What We Knew About the NCAA Tournament
We asked some friends a few days back to send us their thoughts on the NCAA Tournament.
We’ll check back after a while to see how wrong/right we were, and what we learned in the meantime.
Jump to: CHRISTIAN | CHARLES | STEPHEN | KEVIN | DENNY
I want buzzer-beaters. I want heartbreaking losses, crazy fans, crying parents, screaming announcers, huge dunks and the feeling that I am watching the best games of the season.
College basketball has come to an interesting crossroad. Its profile relative to football is shrinking by the year, and March Madness has become the only thing that garners attention beyond the front page of ESPN. For myself, March Madness has become the only thing I really pay attention to beyond USC’s (worsening) record every couple weeks. So when I sit down to watch these games, I am really just hoping for the best show these kids can give.
Show me Wichita State being undefeated in the Final Four, Harvard running over the traditional powers to the Sweet Sixteen, and Andrew Wiggins pulling a Carmelo Anthony in his one year at Kansas.
I want to see Adam Morrison crying in a heap on the floor and witness Raymond Felton, ~2,000 cheeseburgers ago, at the peak of his career.
Seeing 18-22 year-old’s give every ounce of effort they have, the emotions plain as day on their face, is an awesome sight to behold. For a sport that matters three weeks a year, the drama and excitement of the NCAA tournament can become as good as it gets in any athletic competition. Point me the way to the TV.
Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Creighton, Wichita State
I’m here to talk about Tom Izzo. Not too much, but I’d like to bring a wee bit of attention to my favorite college basketball coach.
Is he the best tactician? No, that probably goes to Mr. Williams at UNC.
Does he have the best system? Negative, Duke + Coach K = (A soft, excited sound that I can’t really replicate in words right now)
Is he the best recruiter? Hell no. John Calipari should only be referred to as the “18 Year Olds That Are Forced Into Going to College for One Year and Wasting Their Earning Power Whisperer” for the next 20 years.
But, and it’s a big but, he’s the best when it comes to connecting with a team when it matters the most to the rest of the country. Tom Izzo is far and away the best NCAA Tournament of 64/68/however many teams it will be in five years coach of my lifetime.
In 17 years, he’s gone to six Final Fours. Six fucking Final Fours. As many as the two greatest college programs of all time, UCLA and UNC, during that span.
Michigan State is again a favorite to make the Final Four, but I would posit that 90% of the people that have pushed them there in their bracket couldn’t name you a single player. They just know that Michigan State is pretty good this year, and when Michigan State is pretty good, Tom Izzo gets them to the Final Four.
Final Four: Kansas, Michigan State, Arizona, Wichita State
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it – does anyone honestly give a shit about college basketball, in its current state, outside of these next three weeks? As someone who grew up in ACC country and cheered passionately for one of its moderately successful programs, and who now cheers a little less passionately for a considerably less successful Pac-12 program, I can say that the answer to that for me is a pretty confident “no.”
Nowhere are the issues involved with the sham idea of the student-athlete and amateurism more clear than in this sport. Yes, Duke-UNC games are always entertaining and wrought with history, but they’re a little less meaningful after I’ve read a story about a UNC player who literally could not read in college.
And why would he bother? It’s just a few months before he’s getting a check for at least a couple hundred thousand dollars and playing for a team that he doesn’t also have to pretend to represent in the classroom (better make sure you can trust that agent though, it’s not like you’ll be able to question what he tells you).
Are there solutions to these problems? Sure – if you’re a college coach, the solution is to pull a Calipari, buddy up with Worldwide Wes, and ensure that a constant stream of blue chip talent flows through your program on its way to the NBA. Even Coach K, patron saint of the well-developed college player, is signing multiple top 5, likely one-and-done, recruits next season. If you’re one of those blue chip recruits, the solution is doing whatever it takes to keep your draft stock where it was before you had to go to college for a year.
