NCAA Tournament: Day 1 Diary

My Bracket

At some point early on in the Tournament, we are given a lesson in the futility of filling out brackets. After filling them out, everyone is smug with all of their picks. They got the upset no one else has. Hell, I did it too: I have 16-seed Cal Poly beating the 1-seed Wichita State as the first ever 16-seed victory over a 1-seed. (Nyah nyah nyah.)

But it looked like humility would be upon us very soon.

Early on in the first game of the day between 6-seed Ohio State and 11-seed Dayton, it looked like the Buckeyes wouldn’t have a problem with the Flyers. But then Dayton started hitting their shots, Ohio State missed theirs and things weren’t looking good. Dayton took a 33-30 halftime lead.

Almost more incredulously was what was going on in Milwaukee between the 2-seed Wisconsin and 15-seed American. Halfway through the first half, American had a 13-10 lead. Of course things got back to normal as Wisconsin despite being down 17-10 came back to take a 32-22 lead at the half.

Meanwhile in the Dayton-Ohio State game, the Buckeyes took a 10-0 run to retake the lead midway through the second. Things were returning back to what was expected. Except that no one told Dayton that they were supposed to fade away. They stood face to face with Ohio State and made a thrilling finish.

After Dyshawn Pierre made three free throws to give Dayton a 58-57 lead with 26.3 seconds, off it went as you can watch in truncated form below.

Dayton got the 60-59 upset win, and the first blows for humility rang down from the heavens.

It’s funny what happens though. Sure, I had Ohio State marching on in my bracket. But as the game went on, I found myself cheering for Dayton. When Vee Sanford made that bucket with 3.8 seconds left, there was a very audible sound of cheerful disbelief that escaped from me.

Back in Milwaukee, all that can be said of American University is that they had a good 10 minutes. Wisconsin thoroughly outplayed American 43-13 in the second half for the 75-35 win. But those 10 minutes in the first half gave a lot of hope to the likes of Star Jones, Judge Judy, Danny Glover, Ralph Nader and Jordan Belfort (aka The Wolf of Wall Street).

After the morning four games, things cooled down. The urgency to be glued to the television became less severe. Besides with all of the commercial breaks it could drive one mad. Besides I needed to go for a jog, take a shower, go to market, cook dinner, etc. Or, as most normal people would say, live their lives.

But the games were always on the background. There was the 12-seed Harvard “upsetting” the 5-seed Cincinnati in the last morning game. There was the 12-seed North Dakota State “upsetting” the 5-seed Oklahoma in overtime in the late afternoon game. 5-seed St. Louis holding on against 12-seed North Carolina State in overtime despite trailing by double-digits in the second half.

I really don’t count the 12-5 victory as an “upset”. In 119 games between the 5- and 12-seeds, 43 have won, or 36%. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only three times have there not been a 12-seed to get through the first round.

As things were going chalk (with the exception of the 12-seeds, obviously), there came the 13-seed Manhattan and the 4-seed Louisville. On Selection Sunday, everyone was in near agreement that Louisville got screwed with their 4-seed. How dare they disrespect the defending champs? Despite this quite a few people have them in the Final Four.

Manhattan is lead by head coach Steve Masiello. Masiello was a walk-on for Kentucky in the late 90s when Rick Pitino was the head coach. He was an assistant for Pitino in Louisville from 2005-2001 before getting the job at Manhattan.

The game was tied 60-60 with just under two minutes left. That’s when Louisville’s Luke Hancock took over. Hancock stole the ball, got fouled and hit both free throws for the two-point lead. If that wasn’t enough he hit two three-pointers to seal the game as Louisville escaped the gym with a 71-64 win.

As for the most important thing, my bracket, I managed to avoid disaster. Ohio State losing hurt since I had them going to the Elite Eight against Florida. I also didn’t realize that I picked 15-seed Wofford over Michigan. What the fuck was I thinking?

Tomorrow will bring another set of games, more chances of my bracket going the way of a road strewn with landmines.

11 Dayton 60 15 American 35 9 Pittsburgh 77 12 Harvard 61
6 Ohio State 59 2 Wisconsin 75 8 Colorado 48 5 Cincinnati 57
14 West Michigan 53 10 BYU 68 16 Albany 55 13 Delaware 78
3 Syracuse 77 7 Oregon 87 1 Florida 67 4 Michigan State 93
15 Wofford 40 12 NC State 80 12 ND State 80 10 St. Joseph’s 81
2 Michigan 57 5 St. Louis 83 OT 5 Oklahoma 75 OT 7 Connecticut 89 OT
10 Arizona State 85 15 Milwaukee 53 13 Manhattan 64 13 NM State 69
7 Texas 87 2 Villanova 73 4 Louisville 71 4 San Diego State 73 OT