It’s WrestleMania season and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament time, so what better way to mark the occasion than mix the two biggest events ending in April? Plus, the NCAA and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon are two of the most hated things in sports. If you could throw in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well, it would be the most hated triumvirate in all of sports.
My bracket started like Super John Cena and didn’t lay down for anyone early Thursday, March 16. Then, little slips began to happen, like No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State University upsetting the No. 5 seed University of Minnesota, and No. 11 seed Xavier University beating the No. 6 seed University of Maryland.
By Friday, March 17, my bracket had turned from unbeatable into the Undertaker versus Mick Foley as Mankind in Hell in the Cell at King of the Ring 1998. My bracket, playing the role of Mankind, climbed to the top of the cell just to have the tournament, playing the role of Undertaker, throw it from 20 feet in the air onto the announcer's’ table.
Friday upsets included No. 10 seed Wichita State University over the No. 7 seed University of Dayton, the No. 11 seed University of Rhode Island upsetting No. 6 seed Creighton University, and the No. 11 seed University of Southern California taking down No. 6 seed Southern Methodist University.
Just like Mrs. Foley’s baby boy, instead of going up the ramp into the back on stretcher, my bracket decided to climb back onto the cage on Saturday, March 18. Once more, my bracket played Mankind to the tournament’s Undertaker and the poor bracket got chokeslammed through the steel cage.
That exact moment is how I felt when the No. 8 seed University of Wisconsin took down defending national champions and the No. 1 seed University of Villanova on Saturday. Xavier beating No. 3 seed Florida State University seemed like getting another choke slam but this time on thumbtacks. Yes, that is exactly how the match went after Foley lost a tooth and dislocated his jaw after the choke slam from the top of the cage.
By Sunday, March 19, my bracket had turned into Ric Flair with the tournament playing Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXIV. The tournament delivered its first Sweet Chin Music to my bracket with the No. 7 seed University of Michigan knocking off the No. 2 seed University of Louisville.
On Sunday night, the teary-eyed tournament looked at my bracket and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry; I love you,” just like Michaels to Flair, as it hit me with a second Sweet Chin Music as the No. 7 seed University of South Carolina upended No. 2 seed Duke University.
Things could have been worse for my poor, poor bracket if not for the Montreal Screwjob that the officials did on the No. 8 seed University of Arkansas in a win for the University of North Carolina. The officials missed a tipped ball call, an offensive foul, a travel and about 10 more calls on North Carolina that allowed the team to outlast the Razorbacks.
Gonzaga University used the Finger Poke of Doom to take down Northwestern University. In the final minutes, a Gonzaga player put his hand through the hoop to block a shot. Instead of calling goaltending, the officials completely missed the called and hit the Northwestern head coach with a technical foul for coming onto the court to argue.
I ended up basing my bracket on the idea that the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East Conference were two of the best in the regular season. The Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern Conference and Pac-12 were mediocre to just plain bad as a whole.
The ACC got nine teams into the tournament, but just one, North Carolina, is left standing. The Tar Heels can thank the officials for being the Sweet Sixteen. The Big East had seven teams in the tournament, but only Xavier and Butler University survived the opening weekend.
On the flipside, the Big Ten received seven bids, and all seven made it to the round of 32, with five teams reaching the Sweet Sixteen. The SEC was one mental error by Vanderbilt University against Northwestern away from getting all five of its bids into the round of 32 but got three teams into the round of 16.
The Pac-12 got four teams in the tournament, and three are still in the running heading into the weekend. Even the Big 12 managed to get three of its six bids into the Sweet Sixteen.
To put that in wrestling terms, it is amazing how the ACC turned into the Gobbledy Gooker, and the Big East morphed into the Shockmaster. But much like an awful WrestleMania, the tournament will be back next year, and so will my bracket.