In a scene eerily familiar to a certain Big East Tournament, the madness of one night spilled into the next morning as the first round of the NCAA Tournament came to a close. Allow me to share with you the experience of one thrilled yet deflated Tournament fanatic watching his bracket crumble.
12:02 a.m.: As I wallowed in a day's worth of suffering following botched upset picks (see: Utah State, Portland State) it was time for one last look at a bracket gone bad. The primetime games were certainly full of excitement (read: disappointment). Dayton over West Virginia, Arizona over Utah, Southern Cal over Boston College--how did I not see any of these coming? No one knows, but the Tournament was saving its best for last.
12:07 a.m.: After noticing that a crucial member of my Elite Eight was in overtime, I rush over to cbssports.com for the live feed. On a side note, I give my compliments to CBS for having stellar Tournament coverage on their website. I've been glued to it since the first games tipped off.
12:10 a.m.: Toney Douglas puts Florida State up 59-56 with 1:18 to play in the first overtime. I say the first overtime, in hopes that the Seminoles will duplicate the six-overtime spectacular of Syracuse-Connecticut proportions. At this time, I send a text message to a fellow bracket-addict that simply says "I love Toney Douglas."
12:12 a.m.: Wisconsin has come back to within one. The score is 59-58, the Badgers call a timeout and will have the ball on the side with 7.7 seconds left. I receive a text from the aforementioned bracket-addict that reads "OMG this is my bracket right here!"
12:15 a.m.: After the timeout, Trevon Hughes scores in the paint and gets fouled. The free one goes. Two seconds remaining. Timeout, Florida State. Wisconsin leads 61-59. I convince myself that Douglas is a man amongst boys and he will get the ball at the top of the arc with his back to the goal, take one dribble, turn and sink the jumper as time expires. (During this timeout, the CBS analysts come up with a great strategy for the Seminoles: "Well, if you have Christian Laettner and Grant Hill, you throw the long pass and hope that one of them catches it, takes a dribble, turns and scores the winner.")
12:19 am: Florida State inbounds the ball, in the general vicinity of Douglas. He gets caught up with a Wisconsin defender and cannot get a handle on the ball. Time appears to expire sometime between when he picks the ball up off the floor and releases a heave toward the basket. It really doesn't matter when time expired, though. As his shot flies over the backboard, all my hopes and dreams for this year's bracket went with it.
Thanks to the wonderful people at CBS, I was able to tune into the Siena-Ohio State game immediately following that defeat. In fact, I switched over just as the Saints' Ronald Moore hit a three with 3.9 seconds remaining to put Siena up 74-72. As if I hadn't seen it before, I got to watch Evan Turner's prayer for a third overtime fall short. And yes, I picked Ohio State.
Those two losses put me below .500 for the day at 7-9. After a 13-3 first day that looked so promising, my bracket suddenly became unraveled. My best-kept Elite Eight secret (Florida State, of course) had failed me, and it wasn't so long after the team that I picked them to beat (Pittsburgh) looked so vulnerable in their first round game.
So what did we learn today? It's called March Madness for a reason. Anything can happen when all a team has to do is win one game. Just one. If Cleveland State played Wake Forest 10 times, they might when one or two. But that's why we love March. Anything can happen when the highs and lows of the emotions of college basketball collide in a 65-team frenzy that leaves some rejoicing and some praying that their Final Four teams can avoid the plague that has doomed the rest of the field.
Consider this my appeal for the wildest, most unbelievable Tournament in history. Give me an 8- or 9-seed that takes down a No. 1. Give me a Western Kentucky or a Cleveland State in the Final Four. Give me a Championship game with six or seven overtimes. Above all, let bracket-addicts everywhere experience the exhilaration of watching bracket-busters and top-ranked teams fight for a shot at the ultimate prize, because that's what we love about March.
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