Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Handicapping the Field

(I write today with my deepest apologies to my readers who rage against the sports machine and the addictions which accompany it. In my defense though, it is March.)

Yesterday Big Mike Golic, one of the Mike's on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" morning show, said that he had filled out 26 different NCAA March Madness brackets for various pools he had joined. From what little I've heard of the show, Mike is great on the radio. From the much more I've heard from various people, Mike is great on the radio. But this multiple bracket thing is bush league. Not the actual entrance into numerous leagues, mind you. We all do that. It's the different brackets for each pool that irks me so.

How can you claim any pride in winning a pool when you have picked so many combinations that you must win at least one by default? If you pick every horse in the Kentucky Derby on a different bet, you are guaranteed to win. What's the fun in that? Moreover, it does not make financial sense. Winning one or two brackets will probably not recoup your sunk entry costs unless you win the bracket with the high rollers - which I guess could conceivably happen for an ESPN celebrity.

An old life philosophy states, "Go big or go home." Make one set of picks. Put all your money on your best effort. Go big.

Of course, most of us lose big. But at least we went.

Last night, I filled out my bracket (I have entered two pools with the same bracket). In years past, I have abstained to avoid this March and early April addiction. With fantasy basketball and Dunkin' Donuts blueberry iced coffee in my life, I do not need another one. However, this year I caved - though I am committed to attending my sister's awards ceremony DURING THE GAMES Thursday night and not text messaging for scores to demonstrate my victory over said addiction.

This year, the bracket became more difficult to fill out as I progressed but not because of the bounty of good teams out there as ESPN would have one believe. It's that most of the high seeded teams have a fatal flaw which made it increasingly difficult to pick the winner. When I can see why so many will lose, I find it difficult to choose one that will win.

I believe this year's tournament (if won by a 1 or 2 seed) will be won by the team which most adeptly overcomes it's fatal flaw. I understand this may be a fancy way of articulating the obvious, that "The team that plays the best/makes the fewest mistakes will win." But run with me here, people.

The top seeds with their fatal flaws as I see them:

#1 Florida: I don't see them losing anytime soon. It's just REALLY REALLY hard (and thus unlikely) to repeat.

#1 Kansas: Can anyone remember the last time a Kansas team got out of the first round? I can - 3 years ago in 2004. Since then, they have lost as a 3 seed to Bradley and Bucknell. Once is a mistake, twice may be a pattern. . . . Their hope (besides the fact that this team is better than either of the previous 3): no team in their region begins with the letter "B."

#1 UNC: They have consistently been inconsistent all season, losing to teams they shoud have beaten, losing in places they should have won (read: the Dean Dome), and keeping bad teams in games for longer than they should have. The odds of them putting together six consecutive winning efforts against good teams are not good. Plus, if the seeds hold, their path is trecherous. Marquette and their Virginia Tech-esque guards scare me.

#1 Ohio St.: They haven't lost in a loooooonnnnnnggggg time. Law of averages says they lose soon.

#2 UCLA: Cold at the wrong time; they haven't won since March 1. Plus, they play in the Pac-10 which, as my friend Brad recently told me, is only a notch above a Mid-Major conference with Reggie Bush now departed.

#2 Wisconsin: You must score to win. Plus, a blow-out loss to Ohio St. is cause for concern heading into a tournament of good teams. Beware of Georgia Tech in Round 2, one of the few teams in the country who can bang with this Big 10 team.

#2 Memphis: Name two of their starters.

#2 Georgetown: Currently, a favorite among the masses. Unfortunately for them, no one ever gets these brackets right.

So who survives their weaknesses and advances to the Final Four in Hotlanta in my humble and historically incorrect opinion?

Florida is too good to justify a loss and advances to play last year's runner-up, UCLA, who has both talent and experience. With no noticeable flaw, Georgetown emerges to face Texas A&M who gets hot at the right time. Like last year, Flordia beats UCLA; A&M ends Georgetown's run and destroys the final remaining intact brackets. Florida then repeats.

When a team wins it all and returns everyone, I find it difficult and illogical to pick against them.

Let the games begin!


Jeff said...

I just want ya'll to know that my boy Ben was published today...

Jeff said...

and by the way...
my final four
Florida over UCLA
Texas over Ohio State

Florida over Texas

Gator jubilation. And tons of Kevin Durant.

Adam Hoffman said...

Acie Law and the Aggies is no bad choice either. I see UCLA hungry to show up (even if they have been in a slump). Really looking forward to the possible UNC vs Texas matchup.

Anonymous said...


As per my habit as an avid Duke fan, my bracket has them winning it all. None of my reason, intuition, or gut tells me this is possible. But Duke is my team.

Go big or go home, after all.

Liz Hundley said...

congrats on being published, ben! cheers. :)