Our national Madness

There are many ways to fill out NCAA men’s basketball tournament brackets. I’ve tried most, none really successfully.

One of the sounds-crazy-but-isn’t theories is the Blue School theory — pick the school with blue uniforms. Since the Blue School list includes such traditional NCAA powers as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Connecticut, along with occasional successes like Georgetown, Florida, Arizona, Memphis, Michigan and Marquette, one could do worse.

The problem with the Blue School theory is that it doesn’t tell you what to do if (1) two blue schools meet or (2) neither school is blue. Are green [Michigan State and Baylor] or purple close enough to blue?

You could also go through the entire field and always pick the higher seed. But that misses out on the fun of picking the epic upset, when a 13th seed few have heard of knocks off a name-brand number four that either was overrated or picked the wrong day to have a bad day. (Let’s hope that’s not how Montana vs. Wisconsin ends up.) That leads to the danger of picking the wrong upset, or not picking the right upset, and blowing up your entire bracket after the first weekend.

Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn (now there’s a name) has a more scientific method for how to choose:

You’re welcome to fill out a chaos bracket with a title thief, and if you do, it’s best to follow your whims rather than some guiding principle. But if you’re looking for a national champ pick that makes sense, like Florida in 2007, Kansas in 2008 or Carolina in 2009, you’re best off going with Kentucky. The Wildcats pass the pro talent test, the eye test and — most important to me — the numbers test. Of the four ranking services I believe have merit (kenpom.com, LRMC, Sagarin and BPI), Kentucky is No. 1 in all of them.  …

It’s my belief that you need a defense ranked in the top-25 range in efficiency to have a great shot at the Final Four or any real shot at winning a title. Historically, high-seeded teams with great offense/mediocre defense efficiency profiles — the last two Adam Morrison Gonzaga squads, Chris Paul’s last Wake Forest team, and more recently, 2008 Drake, 2010 New Mexico and 2011 Notre Dame — have failed to make deep tourney runs. …

If you believe that the Big Ten’s defensive numbers are a real reflection of the quality of the league, then you should consider putting two Big Ten teams in the Final Four. If you’re in the Big Ten-is-overrated camp, then you might knock Ohio State out in the Elite Eight, Michigan State out to Memphis or Marquette, and Wisconsin out to Vanderbilt in the third round. …

It’s good to force turnovers. But can a team win a national title if its defensive success is too heavily reliant on forcing turnovers, rather than say, defending the paint?

Winn predicts Kentucky to beat Kansas for the national championship. Both teams wear blue.


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