By Dan Bernstein–
Ok, so the NCAA field is lame. The 68 slots are bloated with bleh, NBA scouts are muttering about the lack of future impact players, and we’re fresh off a pretty ordinary season, to put it nicely.
No matter, now.
New life, new opportunities, new basketball world. Yes, for you, too, Illinois.
The play-in games start tomorrow, so most pools will have you turning in your money and your predictions by end of business today. What follows is all you need to remember to get the most out of the experience. You may not win using the Bernstein Method (in fact, I can all but guarantee that you will lose, and probably in spectacular, embarrassing fashion), but it will maximize the experience.
First and foremost – the Method’s guiding principle — Don’t Fight the Hand. Ideally, your pen glides around the bracket, Ouija-board style, writing team names because it is somehow supposed to. Disconnect brain from pen as much as possible, take deep breaths, employ a mantra if you wish (some have had success with the repetitive intonation of “airball,” while others trying a Raftery-style barking of “onions,” not so much) and then observe the results.
There will be times when the meditative flow is interrupted, however, and you will need to decide. Use the following rules:
1. Pick schools that have fun abbreviations to write. Unfortunately, there is no GaTech this year, nor my all-time favorite, the erstwhile SWMOSt. But we do have ‘nova, Pitt, SDSU, UCSB, G’town, AlaSt, and the 15th-seeded Bears of NoCO. For some reason, it’s never fun to write George Mason, and it doesn’t work as GM, either.
2. See if any of the teams had a player or assistant coach die recently enough that there has been some kind of dedication of the season, and pick that team to win one more game than you otherwise would. Maybe an extra Gipper-win if it included bizarre circumstances, such as a walk-on forward being eaten by fire ants, or a student trainer involved in a rural meth-lab explosion.
3. Gravity’s a bitch. It just seems easier to pick teams moving down the brackets, falling toward Houston, rather than making the arduous climb from the bottom of the page.
4. Identify the Crazy Red Team. There usually is one, so see if Georgia, Temple, UNLV or St. John’s will be this year’s Cornell. Extra points if the CRT has at least one frontcourt player who wears a t-shirt of some kind under his jersey.
5. Beware the hot-shooting white boy you’ve never heard of who has crazy stats in some prairie conference. This has been a longstanding aspect of the Method, but it has changed over time due to the amount of information now easily available for even the most obscure teams, and the game’s colorful multiculturalism. That last year’s lurking danger was Ali Farokhmanesh speaks to this. For the record, Jimmer Fredette is too good to qualify in this category.
6. You can pick Duke to go as far as you want, but you have to feel bad about it. (You also have to sigh dejectedly when writing them into the next round of the actual bracket after each win)
That’s it. Twenty dollars completely flushed down the toilet just like every year. Your annual responsibility as an employed American has been fulfilled.
And do not let anyone lampoon your completely ridiculous choices. You’re not like them, those sheep trying to use logic and reason, or trying to actually, you know, be accurate. I think Quantum Theory allows for an infinite number of simultaneous realities, at least one of which will have the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners in the Elite Eight and Wofford in the Final Four. Or maybe it’s String Theory.
Regardless, if you have truly enjoyed the process, your brackets will be a proud, toxic dump by Thursday afternoon.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here.
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