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For bracket assistance, I consult Ace the wonder dog

Mar 19, 2013 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

How's your bracket looking?

If you're like an estimated 45 percent of Americans, sometime between Sunday evening and today you've either printed out an NCAA basketball bracket for the office pool or filled out an online version, and you've probably watched ESPN to get an expert or two's view on which teams will make it to the Final Four.

I turned to Ace, the wonder dog, for advice.

We're dog sitting this week, and our son's puppy, Ace, is the smartest, most well-behaved dog we've ever seen. Since he was rescued last year, we've watched Ace accomplish pretty much anything from tricks to climbing trees.

Certainly his awesomeness can help me with my bracket.

His new owner, a big Duke fan, thinks the Blue Devils will rebound from last year's first-round embarrassment to Lehigh to finish on top of the NCAA world. Also a Wyoming student, Ace's "dad" hopes the Wyoming Cowboys can salvage what's been a disappointing season beginning Tuesday against that same Lehigh team that this year will come to Laramie for the first round of the pay-to-play College Basketball Invitational.

Our North Dakota son, after basking in last week's "warm" Wyoming weather during his spring break, likes Miami's guard play and thinks the Hurricanes will go all the way all the way in this year's 68-team bracket. Miami is led by Shane Larkin, son of former Major League shortstop Barry Larkin. The stellar guard is not flashy, but he is smart and treats basketball like a chemistry exam and consistently gets high grades, according to the New York Times. Miami is a three seed from the East, but only has a lifetime NCAA tournament record of 4-6 and hasn't made the tournament since 2008.

My wife surprised me with her choice. She thinks the Butler Bulldogs will be this year's best college team.

"Over the years," she said, "Butler resonates with you, and I think they have done pretty well."

I almost fell out of my chair.

She's right, and now I know, after nearly 29 years of marriage, she actually listens to Sports Center every now and then. Yeah!

Butler plays hard and has a star guard in Rontei Clarke who is fully recovered after being wheeled off on a stretcher earlier this year when he was fouled from behind against Dayton. The Bulldogs played in the national championship game in 2010 and 2011 but did not make the big dance last season. This year, Butler handed top seed from the West Gonzaga one of their two losses.

So now it's up to Ace to guide me. With the bracket on the floor, whichever hoops squad his small paw walked over must be this year's destined team.

The first pass was a drive by or, in Ace's case, a walk by. He didn't step on my bracket. Still thinking, I reasoned.

Now its time to call the bookie. Let's see. Ace walked right over the bracket on his second effort and that white, black and brown paw landed right on -- oh crap -- South Dakota State, winless in their only previous NCAA tournament appearance.

Well, I know the Jackrabbits beat New Mexico earlier this year and Sport's Illustrated's Seth Davis has New Mexico as a final four team in his bracket.

Maybe the wonder dog is on to something.

But Ace made a third pass by the bracket, and the last time his paw was clearly on Louisville.

Now he's talking.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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