The year: 1990.
The accomplishment: acing the Final Four.
Thirty-two years ago, I filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket and 13 days later had successfully picked all four Final Four teams. Arkansas, Duke, Georgia Tech and Nevada-Las Vegas. UNLV was a No. 1 seed. Duke was a No. 3. Arkansas and Georgia Tech were four seeds.
I’ve been chasing such glory ever since, rarely getting two Final Four teams and sometimes none.
But spring hopes eternal, so here’s another shot. My picks for the bracket. Use them at your own peril.
A few observations before I go game-by-game:
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► I thought I would detect fewer Cinderellas than usual. But no. I ended up with five: No. 10 Loyola-Chicago, No. 10 Davidson, No. 11 Michigan, No. 13 Chattanooga, No. 13 South Dakota State. If you want to argue that No. 10 is not a true Cinderella, or that Michigan never could be a Cinderella, fine. But I’ll stand with Chattanooga and South Dakota State.
► We’re always trying to peg one regional as the easiest or most difficult. This year, the Midwest has been labeled soft, perhaps because Kansas is not considered a prime No. 1 seed.
But I know this. The NCAA selection committee believes the Midwest is the most difficult. The committee ranks teams 1-68. If you go by each group of four, and weigh the order, the Midwest barely outranks the West and East, in that order, with the South far behind.
If you go to the next three side lines – 9-11 – the Midwest laps the field. The Midwest has the highest-ranked No. 9 (Creighton) and No. 11 (Iowa State), and the second-highest ranked No. 10 (Miami).
► The committee seeded the Big 12 to go 4-2 in the first round and 7-3 through two rounds.
How does that compare with other conferences?
Big Ten: 7-3, 10-6. Southeastern -- 5-1, 10-2. ACC – 2-3, 3-4. Pac-12 – 3-0, 5-1. Big East – 2-4, 4-4.
Let’s get to the predictions.
11-Rutgers vs. 11-Notre Dame: Rutgers. Two mediocre teams. But Rutgers was mediocre in the Big Ten. Fighting Irish were mediocre in the ACC. Big difference.
1-Gonzaga vs. 16-Georgia State: Gonzaga. No R.J. Hunter to save Georgia State.
8-Boise State vs. 9-Memphis: Memphis. Huh. Who would have thought Boise State would have a better basketball team than football team?
5-Connecticut vs. 12-New Mexico State: UConn. Danny Hurley doing a nice job reviving the Huskies.
4-Arkansas vs. Vermont: Arkansas. There have been times I’d be smitten with the Catamounts, but not this year.
6-Alabama vs. 11-Rutgers: Rutgers. A First Four team usually makes a run. UCLA made the Final Four coming out of Dayton a year ago.
3-Texas Tech vs. 14-Montana State: Tech. The Red Raiders are too tough to fall in a first-round upset.
7-Michigan State vs. 10-Davidson: Davidson. Tom Izzo never goes very long without getting the Spartans to the Final Four, but Michigan State was there in 2019, then didn’t get to play in 2020.
2-Duke vs. 15-Cal State-Fullerton: Duke. Way back in 1978, Cal State-Fullerton made the West Regional final and almost kept Eddie Sutton out of the Final Four, before Arkansas won 61-58.
1-Gonzaga vs. 8-Memphis: Gonzaga. Penny Hardaway’s turnaround with the Tigers finally ends.
4-Arkansas vs. 5-Connecticut: UConn. Huskies’ physical style stymies the Razorbacks.
3-Texas Tech vs. 11-Rutgers: Tech. Nothing mediocre about the Red Raiders.
2-Duke vs. 10-Davidson: Old-fashioned North Carolina rivalry played out in Greenville, South Carolina.
1-Gonzaga vs. 5-Connecticut: Gonzaga. Two of the upstarts of 21st-century college basketball. Turned themselves into bluebloods.
2-Duke vs. 3-Texas Tech: Tech. No upset. No upset at all.
