There’s a method to my madness

“March Mayhem” or “March Madness” is set to commence. The brackets have been revealed, the teams that were snubbed have pleaded their case and those teams included have made their travel plans.

This is the week the annual ritual known as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins along with the accompanying traditions of employees calculating their sick days before the first round begins and high school students practicing their coughs in advance of Thursday morning.

This is also when fans scour the web looking for every bit of information they can about Florida Gulf Coast University to decide if they are a worthy upset pick in their (for entertainment purposes only) bracket. They watch ESPN constantly to catch the breakdown of the all-important South Carolina versus Marquette game, because one of those teams might run the table.

All of this is folly.

Anyone who has ever entered an office pool knows full well it’s the person from accounting who doesn’t know the difference between a Hoya and a Chanticleer who always ends up winning the darn thing. They flip a coin, pick the winners based on uniform colors or make their picks based on which mascot is cuter.

Based on my relative success at picking brackets, these are not bad systems. I’ve picked a few champions correctly and have even nailed the entire Final Four a couple times. But overall, I’m a failure at handicapping this madness. There is always a Hampton, Iona, Siena or VCU that messes things up.

And that is why March Madness is the best sporting event of the year.

But still, just for fun, let’s go through my bracket, shall we?

My first step, and this is fairly obvious, is to move all the number one seeds into the second round. Since the field went to 64 (now at 68), no 16-seed has ever won a first round game. Every so often a 15-seed pulls an upset, but the risk isn’t worth the reward, so I move the second seeds into the second round as well.

It’s been about almost 30 years ago now, but I remember a four-year stretch where the 12-seed in the West Region seemed to always win in the first round. That’s my next pick, so good-bye Notre Dame, Princeton moves on.

Next, there are schools who are virtual locks to make it to the Sweet 16 every year. North Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas fit the bill for me, they move on.

The 8-9, 7-10, and 6-11 games are practically toss-ups, so I always pick the team I’ve seen play the most. That means Wisconsin, SMU, Marquette, Northwestern, Maryland, VCU, Michigan State, Rhode Island, Michigan, Arkansas, Cincinnati and Wichita State will advance in my bracket. Never mind that I’ve only seen Arkansas play once and they got blown out. It doesn’t matter.

That leaves most of the devilish 3-14, 4-13, and 5-12 matchups, which is where the fun first round upsets typically occur. I gather the trendiest picks among the “expert” pundits in the media — and pick all of them. Therefore, I’ll take Florida Gulf Coast over Florida State, Vermont over Purdue, and Middle Tennessee over Minnesota.

For the second round, I look for higher seeded teams with injuries. Down go three-seeds Baylor and Oregon as well as four-seed Florida. I also don’t see any of the one or two-seeds falling here, and I really want UCLA to play Kentucky in the Sweet 16, so the Bruins get by Cincinnati. I also like to latch onto a couple of my double-digit first round upsets to keep playing into the second weekend. This year, those are Princeton and Middle Tennessee, so goodbye West Virginia and (gulp) Butler.

I’ll take my first one-seed out in the next round. If Kansas can lose to Indiana, they’ll lose to Iowa State, who already beat the Jayhawks earlier this year. This is also where Duke bows out against a very good SMU team, but Arizona should maul Maryland and as for Kentucky versus UCLA? I’ll employ that coin flip, and it goes to UCLA.

I have three one-seeds in the Elite Eight, and I think two of them had an easy route to get there. It ends here, Arizona over Gonzaga, and UCLA over North Carolina. Villanova moves on as does Louisville, the beneficiary of the Kansas loss.

In the Final Four, I have Villanova versus Arizona and Louisville against UCLA. In the battle of the Wildcats, I’ll take Villanova, even though the game is being played in Phoenix and on the other side, UCLA gets past Louisville.

Villanova versus UCLA? That could be fun.

No team has won back-to-back titles since Florida in 2006-07. They were coached by a former Big East player. Villanova is in the Big East.

Villanova wins a second straight title.

Pure science, but don’t take it to the bank.

Oh yeah…(cough, cough). Got it.

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Rob Hunt covers news, sports and other happenings in South Madison County. He can be reached at rhunt@pendletontimespost.com or (765) 778-2324.