Adventures in Bracketology: One Man’s Journey

I would like to send a message of gratitude to the following basketball teams in no particular order: Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, Butler University Bulldogs, Morehead State Eagles, Florida State University Seminoles, Gonzaga University Bulldogs, the University of California at Los Angeles Bruins and Marquette University Golden Eagles.

Why you may ask? These basketball teams have successfully busted my bracket. The first weekend of March Madness has come and gone like a tornado.

Despite my bracket being destroyed, this weekend was a great one for basketball, complete with jaw-dropping buzzer beaters and shocking upsets that probably left everyone who put money on the high seeds with empty pockets.

I, like every supposed bracketologist, went into this weekend supremely confident that this year was the year where I picked the perfect bracket. I thought at the end of March I would be laughing all the way to the bank when I won the $1 million perfect bracket prize, courtesy of ESPN.

It was Thursday, March 17 and the stars must have been aligned because not only did March Madness begin, but it was also my favorite social holiday: St. Patrick’s Day.

The only thing that was getting in my way of celebrating the tournament and dear old St. Patty was a biology lab. To my pleasant surprise, my biology lab professor, Dr. Susan Walsh, went to Duke, and she allowed the class to view the basketball games during lab time. The day was going great, Butler outlasted Old Dominion and West Virginia came back to beat Clemson, but then Demonte Harper of Morehead State ruined everything.

Louisville, up two, just needed to make two free throws to put the game out of reach, but Elisha Justice missed the front end of a 1 and 1, allowing Harper to ruin my dreams of a perfect bracket by nailing a pull-up three, resulting in a Morehead State upset, beating Louisville 62-61. I made a ruckus in the middle of lab to the shock of all my classmates, but Harper’s three cost me $1 million.

I thought to myself, “Matt, don’t worry; Morehead State is it. The rest of your bracket is and will be untarnished.” Spoiler alert: I was wrong. Temple beat Penn State on a buzzer beater, then Gonzaga beat St. John’s, then Cincinnati beat Missouri, then UCLA beat Michigan State and then it was time for a Guinness.

It was the first day of the tournament and I had already lost two Sweet 16 teams, one Elite-Eight team and a couple fistfuls of hair.

I thought the second day of the tournament would get better.

It was, as all my picks were correct except for VCU over Georgetown. Days three and four would officially bust my bracket as Pitt decided to choke hard against Butler in the final seconds and I waved bye-bye to a Final Four team.

If Saturday was bad, Sunday was worse. Arizona defeated Texas by one—another Sweet-16 team gone—and I switched over to the VCU vs. Purdue game expecting the Boilermakers to be up big on the 11 seeded Rams.

However, the result was reversed and I watched another Sweet 16 give way as Purdue ended up losing by 18. After I got to watch another three-seed fall to an 11 seed in the form of Marquette (11) vs. Syracuse (3). For a nightcap, I got to watch my thought-to-be-Elite Eight bound Irish fall victim to Florida State and then I went grabbing for another Guinness.

What did this weekend tell me? First of all, I would like to thank ESPN again for brainwashing me into thinking that the Big East is indestructible and again my bracket fell victim to overconfidence in the Big East high seeds.

After starting the tournament with 11 teams, only two Big East teams, UCONN and Marquette, earned entry into the Sweet 16. Second of all, having the selection committee choose the teams on a Sunday, gives me and the rest of America four days of uneducated over-analyzing, why not change Selection Sunday to Selection Wednesday?

To close, here are my picks for the results in the Sweet 16, and the Elite 8. Stay tuned for updated Final Four picks.

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