The first week of March means three things in particular:  McDonald’s (in select areas) begins offering the Shamrock Shake, Girl Scout Cookies get delivered (and consumed), and college hoops enters its “Show Me Month”.  Bubbles burst and brackets are busted.  Top seeds are lost and January certainties turn into utter confusion.  At least we have the minty goodness of the Shammy and a wide variety of cookies to keep us sane.

The tradition continues of ranking the flavors–as always there is a little subjectivity intermingled with absolutes…just like the NCAA Tournament selection process.  Can one break down the field and the flavors at the same time?

12–Thank U Berry Munch–yes, you read that right.  Is this a pun on bad spelling or bad spelling on a pun? “Premium cranberries provide these hearty, white-fudge chipped cookies with a touch of tartness.”  And a lot of “Why am I thanking anyone for purchasing this too-busy cookie?”  Nebraska for some reason has never won an NCAA Tournament game and has only made it to the Big Dance a handful of times.  Northwestern has never made the field.  Both schools have made coaching change after coaching change…only to find themselves looking at a batter filled with white fudge and cranberries that somehow don’t mix–topped with bad spelling amidst worse puns.  I don’t want to see it in March.

Georgetown (16-12, 7-9 Big East) remains on the fringe (7th team out of Joe Lunardi’s field) with two games coming up that can get them back into consideration:  at #13 Creighton followed by a home game with #6 Villanova.  Two potential signature wins–or two crashing-to-earth losses.  Markel Starks has scored 22 and 24 points in his last two games…and this Hoya team will follow his lead to the field of 68 or the bracket of 32.

11–Savannah Smiles–these “zesty, lemon-flavored cookies” need to be eaten with tea while one watches “As the World Turns” or “The Secret Storm”.  Sadly daytime drama’s taken a hit like a once-proud program in decline.  NC State used to be a major player in March–and not just under Jim Valvano:  the Wolfpack won ACC titles with Everett Case, Press Maravich and Norm Sloan on the sidelines…but have been stuck at 10 tournament championships since 1987.

Alma Mater Update– this is exactly what every Orange fan fears in February.  Unwarranted confidence after a strong start undercut by poor play and  SU (26-3, 13-3 ACC) lurches into early March and the land of one-and-done.  Only this year the names have changed:  instead of a tough loss to UConn, it’s a coronation at Virginia.  Instead of a squeaker against Seton Hall, it’s a less than awesome win at Maryland.  Instead of a punch yourself in the face loss to Boston College, it’s…a loss to those same damn Eagles.  And a trip to Florida State Sunday against a bubblicious Seminole squad doesn’t provide one confidence.

10–Thanks A Lot–didn’t we already thank somebody for a cookie?  And it’s really not “a lot”–it’s merelyshortbread with fudge”.  Did you know that Clemson has never won in Chapel Hill?  And although they no longer have the home-and-home with UNC because of ACC expansion…they played there once a year for a long time.  Thanks A Lot?  Never winning in Carmichael…the DeanDome…or wherever.

Maryland (15-14, 7-9 ACC)– the Terps lost a potential bubble game at Clemson…an NIT bubble game.  Another tough loss in what’s become a rough season (double-overtime this time).  Another day when the whole was somehow less than the sum of its parts.  And depending on what happens above them in the standings (Florida State’s on the bubble while NC State and Clemson are likely out), they could be looking at the CBI Tournament, the CIT or simply SOL.  At least the Terps are done hearing “ACC” chants in opposing gyms–as they have Comcast Center games with Virginia Tech and Virginia.  And we all know they’ll get sweet southern hospitality at the ACC Tournament.

9–Cranberry Citrus Crisps— another cranberry-infused cookie.  Did we need that? “Made with whole grain, full of tangy cranberry bits and zesty citrus flavor”.  Not to mention NINE grams (!) of whole grain…much like when Harvard meets Vanderbilt the announcers fawn over how great their GPA’s are.  I like the effort and being able to spell a cookie’s name without trying to be cute…but the zesty citrus means no Sweet Sixteen appearance for me.

