eliminating teams that lack the smarts to cope at crunch time.

First off, my alma mater, University of Texas-Austin. Always loaded with talent and always sent home early. UT's an easy school to get into. When I attended, admission was based knowing all the words to The Eyes of Texas. Athletes only had to know the chorus. My Longhorns usually lose early so they can hurry back to campus and catch up on the classes they've ditched since November. Hook'em Horns.

Oklahoma University. Back in the day if UT rejected you and you preferred kegger parties to a tour of duty in Nam, OU was your answer. OU accepted anyone who could afford tuition and didn't mind spending four years in Norman. They'll fold fast.

LSU had a surprisingly good year, but if you remember the lyrics to Randy Newman's Rednecks, "college men from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb too," you know that 30+ games into the season these jocks still can't remember all those in-bounds plays. See ya.

Wake Forest. If anyone on the team can explain what their mascot, a Demon Deacon, is they receive extra laundry money. Anyone who can explain why a Demon Deacon is an oxymoron places out of freshmen English.

I've studied University of Memphis' admission program and it's strict. If a prospective or current player has been convicted of a felony, he's red-shirted. Misdemeanors are okay. Only 40% of their players graduate.

North Dakota State University. I saw them play on ESPN. They had five white guys on the court. Not cheerleaders. Ball players. I think their names were Archie, Reggie and Jughead. If NDSU wins it all, Disney will make a movie about them called, Running Very Slowly toward Victory. Not this year boys.

Perennial powerhouse Syracuse will be back in the mix. Apparently their entrance requirement is that 24% of every Orangeman's body must be covered with tattoos.

Sadly one of my favorite teams, University of Nevada - Las Vegas, suffered a down year and won't be invited. What I love about the Runnin' Rebels is that they can pursue a degree in Beverage Management or Compulsive Gambling, graduate with a 1.8 average and go straight to work for the Mafia.

So it comes down to Cornell, an Ivy League school, which has the highest admission standards or North Carolina, which has the highest admission standards for any state university in the tourney.

UNC's a first-rate university and they produces mensches who are also champions - Michael Jordan, Big Game James Worthy, Vince Carter, Bobby Jones, Brad Daugherty.

But I believe Cornell can match the Tar Heel Hall of Famers with greats of their own. How's this for a starting line-up? Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Strunk and White, Kurt Vonnegut and Keith Olbermann? With Bill Maher, Jimmy Smits, Adolph Coors and a slew of Nobel Laureates coming off the bench.

The Cornell players might not be physical giants but semester in and semester out they study at the feet of intellectual giants. It's the perfect balance of brains and brawn.

My heart says, "Bet Cornell." But when I send in my picks, I'll probably ink in Carolina.
Unless Ty Lawson's toe is still injured. And then it's anyone's guess.