An annual tradition, we're again walking through the brackets with Bracket Predictor. We take full responsibility, however, for interpreting his endorsements. While the predictions are the stone-cold serious work of our Insider's robo-prognosticator, we decided to dress up the answers with a little human warmth.
You have to feel bad for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Consider this situation: A team is clearly the best over the course of the regular season. It's cruising through the season-ending tourney. Then one night, the second-leading scorer has maybe his worst game of the season. His team loses.
But the team isn't Ohio State. It is also the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, perhaps the best basketball team ever constructed. They went 72-10 in the regular season, were on a playoff roll, but lost Game 4 of the NBA Finals when Scottie Pippen went 4-of-17 from the floor. Against Kentucky on Friday, OSU's William Buford, the Buckeyes' second-leading scorer, went a Pippenesque 2-of-16, and a season in which the Buckeyes were probably the nation's best team was over.
The Bulls lost the next game, too, before hanging on for the title. It's a good reminder. Whereas the NBA is immune to killing off its best because of a single bad game -- after all, a single game can mean anything -- college hoops is not. It's what makes the NCAA tournament perhaps sport's greatest spectacle, and both the most democratic way to choose a champion, and in some ways, the absolute worst. Congrats on the great season, now enjoy the obstacle course.
This is not to diminish Kentucky, a team grossly under-seeded by the selection committee.
And Wildcats fans are just a year removed from their own random ending: They endured an Ohio State-like exit in 2010 when the Cats shot an unthinkable 4-of-32 on 3-point attempts in a loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers. The tournament is really six one-game tournaments. Anyone can fall -- even Bracket Predictor. His only crime is that he knows too much to be subjected to such randomness. But, with his algorithms intact, we're finally ready to project a champion. We won't miss.