Thursday, March 28, 2013


Opinion: Bracket picking for birds


Somewhere in an office of wall-to-wall cubicles, Orville the ornithologist is leading the NCAA Tournament pool, even though he never has seen a basketball game. Orville favored schools with bird mascots when filling out his bracket.

The Creighton Blue Jays (1-1), Florida Gulf-Coast Eagles (2-0), Kansas Jayhawks (2-0), Long Island University Blackbirds (0-1), Louisville Cardinals (2-0), Marquette Golden Eagles (2-0), Oregon Ducks (2-0) and Temple Owls (1-1) have combined to go 12-3 so far.

Two rows to the west, three cubicles to the north sits Wilhelmina, wearing, as usual, way too much perfume. She never quite stays within the lines when applying her lipstick. Her pin board serves as a shrine to her 13 cats. So does her NCAA Tournament bracket. Poor Wilhelmina, she’s in last place.

The Cincinnati Bearcats (0-1), Southern Jaguars (0-1), Arizona (2-0), Davidson (0-1), Kansas State (0-1) and Villanova (0-1) Wildcats and Missouri (0-1) and Pacific Tigers (0-1) are a combined 2-7.

Don’t fret, Wilhelmina. Politically Incorrect Patrick, Pip for short — he never has had a thought that didn’t quickly roll off his tongue — isn’t doing so hot either. The Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-1) let him down. As Pip is quick to point out, it’s been a tough tourney for the Irish in general, and Colleen in the cubicle behind him has not had a good March with ND and the Iona and Saint Mary’s Gaels combining to go 1-3.

Kevin’s home page is the Weather Channel website. He obsessively follows natural disasters. Sensing co-workers find that morbidly creepy, he attempts to ease his guilt by saying, “I do like them, as long as nobody dies or gets hurt, of course.” He fools no one. Thanks to the Iowa State Cyclones (1-1) and Miami Hurricanes (2-0), his bracket’s not looking too shabby. It would look even better had Iowa State not been undermined by disastrous officiating, naturally. Doesn’t that always happen to good guy Fred Hoiberg?

Punk Rock Pete, who alternately colors his hair orange and red, is right there with Kevin, thanks to the Harvard Crimson (1-1) and Syracuse Orange (2-0).

Alabama Al decorates his workspace with Bear Bryant memorabilia. His dauber’s down. The California Golden Bears (1-1), Montana Grizzlies (0-1) and Belmont (0-1) and UCLA Bruins (0-1) did Alabama Al no favors.

Oh, well, Alabama Al and the rest of those in possession of busted brackets can take solace in a second-chance Sweet 16 office pool. So what to do?

Well, Orville the ornithologist will advance bird mascots to the Final Four and go with the favorite when it’s bird against bird. Following that method, Kansas tops Michigan and then Florida Gulf Coast and advances to the Final Four to face Marquette, the third Final Four meeting of the schools. Marquette won in 1974, 64-51, Kansas in 2003, 94-61. Louisville advances as well. What to do in the West, which doesn’t have any remaining bird mascots? Go with Ohio State, based on coach Thad Matta’s facial resemblance to a Bird, Larry. Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed, defeats Kansas, the No. 2 overall seed in the title game.

Or you could copy the bracket strategy of the former high school football star in the office. He remains in great shape and never passes a mirror without stopping to check it out, ending the encounter with a point, a wink and a clicking sound. He thinks his office mates nicknamed him “Big 10” because he’s big and he’s a perfect 10. Actually, it’s because he reminds them all of a big 10-year-old boy. In fairness, that moniker was pinned on him a few years ago, and he has matured since then. Big 12 would be more accurate, but for branding purposes he still is referred to as Big 10. Naturally, he favors Big Ten schools in making predictions, and Illinois (1-1), Indiana (2-0), Michigan (2-0), Michigan State (2-0), Minnesota (1-1), Ohio State (2-0) and Wisconsin (0-1) have combined to go 10-3 so far. Big (for short) will have Indiana defeating Michigan in one national semifinal, Ohio State knocking out Michigan State in the other, and will make the Hoosiers his national champion.

