The Perfect Bracket
How to come out on top in your NCAA tournament pool
Posted: Tuesday March 28, 2006 11:49AM; Updated: Tuesday March 28, 2006 5:39PM
If you're looking for advice on filling out your NCAA tournament bracket next year, you might want to talk to Mike Tran.
Tran is a classmate of mine at Notre Dame Law School and a 2004 UCLA graduate. He's also apparently a gifted bracketologist. In a year when most people -- pundits and alleged experts included --watched helplessly as their brackets were devastated by a string of ridiculous upsets, Tran correctly predicted 13 of the Sweet 16, seven of the Elite Eight, and three of the Final Four. His national champion and runner-up are still alive. Amazing.
No, he didn't pick George Mason. In fact, those pesky Patriots are responsible for three of the five games he's gotten wrong since the first round. But Tran had the right idea when he predicted that UConn would lose in a major Elite Eight upset. The only problem? He had the Huskies falling to Michigan State, the first of George Mason's four upset victims.
If Tran had simply switched Michigan State and George Mason, he'd have the best bracket in America -- and I'd be convinced he owns Marty McFly's sports almanac.
Even without going back to the future, though, Mike made some mighty impressive picks. The big question: did he really think LSU would stun Duke and Texas, Florida would beat Georgetown (yep, he had the Hoyas upsetting Ohio State) and Villanova, and his beloved Bruins would waltz to their first Final Four since 1995? Or was it all just random guesswork?
"I did have reasoning behind my picks," Tran says. "I didn't just pick upsets for the sake of picking upsets. It wasn't just guesses." For example, having watched Duke play, Tran was convinced that they wouldn't make it far in the tournament. "So I asked myself, who would be the team that would beat them?" he said. " I saw LSU coming up, and they matched up pretty well with Duke, and I said, if Duke's going to lose, they're going to lose to LSU."
One lesson to be learned from Tran's run: if you miss a bunch of first round games, don't despair. He went just 22-for-32 in the first round, which landed him in a 79th-place tie in my 218-person pool. But only 3 of his 10 early mistakes affected later picks. Tran's been right about every single one of his Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four picks that survived the first round. (If you're wondering, he has UCLA beating Florida in the title game. He says the final score will be 60-52.)