I’m not sure if there’s one “right way” to fill out an NCAA bracket, but I’m convinced that there are plenty of stupid ways.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
For this year’s tournament, I’ve conceded that I don’t know the slightest thing about the field, and will instead let Boston sports history decide my fate.
So what follows are all 32 games first round games, with picks based solely on which school’s alumni have helped or hurt Boston most over the years.
For instance, let’s say you had a game between the University of San Francisco and Purdue. You’d look at the schedule and say:
“Well, OK. USF gave Boston Bill Russell. That’s amazing. Purdue gave the world Bernard Pollard. That’s unforgivable.”
At which point, you’d pick San Francisco, hop on a plane to Indiana and set fire to the Purdue campus.
Easy, right? Here we go.
Kansas (1) vs. Western Kentucky (16)
Courtney Lee and Romeo Crennel are both proud Hilltoppers, but let’s be honest: That pair can’t hold a candle to Scot Pollard and Raef LaFrentz.
(OK, and Paul Pierce).
North Carolina (8) vs. Villanova (9)
A ton of Tarheels have made their way through Boston, including former Celtics captain, turned Laker, turned TV dancer Rick Fox. But for the most part, UNC’s contributions have been underwhelming, thanks to the likes of Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, Kyle Snyder, Joseph Forte, Eric Montross, Shammond Williams, Sam Aiken and Alge Crumpler.
However, Villanova’s only given us Allen Ray, Ed Pinckney and Ed Pinckney’s knee pads. And when it comes to winning time, I think Peter Gammons puts UNC over the top. (Assuming Nova alum Tim Donaghy isn’t reffing)
Pick: North Carolina
VCU (5) vs. Akron (12)
VCU’s Gerald Henderson stole the ball.
Akron’s Mark Malaska made 19 appearance for the 2004 Red Sox.
Michigan (4) vs. S. Dakota. St. (13)
In just about any other match-up, Adam Vinatieri would have powered the 13th-seeded Jackrabbits to an upset. But not against Tom Brady, Ty Law and the Wolverines.
UCLA (6) vs. Minnesota (11)
The Bruins get a huge boost from Dave Roberts, Bill Walton and Roman Phifer, but come back to Earth thanks to other notable alums like Jerome Moiso and Matt Young (the only pitcher in Red Sox history to throw a no-hitter and lose the game); as well as established enemies like high-diving enthusiast Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Freddie “The People’s Champ” Mitchell and Reggie Miller (who’s terrorizing basketball fans well into his retirement.)
As for Minnesota, we’ll forgive them for Tony Dungy and Laurence Maroney in exchange for Kevin McHale.
Florida (3) vs. Northwestern St. (14)
Little known fact: Not one person that anyone in the world has ever heard of attended Northwestern State.
Meanwhile, the Pats draft no fewer than three Florida Gators every April, and please don’t forget Andrew DeClercq.
San Diego St. (7) vs. Oklahoma (10)
San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk still brings up SpyGate every chance he gets; former Aztec Herm Edwards used to coach the Jets; Justin Masterson was solid for a few years in Boston, and helped the Sox get Victor Martinez.
In other words, it won’t take much for Oklahoma to pull off the upset.
Enter Clifford Ray. The former Celtics “big man” coach was one of the unsung heroes of the 2008 championship, and more importantly, he once saved a dolphin’s life by reaching his enormous arm down its throat and dislodging a deadly screw.
Georgetown (2) vs. Florida GC (15)
It’s just Jeff Green for the Hoyas, but it could just be Jeff Frye and Florida Gulf Coast still doesn’t have a shot.
Indiana (1) vs. James Madison (16)
James Madison has an insanely random mix of sports-related alumni, including Charles Haley, Scott Norwood and Colin Pine (better known as Yao Ming’s interpreter) . . . but no one who has anything to do with Boston.
Which is too bad, because I would’ve loved an excuse to pin an IU loss on Isaiah Thomas.
Anyway, here’s to you Calbert Cheaney.
NC State (8) vs. Temple (9)
Former Celtics greats Chris Corchiani (who played 51 games in 1994) and Tom Gugliotta (who played 20 games in 2004) are both members of the Wolfpack. As is new Patriots safety Adrian Wilson.
Temple’s given us Dan Klecko, the late John Marzano and that time Don Chaney tried to kill John Calipari.
UNLV (5) vs. California (12)
UNLV hasn’t sent too many athletes to the professional ranks, but there have been some good ones: Larry Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Cecil Fielder, Matt Williams, Stacy Augmon, Keenan McCardell.
