March — a time when a young man’s fancy turns towards the thoughts of creating the perfect bracket for March Madness. No other sporting event has such a massive appeal to non-sports fans and no other event wastes so much time. Why fill out your bracket at home on Sunday night, when you can pretend to be working on Monday? Besides, if you have been following college basketball all season, it really shouldn’t take you that long to fill it out anyway.
If you’re not a hoops maven, there are several fallbacks you can rely on to win your office pool. You’ve got the classic coin flip, favored by many Americans for its sheer simplicity. For those people who want to do a little more research, there’s the mascot and color comparisons method. Next, we’ve got the higher seed technique, which is almost as good as not even filling out a bracket. If none of these options sounds appealing, random guessing is always a fallback strategy for the lazy American.
Or, you could listen to the sports analysts. Over on Yahoo! Sports, there’s twelve “experts” predictions. Included in this group are three NASCAR writers, three fantasy sports experts, and Cris Carter. Needless to say, it would probably be better to follow the advice of someone who doesn’t have Kentucky making it to the Final Four. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz has Wake Forest winning the championship, while the National Bracket (a compilation of picks from everyone who entered ESPN.com’s bracket contest) has Illinois winning in the majority of the entries.
The best option, however, would be to listen to my “expert” advice. I have watched over five complete games this season, and I also finished third (or fourth or fifth, I can’t remember) in last year’s Daily Sun pool. Here’s a breakdown of the four regionals, along with my bold predictions.
The No. 1 overall seed Illinois was not surprisingly placed in this regional, which means we only have three more weeks of CBS and ESPN showing the same stupid map of how far the Illini have to travel for each round. Out of all the repetitive nonsense that frequently plagues sports analysis, this travel point about Illinois is really stupid. Thank you, Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Greg Gumbel, etc. — we got the point when you first mentioned it a month ago.
A less annoying story out of this regional is whether Penn can become the first Ivy team to win a first-round game since 1998 by knocking off Boston College, who exited the Big East tourney in the quarterfinals. You’ve also got three of last year’s Cinderella teams — Alabama, Nevada, and UAB — in this regional, which could cause some shakeups. However, Illinois will be the team coming out of this region, thanks to its veritable “home court advantage.” (The Illini only have to drive 120 miles to its first and second rounds games, and then only 133 miles to Chicago for the Sweet 16! Wow! Let’s see that visualization on a map again!)
Washington snuck its way to a No. 1 seed after a Chris Paul-less Wake Forest squad lost in the ACC tourney quarterfinals. However, the Huskies have not impressed anyone other than the selection committee, as ESPN.com’s National Bracket has Louisville knocking them off in the Sweet 16. How the Cardinals ended up with a No. 4 seed even though they are currently ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll is a little puzzling.
ACC runner-up Georgia Tech (which was robbed on Sunday, but more on this later) will most likely be in the unenviable position of facing Louisville in the second round. However, Mike Wilbon of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption seems to think highly of the Yellow Jackets, as he has penciled them in for a spot in the Final Four. Yeah, somehow I don’t think so. As long as Chris Paul decides not to go medieval on another player’s crotch again, the Demon Deacons should advance to St. Louis.
Unlike in the NCAA hockey tournament, the host city’s team does not get to play in the regional, so the Orange were sent to Austin. Arguably the toughest regional with UNC, UConn, Kansas, and Florida as the No. 1-4 seeds, it’s probably a bad move to jump on the Northern Iowa bandwagon. UNC will have a pretty tough game against Oakland (we’re talking about a team that only lost to Illinois by 31 points and also have a losing record), but the Tar Heels should survive to face UConn in the Elite Eight. The defending national champions would have stood a better chance had they not lost the No. 2 and 3 picks in the 2004 NBA Draft, so UNC will be headed back to the Final Four for the first time in five years. For those Cornellians who will be Ithaca over break and want to check out the games at the Carrier Dome, you can buy two seats on eBay for the low price of $560.
Everyone’s favorite team, Duke, stole a No. 1 seed after Wake, UNC, and Kentucky faltered in their conference tournaments. The Blue Devils also stole the ACC championship, as the refs decided to call a foul against Georgia Tech in the closing seconds, when my favorite player, J.J. Redick, actually committed the foul. Instead of the Yellow Jackets getting a chance to take the lead, the best free throw shooter in the history of college basketball got to go to the line. But, I’m not bitter.
Back to the bracket, Duke will lose in the Sweet Sixteen as will Kentucky. (Do not, under any circumstances, pencil in the Wildcats to go far into the tourney. While you may like it when the camera pans to Ashley Judd in the crowd, this is a team that has destroyed my bracket the last two seasons, and probably cost me the Daily Sun crown last year. Plus, they just got destroyed by Florida in the SEC tournament final). Look for Syracuse to knock off Oklahoma in the Elite Eight.
So there you have it: Illinois, Wake Forest, UNC, and Syracuse in the Final Four. As for who wins it all, I’m going to say Illinois over UNC, just like all the other analysts in the country (They’re only 180 miles from home! Zounds!). Happy bracketing.
Jonathan Auerbach is a Sun Staff Writer. I Never Kid will appear every other Wednesday this semester.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach