Unfortunately, I was runner-up to Quicken Loans when Warren Buffett was choosing a partner for his Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, so I can’t offer up 10 figures to anyone, but if you want to sign up for a bunch of spam from the asshat who owns the Cavs–go ahead. No one is stopping you. I’m sure you’ll still be alive for that billion well into Thrusday afternoon. At least.
It is amazing how much people love games of chance, and don’t kid yourself–that is what the NCAA pool is regardless of how much college basketball you know or watch. We’re talking about a month long scratch ticket here. Speaking of which, I have now on multiple occasions seen a group of guys hanging around the scratch ticket machine at a grocery store during the lunch hour. They appear to be employed, otherwise mostly functional members of society, and yet there they are standing around watching each other do scratch-offs. Is this a social activity now? I need to know if anyone else has witnessed something like this.
Back to the bracket. My darkest confession: I haven’t watched a college basketball game all year. What can I tell you? When you go to a school with a storied basketball tradition like F&M, and you are used to sellout crowds at the G*Rob Center, sitting on your couch watching Michigan (yawn) play Wisconsin (puke) doesn’t get your blood pumping. You haven’t experienced basketball pandemonium until you’ve seen a white guy throw down a delicate dunk on a breakaway against Swarthmore. That will send the student section into hysterics. I once lost a flip-flop during such a scrum.
So, if I haven’t watched a single game all year, how am I going to fill out my bracket? How will I guarantee I get upwards of 20 of the first 32 games correct? I spent most of the day trying to figure that out myself and I came up with the following list of guidelines. Rules for the uneducated…
1. Protect Your References. Even if you haven’t watched a minute of basketball, you can distract people with random knowledge. For example, in those dreaded 8/9 matchups you must play to your strength. I will take #8 Colorado over #9 Pitt, because if someone asks me about Colorado, I can say, “How many did Chauncey Billups have?” At which point hopefully the person moves onto another topic without me looking like a fool. The only person I know who went to Pitt is Dan Marino.
2. Be Aware of Zealots. At this point in my life I just want to watch the games, maybe see a couple of buzzer beaters–the usual. I don’t need any added stress. So, if I live with a die-hard fan of some school, or the guy next to me at work has shaved Arizona’s logo into the back of his head, I’m going to pick that team to win a few games. Path of least resistance. You’re cheering for your own well-being.
3. Ask the Biggest College Basketball Fan You Know Who They Have–Then Eliminate That Team. I guarantee you that every serious fan out there has already filled out at least eleven versions of their bracket. Sh*t is crossed out. They hear a podcast from the equipment manager at VCU and suddenly that CHANGES EVERYTHING. It’s not that they don’t know what they are talking about, it’s that no one is good at doing this. NO ONE.
4. Hard No to Wichita State. In 1976, Bobby Knight browbeat his Hoosiers to a perfect 32-0 record and won the national championship. Quinn Buckner was on that team. Yes, that odd man you see on television actually played basketball. But, in the almost four decades since, no other team has pulled off this feat. And, if UNLV couldn’t do it, I’ll be god-damned if I watch Wichita State go undefeated. I’ll take Louisville in a laugher.
5. Be Provincial. It’s far more acceptable to adopt college basketball teams than say an NFL team. You probably don’t see many Browns fans racehorse down to Cincy to bask in the glow of a Bengals playoff weekend, but I think you can pull this off for the NCAA tournament. If you can get to a bar that will be packed with a certain team’s fans you should go ahead and get in the mix. Then someone says, “Oh, did you go to _____?” No, but I have them in my pool! If you don’t live near any team that is in the dance, I suggest heading to Omaha. Might as well get that trip to Nebraska off the bucket list during Doug McDermott’s swan song.
So, there you have it. Please let me know how well this works for you and kindly pass along a 10% “tribute” from your winnings.
Now, in regard to the annual Three Putt Territory Pool, which always crowns a worthy winner and then pays them out a heaping helping of pride, as I said: No Warren Buffett–Yahoo! (Warren’s other partner) has really got me sour this year, because they required a phone number to reactivate the Three Putt Territory Pool. If you think I’m going to allow Yahoo! to start sending me text messages, you are SORELY mistaken. I’ll go completely off the grid before that happens.
So, this year, I’ll be using ESPN to score the pool. If you played before, I will try to remember this in my brain device and send you an invitation. If you did not, or you stumbled across this post by accident, feel free to use the following information to join my ESPN group.
Group Name: Three Putt Territory
*Use the Edit Bracket Function to Give Your Pool A Name That Will Make Me Chortle.