NCAA Tournament 2011: Confessions of a Bracket Hacker

Matt GoldbergCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2011

DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Terrance Hill #11 of the Morehead State Eagles reacts after hitting a three pointer in the second half against the Louisville Cardinals during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The first (real) round of the NCAA tournament is in the books, and my brackets are in tatters. I'm now sifting through all the rubble on the morning after. You've heard of bubble teams? I have lots of rubble teams; twelve of them to be exact.

In some endeavors, 20 out of 32 (68.75 percent) would be quite good. Shaq, for example, would gladly accept that level of proficiency from the foul line.

But picking the first round of the Big Dance should be more like an NFL placekicker kicking an extra point, or at least a 35-yarder. Twenty out of 32 gets you cut. It implies that I can't pick my nose. I can't pick lint out of my belly button. I could not...sorry, if you're reading this over breakfast or lunch.

So, let's examine my brackets, with all sincere hope that yours are in better shape.

Geographically, I lost in the West (two), the Southeast and the Southwest (three apiece) and got hammered in the East (four).

I lost on CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV, but I'm too confused to give you the breakdown. And truly, I still don't know what the heck TruTV is, or how I go about getting that illustrious station.

I lost with my underdogs (seven times), and with my overdogs (five times).

The first round (not counting the four-game play-in round) had seven upsets or seven instances of the lower-seeded team (that's the one with the higher number) beating the favorite seven times. I picked two of them—VCU and Florida State.

I did not foresee Marquette (shouldn’t have even been there), Illinois, Richmond (I had Vandy winning two rounds), Morehead State (but I heartily applaud that result) and Gonzaga winning. I’m kicking myself for snubbing the Zags.

Hey, a lot of pundits bemoaned the fact that VCU and Florida State got in the draw. Of course they belonged—if only to keep me from missing 14 games in the first round.

I picked nine teams to pull upsets, only succeeding with those aforementioned Rams and Seminoles. To allow you to respect the artistry and insight that went into my selections, here are the seven I missed:

Villanova (No. 9) over George Mason: I thought that the team that started the year 16-1 would show up. They did, for about 10 minutes. In the second half, it looked like they were trying to win a game of H-O-R-S-E instead of getting good shots.

Georgia (No. 10) over Washington: What can I tell you? Just a hunch.

Oakland (No. 13) over Texas: I listened to one pundit too many.

Missouri (No. 11) over Cincinnati: Big East backlash pick.

ODU (No. 9) over Butler: One of my softball buddies liked ODU as his dark horse. I actually liked both these teams, and at last lost this at the buzzer,

Michigan State (No. 10) over UCLA: I went with the Tom Izzo factor here. The Spartans—despite their 14 losses—are always tough come tourney time.

Clemson (No. 12) over West Virginia: Yes, another Big East backlash pick. Besides, how can you root for a team that shoots off muskets in its home arena?

Okay, I took seven shots that didn’t pan out, and now I’m kind of buried. I can pride myself that I did not pick any teams on the basis of their colors, the coolness of their mascots or because my co-worker’s sister once dated a guy that almost got accepted to that institution.

That may be because I’m colorblind, am not big on mascots and don’t have any coworkers. But still, this was an exercise in pure sports knowledge.

As I look forward to the Round of 32 and beyond, all hope is not lost for three good reasons.

1. My Final Four teams are still alive. Okay, I went with two No. 1s (Kansas and Ohio State) and two No. 2s (San Diego State and Florida).

2. I have no money riding on it. I did not as much as join a pool this year. It helps that I’m not in an office.

3. I’m neck-and-neck with my brother, Dan, who missed 10 first-round games. We’ve been picking against one another (and usually with a little more accuracy—you’ll have to trust me here) for about 25 years now, and there is some pride at stake.

By the way, Dan picked Michigan State to make the Final Four. As if Tom Izzo could get a team with 14 losses past four opponents.

Did I mention that Dan could not pick Charlie Sheen out of a police lineup?


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