Well, thank you Warren Buffett for giving away money.  Just like that–he’s so crazy.  ONE BILLION DOLLARS to whoever can pick a perfect NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket–are they counting the First Four?  Because even though the pools I’ve belonged to ignore those games…for ONE BILLION DOLLARS I think it’s only right that you have to mess with the unwanted appetizer to the basketball buffet.

Only it’s not ONE BILLION DOLLARS.  It’s 25 million over 40 years.  Really?  Not even worth the boldface or even italics.  Plus, with inflation calculated…you’re not getting the true value of the billion when the payments end in 2039.   Massive ripoff.  I guess…you can take the lump-sum payment of $500 million.  Geez, thanks.  A perfect bracket is basically an impossibility– the odds are somewhat like one in 35 billion to get all 63 games plus the 4 first four matchups correctly.  Begging the question– if you were to get every game correct but one, would you rather miss one in the First Four or Final Four?

There will be  20 “runner-up prizes” of $100,000…so I guess this isn’t a complete waste of time.  Only hope. 

Georgetown (11-7, 3-4 Big East)-– three straight come-from-ahead losses have the Hoyas under .500 in conference play.  Three straight games where coach John Thompson III’s team hits the wall with six minutes remaining, getting outscored 16-0 at Xavier, 14-6 against Seton Hall and 22-10 against Marquette (7-3 in the final minute of the 2nd half and 15-7 in the 5 minute overtime).  And the road gets rougher:  games against Creighton (fresh off a rout of #4 Villanova), Villanova and #3 Michigan State.  They’ll need more than consistent scoring from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks to make a dent during this run…

Alma Mater Update– the Orange (18-0, 5-0) remain atop the ACC by beating #22 Pitt 59-54…as the Panthers manage just 38% shooting against the zone.  But bad news rears its ugly head as DaJuan Coleman’s done for the year with the leg injury that has limited him to nine minutes over two games over the last month.  Road games with Miami and Georgia Tech loom before a home date with Duke…and hopefully a 44-wing salute.

Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC)– the Terps waste a nine point lead at NC State and fall 65-56 in a game where they shot just 5-13 from the free throw line.  Defenses have been keying on Dez Wells as of late and the team’s #1 option has been held to 5-21FG in the last two games.  In an ACC where one game separates 7th from 12th place, there’s minimal room for error.

Cruising the Commonwealth– Best of times in Charlottesville, less than ideal times in Blacksburg.  Virginia (14-5, 5-1) bounces back from a heartbreaking loss at Duke to post consecutive double-digit wins over Florida State and North Carolina…despite getting outrebounded by both the Seminoles and Tar Heels.  Joe Harris’ scoring may be down during his senior year, but the guard is posting career highs in shooting from the field and 3-point range.  Can he get the necessary consistency from big men Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey?  Virginia Tech (8-9, 1-4) shot 52% at Notre Dame but still lost on Digger Phelps Day thanks to 17 turnovers–although freshman Devin Wilson’s growth can’t come soon enough (a career high 20 points in South Bend).  Another winter continues down I-84.

George Washington (15-3, 3-1 Atlantic 10)– unfortunate news for the Colonials after their eight point victory at St Bonaventure:  guard Kethan Savage is out the next six to eight weeks with a foot injury.  The sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia was second on the team in scoring and assists before his injury…although GW has a bit of a learning curve with a new lineup as it plays just one of its next five games against a school with a winning conference record.  Although they visit a desperate George Mason Saturday.

George Mason (7-11, 0-4 Atlantic 10)– but before the Patriots face their new conference foes they have a battle to avoid last place in the A-10 at Fordham.  January hasn’t been kind to coach Paul Hewitt’s team:  the last three losses coming by a combined seven points.  Saturday’s loss at Rhode Island saw Mason outshoot (47 to 38 percent) and outrebound (35-31) the Rams…only to be foiled by Xavier Mumford (10 of his 28 coming in overtime).  Not to be confused with Mumford and Sons…or even Sesame Street’s Amazing Mumford.

Maryland Womens Update– the Terps (16-1, 4-0 ACC) battled past a swatting in the air Georgia Tech team 92-81 behind 22 points and 14 rebounds for Alyssa Thomas and the usual depth we’ve seen this winter.  The defense was dominant in holding the Yellowjackets to 30% shooting after halftime…and although many eyes are on a Monday night matchup with #2 Notre Dame, there’s no sleeping on a Virginia team that upset #17 Florida State just a few days ago.  Especially with Thursday’s game in Charlottesville.

American (10-7, 6-0 Patriot)– the Eagles entertain new to the conference Boston University Wednesday in a battle for first place…a surprise in and of itself the way this team began the season.  Darius Gardner’s emergence as a third option (13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against Lafayette) may be just what AU needs.  But can they contain the Terriers Maurice Watson Jr.?

Howard (4-15, 2-2 MEAC)– the Bison let out a few weeks’ frustration with an 88-55 thumping of Maryland-Eastern Shore.  James Daniel (33 points, 6-12 from 3pt range) is back all right– and with a vengeance.  Can the team translate improved play to victories on the road (the team is 0-12 away from home to start the season)?  Consecutive tests at Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman are both winnable…but the road is never kind in conference play.