Is this the NCAA basketball tournament or gymnastics?



March 18, 2017

Perhaps we all should have used chalk while filling out this year’s NCAA basketball tournament bracket.

There’s so much chalk flying around right now, you’d think we were actually watching the NCAA gymnastics championships – which would be great news for the perpetually top-ranked Oklahoma men’s and women’s teams.

Chalk picks are boring. No upsets. Nothing but favorites across the board.

According to Kevin Kaduk of The Dagger, an unfathomable 36 entries in Yahoo’s NCAA basketball tournament bracket went a perfect 32-for-32 in the opening round. One other entry also went 32-for-32, but inexplicably picked only three Final Four teams and failed to pick a winner in the national championship game, taking his classroom grade from an A-plus to an Incomplete.

If these perfect pickers were Berkshire Hathaway employees for billionaire Warren Buffet, each would have received $1 million for their spotless brackets after one round. (One Buffet employee went 31 for 32 and pocketed a $100,000 top prize.)

The odds of someone picking a perfect opening round in the NCAA basketball tournament is 1 in 4,294,967,296, according to USA Today, and yet 36 entries pulled it off in the Yahoo bracket. Someone care to calculate those odds?

Kaduk writes that in the previous 18 years Yahoo has hosted its pick’em tournament bracket, only one person was perfect through the opening round.

What makes the NCAA basketball tournament so darn amusing is the predictable unpredictability, which leads to a lack of boredom.

This week, um, not so much – particularly with the Thursday-Saturday games.

Granted, there is intrigue when the best available teams survive and advance and eventually go head-to-head, but sometimes Cinderella doesn’t get an invite.

Only once since seeding began in 1979 have four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four. That came in 2008 at San Antonio with North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Memphis. In one of the most dramatic championship games ever, KU beat Memphis in overtime.

Most of Saturday’s second-round matchups couldn’t possibly have been more predictable with No. 1 seeds (Villanova and Gonzaga) playing No. 8 seeds (Wisconsin and Northwestern, respectively) and three No. 4 seeds (West Virginia, Florida and Purdue) facing No. 5 seeds (Notre Dame, Virginia and Iowa State, respectively).

I write this blog while yawning and watching West Virginia put the finishing touches on a convincing 81-71 victory over Notre Dame in Buffalo, N.Y. The Big 12 Mountaineers now advance to the West Regional in San Jose, Calif., to face the Gonzaga-Wisconsin winner.

Only two double-digit seeds advanced to Saturday, led by No. 12-seeded Middle Tennessee State, but even that was predictable. The Blue Raiders (31-4) were the most popular pick in the obligatory No. 12 vs. No. 5 opening-round upset pool and they came through with a methodical 81-72 disposal of Minnesota.

Saturday’s only other double-digit seed is No. 11 Xavier, which faces No. 3 Florida State under former Oklahoma State coach Leonard Hamilton.

Sunday is a little more interesting with three double-digit seeds still alive in No. 11 USC facing No. 3 Baylor, No. 11 Rhode Island against No. 3 Oregon and No. 10 Wichita State battling No. 2 Kentucky.

If chalk continues to fly, next week’s Sweet 16 potentially could have nothing but the top four seeds from every region.