Up for Day 2

Been an underwhelming afternoon so far, save for the Marshall Henderson show. Dude pretty much single-handedly lifted Ole Miss to a 57-46 win against Wisconsin, shaking off a 1-for-13 start to pour in 19 points - which I'm pretty sure is more than the Badgers average in the first half.

Should take a lesson from Henderson. His confidence, evident in his wide-eyed gesticulations, apparently never wavered one bit, and his green light to shoot any and everything never even seemed to flash yellow. Nobody needed to tell him to keep shooting, or to keep his head up. You go, then - into the second round. 

Didn't pick Ole Miss, but I did pick Wisconsin to lose in the next round, mainly out of self-preservation. Bo Ryan is unquestionably a good coach, but who wants to watch that game after game? When the Badgers' grind-it-out game doesn't produce points at the interminable end of the shot clock, like today, it makes one eye the nearest sharp object with bad intent.

Now let's see if N.C. State can play good Pack long enough to come back against Temple.

And the answer is ... nope. If N.C. State had showed as much effort in the previous 38 minutes as it did in the final two, then maybe. But too little, too late in a four-point loss.

The Wolfpack mystifies me. More talent and less heart than any team in the tournament. They can't string together back-to-back good possessions, much less games. And it's the same team, and the same coach, that made such an exciting, unexpected run last year. Maybe it was the early season expectations. Who knows? But it's disappointing, just as a college basketball fan. A lot of players would give a lot for C.J. Leslie's skill set. From the neck down.

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.

An official tally: I missed four games on Thursday: Wichita State over Pitt (but was hardly surprised; Gregg Marshall is a tournament-tested coach) , Michigan over South Dakota (yes, I know), Marquette over Davidson (see below) and the aforementioned Ivy League smackdown. I correctly called the two 12 "upsets": Cal over UNLV and Oregon over Oklahoma State. This is all well and good until Michigan wins the national championship.

One thousand, two hundred thirty-eight people did better than that - much better, going 16-0. (Click on the record to read the article). But I did beat President Obama, who was 10-6.

I also bested Dick Vitale (11-5), Joe Lunardi (9-7), Tony Kornheiser (10-6) and Michael Wilbon (8-8). But it's somewhat disheartening that going with all higher seeds would have netted me the same 12-4 result. 

Day Two kicks off 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 the Pack today, but then picked Indiana to stop another storybook run in Round 2. 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 actually an NBA team). 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 said 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 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.

I should point out that I have not officially entered my 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!