The following is based on a true story.

Waking early Monday to the smell of smoke, I dialed 911 and was told to leave the house immediately. The emergency trucks arrived, and the firefighters ran into the inferno, brushing back flames until they discovered the source of the blaze.

My NCAA bracket.

Villanova? Duke? Louisville? Burnt to the ground. Beyond those typical hosses, I also took some fliers, including the ones from Dayton, and got singed by the bonfire of my vanity. It’s never good to see your ranking in a 56-entry online bracket contest listed as 50-plus.

Having few remaining dogs in the hunt — yes on Butler, no on Gonzaga — allows me to objectively reflect on the first two rounds of March Madness.

• Watching No. 2 seed Duke lose to No. 7 South Carolina cemented my opinion that this is the worst-officiated tournament in memory. At one point, I swear Dookie lover Dick Vitale was wearing the stripes and whistle. Some of the pro-Duke calls were laughable. But that’s also the norm, because two outrageously bad calls went against Duke late. Point? You know officiating is out of whack when even the Blue Devils get submarined by the zebras. Officiating is harder than it looks. Action happens much faster live than it looks on TV. But it has to improve. And don’t get me started on the touch fouls, or in many cases ghost fouls, which have turned basketball into bassinetball. Let them bang a little. And don’t reward flopping.

• Conspiracy theorists who believe the tournament selection committee annually sticks it to mid-major conferences gained ammunition. Instead of having Dayton, Wichita State, VCU and Mount St. Mary’s play power-five teams, which would have given the first round some juice, those schools played each other. Memo to committee: America likes underdogs.

• After a bland first round, when many games were decided with more than five minutes to play, the second round provided fireworks, if still no true buzzer-beaters. My favorite was Oregon’s 75-72 win against Rhode Island because I watched it with my college-age son, who needed Oregon to win. I highly recommend viewing games with someone whose bracket life depends on the outcome. Witnessing a person liquefy into a puddle of desperation is quite entertaining.

• Battered all season as a conference weakling, the Big Ten has three teams in the Sweet 16: Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan, with the Wolverines edging Wisconsin as tournament darlings. Interesting that Ohio State beat the Badgers and Wolverines, and lost to the Boilermakers by one point. Drawing conclusions from regular-season outcomes is an inexact science, but my takeaway is that the Buckeyes’ biggest non-talent issue this season was falling prey to the bull’s-eye syndrome, in which teams become motivated only when taking aim at tougher competition. Ohio State lacked the day-to-day competitiveness required to overcome teams such as Rutgers and Nebraska. I remain skeptical that can be remedied overnight.

• One of my favorite moments of the weekend was catching Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski telling his players not to foul South Carolina late in a seven-point game. Duke had a hint of life left, but Coach K pulled the plug. Sportsmanship gets a bad rap these days, but credit Krzyzewski with showing class by allowing the Gamecocks to celebrate the moment without interruption.

• Always default to defense when picking championship teams, which means UCLA is out — the Bruins can light it up offensively but can’t guard a tree stump — and Kentucky is in. The Wildcats blocked two shots in the closing seconds of their cage-match win against Wichita State. Big Blue’s defense suddenly has gone from suspect to smokin’. Like my bracket.