Every year we try to make sense of the NCAA bracket and every year, by dinner of the first Thursday if not sooner, our bracket is blown apart. It’s almost impossible to do anything but guess because we all know so little about so many teams.
For instance we learned yesterday that North Texas is a superb defensive team which kind of changes how we might look at the Purdue game.
So this year we’re gong to do one set of straight picks and one that’s based on entirely random factors.
So here goes.
Mascots. Dogs beat Cats, the Dude has cancer so in Lebowski’s honor, we’re banning Eagles and also anyone’s nickname that doesn’t end in an S automatically advances. Any abstract name that doesn’t quite make sense can be a tie breaker and cooler nicknames carry weight over dumb ones.
And bald coaches: they lose unless they’re naturally bald.
Teams located near rivers will defeat teams located near lakes. Teams near either beat teams near none.
Any conflicts between these rules or any situation where none apply will be settled on an arbitrary whim.
Norfolk State is near the Elizabeth River so it will advance past App State to play Gonzaga. But they’ll lose, because not only is Gonzaga near the Spokane River, but Zags is a weird nickname.
Oklahoma is near the Canadian River (who names these things?) while Missouri is close to the much more impressive Missouri River. However, Cuonzo Martin shaves his head so congrats Oklahoma!
Creighton is upstream from Missouri which trumps UCSB. Sorry - this is an ocean-free formula.
Ohio is near the Hocking River while Virginia is near the Rivanna. But Cats lose out to the more abstract Wahoos (Virginia has multiple nicknames so we can choose).
Onwards, ‘Hoos! However, while baldness is not a factor here, between his glasses and his hair, Ohio coach Jeff Boals bears a certain resemblance to UCLA legend John Wooden. Factor it in, oddsmakers.
Uh-oh - Wichita State is near both the Arkansas and the Little Arkansas. Is that even legal?! However, Drake is on the Racoon River and that’s just way cooler. Plus Isaac Brown shaves his head so that’s it for Wichita State. Congrats Drake! Rap on.
Kansas is on the Kansas River - go figure - while Eastern Washington is near some rivers and their coach is shaved bald. And they’re freaking Eagles. That’s for you, Lebowksi. Kansas it is.
Oregon is near the Willamette River while VCU is near the mighty James. So Rams vs. Ducks? Little known fact: VCU basically appropriated Rhode Island’s mascot. That’s ballsy so we’ll take VCU.
Iowa is on the Iowa River while Grand Canyon is in Phoenix which is just...dishonest. Plus the only water there is the Grand Canal. So it’s got to be Iowa.
Texas Southern is near the Brays Bayou which looks like a river on the map. However, Mt. St. Mary’s can only boast a large creek. Onward, Texas Southern! Oh, snap, we forgot this is a play-in. Michigan awaits and Lake Michigan trumps a bayou. Hey, they named it not us.
LSU is on the Mississippi, the Father of Waters, and St. Bonaventure? On the Allegheny. Both coaches have their hair so Tigers being Cats, and Bonnies being somewhat unusual, we are of course obliged to take St. Bonaventure.
The University of Colorado is surrounded by lakes while Georgetown is within walking distance of the Potomac. Advantage Georgetown? Well not yet: Patrick Ewing shaves his head while Tad Boyle is nearly bald. However, under our rules, Hoyas beat Buffaloes. So we’ll go with the Fightin’ 33s here.
Tallahassee boasts three large lakes nearby while Greensboro has a few as well. Seminoles vs. Spartans is a wash. So here’s the tiebreaker: does 72-year-old Leonard Hamilton shave his head? We say yes. Move on, Wes Miller!
UCLA is on the ocean which doesn’t count while Michigan State is near the Grand River which does. Both coaches have their hair still so Spartans vs. Bruins? Spartans have spears. Go home, Bruins.
The winner of that play-in gets BYU and rivers beat lakes, even Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake, so Spartans, come on down!
Texas is in Austin and while the Llano River is dammed up it’s still a river. And Abilene? Some lakes but no rivers. Plus Abilene Christian’s mascot is a Wildcat and we just hate Wildcats. So congrats Texas.
UConn is near the Willamantic while Maryland is in College Park near the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia But Huskies bark! Mush Huskies!
