Brendan Haywood is a Bracket God
The (men's) college basketball season is over, and we have our celebrity NCAA bracket winner. His name is Brendan Haywood, and some of you ridiculed him for not picking North Carolina, his former school, to win it all. Well, who's laughing now? Brendan--whose brilliant weekend by scoring a career-high 25 on Saturday night--won a non-monetary championship by following his mind and not his heart, and for that he should be praised. Haywood got seven of the Elite Eight correct, and three of the Final Four, and I'm told he watched Kansas's triumph Monday night at the ESPNZone downtown. Second place was Austin Kearns, and third place was James Carville.
The winner of the non-celebrity portion of the pool? Yeah, his/her name was Stupid. So congrats to Stupid. And yeah, I guess that means Brendan Haywood's with Stupid.
And now to judge my ridiculously failed Seven Principles for a Winning NCAA Bracket, published in the Washington Post and on this Web site along with a giant photo of my head. The judgment was mostly bad, although if you had followed the Las Vegas Sports Consultants bracket, which had all four one seeds in the final and Kansas winning it all, you'd probably be pretty happy today.
First Rule: Ignore the 5-12 advice, and take all 5 seeds. In fact, take virtually all first-round favorites.
Verdict: Twelve seeds went 2-2. Whoops. But higher seeds, excluding the 8-9 games, went 22-6, which was more than good enough to keep you in contention. I'll call this a B-.
Second Rule: Hate Cinderella. Pick against the Missouri Valley, the Mountain West and Gonzaga. Love the ACC in the first round. And don't put upstarts in the Elite Eight.
Verdict: The Missouri Valley went 0-1 in the first round, the Mountain West 1-1, and Gonzaga lost. The ACC was 3-1. But three non-BCS teams made the Elite Eight: Xavier, Davidson and Memphis. I'll call this a B.
Third Rule: Upset picks come from the BCS conferences, and look especially for teams that can shoot the three.
Verdict: Among the biggest first-round upsets (by seed) were Villanova over Clemson and Kansas State over Southern Cal. And Villanova was one of the biggest surprises, by seed, in the Sweet 16. But all the three-shooting BCS lower seeds bowed out early, and Davidson and Western Kentucky also starred. I'll call this a C-.
Fourth Rule: Concentrate your upsets in the second, third and fourth rounds. Remember, there will never ever ever be four one seeds in the Final Four. You're an idiot if you pick all four one seeds. Etc.
Verdict: Yeah. Not so much. I'll call this an F.
Fifth Rule: Don't pick the pre-tourney favorites to win it all. Instead, look to teams with good Vegas odds that aren't gathering as much popular support, like Kansas, Texas and Georgetown
Verdict: Kansas was the fourth-most popular pick in the WPNI tourney tracker, and selecting the Jayhawks certainly would have been smarter than taking UCLA or UNC. But they were a one seed, and they sure weren't a darkhorse. I guess I'll call this a B.
Sixth Rule: Don't pick a team to win it all that hasn't recently appeared in the Final Four.
Verdict: That worked. It was one last-second three-pointer away from not working, but it worked. Give it an A.
Seventh Rule: Arbitrarily, once you've chosen your national champion, go backwards and give that team's respect in the earlier rounds, because there often seems to be a correlation.
Verdict: The Big 12 went 5-1 in the first round, even though seedings would have suggested a 3-3 mark. But Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma all lost in the second round. This was no better than a C+.
Overall verdict: If you followed my advice, there's almost no chance you won your pool. Sorry. Trust me, this hurt me more than it hurt you.
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