How's Your Bracket Looking?

Heading into tonight's action, a weekend of unpredictability left sports fans excited and aggravated at the same time.

March might be the best month of the year for sports fans. The NBA and NHL seasons are starting to head toward playoff time, NFL teams begin their free agency moves, spring training baseball begins, and, of course, March Madness.

Chances are you filled out a bracket online, printed one out at home or joined your office pool to make your predictions for the 2012 NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Last weekend was filled with upsets that resulted in some unlikely teams headed to the Sweet 16, some sports fans are either pulling their hair out or patting themselves on the back when they looked at their brackets Monday morning.

Those who had high-seeded teams like Duke, Missouri or Florida State reaching the Final Four are likely not happy as those teams were upended by the likes of Norfolk State and Lehigh.

Those who played it safe and stuck with the No. 1 seeds, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State and Syracuse should be feeling a little better.

And there were probably some of you who took a chance on this year's Cinderella. A team that comes out of nowhere to reach new heights for that school in the NCAA Tournament. Teams to accomplish this in recent years are Butler, George Mason and VCU (Virgina Commonwealth University).

This year's trendy Cinderella picks were Wichita State, Murray State and Belmont; but none of these teams survived last weekend.

As a matter of fact, the lowest seeded teams remaining in the tournament are No. 13 Ohio and No. 11 N.C. State. Both teams defeated some tough competition to reach the Sweet 16, and were not exactly teams people were buzzing about heading into the tournament. In other words, most people probably had them losing in the first or second round.

Taking a flyer on a team like Ohio is always tough, because there is a good chance the average sports fan has not seen them play one game all season. You can turn on ESPN and see North Carolina or Duke highlights, but, unless they are having an unusual or spectacular season, you don't see much of the "mid-major" teams on TV, making it hard to believe in that team and have them advancing far in the tournament.

It's usually a good idea to have at least three No. 1 or No. 2 advancing to the Final Four when filling out a bracket. These teams presumably face the easiest schedule and they face No. 16, 15, 10, 9, 8 or 7 seeds in the first and second rounds. Of course, upsets do happen as they did last Friday, but it's a safe bet that the other people in your pool didn't predict them any better than you did.

Having at least one surprise team in the Final Four is also usually a good idea, even if it is a No. 3, 4 or 5 seed such as Wisconsin or Louisville. These teams also face lower seeds but will eventually face a No. 1 or 2 seed on their way to the Final Four, making it harder for them to advance, but paying handsomely for your bracket if they do.

March Madness is often cited as many fans' favorite sporting event of the year. It gives unknown teams a chance to shine in the spotlight, an opportunity for fans to watch an entire day of basketball and gives people something to talk about around the water cooler at work as they compare their brackets.

Hopefully your bracket was not busted last weekend, and you head into this weekend's games with a chance to win that pot of money and the respect of your opponents.

And if you we were one of those people who had Duke facing Florida State in the finals... there's always next year.

How's your bracket looking? Was it busted last weekend or are you still going strong? 


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