Charlotte Wilder's journey through the wildest March Madness bracket ever
By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist
All right, folks, I’m about to admit something on a national sports website that I, someone who is ostensibly a sports reporter, probably should not admit.
I’m betting that this confession will be relatable enough to outweigh the hit my professional reputation will take at its expense.
Here it is: Whenever I try to fill out a March Madness bracket using only college basketball knowledge, my bracket is busted beyond repair after the first round.
I know that makes me sound like I have no idea what I’m talking about. And that’s because I don’t.
No one in sports actually does.
We can make educated guesses, of course. Not to brag, but I went 6-for-6 in my NFL playoff predictions and would’ve made a lot of money betting on the games if I actually knew how to gamble (instead, I made out like a bandit in the Gloating Department, which I’d argue is worth more than cash).
No one can see the future, however, and there’s a reason they call it March Madness. It’s wildly unpredictable, and the upsets are what makes it so much fun to watch. When it comes to the women’s games, UConn is such a powerhouse that you’d be foolish to bet against the Huskies showing up in the Final Four.
But I believe in filling out a men’s bracket using only a hint of actual basketball logic. I much prefer coming up with arbitrary reasons for picking winners, and I’m convinced that this method will one day be how I finally end up with a perfect bracket. Lookin’ at you, Warren Buffett.
Please join me as I undertake this annual March ritual. Join me in the darkest recesses of my brain. I apologize in advance.
OK, listen, you’d have to be an idiot to bet against Gonzaga, the undefeated powerhouse team of the year, in the first round. So yes, I’m using real basketball knowledge for this one, but there’s a reason: I have to break my own rule to show that there are no rules.
I love "Oklahoma," the musical.
The first apartment I lived in after college was on Creighton Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I lived with my best friend, and we had a landlady who once called us after a root canal and said, "I just wanted you to know how I’m doing, dentally." I've had a soft spot for this team ever since.
As Virginia men’s basketball’s No. 1 fan, there is no way I can pick against my Hoos. Unless I decide to in the later rounds. I don’t want to back myself into a corner here.
This is a hot take, but I think either team will destroy USC in the first round. First of all, Wichita State’s mascot is, according to Wichita State’s website, a "big, muscle-bound stalk of wheat" named WuShock. That makes me think of ShockTop beer, which is the first kind of alcohol I ever bought legally because I panicked in the store and grabbed the first thing I saw. I regret it every day of my life.
Drake University reminds me of Drake the rapper, who regularly curses the teams he roots for. He can’t root for Kentucky or Duke this year, so I’m assuming he’ll pick Drake. I’m going to use reverse psychology here and say that Drake would beat USC because Drake players would have even more incentive to prove Drake the rapper wrong.
I don’t have a reason for this one. I just feel it in my bones.
I can root for only one school in Virginia, and that’s the University Of — not the Commonwealth variety.
Are you kidding me? There’s a school called Grand Canyon? That’s the coolest name for a college I have ever heard. I’m not about to bet against one of nature’s most majestic and intimidating creations.
ROUND 1: EAST
In shocking news, I have heard it’s unwise to pick against 1-seeds in the first round.
No offense to St. Bonaventure, but it’s one of those schools I forget exists 11 months of the year. To make up for that, I’m going to pick the Bonnies to win here.
I record every podcast in front of this giant poster of Patrick Ewing, the former Knick who is currently Georgetown’s coach. I’m not a Knicks fan, but I live in New York and saw Ewing at Madison Square Garden the other day when I covered the Big East Tournament.
I adore him as a basketball legend, and he and his team are the feel-good story of the month at this point. I’m going to choose Georgetown for as long as I can rationalize it.
Charlotte is a city in North Carolina, and Charlotte is my name.
BYU has great uniforms.
I like a good 3-14 upset, and I enjoy rooting for Abilene Christian because the name makes me think of religious sea creatures. It’s like … if albacore tuna and a baleen whale walked into a church.
My mom grew up in Baltimore, and Baltimore is in Maryland. Not gonna overthink it.
