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ncaa tournament

Cornell Reinstates Your Faith in Nerds

The first four days of the NCAA Tournament were thrilling almost out of protest, as if the grand tourney, aware that the NCAA is set to destroy perfection next season, made one last ditch plea to be left alone. The first and second rounds had everything: overtime, double overtime, multiple buzzer-beaters, eclectic characters (the world is not ready for Omar Samhan), and truly jaw-dropping upsets (0.5 percent of players in the Yahoo Pick 'Em game didn't have Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen). It was all fantastic. Around here, though, you're about to have a week of Big Red Madness.

Cornell isn't just for the Nard Dog anymore — the Big Red didn't just beat Temple and Wisconsin over the weekend, they beat them both convincingly. (As a Big Ten alum who watched Wisconsin play many times this season, we'll say that no one sliced through the Badgers' defense like Cornell did yesterday. It was strange to watch.) What has people really excited, though, is their Sweet Sixteen matchup: Cornell versus Kentucky at the Carrier Dome, Ivies versus Cheaters, all that's theoretically good in the college basketball world versus all that is theoretically bad. That game is at approximately 9:57 on Thursday night. The basketball gods will be watching.

Perhaps the only team who had it easier than Kentucky and Cornell in the first two rounds was Syracuse, who made an excellent Gonzaga team look awful yesterday. They play the early game on Thursday, against Butler. Syracuse's bracket is the one region that has played somewhat close to form: Adding up the numbers of all the seeds gives you 14, lower than the South's 18, Midwest's 22, and the East's 26. That potential Kansas State regional final is looming.

But who knows anymore? Like everyone else's, our tourney pool bracket has been devastated: In The Sports Section pool, we're 312th out of 476 entries. (Our predicted champion, Kentucky, is still alive.) Three entries reside in first place: ny35mike, LL Cool Tay, and wish it were quidditch, all with 48 points so far.

See how much fun all this is? And how much 96 teams will ruin it? Enjoy it while you can.

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Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images