The Michigan Daily
THE DAILY GRIND
*Picking March winners. An inexact science
I begin to realize that things are get-
ting out of hand when I raise my voice
t my housemates.
"Get outta here! If Samford beats
Syracuse, I'll transfer there. 'Cuse is
almost all seniors."
And while I
ee ready to
stake my life sav-
ings, or variouss
parts of my
anatomy, that the
have no problem ANDY
Bulldogs, in the LATACK
next breath I Counter
argue vehemently Latack
that Winthrop -
aBig South Conference heavyweight
9- will knock off heavily-favored
Oklahoma in the first round.
From selection Sunday until the
games commence on Thursday, my die-
hard housemates and I have nightly
meetings to discuss these pressing
issues while we predict the winners of
the NCAA Tournament pools we enter.
The gatherings last a few hours at a
time and take place late at night, when
Oost sane people have chosen to sleep
rather than decide if Butler's current 15-
game winning streak gives them any
sort of momentum against Florida.
We do the same thing every year,
breaking down the matchups until we
know more about a team's strengths and
weaknesses than they do. I stare at
some of the games until I'm cross-eyed,
thinking I'll find the key to the game if
I just look hard enough at the statistics.
"Aha! Pepe Sanchez's assist-to-
turnover ratio is .045 higher than Jason
Williams'. And you gotta be strong at
the point guard position to win it all in
today's game, so Temple it is..."
I'd like to think my hard work pays
off, but every year there is incontrovert-
ible evidence to the contrary.
Any veteran of NCAA pools knows
what I'm talking about. While you
watch your-carefully chosen Final Four
pick get upset in the first game of the
first day, some office pool lightweight
gets 30 of the 32 first-round games cor-
rect, including foreseeing the first-ever
defeat of a one seed by a 16 seed.
The worst part is that these people
often make their picks based on a cute
gimmick that has no business determin-
ing the outcome of a college basketball
game, yet still defies all laws of proba-
bility with its deadeye accuracy. Like
who would win in a fight between the
mascots. I've actually known people
who use that as a basis for picking. And
they've done better than me.
Why, just two years ago, I was in a
pool in which the second-place finisher
picked all of his winners by selecting
the team with the least number of letters
in its name. Needless to say, he was the
only entrant to pick upstart Utah in the
championship game (although his
champion, TCU, didn't make it out of
the first round).
It's rather humiliating. But I'm to
blame for my occasional lack of success
as well, because I never learn from the
mistakes I make in tourneys past.
Bracket in hand and eyes squinting with
some misguided analysis, I say the
same things every year, setting the same
traps for myself.
Despite the individual bracket make-
up that varies year by year, my picks
always have haunting similarities:
The Big Ten always goes undefeat-
ed in first round games, with an unlike-
ly handful advancing to the Sweet
Sixteen. My pro-Big Ten bias has, at
times, convinced me that an all-Big Ten
Final Four is not out of the question. It's
a little out of control.
UCLA never bows out before the
Sweet Sixteen. For some reason, I
always feel that I am in on a huge secret
with this constantly athletic and flashy
Pac-10 team. Nobody ever sees them
play because they are on the West Coast
- myself included, as I discover when
they underachieve and lose in the first
round like last year.
® Arizona somehow overcomes its
uncanny affinity for first-round upsets
and makes it at least two rounds further
than anyone else in the pool has them
going. I rode my hometown boys all the
way in 1997, and I take it personally
when anyone brings up the 50 straight
first-round exits they suffered before
that. I pick them out of principle.
And so on. I can study statistics all I
want, but my picks always end up influ-
enced by personal biases I have for or
But that's what makes it fun. With my
luck, the year I give in and pick UCLA
to lose in the first round is the year the
Bruins will play the way I always think
Besides, UCLA has less letters than
most teams, so they're a lock to reach
the Final Four.
-Andy Latack finished seventh out of
over 300,000 people in espn.com s
Tournament Challenge hisfieshman
year He' always looked for a way to
get that fact in print. E-mail him at
Continued from Page 10A
young that down the stretch they might
not have the mental stamina to pull it
out against the Orangemen.
Season's over: No. I I Ball State.
The Cardinals drew one of the nation's
hottest teams in UCLA. Most of the
nation saw the Bruins nationally tele-
vised, overtime victory at Stanford.
UCLA coach Steve Lavin has locked
all the proper pieces into place and is
ready to roll in the tournament. Ball
State, a quality Mid-American
Conference team, ran into the wrong
Upset city: No. 3 Maryland elimi-
nated by No. 6 UCLA on Saturday.
- Thursday, March 16, 2000 - 13A
Maryland is overhyped for the talent it
actually has on the roster. UCLA is
well-versed in being a No. 6 seed that
upsets a No. 3 seed in the second round.
Fighting chance: No. 10 Creighton
shoots 41.8 percent from 3-point range,
a statistic that gives it an excellent
chance of beating a Chris Porter-less
Auburn. Auburn's Scott Pohlman is hot
and cold from long distance, and a cold
day for him could mean one for Auburn
as well. Creighton's run would be one
game at most, however. Marcus Fizer
and No. 2 Iowa State would swat the
Jays back to earth in round two.
Favorites: No. 1 Michigan State, No.
2 Iowa State, No. 4 Syracuse, No. 6
UCLA. The Syracuse-Kentucky game
is about as much of a toss-up as there is.
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