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A Strange Week: The weirdness of the NCAA Tournament's first two rounds 

An overview of this past week in the NCAA.

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Hopefully you're reading this standing up, allowing the resulting couch sores from four days of nearly uninterrupted basketball to heal. Those sores are disgusting, my friend, but I don't blame you for your obsession over this tournament. It's been entertaining without being necessarily fantastic. Engaging, but not groundbreaking.

If I were, in the parlance of the season, going to place this opening week of games in a bracket amongst other week ones over the years, I'd say it was a solid four, but playing in the Southern region. A good one, but there have been better.


But in terms of weirdness, I think this is a two seed. Maybe even a one. Let me present the evidence to the weirdness committee while you apply some ointment to those sores. Ugh. Gross.

The Conspiracy

On the afternoon of March 15, I found myself outraged, so I took to Twitter, because that is what you're supposed to do in 2012 upon becoming outraged. I tweeted thusly: "Hate being 'that guy,' but I think we might have just seen a rigged NCAA tournament game #Syracuse #NCAA." For the uninitiated, the # is something called a "hashtag" and it's what teenagers have decided we should end our tweets with.

I was beside myself. I'd just watched a bizarre lane violation called against a guard for number 16-seeded UNC Ashville that gave top seeded Syracuse a shot at redeeming a missed free throw. No one calls this. Ever.

Then, a Syracuse player essentially dropped the ball out of bounds, but the ref - the same ref who botched that earlier call - said, no, it was off an Ashville player.

It was a conspiracy, I declared. Ralph Nader and Mulder and Scully and the entire cast of The Wire should get to the bottom of this! A 16 seed almost knocked off a one! But nooooo, you have to protect the big dogs, right? This probably goes all the way up the chain to Biden. We need to get on this, I figured.

But soon, I cooled off. It probably wasn't a conspiracy. Just good, ol' fashioned awful officiating. Soon after, I saw someone tweet this:

"Good to see the team battling accusations of drug use and harboring a sex offender pull it out thanks to horrible officiating."

Soon, like this guy, I was more cynical than suspicious.

The Night of Many Upsets

Because of the Syracuse Conspiracy (can we start a Wiki page about this?), Thursday featured essentially no true upsets. Friday, however, was different.

A friend told me Duke would lose to Xavier in the second round. He was wrong, because on Friday night, Duke lost in the first round. And they lost to a school called Lehigh, which is a college in Pennsylvania, not a French boarding school, like the name might suggest. Duke has famously blown some early tournament games, but not like this.

Even more amazing: Norfolk State, also a 15 seed, had knocked out presumably mighty Missouri earlier in the day.

And then there was Ohio University - not Ohio State - taking it to a surging Michigan squad.

Suddenly, there was reason to believe in basketball again.

The Ohio Region

... has four teams in the NCAA tournament. The entire West Coast has zero. And not the west coast as in schools literally located on the Pacific Ocean. We mean the entire traditional American West. Ya know, like cowboys and stuff. It's hard to care when no school within 2,000 miles of your home remains alive in the tournament. The closest Sweet Sixteen team, geographically, to the West Coast is Kansas. Hell, they're the only school west of the Mississippi remaining.

I guess we'll have to blame this on the ol' East Coast bias, right?

But the state of Ohio has four teams playing this weekend: Ohio State, Ohio, Cincinnati and Xavier. That means that 25 percent of the schools remaining are from Ohio. They could have their own region at this point.

The Rest of the Way

The needle on the Care-o-meter may be falling drastically from "mildly interested" to "don't give a shit."

Fret not. There is still some excitement remaining. Wisconsin could easily dispatch Syracuse. Xavier could end up in the Final Four. Ohio, the only remaining true mid-major, well, they play North Carolina, so a Cinderella story seems unlikely. But who knows, weirder things have happened.

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