04/01/11 — Coggins: Improbable matchups create talk

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Coggins: Improbable matchups create talk

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 1, 2011 1:47 PM

The bright red marks are reminders of old papers graded by my college professors.

Questions are written in the margin.

Comments are left at the bottom of the page.

Mistakes are crossed out everywhere.

But this is just a regular piece of paper that draws my ire each time I stare at it laying on my computer desk at home. It's the brackets for this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Man, talk about taking major hits.

Just one -- one -- of my picks survived and reached the Final Four: UConn, which strangely enough, I didn't pick to win it all. That distinction belonged to Duke when I learned that Kyrie Irving would return to the lineup before opening-round play against Hampton U.

Oh well.

Mind-boggling, improbable results have absolutely obliterated my bracket since I scribbled feverishly to predict game-by-game winners before the First Four tipped off just two weeks ago. The "little guys" in not-so-exotic leagues have figured out ways to beat the six power conferences in a lose-and-go home format that's created animated water-cooler chats over the past 2 1/2 weeks.

When the latest edition of college basketball's biggest dance launches Saturday in Houston, you've got at least three teams no one expected to be there -- freshman-led Kentucky, Cinderella VCU and giant killer Butler.

The favorite?

I just don't know.

The VCU-Butler contest undoubtedly has numerous subplots:

* Wayne Country Day alum Reco McCarter is enjoying the experience of a lifetime as the Rams, a No. 11 seed and winners of a play-in game, are making a run comparable to George Mason in 2006.

* VCU coach Shaka Smart and Butler coach Brad Stephens are on the short list for the N.C. State job opening.

* The Dogs' Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack get a chance at redemption after nearly upsetting Duke in last year's national title game.

Then there's Kentucky vs. UConn.

The Wildcats were supposedly a year away from reaching this point after losing three freshmen to the NBA. UConn has won 10 games in 19 days, and is the lone team from the "Big Bust" Conference to make the Final Four.

Vegas bookies are picking the Wildcats.

I just don't know.

Where's my red pen?