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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chalky Bracket's Got Me Buzzin'...


So that's it, huh?

4 days. 48 games. And only one "surprise" team has snuck it's way into the Sweet 16. And some surprise, too. Is this really what the world's greatest tournament is turning into? A power laden chalk fest where the outcome is about as in doubt as the latest episode of Jack Bauer's Never Ending Nuke Hunt? I sure as Hell hope not...

Then again, maybe this isn't new. After all, last year was the first time in the tournament's history that all 4 #1 seeds made it to the Final Four, right? And in 2007 there weren't any double digit teams advancing past the first weekend. Problem is, even the chalk-fest in '08 saw 4 teams seeded 10 or higher make it to the Sweet 16, and in '07 in seemed to be an unusual year with Florida defending their title, and everyone essentially knowing who the top teams were. Now, maybe it seems it wasn't so unusual, and that in the last 3 years maybe it was 2008, once the norm for a tourney full of upsets, has become the exception to what's now the new rule. Big teams, from big conferences are so much better now, that nobody else has a chance...

Case in point? The Arizona Wildcats. Nationally panned for not deserving a bid, they remain the only double digit seed in the field. A program that's made the tournament like a million times in a row, and even has a National title to their credit. If that's Cinderella, then I'm Brad Pitt...

ESPN's, Pat Forde, summed it up very nicely...

Since the tourney expanded in 1985, this combined seeding total of 49 is the smallest total ever in the Sweet 16.

That's too bad. One of the tourney's abiding charms is the mid-major interlopers who hang around longer than a weekend.

Which was the more memorable Sweet 16 entrant last year: Davidson or Villanova? Western Kentucky or Wisconsin?

A highbrow Final Four is one thing, but a highbrow Sweet 16 is a little dull. In a sport that continues to consolidate its power in the hands of the few, that's not a good trend.

He may look like the bastard child of Ivan Drago and Dana Jacobsen, but that man knows his college sports better than anyone in the country. Simply put. He will crush you. And he's right. We all love watching great teams play great, but that's supposed to be reserved for the last few rounds. The first weekends is supposed to be for upsets!...

So with all the higher seeds advancing, in what were for the most part pretty standard games, my problem isn't only with the results, but also with the always looming "bracket pool". And no. Before you even wanna go there, my bracket is not in the shitter, and this is not me getting ready to tell everyone else that they got lucky and that I'm the only one worthy of winning. Far from it. My problem, is that with all my Final Four teams and 7 of my Elite 8 teams still alive, and after being only 2 points back after posting a first round 25, I have zero chance to take home the top prize. I am, how we say in the bracket (and stud poker) biz, "board locked". No matter the result, the best I can do is like 2nd or 3rd thanks to all the people in front of me with exactly the same picks...

There in, my friends, lies my beef. Not only has this tournament lacked any flavor with it's absence of upsets, but the entrants in it's pool's are about as bland as the Oatmeal I saw on Lockdown: San Quentin. And you'd think with all the Mexicans up in there they'd have a few chili peppers in that shit or somethin'. Then again, you would think with all the creative minds out there, we'd have a few more interesting brackets out there too...


My Bracket


First off, to give you complete perspective of where I'm coming from in regards to this past weekend's games, it's only fair that I let you know how I'm doing with my own bracket selections...


So allow me to summarize:


*The Donaghy brothers showed up in the Dayton/West Virginia game, and before Bob Huggins had time to even blow a gasket, my surprise Elite 8 team was finished. IF you missed this game, and I'm sure you did, the refs basically handed the Flyers the game and West Virginia got so deep in foul trouble they couldn't even compete. What made it even more obvious was the way Dayton then got thumped in the 2nd round by Kansas. Sure we will never know what the Mountaineers would have done in that spot, but I'll take my chances with the team that's last two games are a 14 point win against Pitt and an OT loss to Syracuse thank you very much...

And speaking of my beloved Orange...

*Much to my surprise, virtually everyone and there brother in the pool of 70 entrants that I'm in picked Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Memphis and Louisville in their Final Four, with Louisville over Pitt for the National Title. That meant virtually all my "upset" picks would have to come through for me to make any money. I call this the "World Series of Poker" effect, and I'll have more on that in a little bit...


Going into Sunday, I knew if Michigan, Wisconsin and Marquette could pull through for me, I'd be in pretty good shape. And that if Dayton somehow managed to beat Kansas, I'd be in even better shape...

I won exactly NONE of those games...SICK!


