The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament – more interestingly known as March Madness – is always a wild, unpredictable ride. Even now, as it gets down to the final teams, things don’t get any easier to forecast.
Maybe there’s still a chance you will have the best bracket amongst your friends, enemies, or co-workers. Maybe. More likely however, your bracket was busted long ago when you had the audacity to think that the best team in the country could beat a 16-seed that barely won its conference tournament. Either way, there is still one more game left to stake your reputation, self-worth, and life savings on: Villanova vs. Michigan. Wildcats vs. Wolverines. A tale as old as time, aside from the fact that these teams are not rivals, nor do the animals they’re named after ever interact in the wild.
But who is going to win? Any idiot can hop on Twitter, or their nationally syndicated radio show and say, “Michigan tenacious, Michigan champs,” or, “Villanova shoot good, Villanova chompions!” It takes a special kind of idiot to spend their Sunday conducting tests, analyzing numbers, and making tough judgement calls to determine who is actually going to win, despite knowing effectively jack about college basketball in the first place… Taking all of that into account, we’ve broken things down into seven completely legitimate and fact-based criteria, in order to accurately predict which team will walk away as champion. Shall we?
Category One: U.S. News College Ranking
What good are sports at a college if the academics are trash? In their 2018 list of the best “National Universities,” U.S. News ranks Michigan at 28, with Villanova in a tie for 46th. Villanova couldn’t even get a spot for themselves! That shows a lack of intangibles and leadership, something that may come back to bite them in the second half.
Category Two: KenPom Ratings
Ken Pomeroy is surely the foremost voice in college basketball analytics. For the uninitiated, Pomeroy has a website where he ranks all 351 Division I men’s college basketball programs. His rankings are based on several advanced metrics, and are updated throughout the year. He’s very thorough and very good at his job.
As of March 31, Pomeroy has Michigan as the number-seven team in the country, with the 31st best offense and 5th best defense. On the other hand, he has Villanova as the number-one team in the country, with the best offense and 14th best defense. This category is as simple as complicated mathematical calculations.
Surprise! We aren’t in a category for determining who the better team is statistically. No, we are in a category for determining who is the underdog, and consequently more worth cheering for. Don’t get comfortable reading these predictions for even a second.
Category Three: Mascot
A high-powered offense or a lockdown defense is fine. But a great mascot – whether they’re high-fiving children, shooting t-shirts into the crowd, or performing stunts that are dangerous even if you aren’t wearing a giant head that’s impossible to see out of – can be a real asset to a team. For the Villanova Wildcats, that X-Factor, that crown jewel of in-game entertainment is… Will D. Cat? Is that seriously the best name they could come up with?
Were this a normal universe, a mascot named Will D. Cat for a team called the Wildcats would be deserving of endless mocking and scrutiny. It doesn’t get much less creative than that.
But get this: Michigan doesn’t even have a mascot! Their team is called the Wolverines, and for a mascot, they give us nothing!? What kind of rinky-dink athletic program is this?
Category Four: Famous Alumni 3-on-3
Here’s a pretty straightforward concept. What if we took three alumni each from Michigan and Villanova, and put them in a 3-on-3 pick-up game? The alumni can be living or dead, and the only rule is that they have to have graduated (sorry, Iggy Pop) and cannot be an athlete. Game is to 21, scoring by 1s and 2s, winners’ out.
For Villanova, let’s go with Edward F. Guinan (great from long range, helped discover rings around Neptune,) William J. Fallon (floor admiral, is an actual four-star admiral,) and Maria Bello (name recognition, Golden Globe nominee currently on NCIS. )
At Michigan, give me Lawrence Kasdan (prolific creator, three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter,) Gilda Radner (Hall of Fame pedigree, comedy legend,) and Darren Criss (killer instinct, plays a serial killer on TV.)
Villanova puts up a good fight, but when it comes down to it, the star power at Michigan is too much to overcome. Odds are that even if you subbed in Gerald Ford (leadership, only President to both fall down a set of airplane steps and pardon Richard Nixon,) Michigan’s alumni would still end up winning by around a six-point margin.
Category Five: Hotter Coach
No disrespect to John Beilein, who is a solid four, but this one is a no contest. Look at Jay Wright up there. Try to convince yourself that man isn’t a stand-in for George Clooney in a movie where Clooney plays an upstart District Attorney trying to restore justice to a medium-sized Midwest city. You can’t do it.
Category Six: Pure Petty BS
Like most people, my bracket was trash this year. That said, coming into the Final Four, there was still a chance I could win No Coast Bias’ in-house bracket challenge. (Hi guys, it’s me, genghisron52.) The only way that could happen though, was if 1) Villanova advanced to the Finals (cha-ching!) and 2) if Michigan did not (opposite of “cha-ching!”) This then is the category where I exercise my writer’s rights to hold petty grudges, and award a point to Villanova. I COULD HAVE BEEN THE KING, MICHIGAN. Sure, I’d be the king of Garbage Island, but hey, a king’s a king.
Category Seven: Animal Prediction
We’re all locked up at three, so it all comes down to this: a prediction from an animal! People love videos where animals predict the winners of sporting events. So, in the vein of Fiona the hippo, and Paul the octopus (RIP BIG GUY,) I had my dog Simon try his hand at the craft. He’s a good boy.
Here are the parameters so no one assumes the wheels were greased in either team’s favor. Simon gets two identical-sized amounts of the same food (Taste of the Wild’s High Prairie Canine Formula with Roasted Bison & Roasted Venison) placed on two identical-sized plates. One plate is marked for Michigan, the other for Villanova (see above photo.) Whichever team’s dish gets eaten to completion first is the one that Simon is officially predicting.
Now, without further ado…