NCAA Tournament: The Art of Unintentionally Tanking One’s Bracket

David WilliamsSenior Analyst IMarch 23, 2008

I used to think I knew my fair share about college basketball. 

Sure, I thought Maryland and Arizona were two of the most talented teams in the country.  And sure, after I wrote about Duke’s rise to “dominance” they proceeded to lose two games in a row.


But aside from my obvious errs in opinion, I generally knew what I was talking about. 

I effectively analyzed the flaws in Memphis’ game, the effects of Ty Lawson’s ankle injury on North Carolina, and the reason for Michigan State’s inconsistencies during the regular season. I can name each Smith on Tennessee’s basketball program—JaJuan, Ramar, and Tyler.


I can distinguish between the Stanford Lopez twins, and I even know that Oral Roberts was located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 


The one part of college basketball that has always perplexed me, though, is the NCAA Tournament Bracket. 


Every year I've done my research on each teams’ profiles. Who were their key victories against? What were their national rankings in offense, defense, and rebounding?  Who were their star players? And how had they historically done in the tournament with their current coach? 


And while I have always tried to stress the importance of a team’s overall makeup before picking my bracket, I usually end up relying on my gut feeling. 


My gut feeling has taken a beating over the years.


But this year was supposed to be my year. With a top-heavy bracket, it couldn’t be that hard to pick the teams that would go far. Everyone knew teams like UNC, UCLA, and Kansas would still be around after the smoke cleared from the first weekend.


All I had to do was pick a few upsets here and there and I’d be golden. I would win my bracket pool, be the envy of all of my peers, and be declared a bona fide college basketball guru for my Bracketology genius. 


That’s the way it all went down in my head, anyway. Maybe I should stick to my fantasy world because my bracket this year is beyond awful. 


With a second-to-last ranking in my own bracket pool and a 12.5 percentile—2,782,850th place if anyone’s counting—in the ESPN Bracket Challenge, I’ve found a way to make one of the worst brackets while still trying to be good.

If you consider the 12.5 percent of brackets that are somehow doing worse than mine, I would estimate that about 8-10 percent either didn’t properly fill out their bracket completely, intentionally picked all lower seeds because they thought it would be funny, or for some reason picked George Mason in the Final Four.

Of those who were legitimately trying to win their bracket pools, there were probably few who did worse. I deserve some kind of award for this. It takes skill to be this bad.

Who in the world would have picked the upset special of Winthrop over Washington State? That would be me.


Vanderbilt and USC in the Sweet 16? Me again.


Georgetown and Duke in the Elite Eight? The questions are rhetorical at this point. 


But the most erroneous, egregious error of them all was picking UConn—the storied basketball program under legendary coach Jim Calhoun—over UCLA in the Sweet 16 and all the way to the Final Four.

After each bad pick proved itself, I kept repeating the same phrase: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

And then I remembered this is how most predictions end up for me.  I’m the guy who picked every BCS game wrong in 2007.  I’m the guy who thought the Jaguars would go to the Super Bowl.


I thought Terrelle Pryor was going to Michigan. See where I’m coming from?

Unfortunately, I’ve been afflicted with the curse of making bad predictions. 


After Davidson’s star guard Stephen Curry put the final touches on the Wildcats’ upset of Georgetown, I sent a text to my friend Blake—a huge Hoyas fan—saying, “I picked Georgetown in the Elite Eight.  You knew this was coming.”

Maybe next year readers can take heed of my predictions and pick exactly the opposite.  It’s just too bad I picked UNC to win in the Championship Game over Memphis.

I really liked that UNC squad.