March 19, 2015

March Madness 2015: my 'virgin' brackets


March Madness is back! I have once again joined my dad’s former work pool and will post the round-by-round damage done to my brackets. Today, just before the Round of 64 gets underway, I am posting my “virgin” brackets, dubbed Ashley Judd and Clogging.

Why Ashley Judd and Clogging? I have picked Kentucky to win it all on both brackets and chose to give each a Kentucky-themed name. Ashley Judd is a very visible Wildcat fan and I look forward to seeing gratuitous shots of her all tournament. Clogging is the official dance of Kentucky. Who knew? I originally named that bracket Fried Chicken, but decided I could do much better.

Unfortunately, there is already turmoil — perhaps a very bad sign of things to come. I picked BYU to advance to the third round on both brackets. The Cougars were bounced in the First Four by a resilient Ole Miss team. I was banking on the Cougars’ ability to score in bunches, and they did just that against the Rebels in the first half. But college basketball has a strange, and often agonizing, way of imposing balance, and that balance came in a second-half cold streak and too many turnovers. Ole Miss won and I was able to change my pick before my dad turned our brackets in. (I wanted to stick with Ole Miss, but my dad changed my pick to Xavier. Fingers crossed!)

On Clogging, I picked Boise State to advance to the third round. Boise State was beaten by Dayton last night. (That should have been a foul at the end, damn it!) My brackets had been turned in long before so there was no going back, no switching to Dayton or Providence, so I’ll have to begrudgingly eat that one.

That is one thing I hate about my dad’s former work pool — the picks need to be in on Wednesday, before the Round of 64 is set. Every year it seems an 11-seed goes deep, but the brackets need to be turned in before we know that second 11 to advance. If I am spending five bucks per bracket to enter that pool, I want to know every single team in the Round of 64, so I may not join next year. (However, I like the monetary incentive.)

Let the second-guessing and regrets begin.

Though the First Four does not count in the pool, I decided to pick winners for those games just for the fun of it. I was 0-4 on Ashley Judd and 1-3 on Clogging — perhaps another bad omen.

A couple other thoughts:

•Ashley Judd was my first instinct bracket. Whichever team popped into my head first was the winner of that game. However, the championship game between Kentucky and Duke gave me pause. My first instinct was Duke. I do not think Kentucky is invincible, but I decided not to listen to instinct and picked the Wildcats.

•Clogging is the bracket I put thought and time into building. I dove into the stats to make “educated” picks, emphasizing defense in the later rounds. Virginia allows the fewest points in the country and I am hoping that defense will carry them to the ‘ship. Perhaps the Cavaliers can beat Kentucky, but the Wildcats allow the third fewest points and Virginia is not the highest scoring team in the country. Hence, I picked Kentucky.

•I want a Wichita State-Kansas match-up in the third round. I am sure the Shockers want it badly, too. If the Shockers get a shot at the Jayhawks — something they have probably been dreaming about for years — I think they will seize the opportunity for in-state bragging rights.

•A potential Wisconsin-Arizona match-up gave me fits. I split that pick on both brackets, but I think Arizona would have an advantage since the game would be played in LA and Arizona fans could make it a de facto home game for the Wildcats.

•I picked my Kentucky-Wisconsin winner on Clogging by coin flip. I was leaning Wisconsin, and when my first flip favored Kentucky I decided to make it two out of three. The second flip went to Wisconsin but the third was for Kentucky.

•I also split my Iowa-Davidson pick between brackets. Can the Hawkeyes men’s program win its first tournament game since I was in high school? I hope so, but Davidson’s sharp shooting from outside scares me.