I feel like I missed my chance at having a killer NCAA Tournament bracket.
Friday, I worked the Dallas Influencers in Sports and Entertainment luncheon, and the panel discussions focused on March Madness. In the video interviews we did for this post, I asked panelists about their jobs and their passion for the sport and the event itself. I should have been picking their brains about who might be good to take in possible 7-10 seed matchups!
Bryce Drew analyzes men’s college basketball for ESPN, hit a game-winning shot in the tourney as a player, coached tournament teams, and has a brother who coaches the highly-ranked Baylor Bears. Wren Baker serves as athletic director for the University of North Texas, a team favored to make the field, and is a member of the selection committee for the NIT. I got one-on-one interviews with both of them, and the panel also included Tom Burnett, Commissioner of the Southland Conference and a member of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee.
Each committee member keeps up with several assigned conferences in addition to their own. Drew not only watches games for a living, he has access to all the intel of both his coaching network and his broadcast network. Why was I wasting my time on legit interview topics when I could have been asking about likely mid-major spoilers?
During the discussion, we did pick up from one of the group that he thinks a certain team led by a coach whose name starts with “K” and includes a lot of consonants will be one of the teams in the NCAAs. Not helpful.
But it probably wouldn’t really make a difference anyway, because one thing wee’ve learned over the years is that brackets usually follow no rhyme or reason anyway. Even if somebody had told me in 1998 that Drew’s 13th-seeded Valparaiso was good, would I have picked them to upset 4th-seeded Ole Miss? Or might I instead have gone with one of the other 13 seeds that year (Butler, Eastern Michigan, and Utah State all lost to their 4th-ranked opponents)? I guarantee I didn’t get Valparaiso’s second-round victory over Florida State right, because I feel sure I picked 5th-seeded TCU over 12th-seeded FSU in the first round. See, I had watched TCU a lot that year, and Lee Nailon was headed to the NBA and Billy Tubbs was the coach and they had good guard play and, well, sometimes it just doesn’t work out no matter how much scouting you’ve done.
And one thing we do know about the NCAA Basketball tournament is that we’ll be absorbed in it. Whomever turns out to be this year’s Bryce Drew and Valparaiso, we’ll be all in on that buzzer beater. All the details fascinate us, like the fact that Burnett will be cloistered in New York for a week just deliberating about who the country’s top 68 teams are. And that Baker might not even get to watch his own school qualify for the Big Dance due to his NIT obligations. And that either would have to step out of the rooms when deliberations turn to the schools for whom they personally work. By next week, we’ll know how their decisions turned out – and what they and their committee colleagues really thought about the all the teams that make up the tournament draw sheet.
The fascination surrounding their work is why Friday’s event at Eastman & Beaudine was a packed house. We all get March Madness. Just don’t expect much out of my bracket this year.