Selection Sunday


Happy Selection Sunday!

Green beer and lucky leprechauns aside, today is one of America’s great (unofficial) holidays. It’s the day the 68-team brackets for the N.C.A.A. men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are revealed.

Tonight’s unveiling of the matchups may bring back a feeling you haven’t had since digesting the prompt for that 10th grade U.S. history essay: What in the world do I make of all this?

Did Duke get a favorable draw? What’s the path for my school? Which No. 12 seed looks like a Cinderella? Where the heck is McNeese State? Is Cream Abdul-Jabbar in the field? And how come the Fairfield women’s team is called the Stags?

No matter how much basketball you’ve studied since November — poring over KenPom ratings, streaming games from obscure conferences, reciting the eight-player rotations of the Purdue men and the South Carolina women before you go to bed — there is so much uncertainty when it comes to filling out your bracket.

Picking winners has never been simple — remember, over all these years, there has never been a perfect bracket — but recent changes to the sport have made it more unpredictable than ever. I’ll explain them in today’s newsletter.

Three years ago, under mounting legislative and judicial pressure, the N.C.A.A. changed two major rules. It allowed athletes to make money from so-called name, image and likeness payments, and it eased restrictions on players transferring from one school to another. Those changes — prompted in part by a Supreme Court ruling that weakened the N.C.A.A.’s authority — have upended the top levels of college sports.

Transfers happen through a system known as the portal, which works something like an online dating service: If players want to change schools, they put their names in the portal, and coaches at other schools can then recruit them. With the introduction of N.I.L. payments, those recruiting offers now come with a payday — at least, one that can be handled above the table.

This has created something akin to free agency in college sports. Consider Nahiem Alleyne. He played for Virginia Tech in the 2021 and ’22 tournaments, won a national championship at Connecticut last season, and is now trying to go again with St. John’s this year. He is hardly an outlier.

Celeste Taylor starred for Texas when it reached the Elite Eight in 2021. She got to the second round last year with Duke. Now, she’s trying to carry Ohio State to its first women’s Final Four since 1993.

All this tumult has coincided with the rise in attention on the women’s game — turbocharged by the popularity of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, whose offensive wizardry makes her games appointment viewing.

In fact, many of the sport’s most compelling story lines this year are in the women’s tournament.

Last week’s bench-emptying brouhaha between the defending champion, L.S.U., and top-ranked South Carolina adds some spice — especially if the two meet again in the Final Four in three weeks.

Can South Carolina, with an entirely new starting lineup, do what last year’s team could not: add a championship to an unbeaten regular season? Does Geno Auriemma, the coach of UConn, have one more title run left in his injury-ravaged team? Will Oregon State, left behind when its fellow Pac-12 schools abandoned the conference last year, make a run to the Final Four?

The men’s tournament might lack the dramatic story lines or the star power of the women’s, but it could make up for that with unpredictability and dramatic finishes, thanks to a field that is more balanced top to bottom.

A year ago, two unheralded programs — San Diego State and Florida Atlantic — staged a Final Four thriller, which ended with Lamont Butler’s sinking a go-in-or-go-home jumper at the buzzer to send San Diego State to the championship. This year, both upstarts will be back in the field.

So will Purdue and its 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, who hopes to avoid being slew by another David after last year’s loss to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson. And UConn, which last year won its fifth title in the last quarter century — more than blue-blooded Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and U.C.L.A. combined — is a fitting avatar for the moment.

With all the changes to college sports, is such unpredictability the new normal? It may be too soon to say. But one bit of advice when filing out brackets this week: It’s best to use pencil.

Should Congress force a sale of TikTok?

Yes. TikTok is dangerously influential and collects the data of millions of Americans. Users’ calls to representatives to complain about the ban “only added to the image of TikTok as an entity that can be used to manipulate Americans,” Frida Ghitis writes for CNN.

No. TikTok has the same privacy problems that prospective buyers like Meta or Google do. “Forcing TikTok to sell would not solve the problems that lawmakers claim they are trying to address,” The Times’s Julia Angwin writes.

Mexico has a chance to elect its first Jewish president. The candidate’s ascent represents a shift in the role of minority groups in Mexico, Ilan Stavans argues.

Apps skewed our perception of dating and made us treat people like commodities, Magdalene J. Taylor writes.

Here is a column by Nicholas Kristof on Biden’s options to save lives in Gaza.

Driving with Mr. Gil: An 82-year-old retired professor in California found a new calling — offering free driving lessons to women from Afghanistan.

Exclusive: Phoebe Philo, who has been called “the Chanel of her generation,” sat down with The Times for her first formal interview in a decade.

Flight connection: A facility at J.F.K. transfers animals like Icelandic ponies and dogs from the occupied West Bank.

How to hustle: He burned close friends, big corporations and even his subletter.

Skiing: Aspen has 153 new acres of terrain — and lots of Champagne.

Vows: Melanie White sold Drew Trotter nine pairs of jeans. She also won his heart.

Lives Lived: Larry Parker, an accident and personal injury lawyer, was visible in Los Angeles with billboards and television commercials that promised he’d “fight for you.” He died at 75.

The Talk column is coming to an end. Beginning in late April, my Q. and A.s will be part of a new Times franchise called The Interview, which I will host along with Lulu Garcia-Navarro.

In the meantime, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite past conversations in the newsletter — like this one, with the primatologist Jane Goodall.

The stories you tell about the planet and conservation have to do with instilling hope. But all we have to do is look around to see the persuasiveness of stories built on fear and anger. Have you ever wondered if tapping into those emotions might be useful?

No. It’s one of my big complaints when I talk to the media: Yes, we need to know all the doom and gloom because we are approaching a crossroads, and if we don’t take action it could be too late. But traveling the world I’d see so many projects of restoration, people tackling what seemed impossible and not giving up. Those are the stories that should have equal time, because they’re what gives people hope. If you don’t have hope, why bother?

There are plenty of unanswered questions about primate behavior. In your mind, does the same apply to humans?

You’re asking me, “Do you understand human nature?” Do you?

Definitely not. But there are people, for example strict materialists or religious fundamentalists, who have schematics that they feel afford them an understanding of all human behavior.

Religious fundamentalism is one of the strangest things. But if you look at every major religion, the golden rule is the same: Do to others as you would have them do to you. These fundamentalists are not actually preaching about the fundamental principles of the religion that they are talking about.

Do you know why people are drawn to you?

The thing is, there are two Janes. There’s this one who’s sitting here talking to you. Then there’s that icon. All I can do is try and live up to that image that people have created.

Read more of the interview here.

“One Way Back”: Christine Blasey Ford is telling her story in a memoir after she testified that Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school.

Conscious: She’s an A.I. sex robot, and she’s becoming sentient.

Our editors’ picks: “The Freaks Came Out to Write,” an oral history of The Village Voice, and six other books.

Times best sellers: RuPaul’s memoir “The House of Hidden Meanings” is a No. 1 debut on the hardcover nonfiction list.

Fill Easter baskets with these gifts.

Use this cheap but effective weeding tool.

Watch “The Effect” in New York.

  • Today is St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio hold primary elections on Tuesday.

  • Reddit is expected to make its initial public offering on Thursday.

  • A summit of European Union leaders begins on Thursday.

  • Louisiana and Missouri hold primary elections on Saturday.

Spring is so close we can taste it. To celebrate, Emily Weinstein has collected five dinner recipes that feature dill, which she calls “the springiest herb.” That includes ginger-dill salmon, a favorite of the NYT Cooking team, which is served atop a breezy citrus salad with avocado (and more dill).


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