Whatever you do, don’t study match-ups and trends when filling out brackets. That garbage never works. Too serious. It pays to play loose during March Madness.


Steve Zimmerman 9 years, 6 months ago

Ahhh.. very artistic writing style. Whatcha call it? It's quite amusing, nevertheless.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 6 months ago

I agree, surreal. I thought it was fun and entertaining.

AZHawk72 9 years, 6 months ago

Excellent listing of all the animals unsuitable as house pets.

Now, as far as the basketballs shooting holes in my brackets--has anyone given any thought about what North Carolina was forced to do this year--basically, four guards or small forwards gunning away with only one underneath? Without Randall, could this be us at times next year?

Just wondering.

BainDread 9 years, 6 months ago

Too bad neither the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs nor the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes play D1 ball and therefore had no chance to make the tournament.

Vroo 9 years, 6 months ago

This kind of thinking should be used by the selection committee. I wrote about this a while ago:

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 6 months ago

I read a similar article on last week. They actually showed the overall records for the tournament. The birds are somewhere in the .380 winning percentage, but they gave KU a shout out for being something like 95-40 and skewing the numbers. I believe cats were about .500, but the bears (especially the Bruins) were in the high .600s.

It is funny how picks are made, and you have to think there are some in every bracket.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 6 months ago

Some years I do all the research and really work at my bracket. Others I say to he!! with it and go the eenie-meenie-minie-mo route. The result is usually about the same.

Steve Gantz 9 years, 6 months ago

I do a little blogging and this was my take on filling in the bracket:

Tony Bandle 9 years, 6 months ago

My dear sainted Mom used to pick the city where the school was that she would enjoy seeing the most. She always thought that LA was interesting so she always picked UCLA. This was in the 60's and 70's.......Mom always cleaned our clocks!!

I seriously thought about the bird thing because of the Jayhawks, but dismissed it as silly. JUST FIGURES!!

It's not game day, so I say give Keegs some slack and enjoy the article. After all, he did have to look up all the mascots!!

nostradavid 9 years, 6 months ago

Gone-zo Keegs with some excellent humor. I laughed when all of the experts on ESPN couldn't find any upsets in their early rounds. It just shows how superficial their "wisdom" is.

I've found the best way to pick horses is to bet on the jockeys. Bill Self is our Willie Shoemaker.


ROTFL by nostradavid

PODjhwk83 9 years, 6 months ago

Tom - you do realize a Billiken is not a bird, right?

Tim Orel 9 years, 6 months ago

Just off the top of my head, if you chose rams/sheep/similar, you could have the Colorado State rams and the North Carolina tarheels (well, their mascot looks like a goat of some variety) to go with St. Louis. I'm sure I'm missing one or two as well.

Cameron Cederlind 9 years, 6 months ago

So this is what comes out after a half bottle of Jack.

justinryman 9 years, 6 months ago

I filled out a bracket this year taking teams that wear blue. When two teams both wore blue I took the higher seeded team. Also when a team wore red vs a team with grean I took the team with green as it iscloser to blue.

My Final 4: Kansas vs Marquette and St. Louis vs Gonzaga with KU over Gonzaga in the Finals.

dylans 9 years, 6 months ago

Callme crazy, but I don't think that prediction will come true.

Shane Garrett 9 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps this years winner could be a Shocker?!

KU_alum_2001 9 years, 6 months ago

Nothing personal, Tom, but this article (or humorous bit) was pretty awful. My personal recommendation is to avoid these cutesy articles you occasionally try to write and stick to your meatier, more journalistic pieces.

A) the few actual facts you used weren't even accurate. A Billiken is not a bird (and for that matter, a Jayhawk really isn't, either, although I can at least let that one slide given our mascot).

