March Madness is the best sporting event in the world. Period. However, while there are great moments filled with excitement and joy, there are also many moments that leave these kids heartbroken and gut-wrenched. It may sound like cliche, but these student-athletes spend hours upon hours daily, over multiple years, all in hopes of hoisting up a trophy one day. And for almost of all them, that never happens, and for some of them they end their careers in the most unimaginably painful ways. Take a look at Northern Iowa as an example. One day, Paul Jesperson hits a half-court buzzer-beater to pull off an upset over Texas. Unbelievably awesome moment. Two days later, the Sweet 16 is incredibly close for the Panthers, before they have the biggest collapse of all time, and blow a 12 point lead with 44 seconds left, to lose to Texas A&M. Emotion swings are very high, and leave most of the players feeling sad, as opposed to happy by the end of the tournament. Now, to apply this to myself. This may seem selfish and pathetic (it is), but I am now going to dig into my own bracket, and tournament experience…
*I only make 1 (ONE) bracket every year. If you make multiple brackets, I do not have respect for you, and I will not acknowledge any “Upsets” you picked or correct picks you had.
College basketball is my favorite sport. I love basketball in general, but the passion and “March Madness” element of college hoops, captures me. Each year I watch CBB in depth over the course of the year, not only because I love the game, but also due to the fact that I am always making mental notes, with an eye on March. In the past I have done OK (poor considering how much CBB I watch), in a bracket pool that requires a $10 entry, and is usually filled with about 45-65 people. My problems mainly result from the fact that I am an over-thinker. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the 1st round match-ups, but then usually rush through the rest of the bracket. While my overall brackets have not been great (typically middle of the pack, never in the top 8, I have finished last before), I have a great success rate at picking HUGE upsets. I love upsets, and I spend a ton of time researching small schools that could make a grand upset. My two biggest correct upset picks were FGCU over Georgetown and Mercer over Duke. This year, I did not love my bracket. I hated the West Region, and felt like an innocent buffoon picking Villanova to be the national runner-up, after I was burned by picking them to win it all, in the 2015 tourney. I felt skeptical about picking UVA to win it all, considering their slow pace, and tendency to go cold on offense. I also felt anxious about not pulling the trigger to pick Stephen F Austin over West Virginia. Using my past college hoops knowledge, I thought that WVU was very vulnerable considering their lack of a singular offense baller, and I thought that SFA’s usually efficient offense would be perfectly equipped to defeat the press of the Mountaineers. However, everybody on main stream media loved West Virginia. I also felt like a sucker picking SFA 3 straight years, and told myself to not pick too many upsets, and that the Lumberjacks would probably not have an answer for Devin Williams. The fact that SFA won, and I did not end up picking them, made me want to jump off of a bridge. To speed up the story, it turns out my bracket was doing pretty good. I was nailing most of my picks and was in the top 3 of the standings, from day 1 to the end of the tournament. However I ended up finishing in 3rd place. Not bad, one may think, considering my past performances. However this was a crushing 3rd place finish. I ended up finishing 14 points behind the winner (somebody who randomly picked Nova), and two points behind the second place finisher. What made this sooooo crushing was that I picked Northern Iowa to make the Sweet 16. Using the scoring system, a UNI win would ward me 13 pts, and a Texas A&M win would be worth 5 pts. This means that this was an 18 point swing. To summarize, if UNI wins, I win the pool. Instead they have the biggest collapse of all time. This does not even mention the fact that both of the people above me had Syracuse in the Elite 8 (one of the participants also had Notre Dame in the Elite 8). This means that if the Cuse did not have the easiest path of all time, and if the Aggies did not pull of a miracle, I would win. Heck, if I picked SFA, I would have won the pool by 50. This may seem very trivial of me. Why do you care so much, many will ask? The answer is that I live and breathe the sport and this tournament. I have spent an unhealthy amount of time over the years, trying to make a winning bracket. And when I finally did…. it got taken away from in a truly remarkable (with 40 seconds left, UNI had a 99.9% chance to win) and heartbreaking fashion. But, it happened, and for whatever reason, they do not want me to win yet. All I know, is that it will all be that much sweeter.
Below is/was my officall/only 2016 Bracket