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How my 8-year-old daughter picked the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history

March 16, 2018 Updated: March 17, 2018 at 9:13 am
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The logic my daughters use when filling out their NCAA Tournament brackets is as solid as anybody's.

I just happen to find theirs more entertaining.

Why is Cincinnati making a Final Four run? "Because in 'Elmo Saves Christmas,' Snuffleupagus goes to Cincinnati to visit his grandma."

Perfect!

Why is Arkansas in the Sweet 16? "Because I like little rocks.”

Awesome!

We’ve had our three girls – now 8, 7 and 5 – pick brackets every year, beginning when they would indicate choices by picking between two tiny snacks. We would place the bite representing the higher-seeded team closer to them or to the side they were favoring to keep it a bit more realistic.

Now they can reason through a bracket on their own, and those reasons are often hilarious. The youngest had Texas Southern make a deep run because her favorite stuffed animal is an armadillo. Because Texas is home to many armadillos, she figured hers must have friends there.

Other choices were made based on fun words to say (Xavier and Gonzaga fell under this category), because they have roles in “Cinderella” (the Grand Duke was the one trying on glass slippers) or because they share a name with a classmate (looking at you, LIU Brooklyn).

But geography is always the primary consideration. I grew up in Kansas (and graduated from KU), so the Jayhawks, K-State and Wichita State received preferential treatment. My girls have cousins in Houston, so my youngest’s Final Four includes Texas and Houston (the armadillo may have factored into that as well). Sometimes loyalties collide, resulting in agonizing decisions. We have several friends from Michigan, so when Michigan and Houston met up, the girls felt like they had to choose between friends and family. I’ll keep their decisions private so as not to offend.

Because of their wild adoration for Disney World, schools from the Sunshine State are tough to beat on their brackets. Florida, Florida State and Miami made it out of the first round on all of three sheets, with the youngest picking the Gators to win the whole thing.

It was geography that led to the biggest upset pick of them all. My wife graduated from Loyola-Maryland, which is located in Baltimore. After my oldest initially went with Virginia, she found out UMBC was also in Baltimore. So, she immediately changed her pick and nailed the most improbable outcome in tournament history.

“A 16 seed has never won,” I warned her.

“But it’s also your bracket, you pick who you want,” I added.

I hope she always trusts her instincts.

She also had Buffalo over Arizona. Fourteen of her Sweet 16 teams are still alive. And she has a still-very-much-possible Final Four of Cincinnati, Xavier, Villanova and Kansas.

Were these picks based on anything basketball-related? No.

Is this strategy as effective as any used by an expert? Yep.

And is every bit of this super fun for this dad? Beyond all logic and reason.

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