After years of March Madness providing unpredictable Final Fours that leave your brackets in tatters, chalk reigned supreme in 2015. Three of the four No. 1 seeds advanced to Indianapolis over the weekend, with the lone exception coming from perhaps the greatest Madness coach of this generation.
Kentucky moved to 38-0 despite a valiant effort from Notre Dame, Wisconsin ended Arizona’s season for the second time in as many years, Duke dispatched of Gonzaga in a game far uglier than anyone imagined and Tom Izzo got the job done in his head-to-head clash with Rick Pitino.
For most, these results are devastating. If recent seasons have taught us anything, it’s that No. 1 seeds are more vulnerable than ever. This is the first time since 2009 multiple No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four; it’s only the second time three have done so since the turn of the century.
So, when assessing the brackets of experts and celebrities, it all comes down to one question: Who was brave enough to stick to what we saw during the regular season—which was a top-heavy landscape—and risk the ridicule of a chalk-heavy bracket? Let’s take a look in on the celebrity wing after the second weekend and find out.
President Obama’s bracket features two of the Final Four teams, which is about typical. Few want to ride or die with the chalk. But where President Obama’s bracket differs from most is that he actually did have three No. 1s in the Final Four.
He just chose wrong on the third.
Taking Villanova and Virginia to make the Elite Eight in the East region made that bracket moot by the end of the first weekend. Michigan State toppled Virginia on its way to a Final Four run, while North Carolina State undid Villanova’s strong season. Given that the President also has the Wildcats playing Kentucky in the championship game, there isn’t much room for improvement in this bracket.
President Obama might move up a few spots if Kentucky wins the national championship. Otherwise he’ll stick right around the middle of the country.
Best Pick: Correctly Picking the Three No. 1 Seeds
Worst Pick: Virginia vs. Villanova in Elite Eight
Only the East region did the Jeezy lyricist in over the weekend, as he was one of a select few analysts to go all-in on chalk. In fact, Bilas correctly predicted six of the eight teams that played in regional finals. The lone exception was the East, where he chose to ride with ACC outfit Virginia over the true power conference Big Ten.
Nevertheless, Bilas’ impressive performance should just be the latest feather in an increasingly filled cap. The ESPN analyst has emerged as perhaps the best color commentator in the sport in recent years, mixing youth-skewing irreverence and a vast knowledge of the game. If he’s able to do all that while being correct about picking games, well, it’ll be a long time before another analyst catches the front-runner.
A week ago, Lunardi was sitting on top of the world. His bracket was sitting in the 77th percentile, and he was riding high on the upset selection of Wichita State over Kansas.
The second weekend went in the exact opposite direction. Already down a Final Four team in Villanova, Lunardi watched as his bets on Arizona and Gonzaga failed in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats fell just short after allowing Wisconsin to score 55 second-half points, while Gonzaga’s shooters went cold under the bright lights of NRG Stadium.
The result was Lunardi having just one Final Four team correct. Though that team is Kentucky, his national championship winner, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to finish above the national average. The proliferation of Kentucky selections is just too great.
Best Pick: Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke to Final Four
Worst Pick: Villanova to Championship Game
Let’s face it: Kevin Hart is leading a more charmed life than you or I could imagine. The comedian currently stars opposite Will Ferrell in Get Hard, which Box Office Mojo reports raked in more than $30 million this weekend. He’s also an NBA Celebrity All-Star Game MVP, sells out stadiums on his comedy tour and does a whole lot of other stuff you wouldn’t expect from that dude from Soul Plane.
It turns out Hart is also pretty good at making bracket selections. Going all-chalk allowed him to correctly predict three of the Final Four participants, and even one of his few upset picks (Michigan State to the Elite Eight) worked out just fine. Had he gone all-in on Tom Izzo’s Spartans, Hart would have went 4-for-4.
Regardless, Hart is light years ahead of celebrities who are not paid to analyze sports for a living. Even though his Villanova selection will drop him back a bit next weekend, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing—loudly—about Hart’s bracket for years to come.
One half of Mike and Mike nearly nailed every Final Four team. Had he went with chalk over taking Gonzaga to topple Duke, we would have been talking about a bracket that was near the top of the overall leaderboard.
As it stands, Golic sits comfortably ahead of other celebrities heading into the final weekend. Selecting Gonzaga to square off with Kentucky in the championship game will force him backward a bit, but the sheer fortitude of taking a No. 7 seed Michigan State team to the Final Four should more than atone for that mistake.
Not much else we can say here. Kudos to you, Mr. Golic, for being far braver than I.
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