Page 2 staff

Monday (3/21) Bluster
Scoop Jackson, 8:56 p.m., ET, 3/20/05: My former college roommate Jerry Buckman called my crib. My wife, the Commish as she is referred to during this time of year, was on the other line. She clicked over. "Tell your husband he shoulda picked a better team than Syracuse!" Then he ended it with an expletive for emphasis.

MONDAY STANDINGS
(SWEET 16 TEAMS LEFT)
  • Dan Shanoff: 10/16
  • Brian Murphy: 9/16
  • Kieran Darcy: 9/16
  • National bracket: 8/16
  • Skip Bayless*: 7/16
  • Bill Simmons*: 6/16
  • Scoop Jackson: 5/16
  • Jeff Merron: 4/16
  • Patrick Hruby: 4/16

    *National champion eliminated
  • JB is from Whitlock City. Kansas City. He called me at about 8-something Friday night. Two hours later, after Bucknell "shook up the world," my man's phone went into instant voice mail. He wasn't tryna hear it. Spoke too soon. Can't write the message I left back.

    Two ain't the magic number. WF, UConn. I don't care what anyone says: The 12 hours between UWV/WF and NCSt/UConn may be -- maybe -- the best 12-hour bookend in NCAA Tournament history.

    No lie, Thursday and Friday (day only), boring. There were some upsets but no drama. No Bryce Drew moments. Then ...

    Seeds started droppin' like old men down South with no teeth spittin' watermelon out of their mouths. My bracket was done. Forget the fork, I stuck a skew in it. Then Hannibal Lecter'd it.

    Every upset that I didn't pick happened. Every one I did pick, didn't. My boy Ed "C" Curry, called me out. Called me, well ... He said, "Scoop, back in the day, you used to go with your heart. You rolled with those upsets if you felt them. Now you done got with ESPN and got all conservative with your picks and knowledge. Dawg, you sellin' out."

    Don't you hate when family's right about you?

    Chris Paul falls. Will loses his thrill and Jarrett got jacked. Brown didn't do anything for me or the Illini, but they Gloria Gaynor'd.

    Julius Hodge ... with a timeout ... 4.3 left ... but you gotta make the free throw ... and the brotha made the free throw ... My boy Biscuit, who had UConn deep (and Syracuse deeper) calls, screaming in the cellie. "I hate that Jeffery Osborne-looking ..." I hear gunshots after the buzzer sounds. Another bracket dead.

    More phone calls. More seeds pop.

    On top of all that, T.J. Sorrentine crossed up Mich. State's Shannon Brown. Shook him. Elvis-style. But the Spartans got the W. What is the world coming to?

    At this point, I was calling my bracket dyslexic. I use red ink to correct the wrongs I initially put down. It looks like Meadow's father put a hit out on my piece of paper. I need help like Villanueva needs eye brows. I can't pop ish to any other columnist here because their brackets no doubt look like mine: Redrum'd.

    The Commish is emptying the garbage and finds a corpse. Rigor mortis had not set in to my bracket at the time, but it was getting there. "This is yours," she said with a slight smile. ILLINI ALUMNI shirt on. I unwrap the stiff paper. What's black, white and red all over? Six teams in black, 10 in red. Do the bracketology. I '187' the paper again. And start looking for ratings analyst Jeff Sagarin's number. He's probably in a witness protection program by now.

    6:32 CST, Sunday. Duke and Mississippi State are tied at 50. I call Biscuit. "What time do the Cubs play? I can't take this no more."

    He laughs at me. "Oh yeah," I remind him. "The bracket's repass is at 8."

    Patrick Hruby, 10:34 a.m. ET: With my once-proud bracket in the 0.4 national percentile -- guess I got points for filling out my name correctly -- I'm past winning. Past losing, even, and simply surveying the wreckage, looking for a black box to break down my folly.

    A few things seem clear:
    1. If you go with beer, don't be a brew snob. UW-Milwaukee's Best trounced disappointing Old Dominion Laqer, Nevada Pale Ale, Fairleigh-Dickinson Honey Brown and George "also a brewer-patriot" Washington. The lesson? Next year, I'm pegging Pabst U. for the Sweet Sixteen.

    2. Mascot Fight Club remains sound, but needs a better formula. Birds (Kansas Jayhawks, BC Eagles) are clearly overvalued, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons might be the biggest paranormal bust since "Ghostbusters II." Ol' Lucifer is apparently too busy rigging "American Idol" to follow his boys in the tournament. Unless we're talking about the Duke Blue Devils. He still makes time for his favorite sons.

