Every year, I spend far more time and energy than I should filling out my NCAA Tournament March Madness bracket. I debate whether chalk or Cinderella’s will prevail. I agonize over which 12-5 upsets are ripe for the picking. I look at strength of schedule and see who beat who, as if that matters. Then, I spend the entire tournament second guessing myself.
Inevitably, I get caught in between rooting for my bracket and cheering for those Cinderella’s that capture our hearts. It ends up being a very stressful month and at the end, I never feel like I have fully enjoyed what is truly an amazing sporting event.
I like to act as if I know what I’m talking about when predicting these games. Really, I don’t. None of us do. Why bother pretending? It’s not like I’m a big college basketball fan anyway. I mean, sure, I watch the tournament religiously. The first Thursday and Friday of games are days that I believe should be national holidays. Why play the charade of going to work and acting like I’m not watching online? I am. #SorryNotSorry (I am, however, sorry I just used that expression. #NeverAgain)
Anyway, when it comes to regular season college basketball, I never watch many games. This season though, that’s never been truer. Confession: I watched a grand total of three full college basketball games this winter. The complete list: Mt. St. Mary’s vs. Michigan (I was actually in attendance), Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Go Bearcats! #BeatX), and Tulsa vs. Cincinnati (Again, I was in attendance).
So, yeah, I don’t really have any idea what went on this college basketball season. (Though, I hear tripping people has become a hot button issue.) What I do know, from hardly following along, is that there was a lot of movement in the Top 25. It seems to me that this is one of those years where there are a ton of good teams in the field, but not many great ones. Is that a fair assessment? Honestly, I’m asking.
Let’s highlight some things as I take my first look at the bracket. (That’s right; I didn’t watch the selection show either.)
Hey! Mt. St. Mary’s made the field… sorta. The only first round upsets I have here are Marquette over South Carolina and New Mexico State over that Baptist school in Waco, Texas. Give me Virginia over Florida in the second round. Other than that, there’s nothing too exciting. Looks like an easy path to the Final Four for defending champion Villanova.
Woo, lots going on here. First, Michigan State got lucky. The Spartans are bad but the Hurricanes sound beatable. The rest of the first round seems pedestrian but man, look at these possible second round matchups. Kansas vs. Michigan State is enough said. Iowa State meets Purdue in a battle of teams with high hopes. Creighton vs. Oregon will be fun. And Michigan gets a shot at revenge against Louisville. I’m still upset about 2013 and, as a result, I’m going into full homer mode. The Wolverines beat the Cardinals, the Ducks, and the Jayhawks on their way to Phoenix. (#SorryNotSorry… Damnit, that didn’t last long.)
Smart guy alert in the 8-9 matchup as Northwestern and Vanderbilt get together. Wait, the Northwestern Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament! Congrats to them. I’ll even pencil in an opening round win for them before getting smacked by Gonzaga. Give me the other smart guys at Princeton to pull the upset on Notre Dame. On the bottom half, I’m going a little upset crazy. Florida Gulf Coast makes another run to the second weekend with wins over Florida State and Maryland. And St. Mary’s finds its way to the Elite Eight for a fourth try at besting West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga. You know what they say, “it’s tough to beat a team twice, thrice, four times in the same season.” Well, Gonzaga will.
I’ve got Seton Hall beating Arkansas for the same reasons I have Marquette beating South Carolina. I’m Catholic and the SEC is still a terrible basketball conference, until proven otherwise. Middle Tennessee State earns its second tourney win over a Big Ten opponent in as many years, my second 12 over 5. Cincinnati will beat UCLA with a superior defense the likes of which the Bruins have never come up against. Unfortunately for my adopted school, the Kentucky Wildcats will be waiting in the Sweet Sixteen. North Carolina will be able to handle Coach Cal’s bunch en route to yet another Final Four.
Last year’s championship game was so phenomenal, why not have a rematch? Michigan and Gonzaga fall victim to destiny. This time around, Villanova won’t need a buzzer beater. The Wildcats will repeat, beating North Carolina quite easily.
There you have it. Now all that’s left to do is wait until Thursday so I can hide my internet browser behind some important-looking work stuff and enjoy this damn thing for once.
I recommend you do the same, but don’t expect many of you to. That chance at glory is too tantalizing to pass up, isn’t it? Yes, you’d rather drive yourself crazy trying to arrive at the perfect bracket that you’ll literally never achieve.
And to you all I say have fun losing your group for the umpteenth time to your aunt who bases her picks on the team mascots. After all, this is the real madness of March.