Start The Madness: Weighing The Seeds Of March

Mar 16, 2015
Originally published on March 16, 2015 7:50 am
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Well, productivity in the American workplace is about to drop, including this workplace. My bracket is in front of me. The 68 teams are set for March Madness - the NCAA tournament championship - and our resident expert Tom Goldman is on the line. And, Tom, good morning to you, sir.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I'm sorry, did you say expert?

GREENE: (Laughter) I did say expert. I want to set expectations.

GOLDMAN: Well, let's look around for one, David, yeah.

GREENE: OK. We can find one. Well, so the teams are all set. Kentucky - undefeated; they went 34-and-0. They're the overall number one seed in the tournament - no surprise. Any other teams important here?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, and, you know, I think the consensus is that the selection committee did pretty darn well. There will be some complaints. We'll talk about that in a second. But the number one seeds in the other three regions of the tournament - Wisconsin in the West, Villanova in the East, Duke in the South - no real arguments. Duke lost in the semi-finals of the ACC tournament - four losses this season - but still got the top seed, according to a selection committee spokesman because of elite quality wins over Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina and others. Now, as I said, there's always criticism. Colorado State players reportedly were devastated after their team with 27 wins didn't get in, even though it beat two teams during the season that did get in. And there were questions about why UCLA made it in. The Bruins were rated much lower in at least one metric than Colorado State.

GREENE: This is a yearly thing - every Monday after the Sunday tournament selection...


GREENE: A lot of complaints about who didn't get in, who did get in. Well, Kentucky - I mean, if they win six games in this tournament, they will be the first team in, like, almost 40 years to win the title with a perfect record. Who can stop them?

GOLDMAN: Well, who can stop them? You know, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Wisconsin has the best chance, but that's only a 10.9 percent chance.


GOLDMAN: They're due to meet in the Final Four, if they do meet. You know, look, Kentucky is just dominant. But they are still college kids. They're not immune to pressure. Pressure builds every step closer to that hallowed 40-and-0 season. And if an opponent can stay close, the tension of a close game could make the University of Kentucky flinch. But Kentucky has such great defense, so many good players. And, amazingly, in their starting lineup - one junior, two sophomores; that's veteran leadership for a John Calipari team. That'll help them withstand the pressure.

GREENE: OK, I mean, you don't call yourself an expert. I'm calling you an expert. I want some tips on filling out the brackets here, as do millions of people out there who are going to be doing this.

GOLDMAN: OK, I'm going to cite a couple of others first. A professor at University of Michigan School of Kinesiology says flipping a coin gives better results than a carefully filled out bracket.

GREENE: (Laughter) That's great.

GOLDMAN: Polish up your quarter.


GOLDMAN: Political prognosticator extraordinaire Nate Silver, who now has the ESPN website FiveThirtyEight, he's weighed in with a few basic do's and don'ts that might help predict success. Take into account travel distance, he says. Young players get tired. And he says do not let pride in your alma mater get in the way, David. Are you listening? You have to be cold and calculating and admit that your alma mater has no chance unless you went to Kentucky. My tip - fill in as many brackets as allowed in your pool and never hesitate to consult your pets.

GREENE: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: Especially cats; they seem to know best.

GREENE: Wonderful, wonderful advice. Well, Tom, if you're a fan of women's basketball, yesterday was only a prelude because tonight we get the women's bracket being announced, and the same lack of intrigue there in a way.

GOLDMAN: Well, as dominant as Kentucky is on the men's side, UConn probably is more so on the women's. We've had some wonderful stories this season in the women's game. South Carolina surged to the top of the rankings and then got clobbered by UConn. Princeton went undefeated, Notre Dame is very tough, but UConn is just in a different class. It would be a true stunner if the Huskies don't win a third straight title.

GREENE: Tom, happy March Madness to you.

GOLDMAN: Same to you.

GREENE: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.


GREENE: Let the madness begin. It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.