I don’t know much about college basketball.
Of course, I still filled out a bracket. At this point, it’s just become a Thing People Do, like watching the Super Bowl: a shared, nationwide ritual of obedience to the commercial interests that govern our existence, under the guise of sport. Like the Super Bowl, sometimes the sport that occurs is pretty exciting, too.
It is well established that the tournament is essentially a random number generator, a mess of probabilities and narratives ultimately in thrall to only the basketball gods. Because there is money to be made in the process, people fruitlessly attempt to make sense of the incomprehensible. That’s not going to happen here. Every year, sportswriters and Kenpoms and expert bracketeers across the country prognosticate according to carefully honed algorithms and reasoned observations that end up amounting to little more than piss in the wind. Like centenarians who wake up to breakfasts of cigarettes, bacon, and broken glass, people whose brackets avoid busting, in the end, have fluked their way into success, bolstered by unconventional, baseless rationales and steaming heaps of luck.
I usually opt for the faux expertise afforded by a frenzied exploration of available resources that allows me to click my tongue at the poor fools who haven’t sprinkled in enough 12-5 upsets. Last year, that approach yielded a bracket in the (lowest) 5th percentile nationally. The ridicule from friends and family broke my spirit and turned me into a corncob. So this year, I made my bracket at 12:30AM, on my phone, in bed, hungover from Michigan’s heroics in DC and comatose from my third pizza dinner in five days. Without further ado: my picks, and why I made them.
#1 Villanova over #16 MS/NO
It literally says “NO” on the bracket.
#8 Wisconsin over #9 Virginia Tech
From Google: “The official definition of "hokie" is ‘a loyal Virginia Tech Fan’. The HokieBird. The bird is a ‘HokieBird’ which has evolved from a turkey. Virginia Tech teams were once called the ‘gobblers’”. Virginia Tech’s website disputes this claim. From their site: “The origin of the word ‘Hokie’ has nothing to do with a turkey. It was coined by O.M. Stull (class of 1896), who used it in a spirit yell he wrote for a competition.” Either way, Virginia Tech can gobble this L.
#5 Virginia over #12 UNC Wilmington
As head coach names go, “Bony Tennett” is a way better spoonerism than “Kevin Keatts”.
#13 ETSU over #4 Florida
The University of Florida is located in Gainesville. Johnson City, home of the Buccaneers, was briefly renamed “Haynesville” during the Civil War. Both names sound similar; Haynesville conjures up images of underpants whereas Gainesville conjures up images of dudes who mainline protein powder.
#6 SMU over #11 Providence/USC
I’m way too lazy to wait and pick a play-in team.
#14 New Mexico State over #3 Baylor
#7 South Carolina over #10 Marquette
South Carolina’s most recent loss came to the Alabama Crimson Tide; Marquette to the Seton Hall Pirates. If both teams learned from their mistakes... well, if you can handle a tide, you can handle pirates easily.
#2 Duke over #15 Troy
Troy’s mascot is named “T-Roy”.
#1 Gonzaga over #16 South Dakota St.
I was once destroyed in a game of NBA 2k by Nate Wolters, and I still haven’t gotten over it.
#9 Vanderbilt over #8 Northwestern
Vanderbilt is always a letdown in March, and they’re coached by Scott Drew's brother, Bryce. If NCAA tournament struggles are genetic, all the blueprints for a first-round loss are there. And yet… Northwestern is still Northwestern.
#5 Notre Dame over #12 Princeton
Princeton doesn’t even run the Princeton offense. Posers.
#6 West Virginia over #11 Bucknell
Bucknell's mascot is the Bison. Bison don’t live in Pennsylvania, to my knowledge. Posers.
#11 Xavier over #6 Maryland
Xavier coach Chris Mack is way more active and fun on social media than his Maryland counterpart, Mark Turgeon. This shows an attention to detail that’ll give Xavier the edge.
#3 FSU over #14 FGCU
You’ve gotta wonder how these two teams from Florida ended up in the West Region, but I trust that FSU’s got the battle-tested big-game chops to handle an exotic neutral site out in (checks schedule) Orlando.
#7 Saint Mary’s over #10 VCU
2016 was very kind to Matthew Dellavedova. His run of good fortune continues.
#2 Arizona over #15 North Dakota
An intriguing matchup between two storied programs with seven combined Final Fours between them. Unfortunately for North Dakota, their 3 Final Four berths came in Division II. North Dakota coach Brian Jones comes from UCLA coach Steve Alford’s coaching tree; with tensions high between Arizona coach Sean Miller and Alford after an altercation during the Pac-12 tournament, look for Miller to run up the score on Jones out of pure pettiness.
#1 Kansas over #16 NC Central/UC Davis
As famed rapper Kansas once said:
“Carry on my wayward son
Beat 16 seeds and move on”
#9 Michigan State over #8 Miami
Michigan State has played more recently than Miami, offering them an advantage too steep for the Hurricanes to overcome.
#5 Iowa State over #12 Nevada
Strong Ewing Theory potential in Fred Hoiberg’s first year away from the Cyclones.
#13 Vermont over #4 Purdue
I was a big Bernie guy.
#11 URI over #6 Creighton
I got nothing.
#3 Oregon over #14 Iona
Iona only exists to be crapped on by low-number seeds.
#7 Michigan over #10 Oklahoma State
Michigan surviving a plane crash and winning the Big Ten Tourney only to fall in the first round would just be too much of an anticlimax. Also, T. Boone Pickens is a jackass.
#2 Louisville over #15 Jacksonville St.
To keep this column PG, I won’t be making a joke about Rick Pitino and the number 15.
#1 UNC over #16 Texas Southern
We may exist in only one of an infinite number of universes with infinite possibilities. In this one, however, a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the first round.
#9 Seton Hall over #8 Arkansas
You see that video of Angel Delgado after the Pirates' Big East tournament loss to Villanova? Seton Hall’s not losing to Bret Bielema after that.
#12 Middle Tennessee State over #5 Minnesota
Gotta have a 12-5. I also owe MTSU an eternal debt of gratitude, which I will consider paid with this pick.
#4 Butler over #13 Winthrop
You know that thing I said about Iona above? It applies to Winthrop as well.
#11 WF/KS over #6 Cincinnati
Cincinnati is absolutely hellish to navigate. As an aside, are Mick Cronin and Chris Mack the same person? Either way, screw the entire state of Ohio.
#3 UCLA over #14 Kent State
The college portion of the Lavar/Lonzo Ball saga will end hilariously, but on a bigger stage than this.
#10 Wichita State over #7 Dayton
Dayton comes in as the 28th-ranked team in college basketball. Wichita State is a borderline 3 seed according to Kenpom. If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past month, you’d understand why those numbers would cause trepidation. Is that a bit of a stretch? Yeah, but I’d like to see you try to write up 32 games.
#2 Kentucky over #15 Northern Kentucky
Northern Kentucky mailed in their mascot (The Norsemen), essentially calling themselves the North men. That’s somehow even lamer than the Wildcats.