Now, like the rest of you out there that actually went out on a limb, I'm board locked, with no chance of finishing first in my pool. Here I was going out on a limb, only to find it more crowded than a Sweet 16 party at Konrad's...What? You didn't get that reference? Well then you shouldn't have picked Syracuse, you pricks! That's our team, dammit. And if anyone is going to benefit from them making an unexpected deep run it should be those of us that went there, not a bunch of chalk scribbling posers!


And to be honest, as someone that follows this sport with great diligence and passion, it bothers me that in the game's ultimate test, so many of the right picks can be made for all the wrong reasons...


Hence, this next section. Complete with a weird picture of Blake Griffin. I think he's dreaming of all the money he's gonna make next year while he plays for some NBA squad that goes 15-67. Yeah, the LA Clippers sound like a great home for him. And he's bi-racial, so he shouldn't have any trouble dealing with the areas various gangs...



Where's the Justice?

Not only was I disappointed in the lack of true upsets in the first weekend, but I was, how you might say, disenfranchised more than ever with the ever omnipresent "bracket pool" system. What used to be a running joke about how the secretary that picked based on team colors and mascots always won, has turned into a poser-filled pool of people that have all the top seeds advancing with perhaps one minor upset on their mind. Granted that means they're probably doing very well, but it's a "winning lottery ticket" doing well rather than an "A+ on a test" type of doing well. It's a lot like the Main Event in the World Series of Poker. Just because you have skill and knowledge doesn't mean shit, at some point, you're gonna have to get lucky...

Well, not if I have anything to say about it! Peep my new system. It's still in development, but I feel it's more a true test of hoops knowledge, and will not only prove harder to succeed at, but will be all that more rewarding for the winner...

I got to formulating this strategy after Eric Maynor's game winner fell short and UCLA beat VCU by 1 to move on to the second round. Right around the time that shot hit the rim and the buzzer sounded, I got a text from none other than Ian "the I Man" Hanbach, telling me how I had 100% predicted exactly how that game was gonna go down. Problem was, I had VCU on my bracket sheet, and nothing to show for my Nostradamus like abilities, and I knew most people that picked UCLA had expected them to easily waltz through to the 2nd round. "There was no justice!", I thought to myself. Which is why I came up with this...


Round 1: Every game is worth 2 points. 1 point for predicting the correct winner, and 1 point for predicting the outcome against a 5 point spread. In every 1st round game, the lower seed (higher ranked team) will be given a (-5) line as the favorite. So if you had picked UCLA to win, but VCU to cover the +5 in this case, you would have gotten 2 points. If you picked VCU to win and cover, you would have gotten 1 point.

Round 2: For every Sweet 16 team your predict correctly seeded 1-4, you get 4 points. For every team seeded 5 or higher, you get points equivalent to their seeding. If you had Arizona this year, that would be 12 points.

The rest of the way out, the bracket structure would remain the same, with the exception being all teams seeded 5 or higher continue to get bonuses as they progress through the tourney. For instance, a 5 or higher in the Elite 8 gets it's seed X 2 for points. Arizona reaches the Elite 8 this year, that would be 24 points. They make the Final 4, that's 48 points and so on. Not only does this new format encourage picking upsets, but it also rewards people that can nail the 1st 2 rounds...

Oh and one more thing. If you don't have the correct champion, or at least the correct championship match up, you can't win 1st prize. The two most important things in picking a bracket are the 1st two rounds, and the title game, so I figure getting those two things right should be rewarded the most. I'm just old fashioned like that...

So what do you think? Yes? No? Perhaps? Oh, what's that? You're still convinced that I'm only proposing this because I'm bitter over the fact I haven't won a single cent in a bracket pool since 2005, and haven't won a pool since 2002? Well you can screw. I love this game, man, and if you think for one second that my lack of bracket success is going to effect my interest in the tournament, you are sadly mistaken. Matter of fact. That's you, you're thinking of, you donners of the pink hat. You fair weather posers make me sicker than the Oatmeal at...oh...right...


So, what's next, you ask? Well, seeing as virtually all my picks are still alive, I don't see the need to break down match ups. And seeing as I don't have a chance to win any significant cash, I figure I might as well focus all my energy towards the Syracuse Orange and their attempt to win their 2nd title in 6 years as a #3 seed from the South Region. Ya know, because I actually went there. NOT because I saw them win some 6 OT game/saw the highlights because I was way too big a puss to actually stay up and watch it. Get your own team, you lazy posers!...


Here's to hopin' the 2nd weekend of the tourney smashes all of our brackets, but for all the right reasons. Let the madness reign supreme!

Happy hooping, pimps and pimpettes...

I'm outta here...

100...

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