1-Gonzaga vs. 3-Texas Tech: Gonzaga. Zags make their third Final Four.
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12-Wyoming vs. 12-Indiana: Indiana. Cowboys’ breakout season – second NCAA Tournament bid in 20 years – ends.
1-Baylor vs. 16-Norfolk State: Baylor. Funny. I have never worked with a Baylor graduate, but I have worked with a Norfolk State grad – the incomparable Darnell Mayberry.
8-North Carolina vs. Marquette: Marquette. Brady Manek’s five-year career ends. Former OU teammate Kur Kuath’s continues.
5-St. Mary’s vs. 12-Indiana: Hoosiers have a long flight, from Dayton to Portland.
4-UCLA vs. Akron: UCLA. Mid-American Conference teams have pulled first-round upsets in three straight NCAAs (Ohio 2021, Buffalo in 2018 and 2019).
6-Texas vs. 11-Virginia Tech: Texas. Longhorns seem susceptible, but teams that make vaunted runs through major-conference tournaments (Georgetown 2021, for example) rarely have the same energy in the NCAAs.
3-Purdue vs. Yale: Purdue. The Ivy League always brings fear, but Boilermakers should be OK.
7-Murray State vs. 10-San Francisco: Murray State. I love first-round mid-major matchups.
2-Kentucky vs. 15-St. Peters: Kentucky. Always fun to see former West Virginia Mountaineer Oscar Tshiebwe, now a UK star.
1-Baylor vs. 9-Marquette: Baylor. The Bears take out Texas-ex Shaka Smart.
4-UCLA vs. 5-St. Mary’s: St. Mary’s. The Pac-12 had a magical 2021 NCAA Tournament (four Sweet 16 teams), but that was an anomaly.
6-Texas vs. 3-Purdue: Purdue. Something has been slightly off for these Longhorns. Chemistry issues, perhaps.
2-Kentucky vs. 7-Murray State: Kentucky. UK is 5-1 all-time vs. in-state foes in the NCAAs, beating Louisville twice (with a loss in the 1983 Dream Game), plus Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and Western Kentucky once each.
1-Baylor vs. 5-St. Mary’s: St. Mary's. Bears are hearty, but injuries catch up to Scott Drew’s team.
2-Kentucky vs. 3-Purdue: Purdue. Jaden Ivey carries the Boilermakers to the brink of their first Final Four since 1980.
3-Purdue vs. 5-St. Mary’s: Purdue. The Gaels fall just short of joining West Coast Conference brother Gonzaga in the Final Four.
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16-Wright State vs. 16-Bryant: Wright State. Who knows in these games? But I’ll take the team that didn’t get into a fight in its conference championship game.
1-Arizona vs. Wright State: Arizona. Wildcats soaring in first season after Sean Miller’s firing.
8-Seton Hall vs. Texas Christian: Seton Hall. TCU’s Jamie Dixon coaching against his old Big East rival.
5-Houston vs. 12-Alabama-Birmingham: Houston. Kelvin Sampson’s team keeps losing players but never loses its toughness.
4-Illinois vs. 13-Chattanooga: Chattanooga. Something about the Illini under Brad Underwood just doesn’t click in the post-season.
6-Colorado State vs. 11-Michigan: Michigan. I love the Mountain West Conference, but something about its basketball tells me the league is in for a hard fall.
3-Tennessee vs. 14-Longwood: Tennessee. We provide geography lessons here. Longwood is in Virginia, 64 miles west of Richmond.
7-Ohio State vs. 10-Loyola-Chicago: Loyola. Porter Moster’s former school keeps alive its March Madness magic.
2-Villanova vs. 15-Delaware: Villanova. Local game. The Blue Hens' campus is 42 miles south of Nova’s.
1-Arizona vs. 8-Seton Hall: Arizona. Some believe UofA could win it all.
