Consider two things. First, our tendency as fans to align ourselves with teams rather than players is amplified by a magnitude of 100 when we watch college sports. The star players are often gone within a year or two, and aside from the coaching staff and, to borrow from Seinfeld, the laundry, there are no more than three or four years' worth of continuity.
Second, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, more so than even the World Cup or the Olympics, compels us to follow teams that aren't our own. We may perceive half the teams we're penciling into our brackets with emotional indifference, but we are putting a moment of thought into whether they'll win or lose, and we are watching their games.
It's no surprise, then, that an NCAA Tournament team's identity is often swallowed whole by its seed. In the 2010 tournament, St. Mary's reached the Sweet 16. Who were they? To most of us, a 10-seed and nothing more. When we split our attention 65 ways (and, starting this year, 68), we have an excuse to judge a team entirely on the merits of the number that precedes it in parentheses.