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March Madness, Midwest flooding and more things to start your Thursday morning

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 3:44 a.m. ET March 21, 2019 | Updated 3:45 a.m. ET March 21, 2019

It’s a magical day for college basketball fans: NCAA tournament tips off

March Madness has truly arrived with the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament. Sixteen games from four regional sites are on tap. National title contenders Kentucky, Gonzaga and Michigan State are in action along with mid-majors hoping to be this year’s Cinderella that makes a run to the Final Four in Minneapolis. Could we again see history with a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed?  Of course, most fans will also be checking on how their NCAA bracket is doing. There’s still time to fill yours out before the ball is tipped at noon ET. USA TODAY provides you with last-minute tips to win your pool and have bragging rights with friends or in the office.

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Floodwaters rise in Midwest

As flooding continues across the Midwest, the Missouri River is expected to crest Thursday in St. Joseph, Missouri, at its third-highest level on record, according to the National Weather Service.  Earlier, further north in the state, 130 people were urged to leave their Atchison County homes near strained levees. “The next four to five days are going to be pretty rough,” said county emergency official Rhonda Wiley. As of Wednesday, major flooding has been reported from South Dakota and Minnesota southeast through parts of Nebraska and Iowa and down to the area of southern Illinois and eastern Missouri.

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Teen who says politics cost him honor invited to White House

A New Jersey teen who says he was denied acceptance into the National Honor Society because of his support of President Donald Trump reportedly has been invited to the White House for an event Thursday. Boris Kizenko made his claim back in January after run-ins with administrators at Holmdel High School that included making a T-shirt that said “Make Holmdel Great Again” and posting a Trump quote on his class’s Instagram account. according to Patch. School superintendent Robert McGarry said politics aren’t a factor in selecting National Honor Society members.

Crash tests expose shortcomings in pickup truck safety

Passengers in modern pickup trucks are at higher risk of injury or death than the drivers, a new research study released on Thursday finds. A majority of two-row pickups “struggled to maintain their structure” in a new round of crash tests designed to gauge what happens when the front-right corner of the vehicle smashes something, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. IIHS has been performing driver-side small overlap front crash tests since 2012, which is when the left corner collides with another vehicle or hits an object. Of the five pickups that had a “marginal” performance, four were General Motors vehicles – the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and GMC Sierra 1500 – and the other was the Nissan Frontier. 

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If you still have a Charlotte Russe gift card, use it now

Thursday marks the last day to use gift cards at Charlotte Russe stores. The women’s fashion retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early February, and liquidation sales began earlier this month. The chain’s 416 stores are now entering their final days; all are expected to close by the end of the month, the liquidators said Tuesday. Stores are no longer accepting returns and all sales are final.

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