Remember this, miracles do occur
Don't take these picks to the bank, but ...
Woke up Monday morning, poured myself a cup of decaf and started plotting how my new favorite college basketball team, Brigham Young, was going to wreck the NCAA tournament.
Let's see ... the 12th-seeded Cougars stun No. 5 Connecticut in the first round. Then they ambush fourth-seeded Stanford.
Just like that the football school becomes the ultimate bracket-buster. If BYU makes it to the Sweet Sixteen, the selection committee will flip-flop half of the South and Midwest brackets so the Cougars would not have to play on a Sunday, in violation of university policy.
There's only one problem with all this: BYU will lose to Connecticut in the first round. The Cougars will be one and done--sort of like these picks.
If there's one thing I've learned in these annual expert-picks-the-brackets humiliations, it's that too much insider information can be a bad thing. The year I nailed three Final Four entries, I filled out the brackets while standing in line at the post office. Unlike some experts, I have no prognostication "principles." This is college basketball. If you want principles, you're sniffing around the wrong dumpster.
But I would urge everyone to use a pencil on the brackets this year. Given the events of the last few weeks, it would hardly come as a shock if one of these 65 institutions of higher learning withdraws from the tourney after its point guard admits that the last paper he turned in was a national letter of intent. We'll worry about that when it happens. In the meantime, how 'bout them Cougars!
Kentucky is the easy choice here. The Wildcats should beat scrappy Pitt in a tightly contested final.
The only big upset I'm picking is Holy Cross over Marquette in the opener. This could be a case of familiarity breeds idiocy. I was in St. Louis last March when the Golden Eagles choked and the Crusaders gave top-seeded Kansas all it could handle.
What does that have to do with this March? Nothing, of course.
I'm applying the same logic in picking Weber State over Wisconsin. After watching the Badgers stink up the United Center last week, I can't imagine them winning. But I can imagine them whining about being shipped into the Wildcats' neck of the backwoods, Spokane, Wash.
I grew up in Arizona, so you'd think I would have the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats cutting down the nets in New Orleans.
But as I said, I grew up in Arizona. Once a decade, Lute Olson's team collapses under the weight of a No. 1 seed. In 2000, the Cats lost to eighth-seeded Wisconsin. In 1998, they fell to third-seeded Utah. In 1989, fourth-seeded UNLV took them out.
The only time they've played up to a No. 1 seed was in 1988.
I can see Arizona losing to Gonzaga in the second round. Come to think of it, I have seen it -- I was there when 15th-seeded Santa Clara, led by Steve Nash, floored the second-seeded Wildcats in 1993. And it was in the same building -- the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City -- where the Wildcats may face the Zags in the second round.
Tempting though it is to pick Gonzaga, I'm guessing Illinois will send Arizona packing. This is the second year in a row I've picked the Fighting Illini to oust a No. 1 seed. And I don't own a stitch of orange clothing, or even know anyone who does.
If I'm wrong and Arizona sweeps through this regional, be sure to lock up all the candy machines on Bourbon Street.
There was an uproar when the selection panel gave Syracuse an opportunity to play for a Final Four berth in Albany, which is a few snowbanks east of Syracuse. It's not fair that a No. 3 seed from a ho-hum conference should be a virtual host team.
If Jim Boeheim doesn't eliminate that advantage, Penn will.
As much as I want to pick Butler to go to the Sweet Sixteen, I can't ignore Rick Pitino's amazing record as a March magician. His Louisville Cardinals might wind up in the Final Four.
In the end, though, it was impossible to pick against top-seeded Oklahoma, which wants another shot at the title after last year's Final Four run.
Look for Georgia to make a deep run ...
Oops. The Bulldogs aren't on the court this month. They're in court this month.
This is a tricky, wide-open regional. As a lifelong college football follower, I wanted to pair Florida and Texas in the Alamodome.
That would be one heck of an Alamo Bowl. But the basketball Gators are soft, and the Longhorns are overrated.
With those two eliminated, I was desperate to find a champion of this region. After X'ing out Xavier, I toyed with the possibility that battle-hardened Maryland could slip in. But a friend from back East did a UConn-job on me. At the Final Four, the upstart Huskies will lose to Oklahoma in one national semifinal and Kentucky will beat Kansas in the other.
On the only Monday night that matters, UK will smother OU. OK?
Andrew Bagnato is a sports columnist with the Chicago Tribune