It remains a source of mild amusement to me that I plunge into the Brackets of March Madness every year with such enthusiasm. I hate playing basketball. I don't really watch basketball. (I've been known to go to a game when I can though- like baseball, it's not bad to watch in person.) But I do one of these every damn year and every damn year it's always so interesting and exciting and my bracket is usually a smoking pile of rubble by the end of the first weekend. Yet I do this anyway, because there's something almost primal about filling out what is essentially a large chart. Humanity just flocks to it for some reason.*
I usually have a general idea of what's going on in College Basketball (this year: anarchy) but this time around, I actually spent an hour or two listening to the talking heads on ESPN and glanced through FiveThirtyEight's March Madness predictions and then I got down to brass tacks. Let's take it by region, shall we?
Kansas has screwed me so many times that I sort of have hatred in my heart for the Jayhawks- yet they seem to be the pick of the talking heads and with some good reason. They're sizzling hot right now and have an experienced team behind a Coach who's been there before. (See also: Michigan State). So although someday, a 16 seed will beat a 1 seed, it won't be this year. KU to the round of 32.
Apparently 9 seeds are favored over all the 8 seeds across the board. I don't think that will hold up, but again, UCONN: sizzling hot. Huskies to the round of 32.
Is anyone else having a hell of a time picking between Maryland and South Dakota State? When Maryland is good, they're very good, but when they're not... and if South Dakota State starts shooting threes like lunatics... gotta go with the Missus and support one of her alma maters. (Sort of alma mater anyway.) Jackrabbits over Terrapins.
I've heard a few Hawaii over Cal picks, but I think I'm going to go with the talking heads on this one and pick Cal. I will undoubtedly regret this choice.
I think Wichita State gets in over Vandy and then runs into the waiting arms of Arizona who decides to put two in the stink and one in the pink and ends the Shockers. Wildcats to the round of 32.
Miami v Buffalo? Pffffffffpfpfpft... who cares. Hurricanes.
Iowa over Temple. This too, I will undoubtedly regret- but if there was ever a moment to find the light switch and turn it on, it would be here. And the Hawkeyes if they can gather their collective fecal material for this, can maybe- maaaaaybe... go deeper than people think.
UNC-Asheville over Villanova wouldn't surprise me, because Villanova always seems to shit the bed at some point, but I think 'Nova gets into the Round of 32.
KU v Cal and Arizona v Iowa in the Sweet 16.
KU v Arizona in the Elite 8.
And god damn you Kansas, I will make voodoo dolls out of your stupid Jayhawk if you screw me on this- Kansas to the Final Four.
If there's going to be a 16 over 1 upset, I could maybe see it here. Maybe. But probably not- Ducks to the Round of 32.
I'm going to buck the 9 over 8 trend and go with St. Joseph's.
Yale over Baylor because smart people.
I hate Duke. I will be delighted if UNC-Wilmington kicks the ever loving shit out of them, but alas, I don't think that will happen. Duke to the Round of 32.
UNI over Texas because IOWA RULES THAT'S WHY.
I was going to go Green Bay over TAMU but FiveThirtyEight convinced me to flip. Given how well they did predicting the Democratic Primary in Michigan, there's NO WAY AT ALL this will screw me.
I have a soft spot for the Beavers (because I'm 12 and like to say, 'Go Beavers!' and then giggle.) but I think they're over seeded. Less than 20 wins versus VCU? I'm taking the Rams.
I think Oklahoma is too good to fall victim to a 15-2 upset- but this is Cal State Bakersfield's first time in the Dance and they might have juice to give the Sooners a scare. But I'm sticking with the Sooners.
Oregon v Duke and UNI v Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.
Duke v Oklahoma in the Elite 8.
Oklahoma to the Final 4 because Fuck Duke.
Providence v USC is one of those maddening 8-9 match-ups that always screw me, but I'm going with the Friars, because they're Friars. And why not?
Indiana v Chattanooga has been picked as a 5-12 upset... but I'm sticking with the B1G and going with the Hoosiers. (Plus, Hoosiers v Kentucky and then the winner gets probably UNC? Lots of old school match-ups could be glorious if it shakes out the right way.)
Michigan v Tulsa for another play-in game and I think Michigan gets in. Which set sup Michigan v Notre Dame. (Again, old school match-up. This is apparently the region for grumpy old men/Bill Simmons millennial dude bro types.) B1G Bias prevails and Michigan gets in to the Round of 32.
West Virginia (obviously.)
Wisconsin is hot right now- and I could see Pitt winning this, but I'm going with the Badgers.
UNC v UK and WVU v Xavier in the Sweet 16.
UNC v Xavier in the Elite 8.
Xavier goes to the Final Four.
(If there is a 'Group of Death' or more accurately, 'Region of Death' this year- the East might be it.)
Hampton over UVA? No. (But given the fact the last time Hampton was in the Dance, this happened... can't entirely rule it out. But still, no.)
Texas Tech and Butler seem to be one of those maddening 8-9 match-ups... but I went with Butler- and FiveThirtyEight agrees with me.
Purdue over Arkansas Little Rock. (Another trendy 5-12 upset I've heard out there, but B1G Bias, as always, wins the day.)
ISU over Iona BECAUSE IOWA RULES THAT'S WHY.
Seton Hall and Gonzaga gave me pause for awhile since Seton Hall is sizzling hot after winning the Big East Tournament and my 'Zags had to win their conference tournament just to get in. And yet... can't abandon my 'Zags. Gonzaga over Seton Hall.
Everyone seems to think Utah is overseeded as a 3-seed. That might be true and probably won't be enough to get them beyond the Round of 32, but it should be enough to get them past Fresno State.
Dayton over 'Cuse.
Although I've driven past the lovely campus of Middle Tennessee State and was ever-so-slightly tempted to pick them for a 15-2 upset, Sparty Party baby. March is where Tom Izzo earns his paycheck and he's got his team in the right place at the right time.
UVA vs ISU and Gonzaga vs Sparty in the Sweet 16.
ISU vs Sparty in the Elite 8.
Sparty to the Final Four.
Oklahoma over Kansas.
Sparty over Xavier.
Michigan State 83, Oklahoma 77
Sparty Party for the win.
*The closest soccer equivalent to this is probably the FA Cup, where purported minnows usually manage to take down at least one team they have no business beating. (Arsenal this weekend was very Arsenal-y and crashed out to Watford to the tune of a 2-1 lost. Interestingly enough, I think I begin to gain some insight into why it feels so right to be an Arsenal fan. It's really not to different from being an Iowa fan. When they're good, they're very good- but they also have a lamentable habit of losing to teams they shouldn't. Like Watford for instance. That old feeling of frustrated resignation at a loss is oh so very familiar.)