Tag Archives: NCAA Tournament

The Madness is here! My annual quick-hit guide to help you win our NCAA Tournament pool. And a man gets small revenge on a litterbug, hilariously.

Say it with me now: It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Well, it is for me, anyway. Outside of the U.S. Open in late August this is as excited as I get about a sporting event. Yes, it’s time for March Madness, baby! Sixty-eight teams had their name called on CBS between 6-6:30 p.m., and now we all get to pretend we know what we’re talking about so Ted from human resources will call our names in a few weeks and tell us we’ve won the office pool.

As I try to do every year, I will try to guide and help you, dear reader, with your office pool or ESPN pool or CBS Sports pool or whatever pool you’re into, since, while I don’t watch nearly as much college basketball as I used to, I still watch a lot and read a lot about it. (And I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about my beloved Duke Blue Devils, their insanely non-human star Zion Williamson, as we go along here.)

So without further ado, some quick-hit thoughts on the bracket, which I have to say, is pretty damn good. Usually me and other college hoops fans spend an hour or so on Selection Sunday evening complaining about this team’s seed, how come so and so got left out, and other mistakes. But they did a really, really good job this year.

OK, onward to some first-round upsets you should pick, some dark horses who may go far, and some great matchups I hope happen. As always in this Monday column, I’m not sure I’m ready to pick a Final Four yet, I need at least 24-48 hours to study the bracket some more.

–OK, first off, all the No. 1 seeds are outstanding, and three of the four got very tough brackets, I think. The easiest region is the Midwest, where North Carolina has a cakewalk to the Elite 8, where they’ll play Kentucky, giving me yet another game where I wish both teams could lose, mutually assured destruction and all that. But the other three regions are incredibly difficult.

— First-round upsets I really like: Belmont as an 11 seed will beat Temple and then take out Maryland, a very young team. I really like No. 13 UC-Irvine over a Kansas State team that might be missing its best player (go Anteaters), and I might be crazy enough to pick Yale over LSU, because LSU’s coach Will Wade is suspended right now, Yale is very very good, and I’m scared to death LSU might beat Duke.

I definitely like New Mexico State, who’s won 30 games and is crazy-experienced, to beat Auburn.
One more upset I like but I’m not sure I can bring myself to pick yet: No. 12 Liberty over Mississippi State. Not because I don’t think it’ll happen, but I’m not sure if I can ever possibly pick Jerry Falwell’s school to win something. I hate him so much.

— A team you absolutely, positively should root against? No. 15 seed Bradley. Why? Just read this. Disgusting and disgraceful.

— Lower-seeded sleepers who could make a run: The afore-mentioned Lobos of New Mexico State, who will beat Auburn and then Kansas to get to the Sweet 16; No. 6 seeded Buffalo, who will take out either St. John’s or Arizona State, then possibly beat Texas Tech (I know, I’m wavering on that one, because I love Buffalo’s team but Tech is really, really good).
I like Wofford, too, as a 10 seed, but beating Kentucky in the second round is going to be very, very tough.

— First-round games that’ll be super fun to watch:

1.Marquette-Murray State should be terrific, with two amazing guards in Markus Howard (Marquette) going up against Ja Morant of Murray State. (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. EST, on TBS)

2. Wofford-Seton Hall will be all kinds of fun; the Pirates from Jersey are playing extremely well right now. (Thursday, 9:40 p.m. EST, CBS,
3. Utah State-Washington will be fascinating; the Aggies from Utah State are an outstanding, veteran team and the Huskies have slumped at the end of the season after being regular-season champions of a putrid PAC-12 conference. (Friday, 6:50 p.m. TNT)

— Best games we hopefully will see in the Tournament: Duke-Michigan State in the Elite 8 (if anyone got screwed in the seedings, it’s the Spartans, who could’ve made a strong case for a No. 1 seed) would be epic. Kentucky-UNC, as I mentioned earlier, would be a classic. Virginia-Tennessee in the Elite 8 would be tremendous, I have no idea who’d win that one.
Gonzaga-Florida State would be a rematch of last year when FSU drubbed the Zags; both teams are better this season.

