If a typical NCAA tournament results in broken bracket, perhaps the only proper adjective to describe the 2014 proceedings is shattered.
Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Kentucky advanced to the Final Four over the weekend, a result that essentially no one beyond people who were completely guessing got correct. If someone came up with that foursome based on any type of basketball knowledge, they should not just have a television job—they should own television.
So, to you, all 612 out of 11 million people, I say congratulations.
11 million brackets in the @ESPNFantasy Tournament Challenge. 612 got all four semifinalists right— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
Connecticut is the first No. 7 seed since the advent of the 64-team system to make the Final Four. The Huskies went through their third of the top-four seeds in the East Region on Sunday, holding Michigan State to 39.1 percent shooting and forcing 16 turnovers in a 60-54 win. While the East was generally seen as the shakiest region after Selection Sunday, this is the same team that lost 81-48 to Louisville earlier this month; confidence wasn't exactly high at that point.
There were admittedly more, though still not many, who foretold the surprising run of Kentucky. The eighth-seeded Wildcats were preseason No. 1 team in the country, and after they upset Wichita State in the opening weekend began looking like it. With John Calipari and Co. getting luck in close games at the perfect time—their tournament wins are by a combined 17 points—this might be a team of destiny.
Wisconsin and Florida were more traditional choices, but their routes no less noteworthy. The top overall seed in the entire tournament, Billy Donovan's squad beat 11th-seeded Dayton by double digits despite not making a shot four roughly the final 35 minutes (note: MAY be an exaggeration). Bo Ryan had...Bo Ryan's tournament record; it was fair to doubt the Badgers.
At any rate, the only thing that can make us feel better about our terrible brackets is checking in on other people's terrible brackets. Specifically, those with much, much cooler lives than ours. With that in mind, here's the latest check-in our most noteworthy celebrity brackets.
Rank: 2,887,201 (73.8 percentile)
Correct Final Four Teams: Florida
Biggest Mistakes: Michigan State-Louisville national championship game
Welp. Things could have gone better for our commander-in-chief this weekend. After having all of his Final Four teams make it through to the second weekend—a rarity considering the amount of upsets that went on—President Obama lost three of his four teams, including his national championship selection Michigan State.
On a superficial level, the President's bracket wasn't all bad for this particular week. He actually moved up a little less than 8,000 spots in the overall rankings and is one-tenth of a percentile better after the Elite Eight than he was heading into the Sweet 16. Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan State gave him four of the regional finalists, with a chance of having as many as three of his Final Four teams.
Then, umm, yikes.
President Obama's points total is capped out, as he had Florida, his only remaining Final Four team, losing to Michigan State in the national semifinal. Without another chance to capture points—outside an executive order—POTUS' bracket should descend next weekend.
How far will likely be determined by the results. More people certainly picked Wisconsin and Florida than the two higher seeds, and a national final between them could send him back toward the 50 percent mean. The Gators were the national No. 1 seed, therefore the team President Obama should be rooting against most if he wants a chance at respectability. Come to think of it, that might be a perfect outcome after the UConn basketball team offered him a chance to hop on the bandwagon:
Sorry about busting your bracket @BarackObama... We have room on our bandwagon if you're interested— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) March 30, 2014
Given Shabazz Napier's performance thus far, POTUS could make a whole lot of worse decisions.
Rank: 4,092,185 (62.8 percentile)
Correct Final Four Teams: Wisconsin
Biggest Mistakes: See: Obama, President
Maybe, in his retirement, Bilas can build a mansion...somewhere in Wis-can-sin. The ESPN analyst's faith in Bo Ryan's Badgers was among his biggest risks in filling out his Final Four. Since arriving in Madison in 2001, Ryan had never made the Final Four and was only a regional semifinalist once—almost a decade ago.
Death, taxes and an early NCAA tournament exit for Wisconsin. Those were the only things we were assured in life, and with tax day coming up, I'm not quite sure what to believe anymore. Behind the dominant performance of Frank Kaminsky (28 points and 11 rebounds), Wisconsin forced overtime and took down top-seeded Arizona in a thriller Saturday night.
That was not only a historic moment for Ryan but one of the only good things to happen for Bilas' bracket in the second week. In the 83.4 percentile a week ago, Bilas dropped more than 20 percent after landing only three of the Elite Eight. Like the President, his faith in a Michigan State vs. Louisville national championship game was ruined first by Kentucky's upset win and then a second time by UConn over the weekend.
Similarly, Bilas will only continue to see his national standing drop. Perhaps he and the President can bond over their newfound rooting interest in Connecticut. Or maybe Bilas will, as typical, just continue to be professional and call the games with a level head. Let's go with that.
Young Jeezy song that best describes the ESPN analyst's picks: "Soul Survivor."
