Worst. Bracket. Ever.
It’s fun to tout your successes when you’re right, but I can take equal glee in recounting those times when I’m astoundingly wrong about things. At the moment, it’s a good thing that I can laugh at myself, because if you read my NCAA picks last week, you know how horrifically wrong I got things. Most people have been shaking their heads at how awful their brackets look after the first weekend, but I truly mean it when I talk about how embarrassing my effort was. Both of the teams that I had in the finals are gone, and it’s safe to say that this was my worst attempt ever at predicting the tournament. With that in mind, I’d like to recount the top ten bad calls that I made in my predictions from last week. Enjoy the carnage:
10) Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen: Apparently you can bet against Tom Izzo in March. Particularly when he has his most disjointed team in years.
9) Belmont over Wisconsin: To be fair, in my comments I did note that this was a calculated risk, as Wisconsin would be blessed with the most amenable bracket possible were they to hold off everyone’s upset darling (which, given my horrific track record on predictions this year, probably means that Butler will give the Badgers a monumental beatdown tonight). On the bright side, my bracket was so horrible this year that I was able to simply sit back and enjoy the win without worrying about my picks (yes, I was already getting crushed on Thursday). And now I get one more weekend of the Badgers.
8) UNLV over Illinois: Picking an 8-seed over a 9-seed is nothing that shocking, but my reasoning for the pick was essentially a total lack of faith in Illinois. Well, if you watched this game, you’d know that Illinois completely dominated the Runnin’ Rebels. My apologies to Mike Tisdale–my lack of faith in you and your teammates was misguided.
7) Xavier over Marquette: Credit to Marquette for getting off to a hot start and knocking off two higher seeded teams on the first weekend of the tournament. I didn’t think they had it in them to win back to back games over very good teams on a neutral court. It’s certainly not something that they were capable of during the regular season. Just over two weeks ago I was vaguely concerned that the Golden Eagles would drop a game to lowly Providence and miss the tournament altogether. And now they’re in the Sweet Sixteen. As for Friday’s game, let’s be thankful that everyone’s in good shape, as we should see lots of running against UNC. And with Marquette finally showing some of the toughness that it seemed to abandon after last season, anything can happen now.
6) Old Dominion over Butler: I pretty specifically said that I thought that Butler was overseeded based on their prior year’s success, played medicore basketball in a mediocre conference, and would lose immediately. The Bulldogs then not only won their first game, but followed it up by upsetting a 1-seed. Yeah, I guess they weren’t overseeded. I just hope that none of these bad things that I said about Butler come back to really bite me when the Bulldogs take on Wisconsin tonight.
5) St. John’s over Gonzaga: Perhaps my recent lack of respect for the Bulldogs is because my schedule no longer allows me to fall asleep to Gonzaga games on the TV in my bedroom. Whatever it is, I sure didn’t expect Gonzaga to beat St. John’s, who by the way, I had in the Elite Eight. Ugh.
4) Georgetown over Notre Dame: This one was supposed to happen tomorrow, but neither team made it to the game. I didn’t love Notre Dame, so I’m not that blown away that the Irish dropped their game on Sunday, but the real shocker was Georgetown being so throughly throttled by VCU. Granted, VCU has completely crushed everything in its path so far, but the smart, slow-down team from Georgetown was supposed to be blowout-proof. Apparently I was a bit off in that reasoning.
3) VCU losing in the First Four: Piggybacking off that last point, I never explicitly stated this, but I fully expected USC to win the play-in game and for VCU to be sitting home on the first weekend of the tournament. All VCU has gone on to do after playing its way in is post a pair of 18-point wins against higher-seeded teams. Sure, no one saw that coming, but it doesn’t change the fact that I was epically wrong. (Side note–best quote of the tournament so far comes from VCU coach Shaka Smart, who after his team’s upset of Purdue responded to a question about next weekend by noting about his point guard Joey Rodriguez “I’m not worried about a letdown. For instance, Joey’s nuts. He wants to win the whole thing.” Credit to the Midmajority twitter feed for making note of this gem.)
2) Syracuse in the Final Four: This was a risky pick, and I knew it. The Orange share a bracket with Ohio State, which is the odds-on favorite and who looked unbeatable this weekend, and North Carolina, a team which appears to be peaking at just the right time. I’ll admit that I never expected Marquette to be the team to take Syracuse out, but seeing as they did, it seems that one of the other stellar teams would have eventually done that anyway. I suppose I should have seen this coming, with Marquette’s signature win of the regular season coming over Syracuse, but I was blinded by the 3-seed.
1) Pittsburgh as National Champions: I think I knew when I was picking this one that it was a bad idea, but I just couldn’t help myself. I love Pitt’s hard-nosed style, and hey, you can’t go wrong picking the top team from the Big East, right? Wrong. I overlooked the fact that while Pitt plays well together, it’s a team lacking star power, something that I must begrudgingly admit is important in March. And while I would still make the case that the Big East is a very good conference, the fact that only two of eleven Big East teams are still playing next weekend, and seven Big East teams lost to lower seeded opponents this past weekend is probably enough for me to concede that I overrated the conference a bit.
Fortunately, the outstanding weekends of Marquette and Wisconsin made up for any personal failures that I may have encountered. Here’s hoping for at least two more nights of excitement from our home teams, though I’d certainly take a few more in the event they’re able to bring home a couple more wins. Enjoy the games this weekend...