Why waste time? Picking my NCAA bracket in 64 seconds flat
If I can't get the picks right, at least I'll do them in a timely manner
I like VCU to upset UCLA in the battle of capital letters that do not spell anything
By picking quickly I can check my Facebook page and play poker on my iPhone
The beauty of my world-famous 64-second NCAA tournament bracket is it allows me to be completely wrong on my March Madness tournament picks while still giving me time to have all the major meals, continue to check Facebook every nine minutes and lose a few hundred thousand dollars in Texas Hold 'Em poker on my iPhone*.
*This game cheats. I know it sounds like sour grapes, but when you watch your ace-king get beaten, consistently, by an unsuited 2-7, you don't need Norman Chad in the room to know that there's something fishy going on.
The key advantage to the system is time. The thing I have found out, through the years, is that no matter how much time I put in, no matter how detailed the study, how thorough the research, no matter how familiar I become with UT Chattanooga and Cal-State Northridge, even if I come to know Stephen F. Austin as "Stevie" and Robert Morris as "Bob," I'm still going to completely mess up the bracket. That's just who I am. I'm terrible at this stuff.
So, a while back, I came up with this bold plan -- if I can't get the picks right, the least I can do is get them done in a timely manner. That's when I decided to start picking them in 64 seconds. And, remarkably, my picks have actually gotten better since I went to the system. Not a lot better. But better nonetheless, and now I have more time to get back to the important things in life, such as messing up my fantasy baseball team.
I'm not entirely sure why the Oklahoma Sooners -- who lost four of six, who lost to both Kansas and Missouri, and who got knocked out in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on a court 20 miles from their campus* -- were given a No. 2 seed. But we don't have time to ponder this now.
*The Sooners did lose to Oklahoma State -- only 50 miles from its campus -- so it was definitely a mixed crowd. But it was still a pretty dreadful loss; Oklahoma State promptly lost to Missouri the very next night in what was a home game for the Cowboys.
One No. 3 seed figures to lose, and I'm going with Syracuse only because I think that the 284-overtimes the Orange played last week will back up on them. Kansas is also in jeopardy because of the curse of "B." You probably know this, but in back-to-back years, the Jayhawks lost in the first round to the Bucknell Bison and the Bradley Braves. Then, this year, in the Big 12 tournament, they lost in the first round to the Baylor Bears. Lots of B's there.
Sure, you say, but this time around, though, the Jayhawks are matched up with North Dakota State, which has no Bs in it. When Kansas' opponent was announced, there were murmurs of disinterest at the tournament watch party of Kansas' archrival Missouri.
Then, Greg Gumbel said the team's nickname: The Bison. And all those crazy Missouri fans stood and cheered their heads off.
On the 4-13 line, I'm picking Akron to upset Gonzaga just because I like the circular justice of that. Plus, one of the Zips' best players -- Anthony Kitchens -- goes by the nickname "Humpty."
There are ALWAYS 5-12 upsets, so this year I'm going with Northern Iowa over Purdue. I would explain that except I don't really have an explanation. I was thinking about Wisconsin over Florida State, but lots of people think Florida State's Toney Douglas will be this year's Stephen Curry or Wally Szczerbiak. Anyway, this is the point of the 64-second bracket. You go with your gut.*
*The trendiest 5-12 pick is Arizona over Utah, and that certainly could happen -- I saw that Arizona team take apart Kansas earlier in the year. Thing is, I cannot really get beyond the basic premise that Arizona has no business being in the tournament.
I like VCU to upset UCLA in the battle of capital letters that do not spell anything, and Michigan to beat Clemson in a spirited battle of colleges that used to be football schools. And 8-9 games are absolutely impossible to pick, so I chose two 9-seeds (Butler and Siena) and looked at the clock and realized that I was way behind on time.
