We've done this before, and it was a complete failure. We looked at the best baseball players to come from each school in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and Arizona State did not win because of residual Barry Bonds dust. Mea culpa.
So we should try again, but do it better.
I used to be a beat reporter for the Southern Oregon State College Raiders' basketball team, so I *cough* know a little about college basketball. But unless I'm yelling at a pack of rowdy Oregon Institute of Technology jackanapes to get out of my face, I just don't care that much about it. Especially if it isn't NAIA Division II, which is where the purest basketball is played.
That's why I use baseball to pick my bracket, every year. Which schools can count the best baseball players among their alumni? We aim to find out, and that's how we're going to pick the perfect 2016 NCAA Tournament bracket.
Here are the results (click here for a bigger version):
Xavier. That's the champion. If you don't have money, borrow some. If you can't borrow some, steal it. Xavier.
(Do not steal money to gamble.)
We'll go over some of the choices below:
The toughest first-round matchup was David Price (Vanderbilt) vs. Kenny Lofton (Arizona), but Lofton would be a Hall of Famer if he had spent his entire career with the Indians. Price wouldn't be a Hall of Famer if he retired, even if he's on that path.
Things got dodgier in the regional semifinals, as Mike Piazza (Hall of Famer) took on Cap Anson (Hall of Famer). Anson has the edge in WAR and most statistical categories, as well as historical significance, but Piazza won in overtime after the "No Racist Old Ghouls" clause was invoked. This clause prohibits racist old ghouls from advancing too far. Good work in not being a racist old ghoul, Mike.
Piazza went on to the Elite Eight, where he faced could-be Hall of Famer Jeff Kent in a battle for positional-scarcity supremacy. The plaque in the hand defeats the plaque in the bush, and Piazza advanced to the Final Four. Also, "plaques in the bush" is a coded reference to the thick, luxurious mustaches for both.
OK, you're going to yell at me, but at least listen to what I have to say.
Joe Gordon is a Hall of Famer. His raw career numbers aren't gaudy, but he also missed two years while serving in World War II, which definitely counts. His career WAR is better than both Lou Brock and Sandy Koufax, whom he defeated to advance. If I wanted to leave that as the only explanation, I could.
But that would be disingenuous. Brock changed the game with his speed. Koufax had one of the most brilliant runs of concentrated dominance the sport will ever see. Both are huge, integral parts of baseball's story. Yet Gordon is my pick because Oregon is a No. 1 seed in real life, and I want to see this bracket work, dang it, work. There's no way that Southern is beating Oregon, and I'm tired of Cincinnati making the Final Four every year in my bracket.
Gordon is my guy. And he's annihilated by Roger Clemens later, of course. So I didn't feel too bad for fudging.
Also, Green Bay didn't have a team, so I gave them Brett Favre. He lost to Chuck Knoblauch, but you should have seen the game! Basketballs just flying everywhere. Into the stands, into the hands of the other team. Should have seen it.
Boy, I don't know who Carl Yastrzemski ticked off to get seeded where he did, but that was rough. First he had to go up against Charlie Gehringer, and then he can't make it out of the regionals because of Frank Robinson? Rough.
There were five Hall of Famers among the 16 players, and the toughest match of all was probably Tom Seaver vs. Frank Robinson. Seaver is one of the greatest right-handed pitchers ever. Robinson is probably as underrated as an inner-circle Hall of Famer can get. So I closed my eyes, and let WAR be the coin flip:
Seaver: 106.3 (Baseball-Reference)
FanGraphs has an even bigger gap, so the nerds took this round. Oh, and Xavier is a higher seed. USC could use some taller players to be better at basketball, imo.
Right! Randy Johnson could have repped USC over Seaver, but he was at 104.3. This was all very confusing! Thank goodness the numbers were here to prevent me from thinking.
Four Hall of Famers made for a compelling regional semifinals, and while you might have been tempted to go with Craig Biggio or Brooks Robinson over popular newscaster Robin Roberts, the latter had a run of success that wasn't unlike what Sandy Koufax enjoyed at his peak. Roberts had four years of 300+ innings and 23+ wins, averaging nine WAR per season, and then he stuck around to be productive for long after that.
Mostly, though, Little Rock already upset Virginia and Seton Hall, and I didn't want them to upset Michigan St., too. Their Cinderella story had to end somewhere. Good run, though.
Oh, nothing really to see here, just MIKE PIAZZA VS. ROGER CLEMENS.
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.
We'll just tally up the evidence at hand, then. Clemens threw the bat. Clemens used the baseball as a weapon. Clemens was big enough to discourage a large professional athlete from using karate on him. Clemens has the huge lead in career WAR and general notoriety.
Sorry, Mike. Just one kick to the face, and you would have made it to the Finals. Get that time machine working and thrill us all. Also, he went to Miami for one year, and he transferred because he wasn't good at baseball yet.
As for the other matchup, Frank Robinson was much more valuable/memorable than Robin Roberts. That's nothing against Roberts, who is one of the greatest pitchers to live. It has everything to do with Robinson, who was a nearly peerless baseball player.
Statistically, Roger Clemens has it. He wasn't that far from Robinson in career WAR before leaving the Red Sox, and then he added four Cy Youngs and 2,140 more innings. Clemens just might be the best pitcher who ever lived. You could at least make an argument for him that didn't seem like it was on the fringes.
On the other hand, this is my bracket, and I like Frank Robinson. I don't like Roger Clemens. I took the love I should have for Roger Clemens, rolled it into a little ball and let my love for Barry Bonds absorb it.
This was my childhood:
And if I pick anyone other than Robinson, he'll glower at me. I'm too delicate to withstand his glowering! If Clemens comes at me, I'll just give him the ol' one-two with my years of karate instruction. But my nagashi zuki is useless against a glower!
Frank Robinson takes it. Xavier takes it. Congratulations to the future NCAA champions of basketball.