5-Houston vs. 13-Chattanooga: Houston. The Moccasins likely aren’t ready for Sampson’s tenacity. Few teams are.
3-Tennessee vs. 11-Michigan: Tennessee. Sounds like a good Outback Bowl.
2-Villanova vs. 10-Loyola-Chicago: Villanova. USA Today reports that Sister Mary Jean, Loyola’s 102-year-old team chaplain, remains in good health and plans to be at the tournament.
1-Arizona vs. 5-Houston: Arizona. The injuries to key players finally catches up to Houston.
2-Villanova vs. 3-Tennessee: Tennessee. In a previous life, Volunteer coach Rick Barnes was a Big East coach – at Providence, from 1988-94.
1-Arizona vs. 3-Tennessee: Tennessee. Barnes gets back to the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
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16-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. Texas Southern: A&M-Corpus Christi. A team from Houston goes to Dayton, Ohio, to play a team from Corpus Christi, for the right to return to Fort Worth.
1-Kansas vs. 16-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Kansas. Perhaps the biggest sporting event in the history of Corpus Christi, Texas.
8-San Diego State vs. 9-Creighton: San Diego State. A Mountain West team advances.
5-Iowa vs. 12-Richmond: Iowa. Two Sunday winners in conference title games, so no rest advantage.
4-Providence vs. 13-South Dakota State: South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits, 30-4, are poised for an upset.
6-Louisiana State vs. 11-Iowa State: LSU. No way was I going to pick LSU. Until I saw the Tigers were matched against the Cyclones, who peaked in January.
3-Wisconsin vs. 14-Colgate: Wisconsin. The Badgers generally are a tough out in March.
7-Southern Cal vs. 10-Miami: The career of Kam McGusty, whose college career began at OU on November 13, 2016, finally ends.
2-Auburn vs. 15-Jacksonville State: Auburn. The Tigers looked like world-beaters in January. Now, not so much.
1-Kansas vs. 8-San Diego State: KU. This one won’t be easy. The Aztecs have built a winning culture.
5-Iowa vs. 13-South Dakota State: South Dakota State. I’m riding the Jackrabbit bandwagon.
3-Wisconsin vs. 6-LSU: Wisconsin. The Tigers – finally! -- are playing without scandal-ridden Will Wade, fired last week.
2-Auburn vs. 7-Southern Cal: USC. Maybe Jabari Smith Jr.’s next game will be in a Thunder uniform.
1-Kansas vs. 13-South Dakota State: Kansas. Jackrabbits vs. Jayhawks. Colleges have better nicknames than the pros.
3-Wisconsin vs. 7-USC: Wisconsin. The Trojans’ nice run ends.
1-Kansas vs. 3-Wisconsin: Bill Self makes his fourth Final Four.
1-Gonzaga vs. 3-Purdue: Gonzaga. Zags make their third NCAA title game in the last five tournaments.
1-Kansas vs. 3-Tennessee: Tennessee. Volunteers keep the Big 12 from a third straight national finalist.
1-Gonzaga vs. 3-Tennessee: Gonzaga. Zags get that elusive national title.
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Thunder’s Darius Bazley vs. Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke
On NBA Draft night 2019, the Thunder, with the 21st pick, chose Gonzaga power forward Brandon Clarke. And then traded Clarke to the Grizzlies for the 23rd pick, which OKC used to take power forward Darius Bazley. The Thunder got a 2024 second-round pick for their trouble.
Clarke was 22 years old and a Gonzaga University veteran. Bazley was 19 and hadn’t even played college basketball; he spent his year out of high school interning for New Balance and training for the NBA.
The move was classic Thunder. Bazley fit the Thunder prototype: young, long, raw. Clarke clearly was the better player at the time; the Thunder was betting on Bazley’s development.
Almost three years later, the Grizzlies came through town and played the Thunder two nights ago. Clarke had 12 points and 10 rebounds; he’s been a valuable player off the bench for the rejuvenated Grizzlies, who won 125-118. Bazley had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds.