–OK fine, best guess at a Final Four, if you made me choose right now: Duke in the East (duh), Michigan, maybe? in the West, Tennessee in the South, and the Tar Heels of North Carolina in the Midwest. But I don’t feel good about those at all.

Happy bracketing, y’all!

**Finally today, this gave me a good laugh Sunday. Not sure what city this is (looks like Asia based on the store writing) and some people on the Internet are saying it’s fake or staged, but I’m choosing to believe it’s real.
Because people who litter and throw shit out their window deserve to have what happened to this driver, happen to them.

Outstanding stuff.

Everybody into the pool! I give you some tips on winning your NCAA March Madness bracket. Federer gets “interrogated” by 50 kid reporters. And SNL with a pretty fantastic sketch on Ivanka Trump

Sing it with me now! It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year…

At least for me it is. After I just spent five amazing days at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last week covering the ACC basketball tournament (something I last covered in 2000), I am wiped out but incredibly excited for March Madness. (More on my strange back-in-time week as a sportswriter, including when I ran into Chris Christie twice and nearly got bulldozed by Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson in a hallway, in Wednesday’s post.)

Sunday night we learned who’s playing who, when, and where, and I have to say, usually on these nights I’m bitching and moaning about the selection committee snubbing a team badly, or drastically over or under-seeding somebody. But this year, I think the committee did a real good job. Wichita State and Wisconsin got jobbed, both should’ve been at least a 6 or 7 seed, and I can’t understand how a good Wake Forest team was made to play in the play-in game, but those are minor quibbles.

I know a majority of you are going to be filling out office pools this week, and you want to know which upsets to pick, who’s going to the Final Four, and all that stuff. So as I do every year, I am here to guide you, my fine reader. Last year’s opening rounds were insane (remember this shot from Northern Iowa?), so don’t expect nearly as much drama this time.

But we can hope.

Couple quick thoughts on the bracket; not ready to pick my Final Four yet, that’ll be Wednesday.

— OK, right off the bat a few upsets I like: UNC-Wilmington, a 12 seed in the East, to beat Virginia. UVA has really struggled lately and the Seahawks can really shoot. I could see No. 13 Bucknell beating No. 4 West Virginia (I always pick against Bob Huggins teams), No. 12 Middle Tennessee State (who shocked Michigan State last season) beating Minnesota, and maybe, maybe, No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 4 Florida. Also don’t be stunned if No. 14 Iona beats Oregon, or Winthrop beats Butler.

— As always, some tantalizing possible second-round matchups: Kentucky vs. Wichita State in a rematch from three years ago, when the Wildcats eliminated the then-undefeated Shockers; Duke-Marquette (Coach K vs. his old player, Steve Wojciechowski), and Louisville vs. Michigan. The loaded South bracket could give us Kentucky vs. UCLA in the Sweet 16 (think that might get some decent ratings), Arizona-Florida State in the Sweet 16 in the West would be tremendous, and a Kentucky-North Carolina Elite 8 game looms huge.

— Someone on the committee really, really hates Kansas. The Jayhawks got a brutally tough bracket, stuffed with No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Purdue, and a second-round game with either Miami or Michigan State. I don’t see the Jayhawks surviving all that.

–Meanwhile, my Duke boys, fresh off an improbable ACC Tournament championship, got a real nice draw. They could face old friend Steve Wojciechowski in Round 2, and Baylor in the Sweet 16, but really, Duke should get to the Elite 8 at least, where they’d play defending national champion Villanova. That would be sensational.

The madness begins in just a few days. Can’t wait!

**Next up today, any chance I get to show Roger Federer being awesome, and super-humble, I’m going to take it. The greatest tennis player of all time is in Indian Wells, Calif. this week for a pretty major tournament, and as part of promoting the event he did a “press conference” with 50 local 2nd-graders. It’s pretty hilarious and adorable, especially the end.

