HIT THE LINE HARD: Surviving the first round of March Madness

By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 3:09 pm on Thursday, March 16, 2017


Perhaps there were many like me, but my brackets for the NCAA mens basketball tournament last year found its way to the trash can far, far too early.

And I can thank the first round of upsets — and expected upsets that didn’t happen — for that.

So how does this year’s bracket play out? About as solid as people’s faith in Gonzaga making it past the second round … which is to say, shaky, at best.

Filling out the March Madness bracket is a ritual that is both thrilling and painstaking. It’s a love and hate relationship.

For example, I always, always pick one or two No. 12  or No. 13 seed teams to win in the first round. But trying to decide which one (or ones) to pick is agony. And when I choose the wrong upset, I’m screaming at the TV like I’m expecting it to say to me, “I’m so sorry” as it laughs at me. We’ve all been there.

When my beloved Michigan Wolverines make it to the Big Dance, I struggle with making a sound decision, as my head fights with my heart. Apparently, my heart wins this year, as I have the Wolverines in the Final Four. Gotta say, though, they looked pretty impressive in the Big Ten tournament.

But if they lose in the first round, I’ll be eyeing that trash can like Steph Curry eyes an a basketball hoop.

This has happened to me before, too many times, sadly.

I remember in 1999, taking then-No. 4 Arizona all the way to the title game, only to see them upset by No. 13 Oklahoma when a desperate Wildcats shot fell short.

And then in 2012, oh man, this one hurt. The MAC darling Ohio Bobcats knocked out No. 4 Michigan in 2012. Trey Burke and company let me down on that one.

And only last year, No. 2 Sparty loses to No. 15 Middle Tennessee State. Paper trash hit an all-time high that day. Anyone picking that upset was advised not to speak of it, I’m sure.

But sometimes I get lucky, too. In fact, I remember in 2005, picking the Catamounts of Vermont, a No. 13 seed, to upset No. 4 Syracuse, which I was right, barely. A game-winning 3-pointer was the only thing that saved my upset pick.

In this year’s bracket, I’m backing No. 12 Nevada to upset No. 5 Iowa State and No. 13 Bucknell over No. 4 West Virginia. In fact, I have Nevada in the Elite 8. I know, I know, the trash can’s mouth is wide open.

Going even bolder, though, I have Florida Gulf Coast, formerly “Dunk City,” going two rounds deep, beating No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Maryland.

March Madness is truly maddening for a reason. So many games going on in the beginning and so many possible upsets. I love it … until my bracket busts.

Let’s hope the First Round Gods are good to me.



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