The champions of the
are done. As are
As is my bracket — more on that bloodletting in a moment.
First, some reflections on the
's first weekend and the remaining regional semifinalists.
As always, the opening rounds belonged to the obscure, charming and sneaky good underdogs that make this event unique.
, Duke and
faithful will disagree, but a hat tip to Norfolk State, Lehigh and Ohio.
As only the fifth No. 15 seed to advance in 28 years, Norfolk State was set to own the national headlines Friday with its conquest of Missouri. But No. 15 Lehigh crashed the party two hours later by dismissing Duke.
Ohio, a 13 seed, dumped Michigan and
to reach Friday's Midwest Regional semifinals against
' run figures to end there, whether or not injured Tar Heels point guard
(fractured right wrist) can play.
But programs such as Ohio, Lehigh and Norfolk State can and do unearth prospects who morph into older, experienced teams capable of chasing the big dogs off the porch. Case in point: Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum.
After McCollum torched Duke for 30 points, I emailed American coach Jeff Jones, whose Eagles faced the Mountain Hawks three times this season. McCollum scored 83 points in those three games.
Jones, a former
coach, replied that McCollum is "definitely" a first-round
"I told six
[scouts] he's good enough for the last month," Jones wrote. "Two of them called me today to thank me for making them look good [to their bosses]!"
were the only conference champions to survive the weekend, joining 13 league tournament losers in the Sweet 16. So much for March momentum, ey?
The Big 12's Missouri was the highest-profile champ to fall, while
became the first ACC tournament winner since
in 2004 to exit before the regional semifinals.
The whims of March never were more evident than in Seminoles guard Michael Snaer, the most valuable player of the ACC tournament and the conference's best clutch shooter this season. He went scoreless, missing seven shots from the field, in Florida State's escape against
, and managed only 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting in the loss to
on Thursday in an East semifinal matching the only programs to face one another in consecutive national championship games. The Bearcats defeated the Buckeyes in the 1961 and '62
With Cincinnati and
— a nasty brawl marred the rivals' annual game this season — the Queen City succeeds
as this year's basketball capital. Last season, VCU and the University of Richmond reached the regional semifinals.
The Sweet 16 includes four teams each from the
, two each from the Big 12, ACC and SEC, plus one from the
and Mid-American. Not precisely what my bracket envisioned.
I knew it was going to be a rough four days when my upset pick for Thursday's very first game,
, crashed against Murray State by 17. Later that evening, Long Beach State, a Sweet 16 hunch, lost by seven to New Mexico.
In all, I misfired on 13-of-32 games Thursday and Friday, acceptable accuracy only if you're
at the foul line. Eleven of my Sweet 16 advanced, including
, but not Final Four selection Florida State.
If granted a mulligan, I'd take Ohio State to win the East and join
at the Final Four.
None is a New Orleans lock. These are: the char-grilled oysters at Drago's and alligator cheesecake at Jacques-Imo's.