There is no logic, reason or explanation for the first four days of the men's NCAA basketball tournament. Two rounds, 48 games and one simple fact: The madness of March has become craziness.
How upside-down is this year's field? Well, hypothetically, if we had a pool at the TFP, let's just say one of the three people tied for first would be a writer who finished last each of the last two years. Hypothetically, let's say a particular sports editor was 63rd out of 69. Hypothetically, this is not good.
Well, the numbers don't lie -- this tournament is nuts -- and here's the countdown to prove it going into the Sweet Sixteen.
16 -- The number of teams left in the draw. Last week, if you had projected these 16, well, you would be leading your office pool by a mile. ESPN's bracket contest had more than 4.2 million entries and just 56 had perfect runs through the first day of the tournament. After the first two rounds, there were zero perfect entries.
15 -- Matt Bouldin's uniform number. Gonzaga's 87-65 loss to Syracuse was the senior's final college game. He had become the face of the nation's annual Cinderella, but he finished 3-of-13 from the field. (Yes, I picked the Zags in an upset, and, no, I'm not bitter about it.)
14 -- The seed of the mighty Ohio Bobcats, who dismantled Georgetown in round one and paved the way for Tennessee to reach the final 16. If OU had topped UT, it would have been only the third No. 14 seed to make the Sweet Sixteen and the first since UT-Chattanooga did it in 1997.
13 -- Points scored by Michigan State reserve Korie Lucious in the Spartans' dramatic win over Maryland. Lucious, subbing for injured point guard Kalin Lucas, hit the winning 3 at the buzzer in the 85-83 win over the Terps.
12 -- The seed of the Cornell gaming men who have their sights on Kentucky. Cornell -- the one saving grace of my bracket -- toppled Temple and Wisconsin and became the first Ivy League representative to get this far since Penn reached the Final Four in 1979.
11 -- Number of conferences with teams still alive. The Big Ten has the most with three teams still chasing a trip to Indy and the Final Four.
10 -- Number of Final Four trips for Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski. If the Blue Devils can win two more games this weekend, Coach K would move into a tie with Dean Smith for second on the men's list behind John Wooden, who made 12 trips as UCLA's head coach.
9 -- Shout if you had No. 9-seeded Northern Iowa beating everyone's darling, Kansas. Nope, didn't think so.
8 -- The number of seniors on Cornell's roster. This team is tight, even to the point that two hours before a game last weekend they were going through layup drills with an imaginary ball because NCAA rules prevented them from the extra practice. All they need is Ollie and Strap and Shooter and these boys are ready for all comers.
7 -- Number of NCAA titles for Kentucky, which has looked every bit the part of the heavy with less than two weeks left. Make the most of it, Cats fans, in what will all but surely be the only season for freshmen sensations John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
6 -- Number of Big East teams that bid farewell in the opening weekend. The conference that was hailed as the best throughout the year has just two teams, Syracuse and West Virginia, left in the field.
5 -- Number of correct picks out of eight Sunday games on President Barack Obama's bracket. He correctly predicted nine of the Sweet Sixteen.
4 -- The seed of still-chugging-along Purdue, which was given little shot of making it this far after losing team leader Robbie Hummel last month.
3 -- Bobby Maze's number. The UT point guard, who looks a whole bunch like Allen Iverson, is one of several Vols, along with J.P. Prince and Stephen Pearl, who are willing to do the dirty work that has catapulted them within a win of moving into the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
2 -- The margin of victory of two of the best games in recent tournament history Sunday. Heck, it seems that anything more than a two-point win in this year's bracket is a blowout.
1 -- The spot everyone wants, old No. 1. With Kansas out, Kentucky appears to be the team to beat -- but remember, I'm 63rd in the pool. Hypothetically.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...