It has begun

I'll admit it: I found out Harvard had beaten New Mexico 68-62 for its first-ever NCAA tournament win when I woke up this morning. I went to sleep at halftime, with Harvard up by four, not long after saying to my husband (who picked Los Lobos to go all the way in one of his brackets), "They won't shoot like this the whole game."

It appears that - not for the first time Thursday - I was wrong.

The Crimson shot 52 percent from the floor and was 8-of-18 from 3-point range, with Laurent Rivard - whose name sounds like he should be the aging patriarch of a sniping blue-blood family on an episode of "Behind Mansion Walls" - going 5-for-9 from downtown. 

Jeremy Lin and three other people in the country were thrilled.

Day Two kicks off in about an hour with Duke vs. Albany and also features N.C. State versus Temple at 1:40 p.m. As the picture of my bracket indicates, I went back and forth on the Wolfpack this year. I believe in its potential but I also have seen its inconsistency. So I picked Indiana to stop another storybook run in Round 2, but we'll see.

The game that intrigues me most, and could do the most damage to my bracket, is the 7:20 p.m. clash of North Carolina and Villanova. Each of these teams has the talent to beat anybody, but each sometimes demonstrates an alarming lack of focus and direction. I went with my heart in this one, taking my mother's beloved Heels, and then riding them to the Elite Eight, because of my utter lack of belief in Kansas (and because I didn't realize VCU was scoring at an NBA pace.) If the Well-Dressed One (Nova coach Jay Wright) and his Wildcats win, my bracket will begin actively wishing ill on everyone else's.

Luckily for my bracket, I didn't drink the Steve Alford Kool-Aid, and had New Mexico losing to Ohio State (after an unfortunate pick to beat Arizona; I suppose the aforementioned grudge there hasn't completely died). But the bracket is still breathing, though it was doing so in slow, shallow gasps earlier Thursday, when history was again within a 16 seed's grasp.

This time, there isn't any blame to pin on the officials' pinstripes. Southern just couldn't make enough shots down the stretch against top seed Gonzaga, which pulled out a first-round win but completely undermined my Final Four faith in them.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time a top seed has struggled early, then gotten it together for a long run. The Zags just didn't exactly do much to quiet their many doubters in holding on for a six-point win.

In other games: The moment got the most of them.

In the game I almost called, dammit, (still) the best game of the day, 14th-seeded Davidson came THIS CLOSE to knocking off third seed Marquette. But the Golden Eagles pulled some amazing three-point shooting out of their, uh, wings late in the game, and a crucial Wildcats turnover, followed by a critical defensive breakdown, kept you all from realizing what a genius I actually am (by one stinking point).

If you think the ghost of Stephen Curry powered the effort, you haven't been paying attention. The Wildcats, with a solid inside game and sharpshooters in the Curry mold, had won 17 straight games and were a dangerous first-round matchup.

Just not quite dangerous enough.

Almost, also, St. Mary's.

I almost made a big mistake, underestimating St. Mary's. I doubted the Gaels because they were outclassed in two meetings with Gonzaga this year (usually must-see late-night hoops) but that may say more about the Zags this year.

Or ... not.

Speaking of, where's the Zaga love? Yeah, they lost to Illinois, but that was early, and Illinois is a tournament team. Miami lost to St. Leo's, for Pete's sake. I'm tired of this they-don't-play-anybody argument. Would you schedule them?

Answer: Southern probably would.

Not stressed by that Pitt loss. I almost picked Wichita State and I have Pitt losing in the next round. Now, if the Shockers are the surprise Sweet 16, that's another problem. But you don't win anything in the first round - sorry, this IS the first round; play-in games are just that - you play in to the actual tournament. I once lost just one game in the first two days - and then lost two Final Four teams on the third.

And Oregon, though it won like a good 12 seed,  did so in day-glow green, not highlighter yellow. Long and short of it, the first day of the tournament proved an unassailable fact: I have no idea what's going to happen.

I should point out that I have not officially entered this bracket anywhere but this blog and will reap no monetary gain of any kind if my picks prove prescient. 

It's a sickness, really.

Bring on Day 2!