Basel's House Bracket Challenge: Who Comes Out on Top?
Updated: Mar 19
Photo: Bailey weighs her options. Photo by Sam Basel
Five roommates. Four who haven't watched a minute of college basketball all season, and one who's obsession has lead him to caring about the CBI. Somehow, I've convinced my four basketball novice friends to fill out their brackets to their best abilities, in the ultimate test of instinctual basketball knowledge...
…I also told them the winner would get $50 worth of UberEats on me.
Yesterday, I sat down with each roommate to get in their heads, and see how they chose their path to potential March Madness Greatness.
Final Four: Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor, Houston
Championship Game: Michigan over Houston
Biggest Upset: Drexel over Illinois in the first round.
UberEats Order: A vegetable samosa from Vegetable Hunter, or tofu masala over rice.
Julia's bracket picks can be narrowed down to two factors; self-awareness and regional partiality. When asked about her experiences watching college basketball, Julia rated her overall knowledge at a 3 out of 10.
"I went to college, and I know what basketball is," Julia said. "I know that Villanova won a couple of years ago, so maybe you could bump me up to three-and-a-half."
In terms of Cinderella runs, Julia seemed to be very partial to places that hold a personal connection to her. A native Californian living in Harrisburg, PA, Julia made sure to give schools from both states some wins, such as USC making an appearance in the Sweet 16. Her boldest pick had to be 16-seed Drexel taking down Illinois, the 3rd overall seed and the second-best team according to the Associated Press.
"They're in Philadelphia if I'm not mistaken," she explained. "I currently live in Harrisburg, so I gotta root for a nearby team."
If her pick is correct, this would be just the second time ever that a 16-seed won in the first round of the Tournament. However, when presented with these odds, the Native Californian scoffed, explaining that these overwhelming odds were nothing more than numbers on a page.
"Everyone in the world who doesn’t understand march madness is going to fill their bracket out based on seeding," Julia explained. "The other half are people that are just going to pick whatever schools they know, so I figured I’d do a combination of the two."
She also went on to describe 24-6 Alabama as "overrated."
Final Four: Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, Houston
Championship Game: Purdue over Iowa
Biggest Upset: Oklahoma over Gonzaga in Round 2
UberEats Order: Fish and Chips, a Coke, and Cheesecake from Federal Taphouse
A native Minnesotan, Bailey was heavily biased towards midwestern teams in her bracket. Bailey claimed to have watched a total of eight hours worth of college basketball in her life, six of them devoted to Iowa State, her brother's alma mater.
"I had Iowa winning it all at first, but I crossed it out because of my allegiance to Iowa State," Bailey said. "However, I do think Iowa can win it all."
When asked to evaluate National Player of the Year Luka Garza and his Hawkeyes, Bailey was not one to mince words.
"I do not know who that is."
If you were to look at just Bailey's Final Four, you'd think she was just a biased, yet passionate, Big Ten fan. Where her bracket really deviates from the norm are the middle rounds. Notable picks from Bailey include Gonzaga losing in the second round to Oklahoma, as well as BYU and Virginia in the Elite Eight. Picking upsets are a key to any competent bracket, but Bailey made sure to give at least a couple favorites the deep runs they deserve.
"I have Illinois going pretty far," Bailey said. "Part of that is that I just really liked writing the word Illinois down, I've never written it that many times. Part of it [was also] that I'm rooting for those guys."
Bringing the subject outside of her own bracket, Bailey was unafraid to address a potentially competition controversy before it boiled over. Earlier in the day, the House became aware of a potential attempt by Erin to use her sports-savvy brother for help on her picks. When asked to comment on the subject, Bailey considered the maneuver to be textbook unsportsmanlike conduct.
"Erin is the bad guy," Bailey explained. "It's not fair. We all have brothers that could have helped us, but we didn't call them."
Should Erin have the best bracket at the end of the month, Bailey confirmed that she would issue a formal challenge to dispute the win.
Final Four: Gonzaga, Colorado, Baylor, Rutgers
Championship Game: Gonzaga over Baylor
Biggest Upset: Uconn over Bama, Rutgers over Houston, Drake in the Elite Eight
UberEats Order: A quarter pounder from McDonalds, with fries, a Coke, and and Oreo McFlurry. A brisket sandwich from Dickey's in Mechanicsburg, with a Big Yellow Cup.
