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Rick Barnes through the years

Dean Smith's estate sends letters, $200 checks to 180 former UNC players

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Letters and checks for $200 were sent to 180 players who played for Dean Smith, according to a trustee for Smith’s estate.

 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill coach died Feb. 7 at the age of 83.   Smith was the head coach of the Tar Heels from 1961-1997, retiring with 879 wins and two national championships.   The letter was sent Monday to all former basketball lettermen who played for Smith.   A message sent with the checks read: “Each player was important and special to Coach Smith, and when he prepared his estate, Coach Smith wanted to reach out to each of his lettermen.”   A notation on each $200 check read, "Dinner out."

3 ways March Madness lived up to its name on day one

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Is your bracket busted? Well, don't worry because you're not alone.

Here are the three big upsets that are making most of us pull out our hair on day one of the NCAA tournament.

As you probably already know, Conference USA champs and No. 14 seed UAB kept the momentum going, knocking off No. 3 seed Iowa State.

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Blazers fans have a lot to be fired up about too. As SB Nation was quick to point out, their big upset comes just months after the school shut down its football program, so the victory resonates with their fans on multiple levels.

And, even if the upset ripped apart your bracket, we'll give you a solid reason to jump on the team's bandwagon.

Notice those mismatched shoes they keep wearing? Well, that's all a part of an effort to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer with an area cancer treatment center.

>>Visit our special section: NCAA Basketball Tournament

Next up: same seeds, different region.

"The first time that two No. 14 seeds have won in the same day since 1995, so you've got decades of history that we're breaking through," CBS Sports basketball writer Chip Patterson said.

Yep, it's about as wild as it gets. No. 14 seed Georgia State sent No. 3 seed Baylor packing early as well when R.J. Hunter nailed a buzzer beater pretty much from the parking lot.

R.J. is the son of head coach Ron Hunter, who might need to work on his celebrating technique. He tore his achilles tendon jumping around after their Sun Belt Championship win last week. 

>>Photos: 2015 NCAA tournament

And then he flopped on the floor Thursday after his son's big shot.

"Hey! Dude, we gotta get a back to my dad's chair! ... He's wild. He's gonna tear his other achilles," R.J. Hunter said.

And, lastly, some good old fashioned controversy. 

No. 11 UCLA inches by No. 6 SMU on a ... goaltending call? UCLA's Bryce Alford launched a 3-pointer with just seconds to go, while SMU's Yanick Moreira appeared to jump up and tip it on its way down.

Now, according to NCAA rules, it's only goaltending if the shot has the possibility of going in. And it's also, yup, non-reviewable. 

So, cue the controversy. Outsports said the officials were "clearly" in the right, Deadspin said they were all wrong, and CBS posed the obvious question: "should goaltending be reviewable?"

>>Vote in our poll: Should goal tending be reviewable in the NCAA?"

In the end, you probably fell prey to a few defeats. According to CBS, more than 99 percent of all its brackets were busted with the first few hours of the tournament.


Dayton advances over Boise St.

Photos: 2015 NCAA tournament

March Madness: Stats to help with your NCAA Tournament bracket

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Oh, let the madness begin! The NCAA Tournament is officially set. Here's a quick run-down as you scurry to fill out your bracket this year.

No surprise here: the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats are the top seed overall. They're placed in the Midwest Region. Virginia's early loss in the ACC Tournament cost them a No. 1 spot, so Villanova slides into the East. Duke and Wisconsin fill out the remaining No. 1 seeds.

Now, seven of the last 10 NCAA national champions have been one seeds, so it's a good conservative bet to have those teams go deep into the tournament.

>> Download a printable 2015 NCAA Tournament Bracket

On the flip side: the 16 seeds such as Coastal Carolina, Lafayette and the other small schools we all love to root for ... well, good luck, because they're going to need it. Not a single number one seed has ever lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Ever.

Beyond that, let's not kid ourselves. The rest is pretty much a crapshoot. Though there are a few more stats to keep in mind as you're ironing out your bracket.

History tells us you'll want to have some upsets, but don't get too wild knocking off favorites.

>> PHOTOS: Top seeds in 2015 NCAA tournament

According to USA Today, "If you total the number of the seeds in your Final Four, you want to shoot for single digits or the low teens. Only six times has the total exceeded 14." 

