On the Ball: Another Humbling Bracket Experience

March 19, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2016

Well, it’s that time of year again.

You know, that time of the basketball season where all your genius analysis of which new statistic finally determines which teams are going to advance in the NCAA tournament. And then it gets thrown in your face as you lose the office pool to some clueless lady who thinks Arsenio Hall is where the Lakers play.

I can’t be the only person this happens to, right?

In 2005, the winner of our office bracket pool was a co-worker who once told me she thought she could fold envelopes a certain way to make them lighter. Here was our exchange when I asked her about filling out a bracket.

Me: Hey, are you in for filling out a college basketball bracket? It’s $10.

Her: Oh, basketball? I think I’m taking the Knicks.

Me: Uh-huh….I think we’re going to need your money up front.

Turns out the joke was on me. She went from choosing “the Knicks” to “Carolina” as her winner, though she couldn’t name a single player or coach on the team (much less their mascot) and refused to divulge why she chose them. The Tar Heels took the crown that year.

It didn’t really matter anyway because I, like I have nearly every year since I starting filling out the brackets in 1990, went with my team, the Kansas Jayhawks—who subsequently lost in the first round to 13th-seeded Bucknell. I was done before the first weekend was even over.

Though that incident was nine years ago, the same scenario still plays out today.

Just the other day I walked into a co-worker’s office and saw her finished bracket proudly posted on her wall. I was a little befuddled when I saw she had New Mexico beating my Kansas in the Round of 32, so I asked her why she made that pick. Was it because Joel Embiid, the Jayhawks’ star center, is out? Of course not. It was because her best friend from college lived out there—no wonder she crushed me last year.

I’ve followed the college game, and especially the tournament, for years. I developed numerous theories of what makes a winner.

I used to think senior-dominated teams always did best. Kentucky winning in 2012, with their top five scorers being freshmen and sophomores, blew that away.

I also thought defense always wins championships. Of course UNLV cut down the nets in 1990 with Larry Johnson and company averaging 93.5 points per game.

Then I finally moved on to coaches. Duke’s Coach K, with 11 Final Fours and 4 national titles, seemed a safe bet but even his Blue Devils bowed out in the opener in 2007 and again in 2012.

So, since I don’t have friends that live in New Mexico (just relatives), I guess I’m going to stick with my gut—and my favorite Jayhawks. For my Final Four I picked KU (of course), Creighton (I still hold onto that senior thing), Michigan State (Coach Izzo is pretty good come March), and Duke.

Oh, and the same woman who had New Mexico trumping KU also has North Carolina winning it all—her brother-in-law just moved there.

Looks like another humbling bracket experience again this year.