The Lunardi Problem

There's nothing wrong with some NCAA Tournament speculation. But a little Bracketology goes a very long way.
Share |

In the delightful Liz-Lemon-gets-married episode of 30 Rock, a secondary storyline centered upon Jack Donaghy's realization that he’s half the man he used to be. He confesses to Jenna that he is no longer a Master of the Universe; he, a man who could count among his many accomplishments, “coin[ing] the phrase, ‘You Wish, Pal’” in the 1980s. Later, Donaghy stares forlornly at a gold plaque on his wall commemorating his linguistic feat. 

It was a classic 30 Rock throwaway, but good enough to roll around in my head for days after. “You Wish, Pal” is such a perfectly banal bit o’snark that it sounds universal, although it never achieved anything near critical rhetorical mass. As far as “meaningless phraseology that becomes ubiquitous and pointlessly enters the national dialogue,” does that phrase have anything on “You Go Girl,” “Don’t Go There,” or—most vexingly and of the moment—“Bracketology?” You wish.

***

Marquette’s first Big East road game of this season came at Pitt. It was a big game for Marquette fans (I'm one) and Pitt fans and a certain type of masochistic gambler and Big East completist, but otherwise it was not. Otherwise it was just another middling early-season contest on a college basketball calendar filled with them. The announcing team of Beth Mowins and Tim Welsh were ideal for a January tilt on ESPNU—blandly competent, but mercifully free of schtick, gimmickry and canned anecdotes. They were fine, until college basketball's resident defective oracle showed up.

“Guess who’s in the house?" Mowins crowed at one break in the action. "Our Bracketologist, Joe Lunardi. He’s everywhere!”

And the St. Joseph's administrator and ESPN's resident NCAA Tournament seer really is everywhere, especially at this time of year. In this case, it was more precise to say that Joe Lunardi was in the Petersen Events Center, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at noon, on Saturday January 12, 2013, for a basketball game being aired on a secondary network owned by the large sports media corporation that pays him to be the resident Bracketologist. He was maybe there for his own pleasure. It was maybe a coincidence. But the minute ESPNU's broadcasters mentioned his name, it was clear. It was clear that Lunardi was going to fart all over the broadcast, stankin’ and speculatin' on the airwaves at the expense of the actual game being played on the court.

And it came to pass, and we got—as the game went on—such (admittedly paraphrased) Lunardi-an analyses such as:

“It’s never too early to talk about number-one seeds.” (Yes, it is.)

And, “Obviously, you’ve got the top two, both unbeaten, Duke and Michigan...” (Both would lose within 26 hours)

This was annoying, but mostly for how familiar it is. When last Lundardi's ebullient, grinning shadow darkened a Marquette game, late last season, it was the same intra-office knob-polishing ensued.

“Year-in, year-out, you want to know who is going to the Big Dance, you go to ESPN.com and see who Joe Lunardi’s picked." (And then a beat for frantic mirth, or some basketball) “He has a Ph.D. in Bracketology!” (And another) “How does he do it!” (And some fist-bumps, presumably.)

We could all, now, take a deep breath, and for one moment, pause to recognize that Bracketology isn’t actually a thing. It’s just a parlor game, fun for spitballing at the sports bar, but not a field of actual study. There are not degrees awarded; it's not like someone can take a class in the study of Bracketology, right? Oh.

I stand corrected. 

This, too, is Joe Lunardi's fault.

***

It was St. Thomas Aquinas who said, “Wonder is the Desire of Knowledge...But when in doubt default to KenPom.

The thirst for a deeper understanding of the human condition, as represented in a $5 office pool, must be why the fine Jesuit community at St. Joseph’s University offers an online certification in the “Fundamentals of Bracketology,” which concerns the "art and science" (the art!) of forecasting which teams will be selected for a given year's NCAA men's basketball championship. The professor, naturally, is Joe Lunardi, who is also the school's vice president for marketing communications. He oversees institutional marketing and branding, program advertising, web content, and other integrated communications initiatives. He correctly forecast all 65 teams for the 2008 NCAA Tournament and has averaged no more than one missed team for the past eight seasons. You can call him "Joey Brackets." And for the fully reasonable price of $99, he will give students a firm understanding of the principles of "Bracketology" as applied to Division I college basketball and the NCAA® men's basketball championship and includes a history of the NCAA Tournament ("March Madness®").

