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The excitement emanating from First Niagara Center is palpable.

Who knew that so many could get so worked up over college kids competing?

But the stands will be filled today when Syracuse University throws down against Western Michigan to see who can do the most for Western New York.

Ever since Sunday’s draw, people have salivated over the question of how the Orange’s management majors would stack up against the Broncos, who have the size advantage in both enrollment and campus acreage.

CNNMoney lauds Syracuse – best known as a business school that has a basketball team – for its internships with local entrepreneurs to give students “real-world experience.”

Western Michigan boasts that its Haworth College of Business “ranks among the top 10 percent as one of the largest undergraduate business programs in the United States.”

That sets up a classic matchup to see which can come up with the best plan to revive forgotten parts of Buffalo. There hasn’t been this much excitement about a competition since the Peace Bridge charrettes. Knowing how serious Americans are about consequential things, the arena for this kind of event would be as filled as …

Oh, well, I can dream, can’t I?

Back in the real world, where Ohio State-Dayton kicks off the four-game slate, even a Buckeye alumnus has wondered about the attention paid “such arbitrary and ostensibly functionless displays of physical and mental prowess.”

Writing in Scientific American a few years ago, psychologist Jesse Bering tried to make sense of the senseless. The best he could find was an evolutionary explanation – apparently, the traits of successful athletes are also the traits that help us adapt – for why about 19,000 people will experience “near orgasmic delight at the sight of an abnormally tall human being trying to throw an orange ball through a hole.”

A University at Buffalo expert puts it more simply, saying sports provide “instant excitement rather than the need to stop and think and analyze. It’s also a quick way to take sides and root for your favorite without needing to figure out the ins and outs of more complicated conflicts in the real world,” Elayne Rapping, UB professor emeritus in American studies, said by email.

Of course, one upside can come from all this frivolity: Winning the game that really counts. Experts say the city got a $5 million boost when it beat other cities to host March Madness in 2010.

Obviously, the competition people should really be focused on occurs long before the teams roll into town.

Maybe that means there will be about 19,000 people at the next Visit Buffalo Niagara board meeting.

email: rwatson@buffnews.com