Monday, March 21, 2011

Why My Brackets Suck

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all lessons that history has to teach.” – Aldous Huxley, quoted in The Wall Street Journal

Every year, I submit myself to the torture that is March Madness.  I am not a gambler by nature, but I make an exception for the tournament.   I have a competitive streak, but that streak does not encourage me to throw away my money away in a game of chance.   Bracketology, however, is the exception that proves the rule.  I always do the brackets.  Some years, I study the teams, and make informed choices.  Some years, like this year, I study nothing and make uninformed choices.  The outcome for me rarely changes, though.  As I have often said, it is better to be lucky than good. 

My preparation for filling out my 2011 bracket was more casual than normal.  I probably saw the fewest games leading up to the tourney than I ever had before, but I do listen to sports talks radio to and from work, 20 minutes each way.  I hear the sports geniuses impart their wisdom on teams all season.  I figured that gave me as good a chance as any other year.  Besides, I was still riding high my 2nd place finish in 2010 in a vendor sponsored bracket challenge.  I won a $200 spa treatment (can you say “Happy Mother’s Day?”), so I was filled with unfounded hubris.  Given my recent history of successful prognostication, I was ready for my One Shining Moment in 2011.  Winning.

One weekend is now in the book, and this year, I suck.  As a community service for everyone picking teams next year, here is a tutorial on how NOT to pick:

East Region
Sweet Sixteen picks still alive:  Ohio St., North Carolina

I was feeling pretty good about myself after the first 2 days.  I picked 7 of 8 in the first round.  My only choke was Xavier.  I can’t be blamed for that one.  Marquette came out of nowhere.  FAIL.  I can’t be too proud however; I am left with the Number 1 and Number 2 seeds in the region.  Hardly went out on a limb with those picks.

I assumed that since Kentucky put last year’s team into the NBA that this would be a down year.  I had the scrappy sons of the coal miners of West Virginia over UK.  FAIL.  I hate Jim Boeheim at Syracuse for no good reason.  He burns me every March.  If I pick them to lose, they win, and vice versa.  This year, I thought I’d fool everyone, and I had Syracuse in the Final Four.  This was a team ready to explode.  That must have been the Kiss of Death for the Orangemen.  They blew up, alright.  FAIL.   

West Region
Sweet Sixteen picks still alive:  Duke, Arizona, San Diego St.

This is my best region, and it gives me hope for next year.  Like the East, I had 7 of 8 after the first round, but I have 3 of 4 teams still playing at this point.  I am sure that many of you would trade places with me in the West.  My failure in this region is all about Missouri.  I always pick Missouri.  I have no idea what the team looks like this year, but whenever I picture the Missouri squad, I picture big, strong, tall, athletic, intimidating players.  Actually, what I picture are the members of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity (the Tri-Lambs) from The Revenge of the Nerds, coming out of the tunnel to defend their court.  How could a team like that lose?  Easy – I picked them.  FAIL.  I am proud of my Arizona prediction.  They always play well in March, thanks to the steady hand of Lute Olsen.  What? He doesn’t coach there anymore?  No problem.  I have AZ going down to San Diego State anyway.

Southwest Region
Sweet Sixteen picks still alive:  Kansas

I nailed 5 of 8 in the opening round, a very underwhelming result, especially when the 1 vs. 16 and 2 vs. 15 match ups are freebies.  I had epic failures across the board otherwise.  I favor good career tournament coaches over no names, so I went for Louisville.  Never bet against Pitino in the early rounds.  FAIL.  I had VCU over Georgetowne, but as a local radio listener, I knew VCU was impressive and G-Towne had nothing this year.  Some G-Towne guy was injured (like my in depth analysis?).  I was certain that those big corn fed boys from Perdue would manhandle VCU.  FAIL.  Since the Texas A&M football team would beat the Florida State football team, I assume that would translate into the gym.  FAIL.  Notre Dame was supposed to be a Number 1 seed a few days ago, so no way they lose before the Round of 16.  I should have known.  Last time they were any good, Digger was their coach, and Bill Walton played for UCLA.  FAIL.  I did have the Spiders of Richmond winning against Vandy, but I thought that would be the end of their Cinderella story.  I always remember Richmond as a 15 seed beating ‘Cuse a hundred years ago, and I assume that the magic would carry over, but not too long.  FAIL.

Southeast Region
Sweet Sixteen picks still alive:  Florida

Didn’t there used to be a Midwest region?

Not much to brag about here.  I picked a paltry 5 of 8 in the first round again.  I had St. John’s in the Final Four, mostly because they were the only team I saw play twice all year, apparently during their hot streak in January.  I guess things changed since then.  Where have you gone, Lou Carnesecca?  I learned that Malik Sealy isn’t on the team anymore.  FAIL.  I had Pitt in the Final 8, but I am sure many did, too.  Sidney Crosby plays in Pittsburgh, and out of deference to my son, I couldn’t pick any Pittsburgh based team to do too well.  FAIL.

How could BYU possibly advance to the Sweet Sixteen after losing their star player to a season ending suspension?  I did not factor in that a team of virgins plays with greater energy and pent up intensity than a team of non-virgins.  FAIL.  I also thought that Belmont used up all their magic dust last year.  I guess some was left over, and K State goes home.  FAIL.  

The one that really irks me is Michigan State.  I have bet against Tom Izzo too many times, and he has killed my bracket many a year.  I never pick him to go as far as he does.  This year, everyone said State had nothing, but I have learned my lesson.  Never bet against Tom Izzo in the tournament.  Even with a 14 loss team, he’ll win the first game against UCLA.  Lock it.  FAIL.       

The optimist in me sees that my final 2 teams are still alive – Duke vs. Kansas.  I went way out on a limb and picked two blue blood programs, both Number One seeds this year.  I can’t be proud of that, even if I am right.  Besides, there are probably 1 million other brackets out there with the exact same final pairing.   Because of my selections this year, the rest of the tournament is unwatchable, but I will keep watching.  Hurts so good.

I stopped off at 7-11 for a Gatorade after my hockey game last night.  The estimated Powerball jackpot is $101 million.  I bought a single ticket, since my luck is due to change for the better (or should I say, it is due to change for the ‘bettor’). 

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