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Bucky Gleason: Bracket busted? Welcome to March Madness

OK, so you didn’t survive the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament without your bracket getting blown to smithereens. You're drowning in regret while bracing for co-workers who can't wait to pounce and turn you into a punchline, the way they did last year with Mary from accounting.

If you're looking for someone to rub your forehead and tell you everything is going to work out, good luck. Sympathy comes in short supply when the Big Dance rolls around because everybody – every single person who filled out a bracket – was feeling a twinge of remorse by Sunday morning.

According to, with some 70 million entries from various websites, the last perfect bracket was busted Saturday night when Purdue beat Iowa State to advance to the Sweet 16. For the minuscule percentage of entries that were perfect through Friday night, nearly all disintegrated when Wisconsin beat Villanova in Buffalo.

Did you lose a chance to win $1 million, enough to pull yourself out of debt and get the kids through college? I did. Employees of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns The Buffalo News, were offered a million bucks if they correctly picked all 32 first-round games in the tournament. I made it all the way to Thursday night.

What can I say?

This is what happens when March Madness rolls around. Over the past eight years, the No. 11 seed has a 17-15 record over the No. 6 seed. The 11th seed won three of the four games this year. And that's what makes the Big Dance so much fun. It's an exercise in games of chance, a  three-week carnival without somebody trying to guess your body weight.

The tournament is loaded with good teams that remind you of the narrow gap that exists between teams from power conferences and everybody else. Teams from mid-major conferences that were short on size and depth can use their experience to take down the big boys in a single-elimination game.

Wisconsin's win over Villanova in KeyBank Center was considered the biggest shocker Saturday because it was an eighth seed taking down the top-ranked team in the country. But it wasn't some monumental upset. Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten, a competitive league with teams that know how to play in big games.

So far, Xavier has been the surprise team in the tournament. The Musketeers lost their final six games of the regular season without starting guard and second-leading scorer Edmond Sumner, who suffered a season-ending knee injury. Another guard, two-year starter Myles Davis, was suspended and left the program.

Xavier was awarded a No. 11 seed after coming together and reaching, and losing, the conference tournament semifinal. But they were near-flawless in the first round while beating Maryland, 76-65, and were flying high when they pummeled Florida State, 91-66, on Saturday to reach the Sweet 16 against Arizona.

So if your bracket has more items crossed off than your grocery list at checkout, don't feel bad. Most people are wallowing in the same misery. And that includes a few commissioners from power conferences, NCAA Tournament selection committee members and some of the best basketball coaches in the business.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has been a superpower for years, but it had a miserable time in the first two rounds. Nine teams were invited into the Field of 68. Eight were eliminated after second-seeded Louisville fell to John Beilein's Michigan team on Sunday afternoon and second-seeded Duke was knocked out by South Carolina on Sunday night. The lone survivor was top-seeded North Carolina, which needed a late surge to beat Arkansas.

Last season, Syracuse didn't deserve an invitation to the NCAAs but ended up in the Final Four. They whined this year about eating at the kids' table in the NIT, but the Orange would have played better against Florida than Virginia did Saturday. Then again, the same was true for a team from the church league. Virginia scored a measly 39 points in a blowout loss to Florida.

Virginia Tech and Miami suffered first-round knockouts in 8-9 games. Notre Dame was manhandled by West Virginia in a 4-5 game in Buffalo. They amount to coin flips when picking the winners, but you would expect more when nine teams emerge from the almighty ACC.

The Big East wasn't much better. Rhode Island beating Creighton was predictable considering the way the Rams played in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The A-10 shouldn't be confused with the Big East, but the best teams in the A-10 can play with average teams in bigger conferences.

Rhode Island is a collection of grown men, as St. Bonaventure found out when it was pushed around in Pittsburgh. In mid-major programs, players are more likely to stick around for four seasons while McDonald's All-Americans from power conferences treat college as a developmental league that steers them into the NBA.

The Big East sent six teams to the NCAAs. Butler and Xavier were the only two from the conference to reach the Sweet 16 after Providence lost its First Four game to Southern California, Marquette, Creighton and Seton Hall lost in the first round and defending-champion Villanova fell in Buffalo, again.

Let's be honest: If you picked Xavier to get this far, you were the president of the fan club, taking a wild guess on a long shot or plain stupid. It doesn't matter. You can still brag to your friends in the office about your basketball intelligence while conveniently ignoring all the mistakes you made other than Xavier.

Not a single person has a perfect bracket, so here's an idea that would give everybody a fresh start: Take the 16 teams remaining in the tournament and run another office pool. If you were paying attention through the first weekend, there shouldn't be any surprises moving forward.

It should get easier, right?

Just know that when next Monday rolls around, and the odds improved in everybody's favor, there's a very good chance – almost 100 percent, actually – that your bracket will blow up again, leaving you to wallow in the same regret you experienced over the weekend.

Isn't this fun?

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