Upsets leave March Madness brackets busted

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Last year, BYU student Aaron Clark chose the best NCAA tournament bracket out of all his friends. This year, Clark is losing to a bracket chosen by his Magic 8 ball.

Millions of brackets are submitted each year to sites like espn.com and cbssports.com. Despite the millions of entries, there are no perfect brackets remaining this year. Many students find their brackets destroyed after just two rounds of play. While most people have barren brackets, a few people find their predictions standing out from their peers.

Students' brackets are in pieces after two rounds.

Growing up in Cardston, Alberta, Clark didn’t have much exposure to college basketball until after his mission. Last year marked the first time Clark ever participated in a bracket challenge with friends.

Clark picked Kemba Walker and the Huskies to go all the way and rode UCONN to the championship, winning his own group. This year Clark is in the cellar of his group and his bracket is only ranked in the fourth percentile, according to espn.com.

Clark only has Kentucky, Baylor, Michigan State and Kansas remaining, with Kansas picked to win the whole tournament.

“That’s not looking too promising either,” Clark said.

Jed Montgomery, an information technology major from Kennewick, Wash., began filling out brackets four years ago. Montgomery doesn’t claim to be a bracket guru, but feels like over time he has become better at choosing brackets.

“Every year it becomes a little more of an informed guess,” Montgomery said.

Despite his increased awareness of the tournament, Montgomery finds himself ranked toward the bottom of his group of friends and is only in the 33rd percentile of brackets submitted to espn.com. While he hasn’t been successful in his predictions this year, he takes solace from comparing his own bracket to brackets submitted by notable people such as President Barack Obama, LeBron James and Rajon Rondo online.

While Montgomery does want his bracket to succeed, he ultimately prefers to see big upsets over his bracket’s prosperity. Montgomery was particularly pleased to see Duke’s first-round upset to Lehigh.

“I like to see established teams go down early,” Montgomery said.

Jesse Flemming, a history teaching major from Mesa, Ariz., has been filling out brackets for 10 years, but hasn’t ever picked a bracket he’s satisfied with. This year, Flemming points to Missouri’s and Florida State’s losses as the cause for his troubles and his standing near the bottom of his bracket competition.

“I’m always at the bottom, I can never get this thing right,” Flemming said.

Because of his struggles in predicting correctly, Flemming began a tradition of picking two brackets per year. One bracket contains his serious predictions, while the other he refers to as his “silly” bracket. His silly bracket was decided in past years by doing a coin flip, deciding what teams have the best nicknames and choosing which mascots would win in a fight. This year’s silly bracket is decided by choosing which mascots are his favorites. Despite its arbitrary nature, his silly bracket is winning through two rounds.

“My silly one always wins,” Flemming said.

While most people find their brackets in shambles, Jeff Lake, a former BYU student and current dental school student at Temple University, is riding high. Lake entered the same bracket into four different group challenges and is on top of each of them. Lake’s submitted bracket is ranked in the 96th percentile by espn.com. While many people listen to experts and follow the best players to make their tournament picks, Lake has his own methods.

“First off, I don’t follow the hype,” Lake said.

Rather than picking a team with a single superstar, such as Kevin Durant at Texas a few years back, he prefers well-rounded teams. Another tip Lake offered was to forget history unless players on the current roster contributed to making history. Several years back, Gonzaga had big upsets in the early rounds of the tournament on a few different occasions.

“I don’t pick Gonzaga every year just because of upsets from the past,” Lake said.

This year, Lake correctly picked 12 of the 16 teams in the Sweet 16 and has all of the teams remaining for his picks in the Elite Eight. Lake’s Final Four teams include Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio State.

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