By Tommy Hicks
Remember what I said last week about No. 1 overall seed Virginia being the right choice to win the NCAA basketball tournament? Well, uh … nevermind.
Virginia let me down, and I would guess a lot of other people as well. And it did so in historic fashion, becoming the first No. 1 seed — not to mention the No. 1 overall seed — to lose to a No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament.
And that would be just the first of many wrong choices for me. My bracket isn’t merely busted, it’s imploded. I had my copy of the bracket filled out and resting on a TV dinner tray next to the couch where I was seated, watching tournament games, and without warning — and completely on its own — it caught fire sometime late Saturday night. On Sunday, another bracket I hadn’t even filled out did the same.
I am glad I don’t do this for a living. Oh, wait. …
What I really mean is I’m glad I don’t actually put any money down on such a venture for a living. I wouldn’t last more than a couple of hours in Vegas with this kind of proficiency.
I should be upset that I selected so many teams that are no longer in the hunt for the national championship. I should be greatly disappointed that not only is my bracket busted, it’s a disaster. And I placed my bracket before the public to enjoy — and make mention — my obvious inability to gauge championship potential.
Instead, I’m thrilled.
No, seriously, I am. I can live with the fact my bracket has more problems than the a Kardashian family picnic because it’s what makes March Madness so great; it’s the Madness feature.
It’s easy to pull for the favorites you selected to make it to the Final Four and chase yet another national title for their school, but it’s a heck of a blast to watch the underdogs step up, even if it’s just for one win, and take another step forward in the tournament.
And man do I have a lot of “other” teams to pull for as we head into the Sweet 16 aspect of the tournament; by that, I mean teams I didn’t pick to be here.
How bad is my bracket? Well, it starts with Virginia, which I picked to win the national title, then it goes to the fact that the team I picked to reach the title game with Virginia — that would be Michigan State — is also out of the tournament.
The left-hand side of my bracket is a bloodbath. Of the teams in those regions — South and West — that are still alive, I picked exactly one to be there. Thank you, Gonzaga. I had Virginia playing Arizona, instead it’s Kansas State against Kentucky. I had Miami taking on Cincinnati, instead it will be Loyola-Chicago against Nevada. I had Xavier facing Gonzaga, but it’s Florida State as Gonzaga’s opponent. And I had Michigan (which I also had headed to the Final Four, losing to Virginia in the national semifinals) going against North Carolina, only to have Michigan survive but facing Texas A&M.
That’s right, I know my college basketball.
The other side of the bracket isn’t as bloody but is no less unimpressive. I actually had the Villanova-West Virginia matchup selected (I picked West Virginia to win) but I had Florida playing Arkansas below it, instead of the actual Texas Tech-Purdue matchup that will take place. I had Kansas playing Auburn, but instead Kansas will play Clemson. I had Michigan State facing Duke, but the Blue Demons instead will take on Syracuse.
So yeah, the bracket is kablooey. Virginia won’t be playing Michigan in the national semifinals, though Michigan could make it. West Virginia won’t be playing Michigan State in the other semifinal, though West Virginia could make it. So basically, my national semifinal losers could face each other in the actual national title game.
I do know this much: If the rest of the tournament is as exciting and fun as the first week of play, we’ll all win. There have been great games and great story lines and there should be more on the way. Embrace the Madness. How cool would it be if Loyola-Chicago made it to the Final Four? Or Syracuse after having to play in the First Four portion of the tournament just to reach the regular 64-team bracket? There’s Gonzaga and Texas A&M, though at best one could be eliminated by the other, and there’s Nevada, too.
I don’t miss Arizona or North Carolina or Virginia or Michigan State not being in the Sweet 16.
I could call a re-do and pick the tournament winners from here on out. … Nahhh. I’ll just enjoy the games instead.
Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at