March 17, 2006
"How's your bracket?":
The Question of the Day. Me? Inauspicious debut. How did I not see Oklahoma, Marquette, Nevada and San Diego St. losses coming? Hindsight's a killer.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
BIG.  LEAST.

Bracket critics have been foiled (yet again!)

The NCAA Tournament selection committee has nothing to worry about. Its reputation has been renewed for another year; its critics shocked into silence.

For all the griping about how the Big East didn't get enough invites, the "Big Least" suffered the biggest humiliation of the first day:

Marquette: Bounced by the suddenly surging SEC, which showed that you don't need 8 bids to prove a league has depth.

Syracuse: Apparently the Orange did use up all their tournament karma during the Big East tournament. (And more than a few experts owe Texas A&M an apology for doubting their invite-worthiness.)

Seton Hall: The ultimate irony being they were eliminated by an at-large team from one of these mid-major leagues that critics whined about.

For those scoring on their brackets, the mighty Big East, which secured a record 8 NCAA bids, is 0-3 after the first day.

Meanwhile, the mid-majors proved themselves more than worthy:

UW-Milwaukee is the new Gonzaga.
(Xavier nearly beat Gonzaga.)
Montana upheld the 12-5 legacy.

And given that one team has to lose, let's applaud the way that several of these teams representing the dissed mid-majors went down -- fighting:

Winthrop won over the nation Thursday afternoon; Tennessee's buzzer-beater to avert a 15-2 upset was heartbreaking for everyone.

Pacific nearly burst a million brackets by taking Boston College to two OTs.

And Air Force, arguably the most maligned at-large team in the field, acquitted its selection by making it a game against Illinois.

The first day may have lacked many buzzer-beating moments, but it had "Biggie-beating" moments and some thrilling near-misses by Davids many critics dismissed -- or wouldn't even have let into the tournament.

Fans were reminded that the lesser-known teams -- and not teams from a powerhouse like the Big East -- are what make the tournament great.

Friday: Noon-ish
Schedule:
12:15 p.m. ET: No. 2 Ohio St./No. 15 Davidson
12:25 p.m. ET: No. 3 Iowa/No. 14 N'western St.
12:30 p.m. ET: No. 8 Arizona/No. 9 Wisconsin
12:30 p.m. ET: No. 8 Arkansas/No. 9 Bucknell

Big Question: Does anyone really consider Bucknell to be a Cinderella anymore as a 9? (Davidson: Now that's a Cindy!)

Also: This could be the least dramatic grouping of the day. Three Big Ten teams? Over/under on points scored by all three combined? 160. (But that means they could be close games, and close games are good games.)

2:30-ish
Schedule:
2:35 p.m. ET: No. 7 G'town/No. 10 No. Iowa
2:45 p.m. ET: No. 6 W. Virginia/No. 11 So. Ill
2:50 p.m. ET: No. 1 Villanova/No. 16 Monmouth
2:50 p.m. ET: No.1 Memphis/No. 16 O. Roberts

Big Question: How quickly into the Memphis-ORU game will I realize I made a terrible mistake picking ORU to pull the 16-1 upset?

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Wichita St.: Mo Valley 1, Big East 0. (Take that, haters!)
Larry Krystkowiak: Montana maintains 12-5 bracket dynasty
Mannequins: Sony's ad recasting Duke-KY '92 game is genius
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Tennessee: Was anyone rooting for that shot to go in? D'oh
Big East: Marquette out, 4-seed BC pushed to 2 OT? Weak
Cox Arena: Surreal sight in San Diego as arena evacuated
 
Also: Shocked? The MVC started strong with a win over the Big East. But two more MVC'ers take on stronger B'East comp than Seton Hall.

7-ish
Schedule:
7:10 p.m. ET: No. 5 Pitt/No. 12 Kent St.
7:10 p.m. ET: No. 6 Michigan St./No. 11 G. Mason
7:20 p.m. ET: No. 7 Cal/No. 10 NC State
7:25 p.m. ET: No. 1 UConn/No. 16 Albany

Big Question: Will Pitt establish itself as a team to beat in the wide-open West? They'll have to get past another one of the trendy mid-majors to do it.

Also: George Mason had no business being in this tournament without leading scorer Tony Skinn, suspended for a conference-tourney cheap shot. They may not keep it competitive for a half against the Spartans.

