sports

Kentucky's Mad March to Perfection Is On

Kentucky Wildcats will win it all! … Unless they don’t.
Kentucky Wildcats will win it all! … Unless they don’t.

Selection Sunday has come and gone. It's time for Bracketology to become part of the corporate lingo again … for about a month. Productivity famously goes down while workers fret over busted brackets, while gambling goes up. But for the purists of the NCAA variety, those who love college basketball, this is one of the most sacred times of the year.

The most tremendous story of 2015, of course, is the University of Kentucky and their historic march toward an all-time mark. There have been undefeated teams before—but not since the mythic Indiana Hoosiers of 1976. The Wildcats, though, seem particularly well-set to head down that path. In fact, the geek stat site 538 has their odds of winning the whole tourney—and thus, going undefeated on the season—at just under twice as likely as the 1 seeds from years past.

Joining Kentucky in the 1-seed party are the Wisconsin Badgers (in the West), the Villanova Wildcats (in the East) and the Duke Blue Devils (in the South). For local interest purposes, it's relevant to note that, while the University of New Mexico Lobos flamed out in incredible fashion this year, the New Mexico State University Aggies won their fourth consecutive WAC championship.

The best thing about leaving picks published in digital form is ensuring the eventual losses will be available forever for anonymous internet commentators or my dearest friends to criticize.

Expert picks are available all over the place, and I'd urge you to peruse those for more serious commentary. But for the quick breakdown, some token advice: A 12 seed over a 5 is incredibly popular every single year, both as a pick and a reality. A 16 seed has never beat a 1 seed—the chances of this being the year that streak is broken are slim. However, all four 1 seeds don't usually make the Final Four—in fact, it's only happened twice.

This writer's picks, though? Wisconsin, Villanova, Gonzaga and the eventual winner Kentucky. The best thing about leaving picks published in digital form is ensuring the eventual losses will be available forever for anonymous internet commentators or my dearest friends to criticize. Obviously confidence is high, but that's part of why this event is called March Madness—anyone can get hot and run off some improbable wins. Fun times for almost all.

And finally, even if basketball is your most precious pastime, John Oliver has carved out some impressive high ground to rest on. The complaints about the NCAA are nothing new, as Grantland's piece on Jerry Tarkanian proved, and it's always worth having some ammo in case the water cooler conversation turns aggressively athletic.