Hint: this does not involve learning stuff, like “playing well on a team,” that doesn’t showcase your individual skills. Either that, or go play professionally in a foreign country – don’t worry, that language barrier and crushing longing to be closer to your friends and family will either dissipate or only last a year.
If you’re any other kind of player, particularly one who doesn’t have a high probability of a professional career, I guess the solution is just to hope your school signs one or a few players who do. And if you’re just a fan, who remembers a time in college basketball when multiple teams had multiple talented players who have been in school for multiple years? Then you’re probably out of luck.
The best and worst part of all this is that I’m still extremely excited for the upsets, buzzer beaters, and legends soon to be crowned. I can’t wait to compare brackets and talk about the merits of individual teams. It just sucks that a large part of me can’t watch the games these next few weeks without knowing that I’m watching “college basketball,” the zombie version of what college basketball should be.
Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville
So I decided to write a quick bit about filling out a bracket. Then the emails started rolling in… my gambling addiction took over… and that’s how I made it into every type of pool that’s humanly possible. The NCAA tournament is the greatest gambling time of the year and I don’t care what anyone says. (The cost of each bet is in parenthesis.)
- The Billion Dollar Bracket (1 dream) – Yours will be relevant until about 4:30pm EST on Thursday, mine a bit longer. Only long enough for Warren to offer me a buyout… which I’ll accept after .00243 seconds of hard bargaining.
- The Square ($100) – Like the super bowl squares you buy, except it applies to every game all tournament long. This is the thing I am most excited for… other than the potential $250m.
- Pick8 x 2 / Pool x 3 ($75) – 10k for the pool; Pick8 3-5k paid out to the top 3. Pick8 is a contest where you pick 8 teams and every time they win you get an amount of points equal to their seed (i.e. OK State wins two games, I earn 16 points because they’re an 8 seed.) The pool is, well, a pool. Fill out a bracket and… If I need to explain this we’ve got a problem.
- Klepfer Family Pool (50) – A pool for bragging rights with the dad and brothers, winner gets a coozie for their beer while we play golf. The losers are forced to decide between drinking warm beer or binge drinking so they can keep it cold. Either way, everyone wins here.
- Survivor Pool (110) – 2nd most excited for this one. Just like NFL survivor, you pick 1 team every day that’s guaranteed to win regardless of spread. Can only pick a team once, I’m already nervous about getting down to the final four and being forced to pick an underdog because I’ve already used the favorites in earlier rounds. Round 1 is going to be #2 Wisconsin and #3 Syracuse.
I’ll update as we go along (there are countless opportunities for side bets during this month) unless my brackets fall apart, I picked the wrong upsets, get knocked out of the survivor pool, and generally piss money away… in which case I’ll fight tooth and nail to take this article down.
Final Four: Florida, Iowa State, Creighton, Wichita State
You know that song, “It’s the Most, Wonderful Time of the Year”? Most people think Christmas; For me, March Madness. I look forward to the Round of 64 more than Tulowitzki’s annual injury. And in this year of parody, the anticipation can’t grow anymore. Thoughts that are driving my brackets:
- After losing 7 straight, Ok St. is finding a rhythm with Marcus Sometimes I Ain’t So Smart. Not calling a 2nd round upset, but would be far from surprised.
- As previously stated, Zona is not that good. 9-4 since losing Brandon Ashley. No way they make the Final Four.
- With no Embiid, Kansas is out on the first weekend, despite the onslaught of Andrew Wiggins.
- Wichita St.’s path to the Final Four is brutal. If chalk holds, WSU gets a 16-seed, Kentucky (long, young, a great big man), Louisville (full court press, fast, experienced), and Michigan (solid inside, great outside shooting). The diversity is stunning.
- Good chance this is the third time since 1985 that no 5-12 upset happens. Harvard is the best bet. Iowa could stand a chance, but they have to get be Tennessee first.
Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Wichita State