A couple of years back, I wrote a story about the basketball team at Quinnipiac University. There is at least an 82 percent chance that if you live outside the state of Connecticut,* you have never heard of Quinnipiac. And if you have heard of Quinnipiac, there is a 78 percent you know this school exists because they also have an institute that conducts political polls. However, this year, Quinnipiac came oh-so-close to qualifying for the NCAA tournament, which would have brought unprecedented recognition to a school that is otherwise a blank slate. In fact, this is the whole reason Quinnipiac threw all kinds of money into basketball in the first place--it was a way for an otherwise nondescript school to establish its identity. It was a way for people to recognize Quinnipiac for something other than Chris Dodd's approval ratings.
This happens all the time now. College sports have essentially evolved into a PR gambit, and so, with that in mind, I have decided to choose each of the first-round games in my NCAA pool based entirely on my shallow and uninformed first impressions of each university--in other words, the first image that leaps into my head.**I call it the Gladwell Method.
1. Kentucky (Ashley Judd) over 16. E. Tenn. St. Before he became the coach at Penn State, Ed DeChellis led East Tennessee State to the NCAA tournament. Which leads me to a pair of conclusions: 1. East Tennessee State has a better basketball program than Penn State, and 2. Ed DeChellis is no Ashley Judd.
8. Texas (Bevo) over 9. Wake Forest Did you know that Tim Duncan apparently cut short his swimming career because a fear of sharks? An 1,800 pound steer would never give up on its dreams.
12. Cornell over 5. Temple. Because my dad and my friend's wife went to Cornell, and I never liked Mark Macon.
4. Wisconsin (Ron Dayne) over 13. Wofford (Because this is a school that sounds like it should be a breakfast special at Denny's).
6. Marquette over 11. Washington. Because sad clowns are more melancholy than rain.
3. New Mexico over 14. Montana. Because I just watched Breaking Bad, and because this appears to be the only television show ever set in Montana.
10. Missouri (home of copious sportswriters) over 7. Clemson (Donald Igwebuike).
15. Morgan State (The Wire) over. 2. West Virginia (Deliverance).
16. Ark. Pine-Bluff over 1. Duke. Because Pine Bluff's marching band is known as the Marching Musical Machine. And Duke is Duke.
8. Cal over 9. Louisville. Because I like hippies more than horses.
12. Utah State over 5. Texas A & M. Because Jackie Sherill once castrated a bull, while the dude who helped found Utah State looks like he could castrate Jackie Sherill.
4. Purdue (Glenn Robinson) over 13. Siena (Albany).
11. Old Dominion over 6. Notre Dame. Because I respect Old Dominion's women's basketball tradition far more than I respect Notre Dame's football tradition.
14. Sam Houston State over 3. Baylor (cult members, unscrupulous coaches). Because Sam Houston just seems like the kind of guy who could strangle a coyote with his bare hands.
10. St. Mary's over 7. Richmond (Johnny Newman). Because at St. Mary's, it appears they actually read.
15. Robert Morris over 2. Villanova. See here.
16. Lehigh (Nerds) over 1. Kansas (Munchkins).
8. UNLV (Moses Scurry) over 9. Northern Iowa. Because I was in Barbados the past few days, and while touring a rum factory I saw a hefty dude wearing a Northern Iowa T-shirt. He did not instill confidence.
5. Michigan State (Bubba Smith) over 12. New Mexico State (Southwestern art).
4. Maryland (Len Bias) over 13. Houston (Andre Ware).
11. San Diego State (Dude!) over 6. Tennessee. Because Phish regularly played a cover of "Rocky Top."
14. Ohio over 3. Georgetown. Because Halloween at Ohio University is perhaps the most decadent party atmosphere I have ever witnessed outside a Dean Cameron film. And because all the John Thompsons are excellent coaches, but none of them seem like very fun guys.
10. Georgia Tech over 7. Oklahoma State. Because I have a friend who likes Georgia Tech, and I like this friend far more than I like T. Boone Pickens.
15. UCSB over 2. Ohio State. Because Santa Barbara is one of the nicest places I have ever been. And Columbus is not.
16. Vermont over 1. Syracuse. Because while I believe Syracuse has approximately a 48 percent chance of winning this tournament, I like maple syrup more than most sportscasters.
8. Gonzaga over 9. Florida State. Because everything I know about Gonazaga relates to basketball. They are the patient zero of the Quinnipiac philosophy. And Deion Sanders is a freak.
5. Butler (Hoosiers) over 12. UTEP (Glory Road).
13. Murray State (Popeye Jones) over 4. Vanderbilt (Al Gore).
6. Xavier (X!) over 11. Minnesota. Because there are no Xes in Bronko Nagurski.
3. Pitt over 14. Oakland. Because there is an Oakland in Pittsburgh, but there is no Pittsburgh in Oakland.
10. Florida over 7. BYU. Because our Tebow trumps your Mormons.
15. N. Texas (Mean Joe Greene) over 2. Kansas State (Kirstie Alley).
*And for your sake, I hope you do.
**Or the first obscure fact culled from Wikipedia.