THE OTHER FINAL FOUR: THE BASKETBALL ONE, NOT THE HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

Oh dear, it has been a while since I’ve posted.  I have to admit, as we come down the stretch toward Easter the amount of time I have to write for fun has shrunk significantly.  It doesn’t help at all that Easter is so early this year.  It seems to me we haven’t gotten all the Christmas ornaments put away just yet.

However, we trudge along.  Recently I wrote about one of our winter staff traditions regarding Ash Wednesday.  Another tradition that we have is the spring ritual of filling out our NCAA basketball brackets.  That’s right–its Tourney Time!

I have blogged in the past about some of my rationale for picks.  Sadly, neither my alma mater (Texas Longhorns) or the UW Huskies are in the tourney nor are powers I root against in the field (Kentucky, Texas A&M) so I’m at a loss in many ways for picking teams.  Never fear, I still made picks.  Here are my Final Four, and some of the thought that went into it.

  1. Gonzaga–Many UW fans hate Gonzaga, but I always want them to win because, let’s face it, Spokane is a dreadful place that must be awful to live in so they need some joy.  Gonzaga always has high hopes but then fizzle.  This year, though, things will be different.  Here is why.  Gonzaga is a Jesuit University.  This week we learned the new pope is a Jesuit.  This has got to be Gonzaga’s year.  If they don’t make a run in this Jesuit happy time, then they never will.
  2. Michigan State–What’s not to like about a team that is named the Spartans?  In terms of actual basketball, they have a tough draw to get to the Final Four–through Duke and probably through #1 seed Louisville.  I generally lean toward Duke because they have a great divinity school but this year I think they lose to MSU and then the awful evil Pitino and his Cardinals must lost.  They must.
  3. Kansas–This feels like a year Kansas could possibly win it all.  They have the easiest draw with no real competition in the South region. Plus, I have a good friend from Kansas so, there you go.
  4. Syracuse–For some reason I’ve just always liked Syracuse.  It might be the orange connection (their team is actually just called ‘The Orange’ now.  I guess that is better than being ‘The Pineapple” or something), but I don’t really know what it is.  Several years back Syracuse beat my Longhorns in the Final Four.  If we were gong to lose to anyone it was completely okay to lose to Syracuse.

As you can see, I am staying with traditional basketball powers.  MSU, Kansas, and Syracuse are the upper crust of collegiate basketball programs and then I am a homer with Gonzaga.  There is always a Cinderella who makes a deep run.  My best guess on that might be the #13 seed New Mexico State Aggies, inspite of their forsaken mascot name.  Now, all this being said keep in mind I have not watched more than maybe 15 minutes of college basketball all year long.

GREENBEAN BBALL BRACKETOLOGY

Update Update:  Okay, I was 50% on the Final Four.  Kansas and Ohio State made it.  Baylor couldn’t get past Kentucky and Michigan State just collapsed.

UPDATE:  Following the first weekend of play, Pastor Greenbean is 10 of 16 in the Sweet 16, and my Final Four are all still in it (Michigan State, Ohio State, Baylor and Kansas).  My Longhorns lost the first game, like I figured they would, but they made a great comeback before finally losing.  Duke let me down, and every team from the west is out. 

Every year I do the work of filling out a bracket for the NCAA March Madness tourney.  I don’t really know that much about college basketball (or basketball in general) and the only games I really watch all year long are the NCAA tourney.  There is just something about the tournament that draws me in; I don’t know what it is.  I always fill out a bracket.

For the past ten years or so, I have made my staff fill one out too.  They hate it, and they probably hate me for making them do it but I chalk it up as a team building exercise.  They are posted in our office and we’ll see who is the closest to right.

There is a system to how I fill out my brackets.  It has little to do with basketball.

1.  Regional loyalty.  I tend to go with the homer teams from the Northwest.  This year, that is not many because neither UW or WSU were that good and the Pac-12 is down this year.  Gonzaga made it in, as usual, but it is so hard to root for them because they so often disappoint.  However, they did win last night in the first round (actually, it is the second round, but I will NEVER count the play-in games as the first round.  NEVER).  Regional loyalty means that I pull for teams which are from the west, if only to overcome the blatant east-coast bias.  Historically, though, I draw the line at three schools which I can never advance too far and I never root for them.  They are USC, Colorado, and BYU.  Sadly, Colorado won yesterday, against another team from the west.  Double fail.

2.  Texas loyalty.  I do not extend this to Big-12 teams, although Big-12 teams tend to do well in the tourney.  However, I pull for Texas teams and generally schedule them to advance.  Last night I cheered on Baylor.  The one exception to this Texas rule is Texas A&M.  Traitors.  But they are not in it this year.

3.  Divinity Schools.  Many of the teams are connected to divinity schools of repute, especially from the east.  A good example of this is Duke.  I generally advance Duke very deep in my brackets because of their outstanding divinity school.  When I think of Duke I think of Will Willimon. This has served me well as Duke always has a great basketball team and often wins.  I suspect, though, this has more to do with Coach K than Willimon.  Maybe.

4.  The final criteria is seeding.  This year, for example, I advance Kentucky pretty deep into my tourney bracket solely because they are seeded highest.  However, The deeper the seed goes, the more likely I am to advance the “underdog.”  That is why Kentucky is not in my championship game prediction.

As I tweeted earlier this week (@jamiedgreening) I have Kansas and Baylor in the championship game.  But in a few minutes my alma mater tips off (hook ’em) and I will pull for them no matter what.  However, if they pull an upset win today I’ll be happy.  If they make the Sweet 16 I’ll be very shocked.