March Madness is Harder Than Ever to HandicapSix years ago, I filled out a "Danny Sheridan" bracket and a "Jeff Sagarin" bracket prior to the NCAA Tournament and while those statistically based brackets did reasonably well neither one came close to winning ESPN.com's contest--and I suspect that brackets filled out on a similar basis this year would do no better and perhaps would even do worse: the large number of "one and done" collegiate stars has both lowered the overall level of play in college basketball and also made it very difficult to sustain a dominant program. Kentucky was a 38-2 NCAA champion last season but this year the Wildcats went 21-11 and did not even qualify for the NCAA Tournament. As many as a dozen teams in this year's NCAA Tournament have a realistic chance of winning; it is conceivable that one of the number one seeds will triumph but it is just as conceivable that none of the number one seeds will even make it to the Final Four.
Some fans--particularly fans who root for teams that have traditionally been underdogs--may think that it is great that we have no idea who is going to be the 2013 champion but I think that anything that lowers the overall quality of play is not good. The parade of college stars who head to the NBA as early entry draft picks has lowered the quality of play in both college basketball and the NBA. Is it more enjoyable to watch young Anthony Davis struggle to adjust to the pro game while playing for a losing team in New Orleans than it would have been to watch him stay in school and try to win a second consecutive NCAA title? College basketball was much more entertaining in the 1980s when even the greatest players usually stayed in school for at least three years.
I did not fill out a "Sheridan" or "Sagarin" bracket this year but I did fill out three brackets: the one I believe in most strongly has Miami winning the championship, my "chalk" bracket gives the nod to Louisville and my "fan" bracket taps Ohio State. The 2013 Buckeyes would have been destroyed by just about any NCAA championship team from the 1980s but in the modern era of parity an excellent coach, one top notch scorer, one great defensive guard and a bunch of savvy/scrappy role players might just be enough to cut down the nets.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:51 AM