Cruising the Commonwealth I– crown them champs.  Virginia thoroughly dismantled #4 Syracuse last Saturday in a game that previous administrations (Gillen, Leitao) seemed to lose with numbing regularity.  Malcolm Brogdon (19 points against the Orange) was a beast again…and the Cavs’ D held SU to 36% shooting while using their patented finishing kick to turn another close game into a runaway.  Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC) is looking at anywhere from a 2 to a 4 seed…and coach Tony Bennett says they’re not taking their foot off the accelerator.  Bad news when the Cavaliers’ one game over the span of 14 days is at Maryland. 

8–Lemonades– Did we need another lemon cookie?  Although “tangy lemon-icing-topped shortbread cookies” absolutely crushes Savannah Smiles.  It’s not even close.  But who else do they match up well against?  There are more than a few schools with decent profiles on the surface that lack quality wins and find themselves on the outside looking in.  Or like Lemonades, on the outside looking out.

Cruising the Commonwealth II– When does football season begin?  Virginia Tech (9-19, 2-14 ACC) needs wins at Maryland and Georgia Tech to avoid last place in the conference–providing the Yellowjackets don’t pull a BC and win at Syracuse.  Senior Day in Blacksburg saw the Hokies fall 60-56 to #19 North Carolina…despite 18 points from Jarell Eddie and more than enough basketball ADD from UNC.  The senior doesn’t leave as the next Erick Green…but was the team’s only option for much of the season.  Hopefully the rebuilding can continue at Cassell Coliseum.

7–Dulce de Leche– who’s ready for “sweet, bite-sized treats are packed milk caramel chips”?  No chocolate OR cranberry OR lemon–who’s getting creative at the home office now?  As much as we enjoy the dynasties in college hoops (it’s amazing how bluebloods UNC, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA actually WEAR blue–somehow Indiana must not have gotten the memo)– the occasional VCU and Wichita State provide a nice departure from the norm.  The Shockers likely need to win the MVC Tournament to lock up a #1 seed–it’s a shame they didn’t have Creighton in their league this year to match wits with.  San Diego State’s another outlier…as is Saint Louis.  Can Dulce make a run to the Final Four?  Being bite-size…only if it gets the right matchup that doesn’t exploit its lack of size and somebody gets into foul trouble.

George Washington (21-7, 9-5 Atlantic 10) finds itself an 8 or a 9 seed in most Bracket models after a 66-58 win over George Mason…Maurice Creek leading the way with 22 points while Isaiah Armwood adds 11 points and 14 rebounds.  Coach Mike Lonergan didn’t really lean on his reserves as much Sunday–as his bench notched 5 points over 21 minutes on the floor.  Cause for concern ?  A major home test against St Joes–the Hawks are currently two games ahead of GW in the A-10–followed by a trip to last-place Fordham give the Colonials a window of opportunity towards a quarterfinal bye at the upcoming conference tournament.

6–Chocolate Chip Shortbread–  nothing like a new twist to an old favorite.  Sometimes all Malibu Stacy needs is a new hat.  And sometimes all an efficient offense needs is one tweak to become ridiculously effective.   “Chocolate Chips nestled in a bite-size, gluten-free shortbread cookie”.  Gluten Free is a game-changer like the 3-point shot was in the late 80’s–the schools that refused to make it a part of their game suffered.  Teams began to recruit players to exploit and defend the 3–and some went over the top in becoming launching pads.  The Girl Scouts of America knows that while the “gluten-free” can win you games…it can’t survive long-term without the standby of inside play (chocolate chips).

George Mason (10-18 3-11 Atlantic 10)– a tough first season in a new league will have the Patriots on the road for the first round of the A-10 tournament… but with a chance at 9th place if they beat LaSalle and Duquesne and if Rhode Island loses to last-place Fordham.  It’s not the ending seniors Bryon Allen and Sherrod Wright envisioned when they beat Villanova in the NCAA Tournament as freshmen.

