By day two of March Madness my bracket was crumbling in a heap. My title winner had lost to a school no one had heard of, my upset picks had proven fruitless, and my instincts were shot. I've given up on bracket contests. Until next year. I say this every year and every year I come crawling back.
But I've come to help you. It's like were sitting in a circle at a group meeting of bracket busted addicts without a fix. I've been where you are. I've wanted that 12 seed to pull through. Needed that 12 seed to catch lightning in a bottle. Been devastated when that 12 seed played like a 12 seed. Never again. I'm going to guide you through how you and I will build a sturdy bracket that gets us to at least the elite 8. We're going to learn from my mistakes. Together.
Play the Man over the Seed.
John Thompson III had the Hoyas ready. They had survived and thrived in the Big East. They were going to take the next step. The path was paved. Beat Florida Gulf Coast, crush a seven seed, outplay overrated Florida, and deal with VCU's chaos. It was all laid out for them. Except it wasn't.
JTIII has done this to me before, a low seed and a quick exit. First round, second round, doesn't matter, they're going home early. They'll drop it to a lower seed.
So the rule is go with the coaches who have won in the tourney. Not you Steve Alford, but you Tom Izzo and you Bill Donovan. If you want to pick a final four squad, at least 3 of the 4 will have been there before because some coaches know how to get teams there.
We Aren't In the Business of Predicting Upsets
Florida Gulf Coast happened. Let it go. No one predicted it, no one will predict the next one. Don't even try. VCU and George Mason happened. Butler happened. It's going to happen, don't let it crush your bracket. Like oh, I don't know, New Mexico State, the 13 seed who I had running through to the Sweet 16. Would a been a genius if it happened but I'm an idiot.
When in doubt go chalk. Pick the lower seed. Crazy people picked VCU and Butler. They got lucky and enjoyed the final four while their male nurse fed them pudding. We, us, we're smarter than that right? The answer here has to be yes.
Don't Trust Your Eyes in February
Somewhere someone decided the Mountain West was the greatest conference in all the land this year. Look at that strength of schedule. Look at that RPI. Look at that other stat thingy and stuff. The Mountain West received five bids. New Mexico was a three seed. San Diego State was a seven. Boise State made the tournament and didn't even play on blue turf. I thought, heck New Mexico, how can everyone be wrong, so I took them. Twice. Then Harvard put a hurt on the Lobos in round one. Thanks Steve Alford. Good luck with that hire UCLA.
The Mountain West looked good because it played the Mountain West for two months. It's like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes up karate except he's in a class of 7 year old. Same skill level. The Mountain West wouldn't have placed a team in the top 6 of the Big East or the Big 10.
By the Second Weekend Deep Down You Know Who Will Be There
Ok, I admit it, I'd have a better shot at winning a Duck Dynasty bracket then an NCAA bracket. I don't watch it. So I hear about Gonzaga and Butler and I think, yeah, I'll take those two right guys? Right? I'm not a regular viewer, this makes the tournament a tough get for me. Still, I know that Michigan State, Duke, Louisville, Florida, Kansas, Ohio State et al will be around.
When your Sweet 16 looks like a hodge podge of direction schools and former community colleges, you've got issues. When your hopes of a New Mexico State run crash night two you're an idiot. I'm pointing this finger back at myself of course. Stop being clever, be predictable, that's what the Tournament ultimately is, 75% predictable. 75% will win your office pool or, if you're Rick Neuheisel, get you fired.
Live By the Three, Die By the Three
Teams that shoot it well from beyond the arc are great. Until they run into one of two things...teams that defend well or a bad shooting night. Bet on the teams that defend. Defense isn't streaky or fickle it's defense. The D will be there to create easy buckets. Gonzaga couldn't guard my mom. My mom can't go left, everyone knows this. The Zags are always a Big East/Athletic defensive team away from spending March in Spokane. I hear it's beautiful there. Marquette, Syracuse, Michigan State, Florida, and Wisconsin are all the viewing equivalent of watching dry wall application, at times pointless and dumb but effective. Here's what they are good at, well except Wisconsin this year, surviving and advancing.
Defense wins titles. I just made that up, seems pretty solid, I think I'll put it on a t-shirt.
So what did we learn? My bracket is busted and it's never going to happen again. I'm in a 12 step program. This will change. There is a higher being. I will rely on him. His name is Jay Bilas. If he doesn't work out maybe Nate Silver could throw something together for March Madness. Let's hope they don't have Belmont playing for a trip to the Elite 8.