There will be: course study of the team selection and seeding process, and the analysis undertaken by individual schools/conferences to position themselves for NCAA championship participation. The course will also explore the most common misconceptions "behind the bracket" as portrayed by the print/electronic media. Common misconceptions like say calling Rutgers and Villanova “bubble teams,” after two weeks of Big East conference play? Something along those lines?

The good news is that there won't be much in the way of math—the mathematical forecasting thing (and the giving away such information for free thing) is for your Ken Pomeroys and Ratings Percentage Index. This is not that. Here, there is the sort of erudition that can only be gathered at courtside of a random Marquette/Pitt game. Here there is a final exam in which students complete a mock bracket, and participate in a mock selection committee meeting, moderated by Joe, and construct their own NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket. Sure, there will be a lot of studying. Maybe some all-nighters. But when it's over, hoops scholars will earn a Certificate of Completion from Saint Joseph's University and a copy of the final bracket signed by Joe himself. Seating is limited.

***

Okay, so ESPN's resident bracketologist makes my skin crawl. Why? Is it charging $100 for a master class in his signature mix of “art and science,” which could probably be more accurately described as a combination of “watch college basketball” and “educated guesswork?” Actually, that doesn’t bother me. If someone wants to pony up a C-note for eight-weeks of nonsense, that’s their business. This is America, man. For a mere $49.99, your author—some call him “Paddy Buckets”—will personally call you, on your own phone, with his personal NCAA Tourney bracket based on his patented “catch parts of some games and then look some shit up on the internet” methodology. Let the market decide.

Does it bug me that Lunardi makes a big fuss about his success rate picking the teams that get into the NCAA tournament, even though it’s not that hard? There are 31 automatic bids, easily another 30 that can be plucked from the various rankings, another 30 that enjoy overwhelming odds of getting in, and maybe three or four remaining wild cards. In essence, Joey Buckets is spotted 64 teams with four slots to fill. In 2012, he missed onein 2011 he missed three, but in 2008, as we’ve been told, he nailed the entire field. It's up to you what the statute of forcastication is and whether access to it is worth your hard-earned dollars. 

As for the simulacrum of Lunardi’s seeding expertise...well, there's that. But once St. Patrick’s Day—doubling as Selection Sunday this year, in what may be a hazardous development for America's livers—rolls around, nobody cares. Noooooo. Bodddddddy. Selection Sunday is fantastic because there is so much to talk about—Final Four predictions, toughest region, best first-round match-ups, upset specials, pool-filling strategies, biggest snubs, MOP potential, foxiest cheerleaders and illest mascots, and so on.

Not on this long list: the accuracy with which Joe Lunardi, or any other Bracketologist, forecasted tournament seeding. Actual seedings will matter—fans will complain, sometimes they will be right—but theoretical seedings not at all. It would be like if kids on Christmas morning sat around ignoring their toys and discussing which presents had been wrapped most efficiently.

“No, we do not offer wagers on where teams will be seeded in the NCAA Tourney," Scott Ghertner of MGM Resorts International told me. "[And I] don’t imagine other non-MGM Resorts Sportsbooks do either.” In terms of potential return-on-investment, students holding a Joey Brackets diploma might as well have a classics degree. Once the tournament starts, of course, Lunardi himself is on his way back to obscurity, and his high-volume inanities, however accurate they were or weren't, are something to take out with the recycling the next day.

***

There's nothing wrong with Lunardi's gimmickry, given the right context and timing. Two weeks into conference play, it's easy to ignore Bracketology in favor of just watching the season unfold. Late in the season, with various possibilities now mostly unfolded, I'll check on Lunardi—along with all the other prognosticators, like this one here, or here, or here, or over here—to see where they have Marquette (and everyone else) pegged. This wasting of time on hypotheticals is on me; dropping thick slices of phony-bologna Lunardi-an speculation into actual game broadcasts is on ESPN though. And it's silly.

