The science of bracketology
I remember long ago when I met the NCAA Bracketology Grand Master. I basked in his wisdom. He told me something I’ll never forget and will carry with me for the rest of my life. He said, “Matt, just remember this. Always ...”
No wait, it was, “Never ...”
No, I was right the first time, it was “Always ... pick one No. 12 seed to upset a No. 5 seed. It always happens — it never fails.” And that’s all he told me. So, I’ve always done that because it’s your only chance to go 100 percent in the 12 vs. 5 match-ups.
Now there have been several examples of 2 seeds getting knocked off by 15 seeds, but never has there been a 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. Now No. 3 seeds lose all the time to No. 14 seeds — just ask humble former Iowa coach Steve Alford.
Steve Alford plea
Alford had Iowa as a No. 3 seed against Northwestern State in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, blowing a 17-point lead while resting Greg Brunner, who was having a monster game, to save him up for the imaginary second round game Iowa never played. You can see I’ve gotten over it. It’s just year seven in our eight-year rebuilding plan. Patience Hawk fans.
It just goes to show you that Iowa is cursed against any team with “Northwestern” in the name. My co-worker Tracy, an Iowa grad and fan, said Northwestern is a “wrench in Iowa’s side.” I said, “Don’t you mean thorn?” She said no, and explained, “How would you like a wrench in your side? You wouldn’t like it.” Actually, I agree —when you think about it, I would prefer a thorn to a giant wrench in my side. I think I’m going to start using that phrase. It may catch on.
But back to Steve Alford. He has another No. 3 seed and will try to outsmart No. 14 Harvard’s disciplined game. I’m hoping for another upset there.
I remember when Alford first took the job at Iowa. One of our sportswriters was interviewing him and asked him how it felt to make a million dollars, in light of him just signing a contract. “I don’t make a million dollars,” he snapped. It turned out to be something like $990,000. Some people are touchy about how much they make.
There’s actually a Native American name Iowans use to call Steve Alford — CHAKOTAY —which means, “This guy ... this is not my kind of guy.” Actually, it’s the name of a character on the science fiction show “Star Trek: Voyager.” But, I think it’s available now.
You’ve heard of the Alford plea in the courts? It’s where you don’t admit guilt, but admit the prosecution could prove you did it. There’s also the Steve Alford plea. It’s where you lose but you yourself don’t take any of the blame. It’s the officials and the players’ fault.