Page 2 staff

Friday (3/25) Bluster
Patrick Hruby 4:54 p.m. ET, 3/24/05: It's pretty hard to talk trash when you're dead last. In the entire freakin' country, that is. Honestly, I don't want to end up the LaBradford Smith to, say, Simmons' Michael Jordan. Anything I say can and WILL be used against me -- though perhaps I'd be better off setting the agenda, as opposed to leaving my busted bracket out there like a dangling pinata. Anyway, I still have faith that my championship pick of Arizona will be vindicated, solely on the strength of Gerlado being a famous Wildcats alumn. Really, when has the Great Moustachio ever let us down?

Dan Shanoff 6:35 a.m. ET: Kieran may be in first, and I still may be clawing to second (for a few more hours), but the shocker of Page 2's bracket is DEFINITELY that we're all about to be schooled by...


It's not even a person! It's just an aggregation of the million or so users' picks. And the collective wisdom of our readers is whupping us.

Only Kieran and Bill were able to match the collective users' foresight to pick Louisville over Washington.

Only Scoop and Patrick match the users' three remaining Final Four teams. (And since Scoop has the same teams but is still behind, he can't beat the users; Patrick needs an Arizona miracle, which he ain't gonna get.)

What's the lesson here? Even if we see some ridiculous upsets this weekend, each of us in our individual "brilliance" is absolutely no match for the wisdom of users as a whole.

That's both satisfying and scary (and certainly more satisfying than getting a second chance at making some Sweet 16 picks in my column on Thursday -- and quickly blowing 3 of the first 4 games). Cripes, I suck.

Kieran Darcy 10:05 a.m. ET: Um ... maybe I'm just feeling a little cocky after notching three big wins last night -- the last sealed by that sweeter-than-sugar shot by Salim Stoudamire. But I don't think I'm about to be schooled by The National Bracket. Maybe the rest of y'all are ... certainly looks like I'm gonna keep each of you in the rear-view.

I've got my swagger back this morning. After the apparently-devastating losses of Syracuse and Wake Forest last weekend, I thought my bracket was busted. But today I have new life ... which is the theme of this holiday weekend after all, at least for some of us. Illinois took care of business. Louisville ran right over the Huskies. And when Zona corralled the Cowboys, my bracket officially gained "rally" status.

Yes, I only have two of my Final Four teams still alive. But those two are Illinois and UNC -- the team that's had the best season so far, and the team with the most talent in the country. I'll take my chances with those two. And if both reach the championship game -- and especially if the Tar Heels take the trophy -- I'll be sitting pretty in this competition. And I might even have a shot at winning a couple others.

Just goes to show ... when it comes to March Madness, you just never know.

Jeff Merron 10:32 a.m. ET: All right. The Blue Slate is looking a lot like Howard Dean after his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses -- a big weird yodel for finishing "in the money" in the early going, a premonitory freakout knowing that what comes next is utter, humiliating defeat.

Which is never quite as bad as it sounds. I mean, I'm getting creamed -- next to last in the country, just ahead of Hruby (which gives me scant comfort) -- but if you look at what I'm now calling the most meaningful stat, correct picks, I've got 25, which isn't too far behind everyone else.

Tonight I'm going to crunch the numbers on point differentials, and see if that helps me in the bracket at all. If it doesn't work, I'll add up the average team height of my picks. Maybe I've got the tallest bracket. After that, SAT scores -- maybe I picked the smartest guys.

Jeez, I'm getting desperate.

So now it's down to the real biz. I picked UNC for it all, and my Heels are still alive and mighty thriving. It's out-and-out rooting for the old alma mater. Which is pure. And good.

Go Heels!

Scoop Jackson 12:11 p.m. ET: A lesson in how to save your butt. Become an editor of a basketball magazine. In January write who you think will be in the Elite 8. Pick Louisville. Then mention Juan Diego Palacio's name instead of Francisco Garcia. Sit back. Wait for people to call/e-mail to tell you how messed up your bracket is. Laugh. Direct them all back to the magazine. Evidence. Brackets lie, print don't. Chill. Genius loves company.

None of y'all is here so none of y'all understand. Two of last night's games were played here, in Chi. Plus the Illini is here!!! The entire situation is outta hand. Bananas! Orange all over -- and people ain't hyped for OK State.

Because of that I almost forgot there were other games being played. The NP's and TV's were Illi 24/7. West Virginia vs. Texas Tech? Please. In Chicago there was only one game being played. Tip off, 6:27 CST. City's on lock. How serious? My god brother is going into heart surgery today at 10 am. Last night I called him to ask him if he was nervous. He said, "Yeah ... about this game. Not about the surgery."

The 14 point victory had to have helped him.

Dee Brown. Mike Gansey. Taquan. Salim.

It's amazing to me how the balance of right and wrong in the NCAA tournament is so subjective. I could -- did -- have only 9 of the last 16 teams left in my selections. Still, the "darkhorses," the teams that were supposed to lose but didn't, keep a brotha real arrogant.

After L'Ville blasted Washington last night, you couldn't tell me nothing! I don't care if Skip or Bill wanna talk about me (or remind me) for "originally picking GTech to be in the Final 4." So what. I could be wrong about 100 teams, as long as I got one right (even if that one right isn't on my bracket) I'm the Mizzan!

Some will call this bandwagon jumping. I call it frontin'. I do it well.

Now I'm pulling for Tubby and the Cats to make me look good, even though I didn't pick them on my bracket either. See, frontin' works.

I called and talked to my god brother this morning. 1 hour before surgery. "They finally looked good," he said about our Illini. "Now I can worry about Arizona, not the surgery."

Skip Bayless 1:54 p.m. ET: Louisville has turned into my Cruella DeVille. My nemesis, my nightmare. I have bad dreams about Rick Pitino saying, "Larry Bird just walked through that door, and he's playing against the University of Washington tonight."

I do not get Louisville. Louisville has busted my bracket and my psyche. Now I'm hearing people say, "Louisville just might be the best team in the country," and I cannot fathom this. Is this the same Louisville that got embarrassed by Memphis at home and nearly lost to Memphis -- which did not make the NCAA tournament -- in the conference tournament final? Could these be the same Cardinals who nearly got in trouble in their opening-round game against Lousiana-Lafayette?

How could anyone pick Louisville, a team that lives and dies by the three-point shot? The Cardinals made 6 of 22 against Louisiana-Lafayette. Then against Georgia Tech and Washington, they made threes like they were dunks. If Tae Kwon Do and "Bring Me the Head of" Francisco Garcia keep shooting like this, Louisville just might beat the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals.

And what did Pitino ever do to deserve so many breaks from the refs? Washington was cruising along in complete control, up seven with about nine minutes left in the first half, when Nate Robinson got called for his third patty-cake foul. Out goes the Huskies' sparkplug and leader, soon followed to the bench by the Huskies' best player, Tre Simmons, also with three fouls. And Louisville goes from down seven to up 12 by half time. Game over.

Oh, well, at least Bobby Knight lost. Any night that Knight falls has been salvaged.

I still have North Carolina and Duke left of my Final Four teams, but I'm uneasy about both. On Sunday, I fear Carolina won't recognize the North Carolina State team they beat by 21 and 10 during the regular season. Julius Hodge is a man among boys now. And what if Utah's Andrew Bogut turns out to be more Bill Walton than Chris Mihm against Kentucky, then Duke?

If so, I'm moving to Louisville.