As a sports fan, I love it. But a Boston perspective, it doesn’t compare it to Cal, which is responsible for 1958 AL MVP Jackie Jensen, serial-spitter Darren Lewis, Leon Powe, Tully Banta-Cain and Shane Vereen.
Syracuse (4) vs. Montana (13)
Sherman Douglas’ floater birthed a generation of Celtics fans. Tebucky Jones played a major role in New England’s first ring. Running back Jim Nance is in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Fab Melo once concussed himself on a door frame.
But despite all that — and the fact that the University of Montana has given Boston absolutely NOTHING — David Tyree’s alma mater has no business advancing in a tournament like this.
Butler (6) vs. Bucknell (11)
When we talk about the most ruthless enemies in Boston sports history, Dan Johnson’s name rarely comes up, but it should.
9/9/08: Jonathan Papelbon takes the mound against the Rays with a 4-3 lead, and the Sox three outs from moving into first place in the AL East. What happens next? Johnson — who had been called up from AAA that same day — hits a lead-off, pinch hit homer (his first of the season) to tie the game. The Rays won in extra innings, never gave up the division lead and ultimately earned home field advantage in the ALCS.
8/28/10: Johnson hits a 10th inning walk off homer (only his second of the year, after being called up from AAA earlier that month) off Scott Atchinson to help fuel the first of the Sox three straight playoff-less seasons.
9/28/11: The worst of the worst.
The Rays trail the Yankees 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on the last day of the season, and Madden sends Johnson (who had been called up only two weeks prior) in to pinch hit.
If the Yankees win? The 2011 Red Sox have life! They either beat Baltimore and make the postseason or (ultimately) lose and move-on to a one-game playoff. Who knows what would have happened next or what the Sox would look like today. Down to his last strike . . . Johnson homers, his first hit of any kind since April 27. The Rays win in extra innings. The Sox head home for the winter and the entire city of Boston loses it’s god damn mind.
In closing, Dan Johnson hit 11 homers between 2009-2011. Four of those came against the Red Sox, with two of them helping to turn the playoff race. He hit another which may very well rank behind only Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone as the third most devastating home run in Red Sox history.
Dan Johnson went to Butler.
Marquette (3) vs. Davidson (14)
Respect the Doc.
Illinois (7) vs. Colorado (10)
Eugene Wilson had a pretty good run for the Pats, but fellow Illini Brandon Lloyd did not. As for the Buffalos, Christian Fauria, Daniel Graham and now Nate Solder have all put in quality time in Foxborough. Plus, we can’t forget Scott Wedman and 51 games of Chauncey Billups.
Miami (2) vs. Pacific (15)
Did you know that Pete Carroll went to Pacific? How about Scott Boras? Neither of those things work in the Power Cats’ favor.
However, I’ll give them some credit for Michael Olowokandi, if only because he’s responsible for one of my favorite stories in recent Celtics history.
As you remember, The KandiMan was traded to Boston along with Wally Szczerbiak in January of 2006, and proceeded to score 85 points in 40 games over the next year and a half.
When that season ended, KandiMan’s contract was up and he fell off the map. The Celtics just assumed he was done; after all, the guy could barely walk. In the meantime, they traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and jump started this new era of Celtics basketball. Fast-forward to Media Day, and amidst the insanity of the new Big 3 . . . in walks the KandiMan. Out of nowhere. Unannounced. Without a roster spot. Everyone was in shock.
Maybe he was just looking for a free trip to Europe? Either way, he never made it on the plane.
As for the U, they’re responsible for a solid strong of pains in Boston’s ass. Most notably: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Warren Saap, Reggie Wayne and Edgerrin James.
But they also gave us Bianca Wilfork’s husband.
Louisville (1) vs. NC A&T (16)
The Cardinals are coached by Celtics sabotager Rick Pitino, meanwhile North Carolina AT&T is the alma mater of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Pick: . . . Louisville
Colorado St. (8) vs. Missouri (9)
CSU’s Milt Palacio is the man behind one of the more ridiculous buzzer beaters in Celtics history, and trails only Milt Schmidt on the list of Boston’s greatest athlete’s named Milt. But his team takes an enormous hit thanks to Joey Porter.
Keyon Dooling and Otis “My Man” Smith put Mizzou over the top.
Oklahoma St. (5) vs. Oregon (12)
Tony Allen provided years of laughter, horror and frustration, and was ultimately a key contributor to the 2008 title and the run to the 2010 Finals.
But Oregon gave us Jim Loscutoff (the only player to have his NAME retired by the Celtics) and Russ Francis (a three-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Pats). I’d say those two outweigh TA, as well as the damage down by OU’s Patrick Chung.