As the great Jon Wertheim said on Twitter, you can’t fake this level of engagement. What a great, fun little few minutes this is to watch.

And finally today, I haven’t seen “SNL” in a few weeks but they’re still turning out great, slightly subversive material. Over the weekend they did a fake commercial on Ivanka Trump called “Complicit,” and it’s pretty fabulous. The tagline, delivered with about 20 seconds left, is devastating.

The best show on TV, “The Americans” returns tonight! Looks like the end for Bernie, and Rubio. And my NCAA Tournament picks, guaranteed to be right


The best show on television returns to the air tonight after what seems like an interminable wait.

And if you’re not watching “The Americans” on FX by now, its fourth season, all I can say is “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU???”

Sorry to shout. But seriously, if you’re not watching, you’re missing some incredible television. Catch up on the first three seasons and you’ll get why myself, TV critics, and a small legion of fans are so addicted to this show.

When we last saw Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, our favorite Russian spies living in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, they were dealing with the fallout of telling their American teenage daughter who they really were, and of course she was stunned.

Daughter Paige then cracks after only a few episodes of having this knowledge, and in the season finale, told her good buddy Pastor Tim at her church group.

I have no idea what a stranger finally knowing this secret means for Phillip and Elizabeth, and for the incredible cast, like FBI agent Stan Beamon, Phillip’s fake “other wife” Martha, or the Russian embassy in D.C.

But what I do know is “The Americans,” with its incredible writing, powerful acting, and just all-around awesomeness, is a show more people really should be watching.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are amazing as the leads, and I’m very happy that Frank Langella and Margo Martindale appear to both be around this season.

“The Americans,” Wednesday night, 10 p.m. on FX. So psyched to have it back. And I’m going to keep writing about it until everyone watches it.


**The fat lady is in the back warming up, getting ready to sing.

That’s my No.1 reaction coming out of Tuesday night’s series of Presidential primaries. After a pretty incredible run, that literally no one besides he and his wife (and OK, my mother) saw coming, the end is here for Bernie Sanders.

My favorite old Jewish guy from Vermont and Brooklyn was trounced Tuesday night, losing four states and as of this writing, barely hanging on in Missouri. He really needed to sweep the Midwest to keep this Democratic primary a real contest, and he just didn’t.

I am sad. I’ll have many more thoughts, I’m sure, about Bernie Sanders, and what he’s accomplished in this remarkable few months to make the Democratic Party exciting again to millions of liberals like me. But it’s late and I’m tired and right now, I’m just sad.

Couple other primary night thoughts:

— Trump. Again. Now seeming even more inevitable. And what a giant “fuck you” for him to the world, and the media, to bring his disgusting campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, onto the podium for his victory speech a few days after he allegedly assaulted a female reporter, Michelle Fields. God, will the vast majority of the American people be motivated to vote against this guy. So, so motivated. Ezra Klein of Vox.com explains why Tuesday was such a fantastic night for Hillary on many levels.

— I was dead wrong about Marco Rubio, folks. I said on this blog and everywhere else that when all the dust settled, he’d be the nominee. Silly me, I thought he’d be the best general election candidate. But he wasn’t batshit crazy enough to win primaries, and he turned out to be a terrible campaigner.

— CNN and MSNBC, showing minute after minute of empty podium while waiting for Trump to speak, while Bernie Sanders actually speaks at a rally, tells you all you need to know about the cable news networks, doesn’t it?


**Finally today, my favorite four days of the year are about to commence! The NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday (yeah I know the play-in games started Tuesday but come on, the real tournament starts Thursday) and I can’t remember a harder year to fill out my bracket. I couldn’t find as many upsets as I wanted to, but I certainly couldn’t go “chalk” on my Final 4, like so, so many experts seem to have.

Without further ado, some quick thoughts on how I think it’ll shake out. Go ahead and pencil these into your office brackets, I’m never wrong (ha.)

Final 4: Michigan State, Oklahoma, Miami and Xavier. I just have a feeling about the Hurricanes, and Jim Larranaga is one hell of a coach. I’m going with Xavier because I don’t trust UNC’s guard play, and they are a hell of a team, the Musketeers. I’ve got Sparty winning the title.

