March Madness humbles bigheaded bracketologists

Saturday, April 1, 10:22 p.m.

My boy from the “D” and assistant sports editor John Marsh sends a text message: “So uhh, about that national champion pick we made…”

He was referring to how he, I and sports editor LeMont Calloway picked Louisiana State to capture the national title, mostly on the stellar tournament performances of Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tyrus Thomas — before the Final Four.

The University of California at Los Angeles was beating the breaks off LSU and them “Gator Boys” had already dusted “Cinderfella,” George Mason, 73-58, sending the Patriots back to Virginia and saving the last dance for themselves.

My “perfect” bracket was shot. One minute later. I hit my man back.

“The tournament has a way of making idiots out of all of us,” I replied.

No response. None was needed. We had both come in contact with a reality that, for my ginormous sports ego, is hard to bear.

Bracketology is definitely more art than science. Meaning it takes years of trial-and-error to build a healthy knowledge. Note, I wouldn’t dare say perfect.

After taking a few hits in my first attempt at picking the winners and losers in last year’s field of 65, I thought I had earned my stripes. I was smelling myself. I even wrote a column about how, despite the upsets, I believed I was the preeminent sports head on this campus (“Tournament bracketing: A humbling experience for fans”, published March 28, 2005).

I compared myself to Socrates.

So young, so stupid.

After failing to pick a single team in this year’s Final Four, I was reminded of King Solomon’s words in Proverbs 4:7: “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting get understanding.”

I picked Texas, Memphis, UConn and Boston College to make the Final Four. Straight “0’fered.” Humbled again. Nonetheless, I’m a little wiser to the ways of predicting potential contenders from pretenders.

This was the most manic March in recent memory.

No. 14-seeded Northwestern State ousted No. 3-seeded and Big Ten Conference Champion Iowa in the first round. Wichita State bounced No. 2 seed Tennessee in the second round.

And regardless of the outcome of tonight’s national championship game, George Mason is the biggest story of this year’s tourney. Sorry Joakim Noah.

It’s like that scene in “White Men Can’t Jump” when Gloria explains to Billy that sometimes when you win, you really lose and sometimes when you lose you really win. The boys from Fairfax, Va. made that old philosophy actually mean something.

After another fruitless season of madness, I understand things a little better .

Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

1. Know who’s hot and whose cold.

Both Syracuse and UCLA were hot going into the tournament. But the ‘Cuse peaked too soon.

2. Have a few what I call “spirit” picks

These are picks that the only justifiable reason for making them is that the spirit lead you to do it.( i.e. Bradley in the Sweet 16)

3. Do your research.

Just like styles make fights in boxing, matchups make games in basketball. Duke just couldn’t match up with LSU.

At best, you will almost certainly fail. But that’s why they call it March Madness.

Nick Birdsong is a senior newspaper journalism student from Tampa. He can be reached at