Tag Archive | ncaa tournament

Do Animal Instincts Make the Best Brackets?

In one of my favorite Cheers episodes, dorky Diane wins the bar’s pro football pool by selecting the victors according to which cities have the best symphony conductors.

I am pretty much in the same boat when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. I have no one to root for—my hometown Memphis Tigers didn’t make the cut, and my Division III alma mater, Centre College, is hardly a Sports Center staple.

eastern-gray-squirrel

Bet against Carolina? That’s nuts!

Luckily this weekend I volunteered at a wildlife rehab center, where, while cleaning up squirrel scat, I learned those little guys are #1-seed North Carolina’s state mammal. Which gave me a slightly nerdy idea for my bracket. What if I based it on official state animals?

After all, the animals are selected for their strength, smarts, and contributions to state culture. Many of the options seem like obvious winners. Kansas (Kansas, Wichita State) has its bison, and Miami and Florida Gulf Coast are represented by Florida’s state reptile, the alligator.

Others are a little more surprising, but kinda make sense when you think about it. Second-seeded Oklahoma’s state amphibian is the bullfrog, which is America’s largest frog–aggressive and even believed to be resistant to snake venom. That’s one potent game plan.

Washington has perennial competitor Gonzaga back in the running this year, along with the Pacific tree frog. This clever state amphibian is wiggles its toes to attract its meals. (May also explain all the Tevas in Washington.)

Ohio, with Xavier, Dayton, and Cincinnati in the tourney, boasts the spotted salamander as its state amphibian. No need to worry about injuries here–when attacked, it can grow back missing limbs and even parts of its brain. Its BRAIN!

Tennessee is fielding four squads this year—Vanderbilt, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee, and Austin Peay. Though seeded merely 11, 12, 15, and 16, maybe the teams can look to Tennessee’s state commercial fish, the channel catfish, for inspiration. They have highly evolved sensory systems and can size up rivals from sex to social status just by smell alone.

viceroy_butterfly_female

Eat me. (No, really, I dare you.)

Thirteenth-seed Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, actually has two spines! One braces the other when the fish shelters in small spaces, and predators can’t get it out. What coach wouldn’t want that kind of defense?

Kentucky’s state insect is the viceroy, a butterfly that mimics in its color patterns the more delicious monarch, but instead—like Kentucky’s shooting—gives predators heartburn with its high concentrations of salicylic acid.

Finally, though nowhere near an ocean, Utah’s state bird is the seagull. As the story goes, when Mormons settled the state, locusts attacked their crops until, like a miracle, gulls appeared and ate them. As a 3-seed, Utah probably won’t need any miracles, unlike 15-seed Weber State of Ogden. But with the praying mantis as Connecticut’s state insect, maybe 12-seed Yale will get a miracle of its own.

As for me, I’ll be praying for mercy when I call in sick to watch hoops.

 

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Baby, Baby, Baby, Ohhhh (Crap). Plus the Extra Point’s Future, Billion Dollar Brackets, and Tiger Declawed

—1—“The kick is up, and it…is…” no longer existent?

So, baby, you mean, baby, if I can't beat these charges, baby, I can't be an NFL kicker? Ohhhh.

So, baby, you mean, baby, if I can’t beat these charges, baby, I can’t be an NFL kicker? Ohhhh.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested this week that the league do away with the extra point or “PAT,” point after touchdown. “The extra point is almost automatic,” he told NFL Network Monday. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd attempts. So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play.” Instead he suggests making a touchdown worth seven points instead of six, with an extra play after from the scrimmage line worth an eighth point. But, if the team fails, their touchdown is only worth six points.

You would think concussions and crime would be enough “excitement” for the NFL any given day, but I must admit I am intrigued.

—2—Ahhhh, Warren Buffett. Gazillionaire, Philanthropist, College Basketball Fan. And now he and Quicken Loans are offering a $1 billion cash prize to anyone who correctly predicts this year’s men’s NCAA Tournament Bracket in the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Unfortunately, the odds of getting all 63 games right, are around 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s nine quintillion. But if you do win, you get 40 annual installments of $25 million or a lump sum payment of $500 million. If there are multiple winners, the pot is divided, and the 20 brackets closest to the perfect outcome will still receive $100,000 each from Quicken Loans to purchase or remodel a home or refinance a mortgage. Contest starts March 3.

—3—There are two new sheriffs in Tennis Town. If tennis players wore hats, spurs and funny mustaches. China’s Li Na had been contemplating retirement, but defeated Dominika Cibulkova (who had ousted #3 Maria Sharapova) for the Australian Open crown, and at 31 became the oldest women’s champion in the Open Era. Known for her funny remarks in broken English, Li joked in post-match interviews about her husband and his snoring, and thanked her agent “for making me rich.”

On the men’s side, it was Switzerland’s #8 Stanislas Wawrinka who finally hoisted the trophy after defeating #1 Rafael Nadal. Nadal had previously knocked out Roger Federer to reach the Australian Open final for the third time. It would have been Rafa’s 14th Grand Slam title. But he struggled with several small but nagging injuries, including a blister on his serving hand that drew gasps from the crowd when one TV camera got a little too close. Wawrinka was the first man in 21 years to beat the #1 and #2-ranked players (Novak Djokovic) en route to a Grand Slam title.

—4—For the first time in his career, world #1 Tiger Woods failed to make the PGA Tour’s secondary cut at Torrey Pines in San Diego. His 7-over-par 79 was his worst in an event he has won seven times. And it all means….meh, nothing. It’s the start of the season, and now, with girlfriend skier Lindsey Vonn sitting out the Olympics, they’ll enjoy a few free days before heading to Dubai.

5Finally, Saturday Night Live did two great sports parodies on “Weekend Update” the other night, one with Russian villagewoman, “Olya Povlatsky.” “So Olya, are your surprised the Olympics are coming to Russia?” “I surprised anyone would come to Russia…What was the other options, Haiti or middle of ocean?” The other had Kenan Thompson playing the Miami police officer who arrested Justin Bieber for drinking and drag racing. “You must have been shocked to pull someone over and discover it was Justin Bieber.” “Oh Cecily, I work in Miami. Nothin’ shocks me. When I pull somebody over, they usually got a tiger in the back seat, and an alligator in the trunk to guard their cocaine. It’s the only city where NBA players are the best behaved people.”