Welcome to BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for all your NCAA tournament needs.
Today, we have The Rock, the world's ugliest tie, the sneakiest coaching move of the season -- from France; what, you were expecting John Calipari? -- and the answer to the question on everyone's mind with the games that matter still two days away: Will Hef be watching in a smoking jacket surrounded by Playboy bunnies?
But first, we simulate the entire tournament so you don't have to.
When Associated Press sportswriter Noah Trister volunteered to sit in one place and watch the NCAA drama unfold from start to finish, we worried that as a Princeton man (Class of `01), he might not know some teams actually play more than one game before heading home.
So to conserve energy, we told him to skip the play-in games -- here's all you need to know: North Carolina A&T 73, Liberty 72; Saint Mary's 67, Middle Tennessee 54.
But he took a pass and let us in on his secret instead, a website called whatifsports.com. You can simulate any tournament matchup you want there, complete with play-by-play and a boxscore, or the whole shebang in just under two hours. Let's go right to the highlights:
Creighton star Doug McDermott provides the first are-you-kidding-me moment, a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bluejays a 79-76 win over Cincinnati. ... Pacific shoots 9 of 14 from 3-point range to bounce No. 2 seed Miami in the biggest upset of the round of 64. ... No. 10 Colorado beats top-rated Indiana in the East regional final (Trister: "Yes, you read that correctly"), and No. 9 Wichita State shocks third-rated New Mexico (on Malcolm Armstead's trey with 1 second left) to win the West. ... The other top seeds, Louisville and Kansas advance out of the Midwest and South, respectively.
On to the Final Four:
Louisville 68, Wichita State 58. Kansas 71, Colorado 44. (Time saved to this point: 17 days and counting.)
And the championship game April 8:
Kansas leads 42-40 at halftime, then goes on a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to 64-52. Louisville cuts the deficit to eight with 4:48 left on a 3-pointer by Wayne Blackshear. But the Cardinals don't score again. Jeff Withey scores 16 and grabs 13 rebounds to close out Kansas' 77-63 victory. Cue "One Shining Moment."
Now go here: http://bit.ly/Yqkwqk
And don't forget to turn out the lights.
CELEBRITY ALUM (OR HAZARDOUS DUTY, PART 2)
The Rock was in London the other day, doing what The Rock does, though usually not at tournament time -- walking the red carpet at the premiere of another of his everything-gets-blown-to-smithereens-by-the-end movies, in this case "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."
And man, does The Rock ever know about retaliation.
Born Dwayne Johnson, he's the son and grandson of pro wrestlers (both grandparents, in fact, on his maternal side), and the old WWF is where he made his name and boatloads of money before making the segue to the silver screen.
What many people don't know is that Johnson was also a big-time football prospect who got a full ride to the University of Miami back when the Hurricanes were pillaging everything in sight across the college landscape. Then he got hurt and future NFL star Warren Sapp stepped into his place -- think Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig -- so Johnson collected his championship ring (1991) and his degree (Class of `92), took up with the woman who became his wife and lit out for Calgary in the Canadian Football League.
"Fast & Furious" doesn't begin to describe that stint; it lasted two months.
Now fast-forward to Monday, when AP entertainment and lifestyles producer Reetu Rupal was waiting in the rain -- naturally, we're back in London now -- to find out whether The Rock, who takes March Madness very seriously, had time to fill out his bracket.
Feel free to add your own inflections, accents and gestures to the following brief conversation.
Rupal (who is British and reading the questions off a list we sent him): "Are you following March Madness?"
The Rock: "Yes."
Rupal: "And who are you rooting for?"
The Rock (nostrils flaring): "Who do you think? Who would you think?"
Rupal: The Miami.
The Rock (thrilled): The Miami Hurricanes! Exactly. We're doing amazing, I'm very, very proud of my team."
Rupal (now thrilled as well): And have you filled out your bracket form yet?"
The Rock: "I have not, no."
Rupal: "Do you know who's going to be in your Final Four?"
The Rock (even more thrilled): "I can tell you who's going to be my No. 1!"
Rupal, on the other hand, has yet to pick a team. Or get more excited.
"Don't really know much about it, I'm afraid," he said. "But it sounds like fun "
I'LL SHOW YOU FUN
Not everybody on the other side of the Atlantic, of course, is still learning the game. This is the story of one guy who apparently learned too much for his own good.
His name is Laurent Sciarra, and he's a former French national team player who now coaches Rouen in France's second division. With the clock running down and his team tied at 84 with Boulogne Sur Mer in a recent game, watch what he tries to get away with at around the 30-second mark here: http://bit.ly/XVLvQj .
That's right. He tries to steal the ball from a Boulogne player, but gets caught and whistled for a technical foul. The two resulting free throws cost Rouen the game. But the best part is how Sciarra, like some pro wrestler, denies the whole thing and then fakes outrage the refs would dare accuse him of something so silly.
Which raises the question: Where is The Rock when you really need him?
DO NOT ADJUST YOUR TV
If you're dreading to see whether some of teams show up for the tournament dressed in the same Phyllis Diller-inspired uniforms they trotted out in the regular season, relax. It can't get much worse than this: http://deadsp.in/146wqwf.
Now, if you dare, go back and read the second commenter.
SPEAKING OF RACY
For some reason, the idea that Hugh Hefner would be padding around the Playboy mansion in LA late at night, keeping track of the progress of his beloved Illini (Class of `49), seemed reassuring. So we asked AP Business Writer Christina Rexrode to investigate.
She couldn't get past CEO Scott Flanders, but he was thrilled to talk about the tournament. Flanders grew up Indianapolis, went to Colorado for his undergrad degree, then moved back home for law school at Indiana. So he's got two very promising rooting interests to keep track of in the tournament and almost as good, hated rival Kentucky is nowhere to be found.
"If Kentucky played the Russians, Id be for the Russians. And for them not to make it after winning last year," he savored the moment, "is delicious."
Great. But what about Hef?
"He is not a big sports fan. I would say he likes what the girls like. He watches a lot of popular TV, like `Dancing with the Stars,' and his real passion is vintage movies," Flanders said. "Now hes married and he watches what Crystal likes to watch."
So Rexrode asked Flanders whether he'd don one of the founder's trademark smoking jackets and surround himself with bunnies because ... well, just because he can.
"Theres only one playboy at Playboy, and thats Hef.' he laughed. "I've gotten a few smoking jackets as gag gifts from people, but no."
No playmates, either?
"Hefs job," Flanders replied. "He still picks every playmate, every month."
Apparently that's what keeps him up late at night.
STAT OF THE DAY
No matter what you call the tournament-opening games -- play-in or First Four -- they're rarely as close as the first game between North Carolina A&T and Liberty. Over the previous 10 NCAAs, only 6 percent of those were decided by three points or fewer, or in overtime.
But if that game was the start of a trend, research by STATS suggests fans who stress easily might want to load up on Kava Kava or Valerian Root (since we only prescribe herbal remedies here at BracketRacket). Because once the round of 64 kicks into gear Thursday, the number of close games rachets up to 17 percent, then 23 percent for all the subsequent rounds combined.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I don't even understand it, like who cares if I go to the grocery store, I went to the cleaners this morning? Get a life," -- old-school Saint Louis University coach Jim Crews on why he doesn't use Twitter.
North Carolina A&T 73, Liberty 72
Saint Mary's 67, Middle Tennessee 54
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.