Picking well in March can be maddening

I’m going to tell you straight out that I haven’t really kept up on college basketball over the past several years. I got tired of rooting for or against teams and programs that totally change every year.

I like continuity in my sports — I loved to cheer against UCLA, Georgetown, Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas every year because they continuously won with players who were in their programs for four years.

Now, however, I find I can’t cheer against those teams because there is no continuity. There is no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Bill Walton to bash for the entire span of a four-year college eligibility. Patrick Ewing was incredible his freshman year. Imagine how good he was his senior year. Larry Bird was virtually an entire team his senior year at smallish Indiana State, but only after he couldn’t even raise the eyebrows of Bobby Knight at Indiana his freshman year.

Things have changed so much in college hoops because most of the stars now are gone after one year, starting their NBA apprenticeships three years early. That’s why I had virtually abandoned the college game — until this year.

This year, for some reason, I found myself watching again. I owe part of that to the fact that I like Jeff Bzdelik and admire what he is doing at the University of Colorado. When the Buffs were televised, I found myself watching — in the process catching Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Texas A&M and a host of Big 12 powers.

That led me to checking out Kentucky’s John Wall, this year’s one-year NCAA wonder. Syracuse, seemingly televised two or three times a week, impressed me early, as did Villanova. Duke wasn’t so wonderful early, but later started to catch my eye.

All of this led me to make the big leap.

I decided once again to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket — not just buy my way into a couple of office polls in which I would, as usual, proudly hold up the name of Wright State or maybe Eastern Kentucky as my big title hope unluckily picked out of a hat.

No, I actually spent some time with the bracket, using my rejuvenated expertise in the college hoop game.

The results have been hilarious — disastrous if I actually took it seriously.

I joined an ESPN contest in which you electronically pick the winners of each round, working your way toward the title game and eventual champion.

I should tell you right now that I picked top-ranked Kansas to win it all, not exactly stepping out on a large, lengthy limb. We all know what happened last weekend to Kansas.

Here are some stats on my effort:

The first round, I missed 13 of the 32 games (keep in mind, this is straight-up, not with the point spread involved). That was nothing, however, compared to the second round in which I missed 11 of 16 games. Through the first two rounds, out of 48 games, I had missed 24 — a dead-solid 50 percent.

In the Midwest, I had Kansas meeting Georgetown in the regional final. Both are toast.

In the West, I had Syracuse meeting Pitt. Hey, the Orange are still alive.

In the East, I had Kentucky playing Clemson for the right to go to the Final Four. Although Kentucky has been the most impressive team in the tournament, Clemson was ousted by Missouri , maybe the sixth- or seventh-best team in the Big 12, in the first round. In the South, I had Louisville and Villanova meeting in the regional title game. Louisville went out in the first round, ‘Nova in the second.

Pretty ugly, right?

But, you say, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone is having a tough time with all the upsets.

Not everyone. Let’s compare my stats to those at the top of the heap in the ESPN contest.

I am sitting at 2.4 percentile, meaning roughly 98 percent of the 4 million people who have entered the contest scored better than Yours Truly.

The leader, by comparison, one J. Lorenz, missed three games in the first round and none in the second round. He even had Kansas exiting in the next round and is still alive with his title pick Ohio State.

Even our president, Barack Obama, has left me far behind — turning in a more-than-respectable 34 of 48 winners to be in the 92nd percentile nationwide and earning my respect, at least, for his hoop prowess.

Although I may not be on the same level as our president when it comes to College Hoopdom, I have determined there is a silver lining to this rather ugly cloud: I have turned into a huge Northern Iowa fan.

Is it far-fetched to think that the Panthers, conquerors of mighty Kansas, cannot beat Michigan State then perhaps Ohio State or Tennessee to advance to the Final Four? No more far-fetched than it was to see Murray State beating Vandy — just one of many that I didn’t see coming.


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