By Mitch Silver
After the usual ups and downs of the college basketball season, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s National Basketball Championships are heading into their second weekend. Along with millions of other sports fans, I filled out a 64-team bracket for both tournaments, picking winners and losers in the East, South, Midwest, and West regions. As someone who writes about sports, I thought I ought to do better than the average fan.
So, how come — after the field in both the men’ and women’s contests was whittled down to 32 teams and then 16 teams — am I sitting in 239,943rd place in the CBS National Women’s Bracket Challenge? And much, much worse, I’m in 1,942,900 rd place in the Men’s Challenge. How did I go so wrong?
Well, to be honest, I picked my teams with a combination of nostalgia and ignorance. For example, 11th-seeded Dayton played sixth-seeded Georgia in one of the opening games in the Women’s Greensboro Region. My wife briefly lived in Dayton, when she was a little girl, so I picked them. They lost, 70-54.
In another game in that same region, Colorado was favored over Creighton, so I went with them. Creighton won 74-64. Two days later they squeaked past the region’s second seed, Iowa, 64-62. Naturally, I had Iowa. I’m still alive with my two picks to make it to the Regional Finals, South Carolina, the top seed, and third-ranked Iowa State.
In the East, North Carolina State is the No. 1 seed. My wife Ellen wishes she had gone to college at North Carolina State, so I chose them to beat ninth-ranked Kansas State, even though I hadn’t seen either team play. Lucky for me, the Wolfpack won easily, 89-57.
But the Wichita Region matched tenth-seeded South Dakota against better-ranked Mississippi, with the winner facing No. 2 Baylor. I picked the two southern schools. South Dakota beat them each by the same 14-point margin.
I’ve got UConn defeating South Carolina in the championship game, so you better choose anyone else.
In the men’s tournament, 14th-seeded Montana State was my upset pick to go all the way to the Sweet 16 this weekend. Don’t ask me why, I guess I felt it in my bones. They were crushed, losing by 35 points to Texas Tech in the opening game.
In the East Region, my alma mater, Yale, met highly rated Purdue. The Boilermakers had a 7’4” guy who didn’t have to leave the floor to grab all the rebounds he wanted. Purdue beat the Elis by 22. And none of the teams I picked to make it to the South Regional Final are still in the tournament.
Thinking maybe I’ll just stick to high school sports.