For every great office, there is an office pool come March. A test of brute strength, statistical analysis and, more than anything else, a test of pure luck. At its most, college basketball is thrilling and heartbreaking, and college basketball pools are both of those emotions taken to extremes. Here now is the 2014 Tuesdays With Horry NCAA Tournament bracket pool.
I enjoy filling out a gimmicky bracket every year. I’ve done brackets based on fighting mascots, notable alumni and flipping a coin (three 16 seeds winning in the first round was destined to fail). So when it came to submitting a bracket here, I racked my brain for another entertaining way to make sense of this 68-team field. What I created was a monster.
My method of choice was simple: treat the tournament not as a field of top-notch basketball schools, but as a field of 68 college football teams. The early rounds were easy to choose. Most of these mid-major basketball programs either don’t have football programs or their teams are simply no match to their BCS counterparts.
A few interesting upsets did ensue, including Wichita State losing in the first round to Texas Southern by virtue of the Shockers lacking a football team. Louisiana-Lafayette defeated Creighton, but then again Doug McDermott has hidden plenty of the Bluejays’ flaws, so I wouldn’t be aghast if this happened in real life.
When two major schools were matched up against each other, rather than subjectively choosing the team I believe would be victorious in a fictitious matchup, I defaulted to the final BCS Standings from this past season to select my winner. That’s how you end up with Baylor and Stanford in the Final 4. The only saving grace for this bracket is the gridiron success of both Michigan State and Louisville, who are also heavy favorites to win this basketball tournament. This may be a gimmicky bracket, but in the end, it produced in a rather mundane conclusion. Michigan State over Louisville. Yawn.
But that’s not why this bracket is a failure. As I sat back and took one last glance over these selections, I realized I had subconsciously done what athletics directors have been doing for years, cramming college football down our throats at the expense of college basketball. Football is the most lucrative sport on the collegiate landscape and from a financial standpoint; school would be insane not to jump at bigger paydays. But let’s be clear, it’s football money which tore apart the Big East and persuaded Syracuse to abandon its historic rivalry with Georgetown to get some ACC football cash money. It’s football money that coaxed Rutgers and Maryland to join the Big Ten next season. It’s football money that has TCU football swimming in a pool full of Big 12 cash while its basketball team is being dunked on in the kiddy pool. And now I’m forcing football onto the best thing college athletics has going for it, March Madness.
Despite all of this reshuffling and grandstanding, college football has never come close to touching the excitement of the NCAA Tournament. Sure, football may have the most exciting regular season. But in the BCS, you lose a single game, and your entire season is in jeopardy. This year, Virginia, a #1 seed in the tournament, has six losses and deserves to be considered one of the best in the tournament. But when the excitement of the football regular season comes to a close and the bowl bids are all divvied up, the anticipation goes away. When it comes to tourney time, the excitement only builds. And it happens for one reason: the upsets.
Nowhere in college football can mid-major schools compete with the big boys. Sure, football had its share of upsets and miracle finishes. When Auburn returned a missed field goal for a touchdown against Alabama, you could have dubbed over the highlight real with Al Michaels’ famous inquiry about miracles without missing a beat. If you surveyed priests in Alabama that following Sunday, I’m sure you’d hear that attendance at church skyrocketed. Prayers were answered. A miracle played out before our very eyes.
But Auburn has a football program which plays in the best football conference in the nation, a program that seems to be involved in a recruiting scandal every other season. Sure the “Kick Six” was an upset. But it was a team of future NFL stars defeating another team chalk full of NFL talent, and I can only get so excited about watching guys pretend to be student-athletes just long enough to make these colleges millions before they’re able to take a dip in the NFL’s money pool.
A more apt comparison to March Madness would be Appalachian State defeating Michigan in the Big House. The talent gap between FBS and FCS programs is unbelievable. Michigan is a team of future NFL stars. Most of Appalachian State wouldn’t qualify as walk-ons at an FBS school. This was a once in a generation-upset. We’d be lucky to see this happen once every 50 years.
