I know less than nothing about basketball. I attended a Division III School where athletes were not on scholarship and played for the love of the game (and, I assume, some generous financial aid packages). While I attended basketball games in college, they were more of a social activity for me on nights when the games did not interfere with my job waiting tables. I never really played basketball, my skills were lacking. It does not hold a lot of interest for me. Until March.
Each year in my office there is a mad scramble to fill out brackets and predict who will emerge after 63 games (I am only counting from the first round, not the last-minute playoffs to decide who will squeak into the tournament to face a number 1 seed). Each year I attempt to fill out my bracket and try not to get eliminated from contention in the first round of 32 games. In 2016, I went out on the first Friday of the tournament. Generally, I am 2 or 3 standard deviations below the mean when picking collegiate hoops squads. In a word, I suck at it.
While everyone was pouring over stats, triple doubles, division standings, the difficulty of schedules, injury reports and seeds in the 4 regions of the NCAA Division I Tournament, I was trying to sort out the alphabet soup of conferences and major schools that I recognized from prior years. Trying to be smart about this was not going to work for me. I am basketball illiterate. I had to do something different this year.
I decided on a departure from my normal approach. Since my ability to pick a team in the tournament was as dismal as my ability to actually coax a basketball into a hoop, I went with Cheese Theory. They call it March Madness for a reason.
It is obviously my own invention. In a nut shell, “Cheese Theory” is nothing more than selecting a team that fits on a sliding scale. The first and highest priority goes to schools that sound like they could be a type of cheese. Thus Gonzaga is my pick to win it all. Second, pick schools from states where there is a thriving cheese industry. Wisconsin, Vermont, New York. Wait, no teams from New York this year? Bummer! Believe it or not, there is a thriving goat cheese industry in states like Oregon, North Carolina, Kentucky and Washington State. I am embarrassed to say that I did not know Gonzaga was located in Spokane, Washington until after I picked them to win it all.
You may be laughing at me by now. I am sure if you went to Villanova you are not happy about bowing out to Wisconsin (cheese producer) or Kansas going out courtesy of Oregon (goat cheese producer). Gonzaga, that definitely sounds like a type of cheese to me. (Would you like some Gonzaga on your pasta?) North Carolina and Kentucky, both cheese producing states, battled it out Sunday with UNC ending up on top.
It is all fun and games until someone in the office (with a Duke University sweatshirt for every day of the work week) realized that with the Kentucky loss everyone in my office bracket challenge were statistically eliminated from contention, brackets busted. Everyone, except for one. Going into the Final Four, I am the cheese that stands alone. I am far from a perfect in my bracket, but I am clipping along with a 72% win rate. This from a guy who has never made it beyond the sweet sixteen. My main pick is still in the running to take the championship home to Washington State.
Because there is no betting permitted in the office, (gambling is against the law, you know…) the person with the lowest point total for the tournament has to buy lunch for the winner. At this point, no one can accumulate enough points in the bracket to overtake me. Remember the guy with the Duke emblematic wardrobe? He will be buying me lunch at Subway whether the Zags win it or not. I wonder what kind of cheese I should have on my sandwich?
All in all, it has been a gouda run! GO ZAGS!