St. Louis (4) vs. New Mexico St. (13)
Randy Brown (the pride of New Mexico State) won three titles with the Bulls before arriving in Boston for one irrelevant season (plus one game).
Basketball Hall of Famer Easy Ed McAuley (the pride of SLU) spent six strong seasons here in the early 50s. But his greatest contribution came in the spring of 1956, when McAuley was traded to St. Louis Hawks (along with the draft rights to Cliff Hagan) in exchange for the second overall pick in that year’s draft.
That pick was Bill Russell.
Pick: St. Louis
Memphis (6) vs. St. Mary’s (11)
St. Mary’s Frank “Apples” Kudelka played 27 games for the Celtics in 1951.
I think Stephen Gostkowski has him beat. (Although certainly not in the nickname department)
Michigan St. (3) vs. Valparaiso (14)
MSU alum Jason Richardson has always killed the Celtics, Plaxico Burress caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII and Magic Johnson did a few things while with the Lakers. Meanwhile, Anson Carter is the only Spartan have any success in Boston.
But, after all these years, Valparaiso hasn’t done a thing for this city. And I’m sick of it. So Michigan State gets the nod.
Let’s credit the win to Magic’s friendship with Larry and his role (however slim) in helping the Sox unload Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and worst of all, Nick Punto.
Pick: Michigan State
Creighton (7) vs. Cincinnati (10)
Creighton deserves some love for Paul Silas — who was part of two Celtics championships in the 70s. And here’s something I just learned that shouldn’t make a difference but is interesting nonetheless: Bill Fitch, who coached the Celtics to the 1981 NBA title, was actually a BASEBALL coach at Creighton back in the mid-50s. He was only 21 at the time, which is crazy.
Even crazier: Fitch’s star player on that Creighton team was Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
Craziest thing of all: Gibson was actually at Creighton on a basketball scholarship!
Apologies if your brain just exploded all over the keyboard.
And apologies to Creighton, because I’m going with Kevin Youkilis and the Bearcats.
(It doesn’t hurt that I’ve always had a weird obsession with Danny Fortson’s one season with the Celtics.)
Duke (2) vs. Albany (15)
Duke is ripe for an upset, and part of me wants to go with Albany based solely on the fact that Steve Guttenberg went there for a few months in the 70s before moving to LA.
But the Great Danes have literally zero connection to Boston sports. The closest thing I could find was an Albany alum-turned-Washington DC weatherman named Bob Ryan.
So, congratulations to Shavlik Randolph. Congratulations to Shelden Williams. And most of all, congratulations to Alaa Abdelnaby. This is your day.
Gonzaga (1) vs. Southern (16)
Jason Bay is better than no one.
Pittsburgh (8) vs. Wichita St. (9)
Curtis Martin is a Hall of Famer with serious Boston ties, even if he did most of his damage with the Jets. However, those ties are immediately severed thanks to Pittsburgh’s association with Mark Blount.
Meanwhile, Wichita State is a serious sleeper, thanks to Xavier McDaniel (who as far as I’m concerned could win this whole tournament on his own), Doug Mirabelli (ditto) and Mr. Bill Parcells.
Pick: Wichita St.
Wisconsin (5) vs. Ole Miss (12)
There have only been a handful of Wisconsin athletes to come through Boston, but lucky for the Badgers, one of them was Greg Stiemsma.
The only thing Ole Miss has provided is Eli Manning and two lifelong nightmares.
Kansas St. (4) vs. Boise St./La Salle (13)
Kansas State is the alma mater of two of the greatest quarterbacks in Patriots history: Steve Grogan and Michael Bishop.
On the other hand, La Salle stole UMASS’s at-large bid.
Pick: Kansas State
Arizona (6) vs. Belmont (11)
Tedy Bruschi, Rob Gronkowski and Jason Terrynski
No One, No One and No One.
New Mexico (3) vs. Harvard (14)
Ryan Fitzpatrick did more for Boston during his four seasons with the Bills than JR Giddens did during his 27 career games with the Celtics.
Notre Dame (7) vs. Iowa St. (10)
The Cyclones get some production from reliever Mike Myers (who won a ring with the Sox in 2004) and Ellis Hobbs, but they’re no match for David Givens and Charlie Weis.
Also, Carl Yastrzemski went to Notre Dame for a few seconds on a basketball scholarship before leaving to join the Sox.
Pick: Notre Dame
Ohio St. (2) vs. Iona (15)
Ohio State has John Havlicek, Mike Vrabel, Terry Glenn and Jared Sullinger.
Iona has an early start to the offseason.
Pick: Ohio State.
So, there it is.
Enjoy the games, and we’ll check back on Monday with the results.