‘Go Pants!’ Bracket Challenge: ‘Just Win Baby!’

By WILL CASE

If there is anything that the data we have gathered so far from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has taught us, it is the more you know about the ins-and-outs of college basketball, the less likely it is you’ll be at the top of the rankings in our Go Pants! bracket challenge.

Benjy Renton ’21 was atop the poll when the last game ended in the wee hours of Friday morning. Less than 24 hours before, Renton announced in The Campus newsroom that he couldn’t possibly make a bracket because he knew “nothing about basketball.” Despite being told that the less he knew the better chance he might actually have, Renton still had his doubts.

“I mean, I knew nothing…well, actually I really know nothing about basketball,” Renton said. “I just had the machine fill it out for me and then I chose the final picks.”

Renton filled out his bracket at the last minute on Wednesday.

“As a member of The Campus editorial team, I felt obligated to participate,” Renton said dutifully. “This is the first time I’ve done this sort of thing.”

Renton’s process of filling out the brackets was unique, as he employed neither the eye test nor any sort of Sabermetric-like system of calculations and tabulations.

“I think I just pressed whatever the autofill was,” Renton said. Although he fell out of the lead early in the day on Friday, what was possibly the most shocking day in the history of the tournament, Renton was happy he took part in the bracket challenge.

“I enjoyed this one night of fame.”

Avery Dyer ’21 has one of the more successful brackets so far, and she seems to be more in touch with what is actually happening on the hardwood.

“I’m very excited with the way things are going so far,” Dyer said. “I didn’t predict many of the upsets that actually happened.

“Clemson over Auburn is really the only one I picked, if you can even call that an upset.” In fact, along with Clemson over Auburn, the only true “upsets” Dyer picked were nines over eights and a 10 over a seven — Oklahoma over Rhode Island — which did not go her way. Her choices have worked out thus far, since Dyer is in tie for fifth place after the first two rounds in our field of 325 brackets.

“I believe in Villanova and Kansas,” Dyer said enthusiastically, “and I am confident that they can go to the Final Four.”

Asked if Azubuike’s nagging injury concerned her, Dyer said “Yes.” And that it is “one thing I’ll be looking for, especially because of how much help he gives their defense.”

Ellie Anderson ’19, a Local editor for the newspaper, is currently tied for fifth as well and has her national champion pick, the Zags of Gonzaga, still in play.

“I don’t know if I’m the one to quote because I do not follow basketball,” said Anderson. “My cousin goes to Gonzaga, and I was just going with my gut.”

Anderson trusted her instincts with her bracket, and they have not failed her thus far. She picked Loyola and Syracuse to win their first round games and had Nevada advancing to the Sweet 16.

“I just figured some of the teams seeded lower would win, and Syracuse just spoke to me,” said Anderson.

On Gonzaga’s prospects going forward, Anderson said she’s still on board with her pick and not second-guessing herself.

“I’m pretty hopeful. Their game against UNC Greensboro was concerning, but I think they can do it.

One of the newest members of the Middlebury community, Ben Lahey ’21.5, also picked the Zags and, adding to the intrigue, is also tied with Anderson for fifth at the top of the post-first weekend rankings.

“It was mostly luck that I did well in the Midd group,” said an honest Lahey. “The last college game I watched was last year’s national championship game,” a thriller that saw UNC triumph over Gonzaga.

“For the most part, I just went with the stats and with what I heard,” Lahey added. “That was just hearing from others they were under-seeded. And they were in the championship last year, so I figured experience would help.”

“I did five brackets,” Lahey said, “and this is the one that happens to be the one that did the best, but that’s really what March Madness is.”

Andrew Rigas ’18 provided some perspective from a student whose bracket did not fare well in the first two rounds. Rigas lost three of his four Final Four teams, North Carolina, Michigan State and Cincinnati, as well as his champion, North Carolina.

“The saving grace of my bracket was Loyola Chicago, whom I picked to go to the Sweet 16. I think my bracket at large was unlucky,” Rigas said.

Rigas was confounded by North Carolina’s performance against Texas A&M, a game in which the Tar Heels entered as a clear favorite but laid an egg.

“They couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” Rigas said. “And the committee gave them a tough matchup, against one of the biggest teams in the country. The ‘Heels like to play small, so the matchup against A&M was a tough one.”

His choice of Cincinnati to advance to the Final Four was surprising, since only 6.2 percent of brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge picked the Bearcats, while 32.9 percent picked Virginia.

“Everyone else was picking Virginia out of that bracket,” said Rigas, adding “I thought Cincinnati had a decent shot as well so I thought I might as well pick them.”

Rigas, a noted fan of St. Bonaventure, is still getting over the Bonnies’ 77–62 loss to Florida.

“It was a memorable year for the Bonnies to win their first tournament game in 48 years,” Rigas said proud of his team. “I’m optimistic the Bonnies will contend for a tournament bid again next year, even without two of their best players in recent program history.”

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‘Go Pants!’ Bracket Challenge: ‘Just Win Baby!’