Times correspondent Jack Shea shares his thoughts on sports on-Island and further afield in this weekly look outside the white lines. This week, the brackets are causing a racket in his brain.
As Dairy Queen flings open its seasonal doors and the tinkle-tinks begin their annoying chirping, we believe that Spring, finally, has come to the Island.
Those are good signs but spring is here for me when the brackets bloom. When NCAA hoops begins its second season — 64 games to determine the national championship of college basketball.
Because after four months of whining and cravening through a wintry butt-kicking, I am struck with the notion that I am bulletproof again. Heady stuff, a wonderful feeling. Never mind that, in my case, picking the March Madness winners has no basis in reality. I have a better chance of being struck by lightning four days in a row.
I am sitting here with my brackets, resolutely confident. The appearance of the brackets has rejuvenated my spirit from its winter coma. I am undeterred that a fair portion of the team name acronyms are completely unfamiliar to me. Who are CCSU and MSM? No idea, but I toss them aside. They will lose because I’ve never heard of them.
There’s a giddiness, a friskiness about my picking process that clears that dark night of the soul that winter brings to us. I am able to be silly and love it.
I try to develop a new system every year. Past systems that have failed include:
— Selecting only Catholic school teams. I’ve never understood why Catholic schools can play basketball well but can’t play football worth a damn – except for Notre Dame which has an unfair advantage. If you’ve ever sat in South Bend and felt the presence of Touchdown Jesus looking on, you know what I mean. Creighton is a 2014 powerhouse. Creighton. Has an enrollment of 37, mostly pre-law and English majors. But they’re dancin’, baby.
— Selecting only schools, including Catholic schools, within 100 miles of Martha’s Vineyard. A chancy system at best that’s led me to pit BC against Holy Cross for the national title. That won’t be an issue this year. Holy Cross actually had a shot if they had won their Patriot League conference. They didn’t. The B.C. Eagles swept out the ACC cellar.
— Selecting schools in nice climates. The corollary is a nice climate and an agreeable town. The idea being that athletes at these schools don’t have to contend with winter’s corrosive effect on their spirit. For example, this rubric portends that San Diego State could win and that first seed Wichita State is doomed. You’re laughing? Go ahead, laugh, but this system has some legs this year. San Diego State is highly-ranked. Schools like Wichita and Kansas are even higher ranked than SDS (an acronym with great history).
— Avoiding teams with terrible nicknames. Another nail in the coffin for top-seeded Wichita State. The “Shockers.” I know it has something to do with gathering wheat but lacks the elan of the Arizona State Sun Devils or the quirkiness of the UMass Minutemen, don’t you think? All handicapping schemes are imperfect and the nickname system presents some problems. For example. Gonzaga is actually a good team that meets the religious and climate criteria but its hoop name, the “Zags,” hardly rolls off the tongue
Your official MVTimes 2014 bracket-beating system is an amalgam of all three systems. Why not? This is the worst winter in 40 years. I’m goin’ for it.
Here’s your Elite Eight: Stanford, Mt. Saint Mary’s, Harvard, Providence, Gonzaga, Creighton, Cal Poly and Umass.
Providence beats the Zags in a nail-biter for the national championship.
Take it to the bank, baby.