B) Punk Rock Pete? Politically Incorrect Patrick? Are these Garbage Pail Kids? What is this you're trying to do? It's just poor writing. Again, not trying to be personal about it.

C) The entire article is either irrelevant and/or late. Brackets were picked over a week ago. That's when every other journalist out there was writing this type of article. Second, it just seems like you tried to write some cute, funny article just for the sake of it, and well... sighhhhh. Are you required to do a daily delivery? If not, skip articles like this in the future.

Again, I'm not a journalist, just a reader. And I'm sure some people enjoyed the article. I just suspect it's the minority. Your writing is better than this.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 6 months ago

I found it a fun article. When I opened up this article...I didn't think I was going to figure out how to cure cancer, or figure out the best way to pick a bracket. I figured this was one of those articles, I would pull out while watching TV and get a funny picture of the bracket.

You throwing out Politically incorrect and or garbage pail kids, etc., makes it look like you went in this article with the intent to find something bad about it. Usually when you go in with intent, you'll find what you are looking for. I went in for an enjoyable read and found it. You went in with the idea that you don't like when Keegan writes articles about fun, and you found problems with it...Go figure.

KU_alum_2001 9 years, 6 months ago

No, that wasn't my intent by any means. I read it because I like to read all articles on KU bball. I simply found this one to be rather useless. Clearly I'm not alone based on the feedback on here. To your point, though, you're clearly not alone, either, and I fully recognize that. I know some people will enjoy it but it just seems below Keegan's effort.

And I didn't throw out "Politically Incorrect". That was a name he used in his article. "Politically Incorrect Patrick". It just seems like a "cheap" article if I can use that term.

Again, just my opinion. Am not trying to insult, Keegan. Just encouraging him to avoid this style of writing as it's just not that great of quality.

Phil Leister 9 years, 6 months ago

Seriously, Tom, what is the point of articles like these? You've been on a pretty good roll lately. Not sure why you had to spoil it with something like this. We know you read these comments... can you explain why you wrote this?

njlinderer 9 years, 6 months ago

I am by no means a Keegan hater like some of you, and I usually enjoy his stuff but this is just awful. What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

livinginlawrence 9 years, 6 months ago

Oh please, KU alum and Hawksoverseas - why so serious? I laughed out loud reading this column, and tend to enjoy Tom's writing style. I see some of his writing as bordering on Gonzo-style journalism, and I appreciate seeing that thrown into the mix.

As for you, Njlinderer- kudos on the Billy Madison reference.

bad_dog 9 years, 6 months ago

While I could give Tom's opinion piece the bird, I prefer to just cry 'fowl"...

KGphoto 9 years, 6 months ago

My 11 year old daughter is winning and has the most potential points in our little neighborhood/family pool. She went 15-1 on the first day, picking the Harvard upset. She also picked Florida Gulf Coast over Gtown the second day. Right now she has an unbelievable 96 points. She knows NOTHING about this tournament, and she doesn’t even like basketball. All I told her was the little numbers in parenthesis are the seeding, and that a #1 has never beaten a #16, but outside of that lot’s of upsets do happen every year.

When pressed about how she picked, she said she kind of looked at the schools with the shorter names. This doesn’t fit for all her picks, but that’s what she said.

Originally she left a couple slots blank and the games had already started on day two. Of course she is not watching or caring so I let her fill them out. One of them was the FGC upset over Gtown. I almost stepped in and advised against it. I couldn’t help myself, it was a crazy pick! But the kid had just gone 15-1 picking Harvard. Who was I to advise?

Something about that kid. When we go fishing we can all drop a line in the same spot, and she will pull out fish after fish, while we just stand there wondering what makes her bait (same as ours) so damn good. She wins raffles, BINGO and other random contests.

I don’t understand it, but I will be entering next year’s online contest with an ace up my sleeve.

waxtron 9 years, 6 months ago

Isn't there a Tiger missing? Say one from western Tennessee.

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