Let’s dance


Students huddled around friends’ computers to watch first round games during school Thursday and Friday

It’s that time of the year again: The three weeks in March when underdogs, powerhouse programs, and small-conference champions come together to compete to win it all. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has everything from upsets and Cinderella stories to buzzer beaters and overtime thrillers.

College basketball fans make predictions through their brackets while following the advice of the so-called “bracketologists” they see on TV, resulting in millions of brackets being put online every year. With only 64 teams, you would think that someone has made a perfect bracket just once, right?

Think again. There are more than 9.2 quintillion possible brackets to choose from every year, meaning the chances of creating the perfect bracket slim, even when millions of people around the world create brackets every year.

When it comes to most sports, especially basketball, no combination of statistics can predict any matchup correctly 100 percent of the time, part of the reason that this college sport’s tournament continues to attract different types of viewers year in and year out.

Although the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament doesn’t draw as much attention at Jones compared to most other high schools, some students follow it very closely. Slipping their phones out of their bags in the middle of class or begging their teachers to play it on the projector, some students will do whatever it takes to watch their favorite team in the tournament. Sometimes, it even goes as far as to miss school to watch that day’s slate of games.

Similar to fantasy sports, students and teachers alike meticulously make their brackets and enter them into pools with friends and coworkers, putting their predictions to the test.  

One thing that sets March Madness apart from other college and professional sports events is that many people love to participate, even if they don’t normally follow sports.

Most people who invest time in the tournament have watched little to no college basketball throughout the year and pick it up on Selection Sunday, when everyone, including the teams trying to earn a spot in the field of sixty-eight, finally finds out the seeding. What these viewers potentially miss are the underlying storylines and unnoticed players whose role on the team could drastically change come March.

Some students like to get involved more than others. Scott Deja ‘19 says he constantly is checking scores and watching games in class, no matter the matchup or importance of the games.

“The environment, the atmosphere, that’s what makes March Madness amazing. During Ac Lab, in class, wherever or whenever, watching the games in school is so much fun.”

On the other hand, teachers aren’t’ totally oblivious to the hype that envelops the students every year in March. Some embrace the mood with bracket-related games and projects; one teacher even went so far as to say that any student that picks a perfect bracket will get an ‘A’ in his class.

Teacher John Wray decided to add a little bit of fun to the exponential growth and probability unit in his first year at Jones. “I said if anyone can get a perfect bracket then they can get an ‘A’ in my class and they were excited about that, then we calculated the chances of that happening and they got a little less excited,” Wray said.

Another highly debated issue when it comes to the Big Dance is the question of how many brackets you are allowed to make. In today’s world, sites such as ESPN and CBS allow users to make up to twenty-five brackets on one account.

“Only one bracket. Has to be the best one that you put out there. If you make multiple brackets, you find yourself rooting for both teams in the same game,” says Deja, while Abram Gallegos ‘19 says to “make as many brackets as you want. If it gives you a chance at a better bracket, why not?”

One of the greatest reasons why the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has become such a big phenomenon, especially with younger generations, is that anybody can get into it. From those who  have watched no games during the year to the college basketball enthusiasts, everyone has a similar chance to win their bracket pools because of all the luck involved. No amount of research can make a perfect bracket, which is why this sporting event in late March attracts so many people. It’s less about the basketball and more about the friendly competition.

Henry Van Zytveld ‘19 believes that the tournament is a season in itself and finds the perfect balance of sports and fan involvement.

“Anybody can get behind it,” says Van Zytveld.  “It always seems like the person who knows the least about basketball always ends up winning the pool.”

Carter’s Prediction:

This is my fifth year of filling out a bracket but it is the first time that I am not confident in any one team to win it all. Not one team faces a relatively easy road to the Final Four. With that, the teams that I believe can make it to San Antonio for the Final Four are Villanova, Virginia, Michigan State, and North Carolina.

Villanova has a simple route to the Elite Eight but will likely have to face Purdue, a tough task for the young squad. The Wildcats should be able to outrun the Boilermakers and grab the victory. One of the most anticipated games of the whole tournament is the probable Sweet Sixteen matchup of Duke and Michigan State. MSU coach Tom Izzo is 1-11 against legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, including a fifteen point loss to the Blue Devils earlier this season. However, the powerful one-two punch of the Spartans’ Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson along with arguably the strongest supporting cast in college basketball should be able to outduel Marvin Bagley and Grayson Allen in a battle of two talented, championship caliber teams. If they can beat Duke, Michigan State can beat anybody, including number one seed Kansas to make it to the Final Four.

