Hefferon: Tournament offers new chance for predictions (Mar. 19)
Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, March 18, 2014
To quote Forrest Gump, “I’m not a smart man.”
I came into this school as a naïve math major four years ago (an honors math major, at that), but struggled mightily in the collegiate big leagues. Suffice it to say, the attempts I required to pass Calculus III was an integer greater than one.
So it pained me yesterday to see that on his brand-new, ESPN-backed FiveThirtyEight website, predictive genius Nate Silver named Louisville his favorite to win the NCAA Tournament, but estimated that there was an 85 percent chance that his pick was wrong. If that were the case, what kind of odds could a fingers-and-toes-counter like myself possibly have of picking a winner?
Luckily, what I lack in any sort of mathematical prowess, I more than make up for in blind optimism. So here are some 100-percent, sure-fire, suck-it-Nate-Silver predictions about the upcoming NCAA Tournament — the best three weeks in sports:
Shockers’ run stops this weekend
Wichita State has put itself on the map by entering the tournament undefeated, making it the first team to do so in over two decades. But the quirkily-named Shockers compiled their record against the lowly Missouri Valley Conference, and are now saddled with the toughest road to the Final Four of any No. 1-seed. Analysts have focused mostly on the other foreboding top teams in the region: No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Duke, and No. 4 Louisville. But Wichita State will likely have to get past No. 8-seed Kentucky first, and the Wildcats are coming in off a last-second loss to the top team in the country, Florida. The Shockers have yet to see major conference competition, and I predict their undefeated season will come to an end at the hands of Coach Calipari’s Wildcats come Sunday.
Big East left out of Final Four
For decades, the Big East was the deepest conference in the country, and for the last five years it has placed at least one team among the tournament’s Final Four teams. However, due to conference realignment, that streak is in jeopardy. No. 2-seed Villanova and No. 3-seed Creighton might have something to say about it, but their runs will come up short on the second weekend of the tournament. And without former members like Louisville and Syracuse, the new-look Big East, a shell of its former self, will be left out in the cold.
Someone will cut down the nets
Shoot guys, maybe Nate Silver had it right: this bracket stuff is hard. I mean, there are 68 teams, 67 games, and literally quintillions of permutations of how you might fill out your pool. Florida’s looked good, Arizona’s played well out West and perennial powerhouses like Michigan State, Duke, Michigan and Louisville are all lurking, as well. Maybe 15 percent is the best anyone can hope to do.
Actually, forget that. Lock it down and bet your life that Virginia will enjoy one shining moment as NCAA Champions. The late-charging Cavaliers have survived a tough ACC schedule, and will absolutely, without-a-doubt cut down the nets on April 7. Best of luck with your bracket, I’ll be more than happy to share the billion dollars from my perfect bracket with you. Maybe.
Football Predictions: Report Card
Back in August, I made some predictions for the upcoming football season as well. For the sake of clarity and public embarrassment, my results follow.
First off, I told you Jadeveon Clowney would win the Heisman. That was a huge miss, as the South Carolina defensive end was often called into question for his work ethic and effort, and didn’t finish in the top 10.
However, the picks weren’t entirely a loss. I predicted that Johnny Manziel would emerge from the NCAA’s investigation into his suspicious autograph signing and wouldn’t miss time, and that Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu would bounce back in the NFL after marijuana problems. Johnny Football was suspended by A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin for just the first half of his opener against Rice, and Mathieu had 68 tackles and 2 interceptions in 13 games before a season ending injury — I’d call those both moderate successes.
And after rushing back from a knee in 2012, I predicted that former rookie phenom Robert Griffin III would struggle in 2013 and never be the same elite quarterback again. Griffin returned from his injury with almost half as many touchdowns and twice as many turnovers as his standout rookie season, and was inactivated at the end of the year in favor of Kirk Cousins. The jury’s still out on RG3, but this season proved that, at the very least, I can’t be wrong all the time.