March should be truly maddening this year

The Post Sports Live crew debates the number of ACC schools likely to get an NCAA tournament bid. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

If there was ever a year to enter a wacky NCAA tournament bracket in your office pool — which of course your office doesn’t have, because they’re illegal; we sure don’t have one at The Post, no sirree — this is it. I don’t think this is the year a 16 seed beats a No. 1 — although we don’t know the 16s or all the 1s yet — but I think anything else could happen. Anything.

What do we know about the state of college hoops as February winds to a close? We know the B1G is the best conference in the country. We know Indiana will get a No. 1 seed. We know former George Mason coach and local favorite Jim Larranaga will not have to sweat out the Selection Show, waiting for his team’s name to be called. We know we don’t understand what’s going on with Maryland. (We’re in good company; “I just don’t understand it,” Mark Turgeon said after the Terps lost to Boston College on Tuesday night.)

Everything else is anyone’s guess. Indiana is a very good team; everyone else seems almost good only by comparison to a lot of lesser teams. Miami has lost four games; the most inexplicable was to Florida Gulf Coast, but that was in November. Two came over Christmas break, and then Wake Forest handed the Hurricanes their first ACC loss Saturday.

Kansas inexcusably lost three straight, including at Texas Christian. Florida has lost four games, all away from home, two in December and most recently in Columbia, Mo., where the Tigers are unpleasant to play. Of Duke’s three losses, only the one at Comcast Center likely will hurt it in the seeding March 17.

Michigan State’s five losses — including two to Indiana — have come against teams that should make the tournament field. The same is true of Michigan’s four losses. And the tournament goes through Detroit, specifically the Palace of Auburn Hills. It will be tempting for the committee to send one or both teams there, depending on their seeds, of course. The committee loves to create matchups like that.

And so on. This is my kind of year. I used to enter a “serious” bracket and a “fun” bracket in whatever pool I was in, I forget which, and of course that never worked because the upset picks that inevitably came to pass were on the “fun” bracket and the “serious” bracket was too chalk. I stopped doing that when I started doing a bracket for publication in The Post. I get about 30 minutes to make those picks — and yes, I’ve always picked Kansas — but once that bracket is in print, I don’t feel right about preparing a plethora of varying brackets.

Plus I’m still unable to finish a bracket without Kansas on the final line.

This might be the year all that changes. For starters, I’ve come to believe that I’m a jinx. The Jayhawks won the national title in 2008; I started doing the bracket in 2010. If that isn’t evidence of some malevolent spirit at work, I don’t know what is. I may be that malevolent spirit. How depressing.

But if I can get over my guilt — a tall order for an Irish Catholic — and kick the Kansas habit, it should be this year. Not only because the Jayhawks are erratic, to put it mildly, but because this is the year anything can happen. I think. I hope. March Madness is always fun, but this year it could be a doozy. Sharpen those pencils and get ready.

For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/
hamilton.

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