Thursday, March 21, 2013

Drive and Dish Fills Out NCAA Tournament Bracket, 2013 Edition

Drive and Dish was launched one week before the start of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. In 2008, we began publishing our handwritten NCAA Tournament brackets. The night before our first brackets appeared, Mark Buckets and yours truly spent the wee hours deliberating over our picks in a then-24 hour Kinko's in the western suburbs of Chicago. Mr. Buckets abruptly retired from sports blogging during Duke's upset loss to West Virginia in the second round of that year's Tournament. He came out of retirement to pen a post or two later in the week, but left blogging for good after the 2008 Final Four.

Drive and Dish Senior Editor Trashtalk Superstar took sole responsibility for handwriting and publishing the annual Drive and Dish NCAA Tournament bracket in 2009. Like a monk who spent years copying the Bible by hand during the Dark Ages, Mr. Trash Talk devoted himself to handwriting and publishing the Drive and Dish brackets for the remaining years.

The 2010 Drive and Dish NCAA bracket proved to be our most prescient. Drive and Dish eschewed the conventional wisdom (we were among the few who didn't pick Kansas that year) and correctly predicted that Duke would win it all. To be sure, we never envisioned that the Blue Devils would meet then-unheralded Butler in the Championship game, but our selection of Duke was a bold pick at the time. Believe it or not, virtually nobody picked Duke to win it all that year.

We had previously predicted an eventual NCAA champion that most "experts" missed when we picked Florida to win its second consecutive NCAA Championship in 2007, even though the defending champs' lackluster regular season performance had caused most of those "experts" to write them off (we didn't publish our brackets that year, so readers will have to work their way through the bullet points in the linked post to find the Florida Championship prediction).

Duke in 2010 and Florida in 2007 seemed fairly apparent to us because we make our picks based on how we expect teams to match up against each other.  By the time teams get deep into the Tournament (i.e., past the Sweet Sixteen), match ups become the most important factor in determining the outcomes of games.  Put simply, teams don't get to the Elite Eight unless they're talented and are playing well, so games played deep in the Tournament turn on match ups and momentum swings. 

When filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket, it's not to hard to pick winners by envisioning how the various winning teams in your bracket figure to match up against each other at each position on the floor.

Of course, predicting winners based on match ups doesn't guarantee that you'll be right every time.  Drive and Dish picked Duke to win it all again in 2011, even though the Blue Devils lost some key starters from the 2010 Championship team to graduation.   That year, Duke fell short as Connecticut came out of nowhere to win head coach Jim Calhoun his third NCAA Championship.

And last year, we ended picking North Carolina to beat its mortal enemy Duke in what we expected to be hyped up to be an NCAA Championship game for the ages (because it would pit bitter conference rivals North Carolina and Duke against each other).  Instead, Coach John Calipari's freshman-laden Kentucky team won the Championship and forever discredited one of Drive and Dish's long-held "ironclad rules": namely, not to expect championship caliber play from teams that rely on freshmen at several key positions.

But envisioning potential match ups is still the preferred way of filling out our brackets here at Drive and Dish.

So we employed that method when we filled out our 2013 bracket.  It needs to be stated, though, that our 2013 bracket should come with the following disclaimer: the current proprietors of Drive and Dish eschew watching television.  So the Drive and Dish 2013 bracket has been completed in spite of Drive and Dish writers' relatively limited exposure to televised college basketball in the 2012-2013 season.  We've viewed select games online, but our focus has been on Notre Dame, the Missouri Valley conference and the Big Ten conference.  We've probably seen enough of Notre Dame and the Big Ten, though, to know the Irish and each Big Ten team inside and out.   That said, we're not as well acquainted with the entirety of NCAA Division I basketball as we have  been in years past.

That was the case last year and in 2011 as well (which, come to think of it, could well explain why we didn't see Connecticut coming in 2011 or see Kentucky coming last year).

Still, it wouldn't feel like March without Barack Obama sitting down with the media to discuss the finer points of his bracket in an Obama Bracket Unveiling Special on national TV, and without Drive and Dish publishing its hastily assembled, hand-written bracket a few short hours before the first Thursday game of the Tournament tips off.

Thus, without further ado, we present our 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket: