The hype. The pomp. The circumstance. All the anticipation and accoutrements that come with such a widely recognized, if not beloved, event in place, year after year. Every March.
Fans and phonies get swept up in it, making their own imprint by picking games and entering pools and investing their hearts and souls into teams they’ve always followed or never heard of before Selection Sunday.
Then things tip off, and sometimes quickly can turn into an upsetting process.
Welcome to bracket-busting, heart-breaking agony, where experts can bomb just like the rest of us in the blink of an eye.
As the NCAA Tournament enters its second of six rounds today, this is reality:
There will be no victory celebration in my future. Not with half of my predicted Final Four already gone, including a national champ selection made with the most personal conviction in recent memory.
Michigan State … West Virginia … we hardly knew ye. Obviously. Damn crumb bums.
But, defeat, in the Big Dance? You betcha.
It never fails. Every year is gonna be “the year.” The one in which my insights and passions will morph into one perfect bracket.
Ummm, maybe next year. Again.
Kudos to the men’s college basketball programs at Middle Tennessee State and Stephen F. Austin universities for what they accomplished in knocking off second- and third-seeded teams in the tournament, but, ya know, c’mon, when is it my turn to bask in the glory?
Not to mention countless others who share the same imploding-predictions plight, year after year?
Irony is, us “losers,” especially those of us who had our hopes and dreamed crushed so early this time around, may be the real winners. We got nothing to “play for” anymore. We’re out. Our investment is kaput. The pressure is off. Instead, we can sit back and enjoy.
So, if Connecticut derails Kansas today and Virginia Commonwealth does the same to Oklahoma tomorrow, there will be no tears shed for my remaining national semifinalists biting the bullet. Nope, just an appreciation for underdogs and competition and the quirkiness of what can happen when those two meet will further grow.
Along with an innate disdain for Duke.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gotta give the boys in black (and white) some credit on this one. With Cincinnati’s season hanging in the balance, pretty much at the mercy of what television replays showed and the aforementioned refs determined, “they got it right” emerged.
The Bearcats trailed 78-76 in the waning seconds courtesy of a clutch 3-pointer drained by Saint Joseph’s Isaiah Miles with 11 seconds to go, raced down the court and set up a play that resulted in Octavius Ellis attacking the basket for game-tying dunk.
Only he never got right of the ball before both the clock struck :00.0 and the red light signaling the absolute end of regulation went off. The officials originally called it good when it happened, but after reviewing the evidence, which did show the ball still on Ellis’ fingertips at the crucial juncture, they made the correct call.
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Not easy to pick a best performer up to this point, considering the other-worldly, double-double efforts of big men Jakob Poeltel of Utah, Domantas Sabonis of Gonzaga and, even in defeat, Jameel Warner of Stony Brook, and the light-’em-up jobs by Arkansas-Little Rock’s Josh Hagins and Yale’s Makai Mason in major upsets of Purdue and Baylor, respectively.
But ya gotta hand it to Stephen F. Austin’s Thomas Walkup for what he did against West Virginia. Undersized at 6-4, the senior forward toyed with the taller and insanely athletic Mountaineers, racking up 33 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists as the Lumberjacks rolled to a stunningly easy, 70-56 victory.
Stone-faced throughout most of the game, he erupted with emotion after burying a 3-pointer later to put the capper on his effort and his team’s win. He had more than earned the right to do so.