Shanoff's WUC: Bracket Gets Its Madness Back

Today's Calls: Sweet 16 vs. Exiled 49, Cornell vs. Northern Iowa, Kansas vs. Ali Farokhmanesh, Purdue vs. Doubters, Your Bracket vs. the National Bracket (or the Obama Bracket), Joe Mauer vs. Minnesota and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: "So how's your bracket look?" ↵

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↵Annually, on the Monday following the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, it is THE topic of conversation. This year, however, feels different. Like the answer should be: ↵

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↵"Who cares?" ↵

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↵Everyone's bracket has been impacted by the monumental Kansas upset, in one form or another. Anyone with Kansas as a champ -- or even as a Final Four team -- got nicked. (If you picked Kentucky or Syracuse to win it all? Well, the rest of us don't want to hear your gloating.) ↵

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↵But the fact is that whoever wins -- short of a Northern Iowa-Cornell national title game -- this Tournament already has been defined by its presumptive champ getting bounced out in the first weekend. ↵

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↵It reclaims the NCAA Tournament from the tyranny of the last three years -- 2007 and 2009, when the obvious team won the championship, and 2008, that debilitating all-1-seed Final Four. ↵

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↵We get back the most precious element of the Tournament, even more essential than Cinderellas or buzzer-beaters: ↵

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↵The unexpected. ↵

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↵The Hero of the First Two Rounds: Ali Farokhmanesh. Give him credit for canning that game-sealing 3 against Kansas, but don't call it crazy; it was precisely the most optimal decision, given the circumstances. ↵

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↵The Team of the First Two Rounds: Cornell. I appreciate Northern Iowa dispatching KU, but Big Red destroyed one of the best defensive teams of the Tournament field. Which is a nice segue ... ↵

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↵The Best Sweet 16 Game to Look Forward To: Kentucky vs. Cornell. UK doesn't play better defense than Wisconsin, and they better figure out a way to have their superior athletes stop those Cornell shooters. ↵

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↵If you like the idea of Northern Iowa advancing to the Elite Eight (or further), then you took note of the injury to Kalin Lucas, Michigan State's PG and star, which might keep him out of the next round (if not longer). ↵

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↵(Good Read: DeCourcy on the Sweet 16 matchups.) ↵

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↵Mea Culpa: To Purdue fans out there, congrats. Given how over-seeded the Boilermakers were, this is like a double-digit seed making the Sweet 16. (And trust me: I will be rooting like crazy for Purdue vs. Duke.) ↵

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↵Bracket Update: Despite picking Kansas as my national champ -- which will catch up with me a week from now -- I am in the 93rd percentile nationally, on the strength of picking Washington, Xavier and Butler to my Sweet 16. ↵

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↵Obama Bracket: He is also in the 93rd percentile and similarly will have a pick of Kansas to win it all catch up with him eventually. But, like me, he also has Villanova in his Final Four. Yikes. (He does still have K-State.) ↵

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↵If you followed the "National Bracket" consensus, you would be treading water in the 55th percentile. These first two rounds were not a particularly good showcase for the "wisdom" of the crowd. ↵

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↵If you could start your bracket from scratch with the Sweet 16, your Final Four should be: Syracuse (over Xavier), Kentucky (over WVU), Duke (over St. Mary's) and Northern Iowa (over Ohio St). ↵

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↵Tiger Talks: More of the same kind of opacity that hurt him in the first place. "I've done some pretty bad things" feels like the understatement of the year, and his unwillingness to be more open will continue to keep fans from truly trusting him. (Not Tom Rinaldi's fault; Tiger looked typically evasive.) ↵

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↵Then again, simply going on the Masters course in a few weeks will change everything in ways that interviews simply can't. (I actually liked Tiger admitting that the crowd reaction has him a little nervous.) But no one actually thinks these interviews are anything but yet another contrived PR stunt. ↵

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↵(By the way: Apparently, Ari Fleischer is out as Tiger's PR guru. Unclear whether Fleischer quit or Tiger axed him. Either way, Tiger hasn't made as effective a PR move yet as getting rid of him.) ↵

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↵MLB: Twins lock up Mauer. 8Y/$184M feels like a bargain. He is the face of the franchise and arguably the best player in the AL for the next decade. Most of all, no more "He'll look great in Yankee pinstripes!" comments. ↵

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↵Spring Training: Strasburg sent to minors. We all knew this was coming. The only question is: When is he coming back up? May? Later? No use wasting him on minor-league starts when he is MLB-ready right now. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: With Sam Bradford's Pro Day workout still a week away, doesn't it seem a bit premature to tab him as worth the No. 1 overall pick? I still contend his gimpy shoulder has at least a 50/50 chance of not holding up under pressure from NFL d-linemen. (It couldn't hold up against college linemen.) ↵

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↵NFL Owners Meetings: Let's hope that the owners are serious about fixing the OT system -- at least as it relates to playoff games. Under the current system, a Super Bowl humiliatingly decided by the randomness of a coin flip is "when," not "if." ↵

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↵CBB Coaching Carousel: St. John's is not going to get Billy Donovan. Instead, they should focus their energies on the absolute best fit for the program: Memphis's Josh Pastner. If anyone can unlock the city's talent pipeline, it is Pastner, who might be the most energetic, connected and skilled recruiter in college basketball. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "It was all me. I'm the one who did it. I'm the one who acted the way I acted. No one knew what was going on when it was going on." -- Tiger Woods, to the Golf Channel. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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