Some picks can spoil the fun of March

Posted March 25, 2010, at 11:48 p.m.

The bad news is just about everything else. Kansas was supposed to win it all, after all, and I also had Siena getting to the Sweet 16.

And it only figures to get worse, since two of the other three teams that are supposed to reach the Final Four — Syracuse and West Virginia —have injury issues that at some point figure to derail their pursuit of one shining moment.

Perhaps the best news of all is that while I do fill out a March Madness bracket each year, I never put my money where my lack of knowledge is.

Millions of Americans pluck down gazillions of sheckles on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament each year, but I choose not to pretend I know what I’m talking about when putting pen to bracket paper.

And that is one of the funniest things about bracket mania — watching guys act like they know the identity of Northern Iowa’s sixth man when they barely know the name of Duke’s coach.

Admittedly there are exceptions.

Alex Hermann, an autistic 17-year-old from the Chicago area, picked every game of the tournament’s first two rounds correctly in his CBSsports.com pool.

He wisely selected Cornell and Northern Iowa to reach the Sweet 16, as well as St. Mary’s of California.

The odds of going 48-0 in the first two rounds are 1 in 13,460,000, according to BookofOdds.com, and of the 4.78 million entries in ESPN’s online bracket challenge this year no one is perfect and the leader is 44-4.

But even Alex’s fast start may not pay off, as he has Purdue winning it all.

Better to buy a lottery ticket, perhaps.

Of course, there is fun to be had in this bracket madness, the chance to talk trash with buddies or workmates each time one of your “upset specials” like Ohio University over Georgetown comes true.

But there’s at least one other troubling side to filling out these brackets. Unless you’re selecting each game based on something obscure like the more aggressive team nickname — the Cal Golden Bears defeating the Louisville Cardinals, for example — then many folks are advancing teams based on the programs they see on SportsCenter all the time — like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.

And we know how good that was for me.

Or you’re relying on that tidbit of “inside” information you gleaned while scanning the sports section or just before changing radio stations.

Perhaps in this modern sports world where everything is based on statistics, there’s a special number that turns you on to a certain program, like teams seeded ninth or worse are twice as likely to defeat higher-seeded favorites if they take more than 35 percent of their shots from beyond the 3-point arc — which is a made-up statistic but probably not far from the truth.

Whatever the inside information or statistic that drives you, they often lead to choices made on who you think is going to win rather than who you want to win.

And that sometimes means you must pick teams you absolutely do not want to win, which to me seems to take some of the fun out of March Madness.

Because while I think the Kentucky Wildcats may win it all now, their coach John Calipari — who left Final Four teams at Massachusetts (1996) and Memphis (2008) just ahead of NCAA investigations — can’t lose soon enough for me.

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