Don't throw out your bracket yet

03/23/2010 12:00 AM

03/23/2010 12:01 AM

Is your NCAA bracket down the drain? Better yet, has it been introduced to your trash can?

Hold on there. It might be a good time to dig it out. All hope is not lost. You are not the only one out there thinking your bracket is your worst nightmare ever. A lot of us - me included - are beating ourselves up and asking why we didn't see all upsets coming.

Trashed my bracket early. Picked Georgetown to go all the way and play West Virginia for the championship. My other picks for the final four are Duke and Kansas State. Thank goodness I didn't pick Kansas to make the final game.

In the first round, didn't pick Old Dominion, Michigan State, Ohio, Gonzaga, Murray State, Cornell, Washington, Missouri, or California to win. Did pick St. Mary's, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma State and BYU, among other favorites and they delivered.

Pretty bad, huh?

We did our brackets on a Web site that updates points after each game. My wife, Dawn, also played a bracket and was checking her points, saw she was in sixth place.

"Dawn,'' I asked, "am I in last or just close to there?''

"No,'' she said. "You are actually in second.''

I'm still in the money! The crumpled bracket no longer has a home in the trash can next to my La-Z-Boy. It has been smoothed out, though not looking healthy, and placed back on the active list.

My points? A paltry 40. But the leader has just 44 and we award first and second place. I have maybe half my original picks still playing and have a shot because a lot of folks in our pool picked Kansas to win. The key for me is getting West Virginia to the title game and for Duke and Kentucky to lose. Yes, and I'm going to go outside and power clean my Jeep a couple of times after I finish this.

Feel better now? For those of you who have abandoned those horrible brackets, there is a smidgen of hope ... a long shot, as in my case, but still there.

Who do I want to win? It's a toss-up between St. Mary's and Northern Iowa. Would be Duke in a normal year, but this tournament has been anything but that.

So why St. Mary's or Northern Iowa?

One of my favorite all-time movies is "Hoosiers'' where the tiny little school in Indiana beats the state's top team in its highest classification in the championship game. If either team makes the championship, I'd like to see Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) and his assistant in the movie, Shooter (Dennis Hopper), sitting courtside for the game.

If it comes down to a game-winning shot, run the picket fence. It worked for Dale's Hickory High.

Mind the S curve

Warning. Sharp curve ahead. So why so many upsets?

Hate to say this, but college basketball isn't close to what it used to be. I remember the days when I could name every returning player for each ACC team. Bought The ACC Handbook - now out of publication because of the sluggish economy and it's a shame - Street and Smith's College Basketball Yearbook and anything else that caught my fancy. Studied them cover-to-cover.

Not now. College basketball has become a revolving door. Too many players are one-and-done, going to school for a year because they can't sign with the NBA out of high school.

Some stay two years. It's odd to see a so-called superstar stay all four.

My theory is that because the smaller schools, like St. Mary's, can't sign the stars that a Syracuse, Kansas or Duke can. But the players they sign tend to stay four years, and I believe that's why we have so many upsets.

In other words, the players that stay together play better together than the flashy players who are auditioning for the NBA.

The players that stay four years have a better feel for their teammates, and what their coach expects. Players like Northern Iowa guard Ali Farokhmanesh, who nailed a surprising 3-point shot in the closing seconds of the Panthers' 69-67 win against Kansas on Saturday. How many of you were yelling at the TV for him not to shoot?

Heard that name before? No. Heard of Kentucky freshman John Wall? Of course and he's made it clear that he'll probably look at the NBA this year.

So there you have it from this corner of The Herald sports department. Let me know what you think.

Dig those brackets out of the trash because you too could get a good surprise. But I'd tear mine up right now for a guarantee that Northern Iowa and St. Mary's would play in the national championship game.

Might happen. They are on different sides of the bracket. I could easily live with that. So could Coach Dale and Shooter, who would probably break out his wing-dinger of a suit for the game.

Who knows. Maybe it will play out the way I have it in my head. If not, St. Mary's, Northern Iowa and Cornell, thanks for the memories, even if my bracket sinks into oblivion again.

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