Morning Win guide to hating your bracket but loving the Heat

Tiger and Lindsey, the Heat, truTV.

But before we get to that….

“Who is your Final Four?”.

Publicly, you might be asking — it is the ultimate ice-breaker with friends, co-workers, that random person the next treadmill (or barstool) over.

Privately, the sentiment is a little darker:.

“I hate my bracket, I hate myself.”.

Welcome to the halfway point between Selection Sunday and the tip-off of games on Thursday afternoon — when you have been over your bracket so many times that the debate between Miami and Marquette in the East region semifinals has nothing on the tussle between your naive confidence and your crippling self-doubt.

Yesterday, I teased my Final Four picks: Louisville, Gonzaga, Indiana, Florida. Seems pretty reasonable — even risk-averse: Three 1-seeds and a strong 3-seed. So why the anxiety?

Louisville? In a season as unpredictable as this one, the only thing we should be sure of is that the team everyone thinks will win… Won’t.

Gonzaga? Their conference schedule was a joke, and they can’t take consecutive bruising from Pitt, Wisconsin and Ohio State without folding.

Indiana? It all seems too easy, too obvious.

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Florida? But they can’t win the close game! (Doubling down, I even picked the Gators to win it all.).

And yet….

Louisville earned that “everyone is picking them” cred.

Gonzaga IS that good.

Indiana DOES have an easy path.

Florida’s advanced metrics ARE off the charts.

Those are my bracket neuroses; everyone has their own, whether you have been bludgeoned into submission by Ohio State, are riding the VCU bandwagon, losing your mind over Miami or simply navigating when (oh gosh: if?) Duke will get knocked out.

Self-doubt about your bracket is as fundamental to the NCAA Tournament as Cinderellas, buzzer-beaters, sketchy claims about nationwide lost work productivity, scheduling vasectomies and the 12-over-5 “upset.”.

And so is that perennially renewable glimmer of hope that this year – this year – you nailed it.

(Even if, as usual, you’ll be kicking yourself by the end of the Sweet 16.).

*Heat: “We’ve got to leave our mark,” LeBron said. And after 23 wins in a row, a title in June seems presumptive. And so it is a reasonable question: What would be more impressive – the Heat winning back-to-back titles or topping the 1971-72 Lakers’ legendary 33-game winning streak?

*Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn: Woodsey? Vonnger? Sports’ newest celebrity couple instantly jumps to the top of the “sports couple of the moment” rankings, displacing Andrew McCarron and Katherine Webb. The whole “Glamour-Shots-released-on-Facebook” thing felt a bit contrived (even creepy), but it sure beats a drizzle of randy text messages involving a dozen paramours.

*Middle Tennessee! St. Mary’s! Dismissing the “First Four” became passe in 2011, when VCU went from the First Four to the Final Four. Heck, if you’re like me, your bracket even has the prolifically named entry “Middle Tennessee/St. Mary’s” beating Memphis on Thursday. Like others with this pick, I don’t care who wins tonight – just as long as one of them beats Memphis.

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*NC A&T! Liberty! The First Four opening act is playing for the right to get waxed by Louisville. But as the only sub-.500 team to make the Tournament, Liberty is — more than any team in the Tournament field — playing with house money. Just ask Kentucky.

*Baylor women’s hoops: Unlike the men’s side, this pick seems like a no-brainer.

*Ed O’Bannon: His lawsuit has college honchos so nervous that the Big Ten’s Jim Delany is talking about the Big Ten adopting a D-3 model. (Yeah, sure.).

*Robert Kraft: You tell it, Bob! Quickly becoming the most outspoken owner in football.

*Marshall Henderson: Now and always. In one season, one of the craziest characters in recent college hoops history.

*TruTV: Do you ever watch truTV? Probably not! But for two nights a year, you scour the “guide” listings on your TV trying to find it, somewhere between Discovery Health and whatever AXS is. For these next two nights, tru is the center of the sports universe.

Rayshawn Goins. James Madison’s leading scorer was arrested on Sunday night on two misdemeanor charges. He was suspended from Wednesday’s “First Four” game versus LIU-Brooklyn… For a half. The player who yelled “It’s about damn time!” After JMU clinched its first NCAA bid since 1994 will have to wait a little while longer before joining his teammates.

Runner-up: Andrew Bynum (or, really, the Sixers).

President Obama. He traditionally releases his bracket on Tuesday. Will he go populist and pick Louisville? Stay true to his Midwest sports leanings and pick Indiana? At the very least, with no more elections to worry about, we should see less reading into his bracket for political motivations.

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(For what it’s worth, if you used the President’s picks to fill out your own bracket last year, you would have finished ahead of roughly two-thirds of your pool competitors.).

First-round picks cheat-sheet (via Patrick Stevens).

Region previews: East | Midwest | South | West.

Sports’ top power couples.

NC A&T/Liberty (6:40 ET, truTV).

Middle Tennessee/St. Mary’s (9:10 ET, truTV).

Service-y!Chronological order of NCAA Tournament games.

In Case You Missed It:.

Check out yesterday’s first(-ever!) Edition of Morning Win.

Look for the Morning Win every morning.

Follow Dan Shanoff on Twitter at @danshanoff.

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