WINNING & MUSING…VOLUME 2.22 

Greetings sports fans. We’re still talking about football, but there are a couple of other topics thrown into the mix as well. I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and cooler temperatures are giving way to the delightful warmth of spring. 

Heavenly Father, bless Deshaun Watson, for he hath sinned. Now, I bet you think you know what I am referring to, but you’d probably be wrong. Don’t misunderstand…I am not looking past the allegations of sexual misconduct against Watson. However, a grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, so I am left with the impression that he is simply a single, wealthy horndog who enjoys a good massage a bit too much and expects favors many young ladies are not willing to grant. I believe he acted inappropriately, but to my knowledge no one was raped. Deshaun Watson may be creepy, but he’s not a criminal, and since I wasn’t exactly a saint when I was a 20-something I simply hope the young man learned his lesson, has been humbled, and will be better going forward. That being said, I cannot overlook the fact that Watson, who understandably wanted away from the dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans, ended up approving a trade to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns!! This dude could’ve gotten a new start in Carolina, Atlanta, or New Orleans…and he chose Cleveland!! Has he never heard of Tim Couch?? Colt McCoy?? Brady Quinn?? Brandon Weeden?? Hell, I could list two dozen more quarterbacks whose career died in The Factory of Sadness. I’ve been a big fan of Deshaun Watson since his days at Clemson, and I was counting on him to lead my dynasty fantasy team for the next decade, but I can’t cheer for the QB of the Browns, so I traded him for multiple draft picks. Thanks for nothing you moron. 

Baseball’s Opening Day has finally arrived. As a lifelong Pirates’ fan it is difficult for me to be as excited as some of y’all might be, but it is a cultural touchstone and an unofficial (late) welcome to spring, so I am happy to embrace the event in the spirit in which it is intended. Pirates games are soothing background noise while I read a book or mindlessly scroll on my phone, so atleast I have that going for me for the next six months, which is nice. 

I might have more thoughts on the NFL Draft before April 28, but for now let me offer one strong opinion. If my Pittsburgh Steelers mortgage the future to move up & select a quarterback who is far from certain to be a generational talent then the powers-that-be are absolute fools. I don’t think any quarterback in this draft is worthy of a first round pick, and I’m not sure any of them will be that successful in the NFL. I would prefer to see the Steelers address numerous other issues and ride with free agent signee Mitch Trubisky for a season (or two). If that means a couple of losing seasons before rebounding into perennial playoff contention for another long stretch then I’m okay with it. They’ve done a surprisingly good job of improving the offensive line this offseason, and I feel like they’re a wide receiver & perhaps some defensive depth away from being way better than anyone expects, but that isn’t a good enough reason to reach for a rookie quarterback in the draft. 

Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks for winning the NCAA Basketball National Championship. To be honest this year’s March Madness wasn’t all that memorable or compelling, although there were some decent games & exciting moments. The tournament felt kind of like cotton candy though…tastes sweet for a few fleeting seconds then melts away into nothingness. After all the hype about Gonzaga and upsets by underdogs like St. Peter’s & Miami (FL) the title game came down to Kansas & North Carolina…two blue-bloods despite the Tar Heels’ misleading #8 seed. As a fan there simply wasn’t anything to keep my attention outside of Coach K’s retirement. The title game being on TBS was weird, and not even One Shining Moment felt like Must See TV. 

It looks like Tiger Woods, a little over a year after suffering career threatening injuries in a car accident, will play in The Masters. As a fan I am excited to see him in the field, although expectations are obviously minimized. No one expects him to contend or even make the cut. As a human being I am fascinated by his redemption & comeback story. The sins of Tiger Woods are well-documented, but I am certainly not inclined to throw stones. The fact is that Woods in The Masters is good for golf and good for sports. If only my man Phil Mickelson were playing in the tournament 🤦🏻‍♂️…but that’s a whole other story. 

Speaking of basketball, it is my understanding that the NBA Playoffs will begin soon. I have no idea who the odds on favorites are or which teams may or may not be in the field. I believe I heard or read that the Los Angeles Lakers will miss the playoffs altogether, which makes me chuckle. Lebron James can pucker up & kiss my crippled fat ass *lol*. 

I suppose I have to address the Tom Brady situation. God knows I’d rather not think about the dude, much less write about him. At any rate, first Adam Schefter broke the news that TB12 was retiring, then Brady’s Dad was like “not so fast”, then a few days later Brady did post a retirement announcement on Instagram, because I guess that’s how it’s done nowadays. But wait…there’s more!! Like Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert, Tom Brady spent 40 days in retirement before resurrecting his career. Much like Halloween‘s Michael Myers, the Clintons, and numerous rock bands who are my grandfather’s age, Brady just won’t go away. The only good to come out of this is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be forced into the background during the Hall of Fame festivities five years from now. 

