I never get tired of that title joke.
As someone who blathers about basketball and then sticks it up on the internet for tens of people to read, there's an unwritten obligation for me to follow the example of B-list CBS celebrities and put my NCAA predictions up for all to see and mock. There's just two problems. One, NCAA pool brackets are fast becoming the spring equivalents of fantasy football teams and that dream you had last night - things that are absolutely fascinating to you, but absolutely no one else on the planet cares about. And two, who plays one pool anymore?
Ten years of cross-country moves and way too much time on the internet has left me like a Pall Mall smoking grandmother playing bingo, with my eyes flicking back and forth between eight entries, until I can't remember which sheet had Kent State as a Final Four team, and whether that was the same one where all the three seeds beat all the twos. Here's what I've flitted back and forth between, in some sort of fugue state of prognostication:
The College Pool: An offspring of the first pool where I actually knew where my money was going - which as it turned was to buy beer first, and get paid out in prizes second - this thing has been going on for so long I've forgotten most of the names. None of us actually talk anymore, and any update of one another's lives has to be fit in the thirty character limit of a team name, or the sudden appearance of a wife or infant's bracket. These are predominately Carolina alums, which makes a UNC pick to win a dicey one. The only time I've won this pool was 1996, by picking against the Heels.
That being said, I'm suffering from a psychological disadvantage in that I refuse to pick low-odds winner UCLA. So I've gone with UNC over Texas, with Georgetown and Xavier rounding out the Final Four. This the bracket where I send two Big East four seeds, Pittsburgh and Connecticut, to the Elite Eight.
The Fantasy Pool: You play fantasy football with these folks. Fantasy baseball. Occasionally fantasy golf, and that one strange year, fantasy MLS soccer. Of course they put together a pool, and you can't refuse, or the taunting will ring for three straight fantasy seasons. Your fantasy players might hold a fantasy walkout.
This is another pool with a lot of UNC alums, so it's the one where I went against the Heels, picking Kansas over UCLA - I have no problem picking the Bruins to have their dreams snatched from them once again - with North Carolina and Texas rounding out the Final Four. It's also the pool where I have Duke going the farthest, to the Elite Eight. In the previous one, I have them losing to Xavier, and the one following to West Virginia.
The Santa Barbara Pool: From where I spent most of my twenties, this is the one that matters most. I won it 2005 on the shoulders of UNC's own victory, and used my winnings to buy my Illinos-grad house and fellow pool entrants national championship T-ahirts. They never wore them, and I'm rather hurt by that.
This pool is Big Ten dominated, especially from the Illinois and Michigan areas. It would be a good one to pick Tennessee - Illini fans hate Bruce Pearl - but pride demands I pick the Heels. And I kind of hate Bruce Pearl, too. In fact I've picked Louisville over the Vols in all three brackets so far, now that Card Chronicle has come to Jesus. So I have UNC over UCLA, with Memphis and Wisconsin rounding out the Final Four. I also have Clemson as an Elite Eight team. They're dangerous enough to knock off Bill Self's Jayhawks, and this is the pool with the least ACC knowledge. I also have Marquette as an Elite Eight team, and I don't even like the Big East.
The SportsBlogs Nation Pool: Of course, we have a back-channel, private pool. And this one has the greatest pressure - I'm putting my basketball knowledge up against a bunch of football and baseball obsessives, I can't afford to look silly. Unfortunately, my excessive addiction to prognostication has finally caused me to crash. I start picking the teams with blogs on the network until I realize that no matter what, I can't pick Kentucky over Marquette, after which chaos sets in. Davidson is an Elite Eight team, as is West Virginia. I go with teams ignored by my blogging brethren, like Clemson and Drake. The end results though is embarassingly jejeune - UNC over Memphis with fellow top seeds Kansas and UCLA also playing on the final weekend.
So four pools, and I've ducked any floating around work, or the one Twelfth Manchild is throwing with a free polo of your choosing. There's very few constants in my picks, but this is for sure:
- UNC is a Final Four team. Sorry Tennessee and Louisville.
- Forget that twelve-beats-a-five crap. In one bracket, I picked George Mason over Notre Dame. Villanova? Western Kentucky? Temple? It's not going to happen.
- It's hard to pick against Texas in Texas. Memphis has a shot. I still can't explain that one Marquette pick though.
- Anything can happen to Connecticut. I have them losing to San Diego. And beating UCLA. Hopefully not in the same bracket.
- I am way underestimating Kansas. I only have them as a Final Four team twice. And they're almost three times as likely to win the thing as the next team.
- Deep down, I don't want UNC to meet Georgetown again. I don't know why, I like these poetic sorts of rematches, and I definitely think the Heels can take the Hoyas this year. And yet I have Georgetown losing to Davidson twice and Wisconsin once.
- Siena's beating Vanderbilt. It's the only other thing as consistent as UNC going to the Final Four, all the one and two seeds winning the opening game, etc. And I know nothing about Siena.