First-round upsets I really think will happen: Iona over Iowa St. (if you only watch one first-round game, watch that one, 2 p.m. Thursday on TBS; final score may be 100-99); Yale over Baylor (Yale is really, really good); N. Iowa over Texas; and the whopper, Stephen F. Austin, a 14 seed, over West Virginia.

First-round upsets that could happen and I’m not picking them but you wouldn’t be crazy if you did: South Dakota State over Maryland (Terps have underachieved this year; they could go to the Final Four, or lose in first round); Gonzaga over Seton Hall; UNCW over Duke (my Blue Devils are very fragile right now).

— Surprise Sweet 16 teams, because there are always a few: No. 11 Northern Iowa, No. 6 Seton Hall (Pirates have great guards and have played a tough schedule well);

— Best game of the tournament will be: Virginia-Michigan State, for the third time in recent years, in the Elite 8. But Kentucky-Indiana could be lots of fun, too.

Enjoy the madness!

Everybody into the (NCAA Tournament) Pool! I give some early thoughts on a strange bracket. And Friends of Jaclyn gala is another beautiful, moving event


Sing it with me… It’s, the most wonderful time, of the year!

And a Happy Monday boys and girls, and welcome to a college basketball fan’s version of Christmas. Last night was Selection Sunday, when the 68 teams comprising this year’s NCAA Tournament were announced.

As usual, there was controversy over who got in (Tulsa? Syracuse?) and who got snubbed (Monmouth and St. Bonaventure have 100 percent legitimate gripes), but we’ll forget about that in a day or two once the games start.

As always, yours truly is here to help you break down the bracket and maybe win your office pool; finally last year after many years of finishing badly, I won an office pool for the first time. Which means I’ll probably finish 28th this year 🙂

I won’t give you my Final Four picks until Wednesday, not out of any sense of drama but because I like to take a few days to decide.

But I have lots of first-look thoughts on the bracket, and the Selection show.

— First of all, screw you, CBS, for taking a perfectly wonderful show and process and messing it up. They stretched the bracket selection show to two hours this year, and took forever in unveiling the teams and matchups. Happily, this awful experiment likely won’t be repeated, since someone on Twitter leaked the complete and accurate bracket about 30 minutes in. Gotta love the Internet.

— Toughest region to me looks like the South. Kansas is the No.1 overall seed, but they’ve got to deal with Villanova, Cal, Maryland and a very good Miami team. Brutal. The East is no picnic, either, for top seed UNC.

— Easiest region looks like the West. I know Oregon’s on a big winning streak, but I’m not sure they deserve a No.1 seed from a league that wasn’t great. Oklahoma has struggled, my Duke team isn’t playing great, and the No. 3 seed, Texas A&M, has had a breakthrough year but has little Tournament success in recent years. That region is wide open.

— Forgetting about the horrific snubs the Committee made (there are bad snubs every year), I thought the seeding was pretty strong. Maryland should’ve been higher than a 5 seed, and I think Iowa State got a very generous 4 seed, and I think Michigan State and star Denzel Valentine (that’s him, above) should’ve gotten a 1 seed, but nothing too egregious.

— I don’t expect much out of my Duke Blue Devils this year, but I’m a little torn on their first-round matchup against UNC-Wilmington. I lived in Wilmington for three years in the late 1990s when I worked for the Star-News and covered many of their games, so I still have a little soft spot for them. Lot of great friends I made then are still pals today. Still, I think Duke wins and then falls to a big, strong Baylor team in Round 2.

— Every year I hope and pray for a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed for the first time ever. I don’t see any 16’s capable this year, but Hampton might be able to give Virginia a game.

— As always, there are some fabulous possible 2nd-round matchups: Cal vs. Maryland would be superb, as would Kentucky-Indiana, and in a matchup destined to get huge ratings in Philly, Villanova could play St. Joseph’s.

