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Busted brackets, sneaky good underdogs remain part of NCAA tournament's charm

The champions of the

ACC

,

Big 12

,

Pacific 12

and

Southeastern Conference

are done. As are

Duke

and

Connecticut

.

As is my bracket — more on that bloodletting in a moment.

First, some reflections on the

NCAA tournament

'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.

Missouri

, Duke and

Michigan

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

South Florida

to reach Friday's Midwest Regional semifinals against

North Carolina

. The

Bobcats

' run figures to end there, whether or not injured Tar Heels point guard

Kendall Marshall

(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

Virginia

coach, replied that McCollum is "definitely" a first-round

NBA draft

choice.

"I told six

NBA

[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]!"

Ohio,

Louisville

and

Michigan State

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

Florida State

became the first ACC tournament winner since

Maryland

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

St. Bonaventure

, and managed only 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting in the loss to

Cincinnati

.

Cincinnati encounters

Ohio State

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

NCAA

finals.

With Cincinnati and

Xavier

— a nasty brawl marred the rivals' annual game this season — the Queen City succeeds

Richmond

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

Big East

and

Big Ten

, two each from the Big 12, ACC and SEC, plus one from the

Atlantic 10

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,

Colorado State

, 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

Shaquille O'Neal

at the foul line. Eleven of my Sweet 16 advanced, including

North Carolina State

, but not Final Four selection Florida State.

If granted a mulligan, I'd take Ohio State to win the East and join

Kansas

,

Kentucky

and

Marquette

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.

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

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