A wise man once wrote, “Duke is always worth picking, not just because of the Blue Devils’ chance to win, but because if and when Duke loses, the pain of your bracket being destroyed is salved by Duke losing.”
Fine, it wasn’t a wise man. It was me, last week. But let’s be honest: If you did pick Duke to win the national championship in the Dealbreaker Tournament Challenge, don’t you feel a little bit better knowing that even though you won’t be getting a ride in a BLADE Helicopter, at least it’s because Ted Cruz doppelganger, notoriously dirty player and all-around avatar for smug douchebros everywhere Grayson Allen is going home with the rest of the Blue Devils? Of course you do.
Duke losing did destroy things pretty well for Claire Boston and Mrs. Greenjeans, tied for second in our contest with Josh Choi, who also can hold off on buying helicopter-ready earplugs because he had Villanova going all the way.
The leader after the first weekend of the tournament is Yoni F., with 50 points from a 28-4 first round and 11 of the Sweet 16 correct. Yoni has Kansas over Gonzaga in the national title game, both still alive, but did lose Villanova from the Final Four.
While the second-place crew, at 49 points, can forget about collecting the big prize with anything short of a miracle, there are five contestants in a tie for fifth place at 48 points, and three should be feeling good about their chances. Shaaa Braaa has North Carolina as champion, Jeff Seeley picked Gonzaga and Josh Magid is pulling for Kentucky. Unfortunately for Alex Smith and Stephen Hack, Virginia and Villanova are done.
Some other pickers who are looking good with their national champs: Andrew Davis (46 points) with UCLA and Erik Woodson (46) with Arizona. We’ll have a clearer picture on their chances, and everyone else’s, after next weekend.
What we do know is who will be in the mix for the last-place prize, a fabulous Dealbreaker banker bag: Jason Gao and Andrew Gier very clearly were aiming for the bottom, and to the bottom they sunk, each with four points and no more opportunities to get any. Jason was let down only by wins from Southern Cal, Northwestern, Xavier, and Rhode Island in the first round, while Andrew had Southern Cal, South Carolina, Northwestern, and Xavier. Two of the teams that Andrew “picked” moved on to the Sweet 16, compared to only Xavier for Jason, so Jason was technically worse.
In this contest, though, everyone is a loser. Seriously, have you ever been in a pool where nobody had all of their Final Four teams alive after the opening weekend? Well, now you have. Not that the picks of your humble columnist would have been any better. The lesson here is not to heed my advice, but that of the cinematic classic WarGames: The only winning move is not to play.