I watched the NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show with my mom on Sunday and we decided to work on our brackets together for our own little pool for the tournament. I have been trying to reason with her about our picks all week, but I have made absolutely no progress. According to the experts, it appears you should automatically have Kentucky penciled into the final game since Kentucky is entering the tournament with an unbeaten record, having the overall #1 standing, and the perennial favorite to win the tournament. The website, fivethirtyeight.com, by Nate Silver has Kentucky at a 41% chance of winning the tournament and Villanova following with a 11% chance of winning. How silly of me to think that filling out this year’s bracket was going to be relatively simple with Kentucky as the strong favorite to win it all and several very strong #1 and #2 teams, such as Duke, Gonzaga, Villanova, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Virginia to select from for the Final Four. The reason it has not been simple is that I forgot I was up against my mom’s betting philosophy, which is, bet with your heart and lose big.
Prior to filling out our brackets my mom informed me of the importance of this year’s tournament in history, since Kentucky has an excellent chance of finishing the season unbeaten and winning the NCAA Championship. If Kentucky accomplishes this feat, it will be the first team to do so since the unbeaten 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers won the NCAA Championship. The 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers were coached by one of her favorite coaches, Bobby Knight, and she believes that as lifelong Big Ten Conference fans we have to take a strong stand and do everything to cheer on and support our conference in this year’s tournament (nothing personal against Coach Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats) in order to protect the unbeaten record and have a Big Ten Conference team win the Championship, which hasn’t been done since 2000 when Michigan State defeated Florida. My mom reminded me how important it was when we cheered with everything we had against the 2007 New England Patriots, led by that quarterback, who were trying to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated season (the reason we cared is because my mom’s first two football jerseys were #12 Bob Griese and #13 Dan Marino). Thankfully our cheers paid off when the New York Giants, led by Eli Manning, defeated the golden boy in the Super Bowl and kept the Dolphins lone undefeated season in the record books.
Right away I knew there was no way Kentucky was even making it to the final four in my mom’s bracket, but I felt I had to take some type of stand with my bracket and I included Kentucky in my final four with Wisconsin, Villanova, and Duke. I have Wisconsin winning the NCAA Championship after defeating Kentucky and then Duke in the final game. I am afraid my mom has gone off the Big Ten deep end, because she has excluded Kentucky from her final four as well as one of her other favorites, Villanova. Instead she has selected Michigan State, Notre Dame, SMU, and Wisconsin in her final four with MSU defeating Notre Dame in the Championship game. I tried to question why she does not have MSU facing Wisconsin in the final, in order to have a definite Big Ten champion, but she made some excuse about the fact that Notre Dame should have been in the Big Ten and that I had Wisconsin covered in my bracket. Since I have Wisconsin winning it all in my bracket I can’t really question her picking #7 Michigan State to reach the final game because they almost defeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship (please don’t remind her of the last eight seconds of that game). We both recognize the greatness of the MSU coach, Tom Izzo, and his ability to have his team playing its best at tournament time. The Izzo expertise and tournament magic has resulted in 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances, one NCAA Championship and six Final Four appearances. As the eight-time National Coach of the Year and MSU’s all time winningest coach, Izzo has built a program over the last 20 seasons as head coach that has been amazing to watch. My mom is really looking for the Izzo magic this year, since the last time a #7 seed made it to the Final Four was Virginia in 1984 (who MSU could play against in their second game of the tournament).
After looking at my mom’s bracket I realized there is absolutely no hope in convincing her to complete her bracket rationally. After watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, I Hate Christian Laettner, she experienced some type of nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s (which she is prone to do) and decided to pick the number #12 Buffalo Bulls coached by Bobby Hurley, who played with Laettner at Duke from 1989-1993, over #5 West Virginia and #4 Maryland. Then I see in her bracket that she has #14 Georgia State defeating #3 Baylor just because the George State coach, Ron Hunter, tore his Achilles in his excitement celebrating his team’s conference title. Additionally, she has #10 Davidson beating #7 Iowa because she first watched one of her favorite NBA players, Stephen Curry, in the 2008 NCAA Tournament when he led Davidson to the Elite 8. She would have had Davidson advancing to the Regional Finals against Duke if it wasn’t for the fact that Gonzaga is Grandma’s favorite team. Another emotional choice she made was selecting #6 SMU to reach the final four because she has always been a fan of their coach, Larry Brown, who is the only coach to win both an NCAA and NBA Championship. There are so many things to love about March Madness, but some of our favorites are: completing your bracket; watching three games at a time all day in the first two days of the tournament (my mother is old school and does not view the first four as part of the actual tournament); the excitement of close games; cheering for your favorite coaches, teams and players; discovering new players with amazing talent; enjoying the cinderella stories and last-second winning shots; and hopefully watching your team win the Championship.
I again attempted to find some way to reason with her and I had a ray of hope when she started a new bracket until I discovered this one was based on the best-dressed coaches of mens basketball because of her love of fashion (she actually watched the NBA All-Star Fashion Show). For her best-dressed bracket, she has her favorite best-dressed coach, Jay Wright of Villanova (#2 on the ncaa.com best-dressed list), defeating Notre Dame coached by Mike Brey (#5 on the ncaa.com best-dressed list). She tried to convince me her other choices were reasonable, but I know she only chose those teams to humor me. One of my strongest Yorkie traits is pure persistence, so I tried again to convince my mom to complete a bracket based on facts and not emotions, but I ran into one of my mom’s strongest traits, stubbornness, and she will definitely not be completing a rational bracket.
Let the Big Dance Begin!!!