Had to do this quick, so I moved all the No. 1 seeds to the Sweet 16 (I do think Butler could scare North Carolina) and all the No. 2 seeds except -- calling for the first truly major upset here -- I have Texas beating Duke. This is a hunch based on:
1. The fact that I think that Texas team has underachieved all year and could be ready for a breakout. The Longhorns have a guard (A.J. Abrams) who can create his own shot, a swingman (Damion James) who can take over a game, and a big man (Dexter Pittman) who rather suddenly has emerged as a dominant force inside. Of course, it is worth noting that Texas HAS been underachieving all year, so the Longhorns might not even make it to the second round.
2. I would get a huge kick out of Duke losing early in the tournament.
I see most of this going to form only because I don't have time to think through many upsets. I am calling a couple: I'll have Florida State beat Xavier and go to the Sweet 16 -- gotta keep that Toney Douglas thing going. That's not really a big upset.
The other upset is Bob Huggins and West Virginia taking out defending-national champion Kansas. Bob and I go way back to my early days in journalism when he called me a "short, fat guy who has never worn a jock." It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
To give you an idea how ridiculous my bracket has become ... I very strongly considered (for 1.2 seconds) having Mississippi State beat Washington in the first round. And now, in a blur, I just had Washington upset Connecticut to take out the first No. 1 seed. I wish I had a good reason for this. I guess it's because Washington's leading scorer is named Isaiah Thomas. There's just something poetic about that, especially because this Isaiah Thomas has some similarities to Isiah Thomas. They're both undersized guards, slashers, and they were both historically awful NBA general managers. No. Wait.
I'm going to stick with Texas one more round -- I'm having the Longhorns upset Villanova. This is the problem year after year with my bracket: I fall in love with a certain team, and I have them go way too deep into the tournament. In another surprise, at least for me, I have Oklahoma going to the Elite Eight though I have no faith whatsoever in that team at all. I think they have a favorable draw.
I think Missouri and Memphis will play a great battle of Tigers, and Memphis will win that. Missouri coach Mike Anderson, in my mind, is the national coach of the year. I think Michigan State and West Virginia will play a tough-man contest game, and Michigan State will come out bloodied but victorious.
OK, so here's my Final Four: I've got North Carolina in there again. I've got Pittsburgh in there for Seth Davis. And then I've got Michigan State beating Louisville, and I've got Memphis knocking off Washington. And this is the point in the bracket picking when I'm feeling real regret and wish I could just start over. But that's not an option. It's off to the Final Four in beautiful Detroit.
I decided to pick these two games fast so I could give myself a full three seconds to pick my national champion. I picked North Carolina to beat Pittsburgh. I am assuming Ty Lawson will be reasonably healthy by then. Remember at the beginning of the year when people were asking if this North Carolina team would be the best college basketball team EVER?
Then I picked Michigan State over Memphis. I do like that pick. Everyone talks about how much parity there is in college basketball this year. Well, in a world where every team is pretty similar, I'll go with a Tom Izzo coached team every time. Especially because the Spartans will have a virtual home game in Detroit.
National Championship Game
With a full three-seconds to think about it, I was able to ponder the career of Roy Williams. I have been writing about Roy for a long time, and I have to say that I like him. I'm not especially crazy about his emotional responses when his teams lose in the tournament -- he does have a knack for making it sound like he's the only guy in the world who coaches good kids -- but he does coach with great passion, and his teams play a fun and up-tempo style of basketball. His teams have reached six Final Fours, and he has coached some of the great teams of the last 20 years.
Williams has never bought into the notion that his teams have lost in the tournament because of a striking lack of toughness in the big moments. But there's a history there -- a loss to a tough Maryland team in a semifinal game, a loss to a tough Syracuse team in a championship game, a loss to a tough Arizona team in the Sweet 16, a loss last year to a tough Kansas team in the Final Four.
Is North Carolina tough enough this time around to win it all against a team like Michigan State in Detroit?
In the three seconds I have to think about it, I say yes.