The Madness

So I filled out my bracket -- half asleep -- around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

My bracket made it through Thursday’s first round games mostly intact. Although I foolishly picked Wichita State to beat VCU and Long Beach State as an upset over New Mexico; after VCU’s success last year, I should have known they were capable of taking out Wichita State, and Long Beach State -- I’m not sure what I was thinking. I also missed on Gonzaga over West Virginia; in recent years, it seems, Gonzaga has underachieved during the tournament, so I bet on them getting knocked out in the first round. The only other game I failed to pick was Colorado’s upset of UNLV.

On a side note, WTMX, the Chicago radio station that I listen to faithfully each morning had a good bit this morning: Every time anyone mentioned VCU coach Shaka Smart, the intro of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” charged over the airwaves. It made me burst into laughter every time.

Then, today happened.

I arrived home from work in time to catch the second half of the Missouri-Norfolk State game. As hard as I was trying to finish another piece of my graduate homework for this week, I couldn’t look away from the TV. … Missouri couldn’t seem to knock down any shots, and Norfolk State was just plain outplaying the Tigers.

Then the game got really good during those final seconds. When Phil Pressey hit that 3-pointer to cut Missouri's deficit to 85-84 with 10 seconds left, I thought, Whoah! Missouri could still pull this thing out! ... Then, Norfolk players suddenly lost their ability to make free throws. Missouri almost stole the game on a botched inbounds pass. And the Tigers had a chance to grab one more possession after a Norfolk missed free throw. But Norfolk held on.

I had Missouri in my Elite Eight.

Upset city. And it got better.

North Carolina State upset San Diego State (picked it!), Creighton beat Alabama by one (picked it!), Xavier upset Notre Dame (picked it!) and Purdue upset St. Mary’s (picked it!). I was wrong, however, on Florida over Virginia, St. Louis over Memphis, South Florida over Temple, and Ohio over Michigan.

Kates and Phoebe arrived home and we settled in for the Duke-Lehigh game.

That was the big one.

Like Missouri, Duke seemed out of sorts. And Lehigh was running all over them, tossing balls up the court like a quarterback throwing passes to a wide receiver streaking down the sideline. Lehigh played with such tenacity and fearlessness -- it was something special to watch.

Norfolk State and Lehigh put on such exciting shows in their defeats of Missouri and Duke -- which I had going to the Sweet Sixteen -- that I didn’t mind the impacts on my bracket. ... It was the first time in NCAA tournament history that two No. 15 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds -- and they did it on the same day

That kind of excitement is what March Madness is all about. Look how tired it made Phoebe ...

* * *

For the record, my Final Four consists of Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida State. Then I have Kentucky and North Carolina facing off in the championship game, with Kentucky taking the whole she-bang.

Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina, of course, are popular picks as No. 1 seeds. … But I’ve been impressed with Florida State the last couple weeks, and I think they’re getting hot at the right time. I predict they beat Syracuse in the regional final for a trip to New Orleans.

Other notables: I’ve got Wisconsin winning its first game, but falling to Vanderbilt in the second round. I have Kansas losing to Georgetown in the Sweet Sixteen. I have Murray State upsetting Marquette to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. And Baylor meeting Kentucky in the Elite Eight round.

* * *

Phoebe filled out a bracket, too.

In past years, I’ve simply filled out an extra bracket and submitted it under her name. But this year I wanted to giver her the chance to make her own picks. … So last night -- I let it slide that some of the games already had been played -- I printed a bracket for her, and we sat on the couch with me reading each matchup -- line by line, round by round -- so she could select her teams.

Needless to say, almost all of her picks were lower seeds. Her Final Four consists of Duke (oops!), BYU (oops!), Belmont (oops!) and Wisconsin. She has Duke and Wisconsin in her championship with Wisconsin winning it all.

By picking mostly lower seeds, however, she successfully called VCU over Wichita State, South Florida over Temple, Ohio over Michigan, North Carolina State over San Diego State, and Purdue over Saint Mary’s.

She also picked Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri to go deep into the tournament.

Thus, my theory is that her picks were based on teams she was familiar with because I talk about them and watch them a lot. Or because she liked the way their names sounded -- like St. Bonaventure.

* * *

Of course, Baby No. 2 got a bracket this year as well. Because let’s not forget the luck that came when I filled out a bracket for Phoebe the year she was born. Her bracket had Kansas winning it all -- and as luck had it -- it happened.

So, it should come as no surprise that Baby No. 2’s bracket features Kansas as the national champion. (Hey, I had to get my Jayhawks in there somehow.)

The rest of her Final Four includes Missouri (oops!), Kentucky and Syracuse, with Kentucky advancing to the final against Kansas.

Like Phoebe's the year she was born, I think Baby No. 2 has the best bracket of all of us. 

I contemplated advancing Missouri to the championship against Kansas, and even throwing Wisconsin into the Final Four instead of Syracuse.

But that wouldn’t be realistic now, would it?

Good reads ... 
a Inside the Jayhawks: They don't eat bird food
a KU professor researching Naismith, religion and basketball
a Old rivals sharing close quarters in Omaha
a Thursday in Bracketland: VCU Signs In
a Long, strange trip it's been: Fired in disgrace, Eustachy is back
a In 1956, a Racial Law Repelled Harvard’s Team
a For Two-Way Referee, It’s N.F.L. One Day, College Basketball the Next
a No Dribbling and No Passing, but Free Throws Are Nonstop 
a The Onion: Report: Only Matter Of Time Before A 'SportsCenter' Host Snaps, Blows Brains Out On Live Television

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