NCAA Tournament: Let’s play an easy March Madness bracket game

NCAA Tournament: Let’s play an easy March Madness bracket game

Hey, Sellout Crowd readers, let’s play a March Madness bracket game. Here are the details, and the winner gets lunch with me.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Mar 19, 2024, 10:30am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Mar 19, 2024, 10:30am CDT

(This originally published in Berry Tramel’s newsletter. Subscribe here.)

The omission of OU from the NCAA Tournament does not ruin March Madness even for the half of Oklahomans who run in crimson circles. The NCAAs are too great of an event.

The best postseason in American sport — I guess the NFL playoffs have an argument, too — takes the stage starting Tuesday night with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, and the bracket will consume even the most benign of sports fans.

Picking winners and comparing brackets is the national pastime of March. Using a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey blindfold or your 5-year-old’s favorite colors often is as effective as studying the deep analytics of the matchups, but either way, cheering on teams of which you don’t even know their mascot is great fun.

But there are other ways to have fun with the bracket, and here’s a contest I’ve been playing for 20-something years.

Pick four teams from the bracket. One from each regional. The sum of the four teams’ seeds must reach at least 32. In other words, if you pick two No. 1 seeds, your other two teams must be 15s or 16s.

Select a 1-6-9-16 combination. Or a 3-5-12-12.

Doesn’t matter. Just make sure the numbers add up to at least 32, and make sure you have all four regionals represented.

Each win gets you one point. Have the eventual national champion among your four, and you’re assured of at least six points. Get to 10 points, and you’ll be in contention, unless 1,000 people are playing your game.

And that’s where my readers come in. I’ve included you in my game in recent years, and let’s do it again.

Email me ([email protected]) your picks for the game, and I’ll keep a tally. The winner gets lunch on me and with me.

It’s a lot of fun the first week. Most of you will be out of the running by next weekend, but that’s OK. You’ll still have your bracket.

Just email me at [email protected], with a deadline of 11 a.m. Thursday, unless you pick a First Four team, then it’s 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

And therein lies some strategy. Pick a First Four team, and you’ve got a shot at an extra win.

I won’t play, though I might share my bracket-game picks after the deadline.

But as a bonus, I will share my full bracket, just in case some novices need a little guidance.

Here are my picks.

First four: Virginia over Colorado State, Boise State over Colorado, Montana State over Grambling, Howard over Wagner.

First-round upsets: 9-Northwestern over 8-Florida Atlantic, 11-Duquense over 6-Brigham Young, 10-Drake over 7-Washington State, 9-Texas A&M over 8-Nebraska, 12-James Madison over 5-Wisconsin, 11-Oregon over 6-South Carolina.

Sweet 16 matchups: Auburn over Connecticut, Iowa State over Illinois, Saint Mary’s over North Carolina, Baylor over Arizona, Houston over Duke, Texas Tech over Florida, Gonzaga over Utah State, Creighton over Tennessee.

Final Four: Auburn vs. Baylor, Houston vs. Creighton.

Championship: Houston over Auburn.

So let’s play. Pick your four teams and send them in.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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