The NCAA basketball tournament is about numbers. Points and scores, wins and losses, it's math at its most enjoyable.
Two rounds become a Sweet Sixteen that turns into an Elite Eight. With four games in the books for the four teams still with the chance to be the one that is No. 1, there is but one truth. One team wins, the rest lose, and that's the way it always will be.
Still, degrees and shades of gray are a magical part of March. The near-upsets are nearly as memorable and certainly as enjoyable depending on your bracket.
The almosts and not-quites have become the heartbeat of the final few minutes of the tournament heart-stoppers. Horseshoes be danged: There are winners -- and losers -- from the first two weekends who already have put the equipment away for the summer and won't be playing in Indianapolis.
Winner: Wayne Chism, Tennessee forward. The Volunteers senior carved his place forever in the program's lore. He was the anchor of a senior class that won more games than any other. He was at his best when it mattered most. And, in the end, without Chism the Vols are still looking for their first trip to the Elite Eight.
Loser: John Calipari, Kentucky coach. After Calipari's Memphis team fell in the title game two years because of its inability to make free throws, you'd think his Wildcats would recognize the importance of free throws come tournament time. You'd think that, of course, but you'd be wrong. With a roster with at least three freshman starters who likely are headed to the NBA, UK made just 16 of 29 free throws in its 73-66 loss to West Virginia.
Oh, well, there's always next year. Oh, wait.
Winners: College basketball fans. The tournament has been excellent. There were 11 conferences represented in the Sweet Sixteen. Plus, there is a bevy of story lines heading into this weekend, highlighted by the homeward-bound Butler Bulldogs.
Losers: The NCAA seeding committee. With a mild range of seeds -- two No. 5s, a 2 and a 1 -- the appearances would suggest otherwise. Still, Michigan State and Butler were woefully underseeded despite being victims of the wrong side of the same argument. It didn't matter that Butler had won 20 games in a row entering the tournament, and Michigan State, which was ranked No. 2 to start the season, was penalized for splitting its final 10. Whatever.
Winners: CBS producers and free-thinking bracket pickers. Kentucky and Kansas were all but destined to meet in a title game that would have been among the most anticipated in years. Alas, that ship sailed when Kansas looked overmatched against Northern Iowa. Now CBS is possibly staring at a Butler-West Virginia matchup that will have a hard time beating TNT's "Law & Order" marathon next Monday night.
Losers: The Big East. All year the talk was about the beasts from the Big East. Yes, West Virginia used a spirited run in the conference tournament as a springboard to the Final Four. It's not so much the losses as it is the opponents that topped some of the Big East's heavyweights. Ohio, St. Mary's, Xavier and California claimed relatively easy wins over Big East foes on the tournament's first weekend.