My chalky bracket ends in Jayhawk

March 17, 2010 

There are two ways to build March Madness tournament bracket, and I've used both over the years with some measure of success.

1) Pick your Final Four teams, and then you figure out how they get there.

2) Go round-by-round and arrive at your Final Four.

This year, I'll be posting my bracket at SportsTriCities.com’s March Mayhem under degerman. As an employee, I’m eligible for the $1 million prize, but I encourage you to play alongside me. If you go perfect, I will want an interview, and perhaps you’d be willing to buy me a Spudnut.

Most folks are predicting the University of Kansas will be singing Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU on the night of April 5. The historical fight song includes a reference to the type of chalky limestone found in Kansas.

I will admit, there's some chalk in my bracket, a trendy term used for predicting that the better seed will win. (As the story goes, bookies used a chalkboard to display the betting lines. Last year resulted in the ultimate chalk tournament, and top-seeded North Carolina won the title.)

This edition is a melange of insight from ESPN's Pat Forde -- who has helped me win our office pool in the past — Jim O'Connell, college basketball editor for The Associated Press and Rotowire.com's Joe Sheehan.

Forde predicted that entrants from the Big East (eight) and Big 12 (seven) will go undefeated in the first round.

My bracket has them going 14-1, with Utah State upsetting Texas A&M in the South's No. 5 vs. No. 12 seeds. Below that, I like Richmond to dump Villanova. I've also got Siena tripping Purdue and beating Utah State before running into Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Of the tournament committee, Forde told Tony Kornheiser on ESPN 980 in the District of Columbia, "They did everything but give Krzyzewski a back rub and gift bag."

However, I've got No. 3 seed Baylor — perhaps the best story of the tournament — rubbing out Duke to reach the Final Four. Remember, a Baylor player murdered a teammate in 2003, which opened the book on a massive scandal at the Waco, Texas, program.

In the East, I went back on forth on the 5 vs. 12, Temple and Cornell, but I can't pick an Ivy League school. Besides, Temple coach Fran Dunphy is due -- he's on a nine-game skid when it comes to the first round of the NCAA. And he's facing a former assistant, Steven Donahue.

Ultimately, I've got West Virginia with beating Marquette (a sharp-shooting, but smaller Big East team that gets the nod Thursday over Washington) and then Kentucky in the East's "probation final" — a reference to the less-than-scholarly resumés of coaches Bob Huggins and John Calipari, respectively. Get ready for lots of ref baiting and a bizarre contrast in coaching attire.

In the Midwest bracket, dubbed "The Group of Death" by those who follow World Cup soccer, I backtracked on picking Houston over Maryland, but I've got Michigan State over Maryland in the second round. The rest of it is chalk, including Kansas over Ohio State.

And out “West,” I fear that Gonzaga hasn't recovered from the routing at the hands of St. Mary's last week and will take its cold shooting to Buffalo. The Zags will fall to defensive-minded Florida State. Syracuse, despite being without Arinze Onuaku, should still beat FSU. I've got UTEP beating both Butler and Murray State before a crushing by the Orange, but then it's Kansas State over 'Cuse.

My guess is KU will beat rival K-State for the fourth time this season to reach the final. And only because there are bragging rights and prizes at stake, I would like to see West Virginia end Baylor's run.

Kansas (32-2) stands to have a very favorable travel schedule, playing the first two games in Oklahoma City and the next two in St. Louis before the Final Four in Indianapolis.

And according to my bracket, the Kansas faithful will sing after their victory over West Virginia. I wonder if Huggins will be wearing something other than a velour sweatsuit for the championship game. Maybe that sort of attire is consider formal wear in Morgantown.

However, all of the above makes a bit too much sense. That's why it's called March Madness®.

By the way, I think I'm coming down with something. It's a problem with my vision. I can't see myself making it into the office on Thursday.

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