Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting a Grip by Griping

So about that whole "best week of the year" thing...

The 24-hour span between Saturday and Sunday evening was a terrible one for my various NCAA Tournament brackets, with the following teams that I needed to win in many of my brackets losing in the Round of 32:  1-seeded Pitt, 2-seeded Notre Dame, 3-seeded Syracuse, 3-seeded Purdue, 4-seeded Texas, and 11-seeded Gonzaga (admittedly not that sad of a loss).

These losses came either in heartbreaking fashion due to a late-game snafu or by way of a blowout.  I'm not sure which is worse, frankly, because a close loss is an emotional nightmare but a blowout makes you feel like an idiot for picking them in the first place.

Let's take a look at the carnage.

That's the Pitts

Syracuse/Marquette: This wasn't that dramatic, and a close loss to a team in your conference is not that surprising, but it's just so awful to watch the team you have in the Final Four in a couple brackets go down in the following fashion.  Syracuse threw out this sequence of possessions in the last 2 minutes of the game following Marquette making a 3 to tie the game at 59:
59-59, 1:46 left -- turnover
59-59, 0:52 left -- turnover
59-62, 0:19 left -- missed 3-pointer (didn't get the rebound)

The moral of the story is to not trust the top Big East teams in the NCAA tournament unless they won the conference tournament (see UConn this year and West Virginia last year).

Texas/Arizona: While this game wasn't so critical and really not much of an upset (unless you consider that Texas was not too long ago the top team in the country), Texas blew it after making a nice comeback late in the game.  I mean, seriously?  A five-second violation on an inbounds play when you're up 2 with 13 seconds left?  And then you not only let Derrick Williams get to the rim for a game-tying shot, but you FOUL him just softly enough so that it will count but not hard enough to impact the shot?

As if that wasn't hard enough to watch, Texas had just enough time to get down the court for a layup, but J'Covan Brown decides that this was a nice time to not get a good shot off, and then Texas gets the rebound and appears to be fouled right as the buzzer sounds?  Freaking brutal.  At least I had them losing to Duke in most of my brackets, but it's another reason why you shouldn't put all your bracket eggs in one basket.  Especially if that basket is as inconsistent as Texas was this year.

Pitt/Butler:  Speaking of top Big East teams, if you haven't seen the end of this game, do it.  I don't think you'll ever see a game end like this again.  Two inexplicable fouls in the last five seconds of the game that swing the tide of the game in entirely different directions.  After thinking about it, Butler's Shelvin Mack (who committed the first foul) was the more heinous offender, because there is NO REASON WHATSOEVER for him to be physical with the ballhandler at that point, given that any foul would have given Pitt two shots to at least tie the game.  In the case of the rebound after the missed free throw, there's a lot on the line when it comes to that board because if Pitt manages to wrestle the ball away from Butler they can jack up a quick shot and maybe win the game.   The end of this game just tore the spirit right out of me, and I suppose I should blame myself for not seeing something like this coming with Pitt, who I had going to at least the Elite Eight in at least five of my brackets despite a history of underachieving under Jamie Dixon (who loses, on average, 0.3 games prior to what his seed would predict).

Notre Dammit!

There really isn't much to be said about the games individually, but the games involving Notre Dame and Purdue that had them as higher seeds by 8 (2 v. 10 and 3 v. 11) resulted in losses by an average of 16 points.  Again, I had one of the two of them in the Elite Eight in every one of my brackets, and I had ND in the Final Four in the bracket in which I was doing the best in the pool that actually mattered.  Yes, Purdue had just suspended one of their top defenders and was facing a hot and disrespected VCU team, and yes, Notre Dame relied too much on outside shooting to be considered a worthy contender, but come on, man!  Both teams had top-flight upperclassmen as their leading scorers and had no business losing to anyone but each other.

The State of the Brackets

As of right now, my brackets have 30, 32, 33, 35, 32, and 27 correct picks out of 48 possible (in order of importance of the pool).  At least I can take some solace in the fact that the best bracket on ESPN.com has only 42 out of 48, a bit lower than the usual amount at this point.  It's just so frustrating to deal with because every expert thought that this year would be crazy, and yet the first round yielded just 7 out of 32 possible upsets (and that includes wins by 9 Illinois and 10 Florida State).  Maybe the Sweet Sixteen will yield some crazy upsets that will vindicate me slightly.

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