Like all of you, hoop junkies from Barack to bottom-feeders on the basketball chain, I religiously do my NCAA Tournament brackets every March.

This morning, I was exchanging e-mails with my high school coach, the great Mike Cingiser. I was fortunate to have played for Mike in the late ’60s at Lynbrook High School on Long Island. He was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League pick in the early ’60s, Brown’s leading career scorer when he graduated in 1962 and, as head coach of his alma mater from 1981-91, led Brown to its only Ivy title in 1986 and into the NCAA Tournament.

As a casual P.S. in today’s e-mail, I asked Mike, “So, how are your brackets?” This was his reply from Callawassie Island, where Mike lives with his wife, the sainted Mar: “I stopped doing brackets in ’87 when Alice Watson, a wonderful lady who was my secretary and a grandmother who cared for her grandkids (abandoned by their mom), won the athletic dept. pool for the second straight year. In ’86, when we were in it, she picked the teams by their mascots; and in ’87 by their colors. There were over 100 hoops know-it-alls in the pool.

“I should have let her pick my starting lineups — might still be coaching.”

That said, I’ve got 12 teams alive in the Sweet 16, all eight of my regional finalists (Louisville, Michigan State, UConn, Memphis, Pitt, Duke, UNC and Syracuse), and my Final Four of the ‘Ville, UConn, Pitt and Carolina.

And the winner is …

But that’s another matter for another e-mail next week.

I know, I know: My bracket’s dusty with way too much chalk. Too many big-name favorites. Still, somewhere Alice Watson’s surely smiling.

She’d have appreciated my well-intentioned and researched, if faulty first-round upset pick of North Dakota State over Kansas. The Bison — what a nickname! — nearly ousted the defending national champ Jayhawks. And Alice would’ve loved NDSU’s colors, too: Green and gold, same as I wore playing for Mike as a Lynbrook Owl.
I can still see Sue Corley and the rest of the LHS cheerleaders:
“Green and gold? Knock ’em cold!”
And, of course, there’s my favorite rah-rah cheer of all time. All together now:
“Owls on the warpath, Hoot! Hoot!”

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Jack Wilkinson

Jack Wilkinson

Jack Wilkinson has written about sports professionally for 37 years, but his career began in his hometown of Lynbrook, N.Y., on Long Island. His elementary school paper, the Marion Street Chatterbox, is the coolest-named paper he's ever worked for. Thank you, Mrs. Roseanne Waldstein, the school librarian and Chatterbox advisor. Jack worked at Newsday while a senior at Hofstra University, and later for the Miami News, Chicago Daily News, New York Daily News and, after moving to Atlanta in 1983, the local rag. A three-time Georgia Sportswriter of the Year, he gleefully took a buyout in June, 2007. Jack's written six books. The latest, "Of Mikes and Men -- A Lifetime of Braves Baseball," is the recently-released autobiography of co-author Pete Van Wieren. Published by Triumph Books of Chicago, "Of Mikes and Men" is now available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Manuel's Tavern and other fine book outlets everywhere.