Picking Final Four teams is really just guesswork

Published 9:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2019

It’s always a bit amusing when people ask me who I like to win big sporting events like the Super Bowl or NCAA Tournament. I guess the belief is that someone whose job it is to live and breathe sports has some sort of inside information.

The sad truth is, I’m really just an educated fan like most of you. For proof of that, look no further than my NCAA Tournament bracket on an annual basis.

The first time I filled out a bracket was 1993. I remember it well, because it’s probably the best I’ve ever done. I picked three of the Final Four correctly — Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky — and nailed the fourth (Michigan) at the end of the first round after my initial pick of Georgia Tech was knocked out. I also picked the famous Santa Clara over Arizona 15 vs. 2 upset and wound up with something like 42 of 63 games correct.

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I should have quit while I was ahead.

In 26 years of brackets since then I have never once correctly picked all four Final Four teams. Although I probably average in the mid-30s on the number of correct selections, that number has been in the 20s quite a few times.

Despite my crowning achievement of picking Butler’s surprise run to the Final Four in 2010, I’ve donated money to way more office pools than I’ve won.

This year’s Final Four crop of Gonzaga, North Carolina, Duke and Tennessee crapped out pretty early. Only two of them even made it to their regional final. With no teams and three games left in the tournament, I will finish just under .500 with a 31-32 record. You can almost flip a coin on each game and do as well as I did.

This year’s motley collection of Final Four teams Auburn, Texas Tech, Michigan State and Virginia show how hard it is to get them all right. Auburn and Texas Tech have never been to the Final Four before, Virginia is there for the first time in 35 years, and Michigan State got there after failing to get past the first weekend three years in a row. If you were going by history, you did not see this group coming.

Other than Virginia, which spent a lot of time at No. 1, none of them knocked your socks off with the eye test, either.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to go 4-for-4 on the Final Four. Too many variables, too many upsets, too many things that defy common logic. After 26 years you’d think I’d learn that. Maybe next year I will.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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