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The Family Challenge

By Jane Whitmore - | Apr 8, 2021

Bracketology is the practice or study of predicting the outcome of an elimination tournament or competition.

Filling out a bracket for the NCAA Tournament has been a family event for many, many years. The winner earns bragging rights for a year. This family tradition began with my parents and siblings, making copies of the bracket that appeared in the newspaper so each had his/her own.

The family tradition evolved into filling out a bracket online, with participants from all over the globe. This year, the eight family members who submitted brackets are from Iowa, Texas, Connecticut, New York City and Germany.

Somewhere along the line, I recognized Gonzaga as a perennial winner. For at least the last three tournaments (there was no tournament in 2020) I have chosen the Zags to win it all. Each year I came up short. This year was going to be different.

After the first round, my bracket was still in good shape. The one-and-done teams didn’t seem to have much of an effect. However, after the second round, I lost my entire bracket in the Midwest. Moving into the Sweet 16, everything fell apart. From the Elite 8 onward, I had only one team left in competition: Gonzaga.

How did things fall apart? My choices gravitate toward the Big 10. I moved Iowa and Ohio State out to the Elite 8 and Michigan and Illinois to the Final 4.

With the pandemic, the whole basketball season was unpredictable. Without watching a whole lot of basketball this season, I selected perennial favorites like Villanova and UConn to move foward in my brackets. Either could have been a Cinderella team. A basketball coach friend reminded me to pay attention to the veteran coaches – the ones who can adjust at half time to get the best from the team in the second half of the game. You have to watch more basketball than I do to make that kind of judgement.

After the first two rounds, I was riding high on the leader board of the family challenge. Then I fell to the middle and finally dropped to number seven out of eight. On my paper bracket, the red (losses) dominated over the green (wins).

With Gonzaga’s overtime win in the Final Four, I bounced back up to number three. That was the game of the tournament. Starting way back at the First Four games on March 18, I had not picked UCLA to win. The 11th seed team gave the Zags a run for their lives. And Suggs’ 3-pointer from waaay out there was spectacular.

Monday night’s final game was a disappointment for my Zags team. Coming off an emotional high from Saturday’s game, they couldn’t get it together against Baylor. Somehow, I managed to finish in third place in the family challenge. First place went to one of the Texas families, and second place to family in Germany

Throughout the tournament I dutifully wore my Gonzaga Bulldogs sweatshirt, purchased at a benefit fundraiser. Last Saturday I wore my Zags shirt in 70+ degree weather and again Monday with temps in the 80s. Now, my “good luck” shirt goes back in the drawer … until next year.