Odd Job: Participating in a March Madness Pool
Every March, Americans throw five bucks each into their office’s March Madness pool. They try to pick the winner of every game in a tournament made famous by its unpredictability. The losing players then regress to age five and complain that it’s a dumb game, saying something like, “People who actually know about basketball never win these things. It’s always the girl who picked the teams with the prettiest uniforms.”
This statement is absurd on many levels. There’s the obviously offensive implication that women know nothing about sports despite the fact that there are a lot of educated, passionate women sports fans out there. But the bigger absurdity is the notion that someone who knows nothing about college basketball could possibly know what 64 different college basketball teams’ uniforms look like.
Since the person who wins these things is supposedly the person who doesn’t know college basketball and I know nothing about college basketball, I liked my chances in my friend’s March Madness pool.
Then the tournament started.
Below are the picks and corresponding analyses I made at the beginning of the tournament (with some after-the-fact footnotes added). Wait, Jonathan, how do we know you didn’t wait until the tournament ended, then rewrite your picks so you’d look smart? Fair question imaginary reader. But
a concern you will no longer have when you see how awful my picks were.
Every team name is written as it was on the CBS sportsline.com bracket. For example, one team is listed as Western Ky. I call them Western Kentucky, because that’s who I assume they are. But for all I know, their name is Western KY jelly (in which case, I like them for the upset in round one). I could look up the real team names, but then I would know too much to win this thing. Also, I’m lazy.
Kentucky (1) vs. Western Ky. (16), Duke (2) vs. Lehigh (15), Michigan St (1) vs. Long Island (16), Missouri (2) vs. Norfolk St. (15), Syracuse (1) vs. NC Asheville (16), Ohio St. (2) vs. Loyola (Md.) (15), North Carolina (1) vs. Vermont (16), Kansas (2) vs. Detroit (15)-
One constant in March Madness is that one and two seeds always win in the first round. They’re just too much better than the 15 and 16 seeds. Loyola (Md.), for example, is the only college in this tournament so obscure that its state needs to be mentioned in parentheses. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if so few people know which version of your college is in the NCAA tournament that you have to put your state in parentheses, you will not beat a two seed. In fact, no one or two seed will lose in the opening round.
Picks: Kentucky, Duke, Michigan St., Syracuse, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Kansas
Iowa St. (8) vs. Connecticut (9)-
I could be totally wrong here, but I’m pretty sure Connecticut is UCONN, and that UCONN is pretty good at basketball.
Wichita St. (5) vs. VCU (12)-
The people of Wichita need this one after the rough year they’ve had. I mean, they live in Wichita.
Pick: Wichita St.
Indiana (4) vs. New Mex. St. (13)-
I’ll pick New Mex. St. to win a game when they can afford to have their entire name on the bracket. Until then…
UNLV (6) vs. Colorado (11)-
After an entire year of playing in Vegas, every UNLV player probably owes some bookie money and will be shaving points before the year is out to pay off their debt. At least, that’s what would happen if I went there.
Baylor (3) vs. S. Dakota St. (14)-
I’ve heard of Baylor. I haven’t heard of S. Dakota St.
Notre Dame (7) vs. Xavier (10)-
All I know is that Notre Dame is way more of a football school than a basketball school. And their football team sucks.
Marquette (3) vs. BYU (14)-
We learned last year that BYU players aren’t allowed to consume alcohol, have sex, or drink coffee. Coffee! How shitty is that religion that you can’t drink coffee? Though, in their defense, if you can’t have sex or drink alcohol, what’s the point of staying awake? I can only imagine that all BYU players will have committed suicide before this game starts.
Florida (7) vs. Virginia (10)-
I seem to recall thinking that Florida was good at basketball. Didn’t they win the title a few years ago? It was either them or Kansas. I can’t remember.
Vanderbilt (5) vs. Harvard (12)-
With the success of Jeremy Lin, Harvard alumni suddenly have one more thing to be arrogant about: their basketball prowess. If they go deep in the tournament, we will never hear the end of it.
Pick: Vanderbilt. For everyone’s sake.
Florida St. (3) vs. St. Bonavent (14)-
Okay, now I’m starting to worry that when I said Florida won the title a few years ago, I was thinking of Florida St. I’ll take them just to be safe.
Pick: Florida St.
Gonzaga (7) vs. West Virgina (10)-
Here’s another rule about college hoops I’ve noticed: Gonzaga will always be declared a Cinderella story. Lebron James could decide to go back to school and, through some bizarre loophole that would exist if this were a sports movie, get a spot on their starting team, then average 50 points, 20 rebounds and 20 assists a game. Gonzaga would still be called a Cinderella story. Cinderella stories always win round one. Even when they’re favorites.
Creighton (8) vs. Alabama (9)-
The one thing I know about brackets is that going chalk (i.e. picking mostly favorites) is only marginally worse than selling military secrets to the terrorists. Guys refer to such picks as “boring” and “safe” with a level of disgust usually reserved for females who know more about sports than they do. But those people seem like douchebags, so fuck ‘em. Chalk!
