MARCH 20 HOME STRETCH COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
It’s Kansas, people.
Kansas will defeat Ohio State in the championship game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
This is after Kansas tops Indiana in one Final Four semifinal, and Ohio State beats Duke in the other.
How do I know this? The horses told me.
One of my least favorite words pertaining to this year’s tournament, the bulk of which begins Thursday, was “bracketology.” This, apparently, is the art of trying to figure out how the brackets will be arranged before the NCAA Selection Committee actually does it.
It is a practice about as useless as pre-predicting the NFL draft. One pick in the wrong spot can throw the whole thing off.
You might argue that my method of filling out brackets by using horse races is even more silly. And maybe it is. But I would counter that maybe I just haven’t found the right formula yet.
The first year I tried it, I used the top eight seeds from each regional, had them represented in a single horse race, (the race favorite as the number one seed, the second favorite as the number two, etc.). I then picked the regional champion based on which horse won the race. The four winners would then be put into a fifth race, ranked by their seeds.
Eight seeds, I quickly learned, were too many. Through a series of horse race upsets, my bracket that year wound up with Wyoming as national champion.
Lately I’ve been using just the top four seeds. This year I went with the top five, thinking that slight alteration would make a difference.
It didn’t. Favorites won two of the four “regional races” I used, and second favorites won the other two.
In the “final four” race, the Kansas horse was the winner. Ohio State was second. So there you go.
You can laugh at me about this later. Unless I’m right.
Toughen up the
Speaking of the tournament, which I like to call “Late-March-and-Early-April Madness,” the brackets established one thing beyond a doubt: How a team is playing late in the season is very low on the priority list, as opposed to strength-of-schedule.
This is how Minnesota, which was terrible in the final weeks of the season (except for that shocker of a win over Indiana) is in; and Iowa, which beat Minnesota by 21 points just a month ago, is out.
The Golden Gophers had wins over Memphis, Michigan State and Illinois; all of which were ranked at the time. Nice, right? Until you consider that all of these wins were prior to Jan. 10.
From the time they beat Illinois Jan. 9, the Gophers went 5-11, closing the regular season with losses to Nebraska and Purdue, and falling on a last-second shot to Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Iowa had no wins over ranked teams (Minnesota had fallen out of the rankings by the time the Hawks beat the Gophers Feb. 17). They did have early-season wins over Howard, Gardner-Webb, South Dakota and South Carolina State.
Ideally, it would have been nice to see all of my “favorite four,” Minnesota, Iowa State, Iowa and Northern Iowa; in the tournament. Iowa, which seems on the rise, could do itself a huge favor by toughening up the schedule a little.