The following sage advice was written by my friend Dan for people like me, who don’t know anything about college basketball and therefore don’t understand what anyone is talking about for the month of March.
It’s that time of year again – March Madness! Many consider this the most exciting time of the year in sports with 67 games crammed into a three-week period, featuring big and small teams from across the nation. While basketball may seem like the reason for all the hype, the real reason for the hoopla is the completion of NCAA brackets.
There are countless articles across the internet of insightful ways to fill out a bracket, ranging from evaluating a team’s RPI and strength of schedule to picking which mascot would win a fight. Whatever method you use to make your picks (all are equally as effective), being able to support why you picked each team is really all that matters. While the best way to do this is to watch thousands of hours of basketball during the year, most of us don’t actually like basketball and would find that torturous.* That being said there a few analyst clichés that can be used to support any pick that will make you appear as much of a basketball guru as Dicky V. when talking smack to your co-workers and family members.
The NCAA pool is filled with small schools that you have never heard and have no clue where they are located. Don’t let this stop you from selecting them to win a game. There are countless reasons to explain why this team can beat a team that, in actuality, may be far superior.
“They performed really well in there conference tournament and I think that will carry forward into the tourney.” – Most “nobody teams” had to have won a conference tournament in order to make the dance. More importantly, nobody, no matter how much sports they watched, actually watched a single game played in the WAC or the Horizon league so this comment is basically unchallengeable. Even if the small school didn’t win their tournament, they would have finished in the top three in order to make the NCAA tournament, so this is basically indisputable.
“Their outside shooting is tough to stop I think they can edge the other team out.” – Small schools don’t have the athletes of the perennial powerhouses like Duke or North Carolina. Therefore it is more than likely that they won most of their games by out-shooting their opponent. It is tough to argue that a team that shoots well doesn’t have a chance to win. Since you are not supporting your statement with any actual stats, this becomes a very tough point to argue.
“The other team won’t be able to handle this team’s ability to press.” – While you have no idea if this team actually presses (or possibly what a press is), neither does your co-worker. The press is an outdated practice in basketball only well executed by a few teams. However, since this school does not have the athletes of a prestigious school, it will not be hard for your co-worker to imagine they must rely on gimmicks to win.
“I feel like the way they run the west-coast offense will make them difficult to stop.” – You need to be careful using this one, as the “west-coast offense” is a football term and does not exist in basketball. However, since teams that play on the west coast play at 11 at night, no one will have seen them play and will concede that they could play a different style of basketball. This is best used when describing teams like Oregon or Boise State that you actually know are located somewhere in the western part of America.
“It will probably be a lower scoring game and team X is more physical so that should give them the edge.” – The beauty of this critique is that physicality in basketball is nearly impossible to quantify. Also, since they have never heard of the team it won’t be a far stretch to get them to believe that the team is full of a bunch of scrappers.
Now that we have covered the nobody teams, you need to know how to defend choices for teams people may have heard of like Illinois or Missouri. While knowing something about the team would help, there a few easy tricks to get by on these teams.
“This team is more powerful in the paint” or “This team has more speed.” – Use the geography of the team to make these assertions. People have geographical biases that people in the Midwest are big and slow, so go with the power comment for a team like Wisconsin. Conversely, the south is known for their speed so claiming that Ole Miss is faster than another team will not be questioned by anyone. Ultimately neither of these attributes wins basketball games, but don’t let reason stand in the way of you making a pick.
“Any other year they would have won their conference.” – This is best used for a team ranked 3 – 5. Since the team is ranked in the upper-middle, you can assume they didn’t win their conference, but must have been somewhat close. Despite the frequency that ESPN tries to compare teams to a historical one, this is impossible to quantify. While this is a little more daring than the vagueness of other comments, the fact that this claim could not be confirmed or rejected makes it difficult for anyone to poke holes in your statement.
Now that you are well equipped with some basic analyst rhetoric, don’t be afraid to make some major upset picks and put your co-workers to shame when they question it.
* Note if you encounter someone that actually watches hours of basketball don’t back down from any of the statements listed above. Instead say that your comment really represents how that team was built two years ago and you weren’t able to watch as much basketball this year as you usually do as your life just got to busy this year. The shame they feel over watching that much basketball will cause them not to question your picks.