Friday, March 30, 2012

Time for the Final Four, so my bracket tells me

Posted By on 03.30.12 at 07:44 AM

whocaresbrackets_magnum.jpg
The Norfolk States and Lehighs are long gone, promptly shoved out the back door just two days removed from improbable wins over Missouri and Duke, respectively. The 13-seed Ohio Bobcats pushed one-seed North Carolina to the brink—a half-court shot from the Elite Eight—but got stomped on like a junior varsity team in overtime. The pipe dream of having Xavier versus Cincinnati in the championship game, my alma mater versus my childhood team, was banished when Cincinnati stared blankly as Ohio State's Jared "NBA lottery pick" Sullinger rebounded everything and pesky defensive-minded point guard Aaron Craft stole everything. So why should I even bother watching anymore? I guess I still have my bracket.

The first four rounds of the NCAA Tournament are reserved for all-out underdog support. Office pools be damned! I'd rather lose ten bucks and see a senior-loaded George Mason, VCU, or Butler in the Final Four than four one-seeds hastily glued together with NBA-bound freshmen pounding away at each other. But after the Belmonts and Davidsons have finished busting brackets (to a point), we're often left with what we have this year: a Kentucky and a Ohio State and a Kansas and, what the hell, a Louisville for the Pitino story line. Mid-majors play more prominent roles than they did a decade ago, but we haven't reached the point when they're legit title contenders year in and year out—though Butler's two-year championship-final run was an emphatic foot in the door.

If Ohio State and Kentucky both reach the title game, I'll likely win my first NCAA pool since the fifth grade. Neither were daring picks, and I'm sure a majority of the brackets filled out in cubicles just prior to the tournament's opening tip had Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State, and/or Syracuse—well, maybe not Syracuse—bulldozing their way to the Final Four. That's how it rolls, though. Make the safe picks and avoid the risks, but then hopefully watch the woulda-coulda risks take down the safe picks. If there had been a bit more of the latter in this year's Sweet 16 and on, maybe I wouldn't already be resigned to only checking updates on my phone for the rest of the tournament. I do need to know if I won that 50 bucks, after all.

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