5-at-10: NCAA bracket guesses and tips, Free Madness contest, Beard and Wade hire, NFL moves

Arkansas guard Anthony Black (0) leaps past Auburn guard K.D. Johnson who pulls up to shoot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Arkansas won 76-73. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Arkansas guard Anthony Black (0) leaps past Auburn guard K.D. Johnson who pulls up to shoot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Arkansas won 76-73. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Bracket insight

To make sure you are aware, here is another round of the details of the "First 1 Out, Last One In" contest.

-- Picks must be in before noon on Thursday. This is non-negotiable.

-- It, like all 5-at-10 contests and games, is free.

-- Select the 1 seed you think will get bounced first and the last double-digit seed to still be in the draw. Yes, time matters more than round, so if both Purdue and Houston get bounced in round 2, whichever game ends first is the 1 seed that is the correct choice. We clear?

-- A correct 1 seed pick is worth a point; the correct double-digit seed is worth 1.1 points, so a perfect score is 2.1. Yay Auburn match. If we have a tie, will figure that out later.

Deal? Deal.

OK, and with a visor tip to show regular JTC, who shared this on social media, the prize pack for this will include a Bill Raftery-copyrighted T-shirt that has a couple of Vidallias going through a hoop with Raftery's classic "Onions" over the top. It's the T-shirt version of Bobby Boucher's water -- it's some high-quality stuff.

But that's the contest; let's kick around the bracket.

Some thoughts from a guy who has likely paid more attention to the grand scheme of college basketball than most folks you know. That's not a brag, but considering the number of college basketball picks -- and the amount of research required to support said picks -- I watched and read more about college hoops this season in any year since the late mid-to-late 1980s, when I was a bona fide college hoops junkie.

Side note: Not sure college hoops will ever get back to what it was then from December to late February for me as a viewer/fan. The ACC was amazing. Heck, Bobby Cremins' teams at Georgia Tech were the hottest ticket in the A-T-L. The Big East was a night-in, night-out street fight. Think of the stars. MJ begat Lenny Bias who begat Danny Manning and his miracles who begat Christian Laettner who begat, well, you get the idea. Safe to say that for the back half of my pre-college school days, college hoops was my favorite sport, I loved the way they dribbled up and down the court. (Shout out to Kurtis Blow's classic "They playin' basketball" rap from around that time. Respect.)

Where were we? Oh yeah, the bracket this year.

Since my tangent got titanically wordy, let's move quickly shall we? I think we shall.

-- Auburn getting a 9 but getting to play in Birmingham is neither fair nor right, and I am Auburn grad. That said, the counter balance is Alabama is also playing in the Birmingham pod, which means there will be 40% of the crowd going nuts for Auburn, 20% of the crowd that follows one of the six other teams there hoping for March drama, and 40-plus% of the crowd being diehard Bama fans, which means cheering just as hard against Auburn. So maybe there was a backdoor method to the Madness.

-- Tennessee will win one game. One. How Duke is a 5 and Tennessee is a 4 is rather puzzling to me, even if it saved me the grief from Chas if those seeds had been reversed. Rather, I think Duke is too low, and UT is about right.

-- That said, the NET is whack and confusingly hypocritical for a computer-generated ranking. Let's take Vandy, which had the sixth-hardest schedule in America and won 20 games with an RPI higher than 15 teams that got at-large bids. Yet, they are not invited. And this is not a "SEC deserves more" claim; this is a how did they not get one question. And for the most part, the bubble was exceedingly weak this year.

-- I think Kansas and Texas make the Final Four. The Big 12 was the best league in America and those teams played wars every night. The rest of my crew in Houston is Alabama and Duke, two lovable, scrappy, universally appealing programs that connect to the every-man conception and the purity of sportsmanship.

-- My first 1 gone is Purdue, but if Houston star guard Marcus Sasser is not available in this first weekend, I think Wendell Green could shoot Auburn to the Sweet 16 too. My last double-digit seed standing will be one of three teams and we are waiting to make it final. I like Furman's draw because Virginia can go into offensive funks that can kill you come March. I like the first two possibilities for the winner between 11-seeds Pitt and Mississippi State, because Iowa State is reeling. I also will keep an eye on the status of Miami's big man, because if he's keep an eye on 12-seeded Drake. Love the Drake.

-- The West is the toughest bracket and feels like it will be the most chalk. The Midwest and the East could get crazy, and who wouldn't want to see a Duke-Kentucky regional final in the East, right? Has that ever happened before Chas?

Speaking of college hoops

So Ole Miss hired Chris Beard. McNeese hired Will Wade, insert strong (bleep) offer joke here.

