“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:
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.
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.
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.
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’).