Every year, college basketball fans, from experts to the casual follower, fill out their brackets, join a pool and watch the games unfold.
You lean on years of experience, thinking you’ve nailed every upset. You look at all the 5-12 matchups. And you even consider some 3-14s, just to be safe. You made sure you don’t have too many No. 1s in the Final Four because A.) That’s no fun and B.) All four No. 1 seeds rarely make it that far.
Then, you sit back and watch — as it all blows up in your face. Usually before the first Sunday comes to a close.
It happens every year, and still, every year, you come back for more. Glutton for punishment that you are.
Believe me, I know from experience.
This year, I considered every pick. I listened to the pundits as they laid out their selection strategies, and I waited until the night before the Round of 64. I even watched the expert videos as I filled out my ESPN bracket.
Carefully weighing every matchup, I was confident the Final Four would be Villanova out of the East Region, Gonzaga out of the West, Louisville from the Midwest and North Carolina from the South.
To review, that’s three No. 1 seeds, with a No. 2 in Louisville to round it out. And Gonzaga would be my national champion.
I started out OK, I guess. In the Round of 64, I nailed 75 percent of the picks, but the games I missed virtually shattered my East Region.
I had New Mexico State over Baylor, with New Mexico State going to the Sweet 16. I also had Marquette over South Carolina, with Marquette going to the Elite 8. Couldn’t have been more wrong.
Then, the Round of 32 began, and Florida demolished Virginia and Wisconsin took out defending champion Villanova.
I’m not even into Sunday, and the East is dead to me.
Looking on the bright side, my national champion made it through the first weekend, as did three of the four Sweet 16 teams in the West.
And today will go a long way in determining how my bracket will fare, dumpster fire or semi-genius. In the Midwest Region, I have 11-seed Rhode Island over 3-seed Oregon. And in the South, I have 10-seed Wichita State over 2-seed Kentucky.
Upset specials. You heard it here first.
Outside of that God-forsaken East Region, it’s possible I’ll have 10 of the 12 remaining members of the Sweet 16.
Stranger things have happened, I suppose.
For example, back in 2006, I watched my alma mater 3-seed Iowa Hawkeyes take on the 14-seed Northwestern State Demons out of Louisiana.
Surely, this would be a walk in the park. I shouldn’t have to worry until the Sweet 16, at least.
But those acquainted with Iowa basketball lore know exactly what transpired. A last-second, desperation heave ended the season for that ultra-talented group led by current UCLA head coach Steve Alford.
Of course, that’s not the only memorable upset from the state of Iowa. Who could forget the 15-seed Hampton Pirates taking out the 2-seed Iowa State Cyclones back in 2001?
Not gonna lie, that one makes me smile a little.
OK, a lot.
But it’s not all bad news in these parts. Remember that magical 2010 bracket-buster by the University of Northern Iowa over the No. 1 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks to reach the Sweet 16?
It’s memories like those that shape how we’ll pick in the future. How much can we really trust a 3-seed or a 2-seed or even a No. 1 overall?!
No one seems to be safe.
The only sure bet seems to be No. 1s in the first round. They’re a collective 132-0 over the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
After that, it’s a crap shoot.
For every predictably frustrating victory by a Duke or Kentucky, there’s a Cinderella by the name of George Mason, who somehow, someway makes it all the way to the Final Four as an 11-seed after taking out perennial powers Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn.
But isn’t that why it’s incredibly fun and mind-numbingly infuriating all at the same time?! Isn’t that why we come back year after year?
And isn’t that why, dumpster fire or semi-genius, I’ll see the rest of you gluttons for punishment next season?
Happy March Madness, everyone!