My NCAA Tournament bracket looks like a sheet of canvas Jackson Pollack practiced on.

It’s a mess.

But somewhere in there among the angry scratches and scribbling of surprise results there’s a story that everyone’s bracket tells. That story is about the ludicrous upsets, crazy comebacks and historic shockers that have virtually redefined the concept of “upset.”

Truly, what is an upset anymore? Is there such a thing?

Once Maryland-Baltimore County became the first 16-seed in tournament history to win, we officially graduated to a new set of rules. A 16 over a 1 makes a 12 over a 5 look like no big deal. And that’s what used to define shocking in past seasons.

I’ve decided not to worry about the chaos within my bracket and instead just enjoy the tournament and the quirky storylines that will inevitably light a fuse that finally blows the whole thing to smithereens.

Along the way I discovered that just 10 coaches in NCAA history have taken three different schools to the Sweet 16.

Bruce Weber became the 10th Sunday when his Kansas State team won its way to Atlanta and a date Thursday against Kentucky.

Weber also coached Southern Illinois and Illinois to the Sweet 16. And although Kansas State didn’t earn any style points for its low-scoring victory over tournament Cinderella Maryland-Baltimore County, remember that Weber's Wildcats dispatched Creighton and UMBC without its best player, big man Dean Wade, who was injured in the Big 12 Conference tournament.

Wade said he’s 98 percent certain he’ll play against Kentucky.

I’m rooting for Bruce. No one pours more of himself into coaching than he does and even if his offense makes you grind your teeth, his defense is like unleashing five hungry tigers. They come after teams like they’re the last scrap of meat on Earth.

Reaching the Sweet 16 with three difference schools turns out to be a routine achievement for former Illini head coaches.

Bill Self has taken Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas to the Sweet 16 and Lon Kruger has actually done it with four schools — Kansas State, Florida, UNLV and Oklahoma.

Three times Kruger coached Illinois to the Round of 32, bowing out in 1997 to Tennessee-Chattanooga, in 1998 with a loss to Maryland and in 2000 to Florida.

Remember, Kruger left the Illini after the 1999-2000 season to become head coach of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA. Lon’s had a fascinating career and few coaches are more respected within the profession.

As I said, he’s taken four different schools in the Sweet 16, two to the Final Four (Florida and Oklahoma) and in a profession that can be cruel and unforgiving, he always seems to land deftly on his feet.

Now 65, I wonder if Lon has one more reinvention of himself yet to come? Probably not, but — just like my NCAA Tournament bracket — at this point nothing would surprise me.

Follow Mark Tupper on Twitter: @MarkTupper


Sports Columnist

Sports columnist for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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