Brackets and more brackets

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By Greg Woods

Let me start by saying I am an extremely lucky man. Take my complaining with a grain of salt. I have a great family and a job that I enjoy 95 percent of the time.

Until this year’s March Madness began I would have said 100 percent of the time. But this year I have had to work on the Henry Hoopla brackets a lot more. Last year I had a little more help. And last year we did not have nearly as many entrants.

My last two Sunday nights have been spent taking a highlighter and marking all the correct guesses (yes I said guesses) and then totaling the points. My wonderful wife, Kelley, bit the bullet and helped me with the tedious task on both occasions and my oldest daughter, Libby, was a big help after last week’s round of 32.

Of course, two people informed me that I could have run the contest online after it was too late to do so. That was  a head slapping moment  for me. First, I wish they had told me before we started and second, why didn’t I think of looking online for a resource to make it easier. I felt like a dinosaur.

My boss, Melissa, typed all the results in order for me last week but abandoned me for the beaches of Mexico this week so that I had that task to myself.

Even with all that help, I really don’t ever want to see a bracket again… especially mine.

I might have had a little more enthusiasm for the task if it had not become apparent by the end of the first night of the tournament that I was out of contention. This is really getting embarrassing. I write columns on sports all the time. I am supposed to know what is going on in the world of college basketball but, once again, I find myself stuck in the middle of the pack with no chance of making up ground in the Final Four.

I did pick Wisconsin in the Final Four. The only problem is that I picked them in last year’s Final Four. I was one year away from having a surprise pick make it to the Promised Land. This year there are two surprise teams in the Final Four if you take seeding seriously.

The University of Connecticut was on almost nobody’s radar for this tournament. They had a nice season but were torched by Louisville twice and really seemed to be in a bracket that would make it next to impossible to get to North Texas. I think one person in our Hoopla contest picked them to get there.

The other surprise, to me anyway, was Kentucky. I have not been a fan of this year’s Big Blue. They seemed immature and incapable of handling the pressure of the spotlight. I had them losing to Wichita State. After they shocked the Shockers I told anybody who would listen that the championship experience of the Cards would trump the talent of the Cats. The only problem was that the Cats acted like the team with championship experience in the final minutes of that game.

And then there was Michigan. I thought the Cats had a chance to beat the Wolverines because they had a huge size advantage but then Willie Cauley-Stein went down and I wasn’t sure that Dakari Johnson could handle the load by himself. Out of the shadows stepped one Marcus Lee. Lee has gotten very little playing time down the stretch and when he has, he has not been impressive.

So what did he do when he finally got a chance at extended minutes? He torched Michigan with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots to keep the Cats in it until some of his more ballyhooed teammates got their act together.

Not only did the Cats win three games that I doubted they could win but they did it against teams that played at a very high level. They have been involved in three of the best games of the tournament. Games where the quality of play was a cut above most of the other tournament games. That makes what they did even more remarkable. They went out and beat teams. They didn’t get anything handed to them. Well, except for the Cards’ self-destruction in the last two minutes of that game. I don’t understand that and I don’t think I ever will. The Cards just needed to take care of the basketball and take good shots down the stretch and they did neither.

But I don’t want to take away from what the Wildcats did. They truly have earned my respect for finally listening to their coach and doing what it takes to be a championship-caliber team. I am now fully on the bandwagon and expect them to cut down the nets in Texas next Monday.

If they don’t, blame me. I don’t exactly have a good track record for picking winners.

Keep an eye on the Lady Cats

Last year I made a prediction that did come true when I said that something special was brewing with the Eminence Warriors’ volleyball team. They went on to win this year’s district tournament and reached the semifinals of the regional tournament.

I think the Henry County Lady Cats’ softball team has something similar going on. The team has no seniors this year and already has an impressive performance in a loss to Sacred Heart to start the season followed by three straight wins.

The Lady Cats are by no means a finished product. They have to be more consistent at the plate and they have to get better defensively to compete consistently with the top tier teams across the state.

But the potential is there. They have good athletes who are aggressive at the plate and on the base paths. They have an obvious love for the game and appear to handle coaching well. Most importantly they have two years together to polish their game.

I think the Lady Cats could make a special run before the 2015 season ends.