Friday, March 21, 2014

Brackets busted!

Well, I definitely won't be winning $1 billion for my NCAA bracket and that's only partially because I didn't get one submitted on time. When I fill out a bracket, I use the same one for every contest I enter, so the one I filled out for work is the same as the one I did on espn.com and would have been the same for the Quicken Loan challenge. I, like most of the rest of the country, had Ohio State winning the first game. In fact, after the first game, over 80% of those who entered the contest were eliminated - 80%! After Duke got upset in today's game, there's only 16 people left in the contest with a perfect bracket. No one in my work bracket (of 18 people) picked Duke to lose. I was only one of 4 people who picked someone other than Duke to make it to the Elite 8, half of the group picked Duke to make it to the Final Four and 3 people had them winning it all.

One benefit I have being an outsider to NC basketball is that I have no allegiance to UNC or Duke and I'm very aware of the limitations of my college team, Pitt. If anything, I'm more conservative than most of my coworkers when it comes to Pitt and the tournament. When they made it to the Elite 8 in 2009, I had them out after Sweet 16 - one of my coworkers had them winning it all! Being a Pitt fan and watching them dominate regular season play only to choke in the Sweet 16 (or earlier) throughout my time there gave me an appreciation for the fact that the regular season record goes out the window as soon as the tournament starts. I had a lot of coworkers chiding me for my bracket in 2009, but when the last (and only other) time Pitt made it to the Elite 8 was in 1974, I certainly had my reasons for the picks that I made. 

Having watched NC basketball for several years, I was very interested to see how Pitt would do in their inaugural season in the ACC. The ACC game is very different than the old Big East. As a complete basketball novice (honestly, I only watch the playoffs and NCAA tournament), the ACC seemed so much faster and more skilled. The Big East was built on teams that played a rough and tumble type game. I mean, Pitt once had a player who poked an opponent in the eye causing the player's eye to pop out of its socket. Those teams played basketball like it was football - the more contact in a game, the better! So, I was expecting Pitt to have some major challenges as they changed conferences this year and adjusted to a new style of play. Pitt played a good game against UNC in the ACC tournament and surprised a lot of people by winning that game, especially given how the last 10 minutes played out. At one point, the announcers said: "One of the biggest comebacks in ACC tournament history. It was 61-41 Pitt with 7:22 to play in the ball game. I know the Pitt fans, they can't believe that this is where it is..." (Pitt only up by 6 with 1:03 left). I posted to my Facebook wall that clearly these announcers don't know Pitt fans - I wasn't surprised by that and judging from the comments on my wall, neither were those I went to school with. It's not that we don't want our team to win, we will root for them all day every day, but we've also built a defensive shield not to get our hopes up if things start to look too good. If it looks to good to be true, it probably is and the only thing that matters is what's on the board when the buzzer sounds.

Tomorrow, Pitt takes on Florida and while I've picked Florida to win the game in my bracket, I will be watching and rooting and yelling at my TV the entire game for Pitt to win. I hope I'm wrong about my pick and my bracket will crumble, but I'll take a Pitt win over a perfect bracket any day. Hail to Pitt!

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