North Carolina and Virginia face the toughest routes to the Final Four. The Tar Heels must tackle probable matchups Michigan and Xavier, two teams that finished the season strong and both have great wins against top seeded teams in the tournament. Virginia is the number one overall seed and have a lockdown defense that can get them to San Antonio. Their first difficult matchup will likely come against fifth-seeded Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, a young team that can win any game with a Hall of Fame coach like John Calipari. The Musketeers have held onto the AP Top 25 number one spot for most of the second half of the season and have the best defense in the country, which will lead them to a victory against an untested Wildcat group. An Elite Eight matchup with either Tennessee or Cincinnati will bring a physically tough forty minutes, but the Cavaliers will be able to endure thanks to their fast paced offense.

The Final Four is set: Villanova and Michigan State; North Carolina and Virginia. MSU will be able to stick around ‘Nova for most of the game, but fall short in their quest for the title. North Carolina has the guards to outrun Virginia, but stars Kyle Guy and Devon Hall often have have dominant games, leading the Cavs to the title game.

The title game: Wildcats versus Cavaliers. Villanova has a deep team that includes six players averaging double digit points. They have had a very impressive season with an outstanding record while having a tough schedule to play through. However, with nobody over six foot-nine, they will struggle to rebound. On the other hand, Virginia has a very talented squad that has endured test after test. The number one overall seed seems intimidating, but let’s back up. The Cavaliers lost ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter to injury, which hurts Virginia’s chances of cutting down the nets. With that, I believe that Villanova will be the ones to raise the trophy and claim their second title in three years. That’s my prediction, but my guess is as good as anybody’s, even if I have been following college basketball all year round. Because that’s the thing about March Madness: anything can happen.

Jeremiah’s Prediction

It cannot be emphasized more how unlikely it is for any one person, or frankly at this point, any computer to predict the perfect March Madness bracket. Despite this, everyone still completes one or many brackets every year to hopefully be that one lucky person.

I’m not much of college basketball fan so deciding who I want to win each game is usually decided by the legacy of each school and their record against other big-name colleges. I don’t know the players unless they make the Sportscenter Top Ten and I rarely will know any of the coaches. I only know if they’re an offensive or defensive team, their highest scorers, their records against ranked teams, and the players on their team that are entering the draft.

The bracket is full of teams we are used to seeing like Arizona and Duke, and my favorite, North Carolina. So it can be assumed the team cutting down the nets this year will be a team we have all seen before. But unlike years before, there is no clear favorite.

Michigan has had a tough road to the big dance after being disrespected at the Big Ten tournament. Receiving a number five seed was unacceptable for junior Moritz Wagner who averaged 14.2 points and shot over 50 percent at the Big Ten tournament. The Michigan squad came out and beat the field, defeating Michigan State and Purdue to go on to win the conference title. Coming off of this hot streak, Michigan will go into the tournament with a chip on its shoulder. I see defeating North Carolina in a probable sweet sixteen matchup. Michigan has the possibility of advancing to the final four, but the road there is full of tough matchups.

University of Virginia has been hot all season. Led by guard Kyle Guy and senior guard Devon Hall, the team has been unstoppable with a 31-2 regular season record and a conference title heading into the tournament, they look unbeatable. I believe they have a good chance of making the final four and even to the championship game.

To round out my final four I have Villanova and Kansas making it to San Antonio. I believe Kansas has a tough route potentially facing Duke, Kansas, and Seton Hall, if they pass the first round. But I’m not informed enough to speak on either of those teams to give a definitively state who has the better chance. Honestly that bracket is a toss-up. Villanova on the other hand has almost a free pass to San Antonio. Their toughest potential opponents are West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Purdue. ‘Nova can defeat Virginia Tech if the lock down junior guard Justin Robison and out rebound the forwards Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear Jr.. Purdue will be a tough bout but I think Villanova can handle this Purdue team that has been struggling as of late.

In San Antonio, anything could happen so it’s difficult for me to say who will cut down the nets this year. In the title game I have Villanova beating the experienced, yet star-lacking Virginia team. I could be wrong about my final four and about who I believe will ultimately win, but that’s the beauty of the tournament. One is either right or wrong, and when all is and and done it’ll be a surprise if anyone comes out of this with a clean bracket.