The “What We Should Have Done” Approach to March Madness

filling out the bracketWe un-crumple the brackets we tossed to the floor in disgust only a day into the tournament.  We look at them again, hoping, begging for a chance.  There’s not one.  We wonder how things could have gone so horribly wrong.  How could it all be over before it had even begun?  I’m in the forty-ninth percentile?!?  This was supposed to be my year.

You’re not alone in those sentiments, sports fans.  As we learn every year, there can only be one shining moment in time and only one player with the golden bracket.  And if we learned anything from this year’s tournament, it’s that sometimes the most random, roll of the dice selection can still win it all.

But can these outcomes be foreseen?

There are a number of things we tell ourselves we’re going to do before filling out our brackets, even though we never really do them.  This is why I’m here to help.  Bookmark this page and refer back to it early next March.  When you finally conquer your bracket league, all I ask for is a fair share of gratitude in return.

While the rest of us wonder how the hell Kentucky and UConn made it to the final game, here are some helpful hints to uncover those diamonds in the rough so you can be the talk of the town next year.

uconn si coverTournament location – UConn lucked out this season.  Certainly their national championship was well-deserved but not even the most dedicated Storrs co-ed thought this team was title material.   That’s because they didn’t pay attention.  A closer look back shows us they got to play their third and fourth tournament games in Madison Square Garden, basically their own backyard.  Higher seeded teams generally get the benefit of playing close to home by virtue of a successful season but the second rounds of games are up for grabs.  If you had picked UConn to win their first two games, which were played in Buffalo, then picking them to upset Iowa State and Michigan State in the Big Apple wasn’t that much of a stretch.  The only problem is… we didn’t look ahead of time to see where those games were being played.  We all just assumed the Cyclones and Spartans were better teams, which they may have been just not on those given afternoons in an arena overrun with UConn fans.  I actually put a lot of credence into where tourney games are held.  An underdog can always rise to the occasion in what essentially boils down to a home game.

basketball bracketSchools and their Schedules – From Sunday evening to Thursday noon, before the very first ball is tipped, we scour the internet researching who lost to whom, whether it was early in the season or late, their out-of-conference schedule, which teams are healthy, which conferences were better and how all that will affect tournament play.  It’s enough to give one carpal tunnel syndrome.  Tournament play is generally a good indicator as to how a team will fare against others.  The problem is we never know which conference is best.  All season long we were told the Southeastern Conference was weak yet two of its teams made the Final Four.  Go figure.  Weeding through all the nonsense you read and hear isn’t always easy… but it’s necessary.

kevin ollie cuts down the netsSpread out your Winners – Every year, I fill out several brackets just to spread things out a bit.  This year, I chose nothing but Florida to win it all because a) I’m a homer and b) I legitimately thought they were the best team.  (They were – I keep telling myself that.)  In other years, however, your national champion is not so clear cut, kind of like this year, i.e., Ladies and gentlemen, presenting your national champion, the seventh-seeded UConn Huskies!  Louisville was strong last year, a number one seed, but they weren’t the overall favorite to cut down the nets.  If you’re going to enter several pay pools, it’s wise to select a number of different winners so that all your eggs aren’t in one basket, leading to that queasy feeling when your projected champion gets bounced in the second round.

mercer beats dukeCinderella Story – There’s one every year and they’re tough as heck to spot.  I call BS to anyone who had Mercer beating Duke or Dayton getting to the round of sixteen.  But they’re out there.  That’s what makes Warren Buffett such a smart man.  People scoffed at the idea of him awarding one billion (with a b!) dollars to anyone who filled out a flawless bracket.  Buffett was proven correct by day two of the tourney, probably before he could even turn on a TV to watch a highlight.  There’s a reason he’s rich and we’re not.  Picking a Mercer or a George Mason or a Florida Gulf Coast out of a lineup is hard to do even for the most discerning eye.  While Cinderella teams are often worth taking a chance on, choosing one to knock off a top seed could cost you in later rounds.

jabari parkerNBA Talent – This post-season, Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker gave new meaning to the term “one-and-done.”  Both are projected to be early first round picks in the NBA Draft.  Both of their teams lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  While Smart is actually a sophomore, his return to college didn’t go as well as he would have hoped.  He was suspended three games after an altercation with a heckling fan and his Oklahoma State Sooners got bounced before he could say “With the first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select.”  Parker also declared his draft eligibility bidding Durham adieu.  Surefire NBA prospects are no key to picking a smudge-proof bracket.  Greg Oden was drafted number one back in 2007.  Months earlier, he led his Ohio State Buckeyes to the national championship game.  Kevin Durant was drafted second that year.  His Texas Longhorns lost in the second round of that very same tournament.  This current Florida Gators team probably doesn’t have a lottery pick on their roster yet they made the Final Four.  So where does that leave us?  Team chemistry is far more important than individual talent and a combination of the two is even better.

coach k netsThe Coaches – Newbies rarely make a run.  Oh, except of course for Kevin Ollie… or Bo Ryan who had 700 career victories before reaching his first Final Four this year.  It’s easy to go with the Rick Pitinos and John Caliparis and Mike Krzyzewski of the world.  After all, they win tournament games.  The only problem is there can only be one winner.  So how far do we roll with an experienced coach and what does that do for us when a Mercer knocks off a Duke?  Ollie had 600 fewer games coaches than Billy Donovan and look how that turned out.

