All things considered, I can’t complain.
As I watched the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament unfold, I could sense things were not going to go my way. When 11th-seeded Dayton eked out a one-point victory against its in-state big brother Ohio State in the very first game of the second round, I was certain March Madness was going to eat me alive.
So far, however, I’ve survived.
In the two national bracket challenges I am competing in, I ranked in the 91st percentile of each following the first full weekend of the tournament, ranking 11,340th in one and 76,789th in another.
While it is nowhere close to earning a billion dollars from Warren Buffett, considering all the upsets, it’s not too shabby.
I spent plenty of time crossing teams off my bracket, but for the most part, millions of others were probably pulling the cap off a red pen at the same moments as me. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one being shocked.
Absolutely nobody saw Mercer coming out of the blue to beat Duke. OK, technically, I know some people picked the Bears, but an overwhelming majority were either alumni or simply hate the Blue Devils with a passion. Trust me, there are plenty of North Carolina fans willing to sacrifice their bracket to avoid admitting Duke could win a game.
Harvard was a popular upset pick, but with just one tournament win in the school’s history, the odds of the Crimson striking gold once again were not overwhelming.
Other double-digit seeds to pull off upsets included the aforementioned Flyers and Stanford with each doing so twice, eliminating No. 3 Syracuse and No. 2 Kansas, respectively, to advance into the Sweet 16 against one another. No. 11 Tennessee knocked out No. 6 Massachusetts, and North Dakota State sent fifth-seeded Oklahoma back to Norman sooner than expected.
The Jayhawks’ early departure hurt me bad, and so did Duke’s. I had both reaching the Elite Eight along with Villanova and Creighton, who both bowed out before I anticipated.
The big thing is that my Final Four remained intact following the first four days of the tournament.
And, no, I don’t count the first four games as a part of March Madness. You can’t call something the first round and give 60 teams a bye, but I’ll save my displeasure with that nonsense for another day.
Florida is my pick to be champion, and the Gators gave me little reason to worry about them during their first two games. Ironically, the rest of my Final Four is comprised of No. 4 seeds – Michigan State, Louisville and San Diego State.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, this column will be printed prior to the Sweet 16 beginning, so, when this hits the stands, hopefully, the Aztecs and Gators survived their games. If they didn’t, though, I’ll be just fine with it.
For as much as I love to make the right picks, in the end, I just want to see good games. If I’m sitting at home, squealing in delight as I watch a game, then life is good.
I love upsets, and regardless of who I have advancing, there is nothing better than watching a tight game come down to the final seconds.
So far, this year’s tournament produced plenty of both during its opening weekend, and I expect much more is still to come.
At some point, my nationally ranking will probably plummet, causing me to angrily wad up my bracket and throw it away, but in a twisted way, that is actually what I want.
The beauty of March Madness is its unpredictability. While fun, being right all the time is boring. Who wants to watch a movie if you already know what will happen in every scene?
I say, the more frustration I experience when staring at my bracket, the better. It means NCAA basketball is doing something right. It means the product is captivating.
Don’t get me wrong, if I could have filled out a perfect bracket, I would have, but there is no better consolation prize than having an unforgettable tournament.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org