In basketball, this notion is turned on its head. The little guys can compete with the power conferences. Butler made back-to-back runs to the title game. VCU and its innovative defense shocked the world on its way to the Final Four. Lehigh and Florida Gulf Coast, two #15 seeds, defeated Duke and Georgetown. Basketball is still dominated by Goliaths, and the smart money still says to bet on them come tournament time. But every year, David shows up to the big dance, and every year, we’re left in awe of the little school that no one gave a chance.
College basketball insider Jon Rothstein loves to say college basketball is “where the unexpected becomes the ordinary.” But what’s so great about college basketball is that it never feels ordinary. Watching Dunk City topple Georgetown will never feel ordinary. Watching Havoc upset Kansas will never feel ordinary. I took the college football, where big money always trumps the little guy every season, and forced it onto March Madness. By picking a bracket based on BCS teams, I took out the unexpected, and what I’m left with is just something ordinary.
I hope this bracket is wrong. God, I hope Wichita State wins it all.
It’s a battle of the BIG TEN, and Sparty’s on top. Jay Bilas said Wisconsin had a nice draw. For some reason, I trust him.
I am breaking my own rule here out of love for my Tuesdays With Horry brethren. Back on my home blog, ShittyBanter, I am working on a ridiculous piece breaking down sixteen different brackets that I created based on random chance, random statistics and random girls picking teams for me [Edit: It can now be found here]. I go through this process because I have historically been pretty awful at bracket-making, and I wanted to start blaming someone else for my failures.
But this bracket is not based on mascots or opponent PPG or even any inherent knowledge of college basketball. This bracket is based solely on where my mouse felt was the right place to go in the moment. Maybe God decided to bless me with ten minutes of clairvoyance, and this will be the year that everything changes for the better.
But I’ll probably just be bitter when only one of my Final Four teams comes through for me.
IOWA STATE LEGGGOOOOO.
Filling out NCAA Final Four tournament brackets isn’t really about college basketball, it’s about what kind of person you are. Every bracket, every pick, even the very nature of filling it out in the first place – these actions are all just an extension of where you come from, where you are, and where you’re going. If you’ve watched a lot of college basketball and you’ve invested the time it takes to follow hundreds of players in dozens of programs across a litany of institutions across the country, you’re saying most of what needs to be said without saying anything at all. You’re a fan. You care.
I don’t. I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched a college basketball game. I can barely remember the last time I was on a college campus, honestly. I went to a football/baseball[/equestrian, that one year] school and I’m a spiteful person so if my [NIT-worthy] school isn’t involved, I’m only interested in following along if you somehow come out on the losing end – this is my way of reminding you that the Final Four, like much of life, is futile and meaningless. My favorite memories of the NCAA tournament are snacking to Vermont’s upset of Syracuse in 2005 and watching North Dakota State barely losing to Kansas on one set of screens at a bar while my friend yelled at the other set of screens as Wisconsin beat Florida State in ’09. That guy’s bracket was ruined. I went home alone to a cramped, windowless apartment. It evens out.
Is this year’s tourney ripe for those magically pernicious moments? Wichita State finally proving it deserves a perennial shot against Kansas? Pitino leading Louisville to glory? The usual Tobacco Road scuffles? American University’s existence? That’s why they play the game. And you watch it because you filled out a bracket, and you’ve now put pride or money down on a 13-seed for a bracket-busting upset. Which everyone secretly likes except, of course, the schools that lose.
But I’m not attending them; I’m not attending anything. I got my degree already. My skin in the game is ruining your spring. Some guy at my work got off the elevator yesterday morning shouting about how “I really like my three seed.” Does this sound like you? Do you have a gum statue of Tom Izzo in your closet at home? Do you dream of sublime half-court threes, disruptive crowd-rushing, and eternal overtimes? Is college basketball your faith? Do you ask the hard questions through a spherical leather lens? Ever wonder why the sky is Carolina blue?
