Final Impressions

Get ready to have your bracket busted

Written by James Combs

Your NCAA Tournament picks will be wrong, but don’t let that spoil the fun of March Madness.


The NCAA Tournament field will be announced this month. As the clock ticks toward tipoff, millions begin scrambling to gain insight and knowledge so they can fill out what they hope is a flawless bracket and win a few—or a few million—bucks.

They check out updated injury lists. They research which teams entered the tournament on a winning streak and which ones limped into the postseason. They comb through the regular-season results of traditional powerhouse programs to determine which one is most vulnerable to an early-round upset.

All that research is a colossal waste of time. That bracket you’re about to fill out inevitably will be full of misses. And if you pride yourself on being the Nostradamus of college basketball, then March Madness will quickly turn into March Sadness.

That’s not a knock on your basketball IQ. It’s just that the only predictable thing about the NCAA Tournament is that it’s wildly unpredictable. First, there is no documented evidence that anyone has ever filled out a perfect bracket. Second, there’s a reason Warren Buffet offered a $1 million prize to the person who filled out a perfect bracket in last year’s tournament. He knew his money was safe.

Seriously, who in his right mind would pick Mercer University (where the hell is that?) to beat a Duke team loaded with former high school All-Americans? That actually happened in 2014, and I’m sure many fans shredded their brackets immediately afterward.

There’s nothing wrong with filling out a bracket as long as you don’t take being right too seriously. It gives us immediate rooting interest in every game, and for a few hours you can claim to be the biggest Colorado State fan east of the Mississippi River. Having a bracket keeps your attention.

Just don’t get mad when those with less basketball knowledge have a more accurate bracket than you. Remain calm when your wife, who hasn’t watched a lick of college basketball all season, successfully picks Louisville to the Final Four simply because “cardinals are the most beautiful birds on the planet.” Don’t go berserk when your best buddy, who openly hates basketball, correctly predicts Wofford upsetting mighty North Carolina based on his system of “picking the schools with the most unique names.”

Just sit back and enjoy the NCAA Tournament for what it is—one of the greatest spectacles in sports where big powers, small powers, and teams you’ve never heard of duke it out on the hardwood.

Make a list so you’re prepared to take it all in:

Buy fresh batteries for the remote.

Put your favorite pizza joint on speed dial.

But if you’re one of those fans who simply cannot fathom the thought of seeing red marks all over your bracket, then you might consider adding one more item to your list.

A big box of Kleenex.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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