Bob Bestler

With my bracket busted, at least I can say I'm right there with the experts

I had planned to write a column last week about my NCAA brackets, but I didn't want the world to know how ill-informed I was about college basketball. I suppose that as a former sports editor of this newspaper I should be an expert.

Well, not quite. But today I'm ready to give my Final Four picks - three of which lost on the first weekend - and I'm not nearly as embarrassed after seeing how the true experts fared.

My four: Virginia, North Carolina, Purdue and Michigan State - and only Purdue moved on to the Sweet Sixteen. In the final, I had now-ousted Virginia beating now-ousted Michigan State. So it goes.

Trouble with my picks is that I went with my heart, not my mind, such as it is.

North Carolina because my wife is a graduate and I also attended several seminars in Chapel Hill back in the day; Purdue and Michigan State because I grew up in the Big Ten and graduated from a Big Ten school. Donald Trump would love my loyalty.

Still, I was planning to take Xavier over UNC until I met a Xavier graduate during 50-cent shrimp night at Boondocks Restaurant on St. Helena Island. He warned me that the Big X, a No. 1 seed, was overrated. I immediately wrote in the Tar Heels.

If you think I'm feeling bad about my choices, forget about it. I did only a little bit worse than a few other experts who saw their favorites lose on the first weekend.

Longtime analyst Dick Vitale picked Virginia, Villanova, Michigan and Michigan State. As of this writing, Villanova and Michigan are still in the game. (Bonus points for picking Michigan, I'd say.)

ESPN basketball expert Jay Bilas picked Virginia, Villanova, Michigan and Michigan State. (I'm starting to like Michigan, but it's early Friday as I write this.)

Then there's one other expert, a guy named Barack Obama.

Obama picked North Carolina (a perennial favorite of his), Virginia, Villanova and Michigan State. He prefaced his picks this way:

"Just because I have more time to watch games doesn't mean my picks will be better." Right he was. Only Villanova remains in the tournament.

Another former president, George H.W. Bush, responded to Obama's picks.

"Respectfully differing with Barack Obama so out on the limb here," he tweeted, "but I have a gut feeling my TAMU (Texas A&M) Aggies are going the distance."

Replied Obama, No. 44 to No. 41: "I like the competition and the loyalty to the home team."

Then he watched as the Aggies crushed Obama's Tar Heels in the second round before losing to Michigan in Thursday's Sweet Sixteen.

Other Bush picks included Virginia, Villanova and Duke. Duke, incidentally, would be my new favorite except for my one-time UNC-flavored bumper-sticker: ``Friends Don't Let Friends Go to Dook.''

Instead, today I'm all, "Go Boilermakers!" (That would be Purdue - until they lose.)

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