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Monkey wrench thrown into bracket contests

The theory goes that if an infinite number of monkeys sit at an infinite number of typewriters, eventually, they'll crank out the complete works of Shakespeare, or the Bible, at least a bearable TV sitcom.

What remains to be seen is whether 1-million basketball fans, each seeking the elusive perfect NCAA bracket, can ever make it so far as the Sweet 16.

Sportsline.com and ESPN.com offered $10-million and $1-million, respectively, to anyone entering their NCAA online pool who could go 64-for-64 in filling out their brackets.

By the end of the first day, all but 16 had already torn up their tickets.

ESPN's contest drew more than 1-million potential millionaires, but that number was whittled to 12 on the first day, and zero by Monday morning.

Sportsline had four lucky fans survive the first day. Two went down when Florida lost to Creighton in double overtime, and the last two went down when Southern Illinois upset Texas Tech and Bobby Knight.

With plenty of improbable games to go, Sportsline's No. 1 picker entering Thursday's play already had six games locked up as wrong.

These are free contests, though, and wildly popular at that. Just before the deadline to enter, ESPN was getting 433 brackets per minute _ more than 25,000 in the final hour before simple probability took care of any insurance company's payout concerns.

As consolation for not being perfect, ESPN offered a "Second Chance" contest this week, letting fans fill out brackets starting with the actual Sweet 16.

The winner doesn't get $1-million, but does get a laptop computer.

Perhaps next week, they'll let us pick from the Final Four, with a Jay Bilas bobblehead going out to those elite few who can go 3-for-3.

To wrap up the pursuit of NCAA flawlessness, should anyone still cling to hopes of defying the odds this season or any other, allow me the following fun with math.

If your basketball knowledge was so strong as to make you correct 75 percent of the time, the chances of you getting a perfect bracket are 1:8.2-billion.

And if you're down at, say, 55 percent correct with the rest of the world, well, there's plenty of typewriters still available.

MORE NCAA FUN: The tournament's official site, finalfour.net, has the obligatory printable brackets, with the following disclaimer printed beneath: "This is not intended to be used as a gambling device, but strictly for entertainment purposes only. The NCAA (and corporate partner/media partner(s)) do not promote, endorse, or condone gambling or sports wagering of any kind." Now that that's cleared that up, the site does deserve gender-equity praise for devoting equal space and prominence to the men's and women's tournaments.

TID-BYTES: Pleasantly surprised to find Goldenpalace.com, the online casino that advertised on the backs of Vanilla Ice and friends during Fox's Celebrity Boxing last week, has a link to Gamblers Anonymous on its site. At least someone is seeking accountability: The owner of tblightning.com has a notice posted on his site, explaining it will resurface "when playoff caliber once again graces the region." Buccaneers.com has a 22-minute "Rich McKay Primer on Free Agency" video clip, just a news conference but an excellent listen for anyone unfamiliar with the economics of the NFL. A poll on the Bucs site asks fans where the team's offense will rank next season, and 56 percent say in the NFL's top 10. More people (18 percent) think the Bucs will rank in the top five than those (13 percent) who would put them 21st or worse.

_ If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at aumansptimes.com.

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