— Looking for sleepers? Of course you are. I like Stephen F. Austin to upset West Virginia, I like Northern Iowa to maybe win two games, and watch out for Iona, they’ve got some solid NBA-level players and could absolutely beat Iowa State.


**Finally today, Saturday night my wife and I got to experience one of the highlights of our year, every year: I’ve written in this space several times before about the incredible organization called The Friends of Jaclyn, a group that pairs up children suffering from pediatric brain tumors with college sports teams across the U.S. It’s a wonderful charity filled with warm, loving people like the Murphy family (above), whose daughter Jaclyn is the namesake of the organization.

Saturday night, in front of hundreds of guests, we heard from children who’ve been fighting tumors from years, like the very brave Andrea Wojciechowski; from coaches who movingly talked about how the adoption process has changed the lives of their teams, and from the indefatigable Denis Murphy, Jaclyn’s Dad and the emotional heartbeat of FOJ.

As I’ve mentioned before, I write a weekly story for the group called “The FOJ Experience,” where I talk to adoptees and their teams about how FOJ has impacted them. Check it out here if you can.

FOJ is a wonderful, life-changing organization, and I couldn’t be prouder to support them with our time and money. Led by the fantastic, warm-hearted Executive Director Erin Perkins, FOJ has given hundreds of children happy experiences in times of such stress and pain, and seeing so many smiling faces Saturday night made me realize even more how important their mission is.

I wouldn’t ever tell my readers how to spend their money, but if you’re interested in helping FOJ or learning more about them, click here.

A heartwarming tale of a girls hoops team overcoming tragedy. A TV station gets creative with March Madness highlights. And the man who loved to high-five


What happens in a person’s life when his greatest triumph comes at nearly the exact same time as his greatest tragedy?

I can’t imagine the conflicting emotions, the joy and the pain, all blending together to make a temporary emotional stew that very few of us have to deal with at the same time.

I was thinking about that a lot last week, as I wrote what I think is my strongest story yet for ThriveSports.com, the new sports site I’ve been writing for, and plugging.

It’s about a New Mexico high school girls basketball coach named Greg Slover, who in the span of one week recently, lost his beloved wife to cancer, then won a state championship with Tatum High.

This was a pretty emotional story to write and report for me: I interviewed several players from the team, and Slover himself, over the phone for a long stretch of time. Would’ve loved to do such a difficult interview in person, but that wasn’t possible.

What I hope comes through in the story I wrote is the courage and love Slover displayed, for his wife and his team; the deep compassion and heart his squad of teenage girls showed the coach they loved, and what can happen in sports when kids feel like they’re playing for a cause greater than themselves.

Sappy and corny and sounding too much like a Hollywood script? Maybe. But it all really happened, which is what makes sports the best stage for human drama I’ve yet to find.

If you get a chance, go into the lives of the Tatum team for a few minutes today. Thanks.

**Next up today, I thought this was brilliant. One of the many, many rules CBS and the NCAA have when it comes to the NCAA Tournament is that non-CBS TV stations across the country aren’t allowed to show highlights of games until 24 hours after they happen.

So what’s Gainesville station WCJB, an ABC affiliate, to do when the Florida Gators are advancing and their viewers want to know what’s going on?
Easy. Just re-create the highlights of the game using people who work at the station.

Check out this short clip of what WCJB put together; I love it!

**And finally, a man named Andrew Maxwell-Parish put a GoPro camera atop a helmet on his head and recorded short video clips of himself hi-fiving strangers.
I was dubious, but this does seem like a really cool video: Amazing to see such a simple, everyday interaction filmed this way.


I’m here to help with your March Madness pool (I hope). And the man who literally couldn’t live without his wife


I watch way more college basketball than the average person. Maybe more than is healthy, but I love, love, love it.
Which is why I think the first two days of the NCAA Tournament should be declared national holidays, and we should all get it off while sitting at a bar eating and drinking with our heads on a swivel, watching all the action.

