By BRIAN WOODSON
There is just something about filling out a bracket, writing or clicking on the team that will suddenly appear on the next line, having advanced forward in the NCAA Tournament.
Basketball isn’t the only sport where brackets are used.
Would you believe it happens in drag racing? For those of you who like the sport, that isn’t a secret, for the rest of us, it just might be.
I covered one drag racing event at Bristol Dragway and I was prepared for the incredibly loud noise, the remarkable speed and the opportunity to interview former Georgia Tech and NBA basketball standout Tom Hammonds, who is now a drag racer.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the brackets. The media, who were fortunately inside and insulated somewhat from the ear-splitting noise, were given a sheet with the drivers in brackets. As each driver beats another one, you would pencil the winner into the next round.
Eventually you get to the last two, with one car standing at the end.
I was hooked. If it involves filling out brackets, I am all for it.
Basketball offers the same opportunity every March, but without the noise and really long waits. While the commercials that will haunt the public for the next three weeks will seem never-ending and long, at least it’s not like a drag race, where the actual racing takes less than 15 seconds and then you have a grueling wait until another race begins.
It is a long day, with very little real action, but there are brackets so it could be worst.
As is usually the case, I have filled out a few brackets as the NCAA tournament — minus the First Four or first round — begins today.
No crazy picks this time from me. Last year I took Missouri, which was a second seed and the favorite team of one of my best friends who died of leukemia a year before. I chose the Tigers in his memory, fully expecting to at least have them around for a while.
How about 40 minutes. The Tigers were upset by one of those State schools that isn’t a state, that powerhouse from Norfolk State.
Not this time. This has been a crazy season in college basketball, with top-ranked teams falling and courts being stormed, and leaving no idea who the best team will be when the nets are cut down on April 8, which is much later than normal for the NCAAs to end.
The selection committee did a solid job this season, even if all three of my favorite schools, Alabama, Virginia and Iowa had their bubbles burst. The Crimson Tide lost to Mercer and also scored all of 37 points in a loss to Auburn, the Cavaliers were 0-3 against the CAA, and the Hawkeyes — who actually finished with a better Big 10 mark than NCAA invitees Illinois or Minnesota — were 0-7 against Top 25 teams, and also fell to Virginia Tech.
They got all three of those right, but at least there was somewhere for them to go.
Did you know that 148 college basketball teams received postseason bids to the NCAA (68), NIT (32), CIT (32) and CBI (16). You would think a requirement would be a .500 record, but it appears that attendance in the later three are more important than the teams involved, at least in the CBI.
I was listening to a local sportscast over the weekend and the viewers were told that we would have to wait until Monday to see if West Virginia and Marshall — both of whom finished 13-19 — would get into the CIT or CBI.
I laughed, thinking how could that happen? Don’t laugh, it could have happened. Several teams with losing records are still playing, including Texas, Purdue and …Chicago State?
Yes, the Cougars played cross-city rival Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday in the CIT. Why, do you ask, is that of note. Chicago State’s record was 11-21 when that invitation was received. At least they might draw a few fans, but most of them will be disguised as empty seats.
Ouch. Oh well, at least no one will remember who won that tournament at this time next year other than possibly the school that won it. Here is hoping for the Cougars to win it all.
It doesn’t take long for brackets to get ruined in the NCAA tournament, but I have stuck close to the seedings. Trying to guess Albany to beat Duke is like picking Lehigh to pick Duke. Oops, that actually happened last year.
In my brackets, the only real surprise in the Sweet Sixteen will be Oregon, which won the Pacific 12 tournament and narrowly lost out on the regular season title and were seeded 12th.
That was a head-scratcher and Oklahoma State and Saint Louis will pay the price before the Ducks lose to Louisville, which will be Final Four bound by beating Michigan State in the Midwest Regional finals. Georgetown will advance in the South against Kansas, and Indiana will slow down Miami in the East.
As for the biggest surprise, it is Gonzaga. Have you noticed how many so-called experts don’t give the Bulldogs a chance? How many of them have actually seen them play? I would guess not many since they don’t play in a major conference and you have to stay up late to see them on ESPN.
I have done just that and they can play. The Bulldogs will play Ohio State in the West Regional finals, and advance to Atlanta.
That is where it will end, although it wouldn’t bother me if the Bulldogs won it all.
Yet, the last team standing will be Louisville, which has coach Rick Pitino and an experienced club that got to the Final Four last season, only to lose to eventual national champion Kentucky.
How far have the Wildcats fallen in one year after losing six players to the NBA draft? They lost at Robert Morris in the NIT on Tuesday night. Now that is an upset, offering a real reason for a court to be stormed, and the Louisville fans must be having fun with that one.
Here is guessing that Louisville will have more fun in Atlanta, beating Indiana to claim the national title. That is my choice and I am sticking with it.
However, remember my pick of Missouri last season. If Louisville beats North Carolina A&T and the Tigers beat Colorado State, guess who my pick to win it all plays next.
Go Mizzou, maybe I was just a year too soon.
—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at email@example.com