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Missing the magic of March Madness can bring one to tears

“To go from where you are to where you want to be: You have to have a dream, a goal, and you have to be willing to work for it.” Jim Valvano

The dream existed.

The goals were set.

The work had been done.

But the NCAA Tournament won’t be played for the first time in 81 years, canceled because of the coronavirus.

Can you believe it? Cinderella won’t have her chance to wear a glass slipper.

But the 68-team field certainly would have offered its annual exciting, unknown and standard storylines.

Here are just some we will miss the next three weeks, with help from a fantasy bracket I so dearly wanted to fill out …

Bye-bye, Duke

We will miss watching the nation’s best player (Obi Toppin) and a Dayton Flyers team that was good enough to win it all.

We will miss two West Coast Conference teams (BYU and Gonzaga) meeting in the West Regional final in Los Angeles.

We will (really) miss Duke not making it out of the first weekend.

We will miss having more teams linked to the FBI corruption investigation make the bracket than those from the Big 10.

We will miss North Texas, whose president Neal Smatresk was once UNLV’s own version of David Puddy the Face Painter.

We will miss Lon Kruger, never good enough for some UNLV fans and yet far better than Las Vegas ever understood.

We will miss a Mountain West team (San Diego State) living for the Sweet 16.

We will not miss referees thinking they’re bigger than the game.

We will miss colleague Adam Hill’s two favorite teams (Michigan and Yale) meeting in the first round out west … Hail to the Victors in a tight one.

We will miss North Dakota State reminding us it plays more than football.

We will miss seeing Bill Self again having the best team at Kansas and again falling just short in the Elite Eight.

We will miss Jay Wright’s tailored suits.

We will miss Bob Huggins’ clumpy pullover, large enough to cover all of West Virginia Mountain Mama and a few country roads.

We will miss Archie Miller whining while he blames Joe Lunardi for Indiana’s first-round exit.

We will miss Memphis not being in the field, because for a team whose coach predicted it would win the national title, I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean the NIT.

We will miss Marquette’s Markus Howard lighting it up, Iowa’s Luka Garza crashing the boards, Utah State’s Neemias Queta blocking shots, Maryland’s Jalen Smith going double-double, Kansas’ Devon Dotson stripping ballhandlers, San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn doing everything.

We will miss Liberty and Stephen F. Austin as 12 seeds beating 5s.

We will miss Rutgers because it has been too long.

We will miss 16 seeds of Siena, Winthrop, Robert Morris and North Carolina Central because, as Maryland-Baltimore County showed us, magic exists.

We will miss Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, if only to again debate why, after 22 years running the league, his hair hasn’t moved.

We will miss Virginia running the picket fence to beat Cincinnati 33-32.

We will miss Baylor, because if I was going to spend such an exorbitant amount of money on the son’s education … well, I deserved a few weeks of wearing that overpriced green and gold gear!

Seminoles win it

We will miss Payton Pritchard of Oregon because … have you watched him play?

We will miss Chris Beard of Texas Tech because … have you watched him coach?

We will miss Mick Cronin, the only guy to accept and then change his mind about the UNLV job faster than Beard.

We will miss a nation’s worth of brackets going by way of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

We will miss Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley conjuring up images of 30 years ago … UNLV 103, Duke 73.

We will miss Southern California as a double-digit seed making the Elite Eight.

We (I) will miss covering Final Four weekend, my streak of 23 straight halted.

We will miss a Final Four in Atlanta of Gonzaga, Florida State, Michigan State and Kentucky.

We will miss a national final of Gonzaga and Florida State.

We will miss watching the 2019-20 season national champion Seminoles cut down the nets.

We will miss all that delivers another “One Shining Moment.”

March has gone dark.

To weep, Shakespeare said, is to make less the depth of grief.

So go ahead. Shed a tear.

Maybe it will make missing the madness a little less painful.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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