Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bracket Busted, a Consideration

Alternatively, "Hey Experts, Go Fuck Yourselves."

I haven't blogged much during this March Clinical Insanity, and the simple reason is that I'm too tired and drained after watching 12 hours of basketball to do so.  I don't get paid for this shit, obviously.  It's a labor of love, and sometimes the love of watching trumps the love of writing about it.  But that's neither here nor there...

As I sit here, somewhat gobsmacked by Kansas' departure at the hands of a team that I knew would be dangerous to them (that dangerous?  No.  But Northern Iowa and Cornell have a lot of similarities, and Cornell almost beat Kansas earlier in the year).  As I sit, running my workplace pool, and seeing the majority of brackets totally busted wide open, I wonder exactly what is the value of experts.

Consider:  for the fuck of it, I entered the Sports Illustrated bracket into my workplace bracket.  Where's that bracket?  At the very bottom of a pool played by me, a couple of husbands of co-workers, one woman who loves basketball, and about 14 women who hardly ever watch basketball.  The Sports Illustrated expert is behind almost all of them, and yes, his champion exited today.

There's no fault in not seeing the Northern Iowa upset, and it takes balls to pick Wofford to win even one game (and they came close to doing it).  And no one saw Georgetown losing to Ohio U.

But that's the thing--if the experts can't alert you to that shit (and they try, they try, they try) why bother listening to them?  Seth Davis was 100% sure that San Diego State University was a stone cold lock to beat Tennessee.  SI said the same.  Never mind that Tennessee beat the top #1 seeds in the dance in Kansas and Kentucky.

"Experts" swore that Vanderbilt was a Sweet Sixteen team, and watch out.  Other experts swore that Murray State was a Cinderella to watch.  Which was great, except they were playing each other.  And hey, one last second shot determined that half the experts were going to be wrong.  Again, that's part of the deal.

SI predicted Marquette's march into the Sweet Sixteen, and said it would be proof of Big East power--instead, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova and Louisville all exited.  The best conference in the fucking universe lost to teams like Ohio University, Old Dominion University, California, St. Mary's, and Washington.  Any of those sound like National Champs to you?  Have I mentioned that SI gave over 1000 words to New Mexico as the next great fun team?  It was delivered on my doorstep mere hours before the Lobos got their dogs walked by Washington.

I was discussing brackets with Barnyard, and how he had let the experts talk him into picking Vanderbilt over Murray State, even though he really liked the Racers.  And that's the poison of the experts.  Don't fucking listen to them.  Watch teams.  Develop your own "eye test" as they like to call it.

Here are my rules for not listening to experts:

1.  Don't listen to comparisons intra-conference, like this one from Sports Illustrated, "Gonzaga are Dance veterans, but played two ACC teams this year and lost to both."  That's worthless analysis.  Gonzaga lost by two to Wake Forest in early December.  They got their doors blown off by Duke in December at Duke.  What does losing to Wake Forest (by 2 points) or to Duke have to do with playing Florida State?  Nothing, that's what.  You know who else got their doors blown out by Duke?  Florida State.

2.  Beware teams from Big Conferences that haven't played well lately.  Take your pick of teams here--I'll pick Villanova, but you could easily throw in Georgetown, Wake Forest or Texas.  Villanova was 4-6 in their last 10 games in the Big East, but were still considered a likely Elite 8 team, because they were losing to Big East teams, and we all know that the Big East is FUCKING TOUGH.  But you know, even though they lost to Connecticut, Pitt, Georgetown and Marquette, and barely squeaked by Robert Morris, the headline is that Villanova was Shocked by St. Mary's.  If you were shocked by that result (or by Georgetown and Marquette's exits), you weren't paying attention.  In general, if a team is hovering around .500 in their own conference, they don't deserve your Sweet Sixteen consideration.  Contrapostively, if a team is kicking ass in their conference, don't be scared to have them win at least one game in the Dance.

2b.  Corollary:  Don't take seeding as Gospel.  Look, I'm as surprised as anyone by Northern Iowa beating Kansas.  But they should not have ever been a #9 seed.  That's a team that was ranked in the Top 25 for the last 2 months of the regular season.  They play in a tough conference, the Missouri Valley, home of other upsetters like Southern Illinois, Bradley, Wichita State and Creighton.  It's not a major conference, but it is a conference that produces NBA quality talent pretty regularly.  So how does a top-25 ranked team end up with a #9 seed?  Good question.  Ask Gonzaga, I guess, who still, after showing up in the top 25 and the Sweet Sixteen year after year, still got a #8 seed.   Ask Butler, who was ranked in the top 15 most of the year, and still got a #5 seed.  Mid-majors are devalued, and quite possibly on purpose by a NCAA selection committee that is trying to get small schools out of the picture as quickly as possible.  Cornell as a #12 was a joke, and having them play #5 Temple was cruel.  Those were two teams that deserved to meet each other in the second round, not the first.

3.  Embrace the Random and Don't Relinquish Hope.  Wagering on the NCAA is not unlike wagering on which popcorn kernel is going to pop first.  Two years ago, all #1 seeds made it to the Final Four,  It was the first time in 20-some years that had happened.  People who pick a Final Four like that usually lose.  See this year for more evidence.  You will see articles about "Who is This Year's George Mason"?  Bullshit, those articles are.  There is too much quality for any team to be a new George Mason.  Butler and UNI were ranked at the end of the year.  The only reason they are considered Cinderellas is that basketball writers ignore their own rankings.  St. Mary's beat a good (not great) Villanova team by exploiting the things that every team that beat them has--superior play in the paint.  So you had Kansas in your Final Game, maybe even champion?  Don't give up--Kentucky, Syracuse, or Duke haven't locked this thing up.  Cheer for the Panthers of Northern Iowa; cheer for the Baylor Bears; keep hoping for upsets--you deserve them, don't you?


Andrew Wice said...

Highly entertaining, this tournament.

I thought that my bracket was totally busted on Day One (oops G-town), but the frequency of other upsets may just give me a long shot.

I, for one, did not believe in Kansas.

Andrew Wice said...

There haven't been this many big busts since Ski School 2.

In light of that, Big BM, how about setting up a Yahoo second-chance group?

You can give away snow as a prize.

Muumuuman said...

Even though I picked Kansas in the final, in retrospect I should have remembered that Colorado, who didn't even make the NIT, took them to overtime.

生氣 said...

nice to know you ~........................................

Andrew Wice said...

Asian Spam Invasion!