For far too much of the year, we are subject to essays on Bracketology – the study of how the ultimate NCAA Brackets will be populated. Now that we know which school is in which slot, I presume that any discussion of the outcomes of the NCAA Brackets would fall under the heading of Bracketeering. The intended landing spot for today’s rant is somewhere between Bracketology and Bracketeering.
I have to begin with a bit of advice for your office bracket pool; unfortunately, the advice is a bit of a downer. No matter how much time and effort you put into your understanding of this year’s Bracketology such that you have insights into the ultimate workings of this year’s Bracketeering, you are not going to beat out Gladys in HR who does not know a bracket from broomstick or a basketball from a basset hound. Here is the good news, however. If you finish second to Gladys in the office pool, you can claim bragging rights for the simple reason that no one ever sees or hears from Gladys all year long and no one ever goes to HR voluntarily.
As you ponder this year’s Bracketeering, let me give you some advice about the 4 play-in games that will happen tonight and tomorrow night.
- The winners of those games get to advance to the main bracket of 64 teams.
- None of those 4 winners will make it to the Final Four.
Everyone – except Gladys in HR of course – knows that a team seeded 16th in its regional bracket has never beaten the team seeded 1st in that same bracket. Everyone also knows that someday this will happen – just as “Someday my prince will come…” [ /Snow White]. Could this be the year? Sure, it could. Is this going to be the year? Highly unlikely. And even if this is going to be the year, you would only have a one in four chances of picking the right earth-shattering upset. Good luck with that. The best you can hope for is that if such an upset happens, you did not have that #1 seed advancing all the way to the final game on April 2.
I think this year’s Bracket Pools should have a consolation prize built in. Anyone who picks all four of the “eight-nine games” correctly should get his/her money refunded. Those are four inscrutable games; even a crystal ball would not work here; I think you would need to sacrifice a goat and have someone read the entrails to figure those four out.
There are no great college teams this year; that has been evident since late December. Oklahoma and Arizona St. were both ranked in the Top Five at one point this year. Here is where they stand today:
- Oklahoma is a 10-seed and has lost 8 of its last 11 games.
- ASU is in a play-in game tomorrow night.
So, maybe this is the year to pick two double-digit seeds to make it to the Final Four. That has never happened; maybe this is the year it will. Hey, you only live once; it only costs ten bucks to enter the office pool anyway – – and remember, you are going to lose to Gladys in HR no matter what you do.
The way the NCAA Bracket has been populated, we could see Villanova play West Virginia in the Sweet 16. You can be sure that Villanova coach, Jay Wright, will be wearing a perfectly tailored designer suit on the sidelines. The big question for that game is this:
- Will West Virginia coach, Bob Huggins, break out a brand-new West Virginia polo shirt for the game?
If you want to watch a game where the scoreboard lights up, let me give you two possibilities:
- UNC/Lipscomb: They will meet on Friday in Round 1; you know that UNC loves to play fast and that the Tar Heels can score in bunches. Lipscomb is often in the 80s and it has lost games by giving up more than 90 points a couple of times this season. The Total Line for this game is 164. I smell an OVER. [Aside: If Lipscomb pulls the unlikely upset here, be ready for a tsunami of “Big Daddy” references. If you are younger than 40, Google is your friend…]
- Kansas/Penn: They will meet on Thursday in Round 1; you know that Kansas plays fast and has plenty of firepower. You may not know that Penn has scored in the nineties 4 times this year plus Penn has gone north of 100 points in a game twice. The Total Line for this game is only 146.5 …
There will be a Geezer Moment on Thursday afternoon when Miami plays Loyola-Chicago in the first round. Loyola-Chicago won the National Championship in 1963 beating Cincinnati in OT in the Final Game. Cincinnati had won the National Championship in each of the two previous years. Since then, Loyola has hardly been a tournament “regular”; they have only been in the field 4 times since 1963. However, us Geezers can think back to that exciting finish in the Final Game starting Thursday afternoon. Loyola-Chicago are known as the Ramblers; too bad they could not play Georgia Tech in that first round game…
There is another Geezer Moment that will happen tonight – although this nostalgia is not as uplifting as the return of Loyola-Chicago to the tournament. There was a time in the 60s and 70s when UCLA dominated college basketball. No school since then has approached that level of dominance. Tonight, UCLA will play St. Bonaventure in a play-in game and the winner will slide into the 11th-seed slot in the East Bracket.
- Sic transit gloria mundi …
The Midwest Bracket is top heavy with Kansas, Duke and Michigan St. all in there. Similarly, the South looks tough with Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky and Tennessee all there. The other two brackets seem a bit softer.
If you are looking for potential first round upsets – – in addition to Loyola-Chicago upsetting Miami in a Nostalgia Special, consider:
- Providence (10) over Texas A&M (7): Providence played very well in the big East tournament. If they can carry that over to this week, they could advance.
- South Dakota St. (12) over Ohio St. (5): S. Dakota St. as a team shoots just over 40% from three-point range and Ohio St. has a few clunkers on its résumé this year.
One final note about the Selection Committee if I may… They take a lot of heat every year about the way the put teams in the brackets and the teams they leave out of the brackets. One of the recurring themes yesterday on sports radio was that the Selection Committee had only one job and it failed to do that. According to callers – and a host or two – the only thing the Committee is there for is to find the 68 best teams and then put them in the brackets. Excuse me, that that is pure nonsense. The Committee has 31 automatic entries to the tournament and they exercise exactly no control over them. If indeed, the NCAA tournament was populated with the 68 best teams – by whatever advanced analytical methodology you happen to prefer this week – you would not have teams like Penn, Bucknell, Montana, Lipscomb and Georgia St. in the field.
Finally, here is a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Airbrush: An artist’s tool invented by Playboy Magazine to give your girlfriend and inferiority complex.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………