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The Casual Fan's Guide to 7 Tournament-Bound Schools

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Every year, the NCAA men's basketball tournament field features at least a handful of teams that leaves casual fans puzzled as they start to fill out their brackets. The question usually isn't how far one of these teams will advance, but rather, "Where the heck is that?" This year is no exception. Here's a primer "“ only part of which is basketball-related "“ on seven of the lesser-known schools in the field.

1. Morehead State

Location: Morehead, Kentucky

How They Got Here: Freshman Steve Peterson made a baseline jumper in the second overtime of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship "“ his first points of the game "“ to lift the Eagles to a win over Austin Peay. Morehead State plays Alabama State in today's Opening Round game; the winner moves on to play top-seeded Louisville.


Tournament History: Morehead State is making its sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament and its first since 1984. Coincidentally, the Eagles defeated North Carolina A&T in a preliminary round game that year before losing to Louisville, 72-59.

Notable: Morehead State's players and coaches were recognized by both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly last week. Seven MSU alumni serve in the Kentucky House, including Rep. Rocky Adkins, the majority floor leader. Adkins was the starting point guard on the 1982-83 Eagles squad that won the OVC championship.

Famous Alum: Former New York Giants quarterback and current broadcaster Phil Simms, legendary game show host Chuck Woolery, and country singer Billy Ray Cyrus all attended Morehead State, as did one of the most recognizable voices on the radio today. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition, worked as a radio sportscaster while attending MSU. He graduated in 1990.

Reason to Cheer: You'll be in good company. The Eagles' coed cheerleading team has won 19 national titles, including eight in a row.

2. Binghamton

Location: Binghamton, New York

binghamtom.jpgHow They Got Here: The top-seeded Bearcats won 11 straight games to end the season, defeating defending champion UMBC to win the America East Conference tournament.


Tournament History: Binghamton, which joined the Division I ranks eight years ago, is making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. The No. 15 seed Bearcats play No. 2 seed Duke on Thursday.

Notable: In a recent New York Times article, Pete Thamel wonders whether Binghamton's first trip to the NCAA tournament has come at a cost. Thamel calls head coach Kevin Broadus' recruiting of certain players into question and cites a litany of arrests and suspensions that have plagued the coach's tenure. On a lighter note, Binghamton boasts a 182-acre on-campus Nature Preserve, which includes 20 acres of wetlands.

Famous Alum: Former Washington Post columnist and current PTI co-host Tony Kornheiser graduated from what was then called Harpur College in 1970. Kornheiser, who also provides color-commentary for Monday Night Football, sported a Bearcats jersey during an episode of PTI last week.

Reason to Cheer: Everyone loves a Cinderella story and D.J. Rivera could wear the glass slipper well. Rivera led the America East in scoring but didn't receive a single vote for Player of the Year because the conference's coaches dislike Broadus. He'll have to play the game of his life if the Bearcats have any chance of getting past Duke.

3. Siena

Location: Loudonville, New York

siena.jpgHow They Got Here: Siena won 26 games and the automatic bid from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, defeating Niagara in the championship game of the MAAC tournament. The No. 9 seed Saints play No. 8 seed Ohio State on Thursday.


Tournament History: If Siena sounds familiar, it's because the Saints pulled off one of the bigger upsets in last year's first round when they downed No. 4 seed Vanderbilt. Siena is making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance.

Notable: Siena, which is located two miles north of Albany, was founded by seven Franciscan friars in 1937.

Famous Alum: Ron Vawter, a founding member of the theater ensemble The Wooster Group. Vawter, who appeared in Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, died of a heart attack in 1994.

Reason to Cheer: Traditionally, the Siena men's basketball program has produced legitimate student-athletes. Eighty-six percent of Siena men's basketball players who entered the school between 1998 and 2001 earned their degrees in six years or less, according to the NCAA's latest Graduation Success Rate report. The national average is 62 percent.

4. Robert Morris

Location: Moon Township, Pennsylvania

robert-morris.jpgHow They Got Here: Robert Morris defeated Mount St. Mary's to win the automatic bid from the Northeast Conference. The No. 15 seed Colonials play No. 2 seed Michigan State in a first round game on Friday.


Tournament History: Robert Morris is making its sixth NCAA tournament appearance and its first since 1992.


