Just five days in to the NCAA’s annual Division I men’s basketball tournament and already Kansas - my pick to win the whole thing - is eliminated.
It’s not just me who has been rocked by the Jayhawks early departure – literally every single person in my pool had them as the champions. They were the prohibitive favourite for just about everyone I know.
Northern Iowa has become Death, the destroyer of brackets.
I’ve never seen a basketball game alter the mood in the city of Toronto, let alone an amateur match, but there was definitely a buzz in the air in the hour after Northern Iowa’s 69-67 upset of Kansas. Passing people on my way to work I could overhear talk about ruined brackets and disappointing efforts.
Most poolies are now relying on their Sweet 16 and Elite Eight picks to see them through. It’s a very different reality that’s now in place. After all, most people build their brackets around a particular team who will sweep through to the finals. Without that cornerstone, the whole thing falls apart.
Fortunately for me, I’m in good shape.
I’ve made 29 of 48 picks, and have a possible 102 points still available. That showing puts me in the 55th percentile of all Yahoo! Fantasy Sports users. My bracket is literally not half bad, but it’s not much better.
Thank God there is some time off before the Sweet 16 gets underway. I know that it’s for the teams to try and rest and re-group, but at this point I think that the fans need it just as much.
I know that I am a neophyte NCAA basketball fan, but this is the most exciting March Madness tournament I’ve followed to date.
It started with the major upsets in the first few rounds, followed by the elimination of perennial mid-major powerhouse Villanova and then finally the shocking departure of the Jayhawks, the consensus pick to win the whole damn thing.
In any event, thank God for that break. Now we’ve got a chance to try and figure out what’s going on, and who’s going to win the championship. The Syracuse Orange? Duke? Northern Iowa?
I really don’t know.
What I do know, is that I can’t wait for the Madness to start up again. I’ll be watching every minute of it.
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that my strategy for NCAA pools relies heavily on picking the favourites. After all, at least on paper, they are the better team. You might recall that I even mentioned that the tactic often costs me when there are major upsets, particularly in the first round.
So when there were no less than five shockers yesterday, you could imagine my delight. Further, the three upsets I did pick (UTEP, Florida, San Diego State) managed to lose. All told, I am now ranked sixth (out of six) with only half of my picks correct. Yikes.
My one saving grace is that I still have a possible 180 points available to me, third best in my league. Nonetheless, I need things to go well for me today if I’m going to recover.
At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed all the games I watched yesterday, especially the upsets. Yeah, it was killing me in my pool, but they were incredibly entertaining.
Villanova’s match with Robert Morris is the perfect example. For my bracket to stay alive I desperately needed ‘Nova to win. But despite myself, I was cheering for the boys from RMU. It’s a cliché, but I just loved their hustle.
Of course, this is what makes March Madness great. That sense of desperation, that swelling of emotion with each shot, each steal, every made basket. Even an impartial observer gets wrapped up in the action.
That emotional investment does a lot to gloss over a lot of the problems with the level of play. There are glaring errors made by all the teams in the tournament, particularly when it comes to defence. I can’t tell you how often I caught myself yelling at the TV yesterday as I saw an ill-advised double team. Discipline is also always an issue with such young players, so tactics quickly fall apart.
But it’s that reckless play that makes March Madness so fun to watch; it’s completely unpredictable and usually has a wild finish. You never know when a team is going to fall apart.
I’m looking forward to seeing how day two plays out. Hopefully it’ll be as exciting as yesterday.... only with things going my way.
Here is my official March Madness bracket, thanks to the good people at Yahoo! Sports and their PDF generator. Click the link to see my rather uneducated guesses. No, I am not sponsored by KFC.