Of course, three of those six times occurred in the past four years. But, historically, historicallyit's actually pretty rare for lower seeds to squeeze into the Final Four.

Then again, don't bend the coat hanger the other way. Only once in NCAA tournament history have all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four. That was in 2008.

>> PHOTOS: NCAA cheerleaders bring the spirit

So, where's a good place for that random first round upset? 

For whatever reason, the No. 12 seed has upset No. 5 44 times since 1985. And last year, 3 out of 4 of those match-ups went to the underdogs. Over the long haul, almost the same can be said for the No. 11 vs. No. 6 matchup.

In the end, just like every year, we'll probably get surprises left and right. But this year, there's really been one team that has stolen the spotlight with an unprecedented run. Maybe you've heard of them.

>> Special section: 2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament


Or maybe you're tired of hearing about them. Yep, the Kentucky Wildcats are on the doors steps of NCAA history. (Video via

The Cats are led by a cast of NBA-bound talent, with depth and incredible defense. They have their sights set on the first perfect season since 1976 and are, without a doubt, the favorite to win it all.

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"I think I have the best team and the best players. I do. Now, does that mean we'll win? No, it doesn't. ... That's why this tournament is what it is," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said.

But, they're also the outright No. 1 seed, which, at least in recent years, hasn't equated to a lock for the national title. 

And, the Prediction Machine — whatever that is — claims to use things like strength of schedule and other computer metrics to calculate the Cats odds. It says the team has about a 44 percent chance to win the championship.

So, good luck! And, if you miss a few, don't sweat it. After all, USA Today says the chances of getting every pick right is "1 in 9.2 quintillion. That's a nine with 18 zeroes" behind it.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Wake / CC BY 3.0.

5 tips for winning your bracket pool

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My justified cynicism about college athletics cannot prevent me from enjoying March Madness, the greatest event on the American sports calendar. It’s in my (Cardinals red) blood as a native of Louisville and not even 18 years of seeing how the sausage is made has hardened the part of my soul that loves the NCAA men's college basketball tournament.

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Using analysis from Pete Tiernan of, Ken Pomeroy’s invaluable efficiency rankings and numbers from the history of the tournament, I offer five tips for winning your bracket pool. If your goal is not to win a pool but to have fun with the bracket then, by all means, ignore all these numbers and just go with your gut, favorite mascots, pick against hated coaches or teams or whatever.

» Play Mark Bradley's Bracket Fiasco


According to Tiernan, the 2014 tournament was the most unpredictable since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (now 68 including the play-in games). The 2013 tournament ranked second in unpredictability.

Writes Tiernan: “In fact, the last five years have easily been the craziest of the 30-year 64-team era. In the first 25 years of the modern bracket, the average dance deviated from higher-seed perfection by 13.6%. In the last five years, that deviation is 19.2%, more than 40% wilder. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Chances are there will be upsets. But history says to go ahead and advance all No. 1 seeds to the fourth round and all No. 2 seeds to the third round. It’s not very exciting to do this, and chances are at least one of those eight teams will lose earlier, but it’s the safe play:  The average No. 1 seed wins about 3.32 games per tourney and the average No. 2 seed wins about 2.41 games per tourney.

Also don’t pick many seeds lower than 12 to win a first-round game and don’t pick any of them to advance past the second round. In the 64-team era No. 16 seeds have never beaten a top seed, Nos. 13-15 are a combined 59-360 (.164) in the first round and only seven of 120 teams (5.8 percent) seeded 13 or lower have advanced as far as the Sweet 16.


It’s happened enough times now that it’s actually wise to pick a 12 seed to win. Only three times since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 has a five seed failed to lose to No. 12. Three No. 12 seeds beat No. 5 seeds in both the 2013 and 2014 tournaments.

The 5-12 matchups this year are West Virginia-Buffalo, Northern Iowa-Wyoming, Arkansas-Wofford and Utah-Stephen F. Austin.

Pomeroy’s rankings show that Northern Iowa is a particularly strong No. 5 seed and Wyoming is the weakest No. 12 so don’t pick an upset there (Pomeroy gives Wyoming a 15 percent chance of winning). According to Pomeroy Wofford has a 27 percent chance of upsetting Arkansas. Utah also is a strong No. 5 seed but Stephen F. Austin is the best No. 12 by far in Pomeroy's rankings and has a 26 percent chance of winning. Buffalo is the best bet of all the No. 12 seeds with a 37 percent chance of winning, according to Pomeroy.