9:30-ish
Schedule:
9:30 p.m. ET: No. 4 Kansas/No. 13 Bradley
9:30 p.m. ET: No. 3 UNC/No. 14 Murray St
9:40 p.m. ET: No. 2 Texas/No. 15 Penn
9:45 p.m. ET: No. 8 Kentucky/No. 9 UAB

Big Question: How will the young Jayhawks handle the pressure of their first NCAA Tournament game, particularly against a hot Bradley team fresh off an MVC conference tournament title?

Also: UNC has had trouble with 14-seeds before. Remember Weber St. and Harold Arceneaux? Meanwhile, UAB might be the most telegenic team in the field.

2nd Round Saturday
If your bracket is already busted, there's a freedom that comes with being able to root for nothing but seed-upending mayhem.

1:10 p.m. ET: No. 1 Duke/No. 8 G. Washington
Duke let Southern hang way too long; GW's run for respect continues.

3:20 p.m. ET: No. 3 Florida/No. 11 Wisc-Milw.
UWM is exactly the kind of pesky, precise team that can give the Gators fits.

3:30 p.m. ET: No. 2 Tennessee/No. 7 Wichita St.
Tennessee is so due for a karma boomerang; Wichita of the MVC is the one to give it to 'em.

5:30 p.m. ET: No. 4 Illinois/No. 5 Washington
Wasn't this supposed to be a Final Four game last year?

5:40 p.m. ET: No. 4 LSU/No. 12 Texas A&M
Aggies will find LSU isn't tapped out emotionally like 'Cuse was.

7:50 p.m. ET: No. 2 UCLA/No. 10 Alabama
For those of us who have UCLA in the Final Four, why does a seemingly random team like Alabama scare us so freaking much?

TBD: No. 4 Boston College/No. 12 Montana
Seeds begin to matter less and less as the field narrows from 64 to 32; BC had enough trouble with a 13 seed, don't you think?

TBD: No. 3 Gonzaga/No. 6 Indiana
Bulldogs were nearly "Zagged"; Hoosiers should have lost their game, too. Something's gotta give.

WBC: USA Out!
Anything can happen in one game, but the tournament lasts several games. And the U.S. was the HEAVY favorite. They didn't even make it to the semifinal round? Come on...you have to admit that it's a huge disappointment/embarrassment. But your comments are right on. Let's go with something much less strident, but still gets the point across.: That's the only thing saving the U.S. team from a day of recriminations. This is truly one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of U.S. sports -- put 'em in the Pantheon of national-team disappointments with the USA hoops team in Athens.

Tournament Challenge
Wow! Only six people out of more than 10,500 total entrants had a perfect 16-0 first day. They deserve a roll call:

L. Oakman! M. Erickson!
M. Hooten! A. Martin!
M. Schiller! S. Desai!

A great first day is not necessarily correlated to long-term bracket-picking success. (Just reference my 15-1 start last year.) Keep in mind: For now, it's about how many Sweet 16 teams you have left.

Thanks to everyone who signed up! Keep checking the Quickie for updates throughout the tournament.

The 5-Seed:
Every year you doubt that the "12-5 Curse" can continue. And every year it does. After just the first day, 2 of the 3 5-seeds lost. What a phenomenon...
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
NCAA Tourney scoreboard
Page 2 Index
 
Friday Upset Watch
West Virginia
'05 Cindy gets taste
 
Georgetown
Feel the MVC power!
 
Cal
NC State a tough 10-seed
 
Kansas
Will youngsters freak?
 
Memphis
Wait: That's just me...
 

A Quickie glance at other sports news of the day:

Ron Artest returns to Indiana for his first game since being traded. His treatment from fans should be hilariously entertaining.

Mark Prior's shoulder injury isn't as bad as the Cubs thought it might be. He'll still likely miss the start of the season. Eerie foreshadowing.

The World Anti-Doping Agency doesn't like the way the WBC is drug-testing its athletes. Baseball screwing up a drug test? No! It couldn't be!

Speaking of which, Victor Conte denies BALCO gave Barry Bonds any steroids, contrary to the book reports. Then again, consider the source.

Apparently the Lions had such an allergy to Joey Harrington that they're stockpiling QBs: The latest (and 5th!) is Arizona's Josh McCown.

Over the 6 months, someone turned the Blue Jays into the Yankees. The latest spending spree? Jays give Roy Halladay $40 mil extension for 3 years.



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