Here's stages of grief when your NCAA bracket fails

Wed, Mar 17
10:42
AM ET

Your bracket is a masterpiece.

You're so confident about your picks that you wrote out West Virginia instead of "WVU" just so it will look that much better when it's framed in the Smithsonian for being the first documented case of a perfect bracket.

This March Madness will be different from the rest. You'll still be in contention for your office pool after the first two rounds. No longer will you accept making it to Saturday as a moral victory. Your research was too thorough this year. Much to your wife or girlfriend's dismay, you watched more regular-season college basketball than ever. This is your time.

But just in case it's not, we at Page 2 would like to prepare you for the three stages of bracket grief and tell you who to root for when all seems lost. We've even enlisted a couple of sports psychologists to help.

Stage 1: Disbelief

It will be hard to accept that what once felt like a winning lottery ticket is now just a piece of paper crisscrossed with red X's. You'll have questions. Sure, Purdue is missing star Robbie Hummel, but how could 13-seed Siena knock off the 4-seed Boilermakers? How could Jon Scheyer go 2-for-13 from the floor and Duke get knocked out by Cal in the second round when you had the Blue Devils in the Final Four? You'll pore over the box scores searching for answers, but that won't change the fact that your bracket is ruined.

Dr. Ken Ravizza, a professor of applied sport psychology at Cal State- Fullerton, says it's normal as a fan to go through frustration and disbelief. "When you pick your March Madness brackets, there's a personalization there," he said. "And when your teams get eliminated, there's definitely a sense of loss."

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