Rick Pitino coaches Iona now, and I guess he’s generally pretty good at coaching in March Madness. More importantly, I cannot condone a world in which Alabama is dominant in both football and basketball.
ROUND 1: SOUTH
Boring, sorry, let’s move on.
As previously stated, Charlotte is in North Carolina and is also my name. In addition, I once saw the UNC band wear shirts that said "THE CEILING IS THE ROOF" at the ACC tournament after Michael Jordan said that in a speech about the school’s football team.
I loved it. I will also always love the fact that coach Roy Williams says things such as "dadgum" and "dagnabbit."
I chose UVA over Villanova when picking a basketball team to love, and I still feel a little guilty about that. I’m going to pick the Wildcats in the first round simply out of guilt.
Purdue always makes me think of raw chicken, and I kind of hate that.
Utah State’s mascot is a huge blue ox, and Texas Tech’s is a "red raider," which, as far as I can tell, is a guy on a horse. This could be controversial, but I think a massive ox could take down a smaller guy on a smaller horse, and both the guy and the horse look small, so I’m going with Utah State.
First of all, I like the fact that Arkansas’ mascot is a wild hog. Secondly, I went to Colby College, so people often hear "Colgate" when I say "Colby," and I have to correct them. I’m salty about it.
As previously stated, I can’t root for any Virginia schools besides UVA.
I host a podcast with Mark Titus, and I’m scared that he’ll yell at me if I choose a toothbrush company’s college over the Buckeyes.
ROUND 1: MIDWEST
I am tempted to choose Drexel here because it’s one of the more obscure schools I’d heard of before working in sports, but I really want to win, and I’m terrified of going against a 1-seed.
You know what? Screw it. I’m going with Drexel. This is a dumb decision, I know, but what if there’s one Cinderella story, and it’s Drexel? And what if I didn’t choose the Dragons after feeling like maybe I should?
Fortune favors the bold.
I’m Jewish, but I know better than to think God won’t bless Sister Jean in the first round. Even though Georgia Tech has that delightful coach, Josh Pastner, who wears a face shield and basically *is* Ted Lasso.
Sister Jean is just too powerful.
When I was little, I always picked Tennessee to win because I liked their uniforms. It once worked out pretty well for me, so I’m gonna try to run it back.
OOOOOOOOOOOKlahoma where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plaaaaaiiiiiiin!
The Orange is a delightful mascot, and I once met one of the students who wears the giant, fuzzy fruit costume. He took it very seriously. Ever since, I’ve liked the school.
How many times do I have to say it? There’s room for only one Virginia in my heart.
Rutgers is back in the tournament for the first time in 30 years, and you’re mistaken if you think I don’t want the best for New Jersey.
Houston’s mascot is a cougar, and I have a lifelong dream of seeing a cougar in the wild.
ROUND 2: WEST
(1) Gonzaga vs. (8) Oklahoma
Gonzaga makes me think of gorgonzola, and I enjoy blue cheese even more than I like "Oklahoma," the musical.
(4) Creighton vs. (5) Virginia
Go Hoos, baby!
(11) Wichita State/Drake vs. (3) Kansas
Still just feel it in my bones when it comes to Kansas.
(7) Oregon vs. (15) Grand Canyon
I can use the "the Grand Canyon is cool" logic for only the first round.
ROUND 2: EAST
(1) Michigan vs. (9) St. Bonaventure
I like the idea of St. Bonaventure going further than the second round, but I don’t actually think that will happen, so I am not picking it!
(12) Georgetown vs. (13) UNC Greensboro
(6) BYU vs. (14) Abilene Christian
I found a stray dog on the street, wrote "Abilene Christian" on one bowl of food and "BYU" on another, and then let the dog go, and I picked the school the dog ran toward.
Just kidding. I did it reverse alphabetically.
(10) Maryland vs. (15) Iona
Maryland’s mascot is a turtle. Sorry, Pitino.
ROUND 2: SOUTH
(1) Baylor vs. (8) UNC
I'm gonna see how far this whole "root for Charlotte" thing can get me.
