NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 18: Jarron Cumberland #34 of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts after falling to the Nevada Wolf Pack during the second half in the second round of the 2018 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Sports Today: So much for Ohio’s high NCAA tournament hopes

I’ve been putting off starting today’s column because I want to try to write the perfect summation of an amazingly imperfect NCAA tournament weekend. 

Is that possible? 

If you didn’t have any beloved teams in the field  that had to be the most fun four days ever to be a sports fan. 

(Unless, of course, you take your bracket too seriously and actually thought you were going to win your office pool.) 

RELATED: Bet on NCAA long shot retrieves big payday for UMBC fans

The handful of ugly games were more than made up for by the drama and the surprises. 

But of course if you’re from Cincinnati or root for Michigan State or Virginia, well, it was probably the worst...

I’m really dumbfounded by the Queen City collapses.

Conference pride is dumb, but I do like state pride (unless it’s Cleveland, which is pretty much Pennsylvania anyway, right?) so I would rather see both the Bearcats and the Musketeers win than lose even though I didn’t grow up rooting for either of them. 

I can’t decide if it is more fitting or more weird that their losses Sunday night were so similar.

Big leads blown.

Costly foul trouble.

Terrible execution down the stretch.

Mick Cronin correctly called for a two-for-one in the last minute of UC’s loss to Nevada, but the execution was awful on both ends. So instead of getting two good shots, he got none — instead the Nevada got two looks and made the second one count. 

Chris Mack botched the end for the X-Men, bafflingly calling for a foul when he could have let his team play out the defensive possession then running a final play that didn’t involve his best player. 

So strange. 

What’s it mean for the city as a whole?

I really don’t know, but I’m not interested in curse talk or any of that fatalistic garbage. Let Cleveland sports fans continue to corner the market on that stuff. It’s dumb. 

Every team has disappointing losses.

No one has the market cornered on heartbreak.

Obviously some places know a lot more about how it feels to win, but let’s not get too dramatic here.

I mean what happened Sunday was bad enough by itself, right? No need to add some greater meaning… 

I did tweet that it’s never going to happen for the Bearcats, though. 

That was obviously a heat-of-the-moment thought, but there is good reason to wonder. 

I thought this was a team whose ability to score separated it from past Bearcat squads, but ultimately they looked completely clueless on that end of the floor as the game wound down. 

Cronin has done a great job rebuilding the program after the administration botched separating itself from Bob Huggins, but if he doesn’t continue to upgrade the recruiting, Bearcats fans shouldn’t bother getting their hopes up in the future. 

Grit and passion can only take you so far, especially since the efforts to improve freedom of movement were surprisingly successful over the past couple of seasons... 

Meanwhile, Xavier is in an entirely different boat. 

Recruiting has steadily improved over the years, and there’s reason to believe that could continue. 

The Musketeers obviously haven’t had as many legitimate Final Four contenders in their history as Cincinnati, but I would still buy stock in their future. 

That’s still true even if Mack goes elsewhere at some point because the program has already handled multiple coaching changes during its rise… 

Meanwhile, Ohio State fell victim to a more conventional problem: The Buckeyes lost to a team with a better seed and a better roster. 

New coach Chris Holtmann was playing with house money all year, and he came out way ahead even without making the Sweet 16. 

The Buckeyes still played two more NCAA tournament games than most people expected they would, so that’s got to be something to build on. 

He’s proven he can coach ‘em up like Mack and Cronin. 

His success will be dictated by how well he recruits… 

How about my bracket?

Yeah, it’s in pretty bad shape. 

I was actually still optimistic midway through Sunday because even some of the big early upsets didn’t hurt me much. 

I didn’t have Virginia or Michigan State in the Elite Eight, so those upsets hurt others more than they hurt me in the long run. 

READ MORE at Marcus Hartman’s “Cus Words Blog

Then North Carolina got blown out, the Cincinnati teams choked and it’s pretty much over for me even though I picked Villanova to win it all. 

On the bright side, my “final answers” bracket is outperforming my first impressions, so I guess a little extra research wasn’t a total waste of time! 

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