Welcome to Part 2 of my series of interviews with each of the 16 seeds of the NCAA Tournament. (If you missed the interviews with Seeds 16 through 9, you can see them here.)
I explained this in Part 1, but again, here is my somewhat dubious proposal: in the tournament, seeds govern identity. For example, this year, there is no West Virginia. There is only the 5-seed. UNLV is not playing. The 8th seed is playing, and just so happens to be wearing UNLV's jersey this year.
With that in mind, here are my interviews with tournament mainstays: 8-Seed, 7-Seed, 6-Seed, 5-Seed, 4-Seed, 3-Seed, 2-Seed, and 1-Seed.
The 8th seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. The first year of the 64-team format, in 1985, you won the national championship.
8th Seed. Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess. Whatever.
SBN. You've seemed sort of complacent since then.
8th. Sports are for tools, man. Opiate of the masses.
SBN. Well, you're still playing sports. You're in this year's tournament, just like you're in every other tournament.
8th. I don't give a frickin' rip, kid.
SBN. I get it, okay? You won the title before anyone else and now you think it's cool to stop trying and pretend that you don't care.
8th. I don't care! For real! God!
SBN. If that's true, why did you take two spots in the 2000 Final Four?
8th. That's when I was like, "sucks to this." The bracket's oppressive, man. It's an Orwellian nightmare.
SBN. No it isn't.
8th. I've had enough of the world and its peoples' mindless games. Pardon me while I burst into flames.
SBN. Wait, so you're an anarchist who apes Incubus lyrics?
8th. I thought they were Fuel lyrics.
The 7th seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. These numbers are... wow, they're pretty awful.
7th Seed. Pretty bad, yeah.
SBN. You've been to the Sweet 16 only one more time than 12-Seed. And if 10-Seed can get past you in the first round, they're more likely to win in the second round than you would have been.
7th. Listen, I never said we were good. We're just a big state school that happens to have a basketball program. Maybe we were good back in the day, I don't really know. We're not basketball people, to be honest.
SBN. How do you play, then?
7th. Kind of just wait for stuff to happen. When we're on defense we just sort of try to get in the other team's way, usually by standing in places where we guess they were wanting to stand. I think that's called the "zone defense."
7th. Get the ball and immediately throw it at the square on the backboard. It's best to hold the ball behind your head with both hands and just fling it forward as hard as you can, especially if you're on the other end of the court.
SBN. Seems as though you're cheating yourself out of a lot of scoring opportunities if you don't pass.
7th. I'm really not trying to sound like a smart aleck or anything, but you don't get any points by passing.
SBN. That was a little harsh. I'm sorry for trying to help.
7th. No, no, no, no, no. I'm sorry for hurting your feelings. Are you all right?
The 6th seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. You've had a lot of great players in your day. Danny Manning, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, just to name a few. And overall, you've made a fairly respectable showing in the tournament.
6th. Yeah. We owe so much to this game. you know, there's really nothing better than college basketball.
SBN. Martin Luther King was better than college basketball.
6th. Well, of course.
SBN. So was Neil Armstrong. He went to the Moon even though nobody had ever done it before, and he did it before he had a bunch of touch-screens and stuff. He just had a bunch of knobs and switches.
6th. That is true.
SBN. Also, agriculture is better than college basketball. Before we grew crops, we basically had to run around all the time and hunt animals in order to eat. Once we had agriculture, we could actually stay in one place. That allowed us to build houses, and eventually make bubble gum.
6th. I don't--
SBN. Bubble gum is possibly not as good as college basketball, but it's probably somewhere near it on the list.
6th. I think we can agree on that.
SBN. Jonas Salk was better than college basketball. He invented the anti-polio, uh...
SBN. Vaccine, and he didn't give a crap about whether he made any money. He didn't even patent it, unlike Henry Ford. That's why cars cost money.
6th. All right. Okay! There are several things that are better than college basketball.
SBN. I won a sports argument!
The 5th seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. You're the lowest seed never to win an NCAA championship. You're also the only team to reach the championship game, but not win it. Are you planning to take care of any unfinished business this year?
5th Seed. Nah. Not in particular.
SBN. So you don't care about whether you win a championship.
5th. Well, sure, it'd be nice. We're more concerned with just getting to the Final Four. I mean, really, when you think of the tournament, what's the first term you think of? "Final Four." Not "championship game."
SBN. That is kind of a silly lapse in branding.
5th. For sure. I mean, look at baseball or the NFL. They're the opposite. The early rounds of their playoffs have names that are just boring acronyms, as though the playoffs are being written by a computer programmer or something. But the final game is something big and bombastic. The World Series, or the Super Bowl, or what have you. Meanwhile, college hoops invents all these funny names like "Sweet 16" and "Final Four."
SBN. Why do you think they suddenly stopped with all the names?
5th. I'm picturing Theodore F. Bracket drawing this tournament up on a piece of parchment--
SBN. "Loaf of parchment." I think that's the the proper terminology.
5th. Right, thank you. He's sitting there writing up "Ye Olden Fweet Fixteen" and just having the time of his f***ing life coming up with all these alliterations. And I mean, who wouldn't? They're alliterations!
SBN. I know!
5th. So finally, he gets to the final round. His quill rests just above it as he stares upward. He begins to imagine the possibilities. "Terrific Two." "Tenable Two." "Gruesome Twosome." And then...
SBN. And then what?
5th. And then his daughter runs inside. "Father! Lord Holcombe hath set ye crops aflame! We must to take refuge at thy estate in Buckinghamshire! Thy!" And the "Bracket," as it came to be called, was instead completed by a joyless bureaucrat at some point in the 1980s. He decided that "Championship Game" was a perfectly suitable name.