Of course, of course most sports fans would love to quit ESPN, but it’s damn near impossible when it comes to college basketball. ESPN is where the games are. When Monday Night Football invited mooks like Sylvester Stallone and Jim Belushi into the booth some years ago—when they gave Dennis Miller a job talking about football on live television—these were clumsy plays for non-football viewers. Fans bitched and the experiment went by the wayside. Lunardi and his signature pseudoscience, though, are considered to add some value to the game-watching process. He's as permanent as he is fatuous.

Lunardi, in the goofy pseudo-field he invented, is an expert—a Ph.D., as we’re reminded every time he enlightens us with insights about VCU being a “virtual lock on my board” while the Rams attempt to go 2-0 in conference play. This is the kind of banter that fills the hours at ESPN, the kind that has zero to do with what the teams he was bigfooting were doing right in front of him. As terrible as much of ESPN's programming is, it's also easy to avoid—I skip Skip, I don't want a First Take, I avoid Greenie and Gunt in the Morning, I have no take on Tebow or The Decision. But, through Lunardi, all that unwanted and under-reasoned conjecture invades what's supposed to be a safe space from it. At least when Jim Belushi shows up in the booth, you know that he's a clown. Lunardi, goofy though he is, is given some casual respectability, treated as a folksy oracle (with a Ph.D.!). He’s worse than Glenn Beck, he’s David Brooks. Please do not get David Brooks in my basketball.

***

Saturday evening found Marquette on ESPN 2 doing battle with Villanova at the Pavilion, Villanova's smaller, louder on-campus arena. It was a mildly important game for Marquette to stay tied atop the Big East, but it was huge for Villanova because they were “one of the last four out” of the NCAA tournament as the game tipped. There was an on-screen graphic of this stone cold fact. The second time it appeared, Mike Patrick had the decency to add, "according to our resident Bracketologist Joe Lunardi." The game was being played in Philadelphia, which is Lunardi's hometown and… and, oh no. No, not again.

"This is the most important 15 minutes of Villanova’s season," Lunardi told Patrick and color commentator Len Elmore, when they invited him to join them on air. "Until the next game."

“We didn’t use to update these things every half hour,” Lunardi says to general guffaws. But hey, since we do, the two spent an entire segment talking about Miami’s beatdown by Wake Forest; Marquette/Villanova, which was the game all three were attending, was at that point a one-point game.

After a dubious charge call, Patrick interrupted the conversation to point out that there have been a number of them and they’ve all gone to the defense. Important, relevant, curious, and so a natural segue for Patrick to return to what didn't matter. "Speaking of bad losses"—nobody was—"Let’s get back to Miami and Wake Forest."

And the topline prattling continued, broken up briefly by a hard Marquette foul that pushed momentum Villanova’s way. Elmore asked Lunardi’s theoretical take on the Duke/Miami game, which would air on ESPN. In a week’s time.

Then Patrick, for reasons unknown, asked for Lunardi’s thoughts on the Fighting Illini's chances. Did Lunardi say, “If they collect one more scalp...” Yep. Did he say, “Well, this is Bracket Busters weekend...” Yes he did, although no it’s not, and that’s a made up alliteration anyhow. Did he say that if he were “doing it”—officially seeding teams, which he’s not—standbys like Kentucky and Kansas would get a second look because of the “human element.” I think you know the answer.

Mercifully, a commercial break ended Lunardi’s time. But not before Elmore chimed in with “P.H.D...Bracketology...My Doc-tah.”

***

I am maybe too upset by all this. This is maybe Mountains Out of Joehills. Fair enough, but here’s the kicker: Lunardi, resident Bracketologist, isn’t any fucking good at his job. 

To amend an earlier statement—there actually is a small group that cares about the accuracy of Lunardi’s predictions. These are your non-televised bracketologists, for whom this sort of prognostication is a hobby. According to The Bracket Project, a website that “measures how closely each Bracketologist got to matching the work of the selection committee,” but doesn’t have anything “to do with who is the best at picking winners in the NCAA tournament,” Lunardi is an average student at best, certainly not a postdoctorate by any means.

