Monday, March 16, 2015

Bracket Brooding

Was a weekend filled watching college basketball, as well as that I Hate Christian Laettner doc on ESPN last night which managed to provide some entertainment to this Tarheel despite the fact that it was impossible for the program to articulate anything I hadn’t thought or felt before.

And now with the NCAA bracket announced I’m finding myself already spending odd moments contemplating matchups and how I might fill the sucker out.

Am remembering a year ago when I was in Chile hastily filling out a sheet. Not sure having more time to look over matchups will help me too much, really -- when I won the pool a few years ago, I think I took all of 15 minutes to complete my bracket. But I like having a chance at least to fool myself into thinking I’m improving my chances.

I’ve not watched as much college basketball this year as in the past, my interest waning more and more each year because of a variety of factors. One is the “one-and-done” phenomenon that ensures I don’t even know the starting five for my own team (UNC-Chapel Hill) from year to year. Another is conference expansion and restructuring, with the ACC now bloated with 15 teams, nearly half of which weren’t in the league just over a decade ago.

The main reason, though, is the level of play, which for the most part has declined considerably over the last 10-15 years (it seems to me). Compared to the NBA -- which I much prefer to watch -- the game is so far removed, skill-wise, it has often become tedious to watch. I suppose the poker analogy would be a player having graduated to higher stakes being made to go back down a level or three, then finding it hard to take the game as seriously as before.

But the tourney does introduce some excitement, even if contrived.

The seeding of teams creates that automatic favorite-vs.-underdog dynamic that isn’t always even accurate but nonetheless adds an affecting layer of drama.

And, of course, while I don’t care for “one-and-done” among the players, the “one-and-done” format of the tournament adds curiosity with every game. Especially if you’ve tried to pick the winners.

Back to the bracket. Now how does Dook get a No. 1 seed after not winning the conference, losing in the semis of the conference tournament, and losing first-round games in the NCAA to No. 14 and No. 15 seeds within the last three years?

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