The Surviving the Watercooler series has been designed from the start to help people who don’t know a lot about sports get through the chit chat at the office. The thing about March Madness is that every office talks about it and no one knows anything about it. I’m serious, don’t let anyone tell you they have watched enough college basketball that they have insight into New Mexico state’s star player, Coastal Carolina’s zone defense, or the coaching pedigree behind Eastern Kentucky. March Madness is entirely about sounding like you know what you’re talking about and then being less wrong. Remember there are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible outcomes and no one in the history of this tournament has ever gotten it perfect.
Keep that number in mind when people talk about the (digs out his old Dr. Evil impersonation) 1 Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Warren Buffet has indeed agreed to pay a billion dollars to anyone who can submit a perfect bracket to a specific free to enter website, but remember your odds to win are 1 in over 9 quintillion. It should also be noted that Buffet has stated if anyone really managed to get to the final four with their bracket in tact he will offer a 250 million dollar buyout to the owner of the bracket.
There are a couple things you’re allowed to universally despise when it comes to March Madness and no one will ever question you. Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, and University of North Carolina are all teams who have won way too much in recent memory for anyone to like them. They are the Yankees/Heat/Patriots of college basketball. On a side note they all have blue in their color scheme so if you hear someone spout the weird stat about how you should bet on a team with blue, tell them they need to normalize their data set for dynasties, then call them a lazy statistician and throw a crumpled piece of paper at them. You are also especially encouraged to hate Kentucky’s coach John Calipari.
The NBA has a rule that says you can’t enter the draft until you are one year out of high school. Young prospects go to college for one year and then drop out of school and enter the draft. This is known as the ‘one and done’ strategy. John Calipari has been specifically recruiting for ‘one and done’ talent by promising them that if he can get all the one and dones on one team then their sheer talent will overcome their lack of team chemistry and experience. He won a national title two years ago with this strategy. It’s debatable whether this is literally murdering everything good and decent in the world, but enough people think so that if you bring it up few people will question you on it.
Onto the actual brackets. They are due by noon on Thursday in most offices. Once again you’re not going to pick a perfect one, so I’m simply going to give you a few talking points about each major team and then my final four and eventual champion. I’m serious when I say you can bring in any reason whatsoever for your picks and if you throw in some stats or say a team ‘shows great guard play’ people won’t question you because no one knows what they’re talking about.
The Midwest Region
Wichita State is the only undefeated team in college basketball. Their critics say they have had an easy schedule and that is true, but going undefeated isn’t an accident and I expect them to surprise people. Lousiville is the fourth seed in this region and many people consider that an insult because they are the defending champions. They’ve won 12 of their last 13 and will probably play with a chip on their shoulder because of their seed. These two teams will likely play in the sweet 16 and it could be one of the best games of the tournament. If you want to play the contrarian in this bracket you can go with Michigan. They racked up 10 wins against teams ranked in the top 50, and if you play well against the best then you can go far.
The South Region
Florida is the top seed in the whole tournament and almost everyone expects them to win their region with ease. UCLA could give them a run because that team has been hot recently. The only other team of real note here is Syracuse. They are a team that started the year incredibly strong but have just crumbled down the stretch. I don’t have them even making it to the round of 16.
The West Region
This is a good bracket for upsets because I don’t see a real clear leader here. Arizona has the one seed in the region, but I think they’ll lose to Oklahoma State. They have a player named Marcus Smart who could really put that team on his back and carry them proudly to a loss against Wisconsin. During the season the badgers have beaten Florida, Michigan, and Michigan State. Remember when I praised Michigan for beating top talent? Well Wisconsin beat Michigan and the overall number one seed in the tournament. I’m riding the badgers in the west.
The East Region
Most people will tell you that the east region is going to be the toughest to get out of. Virginia has a stifling defense but very little offense. Traditionally teams like that look great during the regular season but don’t manage to make it too far in the tournament, you need to be able to score to win. I have Virginia losing to Michigan State who are the current trendy national title pick. They got several players back from injury and are playing at full strength for one of the first times this season so people think a strong run is in their future, and their coach Tom Izzo has plenty of big game experience. I do think Michigan State wins the region, but Iowa State will give them a tough game. One final note in this region. I’m picking Harvard to beat Cincinnati. I mention it because it is a 12 seed beating a 5 seed. The field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and in that time their have been 35 cases of a 12 beating 5. No one has a great explanation, but it happens. I’m picking Harvard as my 12 because they pulled a solid upset last year. The important thing though is to pick at least one 12 and talk about the 12-5 rule.
To recap, my final four is Wisconsin, Wichita St, Michigan St, and Florida. My national title game is Florida beating Wichita St. Is it sexy to pick the overall one seed to win? Nope, but that Florida team has few if any weaknesses and they deserve their seed. I think Wichita State’s magic will finally run out in heartbreaking fashion on the biggest stage.
I recommend everyone fill out a bracket just because it’s fun. There’s that great moment every year when there’s a big upset in the works and everyone stops cheering for their own bracket and just wants the little guy to pull it out. It’s a national past time to talk about how your bracket got ruined, but that billion dollars was almost yours. Have fun with it. Pick some upsets. Pick a team because of their mascot. Pick against a team because an ex went there. No one has a winning method so whatever you say, if you say it with confidence, your office will be impressed even if the office pool goes to the guy who played it safe and picked Florida.
As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.