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Free lunch won't fix your bracket, but these Whatcom restaurants hope to ease your pain

No. 16 UMBC players celebrate win over No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA Tournament history

UMBC defeated No. 1 Viginia to become the first No. 16 seed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Players celebrated as they walked off the court on Friday, March 16, 2018.
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UMBC defeated No. 1 Viginia to become the first No. 16 seed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Players celebrated as they walked off the court on Friday, March 16, 2018.

If you're like most of the rest of us, the NCAA Tournament bracket you worked hours to fill out is probably wadded up — or maybe even ripped to pieces — sitting at the bottom of the nearest trash basket. Adding to the insult, you likely missed with your "3-point" attempt and had to shamefully walk over and pick it up off the floor.

That's the way this year's college basketball tournament has gone.

So, which team was it that "officially" broke your heart and busted your bracket? Buffalo? Loyola-Chicago? Florida State? Or maybe it was Texas A&M or even Syracuse? If it was 16-seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), you're not alone.

But the good news is even though you won't be claiming all your buddies' money or hold bragging rights in the office, you and your bruised ego can still get a free lunch out of the deal thanks to the unlikeliest underdog ever.

For the past few years, Little Caesars Pizza has offered a free lunch combo — four deep-dish peperoni pizza slices and a 20-ounce drink — if a 16th seed in the NCAA tournament managed to beat a No. 1 seed.

Seemed like a pretty safe promotion at the time — the first 135 teams seeded 16th in their respective regions came up short. But UMBC changed all that Friday with its shocking 74-54 first-round upset over top-seeded Virginia.

Despite the unthinkable actually happening, there will be no welching on its promise, Little Caesars announced in a Tweet. You don't even have to like college basketball or have a busted bracket to collect.

Official rules for the "If Crazy Happens" promotion state that the free lunch combos will be available while supplies last between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on April 2. To claim the free lunch, Little Casesars customers must mention the promotion, and the offer can be redeemed only once by each family.

All six Whatcom County locations will be participating in the promotion, said Ray Caldwell of Target Market Enterprises Inc., which owns three Little Caesars franchises in Bellingham (1072 Lakeway Drive, 2430 Yew St. and 3210-A Northwest Ave.), one in Ferndale (2055 Vista Drive), one in Lynden (1804 18th St.) and one in Everson (119 Kirsh Drive).

"It's hard to believe it happened," Caldwell said of UMBC's win. "But now we're putting up extra pizza and soda and we're looking forward to the challenge. They've offered this for a few years, but it hasn't happened. This year, it did, and we get a chance to promote our lunch special. It should be a good time."

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