March Madness!

The first weekend of March Madness is complete, and -- dare I say -- I’m liking where my teams are sitting.

I nearly didn’t fill out a bracket this year.

In the midst of all the chaos in our lives the last few months, I’ve watched exactly two college basketball games this year -- Kansas’ thriller over UCLA early in the season and then No. 1 KU’s loss to K-State, which I predicted given KU’s reputation for playing inconsistently and complacently on the big stages, not to mention the tense in-state rivalry and that the Jayhawks were playing in The Octagon of Doom.

It’s also worth noting that, after making our move, we didn’t have a TV last week until I made a run home during my lunch break Thursday and set it up so I could catch some of the basketball. Thus, I missed all of the talking heads on ESPN analyzing every team, picking the sleepers and influencing my picks.

And speaking of the TV coverage, I am loving the new partnership between CBS and TNT/TBS/TruTV. When the deal was announced last year, I wasn't keen on the games being shown by a network other than CBS -- it just seemed wrong -- but the the ability to watch any tournament game of my choosing -- or flip back and forth to watch bits of multiple games -- this weekend, and not a regional matchup of the local network's choosing, has been a dream come true -- or should I say Tru.

Still, I’ve watched, read and listened to enough sports highlights this season to think maybe I had a shot of at least being in the hunt for some prize money. I threw my bracket together on Thursday morning, just hours before the tournament’s opening games and submitted it for the Funnest Office Pool Ever.

Given my lack of time and knowledge of the competition this year, I didn’t fill out a bracket for Phoebe, as I’ve done the last two years. Next year I’ll get her into it again.

Usually, I’m liberal with my upset picks, but I played it conservatively this year -- once again because I haven’t watched enough basketball to feel confident in any major upsets or have many doubts about the higher seeds. … I picked two No. 11 seeds -- Marquette and Missouri -- as my only upsets. As it turned out, Missouri -- the one of which I was more sure -- was the only 11 seed not to advance.

As for my Final Four, I went with three No. 1s -- Duke, Pittsburgh, Kansas -- and No. 2 North Carolina, which I’m betting puts together a good run in the tournament. I then put North Carolina and Kansas in my championship game with the Jayhawks winning it all.

Don’t ask me why I’m picking Kansas to win it all. Any one who follows them closely and understands their tournament history knows this cannot end well. But I seem to fall for it every year and place them at or very near national champion status. ... Although, now it looks like they'll have a cake walk to the Final Four with the way the high seeds fell in the Southwest Region this week. But never say never.

And now, at the close of the first weekend, would you believe I’ve ranked as high as No. 4 and no lower than No. 9 in the standings (out of 60-some participants)? ... So far, it's paid off to stay with higher seeds -- teams like San Diego State, BYU and Florida -- that I might not have backed in typical years. I also was a believer in Wisconsin, which I picked to beat K-State; the Badgers play tough defense, and I thought K-State was overrated.

Only now, after watching this weekend’s games, I’m wishing I had Butler and Ohio State going deeper. Butler is looking like they still have the tournament mojo that carried them last year. ... The ending of the Butler-Pittsburgh game last night was the most mind-boggling, make-you-want-to-scream-at-the-TV ending to a game I think I've ever seen.

And Ohio State is looking so good that I’m starting to think I took a big risk by having North Carolina beat them in the Elite Eight round.

I’m also watching Connecticut closely. My bracket has UConn advancing to the Elite Eight before losing to Duke. Given the run they put together in the Big East Tournament, I’m thinking the Huskies could be one of the toughest teams to knock out of the tournament, or they could be dropped any time.

Good reads ...
a Perfectly improbable: A flawless NCAA bracket ... “By taking the classic 64-team bracket, the number of possible outcomes for those games is 9 quintillion, 223 quadrillion, or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. So if everyone in the worldfilled out a bracket once a second (impossible), it would still take them about 42 years to fill out all the possible combinations.”
a NCAA Tournament’s beauty rests on a bracket
a The Onion: Office Pool's Low Number Of Bracket Printouts A Reminder Of How Many Employees Were Laid Off Last Year
a Will bigger field scare folks out of the pools?
a The Awkward Officiating Dance at the N.C.A.A. Tournament
a Madness worth watching
a Talent Is Nice, but Luck Is Vital

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