Seems like a good time to check in on the trade. Which team got the better end of the deal?
Surprisingly, Bazley had an encouraging rookie season and helped the Thunder to a surprisingly good season. Bazley even contributed in the playoffs for that Chris Paul-led team.
But Clarke was a good player, too, from the start. Memphis is having a breakout season, with a 47-22 record, and while Clarke’s minutes are down to 19.2, that’s to be expected as the Grizzlies have left rebuilding mode and entered playoff mode.
Bazley followed his promising rookie season with a sophomore slump. And now, in his third year, Bazley has staged a late-season surge after mostly discouraging play through 2½ months.
Their numbers are rather close, other than Clarke’s big edge in offensive efficiency.
Clarke leads in scoring per game (10.9-9.7), assists per game (1.5-1.3), blocked shots per game (0.9-0.8) and field-goal percentage (.589-.403). Bazley leads in rebounds per game (5.9-5.7) and 3-point percentage (.305-.292).
Advanced metrics favor Clarke heavily – his player efficiency rating dwarfs Bazley’s (20.5-10.7), as does his true shooting percentage (.625-.497).
Only two things keep the trade from looking rather dubious.
1) Age. Clarke was 23 when he made his NBA debut. Bazley won’t turn 23 until after next season. The potential for Bazley remains much greater than the potential for Clarke, who is close to being what he’s going to be. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
2) Defense. Bazley has emerged this season as an intriguing defender. His rim protection has become quite noticeable. Bazley this season has almost three times as many blocked shots (69) this season as he did last season (25), in virtually the same number of minutes.
Additionally, Bazley’s on-ball defense has expanded. Mark Daigneault has experimented with the 6-foot-10 Bazley guarding ballhandlers and even premium scorers on the perimeter. Sometimes, it has gone well. Bazley was assigned to Memphis star Ja Morant on Sunday night and kept Morant rather contained. Then Bazley did the same Monday with Charlotte all-star LaMelo Ball, and Ball suffered through a 2-of-8 first half before catching fire with four 3-pointers in the third quarter. But Ball never much got into the paint against Bazley.
If Bazley develops into a versatile, quality defender, his value soars.
Bazley’s 3-point shooting remains weak. To Clarke’s credit, while he’s not a good shooter, he doesn’t take a ton of perimeter shots – 20 3-point shots all season, after trying 141 his first two seasons combined.
Bazley keeps chucking. He made 34.8 percent from deep as a rookie, but those percentages have fallen to .290 and .298 the last two years. Bazley is shooting fewer deep balls this season, 3.7 per game, but still. He’s either got to shoot a better percentage or figure out a way to shoot less.
Bazley remains behind Clarke in their parallel careers. But it’s a long race. The Thunder still has a chance of winning the trade.
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Bud Wilkinson talks Orange Bowl halftime
Halftime speeches generally are downplayed by coaches. For good reason. Win-one-for-the-Gipper is the stuff of movies. Not the gridiron.
The best halftime moments are supplied by players, not coaches. That certainly was Bud Wilkinson’s experience.
The ScissorTales continues a series of Wilkinson interviews conducted by Georgia historian Loran Smith some four decades ago. Smith shared the transcripts with me, and I’m sharing them with you.
And today, Wilkinson discusses the 1955-season Orange Bowl.
OU capped its 1955 national-championship season with a 20-6 victory over Maryland in the Orange Bowl. But the game was scoreless at halftime.
“The turning point, to me, was at halftime. At halftime – it got so damn long in the Orange Bowl; they really go through it 25 minutes or whatever it is – I didn’t want to start talking to the team too soon, because I know I’m going to run out of things to hold their attention.
“This is your last game of the year. You can’t make a 15-minute talk at halftime and keep their attention. So I didn’t get in there until about halfway through the halftime, at least.