Temple (5) vs. Round 1 #4 (12)-
Apparently, CBS sportsline.com—a professional website that everyone uses for their brackets—just screwed up some midwest 12 seed’s name and listed it as Round 1 #4. Fuck it, I’m picking them.
Pick: Round 1 #4
San Diego St. (6) vs. N. C. State (11)-
This is just out of control. In this tournament, there’s a Florida and Florida St., a Kansas and Kansas St., an Ohio and Ohio St., a Colorado and Colorado St. Now North Carolina and North Carolina State? Can’t these schools just think up an original fucking name? I’d like to pick against the schools labeled St. just on principle but then my universe would explode on this pick.
Pick: San Diego St.
Georgetown (3) vs. Belmont (14)-
On the rare occasions that I watch college basketball, the game bizarrely always involves Georgetown. They always hustle, make the extra pass and take smart shots. Since this is the only basketball-based analysis I’ve done so far, I’m sure it’ll be wrong, but I’m taking…
St. Mary’s (7) vs. Purdue (10)-
I looked this up. Purdue has had a rough go of it in the tournament the last few years, so I guess you could say they’re purDUE.
Murray St. (6) vs. Colorado St. (11), Cincinnati (6) vs. Texas (11), Wisconsin (4) vs. Montana (13),
Kansas St. (8) vs. Southern Miss. (9), Memphis (8) vs. St. Louis (9), Louisville (4) vs. Davidson (13), New Mexico (5) vs. Long Beach St. (12), Michigan (4) vs. Ohio (13)-
Who gives a shit?
Picks: Murray St., Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas St., Memphis, Louisville, Long Beach St., Ohio
Wichita St. (5) vs. Indiana (4)-
Seriously, what do people do in Wichita? According to a Wichita website (http://www.360wichita.com/entertainment), these are the top four entertainment options in Wichita: 1. Santa Claus. Yup, Santa Claus—as in the unoriginal fat guy that every other city in America has—is number one. 2. A poker room. 3. A limousine service. And 4. Wichita’s indoor shooting range and one-stop-shop for firearms, ammunition, indoor target practice, gun safety training, and more. If I lived in Wichita, I would visit the place where you take out your misery on a practice target a lot too.
Xavier (10) vs. Duke (2)-
Another truism of college basketball is that everyone hates Duke. I think it’s because they always win with teams full of privileged white kids. Though, having grown up a privileged white kid myself, it’s tough to muster too much resentment about this.
Pick: The privileged white kids
Michigan St. (1) vs. Memphis (9)-
Down with teams ending in St. Memphis, you just earned yourself an upset.
Long Beach St. (12) vs. Louisville (4)-
It was already amazing that Rick Pitino lasted more than four seconds in this tournament. Ay-oh!
Pick: Long Beach St.
Gonzaga (7) vs. Ohio St. (2)-
The Cinderella story against the team that insists on being the same name as another school + the word state. You know who I’m taking.
Round 1 #4 (12) vs. Ohio (13)-
Growing up, I had posters of all the Round 1 #4 players on my wall.
Pick: Round 1 #4
Kansas (2) vs. Purdue (10)-
I changed my mind. The fact that Purdue has struggled the last few years doesn’t mean they’re PurDUE, it means they’re PurSHITTYATBASKETBALL.
Syracuse (1) vs. Kansas St. (8)-
Since I went to Syracuse, they’re the only school for which I can give an educated analysis. Here it is: Coach Boeheim is boring and a dick. Senior year, while at work, one of my friends who covered the basketball team for the school newspaper was explaining how Boeheim was always an asshole to the school and local reporters, but charming and gracious to anyone from the national media. Our boss overheard this and came over to tell us how she dated Boeheim a long time ago. The first two dates were so insanely boring that when he knocked on the door for date number three, she just didn’t answer. Still, it’s my alma mater.
Marquette (3) vs. Murray St. (6), Vanderbilt (5) vs. Wisconson (4), Florida St. (3) vs. Texas (11)
Kentucky (1) vs. Connecticut (9), Florida (7) vs. Missouri (2), North Carolina (1) vs. Alabama (8), Baylor (3) vs. Colorado (11), Georgetown (3) vs. San Diego State University (6)-
Again, who gives a fuck?
Picks: Marquette, Vanderbilt, Florida St., Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Baylor, Georgetown
Kentucky (1) vs. Indiana (4)-
I’m running out of things to say about these guys. Although, that implies that I ever had anything to say about them.
Baylor (3) vs. Duke (2)-
White kids! White kids!
