NCAA brackets bound to fail early

By Phillip Ericksen

During mid-to-late February, a certain air begins to come over the sports world. Everyone feels it and there’s no doubt to its source: March Madness. Or as I call it, March Sadness.

Before filling out my bracket this year, I watched hours of analysis of ESPN’s so-called “experts” and gained as much insight as I could. I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I really can’t emphasize my wrongness enough. Here’s what I got:

I correctly predicted 19 or 32 second-round games, 7 of 16 third-round games and one of eight Sweet 16 matchups. Only one of my Elite 8 teams, Louisville, was right. One. No Final Four teams.

What does it all mean? What can I take away from my intense failure? Am I not a “real sports fan”? Am I just some guy who watches ESPN and thinks I know what I’m talking about, when I don’t?

Spinning into a pit of self-denial is never very fun, especially when it’s caused by only a few college basketball games.

Having a busted bracket is equivalent to being the last one picked for kickball in grade school or going to the dentist. It’s as bad as dropping your phone or having to retake Chapel.

Why even predict these games? We might as well predict the weather each day or how many times a bird dog barks within one minute.

There’s no way to pick these games correctly. It’s impossible.

The seeds don’t mean anything once the game begins: it’s just two teams and a basketball on a court. In this tournament, a 15-seeded Florida Gulf Coast beats second-seeded Georgetown, then wins another game after that. Bracket busted.

Wisconsin, coming off of a huge win over Indiana to take the Big 10 Tournament, loses in the first round to 12th-seeded Mississippi. So much for momentum and a predicted Final Four appearance.

Kansas, also after winning its conference championship in dominant fashion, loses in the Sweet 16. So much for a predicted national championship.

I try not to beat myself up over this. After all, the NCAA tournament is all about great players and great games. Buzzer-beaters and Cinderella teams go down in history and NBA draft stocks skyrocket or plummet. It’s an exciting time for sports.

Nevertheless, knowing you have a busted bracket is not exciting. It’s frustrating and embarrassing, especially if you’re in it with a group of friends where everyone can see.

Studying stats and reading scouting reports won’t help predict anything. Bad shooting nights, injuries, controversial calls or just pure, dumb luck can easily translate to lost games in this tournament, and those are impossible to pick. I think I’ve finally accepted that after using my studying method for as long as I can remember.

It’s all fun and games, but there’s still something telling me otherwise.

The need to be correct on these goes beyond regular excitement. It’s hope.