(5) Villanova vs. (13) North Texas
I still feel guilty, and coach Jay Wright wears amazing suits.
(11) Utah State vs. (3) Arkansas
I found another stray dog and two stray cats, and I put a sticky note that says "Utah State" on one cat and "Arkansas" on another cat. Then I let them all go at the same time to see which cat the dog chased.
Just kidding. I did it alphabetically.
(7) Florida vs. (2) Ohio State
I flipped a coin. Sorry, Mark.
ROUND 2: MIDWEST
(16) Drexel vs. (8) Loyola Chicago
I flipped a coin.
(5) Tennessee vs. (4) Oklahoma State
I flipped another coin.
(11) Syracuse vs. (14) Morehead State
Winner: Morehead State
I flipped a third coin.
(10) Rutgers vs. (2) Houston
I can’t bet against New Jersey.
SWEET SIXTEEN: WEST
(1) Gonzaga vs. (4) Virginia
I know this is a ridiculous thing to do: pick against high-scoring Gonzaga in favor of the low-scoring and defense-centric UVA, especially when Gonzaga also has good defense.
But you know what? On principle, I can’t abandon the team of which I’ve been a lifelong fan since last fall.
(3) Kansas vs. (7) Oregon
In a matchup between birds, a hawk would destroy a duck.
SWEET SIXTEEN: EAST
(1) Michigan vs. (12) Georgetown
I know it’s absurd to say Georgetown will beat Michigan, but the Patrick Ewing pull is too strong. All kidding aside, I think there’s something to be said for the momentum and energy of this team coming into the tournament. It’s special. Let’s see if I’m right.
(6) BYU vs. (10) Maryland
Shout-out to my mom!
SWEET SIXTEEN: SOUTH
(8) UNC vs. (5) Villanova
My guilt overpowers my name.
(3) Arkansas vs. (7) Florida
I’m not sure why, but I’ve become very attached to Arkansas through the course of filling out this idiotic bracket. The more I type it out, the funnier it looks that Arkansas is spelled with an S at the end. Isn’t this the best sports article you’ve ever read?
SWEET SIXTEEN: MIDWEST
(16) Drexel vs. (5) Tennessee
The imaginary Cinderella story run that I’ve put Drexel on was cute, but the clock has struck midnight.
(14) Morehead State vs. (10) Rutgers
There’s magic in that New Jersey water!
(4) Virginia vs. (3) Kansas
Sorry, UVA. But when it comes down to it I just — and I hate to admit this — don’t see a repeat in the Hoos’ future. :(
(12) Georgetown vs. (10) Maryland
I’m laughing. This bracket has gone off the rails. The idea that Georgetown will make it to the Final Four is pretty absurd from a basketball perspective, but then again, the year is 2021, and *much* stranger things have happened.
(5) Villanova vs. (3) Arkansas
I'm putting a saddle on this razorback hog and riding it all the way to the Final Four, baby!
(5) Tennessee vs. (10) Rutgers
After 30 years, I’m willing Rutgers through. As someone who lost a lot of sports games in the past 30 years, I want the best for the Knights.
(3) Kansas vs. (12) Georgetown
I’ve come this far. I can’t turn back now, or the ghost of Patrick Ewing, who is still very much alive, will crawl out of the poster that hangs above my shoulder and talk trash about Boston sports while I try to record a podcast.
(3) Arkansas vs. (10) Rutgers
I don’t even know what’s happening anymore.
(12) Georgetown vs. (3) Arkansas
Before I choose my winner, let me just say that I’m laughing again.
What an absolutely wild outcome. I had no idea that I would end up with a title-game matchup this silly when I started filling out this bracket, but I also feel great about it.
So here’s my winner: Georgetown.
It’s this simple: I sit in front of a picture of Patrick Ewing every day, and also I am too stubborn to reverse course.
Look, NCAA basketball makes zero sense. I have as good a chance as anyone of really nailing this. And if by some miracle Georgetown makes it to the championship game, I want to be able to say I believed.
Because I do.
Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and co-host of "The People's Sports Podcast" for FOX Sports. She's honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.