My history as a perfectly imperfect bracketologist is well detailed.
Besides nailing Florida over my beloved alma matter Ohio State while an undergrad in 2007, and picking Maryland in 2002, I have a mostly unstoried history as an aspiring college basketball expert.
So now it's time for another confession: This year represents the least amount of college basketball I've watched in the last 20 years.
Sure, I still consume a lot more than the average sports fan. Since college basketball is a major component of my job, I've seen all but one of Ohio State's games in their entirety this season -- shout out to the NIT -- and about 1-2 other big national games a week and parts of plenty of others. During the past week, I've watched roughly an average of 2-3 games per day.
But I'm not sure what it is. Has the NBA's restriction on early entrants -- forcing a venerable one-and-done conveyor belt -- ruined my interest in the non-professional game? Is it just the brain drain of watching a young, raw team like Ohio State stumble against teams night in and night out? Am I just getting old?
While I struggle through my sports fan existential crisis, let's all make with one very simple fact: the less you know, the better your bracket.
Whether you like it or not, we both already know Janice in accounting is taking your NCAA Tournament pool buy-in money. And if your mom lets her dog put a bracket together, it's going to make you wish you never filled out a bracket in the first place.
So maybe watching, at most, just a couple of basketball games a week will be an advantage for me this year.
I mentioned a year ago that I loved and championed Ken Pomeroy's rankings. When I didn't have an immediate visceral reaction to a matchup this year, I looked more into its KenPom makeup to give me more intellectual peace of mind. Whether that's a good or bad thing, we'll have to let the games play out and determine it.
This bracket was put together roughly 30 minutes after the draw first leaked (sorry, CBS) so FanMatch, BPI and any other crib services didn't factor in. It's my pseudo-expertise, heart and KenPom's homepage from your eye balls to your soul. Let's do this:
This one pains me as someone raised in Austin, Texas. Being despondent after watching the Kansas Jayhawks was something I was acclimated to as a one-time Texas Longhorns fan.
On a college recruiting visit to the University of Missouri, I stopped in St. Louis to watch one of the closest games we've ever seen a 16 seed come to beating a 1: Holy Cross against Kansas. As a 17-year-old who didn't like the Jayhawks, I was yelling a lot of truly awful things that elderly Midwesterners didn't take kindly to.
But as I matured, I've grown to, if nothing else, admire Bill Self and his program. The Jayhawks are so good they almost bore me (it's a problem I imagine a lot of folks have watching Ohio State football). And while I don't know that they have a Denzel Valentine capable of putting the team on his back and willing them to victory, they have so many guys who do so many of the little things so well I think they can beat anyone, especially in a format as forgiving as the NCAA tourney's.
Even still, I wanted to pick UConn to pull the upset, and then I wanted to pick Cal so desperately. But I just couldn't.
I'm not honestly sure if Wichita State's recent history, its KenPom profile or a large check from the Koch brothers influenced that pick -- make it out to cash, guys; thanks -- but here we are. I don't feel great about it based on the eye test and what I've seen of the Shockers this year.
I infamously picked Villanova to win the national title last year and we all saw where that got me. I'm gun-shy even about advancing them to the Elite Eight this year, but from what I've seen of the Wildcats, they're more equipped than ever to survive even when their shot isn't falling. We'll see if history repeats itself ... again.
Finally, a bracket conducted through nothing but almost spite.
I don't hate Duke, but I love to root for its failure. Grayson Allen is a great player who'll probably be an awesome role player at the next level, but he's so, so, so easy to cheer against. Duke will go deep almost solely on spite alone.
Oregon and Texas A&M are extremely Sweet 16 teams but seeing either go much farther would catch me off guard. The Ducks are certainly talented enough, but their late surprise ascension to a No. 1 overall seed makes them feel a bit vulnerable, too.
Oklahoma is honestly one of the most fun teams in America. When Buddy Hield is doing the damn thing, few teams not named Kansas seem to have an answer for it.
I wouldn't be shocked at all if this entire bracket was one big jumble, but Hield inexplicably emerged as the region's most outstanding player with Lon Kruger and Co. headed to Houston.
Deadly From Outside: Buddy Hield can carry Oklahoma deep
John Calipari has another super-talented team peaking at seemingly just the right time.
While he loves to push buttons to make them still feel that underdog complex, the committee did him plenty of favors by just making Kentucky a four seed this season. North Carolina's certainly as good as anyone, but it seems like just weeks ago Roy Williams outcoached himself in a bizarre sequence against Duke. Give me Kentucky's talent, even if both national title-winning coaches aren't quite world-class X&O strategists.
West Virginia and Bob Huggins feel high risk-high reward. If they're on, the Mountaineers might well emerge from this group and get him to his first Final Four since 2010. Xavier's the best team you aren't giving a chance because it hails from the new Big East, but the Musketeers are more than capable of stealing this region as well.
Iowa State's probably the one team I think could make a real sleeper run ... so naturally I went against my gut instinct and picked the Cyclones to lose early-ish. If Virginia gets behind, as methodical and boa constrictor-like as it's capable of being, the No.1 seed is most likely through.
Gonzaga is positioned perfectly to do a late '90s Gonzaga tribute run. Is the 2016 version good enough to cut down the nets in Texas? Almost assuredly not. But the Zags can certainly take some bodies in the meantime.
Utah's a team I'd love in just about any other region, but between Gonzaga and Michigan State, this just doesn't seem like it'll be the Utes' year.
I've discussed Sparty before and let me say this -- they're every bit for real. If they weren't the consensus national title picks, I'd pick them in a waltz.
And because Tom Izzo is behind the wheel, I imagine they'll make an Elite Eight at minimum. Final Four feels likely and even a title game berth strikes me as almost preordained. But whether they face OU or KU in the final, something will happen and they'll come up just short.
They're such a fun team to watch when they're clicking, and few do it better on both ends of the court than they do. But not this season.
Let's remember that a year ago at this time I had Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova and Iowa State still standing. The Cyclones didn't win a single game in the damn thing.
Arizona and Kentucky did far more right by me, but the Wildcats of the VU variety let down as has become far too customary.
The wild thing is there's a non-zero chance three of those four could ultimately wind up making it to the Final Four this year, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
I get that my Final Four is pretty chalk, but thinking about Kansas and Oklahoma going toe-to-toe a third time this season seems almost like an unfair treat for a college basketball fan. For all my ennui about the state of the game and the watchability of the product, a third iteration between the Big 12 rivals would be like a rich dessert.
Michigan State-Kentucky on the other side? It doesn't get much better than that. But I do like the winner of the other semifinal to be the one to win the entire thing.
Regardless of which of the four teams ultimately play for the title in NRG Stadium, if those four power brokers do battle, expect three games we'll be talking about for a long time.
Maybe so good I'll even watch 4-5+ games per week again next winter and spring.