But since the government hasn’t yet declared that, I’ll just have to be happy watching it all for you.
Since I know you’re all in bracket office pools, let me give the lowdown on which upsets I think you should pick, which to stay away from, and who’s going to the Final Four. (The selection committee did a really good this year, except for screwing over Oregon (terrible to get a No. 12 seed) and Miami (absolutely should’ve been a No. 1 over Kansas).

And oh yeah, my Duke boys got stuck in the toughest bracket.

Still, I’d ask you to please forget that most of my upsets from last year didn’t pan out (except I DID have Ohio beating Michigan), and that I only got 1 of the Final Four right last year.

This has been a crazy season in college hoops, with upsets and surprises galore. The tourney should be no different.

This year, trust me, take these to the bank (a piggy bank, probably):

First-round upsets I feel confident you should pick:
No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Arizona
(Belmont’s got great shooters and Arizona’s on a downswing);
No. 13 South Dakota St. over Michigan (Wolverines have lost 2 straight, and S.D. State is a veteran team with a great player in Nate Wolters);
No. 14 Davidson over No. 3 Marquette (Davidson hasn’t lost since mid-January and is a tournament veteran; they won’t be scared of Marquette).
No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Oklahoma State: (Ducks got royally screwed with seeding, and though OK State is good, Oregon’s better).

First-round upsets I’m not picking but wouldn’t be surprised if they happen:
No. 11 Bucknell over No. 6 Butler (
Bucknell’s really good and have a giant-killing rep in the NCAAs)
No. 11 Middle Tenn. State over No. 6 Memphis: (Lot of people question MTSU being in, this would be an emphatic rebuttal)
No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Syracuse: Just have a feeling about this game; Syracuse was very erratic this season and could be ripe for the taking.

Surprise Sweet 16 teams:
— North Carolina: It kills me as a Duke fan to pick the Heels, but they’ll beat Kansas in the third round.
— Butler: I guess not so much of a surprise, but I like them over either Marquette or Davidson, if they survive Bucknell)
Best first-round games to watch:
— Akron vs. VCU:
Two really fun teams to watch, up and down, great defense, really good stuff.
— Temple-N.C. State: I have no idea what to expect from State, because I’ve watched a lot of their games. This could be a 20-point blowout either way, or a great game.
— UNC-Villanova: Two teams playing great going into the tournament.

My Final Four picks:

EAST: Michigan State (I hate to pick against Duke, but the draw is too tough. And Louisville is overrated)
WEST: Ohio State (almost by default, this region is really weak and I don’t think Gonzaga is ready for a Final 4 run)
SOUTH: Georgetown (Kansas will lose early, and I don’t like anyone better than the Hoyas here)
EAST: Miami (Should’ve been a 1 seed, and I think they take down Indiana in a classic Elite 8 game to reach the Final 4)
NATIONAL CHAMP: Miami (pictured above). Best, most experienced team, with a guard named Shane Larkin who, if you haven’t heard of him yet, you will very soon.

Good luck jumping into the pool, everyone! Can’t wait till Thursday.


**So this story sounds made up, like a Hollywood fairy tale done by Tim Burton or something (hat tip to my future mother in law for the heads-up on this story). In Cambridge,  N.Y., a burgh I have been in several times, an 89-year-old woman named Gwen Hendrickson (above, left) died last month.

Gwen was married to Norman Hendrickson for 65 years, and when she died, he was naturally heartbroken.
So heartbroken that on the day of Gwen’s funeral, Norman was found unresponsive in the back of the limo when it arrived at the funeral home.

According to this story, Norm had a “do not resuscitate” order on file, and so he was allowed to pass away at the funeral home, while mourners came in to pay their respects to Gwen.

Norm and Gwen’s daughters asked the funeral home director if they could put Norm in a box in the room where Gwen’s funeral would take place.

And then the kids posted a sign on the front door of the funeral home, saying “Surprise, it’s a double header!”
“Those who knew Norm say he also appreciated a good bargain.”

I can’t decide if that was a sweet gesture by the kids or a really bizarre one. At the very least, it was courteous to the mourners, who now no longer had to schlep back there for Norm’s funeral.
But still … that’s kind of creepy, isn’t it?

