As FranT has pointed out, it’s (one of) the most wonderful time(s) of the year!
So how do I do this thing? Much as I love and follow college hoops, I just don’t know enough about something like New Mexico vs. Belmont in a second round matchup to say with any semblance of confidence who I think would win. But that’s what the internet is for. You can find any stat out there, (at least you would think...I’d get to that in a sec), but what stats are we even supposed to look at?
The other day I was listening to Colin Cowherd (who I normally despise) on ESPN radio and he said to do the following when judging these teams and assessing these matchups: look at their home and neutral site record. Discount road losses because those are tough environments where any team could in theory beat another team, and those environments won’t be replicated at any stage in the tourney. I thought it was as good as any approach out there, and maybe you’d be able to steal a few games that you otherwise would’ve guessed on (5-4 second round, 2-3 matchup later on, etc..). The only problem is: you can’t find those team records anywhere, so unless you want to look at 64 teams’ schedules and count up the home and neutral losses, you can’t, at least as far as I can tell, find those home and away records. And I thought the internet could do everything! (As a side note: whoever has the time to do just that should put together a comprehensive chart next year of all 64 teams’ home and neutral records, I’ll make sure Google searchers can find it, and we’ll all make some dough off of it.)
So that theory was thrown out the window, but I’m actually glad that it is. Because talking to a friend yesterday, he said he was looking for good road WINS, because that shows a lot. And I think that makes sense too - don’t hold a road loss against a team, but if they have solid road wins, that should say a lot about a team (good coaching, ability to stay focused, grit, execution ). So now I’m all confused, and before I knew it it was Wednesday, games start in less than 24 hours, and I’m scrambling trying to make sense of UNLV’s loss to Air Force and win over San Diego State. Not to mention all the sportscasters and ESPN analysts whose opinions I’ve either actively sought out or passively let seep into my cluttered brain. What’s going on here?
Like any good moron, I took this amalgamation of stats, opinions I’ve read, and can’t miss hunches I have and filled out the bracket that will most likely be toast by the time I’m back in Boston Sunday night. Along the way I found my favorite take on the tournament, by Grantland’s Shane Ryan, and wanted to share. It’s anecdotal enough where you can really take something away from it, like when he describes Shabazz Muhammad’s “get me out of here” (and to the NBA) face on display in the Pac-12 tournament. Coupled with Jordan Adams’s injury, that was enough for me to go with Minnesota over UCLA in the first round. But Ryan’s article is also humorous enough, recognizing that in the end these are just educated guesses - nobody knows who this year’s Kemba Walker or Steph Curry will be, and therein lies the beauty.
Hope everyone enjoys the tournament as much as I will.
P.S. What's the highest reasonable seed that you should pick your alma mater to win it all on? 6? 7? Having graduated from a school that has not won a tournament game in 60 years, i just can't speak to experience on this one. Maybe that's a blog post for next week.