Ladies and gentleman, may I have your attention please? I'm going to need you to put your chairs in the upright position, and fasten your seat belts. Tray tables up, sir. We are only two short days away from the greatest sporting event of the year.
Greatest sporting event of the year? Well, duh. An entire MONTH is dedicated to it. Sure it starts mid-way through March and finishes sometime in April, but March April Madness doesn't roll off the tongue. Nor does Mapril Madness. or Marril Madness...anyway.
College sports are beloved for the passion, rivalry, pageantry and......UPSET POTENTIAL BABY! The NCAA Tournament is rife with upset potential, I'm talking rife. RIFE! Every year a small school in an unknown conference will play with more passion and intensity then a mid-major, nationally ranked team. Before you know it, the timer will hit zero and the buzzer will sound. The bench will clear as a bunch of awkward white guys (guys who really care about their teammates) start jumping up and down in their warm ups and attack their star players with goofy man hugs, as the higher seed walks off the court in disbelief. Wow...I'm getting chills already.
Then we'll all realize our brackets are screwed because we had that higher seed in the championship game. And, if you're like me, you'll swear off March Madness and vow never to participate again...until next March.
Well March has come my friends!
Its time to get your brackets filled out and start making wild claims like, "Wofford seriously has a chance at upsetting Wisconsin. No seriously! They do!" or, "Dude, St. Mary's is this year's George Mason! I'm putting them in my Final Four!" or, "I know it, I just know this is the year a #16 seed takes down a #1!"
If you're one of those people, let me save you some time. Hold your bracket with your left hand in the top left corner. Then with your right hand, grasp the top of your bracket somewhere near the middle and pull down sharply. Repeat. Then light on fire. Place ashes in urn, and crush with hammer. Then melt it all down and form it into a mallet and bludgeon yourself with it.
I know George Mason is an inspiring story, especially because they're my local University and my brother was studying there during their historical run, but has an #11 seed made it there since the 2006 tourney? In fact, an #11 seed had only done it once before! LSU in 1986. 2006 was a screwy year, by the way, no #1 seeds made the Final Four (only the second time in tourney history that has ever happened).
Look, I'm no professional Bracketologist. I haven't won my pool every year...or ever I don't think. But I've been filling out brackets since I was a kid. And if I've learned one thing since then its this, "Don't have Duke winning the Championship every year just cause you like their little white point guard Steve Wojciechowski." (The only Duke player to have a weirder name than Coach Krzyzewski.)
So here are a few things to keep in mind as the most exciting weekend in sports kicks off.
1. Don't get caught up picking too many upsets. 76% of the time the higher seed wins in the first round. The #1 seed has never lost, the #2 seed has lost 4 times. Think about it logically...will it help your bracket to gamble on 10 upsets just so you can nail 3 of them?
2. You will not be able to predict the next George Mason. Stop trying.
3. Always pick at least one 5-12 upset, happens every year.
4. In a year like this year, when the top 2 seeds in each division are relatively equally matched, pick the team with the best player. The later round games will be won by narrow margins, when it comes down to crunch time do you want Iman Shumpert handling the ball, or the national player of the year Evan Turner?
5. Don't underestimate the coach's impact on the game. This isn't the pros. College coaches do more than wander around on the sideline wondering if they should order nachos or a foot long. Tom Izzo, Michigan State's coach, is a sure thing Hall of Fame coach whenever he's ready to retire. You think I'm picking against him in round 1 just cause he's a #5 seed?
6. Go with your gut. If you really believe a match-up has upset potential go for it. But only do it if you really believe they can win.
7. Do not pick teams based on their name and reputation. Or you'll find yourself doing this, "Well, North Carolina won it all last year, so they should have a good run this year. Let me go ahead and put them in the Elite Eight. Hmm...where are they? I can't find them on my bracket. Wait. What?! They didn't even MAKE the NCAA tourney!? They're in the NIT!?!?!?" (go Duke).
8. Don't get cute. Just cause you read on some blog that UTEP is hot right now and has a good chance at upsetting Butler doesn't mean you have to pick it. (But if you do, you have to cite me and link this blog).
9. If all else fails, don't actually join a pool, but tell everyone you have. Then when its all over you can brag about winning it all! So what if the only other participant is your delusional neighbor Mr. Shuttensquack who picked Taco to beat Constitution, final score 17-Orange in the championship game?
10. Remember, you are not going to win your pool this year. The bracket you filled out is wrong. There is an 85% chance your girlfriend, who has randomly selected teams by counting the number of vowels in their name, will beat you when Ohio State beats Old Dominion in the championship game.
My picks? I'm taking Kentucky (remember the best players thing? John Wall and Demarcus Cousins, anyone?), Duke (weak division, thank you very much selection committee!), Kansas State (sure why not?) and Ohio State (my pick to win it all on the shoulders of Evan "The Villain" Turner and Mark "Club Trillion" Titus.
In any event, this year's tourney will be filled with excitement and plenty of madness. Yet I can guarantee you how it will end....with me swearing off March Madness forever.
Until next year.