The Bracket Project has two rankings of its “final exam grades." The more thorough one is for prognosticators that have participated for at least three years. Joe Lunardi comes in 36th out of 65. That's barely above the mean, right behind Schmolik 64 and two slots ahead of Bluejay Banter Bracketology. It's unlikely that either of those predictors could get $100 for a course in their methodology and an autographed bracket, but neither deserves it any less than Lunardi.

This won't change anything, of course. Lunardi has been branded thicker than an Omega Psi Phi pledge, and the doomsday hype machine in Bristol doesn't have an off switch. He's just another network personality to deal with, and he's free to leverage that notoriety however he wishes. But does this mean we need to give credence to—or pay attention to, or not actively, grumblingly mute—Lunardi when he bum-rushes the mic and starts spitting oracular pronouncements? You Wish, Pal. 


Share |

Comments

I have been searching the Internet for fun and came upon your website. Fabulous post. Thanks a ton for sharing your knowledge! It is great to see that some people still put in an effort into managing their websites. I'll be sure to check back again real soon. northern kentucky divorce attorney

It is very uncommon nowadays, lots of sites and blogs having copy pasted or rewritten info. But here, no doubt, info is original and very well structured. Keep it up. top blogging sites

I pleasure send this messenger to him. Fairly indubitable he mind acquire a decorous recite. http://www.findingsobriety.com

This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! You completed certain reliable points there. I did a search on the subject and found nearly all persons will agree with your blog.Control de vibraciones

Home-Based Business BusinessOpportunity.com is a leading source for finding business opportunities for sale—along with a number of other exciting work-at-home and other small business-model options like distributorships, licensee opportunities and small franchises—any one of which may be specific to your needs. Our team is dedicated to helping you realize your financial goals by providing you access to the perfect business opportunity, one that is just right for you!

Hi! This advise couldn't be written some more! Lesson this courier recalls me of my previous bedroom join! He always kept chatting about this. I pleasure send this messenger to him. Fairly indubitable he mind acquire a decorous recite.salvia for sale

Opportunities Made Simple | Business Opportunities from A to Z Always Free - BusinessOpportunity.com is a leading source for finding business opportunities for sale—along with a number of other exciting work-at-home and other small business-model options like distributorships, licensee opportunities and small franchises—any one of which may be specific to your needs. Our team is dedicated to helping you realize your financial goals by providing you access to the perfect business opportunity, one that is just right for you!
Internet Business

This content is written truly well. Your share of formatting whereas making your moments causes your notices really sunny further careless to fathom. Bless you e-cigarette kits

As far as “meaningless phraseology that becomes ubiquitous what to do to make a guy want you more

Its as if you had a great grasp on the subject matter, but you forgot to include your readers. Perhaps you should think about this from more than one angle.online advertising

Ixperia IT Schulung und Beratung An 18 Standorten in Deutschland bieten wir anspruchsvollen Führungskräften und Mitarbeitern erfolgreich Seminare zu den Themen IT Service Management, ITIL, Projektmanagement und Prince2 in exzellenter Atmosphäre. Sowohl fachlich als auch für die Durchführung erhalten wir von unseren Teilnehmern dafür die besten Beurteilungen mit 100% Erfolgsgarantie. ITIL Zertifizierung

Actual seedings will matter—fans will complain, sometimes they will be right—but theoretical seedings not at all.. www.GramiChicago.com

My buddy mentioned to me your blog, so I contemplation I'd decipher it for myself. Truly fascinating understandings, devise be tail for plus! Free Merchant Account

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site.
http://androidhacks4u.com/hay-day-hack-unlimited-coins-and-diamonds-for-android/

wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated. Business Opportunity

I definitely really liked every mens grooming part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site

Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! Simply put your blog post to my favorite blog list and will look forward for additional updates. Simply wanted to write down a word in order to say thanks to you for those wonderful tips. credit card to perfectmoney

but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release.. email marketing leads

field of actual study. There are not degrees awarded; it's not like someone can take a class in the study of Bracketology http://malaysiaincall.com/

genuinely enjoyed reading it,you are a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back very soon. van hire london

