Bracketology 101: Locals with tourney ties ready to test NCAA bracket knowledge
Let the madness begin.
Today, the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament brackets are released. For the next month, those brackets will grip sports fans across the country.
Dr. Steven Murray is a professor of Kinesiology at Mesa State College, and teaches the course History and Philosophy of Sport and Physical Education.
The class examines sports from the earliest recorded contests up to today.
“Sport doesn’t get any more pure than (the NCAA tournament),” Murray said. “You win and advance, or you lose and go home.
“That approach goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks where they only valued winners, and didn’t care about second place. You were either a champion or you went home in shame.”
The personal connection bonds people to March Madness.
Filling out the bracket has become a normal March tradition for sports fans. Many participate in office pools as a way to become more invested in the tournament.
Clay Tufly is the president of the Downtown branch of Alpine Bank. Tufly estimated their office pool has between 60 and 80 participants.
“It adds to the excitement of the tournament,” Tufly said. “It gives bragging rights, and it’s a lot of fun to have those discussions throughout the day”
The NCAA tournament is driven by the fan.
Fruita Monument High School tennis coach Clint Davis is a lifelong Brigham Young University fan. Davis grew up in Grand Junction and attended high school at Central before going to BYU, graduating in 2001.
“We were big fans, but it was different because you couldn’t watch the games on TV so it was driving around until you found that spot where KSL (Salt Lake City radio station) would come in.
“We were so fanatic that we kept up with them, but I don’t even remember how.”
BYU isn’t new to the NCAA tournament, but has its best opportunity to get a high seed and make a run this season behind star guard Jimmer Fredette.
“They’ve had some success over the years but nothing like ‘the Jimmer,’ ” Davis said. “It’s been exciting, and Coach (Dave) Rose will put something together, and they can make a run.”
Davis said after the 80-67 win over San Diego State, where BYU moved to 27-2 on the season, he was starting to dream. He admitted his enthusiasm took a shot after BYU lost forward Brandon Davies to an honor code violation.
“After the San Diego State game, I was thinking ‘this is a legitimate final four team,’ ” Davis said. “I let myself dream a little bit, but it’ll be much different this year, they’ll have a nice seed, and hopefully get a couple wins under their belts to get some confidence back after losing Davies.”
Davis said after BYU loses in the tournament he usually stops following the games as closely.
“I root for my team and once they are done I don’t follow it as much,” Davis said.
Living the madness
Although fans have made the tournament as popular as it is, it’s a totally different perspective to have actually played in the tournament.
Daven Harmeling graduated from Fruita Monument in 2004 as the Southwestern League player of the year. The 6-foot-7 Harmeling had plenty of college interest, and choose to play basketball for Washington State University.
Harmeling committed at a time when the Cougars hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament for 10 seasons, and had only been four times total in the school’s history.
But timing is everything.
By Harmeling’s redshirt sophomore year in 2006, he was a significant part of a team coached by Tony Bennett that included talented players like Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low and Robbie Cowgill.
The Cougars finished the regular season ranked No. 12 in the nation, and had done enough to secure a spot in the tournament, but didn’t know where they would end up.
“It was pressure packed to win every game,” Harmeling said. “We knew we were a lock in the tournament, but we never wanted to slip up, and there was an awareness to make sure we were always focused.”
The players, students and fans waited patiently in Washington State’s Beasley Coliseum on Selection Sunday.
It was eventually announced that the Cougars were a No. 3 seed and were matched up with No. 14 Oral Roberts in the first round in Sacramento, Calif.
“You knew it was coming, and you knew it was going to happen, but until you see it, you didn’t know it was real,” Harmeling said. “We had a big party in our gym and everyone was going nuts.”
Once the first-round game rolled around four days later, Harmeling said he remembered how unique the crowd and atmosphere was for the tournament game.
“Usually the crowd is one way or the other,” Harmeling said. “But there the crowd wasn’t quite sure, and as the game picked up, even though Oral Roberts was the underdog, I think we had about 75 percent of the crowd pulling for us.”
Washington State beat Oral Roberts 70-54, which set up a second-round game with No. 6 Vanderbilt.
It ended up being one of the best games of the tournament as Washington State lost a 78-74 double overtime game to the Commodores.
Harmeling had a chance to win the game in regulation for the Cougars but missed a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left.
“It was like our life was hanging in the balance and we wanted to win it so badly,” Harmeling said. “Coach (Bennett) put me in for the final possession and I missed a really good look from the corner. So much was riding on every single shot in that game.”
The Cougars made it back to the tournament the next season, this time as a No. 4 seed.
Washington State cruised through the first two rounds at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The Cougars beat Winthrop 71-40 in the first round followed by a 61-41 win over Notre Dame in the second round.
The two wins pushed the Cougars into a Sweet 16 game with the No. 1 overall seed North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C.
“We played one of our best defensive games and held Notre Dame to 41 points,” Harmeling said. “We knew we’d be matched up with Carolina and we were thinking we could beat them with our system because it was built to play against super athletic teams.”
The game was especially meaningful for Harmeling, who was a big North Carolina fan while growing up in the Redlands.
“I loved the Tar Heels growing up with (Jerry) Stackhouse, (Antawn) Jamison, Vince Carter,” Harmeling said. “Every NCAA tourney I thought Carolina was going to win it so getting the chance to play them was crazy.”
Washington State didn’t get the result it wanted and fell to UNC 68-47. Harmeling said playing against a team like North Carolina was the reason he went to WSU.
“I wanted to go to a school where I could find out if I could compete,” Harmeling said. “We had elite guys when I was there, then to have it culminate and play one of the best programs in the nation was great, but we were disappointed with how we played.”
Harmeling and the Cougars missed the tournament his senior season, and he is currently teaching and coaching in Vancouver, Wash. Harmeling also helps with basketball clinics put on by former Gonzaga University player Dan Dickau.
Harmeling said he’ll always cherish his two chances to be a part of March Madness.
“It’s a special thing to be a part of, but when you are in the tourney you are so focused that you don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the tournament,” Harmeling said. “You don’t realize how big it was until you look back.
“(In 2006-07) after we lost to Vandy, they had second-round games in Spokane (Wash.), and I went with a couple other players to watch. We were walking around the arena thinking ‘this is crazy and we were just in it yesterday.’ ”