The Pitt News

Destroyed bracket falls to intriguing Final Four

By Alex Wise / Staff Writer

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And then there were four.

Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State have advanced to the Final Four in what has been one of the most exciting NCAA tournaments in recent memory.

Looking back on the last few weeks, we’ve seen upsets, heat checks, tight finishes, walk-ons dancing, coaches falling off of stools and everything else you’d want to see in an event of this magnitude. The only complaint I have — aside from Wisconsin seemingly shooting better than 100 percent from the field in the second half against my Arizona pick — is one that I share with the masses: my bracket is toast.

It wasn’t this way from the beginning, though, which makes it sting so much more. In the first — sorry, “second” — round, I picked 28 of the 32 games correctly. I even took Georgia State over Baylor. My logicfor the upset ended up proving largely irrelevant, but a win is a win.

After the Round of 32, I was feeling even better about myself. Of the 16 teams I picked, 13 advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and I still had all of my Final Four teams competing. My hopes were high, which is the last place hopes should be when you’re as historically awful in bracket challenges as I am.

That’s when it all went wrong. Villanova and Virginia, my Elite Eight picks from the East region, both lost. Wichita State never had a chance against Notre Dame. Maryland freshman guard Melo Trimble took a few shots to the head, which knocked him out of the game, effectively eliminating the Terps’ odds to beat West Virginia. My bracket was crumbling at this point, but I still had three of my Final Four picks.

Cue the Elite Eight.

You know how people always stress the importance of using logic to pick your bracket rather than picking your favorites? By the end of conference tournament season, I was incapable of separating logic and love.

Pitt and Arizona are my two favorite college basketball teams, and they treat my emotions differently. Every year, Pitt gets my hopes up before the season, only to gradually drag me down a rocky slope as the months go on, leaving me hurt but unsurprised. Arizona, meanwhile, makes me think all year long that it has a legitimate shot at the title, only to rip my still-beating heart from my chest somewhere around the Elite Eight, where Arizona has lost to Wisconsin two years in a row.

This year, I picked Arizona as my national champion, using all sorts of ridiculous self-rationalizations that would lead my Wildcats over the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four. What I didn’t count on — and what nobody counted on — was Wisconsin stud Sam Dekker dropping multiple 24-foot daggers with three hands in his face when the game was still somewhat within reach.

Whatever. I don’t care. No, I didn’t cry … that much.

But the weekend went on. I was sure Kentucky would wipe the floor with Notre Dame.

“They’ll win by 25,” I told my roommates.

They won by two.

“Gonzaga has the interior depth to shut down [Jahlil] Okafor,” I told my roommates.

Duke handled the Zags, leaving me with one Final Four team, the same Final Four team that everyone and their grandmother had: Kentucky.

Wisconsin won’t shoot a million percent from the field again, and Michigan State’s fun run (that no expert is acting surprised to see, by the way, even though no one saw it coming) will reach its end. That means we’ll get the Kentucky-Duke championship we’re all dying to see. I’ve sworn all year that Duke at its pinnacle is the best team in the country.

Hopefully, Kentucky can put that to the test.

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Destroyed bracket falls to intriguing Final Four