I used to watch college basketball. Closely. Perhaps you remember my list of hated and loved players from a few years back. There were a lot of random names on that puppy. I developed relationships with teams and players. This year? I feel like my exposure has been limited to seeing the #1 team lose on Sportscenter once or twice a week. Indiana, Duke, Michigan, Louisville, all these teams got to the top and then they’d promptly lose. Usually to a lesser conference opponent, mostly in ugly fashion. Hell, Villanova, my part-time bandwagon knocked off three top-5 teams this year. Spoiler alert: Villanova’s terrible. A high ranking this year has just been a license to lose. Speaking of a license to lose, you probably aren’t going to win your NCAA pool. It’s just too wide open. Here are some mistakes I’ll probably make, you can try to avoid them.
1. Don’t pick Gonzaga. Gonzaga has so much going against them. They’re the #1 team in the country. They are a former Cinderella, but worst of all? They’ve finally earned the respect of the pundits. Whenever you hear someone in the Jay Bilas species utter, “Absolutely, Gonzaga can win a National Championship,” you just cross them off your list. Gonzaga last made the Elite Eight in 1999. They’ve made the sweet 16 just twice in the last eleven years. They could lose in the 2nd round, and if they don’t they’re definitely losing in the Sweet 16.
2. Don’t pick the team that’s randomly good, AKA, don’t pick Miami. Remember when Iowa St had Marcus Fizer and they were a #2 seed? I could be mixing Iowa St. teams, but the point is, people got enamored with picking Iowa St. Oooh, that’s different. They forgot they were picking Iowa St. Is Iowa St. going to make the Final Four? Of course not. Just like Missouri last year and now Miami this year. Teams have to be prepared to handle a top seed. Miami isn’t.
3. Don’t pick teams that can’t score. For example, Georgetown. Georgetown is 247th in the NCAA in points per game. Did you know 247 schools played basketball? Now you do. Georgetown is 25-6, played great in a tough conference and deserves a 2-seed, but teams like this are ripe for an upset. They play close games. If another team gets hot, or god forbid Georgetown comes out cold and can’t knock down a shot? Adios. Defense doesn’t win NCAA championships.
4. Don’t pick Kentucky. Seriously, don’t. They didn’t make the field.
5. Don’t get carried away with your rooting interests. If your brother is the 14th man on Indiana, OK, go ahead and put them in the Final Four, but otherwise you shouldn’t throw away your chances with loyalty. Sure, it’s fun to say, “Well, anyone could win, so I’m taking La Salle!” Go Explorers! There is that brief moment of hilarity when you see La Salle listed as your champion, and then they get blown out in the 1st round. Fun’s over. You just became dead money. For the Philly crowd, the local schools are going nowhere this year. Nowhere.
6. Respect the right coaches. If you are going to pick teams by their coach, you need to know which coaches win regularly and which coaches win only when they have mind-boggling talent. Roy Williams? Talent only. Coach Cal? Lost his ability to coach when Nerlens blew out his knee. Mark Few? Forgot how to coach. If you are going to back a coach, make sure it’s someone like Tom Izzo, or Bo Ryan, or pardon me while I find the nearest vomit receptacle–Coach K.
7. Don’t vary your pools too much. Here’s a common scenario. Someone says, “Well I’ve got Indiana in one, Duke in another, randomly have VCU in one, and then in my main one I’ve got Louisville.” What is the most likely outcome? Every single one of them loses. My theory is, if you happen to get lucky enough to fill out a winning pool, wouldn’t it be nice to win them all? That way, you’ve really earned some cushion to wait for the next time you fall ass backwards into some good fate.
8. Don’t pick Duke, Michigan, Indiana or Ohio State. This is my tentative Final Four. So, you’re welcome. Probably want to go to ESPN and see who Dick Vitale picked and cross those names out as well. You’ll be on your way. Congratulations on winning your pool.
The Picks: I’ll be picking games for the 1st round (against the spread) on Wednesday. Everyone knows real sharps make their money on individual games. So, look forward to that.
The Pool: We do have the 3PT Pool up and running again this year. It’s free. I encourage multiple entries and profane team names. Maybe you’ll get a prize if you win, maybe you won’t. But, if you are going to win one pool this year, it’ll probably be the free one. If you win and I see you, I’ll buy you a beer. Or, I think I have a sleeve of Titleist Professionals lying around. To join (if you played last year, you should have gotten an email)….
If you didn’t get an email, go here.
The Group ID is:72893
The Password is: stopit
If you are having any problems, let me know and I can send you an official invite. But seriously, it’s simple, try to sort it out on your own.