The NCAA leaves the Tournament (basically) alone. A weird Nike commercial. And a baseball player who flew.

Well, color me surprised.

Ever since the NCAA poo-bahs floated the idea that they were thinking of expanding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams, I figured it was a done deal.

Never mind that it was a stupid, idiotic, why mess with success idea. One of the dumbest, craziest ideas the NCAA has ever come up with.

The Tournament is perfect, a wonderful three-week march to a champion. But money talks, so of course the NCAA was going to expand, take more TV money, and put more undeserving teams into the Big Dance.

As a diehard college basketball fan (you may have heard I like Duke), I was awaiting the inevitable: the destruction of March Madness as we knew it.

But well well well, the NCAA actually got one right. Thursday it was announced that the Tournament is only expanding by three teams, to 68.

I can live with that. Sure, a few more low-major schools like Winthrop and East Tennessee State will get screwed by having to play those stupid play-in games, but the Tournament’s beauty remains intact.

Much like Pat Forde on ESPN.com, I’m not sure if the NCAA actually did this because they listened to the howls of protest from fans and media, or they just scared us by threatening 96, without really meaning it.

Either way, I’m very happy with the outcome. Bravo, NCAA.

**So I was pretty puzzled by that Nike Tiger Woods commercial, and this one seems equally strange, but a little cooler and easier to understand. Athletes’ heads and hearts in different bodies while playing different sports. Pretty cool.

**Finally, how great is this slide by Fordham University baseball player Brian Kownacki in a recent game? Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

My first thoughts on the Madness bracket. And our pop culture hits a new point

This was a strange job done by the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Usually, I yell and scream about teams they left out, and some awful teams that they put in.

But this year, with the exception of Florida not being deserving (9-9 in a bad SEC, and they still got in) and Illinois or Va. Tech getting unfairly snubbed, I thought they did very well with picking the field of 65.

But man, the seeding of the teams was horrendous. Beyond horrendous. Truly, mind-blowingly bad. Before I get to the things I like about the brackets, and some early upset picks (can’t give you my Final Four yet, that takes a few days of stewing), here are the most puzzling seeding choices:

— I love Duke more than anyone, but they should’ve been a 2. And West Virginia should’ve been a 1 seed.

— Temple at 5, and Cornell at 12, were both woefully underseeded. Both should’ve been a few spots higher

— Gonzaga is way too good to be an 8 seed. And Notre Dame isn’t worthy of a 6 seed. And you’re telling me Michigan State is only a 5?

— Finally, the committee totally went against its own rules. Sometimes it gave teams who finished strong an advantage (like Ohio State getting a 2). Other times it ignored the end of the season (slumping Villanova got a 2).

And they gave Kansas, the No.1 overall seed, the toughest bracket. The top team is supposed to get the easiest bracket, but Duke, the No.3 overall seed, has the easiest road.

OK, now some good things. I love a few of the 4-13 games for upset possibilities. I can totally see Siena beating Purdue, and Murray State knocking off Vanderbilt. The potential is there for some great 2nd-round games, like Michigan State-Maryland, and Duke-Louisville, and Syracuse-Gonzaga.

As for Duke, I absolutely cannot complain. The only team that truly scares me in their bracket is Baylor, a really good team. Villanova’s slumping big-time, Purdue won’t survive Round 1,and Texas A &M is up and down. As worried as I am about some of Duke’s weaknesses that showed in their ACC Tournament win (Jon Scheyer’s exhausted, nobody on the team is shooting well), I think this is the best possible draw to the Final Four I could’ve hoped for.

Three more days until Thursday. Move, calendar, move!

**So you ever watch something on television and think, “Future generations are really going to be frightened about what we found entertaining?”

Well, I had one of those moments Sunday night. I watched the new NBC show “Minute to Win It.”

I feel this might be the dumbest thing we’ve ever put on the air, and this is coming from a guy who sat through two whole episodes of that Paris Hilton-Nicole Richie “Simple Life” show.

