No gimmicks this week. Just some regular writin’.
I should have written this on Friday the 24, when I was actually supposed to. Google lets you search trending topics by date and once I figured this out it got pretty easy to cheat and write a post a few days late. The issue here is that trends are fickle, like a college freshman with an undeclared major (I’m just going to take a bunch of classes and, you know, see what I like before declaring a major. I’m leaning towards political science but I also like philosophy. It’s either that or veterinary school). In this instance, my level of enthusiasm for March Madness is completely different than it would have been on Friday.
The reason, of course, is that on Friday the Wisconsin Badgers would not have played yet when I wrote this post. It’s a little insane that both of their exits the last two years are such crushing disappointments given that neither team was supposed to be there in the first place. But here we are left with the what-ifs again. What if the Badgers could hit a free throw? What if they hit one more shot? What if Florida or Notre Dame don’t pull off improbable shots at the buzzer? What if Chris Webber had kept track of timeouts? What if 9/11 was an inside job? Both years I could no longer stomach the Elite 8 because I couldn’t enjoy the games without imagining how Wisconsin would have done against each team.
Every year there is some team that comes out of nowhere to make a run. This year it’s South Carolina. But people get too caught up trying to pick that year’s Cinderella and often miss the bigger picture. Statistically, the Final Four is pretty damn boring. I have been alive for 32 tournaments. Of those, only 3 (three!) have not featured at least one of the following: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina. That’s a 91% attendance rate. Four teams a year over 32 years is 128 different Final Four teams. But there have actually only been 45 schools represented in the end of the Big Dance during that timeframe. That means that 65% of the teams are repeats.
Only 2 times since 1986 has there not been at least one 1-seed in the Final Four. 19 of 31 Champions (obviously we do not know this year’s yet) were 1-seeds. Only 3 times was the winner not a 1, 2 or 3 seed. So what does this mean? There is surprisingly little madness at the end of March Madness. Pick at least two schools that have been there before, get your upsets out of the way early, and more than likely choose a top-seeded team to win it all. You can basically follow Coach K, Izzo, Pitino, Roy Williams and Calipari to a winning bracket. You can assume that Bill Self will underachieve. No matter how bad the Big 10 supposedly is, they will have a couple of teams in the Elite 8 and probably be represented in the Final Four.
Oh, and stop calling the play-in games the first round. It’s cute that we’re making bubble teams fight for the chance to lose to Duke on no rest, but a play-in game is not its own round. The round of 64 is the first round. The round of 32 is the second round. Don’t add extra bullshit to it. For the record, I had North Carolina winning it all. Because fuck Duke.