Bracket Busted: Don’t major in solving the March Madness puzzle

Now that Duke has earned the right to be crowned the NCAA men’s basketball National Champions, more than likely that is not the case for you in your bracket pool. All the blood, sweat and tears that went into filling out my bracket this March and for that matter, every other year, went unrewarded.

It is a phenomenon that has no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever. It’s the formula for filling out a perfect bracket.

Yes, anyone and everyone can fill out a bracket. Some do it in pen while others prefer to complete it online. But is there really a logic that goes into completing your bracket?

Actually, I can think of one; fill it out using pencil! This way you can erase all of your errors, so it at least looks like you defied the odds of filling out a perfect bracket. Convincing people that this is the case is a completely different story.

It is a theory so complex that even ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, needed to acquire what they call a “Bracketologist.” That is when Joe Lunardi became the man with the greatest job in the history of jobs. He watches college basketball games for about three months out of the year and provides his “opinion” on what teams he thinks will be the last few that make it into the big dance and the few who will not. Lunardi also predicts some of his sleepers for the tournament along with his favorites to win it all, and then he is never heard from again until March rolls around the following year. Where he goes, nobody knows.

However, Lunardi only provides saps like me, willing enough to worship his every word, with limited insight into the tournament. But yes, there is a solution to this problem.

ESPN also developed a show called “Bracketology 101,” to try and solve the mystery behind filling out your bracket. Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis, Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas provide their insight and analysis in a two-hour timeslot immediately after the selection committee releases the official brackets. The analysts breakdown each game of the tournament, unveiling their predictions for every match-up. If you have the patience to sit through the lovefest toward the powerhouse teams such as Kansas, Syracuse and Kentucky and why they will bring home the title, then you should be sitting pretty when it comes to filling out your own bracket, right? No bueno! I have fallen into that trap far too many times. So that is why I thought this year would bring me so much more success.

I wasn’t going to swallow the poison pill that is Digger Phelps telling me to go with the No. 13 seed Wofford making a deep run into the tournament. Dickey V’s devotion towards the Dukies would not grant them an automatic bid into my Final Four–the jokes on me for not listening to Dickey V this year. Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas couldn’t fool me with their picks for a No. 12 vs. No. 5 seed upset.

I was going with my gut feeling on each game this year. Sure, I would pick the occasional upset here and there, but nothing that I had to really force myself into. I had a genuine feeling that there was a great chance for the upset to come to fruition. There would be no Cinderella stories this year. Nothing like when George Mason found a spot in the Final Four back in 2006.

And boy, was I wrong. Not one of my Final Four teams made it to Indianapolis and only two of my Elite Eight picks (Duke, Kentucky) were correct. My bracket had more red marks on it than a price tag at Macy’s on Black Friday. Not to mention my wallet was a few bucks lighter.

But when it all comes down to it, the disappointment that my bracket was a complete disaster was only a minor setback.

Despite falling to Duke in the National Championship (61-59), Butler captured the hearts of more than a few people across the country. They earned the right to play for the ultimate prize in college basketball in their home-town and were a shot away from pulling of a monumental feat. It is stories like these and storylines like these that make the tournament so unique.

March Madness is the only time of year when a collegiate athlete holds more prowess than his professional counterpart.  Students skip school and employees call in sick to work, all for the simple pleasure of getting lost in a game. Fans religiously root for the underdog and the intensity of each and every game is at an all-time high. Teams from mid-major conferences get the chance to prove their worth against the nation’s elite.

For some players, it is their final games as a competitive athlete. For others, it is a gauge of their potential in the pro’s.

Nonetheless, it is a time of year where the unexplainable happens. David can beat Goliath and when it happens, it is pretty sweet. Once frustrations of a flawed bracket are put to the wayside, adopting a team to win the National Championship isn’t frowned upon; it is encouraged. There is no correct or incorrect way to predict a winner. That is what makes the tournament so unique. Everyone has their own perspective.

65 teams have the opportunity to take center stage, but only one will become champion.

The Lewis Flyer

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