Bracket Bustin’

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Greetings from The Booth!

This is arguably the most exciting weekend in sports, even if you are not a fan of college basketball. All of our cynicism about NIL, the transfer portal, and our feelings about the changing of college athletics gets put on the back burner for a while as the NCAA Basketball Tournament takes center stage. As I’ve said before, the cream usually rises to the top in the later rounds, but the real surprises happen in the first weekend of play.

How’s your bracket looking so far? As we enter Sunday’s second round play. I’m a respectable 32-8 overall, including a 7-1 day yesterday. I’m not sure where that puts me in the ol’ office pool, but as they say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. So, as we wrap up this first weekend of the Big Dance, here are some randon thoughts and observations…

If you’re looking for upsets, always start with the 12 versus 5 natchups. Of the four 12-seed versus 5-seed games this year, there were 2 upsets (both of which I called correctly). Grand Canyon took down St. Mary’s 75-66. The 30-4 Antelopes from the Western Athletic Conference will now face 4-seed Alabama in the second round and if the Tide is looking ahead to the Sweet Sixteen, we could have another upset today. The other 12-5 “upset” was the area’s own JMU Dukes’ decisive 72-61 win over Wisconsin. JMU raced to an early 18-5 lead and never looked back. I don’t have the Dukes taking out Duke today, but watch out. JMU has a number of scoring options in their lineup, and plays pretty good defense.

UVA is an embarrasment. The Cavaliers, one of the last teams to sneak into the NCAA Tourney, were shown the door by Colorado State in one of the so-called “First Four” games. In that 67-42 blowout loss, Virginia scored only 14 points in the first half. I said a few weeks ago that UVA had done enough to get into the tournament, but in retrospect, the teams that felt they were snubbed at the expense of Virginia were justified in feeling that way.

I felt going into the NCAA Tournament that Kansas was vastly overrated, especially with some late-season injuries. But who saw the 4-seed Jayhawks being ousted by 13-seed Samford (and Son)? Apparently, Kansas overlooked the talents of Fred, Lamont, Grady, and company and got sent to the junkyard of upset victims. In the words of Redd Foxx’ character in the 70’s sitcom, “Elizabeth…this is the big one, I’m comin’ to greet you!”

Finally, my Final Four? I have UConn, Baylor, Houston, and Gonzaga , with the Cougars winning the whole thing in the Championship against the Bears in an all-Texas Final. As I said earlier, the cream usually rises to the top in the later rounds, and all of the above four teams are solid, top-notch programs who so far have avoided any early upsets. But, the weekend ain’t over yet, so watch out for some bracket-bustin’ upsets today!

Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the March Madness!




Blackhawks help fight forest fires

West Virginia state seal. Used by written permission by Chief Deputy and Chief of Staff of West Virginia Chuck Flannery

Two West Virginia National Guard Blackhawk helicopters have been sent to Hardy County to help fight a 4000-acre wildfire near Wardensville, West Virginia and the Virginia State Line.

Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency for several counties, leading to the deployment of helicopters.

Each helicopter can carry 630 gallons of water over the dangerous terrain.

The aircraft and personnel arrived from Wheeling and Parkersburg and are experienced in battling wildfires.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

SNP trail closures

photo credit Scott Bradley Hesson with permission

Shenandoah National Park has closed Hull School Trail from Skyline Drive to Thornton River Upper Trail and Thornton River Upper Trail from the intersection of Hull School Trail to Skyline Drive due to the Rocky Branch Wildfire.

Closures still in place include Skyline Drive from Thornton Gap (mile 31.5) to Mathews Arm (mile 22.1), Appalachian Trail from Elkwallow to Beahms Gap, Rocky Branch Trail, Neighbor Mountain Trail, Jeremys Run Trail, and Byrds Nest 4 shelter.

A parkwide fire ban remains in effect.

National Park Service firefighters are working in partnership with Luray Fire Department and Virginia Department of Forestry.

The cause of this fire is unknown.

No structures are immediately threatened by the fire.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.