An NCAA bracket based (as usual) on magical thinking

Just thought I’d toss out something for all you sports fans to scoff at.

Here’s the story that explains my system for predicting the men’s NCAA tournament. It’s thoroughly tried and tested:

I used to never do this, until back in the late 80s or early 90s, when one of my reporters — I’ll call him “Charlie” — had a pool going, and nagged me to enter it. I told him I didn’t follow college basketball, and didn’t know anything about it. He said to enter anyway. He really, really wanted my dollar.

So, I filled one out. Here was my method — if it was a team that was big back when I was in college (such as UCLA), I chose it to win. If it was a school I had some vague connection to (such as having lived in Kansas briefly), I chose it to win. If it was a Catholic school, such as Georgetown, I chose it to win. When two of those factors came into conflict, I had a decision to make, but I didn’t spend more than a second making it.

And you know those little numbers next to the teams in the brackets, the ones that tell you how the teams are seeded? I didn’t know what those meant, so I ignored them.

I won the pool, in large part because — contrary to the conventional wisdom of the sports fans — I picked Duke to win all the way (in keeping with Rule 1). The sports fans in the pool found this very irritating. Every day during the tourney, I’d come in and ask Charlie how I was doing. “You’re still leading,” he’d growl between clenched teeth.

I won $26.

This year’s bracket presented a dilemma, and I’m still really torn about what I decided. Of course, I had Gonzaga and Memphis winning their first rounds. But then, I picked Gonzaga over Memphis — my own alma mater.

Not because Gonzaga was seeded first and and Memphis was 9th. That’s the way normal people make decisions. It’s more that Gonzaga is not only Catholic, but Jesuit — like Pope Francis. Also, I graduated from Memphis State, and they don’t call it that anymore, which bothers me.

Still, I feel bad about it. Partly because every time I fill out one of these, I see it as a chance for the Tigers to undo what happened in 1973, when I was a student. Memphis State made it to the final — and lost to UCLA.

Anyway, what’s done is done.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where the women’s NCAA bracket is… Well, I don’t have a system for that. You don’t want me to give you a bracket that’s based on guesswork, do you?

But if you want to know who’s going to win, it will be the Lady Gamecocks. Duh…

2 thoughts on “An NCAA bracket based (as usual) on magical thinking

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, and why did I pick Duke to win? Well, duh again. There are two reasons, both perfectly scientific and well-reasoned:

    1. I ALWAYS pick Duke.

    2. It’s Coach K’s last year….


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