Of course you do. That’s the kind of person you are. No, no, no, no, no and no – only an idiot would offer a non sequitur like that as proof of anything. That’s the kind of person I am. Hate me yet? Perfect. Come, let’s watch some basketball together. Let’s spoil each other’s dreams.
Rory Masterson: VCU, because why not?
My picks are based on the vast basketball knowledge I acquired while playing in a town recreational league from ages 9 to 13, the one-half of one-half of college basketball I’ve ever watched on television in my life and the fact that many of my friends went to UMass. Also, Warren Buffett is allegedly giving a billion dollars to whoever makes a perfect bracket, so Warren, if you’re reading, help a girl out.
College basketball – what is that in the year of our Trap Lord 2014? I certainly have no idea because there’s no Big East. There are only requiems for it. Yet, it is still played by teams which represent institutions of higher learning, despite the fact that athletic departments have allocated a majority of their resources to American football. There is still a tournament played in March that still gains attention from the public at large due to the exciting Plinko-like probability that an individual’s particular guess of a bracket wins out over other interested parties who have also attempted to pick the winner of said tournament. It’s a sport whose end is utter and total chaos, with no clear picture or indication of who the overall victor could be. It’s the only constant in a sport that has undergone a whirlwind of volatility off the court in the past two years.
Have I paid attention to college basketball this season? Not really. The only thing I know is that Duke and Syracuse have become rather familiar with one another, and Marcus Smart shoved someone who may or may not have said something racist. College football usurped all the capacity my brain has for watching more than thirty minutes of a particular athletic competition. I know nothing except the two aforementioned tidbits (and that Ohio State is going to lose to Dayton).
I picked my bracket and sent many of the top seeds toward the Elite Eight. Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, Creighton, Wichita State – they are all heading that way. Will it shake out like that? Who the hell knows. What I think and hope will happen is Duke and Syracuse playing for all the marbles. This provides the possibility of Jim Boeheim rushing onto the court and performing his best Kirby Smart impression again (God damn, college football).
Can I start by saying that it took me 45 minutes to figure out how to get this bracket into the post? I don’t use computers anymore, so I shouldn’t be allowed around them. Kids, this is what happens when you turn 30. Anyway, as you can see, I have Wichita State beating….(goes back to read bracket) Florida in the final. The Gators cannot shoot free throws (they’re something like 215th in the country—yes, there are over 300 Division 1 teams, I think). That matters a whole lot (to me). I’m using the “lost in the Final Four to last year’s champ” theory for the Shockers. This worked for Louisville last year, mind you (they lost to Kentucky in the previous year’s Final Four, who then went on to win the championship. I’ve only seen one game from Wichita State this season, but they looked good in it. I didn’t know we were supposed to actually watch and follow college basketball (The NBA is better anyway). I just scrolled up and saw that Patrick chose Wichita State also. So, they have to win. For the old people or something.
(Looks at bracket, laughs)
I have Michigan State (because you probably do too) and Wisconsin (they have a really good white player, and we need more good white players in basketball because facts) as the other Final Four teams. I filled out my bracket at work. I’m trying to not really care about my selections this season, because, well, whatever. I care a lot. My wife and I have a contest going this year. Loser bakes the other a dessert of their choosing (Yeah, that’s why you get married).
Last note: Don’t waste your time looking at websites and getting tips on your bracket. Those bros (and ladies) have no idea who’s going to win, either. You’re better off just going with your gut. You’re likely going to be wrong anyway. And this is supposed to be about passion and fun and purity. Just remember: These fellas are playing their little hearts out FOR FREE! Meanwhile, CBS is paying about 40 kajillion dollars to make you take two days off to watch all these games. America! The NCAA! Catch the madness!!
(Sets bracket on fire)