Every year, I look forward to March Madness approaching like a small child looks forward to Christmas morning. The prospect of gorging oneself on college basketball while stuffing your face and being completely unproductive is a basic human right that we all appreciate, nay, deserve.
What makes this tournament so exciting is more than just the upsets, the buzzer beaters and the fierce competition. What draws people is the chance to win money through office pools, of course! Ahem… and the integrity of the game, yadda yadda.
Over the years, I’ve probably completed more than a hundred brackets, and sadly, I’ve never had the pleasure of holding up a winner. In trying to understand why that is, I’ve determined that the problem goes beyond my obviously poor ability to predict the Cinderella of the annual ball. The real issue, as I see it, comes down to the analysts who fill my head with lies and false hope. They seem so self-assured of their predictions and each year, talk me into at least one of their “expert” picks. This year, for example, I heard some variation on the following points:
- “Oklahoma State could be a really dangerous low seed.”
- “Kansas has a truly great player (in Andrew Wiggins) and can survive the absence of Joel Embiid to reach North Texas.”
- “Duke is exceptionally talented as a three seed.”
The problem, of course, is that none of these teams even came within sniffing distance of the Elite 8, let alone the Final Four. What’s worse, the analysts talked me into trusting Duke, when my natural inclination from attending a rival ACC school taught me to hate them.
I’m not necessarily pointing the finger only at the analysts; just primarily at them. At the end of the day, they’re making the picks based on logic and what looks right on paper. But, as the tournament has shown us, what looks good on paper rarely translates into real life. For example, none of the experts predicted UConn in the Final Four, but there they are, smiling as they just destroyed the hopes of the millions of people who picked Michigan State.
The key takeaway is simple. Try and ignore the experts, as best you can. Listen to your wife or girlfriend when they think you should pick a team because of “that cute guy” or “those pretty uniforms.” Take a leap of faith on your terms, and your terms alone. And never, under any circumstance, trust Duke.
Next year, I have promised myself that I will take a different approach. No expert analysis, just my own take on each matchup. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally find a way to take home the big prize. And when I inevitably still lose, of course, I will have nobody to blame except myself. Unless of course Duke wins, in which case, I’ll blame them too.
Featured image courtesy of: Gerry Broome/AP
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