So go ahead and pick Buffalo with confidence. If you want to back another No. 12 seed, I'd go with Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks are capable of making Utah, a slow-paced team, play faster because they shoot the ball well and create a lot of extra possessions with steals and forced turnovers (while rarely turning the ball over themselves).  


This parallels tip No. 1 above. It just doesn’t happen often that a team seeded lower than No. 8 makes the Final Four, even with the recent trend of upsets.

In the past five years only two of 20 Final Four teams were seeded lower then eighth (No. 11 VCU in2011 and No. 9 Wichita State in 2009). In the 30 years of the expanded tournament only four of 120 (3.3 percent) teams in the Final Four were seeded lower than No. 8.

Only one team seeded lower than sixth has advanced to the championship game: eight-seeded Villanova, the famed Cinderella that won it all under coach Rollie Massimino in 1985.


Picking the championship winner usually is worth the most points in bracket pools so get it right. Since the expansion of the tournament, teams seeded No. 1 or 2 have won the championship in 21 of the 30 years. No. 3 seeds won the tournament four times, No. 6 seeds won twice, and seed Nos. 4, 7, and 8 each won it all once.

Picking a one or two seed to win the tournament a good bet but use the numbers to pick from among them.

Since 2002, the first year of Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency rankings, all but one champion ranked in the top 18 in offense and the top 17 in defense. The exception is last year's champion, Connecticut, which ranked No. 39 in offensive efficiency and No. 10 in defense.

Assuming there won’t be another surprise champion, the winner of this year’s tourney likely will rank at least No. 18 in offensive efficiency and No. 17 in defensive efficiency. Teams in the field that qualify: Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Utah and Northern Iowa.

Furthermore, Tiernay says 13 of the last 14 champions have shared eight credentials (Connecticut is the lone exception):

  • A one, two or three seed
  • Member of a "Big Six" conference: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC.
  • Went to the tournament in the previous year or has an All-American player
  • Coach has been to the tournament at least six times and advanced to the Elite Eight at least once
  • Scoring more than 73 points per game
  • Allowing fewer than 73 points per game
  • Average victory margin is more than seven points
  • A schedule strength ranked in the top 75 nationally

The teams that meet all eight of those criteria in this tournament are Kentucky, Villanova, Arizona and Duke.

That leaves just three teams that have championship credentials according to both the Pomeroy and  Tiernay formulas: Kentucky, Arizona and Villanova. Picking one of them to win it all is a sound play.


You already know most of the good tournament coaches even if you don’t follow much college basketball. They are the brand names. But certain coaches have earned a reputation for flaming out early in tournaments with higher seeds.

Tiernay developed a formula ,Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE), that quantifies how much coaches over- and under-perform their seeds. Luckily most of the worst under-performing coaches are not in this tournament but three coaches are waiting to ruin your bracket.

Pick these coaches to lose when their seed says they shouldn’t or, at the very least, don’t advance their teams far in the NCAA bracket: John Thompson III (Georgetown), Steve Alford (UCLA) and Mike Brey (Notre Dame).

Alford is easy to pick against because, not only is he a bad tournament coach, but his 11th-seeded Bruins are up against SMU. The Mustangs are led by Larry Brown, making this game a monumental coaching mismatch.

Also avoid backing Brey or Thompson. The seventh-seeded Irish’s 76-58 thumping by 10th-seeded Iowa State in the 2013 tournament was the fourth consecutive season Brey’s Notre Dame team lost as the higher seed.

Thompson III made the 2007 Final Four as a No. 2 seed; since then he has five losses as the higher seed in five tournaments, including the memorable loss to No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast in the 2013 tournament (he's also lost a first-round game with No. 3 seed).

On the flip side are the coaches that most years you can count on to at least win the games their seeds say they should or overachieve: Sean Miller (Arizona), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Rick Pitino (Go Cards). Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), John Calipari (Kentucky), Roy Williams (North Carolina) and Thad Matta (Ohio State).

Beware, though, of Coack K. His tourney results have actually been well below seed expectations over the last 10 years. He could be going the way of Bob Knight and Denny Crum and seeing his tourney results fade as he ages (though it's all relative for one of the best tournament coaches in history).

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