Alabama is near the Black Warrior River and it doesn't get much cooler than that. And Iona? It’s on the Hudson and Gaels is a pretty great nickname. But so is Crimson Tide and it doesn’t end in S. So Roll, Tide!
Baylor is on the Brazos River - it runs right behind the football stadium, how cool is that? - but Hartford claims the Connecticut. Neither school has a bald coach and no dogs here - Bears vs. Stags. Pretty clearly bears eat deers. So Baylor.
Chapel Hill has no major body of water but Wisconsin sits on the majestic banks of Lake Titicaca.
Thanks to the awesome scraping powers of ice age glaciers, it sits on the majestic banks of Lake Mendota instead. That’s pretty cool. Plus all of America is hoping that Wisconsin trounces the evil Tar Heels and dumps their remains in Lake Titicaca. Done!
Winthrop vs. Villanova means Eagles vs. Wildcats. The dude abides. No freakin’ Eagles!
Purdue is just off of Lake Michigan. As an aside, this little project is giving us all some swell geographic insights. North Texas has no meaningful water supply other than, lately, snow melt. Plus their mascot isn’t just an eagle it’s Scrappy the Eagle. Seriously? We told you, we’re riding with the Dude.
Trivia time: the F word was used 280 times in The Great Lebowski. Dave Leitao was an uncredited consultant.
Lubbock is seriously dry and we’re not talking alcohol while Utah State is relatively close to the Great Salt Lake and not too far from Bear Lake either so we’re taking the Aggies here. Trigger warning: Utah State’s mascot is butt ugly. Our apologies to butts across America and indeed, the world.
Arkansas is in a pretty dry area compared to Colgate, which is near Taylor Lake. Both coaches are hirsute and it’s Razorbacks vs. Raiders. But only one school has improved the world via toothpaste. So we’re sticking with Colgate in deep gratitude for the Colgate family’s contributions to dental health. We only pray they haven’t forgotten Kentucky.
Fun trivia: the New River is one of the oldest and therefore worst named rivers in the world so edge to Virginia Tech over Florida. And Hokies is a completely weird nickname so eat it Gators. You’re on the first flight out of Indy.
Oral Roberts is yet another school near the Arkansas River while Ohio State is near none. However, we have another freakin eagle mascot so get out of here Oral Roberts. However, props for this. Gotta love a feisty mascot.
Illini vs. Drexel? No S - roll on, Illinois.
Ramblers vs. Ramblin’ Wreck. We say another school near the shores of Lake Michigan will suffice. Go home, Pastner. You’ve done enough.
Tennessee is near the French Broad River and that can’t be popular in a university town, But Oregon State? A brisk walk from the Willamette, hence the Beavers nickname which might actually be more likely to be canceled. But roll on, big river. Oregon State in a blow out.
Oklahoma State is in Stillwater and you’d think that would mean, well, water, but there’s just not much there. Liberty, which appears to have so far survived the uh, rather unusual reign of Jerry Falwell Jr., is near the James and that’s good enough for us. More trivia: Jerry Falwell Sr’s father was a moonshiner. Who knew?
San Diego State is near the San Diego River and that means the Aztecs win over Syracuse but wait...there’s no S in Orange so the ACC has hope!
West Virginia is lousy with rivers and Morgantown sits on the banks of the Monongahela while Morehead State sits near a mere creek - and they’re even more Eagles and the dude HATES eagles so we’re done with Morehead too.
On a slightly different note, why do so many schools have Eagles, Tigers (sorry Clemson) and Wildcats? Shouldn’t there be a law?
Clemson has a large lake for drunk students to hazard while Rutgers has the Raritan River. No bald coaches, no eagles and Knights trump Tigers. As we said, too many damn Tigers.
Like Texas Southern, Houston gets the Brays Bayou which looks a lot like a river to us. Unfortunately, not only is Cleveland State near the Cuyahoga, that river actually caught on fire - like a dozen times! Plus the school’s mascot is a Viking so there’s a reasonable chance CSU’s mascot was actually involved in some of those fires. Toss in Houston’s Cougar mascot and it’s simple: the Coogs are goin’ down.
Round II will come soon, probably with a different set of arbitrary rules.