NCAA tournament brings out the best in college basketball

The analysis of the regular season no longer applies in the postseason, as shown by the downfall of higher-seeded teams on the first two days of the tournament.

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Taylor Braun

North Dakota State's Taylor Braun encourages fans to make some noise after scoring a basket during the Bison's upset victory over Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA tournament Thursday. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press / March 20, 2014)

SPOKANE, Wash. — Taylor Braun tried to pull everyone's leg after North Dakota State pulled off Thursday's West regional semi-stunner against Oklahoma.

"Honestly," the Bison's star deadpanned at the postgame news conference at Spokane Arena, "I don't know what all the hype is about, the NCAA tournament."

With perfect comedic pause, he added, "I'm kidding."

2014 NCAA tournament bracket

What happened during the first two days of the NCAA tournament was no joke to higher seeded teams that got sent home with upset stomachs.

Only a free-throw choke job by North Carolina State against Saint Louis prevented all No. 12-seeded schools from winning on the first full day.

We probably should have seen it coming Wednesday night when Tennessee needed a dramatic overtime win over Iowa just to make the field of 64.

That led to four overtime games Thursday in the fastest start to a sporting event since last year's Indy 500.

The worst part of college basketball is the seemingly endless months of over-analytic prattle over rankings, Ratings Percentage Index, conference strength, all crescendoing toward the incessantly annoying finale of "perceived seeding injustices."

The best part is now.

The worst part is TV experts who coached (or played) at elite colleges lobbying for the 11th-placed team in the Big 12 getting a bid over a mid-major runner-up.

The best part is Gonzaga, from the two bid (barely) West Coast Conference, beating Oklahoma State.

Nate Silver is an expert at predicting election outcomes, yet his lively FiveThirtyEight blog, after running the numbers, gave Mercer a 7% chance of beating Duke on Friday.

Mercer actually won by seven.

The best part is when everything Digger Phelps has been telling you for months is wrong because the regular and post seasons are two entirely different entities.

They are different as Penn is from Teller.

The best part is rolling out the balls in March and a chimp picking as many winners as Jay Bilas.

The sport is truly compelling when Ohio State can't dodge Dayton any longer, and it becomes No. 6 vs. No. 11 at neutral-site Buffalo, N.Y.

And Dayton wins, 60-59, when Vee Sanford scores the game-winner over Ohio State's Aaron Craft, the best on-ball defender in the nation.

"It's amazing how it's going to end with a kid getting game-winner on me," Craft said afterward.

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