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If you followed the final days of DeSean Jackson with the Eagles closely enough—and being a sports fan in the Philadelphia area right now, it would have been impossible not to—his release on Friday should have come as no surprise.

The reasons why certainly are.

Jackson was cut loose after weeks of speculation, rumor and unending debate about his on-field contributions and how they would mesh moving forward in the second year of Chip Kelly's tenure. On field. Read that right.

There were hours upon hours of debate about whether Jackson—a 1,300-yard receiver last season—was the best fit for Kelly's system. When Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin were re-signed, the talk was almost all about Jackson.

When Darren Sproles was brought in from the New Orleans Saints, the talk was certainly about Jackson.

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Have you ever read the story of David and Goliath? Surely you know the tale, but have you ever actually read it?

We talk with such reverence in sports vernacular whenever a David has the opportunity to slay a Goliath; when a team with no business being in a fight not only finds itself facing an enormous physical task in thwarting a giant, but accomplishes the unexpected in a moment set with great stakes for both sides.

We love these truly rare moments in sports when one of the little guys has a chance to take down one of the biggest, especially when everything—to borrow back another sports cliche—is on the line.

Yes, the Dayton Flyers come from the Atlantic 10, which had twice as many NCAA tournament bids as the SEC conference the Florida Gators swept this season. But a team with just two tournament bids in a decade and five tickets to the Big Dance since the start of the 1990s are every bit the little guy as Florida—35-2 and top-ranked in the country for the final month of the regular season—is the giant.

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Tom Izzo's reputation precedes him. You do not want to face an Izzo-coached team in March. You certainly don't want to face one in the NCAA tournament.

Izzo is one of the best college basketball coaches in America today, and he has built his reputation on what his teams do late in the season. Izzo's troops are prepared, tough and extremely hardworking. They are the modern-day personification of a Spartan; perhaps no other nickname in college basketball is more apt to a team's style of play.

They are, in some ways, a mirror image of their mentor. Even Izzo's voice—that unmistakable rasping tone—says everything you need to know about the man…and his teams.

When it comes to tournament time, Michigan State is there, and it is there to fight. Izzo's teams play the game of basketball like a grizzled unit preparing for conflict.

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What's that joke about having no Cash, Jobs or Hope?

At the start of the 2014 NCAA tournament, college basketball fans had a chance to watch one of the most talented crops of youngsters in recent memory fight through the bracket for a piece of college basketball history.

There was hope for teams like Kansas, Duke and Kentucky to ride their one-and-done superstars to an NCAA championship.

Heading into the Sweet 16, most of that top talent has been kicked out of the Big Dance, which leaves little hope for fans of the college game that any of them will ever set foot on a college basketball court again.

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It’s amazing how four days of basketball can dash so many hopes and dreams around the country. I’m talking about our brackets, of course (did you think I meant the actual players, coaches and schools?), as multiple first-round upsets and a few wonderful sleepers have dismantled most of our plans for bracket brilliance this season.

Me? I still have all four of my Final Four picks alive, which feels like a perfect bracket just the same. (Where’s my billion dollars? Seriously.)

Even though most of our brackets were summarily busted thanks to a few early upsets, that doesn’t mean the Sweet 16 in the 2014 NCAA tournament won't be every bit as exciting as the first two (read: three) rounds of play.

This has been a great tournament so far, and the next two rounds should prove to be just as enjoyable as we continue on that long winding road to North Texas for the Final Four.

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Zoe & Max are picking brackets
B/R

Max is three years old and he loves basketball.

Max told me a few weeks ago that he wants to grow up to be like his dad and become a sportswriter. If you look at his NCAA tournament bracket, he knows just about as much as the rest of us when it comes to picking winners in the Big Dance.

Seriously, do you think your bracket is better than a three year old? OK, how about a six year old? 

Zoe has been picking brackets since before she was two years old—this is literally her sixth year picking brackets—and she is pretty darn good at this by now. She had Butler in the Final Four the year nobody was picking them. Genius. 

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For two seasons I put together an ultimate NCAA Tournament Bracket Bracket, where I took all the great bracket ideas around the Internet (and a few I made up myself) and put together a bracket of all those brackets. It was a lot of fun, and it made for great fodder for which are the best brackets to fill out. (Note: the actual bracket always wins, but ‘80s cartoons is a strong contender.)

What I didn’t realize when putting together my bracket bracket is just how interested people would be in one particular idea: Which mascots would win in a fight?

Seriously, every radio interview I did during the tournament wanted to debate if a bruin could beat a gator or how to rank a demon and a hurricane—spoiler alert: We eventually agreed that supernatural beings trump natural disasters—which got me thinking that I could actually do this entire bracket with the 2014 NCAA tournament field and people would probably love it.

A few days after we planned to run a mascot bracket this year, this happened.

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Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

There are thousands of different ways to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket. You could do hours of research on which team has the best tournament resume. You could dig deep into each of the 68 rosters to find that key player on every team that has the potential to lead his team to the Final Four.

Or you could just throw darts. Consider this the Internet equivalent of throwing darts. (Note: Do not actually throw darts at the Internet; insurance rarely covers a cracked screen.)

Rather than do any of that actual basketball research—at least for this particular bracket entry—we thought it might be fun to do a different kind of research. What if we could fill out an NCAA tournament bracket based on which school was the best?

What if we used cultural superiority to determine which team is most deserving of cutting down the nets this season?

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It must not be easy replacing a legend.

The "Sacking of David Moyes" sounds more like a chapter on English battles in a history book than a present-day soccer inevitability at Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson was a legend among legends; there may not have been a man more difficult to replace in the history of professional sports.

Moyes' predicament in his first season at United had us thinking about the fate of successors to the legends of American sports, both at the professional and college levels. That fate often varies and depends on many different circumstances.

Moyes not only had to follow Sir Alex, but he had to do it the year after that legend won yet another English Premier League title. United's struggle through a disappointing domestic campaign and the prospect of an earlier-than-hoped ouster in European competition has pundits wondering what United would look like if Fergie took over again.

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Have you ever tried to go shopping the day after Black Friday?

The stores are all a mess, the shelves are nearly empty and the only items left are either way overpriced, damaged goods, cheap knockoffs or a Richie Incognito action figure that keeps saying, “your kids will love me, bro” whenever you walk past the clearance bin.

Tuesday was the NFL's version of Black Friday, as the start of free agency created a shopping spree unlike any other day in recent memory.

Tuesday's frenzy—which officially began at 4 p.m. Eastern but clearly started way in advance of the league opening its doors for 2014—became one of the craziest days in the history of the NFL free agency era. For what looked like a marginal crop of free agents this year, the names flying off the shelves have been incredible.