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Sports Column: My March madness

Time of death… 10:55 a.m. March 21…

Just about the same time the Mercer Bears defeated Duke, I ripped up my 2014 NCAA tournament bracket.

I had missed my chance at Warren Buffet’s $1 billion when No. 11 seed Dayton flew by No. 6 Ohio State, but I was still looking good with only three misses in Thursday games. I yelled to my dad before going to bed on Thursday, “This is one of the best days I’ve had in a few years and I still have all of my sweet 16 teams.”

I spoke too soon…

Not only was I humbled by my beloved Cornhuskers going yet another year without an NCAA tournament victory, No. 11 seed Nebraska lost to No. 6 Baylor 74-60, but I missed the first three games on Friday including No. 15 seed Mercer’s upset of No. 2 Duke.

…Mercer…Who is Mercer?

For those of you like me who know nothing of the team that ended my chance to be the best bracketologist in my family, Mercer is a private university in Macon, Ga., and was ranked first by US News and World Report as the best value among comprehensive universities in the southern United States in 2012. The school’s colors are black and orange and their mascot is Toby the bear. Famous alumni include author Steve Berry and Nancy Grace.

Each year, the NCAA tournament is responsible for me gaining knowledge about some obscure university whose point guard hit a 3-pointer to lift them over a tradtional powerhouse like Kansas or Syracuse or UCLA and my temporary insanity.

The insanity for me first started back in 1995. I have always been in love with all things sports so it did not take too much convincing from my dad for me to watch the games. The night before the tournament started I cut the bracket out of the newspaper and glued it to some cardboard. With every game I would watch closely and track the final score. I started rooting for Bryant “Big Country” Reeves and Oklahoma State and can still remember watching the final four game between the Cowboys and eventual champion UCLA.

I started my attempt at picking the eventual champion in high school when my math teacher held a pool with many of us students. I had an early lead when Tulsa, a 13 seed that year, beat Dayton, but my lead didn’t last. My lead never seems to last. I ran a bracket pool at two different colleges and I even headed one up at my last job in Buffalo, Wyo., yet I’ve never won a bracket pool, ever.

So, a couple of years ago, I decided to be desperate. I would pick one bracket with all of the knowledge from watching several bracketology programs, researching schedules and common opponents and just gut feelings. Next, I would pick one bracket simply on which mascot would win in a fight. I had to search Mercer’s nickname just so I could pick that a blue devil would beat a bear…I didn’t say the mascot bracket was always a better way. Each of the first two years my mascot bracket out performed my knowledge bracket in the first two rounds. I had to test the hypothesis further, did knowledge ever win out in the pool. So this year, I put it to the ultimate test and picked on what team colors I liked best. Wouldn’t you know that in the first round my color bracket only had seven misses, while my knowledge bracket had nine. It was a bad year for the mascot bracket as I missed 14 games.

My experiment in bracketology has proved to me once and for all that the NCAA mens basketball tournament is surely madness. But it is because of this madness that I continue to come back. Could you imagine how boring the tournament would be if Duke, Florida, Kansas, Arizona and Syracuse won every time they were favored? Who would want to watch that? I think even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would get tired of winning. Well. maybe not.

No matter how much madness ensues, there is nothing more fun, in my mind, than picking an NCAA bracket. If you haven’t done it before, give it a try next year. Just don’t put too much thought into it. Next year, I am pulling out all the stops and going for the win. I plan on picking by which team has the most vowels in its name, which team has the tallest point guard, which college’s tuition is highest and maybe even which team has the shorter coach, anything but knowledge. That just doesn’t work.