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March Madness 2012: Why I Don't Regret Picking UNC-Asheville over Syracuse

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15:  Baye Keita #12 of the Syracuse Orange fights for the ball against Jaron Lane #5 of the UNC Asheville Bulldogs during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 15, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Andrew KaakeCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2012

Sure, it flew in the face of the one piece of refined bracketology fact—never choose a 16 seed to upset a one seed—but I don’t regret picking UNC-Asheville to upset Syracuse in the Round of 64.

I know, by the time I’ve finished writing this article No. 1 seeds will have a 110-0 record against No. 16 seeds, and that record will be 112-0 tomorrow.

But did you see the game? It was close. Very close.

It was a reasonable upset call to make. UNC-A was one of the most solid 16-seeds in the last decade, and Syracuse was missing their starting center, who just happened to be the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The fact that the game was close legitimizes my call, but I would have been fine with my pick even if Syracuse had looked a bit more like the team that they were supposed to be and won by a fair margin.

It’s fine that I can be mocked for making a rookie mistake with my bracket. I was seven points and three refs away from looking like a veritable genius.

Put aside, for the moment, even the dubious turn that the game took in the last few minutes to seal the close win for the Orange. Forget the fact that the Bulldogs played a great game against one of the better teams in college basketball.

Think, instead, about the reason that we call this wonderful season of sports insanity by the name of “March Madness.” Crazy things happen, legends are made and unprecedented events take place. It would have fulfilled all three of these benchmarks for UNC-A to upset Syracuse.

That kind of thing is the reason that we watch. It would have been worth ruining my entire bracket to see a 16-1 upset, and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Picking the upset didn’t hurt me in the long run, either, because I would have chosen Kansas State over either team in that game.

I knew it was a bad idea, statistically speaking, but I went with my gut feeling, a premonition that this game would be close. I made the pick with the most upside. I chose the team that would lead me to March Madness glory instead of the team that would leave my bracket sitting in the mediocrity of probability.

And I was wrong. So what? I’m happy with my choice, and I’d make that pick again every time. It’s fun to have a winning bracket, but sometimes it’s better to just sit back, realize that you’ll never get it right and bask in the craziness of the NCAA Tournament.

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