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March 18, 2008

March Madness & April Agony

With the demise of my Illini this season, my television focused less on college basketball these last several months than, say, pretty much anything else that was on... Now that they have officially been put out of their misery, it is time to put the injury-plagued and foul-prone career of Brian Randle behind and return my attention to the NCAA event that transcends any team affiliation - March Madness.

As I first glanced through the brackets on Sunday, I realized two very important facts. First, I, unfortunately, had not followed the sport this season with the tenacity and dedication required to make strong, sound decisions regarding the outcomes of these games. And second, I, fortunately, had not followed the sport this season with the tenacity and dedication required to make strong, sound decisions regarding the outcomes of these games...

Now while these may sound contradictory, there is a level of reason here. Every season, I scour over countless basketball games and compare incomparable statistics, attempting to discover some hidden secret that will give me the advantage over the other countless number of people also filling out their brackets. And in the end, I get a few upsets right, miss a few others, and have had a decent run at predicting the Final Four. When all is said and done, I have won more than I have lost. I do not consider myself an expert, but I bring a certain sense of logic to my selections.

Nevertheless, every April in recent memory - excluding 2003 (thank you, Carmelo) - has brought me agony as I look back at everything that went wrong with my bracket, and how I am often paying out winning prizes to those who had no idea what they were doing while filling out theirs. Oh, Florida is a great vacation spot, huh? That makes total sense...

However, my lack of attention this season has left me with the realization that I am now one of those people this year. I am the relatively clueless one who couldn't name a single player on Sienna and has no idea how many turnovers Kentucky has per game. Granted, I don't believe I will ever reach the point of choosing teams based on average annual campus temperature, but I am not that far off this season. Perhaps this time, this year, the smaller climb when filling out my bracket will result in a softer fall come April.

So, on with the picks...

East Region
Sweet 16
#1 North Carolina over #8 Indiana
#2 Tennessee over #7 Butler
#3 Louisville over #11 St. Joseph's
#5 Notre Dame over #4 Washington State
Final 4
#1 North Carolina over #2 Tennessee

Midwest Region
Sweet 16
#1 Kansas over #9 Kent State
#2 Georgetown over #10 Davidson
#5 Clemson over #13 Sienna
#6 USC over #3 Wisconsin
Final 4
#1 Kansas over #6 USC

South Region
Sweet 16
#1 Memphis over #8 Mississippi State
#2 Texas over #10 St. Mary's
#3 Stanford over #11 Kentucky
#12 Temple over #4 Pittsburgh
Final 4
#2 Texas over #1 Memphis

West Region
Sweet 16
#1 UCLA over #8 BYU
#3 Xavier over #11 Baylor
#5 Drake over #4 Connecticut
#7 West Virginia over #2 Duke
Final 4
#1 UCLA over #3 Xavier

National Championship
#1 UCLA over #1 North Carolina
Final Score: 82-76

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