Rank: 1,201,358 (89.1 percentile)
Correct Final Four Teams: Florida
Biggest Mistakes: See: Bilas, Jay and Obama, President
First thought: Was there some sort of groupthink meeting that I wasn't told about where everyone decided that Michigan State and Louisville would play in the title game? I understand that both were underseeded from an objective sense. Yet history tells us that only three No. 4 seeds have reached the final game since 1985—only one of which cut down the nets.
The odds weren't good here.
And yet, our first three analysts all picked the same final game, with only slight variations in their Final Four. Now they all have to live with the grizzly results.
The last time we checked in on Vitale's bracket, a gentle ribbing ensued over his lack of upsets. Vitale took just three in the round of 64, two of which were No. 9 seeds, and in general was cautious about his bracket getting turnt up too much.
Ultimately, the result went in his favor. Vitale isn't going to earn any points from the teams in Dallas, but he has a leg up on both President Obama and Bilas by sticking with the tried and true. He landed five of his regional finalists picks by hitting on two No. 1 seeds, two No. 2 seeds and Michigan State—a No. 4 whom everyone was treating like the East Region favorite.
Vitale took to his Twitter to bemoan the state of his bracket after the Spartans' loss:
With Spartans going down I am destroying my bracket baby ! Joy 4 the Huskies - they earned it !… http://t.co/pahIYFO8e6— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 30, 2014
Sitting nearly in the top million brackets, Vitale can at least take solace in a decent weekend overall. Maybe next year he'll mix up the chalk with a few smart underdogs and do even better.
Rank: 9,232,849 (16.1 percentile)
Correct Final Four Teams: Florida
Biggest Mistakes: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
You know, things could have gone a whole lot worse. After losing a national finalist on the second day of the tournament and generally filling out her bracket with the proper level of seriousness (none) for something none of us have a chance at winning, the final result isn't half bad.
The last time we checked in on her bracket, Beadle was sitting in the 7.9 percentile. Two of her Final Four teams were already gone. Even her most notable upsets that she got right (Dayton), she wound up eliminating a little too early. Hence the whole shrug emoticon thingy.
The second weekend was slightly more positive, and Beadle's general ideas continued to be correct. Yes, there was a No. 8/9 seed that advanced to the Final Four. It was just Kentucky instead of Oklahoma State. A No. 11 seed did, indeed, make the Elite Eight. It was just Dayton instead of Nebraska. Had these things gone according to the Beadle plan, we'd be looking at an entirely unexplainable yet totally awesome bracket.
Unfortunately, Beadle's main solace is that she landed the top overall seed in the entire tournament making the Final Four. She was a member of the groupthink that made Michigan State a national champion, apparently, but at least she missed the meeting on Louisville. At this point, I'd almost rather see a write-in community college in someone's final game than another Michigan State-Louisville title game.
Beadle's correct selection of Florida and Michigan State to the Elite Eight would up vaulting her into the ranks of double-digit percentile, so it's not all bad. At the very least, she and Dickie V should collaborate next year.
Rank: 2,358,257 (78.6 percentile)
Correct Final Four Teams: Florida
Biggest Mistakes: Louisville
Last week, Mr. Katz sat atop the expert rankings in ESPN's celebrity bracket pool. A week later, poker player Phil Hellmuth and fellow analyst Jemele Hill look down at Katz, whose stellar bracket went mostly downhill during the second weekend.
Of the experts we've checked in on, we're 4-of-5 with their only correct Final Four team being Florida. Katz went out on a slight limb with Iowa State, which probably takes down Connecticut with a healthy Georges Niang. Injuries cost the Cyclones Niang in the Sweet 16, and then Katz watched as Rick Pitino lost his first Sweet 16 game of his career and Wisconsin took down Arizona a round later.
Like Beadle, Katz's busy schedule only allowed for half of the Michigan State-Louisville summit meeting—and the Cardinals luckily weren't his national championship pick. He's the only one of our five experts with his net-cutter still remaining, as top overall seed Florida looks primed to push Katz back toward the 90th percentile banner.
For all of the craziness that's gone on the last two weeks, Florida has to be considered the objective favorite. The Gators are on a 30-game win streak that dates back to their Dec. 2 loss to Connecticut in Storrs. Napier cashed a buzzer-beater to push the Huskies ahead, but it's worth noting that Florida was limited both by injury and eligibility issues in December.
Four months later, that won't be the case. Billy Donovan's team is far and away the top team in Ken Pomeroy's Pythagorean rankings, boasting the nation's most-efficient defense and an offense with flaws but talented players all over the floor. The history of No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four is quite good as well, as they hold an 18-9 record in national championship games, per Bracket Science.
Katz's bracket may not have gone as well in its second week, but the odds still favor him coming out on top among his noted contemporaries.
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