By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Remember back in high school or college when you procrastinated all the way up until the night before the test and then tried to cram a whole textbook unit into your brain only to fail spectacularly the next day? The sports equivalent of that is the NCAA Tournament.
Every year we all stare at our bracket sheets and lament another season of not really paying enough attention to the 68 teams, like that is really something anybody who is not paid to pretend they really know a damn thing about something called Stephen F. Austin or Dook (sp?) could ever do. So it’s on to consuming as much TV, radio and Internet analysis as possible to try to think for us and win us money in the office pool. That one guy from that one channel who always wears the nicest ties has this 12 seed beating a 5, so I’ll go with that.
It’s all futile. None of the predictions matter because there is nothing in sports more random than this tournament, and rightly so. College basketball is a giant pool filled with cannibal piranhas with ADHD, and the luckiest team — not necessarily the best one — comes out alive. Every regular-season game is magnified by its direct effect on postseason making and seeding, culminating in a sudden death format.
It’s very un-NBA, which is why college hoops fans so often are polarized from pro fans (even though the former are wrong in their feeling of superiority and the best 20- and 21-year-olds are in the NBA anyway). The NCAA Tournament is bedlam, not science. Bracketology is as credible as phrenology, and pouring over team résumés is as productive as filling out a bracket in 10 minutes like I do.
I was the kid in high school who opted to wing it instead of cramming. Sometimes I was smart enough to get a good grade. Sometimes I failed. I still graduated from college. America.
I take a similar approach to picking my bracket, too. That said, I never win the pool at work (and neither does the local bracketologist). My bracket is usually trashed by Saturday, and the winner is someone who used about the same strategy as me but who is not hated by the gods of sports wagering. So as a public service, I present to you my tournament picks and my exact internal monologue so that you can avoid having a similar flaming bag of hair at the office.
Take these picks and do much the opposite (and then send me a cut of your winnings from your For Entertainment Purposes Only pools).
Florida makes the Final Four, so I’ll get that out of the way. The Gators top Kansas in the Elite Eight because this was the first region I filled out, and I have a habit of picking chalk (and I don’t mean just Rock Chalk … get it?) early before realizing I need to take risks in this thing. Colorado/Pitt is a toss up in the 8-9 game, but I’ll give the edge to the state with legal pot. VCU wins two games, the second being over Tulsa because screw Steve Alford, who can repeatedly fall down stairs for all I care. Ohio State wins twice before its inconsistency kicks in, Western Michigan upsets Syracuse because MACtion, and New Mexico wins, too, I guess.
Tom Izzo chooses the month of March to collect other teams’ souls, and this region gives him ample opportunity to feast to the Final Four. His Spartans knock off Cincinnati, Virginia, and Villanova to get there. George Washington gets one cute little win. Providence gets weird and upsets a crap North Carolina team and Iowa State before falling. I’m picking St. Joe’s to beat UConn because whatever.
Fine, I’ll run with the story of the sexy small school and have Creighton in the Final Four. Plus, there’s this Doug McDermott GIF that clinches it for me. Nebraska is a nice story, but I’m stupidly favoring too much other B1G elsewhere, so Baylor gets to lose in its second game. Wisconsin asserts its whiteness over other melanin-challenged teams American and BYU. Arizona wins over a pair of States, Oklahoma and not San Diego but Cinderella of the Badlands North Dakota State, which closes the deal on two really funny-looking wins over regular Oklahoma and SDSU.
The hell are there two non-16 seed play-in games for? That’s the single dumbest aspect of the tournament, especially when the NCAA knows that most people like to fill out a bracket as soon as possible and not have to wait two find out what an 11 and 12 seed are, both of whom could very well win against a 6 and 5, respectively. I hate this region. I hate it so much I’m going to have Wichita State win just one game. They then lose to Kentucky. There, I said it. Growing up a Notre Dame football fan, I’m conditioned to hate University of Michigan athletics, which means they should do well and reach the Elite Eight, knocking off Arizona State and Duke, which beats whoever emerges from the UMass/Iowa/Tennessee blob of stupid. That leaves one of the worst seedings in tourney history, Louisville at 4, to run with what I’m sure Rick Pitino will convince his players is a lack of respect and emerge from this quadrant.
Florida over Michigan State. Louisville over Creighton. And your national champion is …
Florida by a score of 72-69. All my picks took about 10 minutes, and little logic was applied. And that’s the way it should be, even though I’m not going to win anything.
This is a bracket destined for curse words and irrelevance by this weekend. Use it wisely as your anti-guide to success and avoid most of what I did here. Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go throw away some Entertainment Purposes Only pieces of green paper on co-workers.