Notable: Named after the self-made millionaire and signer of the Declaration of Independence who helped finance the American side during the Revolutionary War, RMU was originally founded in 1921 as the Pittsburgh School of Accountancy. The school became Robert Morris College in 1969 and Robert Morris University in 2002.

Famous Alum: It's been a pretty good year for Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. One month after watching the football team he helped build win its second Super Bowl in the last four years, Colbert gets to watch his alma mater in the NCAA tournament.

Reason to Cheer: Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice. If his comments on the school's Web site after the brackets were unveiled are any indication, Rice could deliver a pregame speech for the ages Friday. "We'll try to focus the lads and put bravery in their hearts and purpose in their minds and go," he said.

5. Radford

Location: Radford, Virginia

radford.jpgHow They Got Here: Radford outlasted VMI, 108-94, in the Big South Conference tournament championship to win the league's automatic bid. The No. 16 seed Highlanders play No. 1 seed UNC on Thursday.


Tournament History: Radford is making its second NCAA tournament appearance. As a No. 16 seed in 1998, the Highlanders lost to Duke, 99-63, in the first round.

Notable: Radford was founded in 1910 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women. Men were first admitted to the school in 1972. Penelope Kyle, who was named the school's first female president in 2005, launched the "7-17 Strategic Plan" in 2007. The plan outlines the school's 10-year effort to make Radford one of the top 50 master's universities in the U.S.

Famous Alum: Actress Jayma Mays, who starred alongside Kevin James in Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Reason to Cheer: The Highlanders' center, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Artsiom Parakhouski (art-SEE-um pair-uh-COW-ski), is almost as fun to watch as his name is to say. The Belarusian, who was the Big South Conference Player of the Year, averages a double-double.

6. Morgan State

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

morgan-st.jpgHow They Got Here: Morgan State routed Norfolk State, 83-69, in the championship game of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament to capture the league's automatic bid. The No. 15 seed Bears play No. 2 seed Oklahoma on Thursday.


Tournament History: Morgan State is making its first NCAA tournament appearance.


Notable: The Morgan State University choir, which was led by renowned teacher Dr. Nathan Carter for 34 years until his death in 2004, is one of the most prestigious collegiate choral ensembles in the nation. The choir performed at the White House, at an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II, and took a trip Russia during Carter's tenure at MSU. Last year, the group performed twice at Carnegie Hall.

Famous Alum: William C. Rhoden, who worked as an associate editor at Ebony after graduating from Morgan State, has provided sports commentary as a columnist for The New York Times since 1983.

Reason to Cheer: Jermaine "Itchy" Bolden, the Bears' 5-foot-9 senior point guard, who earned the nickname from his mother because he was fidgety as a baby.

7. Stephen F. Austin

Location: Nacogdoches, Texas

sfa.jpgHow They Got Here: Stephen F. Austin defeated UT-San Antonio in the Southland Conference tournament championship to win the league's automatic bid. The No. 14 seed Lumberjacks will play No. 3 seed Syracuse on Friday.


Tournament History: Stephen F. Austin is making its first NCAA tournament appearance.


Notable: Stephen F. Austin was founded in 1923 as a teacher's college and is named after Stephen Fuller Austin, one of Texas' founding fathers.

Famous Alum: Though he didn't graduate, singer/songwriter Don Henley studied English and philosophy as a student at SFA.

Reason to Cheer: Stephen F. Austin has a cool nickname and an even cooler rally cry: Axe 'em Jacks!

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The Brain Chemistry Behind Your Caffeine Boost
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Whether it’s consumed as coffee, candy, or toothpaste, caffeine is the world’s most popular drug. If you’ve ever wondered how a shot of espresso can make your groggy head feel alert and ready for the day, TED-Ed has the answer.

Caffeine works by hijacking receptors in the brain. The stimulant is nearly the same size and shape as adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows down neural activity. Adenosine builds up as the day goes on, making us feel more tired as the day progresses. When caffeine enters your system, it falls into the receptors meant to catch adenosine, thus keeping you from feeling as sleepy as you would otherwise. The blocked adenosine receptors also leave room for the mood-boosting compound dopamine to settle into its receptors. Those increased dopamine levels lead to the boost in energy and mood you feel after finishing your morning coffee.

For a closer look at how this process works, check out the video below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.

1. EASE INTO THE HABIT.

If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.

2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING.

Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.

3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM IDEAL FOR SLEEP.

Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”

4. TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY WIND DOWN.

Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.

5. GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF LIGHT.

Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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