Most years, the NCAA tournament seems to provide an upset story or two, but in the end it’s always the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world that advance. Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, UCLA, and a small group of others have always ruled the roost. So when a team like Mercer comes along and knocks one of the traditional powerhouses out–and in the first round, no less–it’s a sign that this tournament could be different from the others.
Most people fill out bracket sheets to give them a vested interest in following the tournament. It’s like going to a racetrack and watching a race: absent a stake in the race’s outcome, it’s not really too exciting. But put two dollars down on number 4 to win, and suddenly it takes on a large meaning, indeed. And whether it’s an office pool or the Billion dollar bracket challenge, we need those sheets to know who we want to win. That’s just human nature.
This year, I didn’t take the time to sit down and test my guessing abilities. And for 99% of the people who fill out the brackets, that’s all it is, anyway. It’s a series of extended guessing, with the usual question of Do I want to pick the lower seed or the higher seed? coming up over and over again until you have your tournament winner. And as long as your champion is alive, you always have at least some chance to finish at or near the top.
Duke is probably a team that some people perennially put in their Final Four. What Coach K has accomplished speaks for itself. And with Jabari Parker–the most talked-about college player there is this year–Duke in the Final Four seemed a reasonable pick, even if Duke didn’t have a top seed this year. And yet they play these games for a reason, don’t they?
So Duke is done for the tournament, after a first-round upset by the Mercer Bears. Many brackets are busted–some to the breaking point–and the tournament is just getting started. As one without any bracket sheet to consult, or any place in the office pool standings to obsess about this weekend, I say let it rain. Double-digit seeds are beautiful, after all.