SBN. I don't care about that anymore. What happened to Theodore Bracket and his family?
5th. He began life anew as a parenthetical researcher. [Meta-joke! -ed.]
The 4th seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. Well, look at you. You're wearing both a Louisville and a Kentucky jersey this year! That's rather controversial.
4th Seed. I don't see how. Why can't people like both?
SBN. Because it's a rivalry!
4th. Rivalries, as they exist in their current form, are oppressive constructs that serve to fool fans into becoming hate-filled beings.
SBN. Nuh-uh! Let me tell you something. My folks are U of L fans, and so are my grandparents. It runs deep. It's a tradition.
4th. Also, your great-great-great-great grandfather probably pissed into a bucket and thought that fires happened because the air got really mad.
SBN. I bleed Louisville red. That's all I got to say about that.
4th. I think you're confusing correlation with causation, but never mind that. Consider this. You're free to adopt or create any sort of fandom you'd like. By all means, do what sets your heart free. All I'm suggesting is that you ought to take a step back and decide for yourself.
SBN. What do you mean?
4th. Sports are the sandboxes of our lives. In nearly every other theater of life, we're compelled -- and usually for good reason -- to hate something or somebody, because real things are at stake. Sports, though, carry nothing in the way of actual consequence. If you hate -- and not in the sense of the casual wrestling fan "hating" Kurt Angle when he turns heel, but really, truly hate -- a team, it tells me that you simply enjoy hating things.
SBN. You just don't understand. You don't live in Kentucky. You don't understand this rivalry.
4th. No, that's not the problem. You don't hold a monopoly on understanding your idiot caveman logic just because you live in your sh***y state. I understand it completely.
The 3rd seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. I think it's fair to say that you're in the ranks of the elite. In other words, if you make it to the Final Four, you're not a Cinderella. You're just good. What's your secret?
3rd Seed. Well, remember first that if you're a college basketball team, you can't really be "good."
3rd. Subjective "good," sure. Kansas is better at basketball than UNC-Asheville, or a high school team, or your uncle's stamp collection. But Kansas would never beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, as tempting as it might be to think so. As long as the NBA, a dramatically superior league, exists, they are the "good." We college basketball teams can still shoot for "competent," but that's the ceiling.
SBN. So college teams are just competent?
3rd. I say again: that's the ceiling. The trick to being competent is to minimize the dumb s*** you do. As it turns out, the temptation to do dumb s*** all the time is really, really strong amongst 19-to-22-year-olds. With four seconds left and down by one point, they'll heave up a contested three-pointer. They'll commit a back-court violation via an inbound pass. You know. Dumb s***.
SBN. So your trick is to just be less stupid than the other team.
3rd. Yes. John Wooden, bless his soul, was just being wordy. They should bronze a new trophy and simply engrave it with the words, "NOT QUITE AS DUMB."
SBN. It's strange that you would knock college basketball like this.
3rd. What? No! I'm not knocking it. College basketball is wonderful and weird and fun and insane. Either in spite of its flaws, or because of them, it's incredible. And if your dislike of it stems entirely from the quality of play, you're a knucklehead.
The 2nd seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. What do you think about basketball?
2nd Seed. Real bouncy.
The 1st seed's success rate in each round of the NCAA Tournament, 1985-2010
SB Nation. Historically speaking, you're dramatically better than any other team. You own well over half of the NCAA Tournament championship trophies. You're just great. Do you think the gap in greatness is unfair?
1st Seed. I don't know. It's like walking down the street. With each step, you're squashing hundreds of thousands of micro-organisms. Literally, nothing happens without something dying.
SBN. What do you think of the tournament's gradual expansion?
1st. Well, luckily it hasn't increased the number of games that I'll play, and I hope that doesn't change. For us, playing another game would be on roughly the same level of inconvenience as faxing an extra sheet to the office.
SBN. Sounds as though you hold a pretty strong sense of entitlement.
1st. It's just a statement of fact. I do wonder, though, what the other 67 teams are doing, and why they're doing it.
SBN. You know that 5-Seed came about two inches away from beating you in the championship last year, don't you?
1st. Did they? Huh. Well, good to know for trivia night.
SBN. Every other team wants to be you. 16-Seed loses to you every single time, but keeps coming back against hopelessly low odds. 12-Seed rocked the tournament establishment when they advanced half as far as you did.
1st. And again, why? The real fun of the tournament is at the start. It seems as though 50 games are happening at once. It's 1 o'clock on a Thursday, and it feels like a weekend. Then there are fewer and fewer games. And then Monday night arrives. The championship starts at nine at night. You neither know nor care where your bracket is. A team beats six teams in single-elimination play, and we make the outrageous assumption that the team is not only empirically better than those six teams, but 61 other teams it didn't even play? Nonsense.
SBN. Which format would you propose instead?
1st. I don't know. I guess it's fine how it is, so long as you think of it as a bunch of little tournaments instead of one big tournament. Find your own definition of victory, and so on and so forth. Whatever.
SBN. God, you're such an asshole. One year, 16-Seed is going to beat you.
1st. No. No, they aren't. If you flip a coin 104 times and it turns up heads every time, it's likely that both sides are heads. 16-Seed is as terrible as a sports team can possibly be. But by all means, rewind your VHS copy of Speed 2: Cruise Control and see whether Willem Dafoe wins this time.
SBN. Willem Dafoe was in that? Whoa, I think I will.
1st. Why is everyone under the impression that Willem Dafoe is never in bad movies? Where did this idea come from?