While play-in games are already underway, the true madness of March Madness begins tomorrow with the flurry of first-round games in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
As I did last year, I’ve framed some of this year’s key college basketball match-ups in famous alumni terms in what I’ll refer to as Celebritology Bracketology. Consider this a hoops prep guide for entertainment-obsessed individuals who also love the fervor of March Madness but, frankly, have no idea what RPI means.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to flesh out the entire field of 68 teams this way. (Please, if anyone knows of a prominent Hollywood figure who attended South Dakota State University or the University of North Carolina-Asheville, I urge you to come forward.) Instead, I’ve focused on 13 celebrity alumni match-ups that will undoubtedly provide valuable information to consider on this final full day of bracket marking.
Who wins in the epic battle of Fey vs. Faye? Brad Pitt vs. Venus Flytrap from “WKRP in Cincinnati”? Darth Vader vs. Bart Simpson? Oh, it’s on, baby!
Jimmy Buffett (Southern Mississippi) vs. Kirstie Alley (Kansas State)
Alley demonstrated she has the competitive drive to go pretty far on “Dancing With the Stars.” But remember: She came in second. Mr. Buffett, on the other hand, has been touring and putting up with drunk buffoons for decades, and still keeps a smile on his face. He’s got the endurance of a winner.
Pick: Buffett/Southern Miss.
Dierks Bentley (Vanderbilt) vs. Matt Damon (Harvard)
Bentley is a popular country singer and a guy who vaguely resembles a scruffier version of Bradley Cooper. These are points in his favor. But let’s be real — even though Damon/Harvard is the lower seed in this contest, is there any way Bentley stands a chance against a math genius, political activist and man who successfully refurbished a zoo?
Joan Cusack (Wisconsin) vs. J.K. Simmons (Montana)
Two fine and likable character actors go head-to-head in a match-up that’s tough to suss out. On one hand, Cusack somehow managed to own this look in “Working Girl” and earn an Academy Award nomination in the process. On the other, Simmons is J. Jonah Jameson.
Pick: Simmons in a buzzer beater — he’ll cackle his way to a win if he has to.
James Earl Jones (Michigan) vs. Nancy Cartwright (Ohio)
This is as epic as it gets, people: the voice of Darth Vader vs. the voice of Bart Simpson. Both characters are pop culture icons. Both of them talk kind of funny. But I think the edge here goes to Jones, because of his massive body of acting work and the fact that Cartwright only went to the University of Ohio for two years, then completed her degree at UCLA. Oh, and also: Jones is Darth freakin’ Vader. I really don’t want him to find my lack of faith disturbing.
Carl Weathers (San Diego State) vs. Zach Galifianakis (NC State)
Apollo Creed vs Alan from “The Hangover”? That doesn’t even qualify as a fair fight. Despite the odds, I’m rooting for the lower-seeded underdog here, for reasons that will become more apparent when we break down our next game.
Pick: Galifianakis/NC State, even though Galifianakis is still one course shy of graduating.
Bradley Cooper (Georgetown) vs. Trisha Yearwood (Belmont)
Thankfully Ryan Gosling didn’t go to college, so there’s no potential for Sexiest Man Alive baggage to catch up with Cooper as his team advances. And, yes, I am going with Cooper/Georgetown over the country crooner here. Why? Because if he wins, he faces Galifianakis/NC State in the next round. There’s the potential for a “Hangover” star showdown — or, as I prefer to think of it, a member of the Wolfpack vs. a member of the Wolfpack, representing the actual Wolfpack. Plus — plus! — if either of them goes all the way to the championship, they could find themselves up against Mr. Chow.
James Caan (Michigan State) vs. Jackee Harry (LIU — Brooklyn)
Feisty goes up against feisty in this clash of the “Godfather” titan and “227” mistress of sass. I predict this will be a close physical game. But ultimately, the win will go to Sonny Corleone, even though he got whacked (and Caan eventually transferred to Hofstra).
Pick: Caan/Michigan State.
Brad Pitt (Mizzou) vs. Tim Reid (Norfolk State)
The advantage here would clearly seem to lean toward Pitt, even if he remains two credits shy of graduation from Missouri. But let’s not act too hastily. After all, Reid was “WKRP in Cincinnati’s” Venus Flytrap, smoothest overnight DJ in radio history and the first officer of funk I’m guessing he could execute a flawless pick and roll. But he’s up against one of the biggest movie stars ever, and someone who knows a little something about sports strategy. So . . .
Chris Farley (Marquette) vs. Jon Heder (BYU)
Okay, technically the rules of Celebritology bracketology stipulate that no deceased celebrities can appear. But like a referee pretending not to see a Duke flop, I’m going to look the other way and act like I didn’t notice. Essentially, what we have here is a case of Matt Foley against Napoleon Dynamite. And while Dynamite definitely has some moves, I’m not sure he’s a match for anyone who lives in a van down by the river. I mean, Foley really knows how to psych himself up before a game.
Faye Dunaway (Florida) vs. Tina Fey (Virginia)
Wow, it’s an epic battle of Fey vs. Faye, of Bonnie vs. “Bossypants,” of “No wire hangers ever” vs. “I want to go to there.” Both are award-winning actresses and gutsy ladies. It’s going to be a really close game. But I’m saying ...
Pick: Fey/Virginia in a buzzer beater.
Retta (Duke) vs. Don Most (Lehigh)
This one presents a TV comedy conundrum — to go with Donna Meagle of “Parks and Recreation” or Ralph Malph of “Happy Days”? Purely because of her association with the loathed Blue Devils, I really want to go with Most. But honestly, I can’t kid myself.
Guy Fieri (UNLV) vs. Trey Parker (Colorado)
Jessica Hughbanks (Wichita State) vs. Stephen Furst (VCU)
A former resident of the “Big Brother” house against Flounder from “National Lampoon’s Animal House”? Come on, no contest.