" I also benefit from learning the assessments, but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release geoc "

They were fine, until college basketball's resident defective oracle showed up. website link

college basketball calendar filled with them. The announcing team of Beth Mowins and Tim Welsh were ideal for a January how to start a business

I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say
except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this
blog very often.. how to start a blog

I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say
except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this
blog very often.. how to start a blog

football free bet Amazing dispatch i prerequisite tell furthermore blesss for the info. Science is definitely a tacky dependent. But, is nonetheless with the main matters of our cycle. I value your inform plus watch forth to extra

gimmickry and canned anecdotes. They were fine, until college basketball's resident defective oracle showed up. loft conversions

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if bed base
I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article..

It is really no surprise that this building was found to have bed bugs infesting it. I mean, it is in New York city, which is pretty disgusting itself. And some of the people who Web Site work there, even if they do make decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City. Especially in midtown, of all places.

I discovered so numerous entertaining substance in your blog, essentially its powwow. From the tons of commentarys on your compositions, I divination I am negative the mere unique holding total the rest here! Guard up the exceptional process. Safe Work Method Statement Template QLD

Really impressed! Everything is very open and very clear clarification of issues. It contains truly facts. Your website is very valuable. Thanks for sharing. It's late finding this act. At least, it's a thing to be familiar with that there are such events exist. I agree with your Blog and I will be back to inspect it more in the future so please keep up your act.webs

I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. Usually I visit your blogs and get updated through the information you include but today’s blog would be the most appreciable. Well done!learn more about debt management

I'd like to be able to tag blogs trouble ticketI like and have them show on my website. Any suggestions on the best route to take on this. Any input would be helpful..

I was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more.παπουτσια γυναικεια πεδιλα

Your blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.new dj songs

Glad to chat your blog, I seem to be forward to more reliable articles and I think we all wish to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us. I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more.nutrafarms

The worst part of it was that the software only worked intermittantly and the data wasn’t accurate. You obviously can’t confront anyone about what you have discovered if the information isn’t right.Buy Diazepam

Oakville Wedding Limo I desire to recognize that this is the bulk of finest happy of which I've truly examined. Yea, it really is. The gallery are only entirely astonished by this enter. I wish to watch deep extra info informs love this.

Admire it regarding positioning the comely amuse…I was summary set regarding a manifold regular this…I identified that can peaceful good, employing likelihood, you would perhaps store positioning a immense sum of blogs lowes 10 off coupon

Social media news I was actually going through the nice helpful tips from the blog and I put respect to the writer of this post, enjoying the smart way you write articles in this

NJ Wedding Limo reat post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more

It is really no surprise that this building was found to have bed bugs infesting it. I mean, it is in New York city, which is pretty disgusting itself. And some of the people who work there, even if they do make decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City. Especially in midtown, of all places.how to treat diabetes from home

I’m happy I located this blog! From time to time, students want to cognitive the keys of productive literary essays composing. Your first-class knowledge about this good post can become a proper basis for such people. nice one best way to contact your ex girlfriend

Desert Safari Dubai This short article is perfect! If just one had been to purchase an argument on the authentication of this post, I believe that you would have to throw of your energy because this article is ideal in addition to every individual understands this kind of

I would like to thank you for the effortshere you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well.

This topic has always been one of my favorite subjects to read about. I have found your post to be very rousing and full of good information. I will check your other articles shortly ultrasound technicians

greeting cards for every won! Admire it regarding positioning the comely amuse…I was summary set regarding a manifold regular this…I identified that can peaceful good, employing likelihood, you would perhaps store positioning a immense sum of blogs

It is really no surprise that this building was found to have bed bugs infesting it. I mean, it is in New York city, which is pretty disgusting itself. And some of the people who work there, even if they do make decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City. Especially in midtown, of all places.μπεζ μποτες

Took me time to understand all of the comments, but I seriously enjoyed the write-up. It proved being really helpful to me and Im positive to all of the commenters right here! Its constantly nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I am certain you had enjoyable writing this write-up.sold exclusively online

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing. yishun new condo