In her interview, Erin was quick to address allegations regarding her use of outside sources. While she admitted to contacting her brother for bracket advice, she explained that his basketball knowledge ended up being insufficient, forcing her to resort to a more artificial advisor.
"I just asked Siri to help me," Erin said. "I'd get to a game, and just say, 'hey Siri, who would win in Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma?"
Erin then tried demonstrating this feature, but was met with silence from her digital accomplice. After several more tries, Erin realized that she had turned off Siri before the interview in fear of the A.I potentially listening to her.
Erin made sure to point out that some of her picks were from her own mind. When not using Siri, Erin often picked against several schools that she chose not to attend herself. The biggest standouts of her bracket were Colorado and Rutgers, 5 and 10 seeds respectively. Despite not understanding what the seeding meant, Erin did give a reason for these heavy underdog picks.
"I really like the name Rutgers," Erin said. "I was really drawn to that, and Siri really wanted me to go with them, so I figured I’d listen to her. With Colorado, I don’t know."
In closing her interview, Erin wanted to offers some words of encouragement to her projected Champs Gonzaga, as well as their star Jalen Suggs. However, Erin wanted to make it clear that there'd be no hard feelings if their run didn't end in a National Championship.
"I believe in you, you’ve gone so far, you’ve won so many games," Erin said. "Win more, and you’ll be that perfect person. If you don’t win, that’s totally fine, you have so much farther to go in your life. It’s going to be ok. I don’t want you to feel like I’ll die if you don’t win. I want you to know that life doesn’t end if you lose."
Final Four: USC, Alabama, Villanova, Houston
Championship Game: Houston over Alabama
Biggest Upset: USC taking down Iowa and Gonzaga on their way to the Final Four
UberEats Order: McDonald's for everyone, or a personal pear pizza, followed by a Nutella pizza for dessert.
According to Grace, most of her experience watching college basketball was via association of friends who were fans of the sport.
"I've seen maybe half of two games in a bar while my other friends were watching it."
Not an avid viewer, Grace instead resorted to firsthand knowledge of nearly every school in the 68-team field. Akin to Slumdog Millionaire, Grace drew from her own life experiences to make her decisions over who would beat who.
"I guessed the best that I could on the little information I had," Grace explained. "Let's take Gonzaga vs. Missouri as an example. A girl from my high school went to Gonzaga, and I don't know anyone from Missouri, so I picked Gonzaga."
A pick like that couldn't be made by even the tops minds in Bracketology, yet Grace was able to do it in an instant. Not wanting to let second-guessing get the best of her choices, Grace set a timer for two minutes at the kitchen table, scribbling out her bracket within that short timeframe and never looking back when her phone alarm went off.
While picking Houston to win it all, a move made so that "Megan Thee Stallion would be happy," the outlier on Grace's bracket has to be the USC Trojans, who she has projected to take down both Iowa and Gonzaga on their way to the Final Four.
"I have to say, I don’t know who they are," Grace admitted. "I wish the best for them, but I don’t know why I picked them. It seemed like a name I had heard in the past, so I went with them."
When wrapping up her interview, Grace sent a message to her housemates/competitors, putting them on alert to what she felt was a near-perfect bracket.
"Clearly, I have the best final four, I have the best sweet 16," Grace declared. "I really think my upsets are gonna happen, and there’s no way I’m going to lose."
Some Quick Facts:
Considering the circumstances under which these brackets were made, several unique trends can be seen among our four competitors, including:
-Grace's bracket is the only bracket without a 1 seed in the Final Four. She has just two in her Elite Eight.
-Houston is the only team to appear in two bracket finals. They are Grace's National Champion.
-Rutgers is the lowest seed to make a Final Four appearance at 10.
-12 Seeds were selected to win their first round matchups a total of 4 times out of a possible 16. Since 1985, 12 seeds have won 35.9% of their first round matchups.
-9 seeds were selected to win their first round matchups a total of 4 times out of a possible 16. In 2019, 9 seeds went 4-0 in the first round for the first time ever.
-Julia's bracket is the only one with 14 Morehead St. winning their first round matchup against 3 West Virginia.