POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 18, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 10:24 a.m. HST, Mar 18, 2011
My March Madness brackets have been so bad in recent years I figured it was time to lower expectations. So I picked a bunch of underdogs in the office pool with the idea that my chance of winning it all anyway was the same as Alabama State's: slim and none. And Slim left town Wednesday, town being Dayton, Ohio, home of what they now call the First Four.
Ah, the First Four. Those games played for no apparent reason after the conference championships and before the start of the real tournament. You know what: I really like a hot dog now and then — but not between the shrimp cocktail and the filet mignon.
About a decade ago things made too much sense and the NCAA couldn't deal with the logic and symmetry of 64 teams. Blame it on the WAC breakup and the advent of the Mountain West. In 2001 the tournament added a 65th team because the new conference needed an automatic qualifier. I guess simply dropping an at-large spot was voted down if it was brought up at all.
I happened to be there for the first play-in game, since the University of Hawaii was in Dayton to play Syracuse after earning the WAC's Dance bid by winning the conference tournament. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't figure out what Northwestern State and Winthrop had to do with the WAC and MWC and what sense any of that made.
Finally a good spot to get back to lowered expectations and my improbability of out-bracketing the Star-Advertiser news reporters, feature writers, copy editors and graphic designers — not to mention colleagues in the sports department, like our editor Paul Arnett, who ranks teams for the Associated Press poll.
So I went for what I figured to be an easier target: the one-man Cheech and Chong of his generation known as Snoop Dogg. Little did I know I could match college basketball handicapping wits with one of the all-time great rappers, until stumbling upon the group of 90,000 others wanting a bite of the Dogg online at the ESPN Tournament Challenge.
This would be simple. How much half-baked prep work could SD have done? This guy's a football coach and hockey fan who didn't have time to study college basketball the past couple of weeks; he was too busy "rehearsing" with Jeff Ross for the Donald Trump roast. Besides, any notes he'd taken on Syracuse's zone defense or Kyrie Irving's likelihood to play were probably used for rolling papers already.
At first glance, Snoop wasn't terrible on the first day, getting 12 of the 16 games right. But his bracket is up in smoke for the same reason many others have been torn up today: Louisville. He picked the Cardinals to make it to the Final Four. Ain't gonna happen after they fell to the Fighting Phil Simmses of Morehead State.
Everybody Loves Jamie, and it is akin to sitting during "Hawaii Pono‘i" to not advance Pitt to at least the Final Four. But not every former UH assistant is as revered locally as Dixon is; there are definitely mixed feelings at best about Slick Rick.
"I picked Louisville to reach the Final Four hoping it would jinx Pitino," said former Star-Bulletin sports staffer Ben Nishimoto. "It worked. Morehead State fans need to thank me."
They can thank me and a few million others, too. But I had Louisville pegged for just one more win. I got 13 right on the first day and didn't damage the later rounds too much. So there's a good chance I'll finish this thing having achieved my goal of topping the effort of Mr. Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., aka Snoop Dogg.
He might catch me, though, since I've surely made many errors to arise in future rounds. Example: I caught Jimmer fever and probably have BYU going one game too many. Those reports of Florida being over-seeded like Danny Trejo was over-babed in "Machete" don't seem right after what the Gators did to UCSB yesterday. Or maybe any top-five seed would've clobbered the Gauchos.
But if things do continue to go well, maybe I'll set my sights a little higher. That guy Barack from Punahou got 14 right yesterday.