5–Trefoils– tradition still sells.  Indiana’s uniforms are basically what they’ve been for the last 40 years.  Nothing too flashy…just enough to remind you that sometimes less is more.  Except in the cookie tournament.  Shortbread plays a solid half-court D and doesn’t beat itself in the offensive end…but the lack of flexibility keeps this cookie one step shy of my Full Four.

Maryland Womens Window–off to Greensboro!  The Terps (24-5, 12-4 ACC) wrapped up the regular season with four straight double digit wins…Alyssa Thomas’ #25 getting raised to the rafters…and Sequoia Austin stopping the show by dancing during the pre-game introductions with the Terrapin Cheerleaders.  Getting the #3 seed means they’d meet the winner of North Carolina–Wake Forest/Pitt.  It looks like the double-bye makes its way to the ACC…I wonder if they’ll tack on an extra day in the Big Ten next year as well.  Maryland won at UNC while beating Wake Forest and Pitt at home.  A victory sets up a potential semifinal showdown against Duke–provided the injury-riddled Blue Devils get past their quarterfinal matchup.  Right now the #8 Terps are in that “low-2, high-3” seed territory.  With two games at College Park in the Big Dance.

4–Do Si Dos– now that we’ve cleared the pretenders…lets get down to business.  “These sandwich cookies give you crisp and crunchy oatmeal on the outside and creamy peanut butter inside”.  Do they ever.  Defense and rebounding.  Peanut butter and oatmeal.  My mother once reportedly said “defense does not end until you get the rebound”…she also may have added “don’t drink milk out of the carton”.  I might break that rule after having a few of these…necessary eating for anyone moving on to the Big Ten.

American (17-12, 13-5 Patriot League) lost its regular season finale to Bucknell 56-51…a game where bad shooting (33%) and worse rebounding (beaten 45-26 on the boards by the Bison) collided to end AU’s bid for a share of the conference crown (all moot as Boston University won at Holy Cross).  The scene shifts to the conference quarterfinals and a matchup with Colgate…a team that came in to Bender Arena February 8th and beat the Eagles by three.  Murphy Burnatowski leads the Raiders in scoring– but it was Austin Tillotson who scored 17 against AU last month.  Colgate’s also entering Wednesday’s game on a roll…having won four straight (although all four wins came against schools with losing league records).  Unfortunately the McDonald’s across from Bender Arena no longer exists so the student dream of a post-game Shamrock Shake will not happen Wednesday.

3–Samoas– or as some distributors are saying “Caramel de Lites”.  WRONG. “Caramel and toasted coconut-covered cookies” are the perfect motion offense treat set with screens and curls…constant cutting and recovery.  But a treat to be savored…while one wonders about the thousands of girls who grow up incorrectly spelling the world “delight”.  It’s a championship cookie with somebody calling a time-out they didn’t have.

Howard (7-23, 5-10 MEAC) split its final weekend of the season by beating Delaware State before slipping at Coppin State.  James Daniel continues to produce (averaging 27ppg over his last five outings)…and the 5-11 guard is just one beacon for coach Kevin Nickelberry.  Five of his top six scorers this year are freshmen– meaning there’s hope for next winter.

2–Thin Mints–although they aren’t the original…the “mint-flavored cookies with a delicious chocolaty coating” is the original one kids actually wanted to devour by the sleeve.  There’s no better cookie at getting down the floor–they absolutely kill you in transition.  But can they play the halfcourt game?  Can you eat one and savor it like the Samoas?

1–Tagalongs–the classic “rock-paper-scissors” argument–only in green, red and purple rectangular boxes.  And although Thin Mints are straightforward awesomeness and Samoas provide a mystery wrapped inside the riddle of an enigma…”the layer of peanut butter with a rich chocolaty coating” can play chess with the Samoas while still being able to keep up with the Thin Mints.  Frozen or Room Temperature…we have our One Dining Moment.