By Steve Williams

It’s time to take the annual trip to Bracketville.

Come along if you like. We’ll also visit Seed City and the last stop will be Pickit County.

I’d like to start out this year from Thompson-Boling Arena, where we could congratulate Coach Rick Barnes and the Vols on their SEC basketball championship and individual honors they received last week and wish them well in the Big Dance.

Speaking of the Big Dance, do you know how that nickname for the NCAA tournament came about? For those who don’t, I’m going to tell you. And then you can impress your friends with the story.

During the 1977 season, popular Marquette coach Al McGuire was known for wearing his bright blue blazer, so a reporter asked him if he would be wearing it in the NCAA tourney.

“Absolutely,” replied McGuire. “You gotta wear the blue blazer when you go to the big dance.”

McGuire’s team went on to win the NCAA title that season and the “Big Dance” nickname caught on and to this day, over 40 years later, you hear fans say it often.

By the way, after we leave TBA, we’ll stop somewhere and let you buy pencils with erasers before we travel on to Bracketville.

And here’s a hint as you begin to fill out your brackets. Teams seeded No. 16 are 0-128 versus No. 1 seeds since the NCAA field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The average margin of loss for the No. 16 seeded teams is 25 points, too.

Advice: Don’t pick a No. 16 seed to pull an upset.

Lipscomb University out of Nashville will be my favorite Cinderella to pull for in this year’s field. I may pick the Bisons to win a game, no matter what their seeding is.

Lipscomb is in the Big Dance for the first time ever. In fact, coming into this season, it was one of 43 schools in Division 1 that had never been dancing.

I wish Knoxville native Ricky Byrd and his Belmont team also could have made the field again. At least Lipscomb will carry the banner for Music City this time.

I also had hoped East Tennessee State would get in. Some local fans had even speculated that ETSU might get matched up against UT, but the Buccaneers bowed to UNC-Greensboro in the Southern Conference title game.

If you’ve never been on this trip before, Seed City is not far from Bracketville. And folks in these two towns know each other well and share a lot in common, particularly this time of year.

If you like, we can drop off your brackets in Pickit County.

I promise I’ll have you back by noon on Thursday in time for the opening NCAA game.

Thursday and Friday, you know, should really be national holidays. Sixteen games to watch on TV each day!

For you high school fans, I’ll be glad to take a detour and drop you off at Murphy Center Wednesday to see Powell and Bearden play in the boys’ state tourney.

After we return to Knoxville, our Fulton fans will have plenty of time to drive back to Murfreesboro to see their Falcons play.

It’s March Madness there, too!