Syracuse (1) vs. Vanderbilt (5)-
Okay, here’s some more hoops analysis: Boeheim is overrated. In the four years I went there, I frequently saw a coach stubbornly refusing to switch to man within games when it became clear his vaunted zone defense was getting picked apart. Players who made all sorts of dumb mistakes and penalties. And a team that played down to the level of their competition. Not in the way most big schools struggle for ten minutes against Shitty Small College University, then turn it on and win. I mean, they mailed in for 90% of the game, then sometimes turned it on too late to win and other times won a nailbiter that should have been a rout. This is how they lost to Vermont in the first round of the tournament a few years ago. Boeheim did win one national title and that was the year he had the best college basketball player in the country: Carmelo Anthony (or as Knicks fans know him, the perpetrator of mass genocide against puppies and the man who wishes to make chocolate illegal).
Florida St. (3) vs. Gonzaga (7)-
If memory serves me right, this is the part of the tournament where Cinderella teams usually die. And where ESPN usually runs an awful headline like, “Clock strikes midnight for Gonzaga.” Side note: This way of articulating things is always stupid. Cinderella does not lose when the clock strikes midnight! Oh no Cinderella, the clock struck midnight and your stagecoach turned into a pumpkin?! What happened then? Did you end up marrying the prince you were in love with, rising from insane poverty to overwhelming wealth, leaving behind a household of abuse, all while your bitchy step sisters had to sit there and watch? Please, let the clock strike 12 on my Cinderella story.
Pick: Florida St.
North Carolina (1) vs. Round 1 #4 (12)-
It’s possible there’s no bigger Round 1 #4 fan out there than me. I still remember that magical ’97 season. But I predict North Carolina will be the team to finally expose their fatal flaw: That they don’t exist.
Pick: North Carolina
Marquette (3) vs. Missouri (2), Georgetown (3) vs. Kansas (2), Memphis (8) vs. Long Beach St. (12)-
Gonna play that who gives a fuck card again.
Picks: Missouri, Kansas, Memphis
Kentucky (1) vs. Duke (2)-
In the sports movies, the villains always lose at some point.
Memphis (8) vs. Missouri (2)- So far, I have Memphis winning games because “Who gives a shit?”, I don’t like teams with the word state in their name, and “Who gives a fuck?” At some point they’re going to have to win a game on their basketball merits. And I’m not sure they’re all that good in that category.
Florida St. (3) vs. Vanderbilt (5)-
Speaking of teams that shouldn’t have made it this far, Vanderbilt has too many smart kids to be good at sports.
Pick: Florida St.
North Carolina (1) vs. Kansas (2)-
Every year, the front page of ESPN.com is devoted to Barack Obama’s March Madness picks, for which he chose NC this year. Like with all things about Barack Obama, this seemed really awesome in 2008. Now we just don’t care.
Pick: North Carolina
Kentucky (1) vs. Missouri (2)- So I had Kentucky Fried Chicken recently. When I was a kid, I used to love that place. There may have been no better treat than when my dad took me to KFC. Now? The last three times I’ve gone there, I’ve gotten ill or almost ill. For some reason though, my brain still reveres KFC the way we uphold every beautiful thing from our childhood. When I hear Kentucky, the only thing that comes to mind is how much I want KFC.
North Carolina (1) vs. Florida St. (3)-
Obama’s explanation for picking NC: He picked them the first year he did this, and they won then. If I was Obama, I would cling to how things used to be in 2009 also.
Pick: North Carolina
North Carolina vs. Kentucky-
The last round is probably a little too late to apply the knowledge that Obama’s brackets usually suck.
Final score tiebreaker: 128
And if I’m wrong about any of these, it’s probably because some stupid girl got lucky.
-  E-mail me, ladies. ↩
-  Two-seeds Missouri and Duke both lost in the first round. ↩
-  I was totally wrong here. ↩
-  Amazingly, this pick and my pick of Baylor winning in the first round (which in my first draft was based on a horrible garbage bailer pun too vomit-inducing for even me to print) were the only two pun-based picks I made in the tournament. They both won. In other words, next year expect a column with 100% pun-derived analysis. Get excited. ↩
-  Privileged white kids is redundant. ↩
-  #mostoverdonenolongerfunnyrickpitinojokethatpeoplewillstillmakeforthenexttenyearsbecausepitinoisadouche ↩
-  And I use the phrase “educated analysis” about as loosely as that Wichita website used the phrase “entertainment.” ↩
-  Has it ever been explained how the stagecoach, gown, and everything else all transformed back to normal at midnight, but the glass slippers remained intact? Anyone? ↩
-  Round four is when you’re down to the final eight teams, aka the Elite Eight. When there are sixteen teams, it’s called the Sweet Sixteen, which is an awesome name. Four teams left is called the Final Four, which is pretty cool. But Elite Eight is one of the more disgusting attempts at alliteration I have ever seen. ↩
In some but not all articles, names or identifying characteristics or individual lines of dialogue have been changed to protect identities or because remembering exactly how things happened is hard. But in every case, an effort was made to maintain the integrity of these events that did indeed actually happen.
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