And the clock strikes midnight

This is ridiculous.

I am a grown woman. I have responsibilities. It is downright ridiculous for me to be sitting here at 52 minutes past midnight, mourning the demise of Cinderella.

Like the rest of the country, I got swept up in the delightful madness of Florida Gulf Coast's run to the Sweet 16. The Eagles, a Division I school for all of six years, knocked off first Georgetown, then San Diego State, then led Florida for most of the first half.

But the 15th seed was rudely reminded of its place in a 62-50 loss to the third-seeded Gators. Far from a drubbing, but with little of that ole FGCU magic and many last-minute desperate heaves and downcast expressions that were equally painful to see.

There's no reason that should disappoint me to such a disheartening degree. I'd heard of the Eagles before the NCAA tournament, but only because 1) I'd watched them win their conference championship (the Atlantic Sun, for those of you scoring at home) and 2) I'd looked up some information on their women's team for some stories I'd written while covering Hampton University's women's team last March. It's not like I had anything personally invested in FGCU's jaw-dropping, slam-dunking run. It's not like my bracket, being stepped on by my cat as I type, had any hope of being anything but a primer for How Not to Pick a National Champion.

But still.

This is why we love March Madness, why we all become part-time residents of Dunk City for a few hoops-heavy days at the start of spring. It's the same hope-colored light that suffuses spring training - anything can happen, and does. Anyone can win, and does. It's a game played on the hardwood, not on paper, and if you draw up a better game plan and execute that plan better than the other five guys, you keep shocking the world.

Until you don't, and the higher (though not the 1, except for Louisville) seeds march on, and the little guys go home, an interesting footnote to history but hardly the stuff of the next "30 for 30" special.

Which is not to diminish what FGCU did during an electrifying stay in Philadelphia. The Eagles fired up a nation dejectedly surveying its bedraggled brackets, injecting life into a lackluster tournament and inspiring underdogs everywhere - not to mention a rap song. I just wanted to see more of the show.

Now, a word in defense of my cat-crinkled bracket: You'll note Duke in the Elite Eight, and the blog entry where I put in writing my belief that this tournament, with its absence of dominating teams, set up well for the battle-tested Blue Devils and their Hall of Fame coach. So, for once this tournament, I told you so. Duke 71, Sparty 61.

Earlier Friday, Michigan's amazing 87-85 rally past collapse-prone Kansas ( I TOLD you they were soft!) redeemed the first stanza of Sweet 16 madness. Trey Burke took over the game late, and Mitch McGary got some karma-coated revenge against KU's Elijah Johnson, who opened the game by confusing which ball he was supposed to be handling. 

Big shots beat cheap shots.

Michigan, down six at halftime and by five with 13 seconds to play, forced overtime on a 3-pointer from WAY DOWNTOWN BANG by Burke, who continued to take over in OT. The game, which ended when Kansas missed a 3 after Johnson turned down what looked to be an uncontested layup, even fired up my mama, who took to Facebook to post, "Bye, Kansas. Didn't want the layup, huh?" I'm sure her feelings have nothing to do with the Jayhawks sending her Tar Heels home.

Louisville put away Oregon in rather workmanlike fashion, running Rick Pitino's Sweet 16 record to a remarkable 11-0. We're getting closer and closer to the white suit, people.

On Thursday, Miami crashed and burned, officially taking with it my bracket, but who really cares at this point. I knew I shouldn't have believed so much in the Hurricanes, but since, according to my calculations, they were supposed to be playing Davidson ... 

I'm just still trying to convince myself I watched Wichita State and La Salle in the Sweet 16. There are three E's in Elite Eight, and three G's in Gregg Marshall. Coincidence?