On the NCAA Championship

Before the tournament, I vowed to abandon my decision-making process of research, analysis and logic.  “Pure gut,” I told myself.  “That’s all I’m using to fill out my bracket.”

After five rounds, sixty-two games and three weekends, I’ve come to one conclusion: My intuition is as unreliable as my reasoning.

The switch in criteria didn’t help one gawd damn bit.  Here’s how shitty I did.

  • Only one of my Final Four teams made it through—Duke.  That’s a 25 percent success rate for you mathematically disinclined.
  • I had Butler, now playing for the national title, bowing out in the first round and their would-be vanquishers, UTEP, going to the Sweet Sixteen.  Yikes.
  • I also marked Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s for opening day exits.  Ali Farokhmanesh and Omar Sahman then proceeded to send me spiraling into a New Cokelevel of failure.  But even though they busted my bracket, a part of me is happy they did because I love saying their names.  I now gleefully enunciate Ah-lee-fuh-rohk-man-esh and Oh-mahr-sand-man over and over like George Dubya after he learns how to properly pronounce the names of foreign heads of state.  It gives me a sense of worldliness, as if I’m well-traveled.
  • I missed on half of my first day picks.  Not my first round predictions, my first day predictions.  Half.  You know how horrible that is?  It’s not uncommon for people to be perfect after Day One.

I take some solace in this being the most desultory tournament in years.  Some.  But my “gut picks” should have played right into this.  What happened?

A second look at my bracket reveals that I’m incapable of completely divorcing logic from instinct.  Despite my attempts at whimsy, from the Sweet Sixteen on, I pretty much had chalk.   They were all 1 and 2 seeds.  But recalling my pre-tournament thoughts, I did feel the urge to bounce Villanova early.  I was tempted to eliminate Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen.  My subconscious just wouldn’t let me.  Logic didn’t allow me to pick teams that were inferior (at least, on paper).

It’s the burden of knowledge, really.  The knowledge that higher seeds truly are better teams.  Ninety-five percent of the time, that’s not up for debate.  One-seeds are better than 2-seeds, 2-seeds are better than 3-seeds, and so on.  The tournament favorites have superior talent and have proven themselves against tougher opposition — thus, the higher ranking.  So needless to say, I trust the selection committee.

That’s the problem, though.  Picking upsets is difficult when I agree with the seedings.  But come March, every year, I fail to realize that selecting chalk is only logical under the assumption that every team plays to its full potential.  And if the NCAA proves anything, it’s that teams rarely bring their A-game every round.

So, I’m not gonna pretend to know whether Duke or Butler will win the NCAA title.  I’m not even guessing.  Been humbled too many times, burned too often and this tournament proven too erratic.  No, I’m just gonna sit back and enjoy an entertaining and, no doubt, unpredictable game.

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