Shanoff's W.U.C.: Love-Hate With Your Bracket

Today's Calls: Morehead State vs. the Play-In Game, UNC vs. Louisville vs. Pitt, Jay Cutler vs. Josh McDaniels, Josh Freeman vs. Matt Stafford, Bryce Brown vs. SEC defenses, Team USA vs. Quitting and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The Tuesday of NCAA Tournament week is for self-doubt. ↵

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↵You take a look at that bracket you so confidently filled out yesterday -- and suddenly you wonder what you were thinking. ↵

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↵• Picking UNC to NOT win its region? (Most folks -- including the bookies -- have them winning not just the South, but the whole thing.) ↵

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↵• Picking UCLA to upset Villanova? (In Philadelphia?! When they might not even get out of the 1st round vs. VCU?!) ↵

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↵• Picking Duke to lose in the opening weekend? (Yes, picking that same result the past two years has been entirely successful, but this year's team is much better than the past two versions. Oh, and they are playing the opening weekend in North Carolina. ↵

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↵• Picking 5 Big East teams to the Elite Eight, 3 to the Final Four, 2 to the championship game and the Big East winning the title? (There is appreciating how good the Big East was this year, and then there is putting my entire bracket on the line for the league.) ↵

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↵• Picking no 1st-round upsets beyond "non-upset" 12s, 10s and 9s, even though we all know that 11-seeds and even a 13-seed are likely to upend the bracket. ↵

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↵These are just the kind of picks that have me shaking my head the day after they don't happen, muttering "Well OBVIOUSLY, idiot!" ↵

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↵You have two choices: Stick to your picks and hope for the best -- or wuss out and embrace conventional thinking. ↵

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↵I like the former. Each year, it is the ultimate moment of rationalizing what is otherwise an exercise in crazy. ↵

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↵I admit it: I love the NCAA Tournament "Play-In" Game. Partly, it is because it signals the start of the Tournament. For sure, it is because of the utter absurdity that office-pool brackets don't even bother to make you pick a winner, because it is such a given that they will lose to whatever No. 1 team they are lined up against. But the Play-In winner enjoys one thing that 32 teams in the field won't: Winning a game in the NCAA Tournament. (Pick: Morehead State.) ↵

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↵Upset Watch: No. 12 Western Kentucky over No. 5 Illinois. Not just because of the classic "5-12" upset dynamic, but because Illinois PG Chester Frazier is likely to miss the game with a hand injury. (Just throw him out there to run around and play D -- who needs hands?) ↵

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↵National favorite: UNC. The Heels are the most popular choice to win it all with the fans. Obviously, it all comes down to the status of Ty Lawson; otherwise, the Heels aren't even better than FSU. (Meanwhile, AccuScore projects Pitt will win it all.) ↵

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↵Mike DeCourcy and I have disagreed about many things during this basketball season. It's nice that he agrees with me that Louisville will win the national title. (Of course, we have differences: He has Duke in the Final Four; I can't bring myself to take Duke out of the first weekend.) ↵

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↵Jay Cutler Watch: Where to begin? ↵

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↵• Florio is right: Why are the Broncos rolling over for Cutler? Pat Bowlen is the best owner in the NFL; why is he suddenly turning into a flake? ↵

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↵• Josh McDaniels learning pains: The rookie coach is trying to run the Broncos like Bill Belichick runs the Pats -- but McD just doesn't have the juice yet to pull that off. ↵

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↵• So where will Cutler end up? The Lions are reported to be interested (heck: a dozen teams are reported to be interested), and it would be a great fit -- Cutler is better than any QB the Lions could pick up in the draft or free agency in the next few years. ↵

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↵Julius Peppers to the Pats? That just doesn't seem fair, does it? If the Panthers want to give themselves -- and everyone else -- a chance to win the Super Bowl next season, they won't send a player as good as Peppers to a team as motivated as the Patriots. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Is Josh Freeman the new Matt Stafford? (I appreciate why the Jets are taking a look at the Kansas State QB, but if they need a QB -- and they do -- why aren't they a player for Jay Cutler? Never mind that Cutler would never make it in NYC; the guy can't even manage Denver.) ↵

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↵CFB Recruiting: Bryce Brown to Tennessee. I will concede that Lane Kiffin has had an instant impact on Vols recruiting. Of course, it is easy to promise extensive playing time to the nation's top high school seniors -- crack for recruits -- when the roster he inherited is so limited. ↵

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↵No surprise: Florida State is going to appeal the portion of NCAA sanctions that includes forfeiting wins. FSU's logic is that it wasn't Bobby Bowden's fault there was widespread academic fraud. Nope, he's just a simple football coach; he doesn't have ANY say about his players' conduct at all. ↵

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↵MLB: What would be more humiliating than Team USA losing by the "mercy rule" in the World Baseball Classic? How about the U.S. simply quitting because they are suffering too many injuries? You can see it now: No team will EVER let its star player participate for Team USA again. ↵

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↵More WBC: See? Replay works in baseball! (Um, sort of!) ↵

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↵Fantasy Watch: I have the No. 1 overall pick in my league this year (randomly, although it is apt because I finished in the cellar last season). I hear that Hanley Ramirez is the hot pick to go first overall, so should I be concerned about this? ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: OK, so the Thunder aren't quite better off without Kevin Durant than with him. In fact, the team seems to have developed quite nicely while he was sitting out, injured, because with him back in the lineup, they just pulled off their best win of the season, edging the Spurs. ↵

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↵Must-Read: Spencer Hall on why college football can never have its own "Madness." (Hint: It's the economy, stupid.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I really do think it's wide open. I think any of us can get beat. I don't think there's a dominant team out there." -- Rick Pitino on the unpredictability of this year's NCAA Tournament. ↵

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↵(Great: Just what I want to hear from the coach of the team I picked to win it all.) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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