As you probably already knew, nothing but a time machine made out of a Dolorean will help us fill out the perfect bracket so take this advice with a grain of salt.  And good luck next year trying to sneak that cool billion dollars out of Mr. Buffett’s coffers.

18 thoughts on “The “What We Should Have Done” Approach to March Madness

  1. Why the painful reminder of our gators loss in the final four. Just when I got over it. Tighten up BLACKASS!!!!!

  2. No way I gave Mercer any shot at all against the Dukies, Al.

    But then again, I didn’t give UConn much of a chance against Florida the second time around and look where that got me.

  3. Love that Clippers-Warriors series, Al. I see that going the distance.

    Those teams don’t like each other and the fire has even further been fueled with Klay Thompson calling Blake Griffin a flopper.

    Golden State losing Bogut is gonna hurt them though. Not sure that’s something they’ll be able to overcome.

  4. Still too painful to revisit the brackets. That being said I went 14-2 after Day 1 and for a brief time was King of the World…followed shortly thereafter by a truly Titanic-like effort. Chris, speaking of the SEC I am getting a chuckle out of Tennessee’s fan base and how Cuonzo Martin’s last laugh now leaves their basketball program looking at their third coach in four years while the football program proudly owns four coaches in the last six seasons. An athletic department who requires turnstiles not only at their fields of play but also in their offices.

  5. Latest rumors have Pitino’s son going to UT, Burnsy, which might not be a bad hire.

    I gotta tell you, those Tennessee sports programs have been put through the ringer lately. With their football program experiencing the loss of Fulmer only to hire Kiffin and Dooley to the basketball program experiencing success under Bruce Pearl to have him booted for improprieties and now Martin leaving?

    This program could really use some stability.

  6. Chris,
    Word I got from 2 good sources state that Mark Jackson will be 86′d if they don’t show up against the Clippers.

    Oddity? You shoulda listen to Laker radio when Mychel Thompson(LA analyst) does the GState games when his son is lighting it up against the Lakers.
    If I’m not mistaken, Mercer saved Buffett and big time sweat with the Duke upset.

    Ettiquette ? for you.
    What is an appropriate tip from a customer that drinks exotics with a $50 bar tab?

  7. Bets…

    20% is pretty standard. I’m not gonna bitch about anything under that although (tooting my horn here) I generally average higher than that.

    And this may sound corny but I’m gonna take care in whatever drink I pour regardless of how much time and how many ingredients it takes to make. If my bar serves some exotic cocktail that takes a few more minutes to craft, then the cost of that drink should reflect that on the menu.

    That surprises me about Mark Jackson. Listen, the Clippers are a tough first round matchup and with no Bogut, man, they’re going to be tough for Oakland, er… Golden State to beat.

    I think they’re on to something with this team. They believe in Mark “Momma, there goes that man” Jackson. Firing him would be a bad choice.

  8. Thanks for the info. Last ? Do ppl still dilute good whiskey, i.e. CC, Crown, etc with ginger ale? LOL

  9. Wait a second, Bets, did you just refer to Canadian Club as a good whiskey?

    Guess I’m gonna have to put you in time out.

    Listen, you’re always gonna have your whiskey-diluters. Although in my new Irish pub, I find a have a lot more whiskey neat drinkers. Clearly, it’s laughable to go with any quality bourbon or whiskey any way other than neat but I’ll still get people mixing Makers, Jack, Jameson, etc with one of a number of mixers, including H20.

    Anything a step higher, however, is generally taken neat, lest they be ridiculed by the people they’re with or, god forbid, their bartender.

  10. Mark Jackson is said to have a lot riding on the series but I can’t believe that the front office would fire their head coach ! Hell , GM Bob Myers has only been in the job five seconds and you would think that he would defer to Jerry West who has far more experience and who knows something about building a winning franchise ( Lakers and Grizzlies [zebo era]) .

    Now I know for sure that the Knicks have no credibility v></! The franchise have signed Lamar Odom to a multi-year deal . Does his estranged wife and the rest of the Kardashians come along as a part of that deal to increase attendance at Madison Square Garden ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!!

    So Donovan p McNabb had to be paraded around like a major felon , because of an unpaid parking fine dating back some eighteen months or ? Welcome to Mayberry folks ! God forbid , any real ####ing crime happens in that town or city .

  11. Phil Jackson makin’ moves ? Not the ones I thought would make the Knicks a contender ! I guess ‘melo’s wife (La-la Velazquez) will be happy if her BFF (Kim K) comes as part of that Odom package deal . Are he and hermaphrodite wife , estranged by the way ? I can’t remember for some reason !

  12. Al…

    Yeah, I don’t see them getting rid of Mark Jackson. Even with a first round out.

    That Odom signing is weird. Who the hell signs a player with two games to go in the season with their team already eliminated, not to mention a player that has a recent history of mental illness. That story didn’t get as much press as it deserved.

    And what was the McNabb story about? Did he do a night in prison because of a DUI he got a year ago? What’s that? Retroactive punishment?

    Rays had a nice comeback last night against the Yanks, man. The Lightning, however, appear to be done.

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