If you were fortunate enough to miss it, here’s a quick recap: It’s a game show, hosted by the super-enthusiastic Guy Fieri. They pick a contestant well in advance, and have them learn and practice 10 mind-numbingly bizarre tasks. Then, on stage in front of an audience, the contestant has to repeat those tasks and do them successfully in one minute.

Some of the tasks on the show I saw Sunday? A man had to pick 150 tissues out of a box, one by one, using only one hand. The same man having to bounce a ping-pong ball off three plates, one at a time, and into a fishbowl.

And still the same man, in perhaps my most jaw-dropping moment of the show, having a pedometer stuck on his forehead, must do 125 head-nods in 60 seconds.

If the contestant can complete 10 of these challenges, they win $1 million.

Seriously, this is a sad, sad moment for our culture. I mean come on, pulling tissues out of a box is entertainment? Picking up paper bags with you teeth, like the woman below?

I don’t weep for the future. I weep for the present, that crap like this is put on network TV. And this is coming from a guy who loves game shows!

Somewhere, Wink Martindale watched this and wept silently into his Metamucil.

My Holy Day has arrived. And my latest brilliant book idea (that no one’s thought of)

Oh, today is such a glorious, glorious day.

Catholics have Easter. Jews have Yom Kippur.

College basketball fans have Selection Sunday. It is our holy day. A day that kicks off the most wonderful, exciting, thrilling sports event in all of the land.

You can have your Super Bowl, your Masters, your Daytona 500, or your World Series. All of those sporting events are great, no argument here.

But give me the NCAA Tournament every day and twice on Sunday, because it’s better than all of ’em. Nothing tops the excitement of the NCAAs. Sixty-four teams, all with a chance. Sixty-four teams, all thinking they can be the Cinderella, and be like George Mason of 2006, or LSU of 1986, or the ultimate miracle team, Villanova 1985.

Give me Keith Smart hitting the championship winner in 1987 for Indiana, or Bryce Drew sinking a crazy 3-pointer for Valparaiso over Mississippi State. Give me driving layups by nobodies from Hampton U. over Iowa State, and give me Danny Manning, carrying Kansas on his back in 1988, all the way to a national title.

Today, the madness truly begins. The word brackets will be uttered so often in the next three weeks, you’ll never want to hear it again. Today the field of 65 (including the play-in game, which is a truly stupid thing the NCAA started a few years ago) is announced, and I’ll be on the edge of my seat, with a pen and paper in hand as Greg Gumbel announces the four regional brackets.

(Why, you may ask, in this age of the Internet, do I still write down the brackets? My wife asks the same thing every year. I do it because I like to look at and study the bracket immediately, during the commercials CBS takes to draw this thing out. Yes, I’m crazy, but I don’t want to wait until the whole thing is revealed to look at it).

I can’t wait to see if Duke gets the No.1 seed it deserves. I can’t wait to see where Siena and Murray State, two teams I’m dying to pick in upsets this year, get placed. And I can’t wait until, a few days from now, all my prognostications go up in smoke as at least one of my Final Four teams is eliminated on the opening weekend.

This is utopia. This is heaven on Earth. This is the NCAA Tournament, and I love it so.

(And yes, of course I’m putting Duke’s last national championship in 2001 up there as my “One Shining Moment” of the day. I’m trying for a good omen here.)

So one day last week my wife comes home and tells me about one of her kids vomiting all over the school nurse, and her floor, after falling ill.

This comes after a few years of hearing stories about kids who almost made it to the nurse’s office when about to hurl, or about kids who said they were fine only, well, they weren’t fine.

And then a lightbulb went off in my head: Wouldn’t it be wildly entertaining to read a book written by an elementary school nurse? Think about it: These wonderful souls, who minister to the little ones, see all kinds of excitement: Lice, kids with fever, kids throwing up, kids fainting. I mean, it’s like a carnival in there!

I swear there’s a bestseller just waiting to be penned. School nurses, I’m here for you if you need a ghostwriter.