JoWhenever I turn on March Madness coverage on TV and hear that beautiful music play over and over again, it's almost as if I died and arrived at the pearly gates of Heaven. Repeatedly.
I filled out my bracket in about 15 minutes before I wrote this post (9:46 or so on Monday, to be specific), and while doing so, quickly realized that I didn't watch as much college hoops as I normally do this year. In fact, the last game I watched was on Saturday before I went to work. It was Ben Simmons and LSU getting Globetrottered by Texas A&M. To be dramatic about it, the entire experience was about as fun as watching someone get a colonic.
Here's the thing about March Madness that's euphoric and vexing, depending on circumstance: the tournament is so unpredictable, that high college basketball acumen isn't necessary for filling out a bracket, or at least guessing on what teams will come out on top. For example: one year, a friend of mine made her picks based entirely on what mascots she liked more, or colors of the school.
"That's not a good strategy," I said, self-confidently and braggadociously. She went on to have the second best bracket in our pool. I finished fourth or so. So, it was a bad year for me.
This year, I kept the picking process simple. I know that the big ballers are going to ball, the shot-callers are gonna call ... shots, and that Duke will most likely get wiped out by a lesser team. Yes, I know that they won the title last year, but I always keep a slight sliver of hope that someone will do the Lord's work and put them out of their misery early. Or rather put me out of my misery of having to watch them play.
Seriously, remember when Lehigh beat Duke in '12? The best part of that year's One Shining Moment montage was hearing the announcers shout "LEHIGH BEATS DUKE." Watching the ending to that was like drinking a glass of the tears of Coach K, Christian Laettner, and Dick Vitale, and it was delicious, baby!
As a way to conceptualize my hatred of them, I like to think of Duke as the House Lannister of college basketball. Grayson Allen is like a dark-haired King Joffrey. I guess that would make Coach K Joffrey's dad Robert? Or maybe Tywin? I actually kind of liked Robert, so we'll say Tywin. They're both equally reprehensible. Marshall Plumlee can be Jaime, except not good-looking Jaime from the first season. He's crusty, one-handed Jaime from season three. I haven't really thought this all the way through, so just bear with it for now.
Either way, I've been rather nice to Duke this year, though. I could've been savage and had UNC-Wilmington take 'em to the cleaners but from what I've seen of Duke this year, they've got a relatively solid team. They'll find a way to advance at least to the second round, where they'll probably become the DiCaprios to Baylor's Bears. Only this time, they won't survive the mauling.
Another take: I can see Kansas making it to the championship game and dropping the ball. I've never been a big believer of Bill Self's Kansas teams. A lot of it has to do with the unrealized potential of some of their players, like Cliff Alexander last year. Dude would have definitely changed the game for them if he was eligible to play come March. A lot of it also has to do with the fact that I'm still reeling from Bill's whole "Taking my talents to Lawrence" moment when he and the greatest Illinois team ever assembled were poised to win it all.
(Note: I've come to realize that a lot of my bracket decisions are based on my salt against some other teams. It hasn't gotten me far in the past.)
Michigan State has a good chance to win it all this year, in my eyes. Denzel Valentine is a big reason, but we all know that Tom Izzo is a magician. He had the most forgettable team of all time last year, and they made it to the Final Four. For real, who was on the team last year besides Gary Harris?
I wouldn't be surprised if the NCAA gods activated the Chaos Emerald and flipped everything upside down as soon as the First Four gets underway. If this were a perfectly mad world, a Missouri Valley team would come out on top.
Even madder, Bradley University would snag a seed. Maybe someday.