Reasonable Sports Opinions

I changed the title of this post from “the bare minimum you need to know,” because the minimum you need to know about the Sweet Sixteen is absolutely nothing. Per the original headline’s promise, though, this post is indeed bare of information. Because who has time to find it. Please enjoy the results of my grudging googling if you’re stuck where a game is on and need something to read.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is the surprise hit of the tournament. I received a mysterious text the other day, that read, in full: “FGCU over Georgetown??? You are a bracket-picking genius.” I know that Georgetown is a school, because that is widely known. I did not know what FGCU stood for or why all the question marks. Turns out FGCU is “Florida Gulf Coast University,” which is a school in Fort Myers, Florida, that was seeded at 15 by the shadowy “selection committee” that makes these designations — the second-lowest rank a team can have in its region (there are four regions, hence four 1st-ranked teams, four 2nd-ranked, etc etc down to the 16th seed, the lowest rank). In my frenzy to fill out a bracket in the minimum amount of time possible, I did not notice that, in the first round, this quite-low-ranked team was pitted against what was the second-highest ranked team in the region, Georgetown — as after research I have learned is typical: The high-ranking teams face the low-ranking teams early in the tournament. Long story short, FGCU won, surprising a lot of people. They won their next game, too, against 7th-seeded San Diego State. Both of these are examples of what’s called a “major upset.”

In the wake of FGCU’s “staging another dunk-fest against a heavily favored opponent,” (ooo, a montage!) the school became the first 15-seed to reach today’s “Sweet Sixteen” set of games, in which only 16 teams remain to be eliminated from the tournament. (According to math, there are eight games played by the Sweet Sixteen teams that have made it this far — see how that works? two teams per game? — and each of the winners will go on to the Elite Eight — see how that works? one winner per game?) “#Dunkcity” is how twitter has been referring to Fort Myers, and the mayor of Fort Myers has actually incorporated the hashtag into the city’s logo, once again proving that grown-ass men, even public servants, often behave as if any of this shit matters.

Tonight, Florida Gulf Coast, confusingly, plays Florida. Which is a whole other school. Original Small Talk Reasonable Sports Opinion (TM): That should be an interesting game.

The rankings are “a mess.” FGCU’s performance against teams that were widely expected to beat them comfortably — celebrity statistician Nate Silver gave them a roughly 3.3 percent chance of making it this far — was a genuine surprise to a lot of people who were paying attention. But many of the other so-called “upsets” weren’t. Deadspin, the sports blog, was indignant: The “selection committee,” whoever those mysterious people are, “really boned this tournament,” they said. (<– Reasonable Sports Opinion!)

In particular, Oregon was way better than the “selection committee” gave it credit for by giving it a 12 seed, so the fact that its victory against 4-seeded St. Louis was technically an “upset” said more about the shoddiness of the ranking process than the relative quality of the teams. Similarly, Gonzaga’s Zags, if you recall, were ranked at No. 1 in their region for the first time and weren’t really very good, so lost in the second round, to the surprise, apparently, of “literally no one.”

I wasn’t surprised but only because I wasn’t paying attention and wouldn’t have known how to interpret it if I had been.

So, you know what I always nonfalsifiably say: You never know till game time. Except in my case it actually is a little false, because I very rarely know until well after game time, if then.