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This year's NCAA bracket produces intriguing family twists

With one son playing on the East Coast and the other playing out West,Nate Dahlman came up with a game plan to keep the madness out of hisMarch.

With one son playing on the East Coast and the other playing out West,
Nate Dahlman came up with a game plan to keep the madness out of his
March.


He won’t attend either game.


Eartha Rigsby, on the other hand, has a different dilemma. Her sons are
key players for Vermont and Syracuse, who happen to face each other
Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The way she sees it,
her only choice is to sit proudly in the stands and cheer for, well,
everyone.


``Everything is a blessing,’’ Rigsby said. ``There are no losers here.’’


The NCAA selection committee has long had a knack for tucking
intriguing coaching matchups and long-festering feuds inside the
brackets. This year, though, it’s all about the strange twists and
turns of family.


Rigsby’s sons, Kris and Maurice Joseph of Montreal, will suit up for
the Orange and Catamounts, who play in Buffalo, N.Y., in a 1 vs. 16
matchup.


Dalhman’s sons, Isaiah and Noah, play for Michigan State and Wofford —
two teams that couldn’t be farther apart when they take the court
Friday. Michigan State plays in Spokane, Wash., and Wofford is in
Jacksonville, Fla.


Their father, meanwhile, will be in Minneapolis coaching his two
daughters, Hannah and Rebekah, when Braham Area High plays Pipestone in
the semifinals of the Class 2A girls state tournament.


``Being a coach, my main focus is taking care of the high school team
here,’’ Dahlman said. ``That’s our journey. I’m part of that, as are
the girls. The boys are on their journey. I’m rooting for them, of
course. But if I don’t get to be part of that, that’s OK.’’


Dahlman has three decades of teaching under his belt in the town of
Braham, population 1,655 (The Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota), that
he describes as a one-grocery-store stopover.


``Still no stoplight,’’ Noah Dahlman said. ``We’re trying to move up in the world.’’


In the world of basketball, though, the town stands tall.


Braham’s Josh Vaughan was a star on the North Dakota State team that
made an inspiring run to the tournament last year. There are the
Dahlman boys — Isaiah highly recruited and Noah less so, but still
leading Wofford at 16.8 points a game. Then, there are the Dahlman
girls. Hannah, a junior, could play at a smaller Division I or Division
II school while Rebekah, a freshman, is already drawing interest from
the Big Ten and elsewhere.


``What’s the secret?’’ Nate Dahlman said. ``We work hard. We practice
hard. There’s not a lot to do except come to the gym and play
basketball. It’s sort of a Minnesota version of Hoosiers. The kids come
to the gym. They all grew up with it since kindergarten.’’


He says his family lives a simple life. They got rid of the TV when it
broke a few years ago and, voila, suddenly found themselves playing
games, interacting, talking to each other more. There are two other
boys, Jonah and Zachariah. Raising six kids on a teacher’s salary
doesn’t leave lots of room for discretionary spending, and so, the
trips to see the boys play are infrequent.


Earlier this season, though, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo put Wofford
on the schedule as a way of holding a little family reunion. The
Dahlmans piled in the car, drove 12-13 hours to East Lansing and
watched the Spartans win 72-60. Isaiah got the start and scored two
points in 12 minutes. Noah started, too, and had 19 points in 26
minutes.


Dad has a sense of what Rigsby and her family can expect when her sons meet in Buffalo.


``They hugged each other at centre court, they got announced at the
same time,’’ Dahlman said of his boys’ game. ``There were tears coming
down my face. It was very, very special. It’s hard to explain that. You
really can’t put it into words.’’


Rigsby says there’s every bit as much youth basketball going on as
hockey in Montreal, said she’s been walking around with a smile on her
face since the pairings were announced Sunday night.


Almost as soon as that happened, Kris, the younger brother at Syracuse, called Maurice, the older brother at Vermont.


``We were both pretty much going crazy on the phone. No words, just
screaming. I don’t know how we communicated,’’ Kris Joseph said.


They have not faced each other in a real game with real referees since
Kris was 8. Maurice’s team won that day. Not surprisingly, Maurice beat
up on Kris pretty bad in driveways and playgrounds for years afterward,
as well. Every younger brother knows that pain.


``I’ve got all types of permanent bruises on my body because of him,’’ Kris said.


Then, Kris started growing, and things evened out. He enrolled at
Syracuse, where he has averaged 11.3 points and more than five rebounds
in his sophomore year. He’s this season’s Big East sixth man of the
year.


Maurice, meanwhile, started his college career at Michigan State but
was looking for a change of scenery and a place where he could play
more. So, he sat out a year, then went to Vermont, where he’s the
second-leading scorer (14.5), and will find himself in a strange
position against his younger brother: Playing the role of underdog.


``Maurice was more driven for the love of the game than Kristopher was
at a young age,’’ their mother said. ``But Kristopher developed into a
strong competitor. As the younger brother, you want to do everything
your older brother is doing.’’


Nothing like doing it together, in the case of the Joseph boys.


Or doing it apart, in the case of the Dahlmans.


Nate and his daughters will be on the bus Friday at around the time
Noah’s game — Wofford vs. Wisconsin — reaches full swing. They’ll be on
the court at about the time Isaiah’s game — Michigan State vs. New
Mexico State — tips off.


Winners and losers?


``You’re probably asking the wrong guy,’’ Dahlman said. ``Whatever
happens, happens. One thing we know is that the sun always comes up
again, no matter what.’’