What's left of the Million Dollar Bracket, as always.
First things first: That whole "Jeff Lebo to VCU?!?!?!" thing did not, in fact, have legs. Not surprising in the least, and the consensus now seems to be that the old friend of Lebo's in the VCU director's chair was just throwing him a bone by bringing his name up, but any time another school "You know who'd we'd like to interview? Your school's coach," you're kind of obligated to pay attention, right?
Elsewhere on the SEC coaching carousel. Good news, bad news, ugly news. The good: Mike Anderson is either staying put or theoretically going to Memphis ... but he ain't going to either Alabama or Georgia. The bad: the guy who is going to Alabama is Anthony Grant, thanks to Billy Donovan's totally selfish decision to not pursue the Kentucky job. Thanks for nothing, Billy. And then, of course, the ugly: John Calipari decided he'd sleaze up Lexington for a while after sleazing up Amherst and Memphis.
From the perspective of virtually every fan of an SEC team that's not 'Bama or Kentucky: this sucks. Two poor and underachieving coaches have been replaced by two guys that it's very, very hard to see underachieve at their new respective positions. Grant had a major hand in putting together the back-to-back Gator national champions and won the regular-season Colonial title--the top-to-bottom best mid-major league in America outside the Valley--all three years he coached at the school. Stan Heath he is not. As for Calipari, I hope the good people of Kentucky are wearing their hazardous waste suits before dealing directly with a guy that oozes as much scum as Calipari does, but the sleazebag has won way too many games at too many places not to win at Kentucky. (Certainly, the Alabama football/Kentucky hoops parallels are there, but Rapaport conveniently leaves out the part where both Calipari and the coachbot have similar reputations for win-at-all-costs approaches that streeeeeeeetch the limits of what's justifiable in the name of victory ... as well as the rank desperation of both programs that led to those concerns being ignored in favor of the hire.)
So: Jeff Lebo and the Auburn men's basketball program already had their work cut out for them by virtue of being Auburn. The job did not get any easier this past week.
As for that Tournament thing ... the beat has simply gone on where the chalk and mid-majors have been concerned. It didn't get any clearer than the end of the Xavier-Pitt game: underdog is up two in the final minute; underdog player blocks opponent's shot; second player has easy chance to save ball from going out-of-bounds by saving to two open teammates, albeit teammates under the basket, and instead hurls ball the length of the court; just before ball goes out of bounds as expected by opponent's player, third underdog player tracks the ball down, only to take an unnecessary step on the baseline; opponent comes downcourt and throws up a prayer of a three from 30 feet; it falls, and opponent goes on to win by two possessions. As they did against Ohio St. two years ago, Xavier had the game as in the bag as games get, and let it get away from them.
So between that result, Gonzaga's meek capitulation to North Carolina, Missouri (the one genuinely likable power-conference team remaining after the first two rounds) falling to UConn, and my bracket's implosion ... no, I can't say I'm all that excited about the Final Four. But then again, I almost never am.
Bracket Challenge update. After Gonzaga's dismissal made it clear I would not be covering myself in any kind of glory in the first annual JCCW Bracket Challenge, the bracket I was rooting hardest for over Saturday and Sunday wasn't even my own: it's the one belonging to the Mrs. JCCW. Sure, a massive NCAA Tournament fan publicly losing to (OK, not just "losing to," "getting one's ass kicked by") one's wife in a bracket-picking contest isn't especially good for one's self-esteem, but I figured the more people the Mrs. JCCW vaulted in the group standings the less embarrassing it gets, right? Misery does love company, after all, and for a little while there it looked like I might have a lot of company, what with the Mrs. having all four of her FF teams in the Elite 8 and her chosen champ Louisville looking well-nigh unstoppable against Arizona. Alas and alack, things didn't go as well as hoped and now she's going to wind up somewhere in the middle of the JCCW Bracket Challenge pack. (Your current leader: a Mr. James Jones, whose bracket pegged six of the Elite 8 and may wind up triumphant if North Carolina ascends to the title, as I expect they will. Kudos, good sir.)
The one saving grace for this year's Million Dollar Bracket is this: it called for two 1's, one 2, and a sleeper to make the Final Four. And hey, whaddya know, that was the right approach--I just picked the wrong teams. (Completely wrong, actually. Next year, I'm going to figure out who I actually expect to get there and then go the opposite way.) One of these years, though, one of these years ...