From now on, I’m taking the Bode Miller approach to bracketology. Bode was a monumental flop, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I like Bode’s philosophy.
After he failed for the fifth straight event to win a medal in Turin, NBC’s Bob Costas asked Bode whether, in hindsight, he should have partied less and imposed more training discipline.
No, Miller reasoned. You can devote yourself totally to preparation and still lose. So you might as well have fun.
I might feel differently about Bode’s approach were an Olympic medal at stake, and were logic and careful study even halfway reliable predictors of success in the NCAA Tournament pool. They’re not.
That should come as liberating news for all of you who are agonizing this week over whether to take Southern Illinois over West Virginia or Bucknell over Arkansas. WWBD? Well, I think Bode might invoke Yogi Berra’s advice, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” But Bode doesn’t get away from the club scene enough to be aware of who Yogi Berra is. So maybe Bode would just say, “Either pick is great. And if it turns out to be wrong, it doesn’t mean you weren’t right to pick it. It just means it didn’t work out that way.”
Nor does it mean that all picks are created equal. For example, if you take Southern over Duke, that’s not Bode’s fault. It’s yours. Still, there are any number of forks in the bracket where the outcome could plausibly swing either way. Some people look upon these hinge points as “bracket busters.” I say they’re opportunities to Follow Your Inner Bode.
Here are some of the FYIB opportunities I noticed in the men’s tournament to practice no-fault bracketology. Take your picks. You’ll be right even if they’re wrong.
First-Round Temptations: Texas A&M over Syracuse; Southern Illinois over West Virginia; Utah State over Washington; Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Oklahoma.
On a Limb With the 15s: This year, two of the 15th seeds are more dangerous than the usual run of 15s. If you want to extend yourself a little or differentiate yourself from all the lemmings in your office pool, you could actually make a case for Winthrop to upset Tennessee or Davidson to surprise Ohio State.
Jekyll-Hydes: You can make a case (as I did) for West Virginia to reach the Sweet 16, or even (as I did not) the Elite Eight. Then again, no one should be surprised if the Mountaineers lose in the first round to Southern Illinois. Alabama is another Jekyll-Hyde. With what appears to be a favorable draw, they could win two or three games. Or not. In the most confused bracket subset of all, any among Oklahoma, Georgetown, Florida or Ohio State could be playing on March 26 for a Final Four berth—or be home by the end of the first weekend.
Fashion Picks: Among the illuminati, it’s fashionable this week to take Michigan State into the Sweet 16, or UAB over Kentucky, or Syracuse into the Final Four. I didn’t buy any of those scenarios. But they shouldn’t raise any eyebrows if they come to pass.
Teams I’m Picking for Two or More Wins That Would Make Me Most Nervous Had I Not Adopted the Bode Philosophy: West Virginia; Wichita State; Indiana; Ohio State.
No. 1 Seeds Most Likely to Lose First: Memphis, Villanova. If they make it to the Final Four, of course, we’ll also be the first to explain why their success was predictable all along.