For each of those schools, each of those dudes as coaches are way beyond the wildest expectations of even the most delusional Rebels or Cowboys hoops junkies.

Beard built Texas Tech into a fringe power and Final Four club. Wade can coach his birthing hips clean off.

They are, among the whistles and clipboard converts, two of maybe the top 15 or 20 coaches out there and slam dunk hires on paper.

But this is the real world, which is about details and degrees.

Beard left Texas Tech to replace Shaka Smart at Texas and crafted a roster and a plan to start this season that is Final Four-worthy. He was fired after being arrested on domestic assault charges.

Those charges were ultimately dropped, but not all "Case Dismissed" results are created equally. Often, especially if the couple remains together -- and it could cost one of them their lucrative livelihood -- stories will be amended, cooperation could be withheld and details forgotten in domestic cases like this.

Still, this is the system we have and Beard was arrested and has now been cleared. I understand Texas firing him because there is an expectation and standard for million-dollar employees at high-profile state-funded operations.

I also understand Ole Miss wanting Beard. He brings -- along with considerable baggage -- a Bruce Pearl-level of excitement and last-chance desperation to an Ole Miss program that has been flat-lining while the rest of the league has been furiously improving.

As for Wade, and his FBI wiretaps about paying players and "strong (bleep) offers" well, it may be baggage, but it's way more of a carry-on compared to Beard's George Bailey-gonna-travel-the-world foot locker that ol' man Gower gave him.

Heck, the cheating Wade did that cost him his LSU gig could now be considered crafty NIL usage no?

NFL movement

Man, for the better part of the last decade or so my two favorite players in pro sports were LeBron and Aaron Rodgers.

Loved their games. Still do. But the dudes that are doing those deeds sure seem like crackpots these days, no?

After dragging his man bun to the Washington-state darkness and then going radio silent before Monday reports started surfacing that he wants to join the New York Jets.

OK, not sure which is a little more surreal, the former Packers legends heading to Jets-land trend or the oxymoronic tag of "legal tampering," which started Monday across the NFL, but these were the few big takeaways:

-- Rodgers -- if we're talking about 2021 Rodgers -- makes the Jets-Bills scrum for AFC East supremacy very interesting, and that's with the Dolphins getting better. The Pats being the worst team in the East could be more telling in the Bill or Brady debate than TB12's seventh Super Bowl ring.

-- Major kudos to former Ridgeland High superstar Vonn Bell, who reportedly has agreed to a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers with $13 million of that guaranteed. Well deserved and it's cool when good things happen to good people.

-- Russell Wilson, the embattled Denver starter who suffered through a dreadful year last fall, had a good and bad Monday. Good in that Denver added three new blockers and bad in that Denver signed Jarrett Stidham to a two-year deal. Russell Wilson, you are on the clock.

-- Ugh, Falcons gonna Falcon I suppose. Yes, Chris Lindstrom is a good player. Heck, he's a Pro Bowl-level player, but giving him nine figures to play right guard is staggering. Adding a tight end when you already are underusing Kyle Pitts also is puzzling, as well as making Jessie Bates one of the league's highest paid safeties and giving $35 million to a 30-year-interior defensive lineman. Anyone else feel like the Falcons looked at an overflow of cap space the same way Opie Taylor looked at that the wallet he found with $50 cash in it? In the end Opie did the right thing with the money. Not sure we will be able to say the same about the Falcons.

This and that

-- So, I was a little worried about no college hoops in the Plays of the Day on Monday. Welp,m we played two unders and went 2-0 and went north of plus-40 units for the first time doing this. Yeah, that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

-- Sam Darnold could also be counted among the winners of Monday's legal tampering process. Darnold, who I think still has the tools to be a QB1, inked with San Fran and QB whisperer and play-calling whiz Kyle Shanahan. And if he can make Brock Purdy look, well, purdy dang good, here's betting Darnold's physical skills are better than Brock's.

-- Reportedly Ja Morant is now in a counseling program in Florida. OK.

-- Finally Trevor Bauer is playing baseball. In Japan.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning Ernie.

True or false, Aaron Rodgers makes the Jets a contender.

True or false, you would want your favorite school to hire Chris Beard to coach hoops.

True or false, Will Wade will make the most of his second chance.

True or false, Duke will make the Final Four.

True or false, the Falcons are always gonna Falcon.

As for today, March 14, let's review.

Nice birthday for all-time athletes as Simone Biles (26), Steph Curry (35) and Kirby Puckett (would have been 63) were born on this day.

So was Albert Einstein, who would have been 144 today.

Rushmore of people who's name has become an adjective, like Einstein for really smart folks.

Go.

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