first_imgThere’s always a minor sense of relief when the USC basketball team does not make the March Madness tournament. Obviously, I want to see USC in the tournament as much as any fan.But when the Trojans aren’t in the mix, I feel a little more freedom while filling out my bracket. The times ‘SC has made the tournament, I always feel a little uncomfortable if I don’t pick USC as winner of a particular game. Picking USC almost feels like bad luck, but not picking them is definitely even worse.So when they’re not even on the paper, I don’t have to deal with the existential fan crisis and can be a little less biased while trying to rationally predict the outcome of the tournament.I’ve been entering the March Madness bracket competition on ESPN.com the last couple of years. It’s free to enter, and if I just so happen to be the one out of the million entrants to fill out the most accurate bracket, I would win $20,000. There’s no reason not to try.My theory for the bracket is that if I am going to have any chance at winning that prize, something completely absurd has to happen and I have to randomly guess it. There’s no way I would win the pool if I picked, say, Kentucky to win it all and magically picked every other upset to happen perfectly. Way too many other people would have picked the top guys to finish in the Final Four, so I purposely go for a very unusual Final Four every time.I also wholeheartedly believe that a mid-major is eventually going to win the tournament. Sure, the tournament recently has been dominated by powerhouses like Duke, UConn and Kentucky. But teams like Wichita State, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have had a lot of success recently as well, and I think it’s only a matter of time before one of those little guys brings home the title.The last two seasons, I picked Creighton, the tiny little Jesuit school out of Omaha, Nebraska, to win it all. The Bluejays were led by Doug McDermott, the national player of the year in 2014, so I thought they would be the best choice amongst the      mid-majors to pull it off. My grandpa also played basketball at Creighton way back in the day, so there was a little bit of personal bias behind those two picks.The Bluejays unfortunately did not make the tournament this year; McDermott graduated and got drafted by the Chicago Bulls, and his alma mater went 14-19 without him. With both of my primary potential rooting interests out, I had to jump on a new bandwagon this month. So I opened up ESPN.com, went to the bracket page and thought to myself,  “Who is going to come out of nowhere to win it all?”Northern Iowa.I hadn’t really been paying much attention to the NCAA basketball regular season, so I was surprised to see this school I had never heard of as a No. 5 seed. It was love at first sight. I was ready to bet all of my marbles on these Wildcats. They would make it out of the relatively weak East regional, upset No. 1 seed Duke in the Final Four then finish off that Cinderella story with a 57-47 win against almighty, unbeaten Kentucky.While filling out the rest of my bracket, I accidentally confused Northern Iowa with North Dakota State, a 15-seed out of the South regional, so I decided that they, too, would make the Sweet 16, but I had them losing to Duke before the Elite Eight.Sure enough, North Dakota State got handily beat in the first round by Gonzaga, and while Northern Iowa looked very solid in its first round win against Wyoming, they were defeated by Louisville in the round of 32.Bracket busted. Now that I’ve given up any real hope of winning the ESPN pool, I can watch the rest of the tournament without a real rooting interest and just pull for underdogs in all situations.March is definitely still the most wonderful time of the year for sports fans, and this year’s addition of the March Madness tournament has been no exception so far after only one weekend.But I’m still anxious to see the men’s team make a deep tournament run before I graduate. It’s both frustrating and disappointing to look at the Trojans’ season and see an eerily similar record to the year before. After going 2-16 in Pac-12 play last year with an 11-21 overall record, they went 3-15 in conference and 12-20 overall this season. One game at a time, though, right?Nonetheless, coach Andy Enfield still has my vote of confidence, for now. It starts with recruiting, which he’s done well with so far, and that will eventually materialize into more victories. I’m not expecting as meteoric of a rise as the baseball team, but Enfield deserves the same patience and window of opportunity as Dan Hubbs, who appears to have turned the baseball program around for the long term after missing the playoffs his first couple of seasons.I’m going to enjoy the rest of this year’s tournament, of course. My only rooting interest at the moment is that Gonzaga finally upends UCLA’s they-probably-shouldn’t-even-be-there-over-Murray-State run and avenges any of Adam Morrison’s old demons from the Bruins’ crazy comeback win over the Bulldogs in 2006 Sweet Sixteen.But I’m already looking forward to next year’s. I sure hope the Trojans make it and I think they can.I know it’s not the safe bet, but if they do make the tournament, you can bet I’m picking the Trojans to win it all in my bracket.last_img

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