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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, and girlfriend Linda Holliday watch Florida play Pittsburgh during the second half of a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
March Madness: Put the scalpel down and turn up the volume. Now.
First Published Mar 23 2014 10:58 am • Last Updated Mar 23 2014 11:48 pm

Welcome back to BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for all your offbeat NCAA tournament needs. In today’s edition, we make the rounds at a Memphis hospital, look in on ‘The Most Prevaricating Man in the World," check Bill Belichick’s basketball pulse and find out if Jim Calhoun has had a change of heart. Without further ado:


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After what she went through the other night, 81-year-old Memphis resident Colleen Beck isn’t going to let three broken ribs and a collapsed lung keep her from watching her beloved Tigers play Virginia on Sunday night.

"She’s a tough old bird," Bob Beck, her son, told The Commercial Appeal. "They did a CT scan and found out the lung was collapsed. They had to put a needle between the ribs, insert it into the lung and fill it up with air."

But first, Colleen Beck asked the emergency room doctors at Methodist Hospital, "Could we wait until we see how this ends?"

By "this," she meant the basketball game on the overhead TV. The one that was showing Memphis battling George Washington on Friday for a spot in the second round.

"Honestly," Colleen Beck said, "it didn’t take much persuading. Everyone wanted to watch."

Beck suffered the injuries after falling at home Wednesday, but couldn’t get an appointment until Friday. Referred to the emergency room, she drove herself to Methodist instead. As soon as the Tigers had the game locked up, the doctors ordered the room cleared and went to work on Beck.

Uncomfortable after the surgery, but otherwise fine, she plans to watch Sunday night’s game in her hospital room.

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"I don’t want to jinx ‘em. I think I’ll just keep my mouth shut on that one. But it would just be wonderful if they could do it," Beck said finally, "it really would."



BracketRacket has often wondered how NCAA president Mark Emmert gazes into the mirror every morning without cracking up.

He’s a tone-deaf monarch whose organization is being sued left and right, mostly by former college players seeking a few crumbs from the ever-expanding NCAA revenue pie they helped bake. Making money — and keeping plenty — might be the only thing the NCAA has done right since he showed up in 2010.

Small wonder, then, that during a contentious question-and-answer session following last year’s "State of the NCAA" address, Emmert described his tenure this way: "If you’re not getting sued today, you’re not doing anything,"

So naturally, he doubled down this year with yet another self-serving commercial mythologizing the "student-athlete" — an increasingly rare specimen in big-time college basketball and football, which provide nearly every penny of the NCAA’s $6 billion annual budget, not to mention Emmert’s nearly $2 million compensation package. And just as naturally, the commercial mostly features distance runners, soccer players, gymnasts and rowers.

We see them fail at first and then finally succeed. A solemn voice-over calls them "the provoked, the determined, the unified." But just like basketball and football players, you could also accurately call them as "the unpaid."

There’s not time nor space to litigate the "pay-for-play" issue here; that’s why we have courts. But if you’re up early before Sunday’s games with nothing to do, catch Emmert defending his version of shamateurism on "Meet the Press."

Especially if you happen to be a lawyer.


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