Because someone made the mistake of asking to see it
Many, many people on my social media accounts – okay, one person -- asked me to post my bracket.
Fact is, I hadn’t done one for years until 2018, when my new neighbor Bob Baker (whom I keep wanting to call Bob Barker) asked me to join his family pool . . . Which I won . . . Which (kiddingly) irritated his family when they found out I had worked in the sports department of newspapers since I was a senior in high school.
So, there was only one thing to do: Defend my title.
Now, be advised, the National Champion I ended up with was not the one I intended to have when I started the bracket. It was the same conference, but when push came to shove, I went a different way.
So, here we go . . .
Step by step (the entire First Four and First Round done first before completing each Region separately):
>>> Since they added a second 16-vs.-16 Play-In game, they have essentially created two faux 16 Seeds (the ones that go right to the main draw) that would have been 15 Seeds in the past. And as the Dukes and the Syracuses of the world know, 15 Seeds’ dreams do come true. It was just a matter of time and that time was 2018 and the school was UMBC. (Yes, we had them on the money line, as we do all 9-16 Seeds the first two days, but that is another story.)
So, this year, the choice was Iona (vs. North Carolina) or Gardner-Webb (vs. Virginia).
The last time they asked a top-seeded Tar Heel team to open play anywhere but in the Carolinas (North or South) was Hartford in 1998. But it is Columbus (Ohio) not Columbia (S.C.) for UNC in 2019, so we thinks they be ticked. Therefore, UVA is going down early again.
>>> Then, we look for the teams with the best three-point percentages as a team and strongly consider them to win at least a game: Wofford, Virginia (oops, never mind), FDU, Virginia Tech, Marquette, Gardner-Webb (hello again!), Colgate.
>>> Now, if you can’t make threes, you better make twos. Best two-point FG Pct. Teams included: Gonzaga, Belmont (sorry, Bruins, not on your Cherry-and-White life), Liberty, Duke, New Mexico St.
>>> And if you don’t makes shots . . . well, you better rebound the misses. Those top net boarding teams included: Michigan State, North Carolina, Utah State, Kentucky, UC Irvine (but always had an NCAA first-round thing for Kansas State, so I couldn’t pull that trigger) and our mini-sleeper Houston.
>>> With those games filled in we just went through the ones we hadn’t picked and took our gut and some picks from the heart. Then we went Region by Region.
> There was no way in heck we were NOT going to have Temple getting through to the second weekend, and since we had Yale beating LSU, that shouldn’t be a problem. Duke, Michigan State and Virginia Tech were easy advances, but no one at those schools is stopping Zion short of April.
> I know Gonzaga is going to win a National Championship some season and I thought this might be the year, but they struggled in a couple of first halves during the season and it cost them against a good-but-not-great Saint Mary’s team in the WCC Final. Not this year, Zags. Plus, if the Marquette from January/early February re-emerges, this Region is toast. We have been on Buffalo and Nevada from November, so let’s have them meet the other regional semi.
> The heart really comes into play here. Was absolutely going to have the second-round Penn alumnus coaching game (Iowa’s Fran McCaffery vs. Colgate’s Matt Langel) and Villanova (6-2 vs. Big Ten in the Big Dance since 1978) shrugs off Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin and just like that, the Wildcats are back in the Final Four.
> Let’s face it, all things point to a Duke-Carolina Final, so we move the Tar Heels to Minneapolis and figure out the rest of the Region. We still need a sleeper for a round or two (come on down, Northeastern) and we’ll let Houston knock off Kentucky to earn the right to lose to UNC in the Regional Final.
>>> FINAL FOUR
> Two of the absolute best – albeit different – players in the country square off in one semifinal and we give it to Markus Howard and the Golden Eagles. We see more Big East games than ACC and we simply can’t get it out of our head some of his performances (1-for-15 day in MSG last weekend not withstanding).
> Villanova and North Carolina meet for the eighth time in Tournament history -- the second-most common match-up ever (Kentucky-Marquette, 10) -- and then, some how, some way, Phil Booth works his magic again. (Look for more on that in a separate post here.)
> The No. 6 seed has not won a NCAA Championship since Danny and the Jaywalk Juniors in 1988, but since we had Manning previously lined up in our Monday Quickie Quiz before the Bracket was revealed, Villanova getting a No. 6 seed was the basketball heavens’ way of telling me that the Wildcats were going to do the same thing I am going to do:
“Defend my title!”
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Here’s is me entire bracket (link to PDF below):