Grading Celebrity NCAA Tournament Brackets

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

Grading Celebrity NCAA Tournament Brackets

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    Pete Souza/Associated Press

    It's finally here: March Madness.

    But before we all waste the next month by tuning in to the best college hoops games around, we all need to fill out our brackets—and pray that we can win Warren Buffett's cash.

    What makes the real perfect bracket though?

    In my opinion, there are a few factors:

    1. Risk. Playing it safe with chalk never pays off, as all four top seeds have made the Final Four together only once.

    2. A Cinderella. Choose wisely, because a wrong decision can mess up an entire bracket, but there has to be a team a person buys into and stands by.

    3. Logic. A 15-seeded, former alma mater will most likely not make a Final Four run. It might feel good in your heart, but if the last four teams weren't picked with your head, a bracket looks bad.

    Using this criteria, I handed out grades for some of our favorite celebrity brackets, so keep reading to see who's at the head of the March Madness class.

Honorable Mention: Mine

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    Final Four: Florida, Louisville, Michigan State, Wisconsin

    Champion: Florida over Louisville

    OK, so I may not be a celebrity like the other people you'll see on this list, but I'm working on getting there someday, right?

    Plus, it's my article, so I figured that if you bash me on Twitter over my picks, at the very least, you'll more than likely get a response—which always seems to create some good banter during this time of year.

    If I can't argue in a bar with you face to face, we might as well do it through Twitter.

    Grade: A (or at least I think so)

Anthony Davis

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Final Four: Creighton, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan State

    Champion: Kentucky over Michigan State

    If college basketball is a crazy world, then All-Star New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is ruling it, because his bracket is full of uncommon thinking.

    Not only does he have his—and my—former college, Kentucky, winning the entire tournament, but he has lower-seeded teams like Texas and North Carolina making deep runs, too.

    I'm all for school spirit, but Davis may have been thinking with his heart rather than his head this year.

    Grade: D-

Alex Ovechkin

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Final Four: Louisville, UCLA, Virginia, Wisconsin

    Champion: Virginia over Louisville

    Despite the low grade, I can appreciate the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin's good faith in Virginia to win the whole thing.

    While I personally didn't choose them, the Cavaliers are a team that I think is being overlooked by plenty of fans—even if they're a No. 1 seed—so good work by Ovi for sticking by the Cavs.

    Seeing UCLA in his Final Four is too much for me, so I docked him some percentage points for that one.

    Grade: D+

Dick Vitale

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Final Four: Arizona, Florida, Louisville, Michigan State

    Champion: Michigan State over Louisville

    He's awesome, baby! Just not at taking chances.

    For over 30 years, Dick Vitale has been broadcasting college basketball and giving amazing one-liners to the viewers who didn't hit the mute button while he was screaming.

    As great as he is as an analyst, though, Dickie V failed to take into consideration any unpredictability in this year's tournament, going with only a few upsets while believing that there won't be a Cinderella invited to this year's Final Four, which earns him a rather boring C grade.

    Grade: C-

Carson Daly

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    Paul A. Hebert/Associated Press

    Final Four: Arizona, Florida, Louisville, Michigan State

    Champion: Florida over Arizona

    Not really breaking the mold with his picks, The Today Show and The Voice host Carson Daly scores highly in the "snoozer bracket" column.

    Fairly predictable, Daly's choices lack any real risk, with nearly each region being represented in the Sweet 16 by the four highest seeds.

    A solid Final Four, but it's the safe path he took in getting there that hurts his overall grade.

    Grade: C

John Wall

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Oregon, Wichita State

    Champion: Florida over Wichita State

    Washington Wizards star John Wall may not have been as bold as aforementioned former Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis, but his choice to casually sneak Oregon into his Final Four can't be overlooked.

    I get that the Ducks score a ton of points and have won eight of their last nine, but if they don't make it, there aren't many guys there to rebound, as they're pretty poor in that department.

    Beyond taking the Ducks on a whim, though, J-Wall has Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oregon and San Diego State as his last four teams in that West region—which he clearly believes is wide open—which would seem to require a ton of upsets to happen.

    Grade: C+

Erin Brady

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    Diane Bondareff/Associated Press

    Final Four: Arizona, Duke, Florida, Virginia

    Champion: Arizona over Florida

    On one hand, I give Miss USA Erin Brady plenty of credit for not falling victim of home-state pride and choosing the Connecticut Huskies to go far (Brady hails from East Hampton, Conn.).

    But like others who have played things too safe, I have to give her a B- for failing to choose any team that might surprise.

    Sure, she may win the billion dollars with these choices, but odds are we'll at least get a few shockers rather than the status quo.

    Grade: C+

Dana White

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Final Four: Arizona, Duke, Florida, Iowa State

    Champion: Iowa State over Arizona

    I'm not one to disrespect anyone or any one team, but maybe UFC President Dana White has found himself getting bopped on the head too many times in his own sport.

    I actually kind of like the fact that White went against the grain by going with Iowa State to win the entire tournament, but I must admit that it's a bit optimistic.

    White gets rewarded for his choice, though, as he picked a team and is placing his bets with them—while strategically choosing the other games—to give him a decent overall grade.

