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Autopsy of a Bracket

March 30, 2009

This is the tragic story of how I went from first to worst in my office bracket pool.  Consider it a cautionary tale, if you will.

Thursday, March 19: Day One

After whiffing on the very first game of the tournament (Butler-LSU), I went on an amazing 15-game winning streak to end the day at 15-1.  The final two games of the night (UCLA-VCU and WKU-Illinois) were nailbiters, but I emerged victorious in both.  Things could not be off to a better start!

Friday, March 20: Day Two

My hot streak continues, as I correctly pick the first nine games of the day, upping my record to 24-1.  My first loss of the day (Arizona-Utah) would unfortunately not be my last.  The shocking upset of Wake Forest by Cleveland State certainly hurt, but not nearly as much as dropping both of the late OT thrillers (Ohio St.-Siena and Florida State-Wisconsin).  Though my record at the end of the day, 27-5, was still pretty good, I had already lost two of my Sweet Sixteen.  It was definitely a sign of things to come as play moved into the second round.

Saturday, March 21: Day Three

I have a solid day, going 7-1.  Even though I only missed one pick, it caused me a good bit of agony, as it was a hotly-contested two-point loss (WKU-Gonzaga).  Still, 34-6 is great, as is having all of my Final Four and Elite Eight still intact.  I was down to 13 of my Sweet Sixteen, though, so not everything was perfect.

Sunday, March 22: Day Four

Here’s where some real chinks in the armor started to appear.  Due to Friday’s results, I had already lost two of Sunday’s games before they even tipped off.  I really needed to win the remaining six games on Sunday to keep things on track.  Five were no problem, but the sixth proved to be the beginning of the end.  The one game I will forever look back on as the undoing of my 2009 bracket is Marquette-Mizzou.  Mizzou led throughout, but thanks to a late rally, Marquette had seemingly seized control late.  After an amazing three-point play by Lazar Hayward put Marquette up 78-74 with 1:59 remaining, it seemed Mizzou had let things slip away.  But much to my chagrin, Mizzou ended the game on a 9-1 run to steal the win and seriously damage my hopes.  I had slipped to 39-9 overall, and was down to only 12 of my Sweet Sixteen.  My only remaining hope would be to have a perfect run through the Elite Eight and Final Four.

Thursday, March 26: Day Five

The first two games of the day go my way (UConn-Purdue and Pitt-Xavier), but things get ugly quick after that.  Ordinarily, seeing Duke blown out would bring me tremendous joy, but I foolishly picked them to advance, which they decidedly did not.  But the real sucking flesh wound of the day was Mizzou’s defeat of Memphis.  I had Memphis in the Final Four, and am still convinced they would have NOT lost to Marquette.  Once again, that Marquette-Mizzou game comes back to haunt me, but this time in a serious way.  41-11 overall may not seem bad, but losing one of my Final Four is a crushing blow.

Friday, March 27: Day Six

This could have been a final chance at redemption, and winning three of these games got me so very close.  However, another in a seemingly endless series of late night close games gone wrong (KU-Michigan St.) downgraded my bracket’s condition from serious to critical.  I was definitely in the ICU now, with defibs on standby. 44-12 overall.

Saturday, March 28: Day Seven

Mizzou gets their comeuppance two rounds too late for me, and ‘Nova shocks Pitt, which means I’ve now lost two of my Final Four.  44-14 overall, but does it even matter anymore?  Someone should probably call for Last Rites about now.

Sunday, March 29: Day Eight

The only thin shred of hope, the final sign of life for me, is that both games going my way today would keep my Championship Final intact and give me an extremely outside shot at pulling off the death bed miracle.  Alas, ’twas not meant to be, as both Michigan State and North Carolina pull my plug.  44-16 overall means nothing, because I have NONE of the Final Four.  Zero.  Zilch.  And what began as such a promising run, ended in spectacularly disastrous fashion.

I’ve had some crap brackets before, but never have I been completely dead going into the Final Four.  I don’t know if there’s a lesson to be learned here, kids, other than the first round don’t mean jack – and never, EVER get cocky and obnoxious about getting of to a fast start.

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