Don't Pick Akron To Win, Just Hope You're Wrong

As predicted, the Akron ZIps got their 15-seed. Notre Dame is their scheduled competition. Congratulations for making the tournament! True to their seed, Akron will lose by about 15 points.

Even as a fan of the Roo (or even the MAC), it's tempting to look long and hard at that matchup with the Irish and say ... well, Zeke Marshall could have another career game on the defensive side, guys like McNees and McClanahan step up and pop some shots, Nikola Cvetinovic keeps the frontcourt honest, Brett McKnight does something clutchy again, and maybe Notre Dame has a bad game, looks ahead to their second-round game and ...

...And suddenly those ifs, when concatenated, make you look like a lovable, desperate sap. You're going to be filling out brackets, because that's just what people with office jobs do, and here's why you're not going to write a single 15-seed down.

Yes, OHIO beat Georgetown last year, and that was a 14-seed over a three-seed. But we didn't see that coming. At. All. If you picked it, you lucked into one point in your bracket pool and nothing more.

Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, there have been exactly one hundred 2-vs-15 games in the history of the tournament. Four have won: Hampton over Iowa State in 2001, Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997, Santa Clara over Arizona in 1993, and Richmond over Syracuse in 1991. Santa Clara did have Steve Nash on their team, but other than that the four teams share one common property: nobody great. Case in point: the other matchups this year on the 2/15 tilts are San Diego State-Northern Colorado, Florida-UC Santa Barbara and North Carolina-Long Island. Yuck on all fronts. Based on these numbers we're sort of "due" for one. But even on the three percent chance that one of them falls this year, you have a 25 percent chance that you pick the right 15-seed.

And this stuff really extends to upsets of all kinds, going as far down as 11-seeds. The surprise wins are gangs of fun when you're right about them — to this day I still glow over correctly putting 13-seed Bradley in the 2006 Sweet 16, knowing zilch about them — but more often than not you're probably going to be sullen when the better team actually wins.

In college basketball, the lesser team might be able to lead after 10, 20, 30, even 35 minutes ... but how often do you see it happen when in that final stretch, the team in the colored jerseys are playing tentatively while the stronger team eventually breaks through and advances? In college football, upsets occur normally when the coach's scheme can neutralize power and depth, such as a spread offense or a running quarterback. In college basketball, the only hopes are winning individual matchups — which rarely happens — or launching a nautical buttload of 3-point field goals, which is college hoops' great equalizer.

It may be what Akron et. al. will count on to beat Notre Dame, and it's the best chance they have. Your best chance of getting your bracket right is to assume this gambit will fail.

Four percent of 15-seeds have won. Perhaps if the upsets were weighted more — and you'd think they would be doing that all along, but c'est la vie — you'd have odds and an impetus to get some bonus points.

So here's what you do, O Bracket Sage:

  1. Pick the 2-seeds, then
  2. Root like hell against them.

Ever wish that more things worked like college brackets? That you could seed everything that way? Top 64 pre-game foods. Top 64 college players. Well, now you can do just that with your friends, with the Allstate BFF Brackets, which takes your 64 top Facebook friends (an algorithm seeds them based on interaction) and seeds them in four regions, exactly like the real tourney. Once the tourney starts, your friends advance with the corresponding seeds – till one is left standing. Check it out at http://apps.facebook.com/bffbrackets/

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