    3. Coach apperance may not matter. How else to explain West Virginia?

    4. Picking teams on the basis of the better vacation destination is junk. Toss it out. Villanova over Florida? Impossible. Who wants to spend Spring Break in Philly? "Show us your [blank]! After you take off that parka!" It just doesn't work.

    5. Famous alumni remains a good barometer: Arizona (Geraldo), North Carolina (Michael Jordan) and Duke (Wendy's founder Dave Thomas) are still dancing. However, I severly overestimated the throw weight of that guy who played Jake on Melrose Place (UCLA). Live and learn.

    Dan Shanoff, 10:40 a.m. ET: Everyone in NCAA office-pools has a "tipping-point" moment when their bracket busts and they embrace the upsets that previously would have screwed up their picks.

    Sometimes you make the transition in the first grouping of games, after your Alabama Elite Eight team loses; sometimes it takes a little longer (say, after the Syracuse team you picked to go to the Final Four loses to Vermont).

    I was rooting AGAINST Vermont, and when UVM's Sorrentine hit that gutsy 30-footer to seal the game, I was hit with an epiphany: What was I doing with my life?

    How could I be rooting against one of the wildest upsets in recent years ... simply for some office-pool glory? Who needs THAT, when I could have the joy of an upset?

    And so, just in time for Bucknell-Kansas, I accepted Syracuse's loss as the end of my bracket hopes -- and buoyed by the sense of relief, I cheered like hell for the Bison and enjoyed the upset with every other fan whose brackets were out of pool contention.

    It made it easier so much to take when my champ-pick, UConn, went down in flames on Sunday.

    Kieran Darcy 11:18 a.m. ET: (Sigh) I can't remember a Monday after the first four days of the NCAA Tournament when I felt really pleased with my picks. And this year is no different. Wake, where art thou? Syracuse, thanks for nothing. Half my Final Four is already home.

    22-10 in the first round. Eh. Nine teams in the Sweet Sixteen. Not bad. But not great. 57.7 percentile? Yuck. That would have been an F back in school.

    But all hope is not lost. For while I may not be winning any "prizes" in any other "competitions" I may have entered involving the tournament, I've got a fighting chance in this here Page 2 competition. I've still got both my finalists (UNC and Illinois). The only person I trail is Mr. Shanoff, who's lost his champ (UConn) as well as two other members of his Final Four. I'm tied with Mr. Murphy, who has Illinois winning it all, while I have UNC. And my next two closest competitors both already lost their national champs as well.

    I'm not on TV. I don't have my own website. I don't have a weekly Page 2 column, or a radio show, or even a regularly scheduled chat. But I'm gonna rest easy till 7:10 p.m. on Thursday. I'm gonna enjoy reading all about the Cinderellas like Wisconsin-Milwaukee and West Virginia.

    And then I'm gonna root like heck for the big dogs to bring me a trophy. Or, at least a little bit of an ego boost.

    Skip Bayless 11:32 a.m. ET: March Badness strikes again. I always say, the more you know about college basketball, the worse chance you have to pick first- and second-round games.

    How am I to predict that Vermont's Germaine Mopa Njila, averaging five points a game, would have the game of his life, making nine of 10 shots, including both threes he took, and dominate Syracuse with nine rebounds? Mopa Njila went 0 for 6 in Vermont's loss to Michigan State.

    How am I supposed to predict that Gonzaga would blow a 13-point second-half lead to Texas Tech, which just two weekends ago lost at home to Oklahoma by 20 points? How am I to predict that Oklahoma would make only two of 19 threes against Utah? How am I to predict that Louisville would come out with "no respect" fire in its eyes because of its seeding slight and make its first six shots, including four threes, against Georgia Tech? How could I predict that Louisville would go to a surprise two-three zone and that the Yellow Jackets would fall quickly behind AND QUIT LIKE DOGS.

    The Yellow Jackets, my pick to win it all, have put me in a strait jacket. Now my bracket looks like Custer filled it out. If you predicted that Bucknell's Chris McNaughton would accidentally bank in a point-blank jump hook to beat Kansas, YOU belong in a strait jacket.

    The Wake-West Vriginia game was the most entertaining I've watched all college season, but if you predicted that West Virginia, a team that stuggles to score, would wind up with 111 points and eliminate Wake in double overtime, you're a March madman.

    I'm actually proud to say that my bracket is busted. Anyone doing great in this, or any, pool has no idea what he or she is doing.