< The tournament. That was great theater.
< West Coast hoops. That was a strong showing from the Pac 12, the Big 12 and Gonzaga. (Yes, one of the Big 12 advancers was West Virginia, which is West in name only.)
< South Carolina. Wow, what a weekend for Mr. Stone Face, coach Frank Martin. South Carolina had not won an NCAA tournament game since 1973, Now the Gamecocks are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. Carolina scored 65 points in the second half to topple Duke. Interesting side note here: The game was in Greenville, S.C., and with an overflow of Gamecocks fans in the audience — as well as the UNC folks who stuck around — it definitely was a road atmosphere for Duke. Now, the Devils deserved to lose and USC deserved to win, but that road atmosphere was available because the NCAA moved that game from Greensboro, N.C., because of the North Carolina bathroom bill.
< ESPN's coverage of the Winter Special Olympics. Wow. Here's just one of the great stories the network is sharing during the telecasts.
< Been a rough decade or so for Mel Gibson, who was an A-lister's A-list Hollywood big shot until his anti-Semitic rants became public. Dude had some issues — we all do, right? — but he appears to have wrestled a lot of those demons. After a big year that included the great directorial turn in "Heartbreak Ridge" here's a great story of some of Gibson's behind the scenes charitable efforts.
< Bonus: The Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee commercials are entertaining.
> Speaking of Spike, uh, you think so doctor? Spike Lee called out NFL teams for not signing Colin Kaepernick. Uh, why? Spike, this is a business, not unlike Hardware stores or casting a movie. If someone's strengths do not outweigh their weaknesses — be them public approval or locker room distractions — would you want them involved in your project. Not unlike Gibson's hateful rants that were got out, people are allowed to stay and protest peacefully as freely as they would like. They are not free from the repercussions of those protests, though. That no team wants to be associated with Kaepernick is simply part of those repercussions, as the distractions do not mean more than his skill set.
> Uh, ma'am, can you dial it back a touch? Here's Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall's wife handling the Shockers loss to Kentucky not exactly with the most decorum you will see.
> Another weekend, another monster NBA Saturday night match-up that featured more star power sitting than playing. We've been discussing this for a while now, and it's picking up national steam. And we heard Jalen Rose make the accurate connection that for championship contenders we call it rest and for lottery teams we call it tanking.
> Rules for coaches and players moving. On the weekend that Kentucky coach John Calipari blasted the graduate transfer rules, Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood left to be the new Illinois coach. Underwood had been in Stillwater all of a year, but students who want to try out a new place after fulfilling their school are the problem, Cal? Right.
> The ACC. Wow, nine bids and all of one Sweet 16 team, and that was only with UNC going on a 12-0 row to finish the game to sneak by Arkansas.
There's little way to quantify how special the four days of college basketball have been.
Close, dramatic games. Upsets. Big-time plays late. Two things are undeniable.
First, the officiating mistakes are more glaring than ever. That may be because of the increased coverage and gamer angles, and that is no one's fault. It also in some cases could be because of said coverage and its effects on the human beings in the striped shirts. Refs thinking they are part of the show is a real issue, and refs swallowing the whistle late is a real issue too. (The no call at the end of the UNC-Arkansas game was bad, as TFP college hoops guru Mark Wiedmer attested here.) And that's not even getting into the goal-tending call that cost Northwestern in its second-round loss to Gonzaga.
Second, the glory of this event — as great as it is and has been — is held together by the brackets. Period.
Side gambling note: We discussed the micro and macro winners for the action above. But did you see this? Yep, that's the reaction in Vegas when an Oklahoma State player hit an anything-but-meaningless 28-footer in the Cowboys' one-point loss to Michigan. That 3 flipped a Michigan a four-point win as a 2.5-point favorite to an OSU cover and according to one sports book executive, made the entire weekend for Vegas as 80 percent of the action was on the Wolverines.
As for the brackets, and we touched on this last week, it seems strange to mention this after a weekend with some much drama. But that drama only matters to a vast majority in how in directly affects the bracket.
We view everything through the direct prism of personal contact. Yes, we enjoy a great basketball game or any other viewing experience that is entertaining, engaging, or whatever fulfills each of us.
But the hook of being involved — your team advancing, your upset pick hitting, a perceived weaker opponent in the next round, et al. — in every outcome connects us to every game, and even reminds us what channel TruTV is every year at this time.
Yes, the finality of every outcome raises the drama, and that adds to the enjoyment. But the connection is the real value. And for you college hoops junkies who are doubting this, well, you know more than most that almost every Saturday of the college basketball season, there is multiple great match-ups that frequently feature great finishes. And the sports world collective ignores them for the most part from November to February.
But March makes memories and magic because in large part, March features the bracket.
Long-live the bracket.
This and that
— Speaking of the dance, here are the six finalists in the First-Out, Last-In contest, all tied with 1.1 points: Scottie B, Sportsfan, Kyle O., Chas, Carl T. and the 5-at-10. Xavier has been legit. Let's go with a point-weighted Final Four. Of the Sweet 16 teams, send us your Final Four picks with his caveat. If you pick UNC, you get 1 point because the Heels are a 1 seed. If you pick Xavier, you get 11 points because it's an 11 seed. Deal? Deal. Go.
— According to their website, 18 of more than 18 million brackets in the ESPN tournament pool have all of the Sweet 16. That math is pretty easy to figure — roughly one-in-1-million, our Auburn education discovered — and still pretty impressive considering that the 16 features 11-seeded Xavier and South Carolina for the first time ever. Cool.
— Speaking of brackets and such, well, here's another cool story from bracket fan and everyone's favorite billionaire Warren Buffett. Buffett's company Berkshire Hathway has arguably the best office pool in the free world. If you pick the perfect Sweet 16, you get $1 million a year for the rest of your life. The person who has a perfect bracket the longest gets $100,000. Every year. (It's good to be the king, huh?) This year, there was $1 million prize to anyone who nailed all of the first-round games, and considering the relatively low number of upsets, that was more doable than ever this year. (Yahoo reported that 36 of its entries were 32-for-32 in the first round, which is staggering, considering that in the 18 years of Yahoo's NCAA tournament contest, there was exactly one entry ever who had a perfect first round.) One Berkshire employee went 31-for-32 this year, with the lone miss being the Marquette-South Carolina game.
— Tiger Woods told Good Morning America that he "really hopes" to play in the Masters. Translated: Nope.
— Amazingly strange story and a sign of our times: Here's a New York Times story about a person who was arrested for cyberstalking with intent to kill for sending a Tweet to a journalist that read, "You deserve a seizure for your posts" in all caps. It also included a very bright strobe light. It caused Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy and shared that publicly, to immediately have a seizure.
— Luke List finished tied for 17th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this weekend on the PGA Tour. The former Baylor School star made $117,740 for the showing and now has more than $1 million in earnings this season.
— Meet the biggest Michigan basketball fan around. Derek Stevens bet $12,500 on Michigan at 80-to-1 to win the whole thing at the Golden Nugget in Vegas. Yep, that pay out would be a cool $1 million.
Weekend winners and losers.
Biggest takeaway from the tournament so far?
If you need a Rushmore, let's go with the Rushmore of Mr./Mister in honor of what would be the 89th birthday of Mr. Fred Rogers.