It happens to me every year when the NCAA Tournament rolls around. There’s one person who just catches my attention for being far and away the goofiest basketball player alive.

Last year it was UNLV’s Kevin Kruger.

He admitted to getting Grant Hill’s autograph after his father, Lon Kruger, had just lost to Hill’s Duke squad in the 1994 Final Four as the coach of Florida. He then proudly showed it to his dad as he emerged from the losing locker room.

For the two years before that it was West Virginia’s Kevin Pittsnogle, the gangly farm boy with a ton of tattoos and the trashiest mustache I’ve ever seen.

Well, now that the first weekend of the 2008 NCAA Tournament is complete, we have the newest member of the “I’m so ridiculous that it’s hilarious” club.

Meet West Virginia’s Joe Alexander.

Like his fellow Mountaineer, Pittsnogle, he’s got the trash ‘stache and scraggly chin strap down. He is missing the tattoos, but I guess we’ll have to let that slide. A couple of those weird symbols that somehow mean “god of war” on his shoulder would have put him over the top in my book.

But to really make an impact on me, a goofy NCAA Tournament phenomenon also has to be good at playing basketball.

And after watching him dominate a couple games in the Big East Tournament and then lead his team to victory over Arizona and Duke this past weekend, I’m convinced Alexander has a future in the NBA.

He has the perfect complement of inside and outside moves and can simply take over games on offense. To give you a Michigan parallel, he’s exactly the type of player John Beilein wants sophomore DeShawn Sims to become.

It wasn’t until the second half of the Duke game Saturday that Alexander had me completely hooked.

Blue Devil freshman Kyle Singler streaked down the court for what appeared to be an easy layup, when out of nowhere came the unstoppable force that is Joe Alexander. And instead of walking away or even posing to the crowd after his monster block, Alexander did something that just made me tingle with excitement.

He turned to Singler, gave him what I’m officially naming “The Alexander Look of Death” and just started trash talking right in front of a CBS camera.

And it didn’t stop once the game was over. After cementing his legend with a 73-67 win over Duke, Alexander was asked about the Blue Devils’ eight McDonald’s All Americans. His response was to arch his eyebrows (like The Rock, for all you pro wrestling fans) and ask back, “Who?”

Then, when asked to describe a scream of his during the first half that followed a blocked shot against Duke’s DeMarcus Nelson, Alexander explained himself succinctly.

“I told him he shouldn’t shoot anymore,” Alexander said. “He was actually very nice to me the rest of the game.”

Adding to his on-court antics, Alexander offered this postgame nugget to guarantee him a place in my book of athletes who are truly absurd but command my admiration.

“We knew that coming in that they were just going to stand around and not rebound,” Alexander said.

He’s blunt, and it’s awesome. Imagine if Alexander had played against Michigan this season. His analysis would have been something along the lines of “They sucked.”

If CBS gave us more Joe Alexander and fewer commercials of Britney Spears trying to hook up with Doogie Howser, the world would be a better place.

No matter what, I’m still in a good place because all of the Final Four picks I made in my bracket are alive.

That being said, I have a funny feeling we’re going to see just two No. 1 seeds make it out of this weekend and on to San Antonio. Memphis has the toughest road, with a surging Michigan State squad in the Sweet 16 and a matchup with Texas or Stanford waiting in the Elite 8.

And I didn’t write an entire article about the sensation that is Joe Alexander for nothing. Think about the ramifications of Alexander’s goofy trash ‘stache going head-to-head against UCLA freshman Kevin Love’s equally-foolish chin strap in the Elite 8.

Well, I wouldn’t have written all this if I didn’t think Alexander’s magic was going to continue.

We need him in the Final Four. Just think about the future generation of ridiculous facial hair and trash talk that he could spawn.

Mark’s Final Four: North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, West Virginia

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