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Process of eliminationPosted Thursday, March 27, 2008, at 6:05 PM
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert, I just like to pretend I'm one in writing. You can't take any of this to the bank because I'm an idiot. With that said, I think this idiot can do about as well at picking a champion as any of the better-paid idiots on ESPN.
After a weekend of the NCAA Tournament, one might assume the NCAA tournament picture would become clearer. Three-quarters of the field is back home catching up on class work.
Unfortunately, it still isn't clear. As we look up and down this field, we can see glaring problems with each of the remaining 16 teams. I can't imagine being completely satisfied with any one of these as champions. Apparently, one of them has to win, though. (Sounds like the presidential race, huh?)
My problem with filling out brackets is doing it the traditional way. I always get to the end and think, "Pittsburgh versus Clemson? That's a horrible championship game."
For the record, I picked UCLA over Georgetown before the tournament this year, so I could be half right.
But that doesn't mean I won't change my picks now.
Instead of figuring it out, game-by-game, I decided to look at the teams and set some criteria to eliminate the ones I deemed unworthy. It's not overly scientific and I don't even claim it's fair. There are some traditional powers I just want to make fun of. (Look out Jayhawks and Tar Heels.)
I'm sorry, Cinderellas, but the ball ends sometime. George Mason showed us a couple of years ago that midnight can come a little later than we thought. But it still always comes.
The last school to win the whole thing that wasn't from one of the "Big Six," was UNLV in 1990, but they were cheating, so we can disregard that, too.
That means so long to Davidson, Western Kentucky, Xavier and, yes, you too, Memphis. You've all been good contestants, but we'll have to ask you to play again next year.
(John Calipari should be happy, I found a reason to eliminate his team that had nothing to do with free throw shooting.)
Too many losses
Only three times in the history of the NCAA Tournament has a team with 10 or more losses won the whole thing. Oddly, all three of those came in a six-year span that included North Carolina State (26-10) in '83, Villanova (25-10) in '85 and Kansas (27-11) in '88.
My explanation for this? It was the 1980s, a.k.a. the era of the underdog. Remember the Miracle on Ice? What about the Goonies? I'm sorry, but nobody's finding One-Eyed Willie's gold this year.
Goodbye, Villanova (22-12) and West Virginia (26-10).
With the easy ones out of the way, I now turn my attention to conferences that aren't' necessarily deserving.
Although the Big XII has been existence for just 13 seasons, its teams (eight of which made of the Big 8 and four of which were in the Southwest Conference) don't exactly have a glowing track record of NCAA greatness. In the last 55 years, these 12 schools have combined to win a whopping one national championship (the aforementioned '88 Jayhawks team). With that in mind, Texas is immediately out of the question.
It's a little trickier with Kansas, though. They are the one who won that championship. However, Bill Self is an underachiever in the tournament and certainly no Larry Brown. None of his players are worthy of Danny Manning. Kansas is out for me as well.
Pac 10 (Besides UCLA)
The Bruins' 11 championships notwithstanding, the other nine teams in the conference have won only one championship since 1960. That's nearly as sad as the Big XII. Washington State and Stanford, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.
I'm a lifelong Big Ten fan, so I'm not going to poke quite the same fun at it as our friends to the west. But, I also don't think I've ever correctly picked a Big Ten team to win it all. I've either fallen in love with a team who wasn't worthy (Indiana in multiple years) or chosen to ignore a team that was an obvious favorite because I just didn't like it (Michigan State in 2000).
Neither this year's Spartans nor Wisconsin seems to be that much of a lock, so I'll eliminate them as well.
That leaves us with North Carolina, Louisville, Tennessee and UCLA. Obviously this can't be a Final Four, as the first three are all in the East Region.
I can take out Tennessee and UCLA immediately. Every eventual champion should have at least one brush with elimination, but the Vols and Bruins have lived too dangerously. Over the first two rounds they have looked completely unworthy of their high seeds. That will catch up with them before it's all said and done.
This leaves us with UNC and Louisville (who could meet Saturday night). Carolina seems to be everyone's favorite, but not mine. They have a tradition of underachieving. So many people talk about the storied history of the program, but they have made 16 Final Fours in their history and won only four. That's only good enough for fourth all time behind UCLA, Kentucky and Indiana. For a team that's supposed one of the best ever, that's not so good. I think this year, they'll disappoint everyone before they even get to the Final Four.
And besides that, I think bad Karma will catch up with the heels. They've spent two round running up the score on hapless opponents. I think the Universe will find a way to take care of them.
So that leaves us with the Louisville Cardinals. I can't tell you why so much as I can tell you why not on the other 15 contenders. Pitino will do it again.
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Jared Jernagan is a 2003 graduate of Wabash College and has been in journalism since 2005.