Almost nobody got this Final Four right.
Including you and me. By now, our brackets look like somebody strapped a keg of nitroglycerin to them and heated it up with a blowtorch.
And, you know, that’s a beautiful thing.
Of the millions of people who filled out brackets on Yahoo Sports, all of 191 nailed Florida, Wisconsin, UConn and Kentucky as the last teams standing. According to ESPN, only 612 brackets of the over 11 million entered in its tournament challenge had those four teams getting to North Texas. There were all kinds of reasons not to pick that exact foursome, most of which had to do with the Huskies and the Wildcats.
In each of those samples, only about three percent guessed that Kentucky would make it this far. And about 1 percent went with UConn. Wisconsin was a more popular pick, with 20 percent of the brackets including the Badgers. Florida was a favorite, written into more than 60 percent of the Final Four slots.
The long-shot nature of correctly setting the Final Four in advance, the fact that most of us have either torn up our entries or won’t even look at them anymore, is at the heart of the NCAA Tournament’s popularity. It’s what makes the whole endeavor so spectacular.
Sure, the college game has its issues, problems that are hatefully obvious:
There are too many interruptions detracting from the competitive flow. The shot clock is too long and there’s too much fouling at the end of too many games. There are too many timeouts called in the final minutes, the coaches grabbing games by the throat just when the action on the floor should be reaching a crescendo.
A primary takeaway from this tournament, beyond all the tight games and terrific upsets, is that Buicks no longer look like Buicks, that unexpected refills of Coke at the counter are one of humankind’s greatest joys, and, for the love of man, how many times, exactly, have we all been asked the question that now ranks up there with the all-time existential classics: “What is the meaning of life?” and “Is there life after death?” Yeah, this one: “What’s in your wallet?”
And, then, with so many top players opting for the one-and-done track, the talent level has dropped and the quality of basketball has sunk, too.
But, man, the format is golden. None of us — or only 612 out of over 11 million, so far — knows what’s going to happen. It’s not a completely custom-fit comparison, but, in contrast, if more than 11 million people were asked who was going to make it to the NBA’s Western and Eastern Conference finals, how many would get those picks right?
About 11 million.
The unpredictability of single-game elimination, as opposed to a seven-game series, may not always crown the best team as champion, but it does something even better. It favors a combination of the best and the luckiest. It smiles upon the team that has successfully danced with destiny. And that’s why so few people get this NCAA thing right. The Fates have a way of punching us in the face, and laughing at our pain.
That’s a beautiful thing, too.
From a spectator’s perspective, nothing can be better than being clueless. If we all pretty much knew what was going to happen before it happened, why watch? It’s the reason we became sports fans in the first place: to find out the ending. Just like readers of a cheap romance novel, we’re suckers for drama, and, in this particular case, we had no idea who at least half the remaining protagonists, the major players would be.
Having an eight-seed and a seven-seed in the Final Four, mixed with a 1 and a 2, is cool. It shows that neither the committee nor nobody else knows nothing about nothing, or barely anything about anything. In an era of expert overload, present company included, that’s refreshing. Some things can’t be precisely analyzed and etched into tablet form. There’s no telling. There’s no foretelling.
Watching Kentucky’s freshmen, a group that at times earlier this season looked as though they’d never met one another, come together to play the way they have in the tournament is good fun. Watching UConn make its run, dismantling, among others, Michigan State, a lot of people’s pretournament choice to win it all, may not have always been attractive, but it was a bolt out of the blue. UConn blue.
Who knows, maybe favorite Florida will go on to prove out its top seeding, the way even I predicted it would — the only Final Four team a lot of us have left. But that’s the thing here. Who knows? Almost nobody.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
NCAA Final Four
Connecticut vs. Florida, 4:09 p.m., TBS
• Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, 6:49 p.m., TBS
INSIDE • Billy Donovan’s decision to give guard Scottie Wilbekin a final chance has been key to Florida’s success. > D2