“I get in the dressing room, and by now they’re all toweled off and everything. I walk by the blackboard, and I’m thinking about what I can say, and before I can say anything, somebody, might have been (quarterback) Jimmy Harris, said, ‘Coach, don’t worry. We’re got them.’
“‘What do you mean you’ve got them?’
“He said, ‘Well, we made these mistakes in the first half. Coach, don’t worry. We’ve got them.’
“‘Why do you feel that way?’ Pretty soon, they’re all talking the same thing. Best of my recollection, as you know your memory does tricks on you, I finally said, ‘well, you guys got ‘em, go out and prove it to me.’ That was halftime.
“You see, a lot of things they said were true. We hadn’t played well. We had screwed it up most of the time. I don’t know how many times we stopped ourselves.
“I think we did take the opening kickoff and scored. But we dominated the second half. We did not just go out there – it was a dogfight to put the points on the board.
“There’s a point in the game where the other team knows they can no longer win, and when that happens, it’s relatively easy to get another touchdown.
“It was a really great game to win. That was much more important to me than the ‘54 game.”
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The List: Longest NFL announcing teams
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are jumping from Fox to ESPN. They will become the Monday Night Football broadcasting team and soon could become the longest-serving tandem in NFL network broadcasting history. Here are the 10 longest-serving duos in NFL television:
1. Pat Summerall & John Madden: They were partners for 23 years, from 1979-93 on CBS, then 1994-2001 on Fox.
2. Joe Buck & Troy Aikman: They teamed up on Fox in 2002 and are still going strong after 20 years.
3. Frank Gifford & Howard Cosell: Together 13 years on ABC’s Monday Night Football, 1971-83. Don Meredith was with each 11 years (Cosell 1970-73, 1977-83; and Gifford 1971-73, 1977-84).
3. Al Michaels & Cris Collinsworth: Their streak of 13 years together on NBC’s Sunday Night Football is ending. Mike Tirico is replacing Michaels.
3. Jim Nantz & Phil Simms: They were CBS’ No. 1 announcing team for 13 years, from 2004-16, before Simms moved to the studio to make way for Tony Romo.
6. Al Michaels, Frank Gifford & Dan Dierdorf: Sometimes we forget about the incredible careers of Michaels and Gifford. Michaels became the voice of Monday Night Football in 1986 and stayed on the job for 20 years. Gifford was with Michaels from 1986-97 (12 years), and Dierdorf came aboard in 1987 and stayed 12 years. So that’s 11 years with all three in the Monday night booth.
7. Dick Enberg & Merlin Olsen: They were NBC’s No. 1 team from 1978-88, 11 years.
8. Ian Eagle & Dan Fouts: Never CBS’ No. 1 team, but a solid duo together for 10 years, from 2010-19.
9. Greg Gumbel & Dan Dierdorf: Gumbel is an all-time pro’s pro, and Dierdorf was his sidekick for eight years, 2006-13, on CBS.
9. Dick Stockton & Matt Millen: Stockton and Millen teamed on Fox from 1994-2000, then reunited in the 2016 season, eight years in all. Stockton retired from broadcasting in 2021 but had an incredible career. He first called games for the Boston Celtics in 1974, has been the voice of the NBA for CBS, called the American League playoffs for CBS in the 1990s and first worked NFL games in 1970.
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Mailbag: Basketball replay review
Replay review is taking over the sports world.
Chad: “I was just curious what sport do you think has the worst instant replay system? Given the amount it's overused and usually followed by lengthy delays, I'd vote for NCAA basketball. I haven’t watched the NBA in over 25 years.”
Tramel: First of all, you need to give the NBA a try. The basketball is quite enjoyable. Players can make a shot and the coaches don’t micromanage.
But the NBA’s replay review is much more intrusive. You sometimes get two or three reviews in the final minute, which already is plagued with too many timeouts.
I don’t mind replays. I do mind incessantly long reviews. If you can’t tell, you can’t tell. Move along.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: NCAA Tournament bracket predictions for March Madness men's basketball