Profiles In Bracketological Excellence: Talking to Our 2013 Classical Bracket Achievers Champion

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The NCAA Tournament is, in general, not a great time to be a reasonable person. For one thing, this is because the one thing the tournament does very well -- certainly more so than ensuring that the best team in the country winds up being named champion -- is inspire wild emotional volatility and sudden wrenching empathy and awe. For another, being reasonable will get you nowhere when it comes to filling in brackets.

The games you've watched, the attention you've paid, the varying degrees of thought you've brought to bear on each game -- that's your call, of course, but that is also finally a thing you are doing for fun. You may not recognize it at the time, and you may not even be having that much fun as you watch your bracket crumble and your chosen team get out-gunned by (say) Stephen F. Austin. But you are not doing all that thinking and mulling and thoughtful predicting for some practical or research-related reason. It may seem like you are, but you will still lose in any given bracketological pool on any given season to someone who is picking with his or her heart.

That was certainly the case in this year's Classical Bracket Achievers, which saw Connecticut fan Chris Romine's bracket edge out Kentucky fan (and alum) Rance Piatt's bracket when UConn edged UK in the championship game. Both of these people know basketball really well -- Rance is a friend of mine, and Chris, a teacher in New York City, also clearly knows what he's talking about -- but neither of them let that interfere with the process of picking successful brackets.

Romine was kind of enough to share his bracketological philosophy and (very excellent) thoughts on Kevin Ollie's facial hair, but don't think of these answers as research for next year's bracket. Think of it more as a reminder that there's no reason to be reasonable about this most unreasonable thing.

Describe, if you would, your bracket-picking philosophy. How did you approach this? Did you watch a lot of college basketball? None? Are you just a dog person?

I'm a UConn homer, so let's just get that out of the way.  My bracket-picking philosophy was, for the most part, "just pick the damn other teams." I have teams that I like and, more importantly, conferences (ACC, A-10) that I hate. So it was a combination of picking teams that I wanted to win, picking teams I thought would win, and picking teams that I wanted to lose but wanted UConn to face later in the tournament. Like UNC. I failed with them, but I wanted UConn to get a piece of UNC. I won with Florida, though. Wanted UConn to show that early season win wasn't a fluke. Get revenge for the Donyell Marshall missed free-throws/Da Meat Hook.

I do watch a lot of college basketball, but I watched less this year than I usually do. My favorite thing in all of sports was Big East basketball, and it pissed me off that NCAA Football led to the breakup of the Big East. My favorite rivals were gone. Syracuse and Pitt were gone. Georgetown gone. And it pissed me off that the Josh Nochimson/Nate Miles texting thing led to an academic ban which helped keep UConn out of a major conference while punishing players who weren't even around when that happened. (While at the same time, Calipari was allowed to have Worldwide Wes and Jay-Z in Kentucky's locker room.)

So I bet on UConn to go on a giant "FUCK YOU" tour because that's all I had as a college basketball fan. I had to believe in Kevin Ollie and the recruits Calhoun left him because I thought the program was done and I didn't want it to be done.

So, your bracket had a lot of things right, but you were (somewhat gratifyingly) no more correct about Kentucky than I was. What carried the day, besides getting a lot of early games right, was your faith in UConn, which was unique among the 112 people in the bracket. So: what was it about this particular 7 seed that inspired such faith?

Yeah, I thought Kentucky was unimpressive as a unit going into the tournament even after their SEC tournament run. And Calipari has never been a good in-game coach. But hey, they out-talented teams all the way to the finals.

UConn homerism aside, I thought the biggest reason UConn could make a run was that toward the end of season Ollie settled on a center rotation that seemed to work, and the improved inside play was leading to more stops on the defensive end and quick buckets in transition. That wasn't happening at all the first three-quarters of the season, and the team really picked it up. They looked like a team that could shut down anyone in the country (except Louisville) on the defensive end.

How would you describe Kevin Ollie's mustache to people who'd never seen it before?

Kevin Ollie's mustache. He's had that thing since he was at least 18.  I'm pretty sure he came out of the womb with it. I would say it looks like his lip has a well-groomed eyebrow. It's like a balding mouse caught in a glue trap.

It seems like you won every bracket you entered this year, presumably because of this UConn pick. Have you decided what you're going to do with your winnings? Are, um, there any winnings? We will definitely send you a chip clip and a t-shirt, if that counts.

Yeah, there were winnings. Nothing major, just the usual office pool-type winnings. I had a couple of short trips planned in the week following the tournament, so it worked out nicely that I had a little extra dough to kick around. And I'll definitely take the t-shirt.

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