The Madness 2022

Two years ago one of the first signs that the Covid-19 pandemic might be a bigger deal than many originally thought it to be was the stunning cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness became March Sadness very quickly. In 2021 the tournament returned, albeit with all the requisite virus-related protocols that we now know were pretty much useless. And now, though The Sickness is still an issue, most of us have decided to move forward, live our lives, and do our best without meaningless virtue signaling that does very little to protect anyone from anything. As far as I know that means March Madness will get underway tomorrow with all the pomp & circumstance it deserves. Technically the action is already underway with play-in games, or what the powers-that-be refer to as the First Four. I don’t pay any attention to those games, so for our purposes they’ll simply be overlooked. 

After years of hoping WordPress would create some sort of brackets plug-in to no avail I finally stumbled upon a way to visually represent my entire bracket here. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. A few things should be noted. First, this is my one & only bracket. I do not create multiple “Sheets of Integrity” (shout out to my guys Mike & Mike). I don’t enter into a bunch of contests trying to make big bucks off of this deal, mostly because I’m not that good of a prognosticator (if you follow our Pigskin Picks of Profundity during football season you’re well aware of that). I did throw $10 into one thing my nephew is doing, but I have low expectations. At any rate, this is really just a way for me to have some fun & make the games a bit more interesting, especially since neither my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd or home team West Virginia Mountaineers are playing in the postseason. Also, as you’ll see, I really controlled myself when it comes to picking upsets. There’s alot of chalk in these choices. I know there’ll be a few shockers, but I have no idea what they will be so mostly I err on the side of caution and stay rather conservative in my predictions. The truth is that I don’t follow basketball nearly as close as I do football, so I am even more out of my depth than usual. That’s fine with me. I’ll still be glued to my television for the next few days, and if you are here I am guessing you will be too. 

East

The Baylor Bears are the defending National Champions (they beat Gonzaga for the title a year ago in case you forgot), and I think they have as good a chance to repeat as any champion we’ve seen in awhile. I’ve got Virginia Tech upsetting Texas and San Francisco beating Murray St. in Round 1, with the regional final coming down to Baylor & Kentucky. If that comes to pass it could be a hell of a game, but I think the Bears get the job done and return to the Final Four. 

West

I have to give Gonzaga credit. When a basketball team from a school in Spokane, WA  that no one had ever heard of burst onto the scene in 1999 by making it to the Elite 8 I don’t think anyone thought much of it. Just another Cinderella, right?? There’s one or two every year. But here we are, more than two decades later, and the Bulldogs have become not only a tournament mainstay but a consistent Top 10 team. Do they play the same level of competition as programs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.?? Maybe not, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve appeared in two Final Fours in the past five years, falling short in the title game both times. Can they go that far again?? Most of the talking heads will say yes, but I disagree. New Mexico St. over Connecticut is my choice for the annual 5/12 upset, but that’s the only surprise I foresee in the first round. Actually, it’s chalk all the way thru except for that game, which would set up an epic Gonzaga-Duke regional final and a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog kind of guy, but who could’ve predicted just a few years ago that the Blue Devils would ever be the underdogs in this matchup?!?!?!?? I realize that Duke isn’t the same level of great they might’ve been a decade ago, but they have hovered near the Top 5 most of the season. Perhaps I’m being sucked into the emotional vortex of this being Coach K’s swan song, but I think in this particular circumstance his team has the depth & athleticism to win a squeaker. 

Midwest

I like the Miami Hurricanes to score a mild first round upset, and feel good about predicting the Iowa St. Cyclones to overcome the odds a few times, making it all the way to the Elite 8. They are my Cinderella and I’m pushing all my chips into the center of the table on them…kind of. Ultimately I foresee the Kansas Jayhawks emerging from the region and going to the Final Four. 

South 

Sadly, this is as crazy as it gets for me. I am predicting two big upsets in the first round: Michigan over Colorado St. & Loyola (Chicago) over Ohio St. It’s always fun to see Sister Jean & Loyola’s Gryffindor scarves, right?? Sister Jean is 102 years old, so this might be her last hurrah. I hope her guys give her one final thrill. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’ll be a long ride,  with the dream ending in Round 2. With mostly chalk prevailing I think it comes down to Arizona & Villanova, with the West Coast Wildcats punching their ticket to the Final Four.

Final Four

I am predicting Baylor vs. Duke and Arizona vs. Kansas in the semis. As cool as it would be to see Coach K ride off into the sunset with a sixth National Championship I think he’s going to have to settle for one last Final Four appearance. Baylor is just too strong & athletic. I’m not sure it will even be that close. I also don’t believe Kansas is quite as elite as they typically have been, and think Arizona will expose their weaknesses. So will anyone East of the Mississippi be interested in watching two West Coast teams battle for the championship?? I hope so…¦it could be a very entertaining contest. At the end of the day though I believe Baylor will cut down the nets, becoming the first back-to-back champs since the 2006 & 2007 Florida Gators. 

