A Buck Back Update

We’re heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and I’ve reached a crucial point in the Buck Back.  I’ve netted 7 bucks so far and have two teams left — third-round selection Xavier and sixth-round selection Washington.  They both play tonight, so by the time the sun rises tomorrow I could be out of the Buck Back altogether, before we even reach the weekend.  That would be embarrassing.

Washington has a tough test, against West Virginia.  The Mountaineers are a balanced, athletic team that beat the Buckeyes earlier this season.  Xavier takes on Kansas State, a team that has flown under the radar in the tournament.  Both West Virginia and Kansas State are number 2 seeds.

Let’s go, Huskies and Musketeers!  Keep me in the hunt!

Edited to add:  Well, it happened as I feared, and the Xavier double-overtime loss to K State was particularly brutal.  And so this year’s Buck Back comes to a close with me finishing ignominiously $1 underwater.

Five Bucks (And Counting — I Hope)

First round play in the NCAA Tournament ended last night, and I’ve got five bucks to show for it.  My first, second, and third round picks (Kansas, Texas A&M, and Xavier, respectively) all won, my fourth and fifth round picks (Texas and Florida) lost in heartbreak fashion in overtime, and I got pleasant surprise wins from the sixth and seventh round picks (Washington and Murray State).  Four of my teams were involved in “buzzer beater”-type games, and two won and two lost — which seems like a fair result.

Isaiah Thomas of the Washington Huskies

One interesting thing about the Buck Back is that it can turn on a dime.  You can be sitting pretty with lots of teams still in play and, a day later, be out of the competition totally.  This year, after the first round, the leader has seven bucks with six teams still playing (the lowest-selected team to win a game, in this case the Ohio University Bobcats, nets you two bucks), two players have five bucks, two have four bucks, two have three bucks, and the Purple Raider is bringing up the rear with two bucks.

Of my remaining teams, the one that was the biggest surprise to me was Washington, which seems to have a lot of quick, rangy, capable players and a good point guard.  I’m hoping that they can add another buck to my total when they face off against New Mexico today.

The Buck Back Begins

Last year I wrote a bit about the Buck Back, the weird, hybrid pool and fantasy-type draft we have when the NCAA Basketball Tournament begins.  The linked post explains the rules, to the extent they exist.  Basically eight people put in eight bucks and select all of the teams in the NCAA Tournament through a serpentine draft, and each time one of your teams wins you win a buck back.

My 2010 Buck Back grid

This year I drew the ace from the deck and got the first pick — which is good and bad.  You get to pick what you consider to be the best team — or at least the team most likely to win it all, given the draw — but then don’t draft again until the 16th selection.  I chose Kansas for my first pick, and then followed two simple rules for my remaining picks:  (1) choose the best available school, preferably from a tough conference, that has some prior NCAA experience; and (2) try to balance your teams to end up with two teams in each bracket.  I did a decent job following the first rule, but failed miserably on the second.  In order, my draft was Kansas (pick 1), Texas A&M (pick 16), Xavier (pick 17), Texas (pick 32), Florida (pick 33), Washington (pick 48), Murray State (pick 49) and East Tennessee State (pick 64).  (When you draft first, your last pick is the last team left.)  I ended up with 1 team in the Midwest regional, 1 in the South regional, and 3 each in the West and East regionals, which makes me uncomfortable.

In retrospect, I’m a bit skeptical of my drafting approach, but this year’s draft was complicated by the number 4 seed given to Purdue.  With the gut-wrenching season-ending injury to Robbie Hummel, and E’Twan Moore coming up gimpy in the Minnesota game — a game where Purdue was able to put up only 11 points in the first half — Buck Back participants were very skeptical of the Boilermakers’ ability to win even one buck by beating Siena.  The Boilers fell all the way down to the 24th pick whereas, if you were picking strictly by seeding, a number 4 seed would be picked no later than number 16.

I should know early whether my Buck Back team blows.  Florida plays the first game in the tournament tomorrow, with a 12:20 p.m. tip, and 6 of my 8 teams play Thursday games.