    Grade: B-

Jay Bilas

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    Final Four: Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, Wisconsin

    Champion: Michigan State over Louisville

    Jay Bilas plays things way too conservatively, lacking any real upsets besides three of the four No. 12 seed vs. No. 5 seed matchups.

    And while Bilas shares 75 percent of my own Final Four squads—Louisville, Michigan State and Wisconsin—I don't like the way Kansas is trending right now without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely for a Jayhawks team that is just 2-2 in his absence.

    Too much pressure on fellow stud freshman Andrew Wiggins, in my opinion, which ultimately led to Bilas' grade.

    Grade: B-

Katie Nolan

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    Final Four: Creighton, Louisville, Syracuse, Virginia

    Champion: Louisville over Syracuse

    One of the up-and-coming personalities on TV—as one can gather from this video—Fox Sports 1's Katie Nolan isn't shy in voicing her opinion.

    It's that same opinion that has led to her putting together a pretty solid bracket, with a Final Four that includes last year's national champ (Louisville) and a team that started out 25-0 (Syracuse).

    While I can see Creighton's Doug McDermott getting hot and Virginia's slow-paced, defensive style frustrating opponents to get to the final weekend, both teams doing it might be too much to ask—which is why Katie finds herself with a low B.

    Grade: B-

Jay Williams

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    Brian Ach/Associated Press

    Final Four: Florida, Louisville, Michigan State, Wisconsin

    Champion: Michigan State over Louisville

    You might be asking yourself how I can give ESPN analyst and former Duke standout Jay Williams a B on his bracket, even though his Final Four is exactly the same as mine.

    Sounds a bit hypocritical, right?

    Well, as much as I respect Jay as a master in his profession, I didn't like the picks throughout his bracket. He played it as safe as his aforementioned ESPN colleague Jay Bilas, rather than taking chances with any real upsets.

    Grade: B

Luke Winn

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    Final Four: Arizona, Florida, Michigan State, Wichita State

    Champion: Florida over Wichita State

    Nothing but a solid B for Sports Illustrated college hoops writer Luke Winn.

    In fact, thus far, Winn has the bracket I sort of like the best, with him choosing a few upsets, a Cinderella—Dayton—and a fairly respectable Final Four.

    I'm not big on both Arizona and Wichita State getting to Arlington, but his bracket evens out because of some of his early-round decisions.

    Grade: B

Larry Fitzgerald

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    Diane Bondareff/Associated Press

    Final Four: Michigan State, Duke, Arizona, Florida

    Champion: Florida

    When I had the chance to talk with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald for a separate piece last week, I just had to ask him who he would take in his Final Four in this year's tourney.

    To my surprise, Fitz knew a ton about college hoops. He nearly had me convinced that he already had the Final Four figured out and that the games didn't even need to be played.

    I haven't seen his full bracket—so I'm not sure of any crazy choices he might have—but with what I do know, the eight-time Pro Bowler earns a grade he should be proud of.

    Grade: B

Seth Davis

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    Final Four: Florida, Michigan State, Wichita State, Wisconsin

    Champion: Florida over Wichita State

    While I mentioned a few slides ago how much I like his fellow Sports Illustrated writer Luke Winn's predictions, Seth Davis' picks are even bolder and much riskier.

    Rather than focus on just one team which could surprise, Davis chose a few, most notably Stephen F. Austin, New Mexico, Iowa State and Oklahoma—which are teams many fans don't have going as deep as Davis.

    For a great mix of realistic upsets and legit Final Four contenders, the SI writer scores high with me.

    Grade: B+

Nate Silver

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Final Four: Arizona, Florida or Kansas, Louisville, Virginia

    Champion: Louisville over Florida

    As much as I absolutely despised math growing up, even I have to admit that statistics are an obsession of mine—just not nearly as much as they are for ESPN statistician and founder, Nate Silver.

    Using insanely nerdy analysis that you or I could only dream of, Silver broke down the odds that each team has in this year's tournament, meaning it's hard to argue his logic.

    While these four teams might not be his personal picks, considering he used his own computer research to gather them, Silver scores high here—something I have a feeling he's familiar doing.

    Still, potentially having Kansas without Joel Embiid in the Final Four dropped him to a low A.

    Grade: A-

Barack Obama

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Final Four: Arizona, Florida, Louisville, Michigan State

    Champion: Michigan State over Louisville

    I'm a huge fan of Barack Obama's Final Four picks, with him choosing a team that once occupied the No. 1 ranking in the country (Arizona), the team currently holding that spot down (Florida), last year's national champ (Louisville) and a team that most experts believe is a solid choice for a deep run (Michigan State).

    Not only that, but tax season is coming up, so giving the Commander in Chief an A- just seemed to be the smart thing to do on my part.

    Here is the story with the rest of his picks, via

    Grade: A-

Steve Rannazzisi

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Final Four: Florida, Louisville, Michigan State, Wisconsin

    Champion: Michigan State over Louisville

    He lives nearly every guy's perfect life on the hit fantasy football show The League, but will actor Steve Rannazzisi be perfect on his NCAA bracket?

    Who knows? But he at least proves his knowledge with his Final Four picks—same as mine—and does a nice job of balancing his bracket out by choosing somewhat of a sleeper in Baylor while not being too unreasonable with the rest of his selections.

    For that reason, Rannazzisi scores the highest—though I'm a tad skeptical with his Baylor pick.

    Grade: A


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