Let The Madness Begin

Happy days are here again. March Madness is the pinnacle of the college basketball season, packing the punch of a whole year’s worth of excitement into just a few days. It also provides one the rare opportunity to venture out on a limb and either look like a genius or a complete buffoon. It doesn’t even matter if there is money involved, although that’s always a nice bonus. Years ago at a former place of employment I was one of a group of about a half dozen guys that would gamble small stakes on everything from pro football to Triple Crown horse racing, but the crown jewel of our year was The Madness. The money involved was so miniscule it was an afterthought. It was more about pride and bragging rights, proving oneself to be knowledgeable amongst peers. I did not have that outlet for several years, but now, thanks to the various bracket challenges on sites like ESPN and Yahoo, I’m back in the game. And since I am filling out a bracket anyway I decided I’d share my deep well of basketball acumen (or slightly arrogant poppycock) here at The Manofesto. To my knowledge there is no way to insert a filled out bracket into this blog so it’s a low tech effort. I have faith that my readers can adjust.

Before I dive in allow me to share a bit about my methods and some things I have learned over many years of doing this:

    • I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I print it out, go down through, and fill it out on the fly. My picks are based on what I know as an average fan and on my vibes. My choices have no basis in scientific investigation of any facts or figures.

    • Will there be upsets?? Yes. But don’t go crazy. The first round has 32 games. Out of those there might be a half dozen upsets. The 5/12, 6/11, & 7/10 games are where to look for upsets. #1 seeds never…ever…lose in the first round, and #2 seeds very rarely lose. Atleast one #12 beats a #5 each year…I don’t know why. 8/9 games are pretty much dead even, so a #9 beating a #8 isn’t really an upset.

    • After the first round it’s a free for all, although that 11, 12, 13, or 14 that got thru one game is unlikely to make it much further. Still though, there always seems to be atleast one. The trick is picking the right one.

    • I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams will beat a small conference team the overwhelming majority of the time. I put major weight on being battle tested. A team that won 25 games during the regular season but did it against mostly weak competition is like blood in the water for a team from a power conference that might have won only 19 or 20 games and rode the bubble into the tournament.

    • I take into consideration where the games are taking place. If a team is playing close to home and has a bunch of fans in the stands that is important. But it’s not that important, so I consider it yet don’t nuts about it.

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at each region:

East

This is a killer region. Lots of folks seem to be expecting George Mason to upset Villanova, but I am taking the Big East, battle tested ‘Nova over the small conference team. Sorry Patriot fans…it’s not 2006 anymore. I’m also taking #11 Marquette over #6 Xavier. I am a lifelong fan of the WV Mountaineers, who made it all the way to the Final Four last season, defeating Kentucky (who was darn near an NBA quality team) along the way. Unfortunately that will not happen this time, and I think the Wildcats get their revenge in Round 2. I like Syracuse to defeat Ohio State in the regional final and make it to The Final Four.

West

I have #9 Tennessee taking down #8 Michigan, although that’s not really an upset. #12 Memphis over #5 Arizona fulfills that annual tradition. I also picked #11 Missouri to beat #6 Cincinnati and #10 Penn St. to beat #7 Temple. I also took Penn St., who barely made it into the tournament, to beat #2 San Diego St. in the 2nd round. I just don’t think San Diego St. has played anyone other than BYU, while Penn St. faced Big 10 competition all season. I have #1 Duke facing off against #3 Connecticut in the regional final, with Coach K taking the Blue Devils to yet another Final Four.

Southwest

I have Richmond pulling off another 5/12 upset here by defeating fifth seeded Vanderbilt. I also have #10 Florida St. beating #7 Texas A&M. That’s it for the first round upsets in this region. I have #6 Georgetown beating #3 Purdue and #2 Notre Dame to make it to the regional final, where they ultimately fall to Kansas, the second and final #1 seed I have in The Final Four.

Southeast

I’m taking Old Dominion to defeat last year’s tournament darling and National Title runner-up Butler, but remember…a 9 over an 8 isn’t truly an upset. The only real upset I’m picking here is #10 Michigan St. over #7 UCLA, and even that wouldn’t exactly shock anyone. However, in the second round things get interesting. Pitt a #1 seed?? Okay. But they’ll still choke as usual, and I’m predicting it will be against Old Dominion. #5 Kansas State over #4 Wisconsin is a mild upset. #10 Michigan St. does it again by beating #2 Florida, and #6 St. John’s…battle tested…will take down #3 BYU. In the regional final I have Kansas State vs. St. John’s, with the Red Storm making it to The Final Four.

The Final Four

Syracuse vs. Duke, with the Orange shocking everyone (except me) and quite possibly sending Dick Vitale crawling into a corner in the fetal position.

Kansas vs. St. John’s, with Rock Chalk Jayhawk emphasizing the “chalk”.

Syracuse vs. Kansas in the National Championship, with Kansas proving what many have suspected all along, that they are the best team in the land.