GVSU's Ultimate Bracket 'worse than the BCS'

Lakers’ 64 greatest athletes pitted against each other in NCAA-style bracket, but Final Four results were unfair

By Greg Monahan | 4/13/11 9:55pm

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Greg Monahan

by Eric Coulter / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Brian Kelly is apparently the greatest sports figure in Grand Valley State University history. All right, I can live with that.

In GVSU’s “Ultimate Bracket” – where the Sports Information department took 64 of the greatest Laker athletes, teams and coaches in the school’s 50-year history, and matched them up head-to-head in an NCAA Tournament-style bracket – fans had the chance to determine the greatest Laker ever, and Brian Kelly beat out the rest of the field for the … title.

There were teams. The 2002 GVSU football team (the top overall seed). National Champs. 14-0. Outscored opponents 654-231. More recently, the 2010 GVSU women’s soccer team. Also national champs, back-to-back in fact. 22-1-2 overall, didn’t allow a goal at home all season, nor in any of their five NCAA tournament games.

There were coaches. Brian Kelly. Chuck Martin. Enough said.

There were athletes. Jamie Hosford. Rushed for 3,157 yards in his career (1973-1976). Played three varsity sports, earning 12 varsity letters in four years. Mandi Zemba. Eight-time national champion distance runner. Set 17 school records at GVSU. That is exactly 17 more than I set.

Okay, to tell the truth, I didn’t know either of those athletes existed before the Ultimate Bracket started, which is pretty embarrassing as Lanthorn sports editor. So you might not have known them either, but those are some crazy numbers.

It was tough to pick. Really tough. It was all in fun, but the concept of measuring a team’s success versus a coach’s success is like asking ‘Which do you like better? Cookies or laundry detergent?’ They’re both quite good in their own, completely different, way.

I liked this bracket, and the arbitrary and unquantifiable nature of picking the tournament comes with the territory. If nothing else, it taught me about the Mandi Zembas and Jamie Hosfords of the GVSU athletic world.

Who knew we had a pole vaulter named Bryant Wilson, a two-time NCAA All-American, who once vaulted 17-feet-5.75-inches? To compare, I personally vaulted 11 feet in high school. And I thought I was sweet. Turns out I am not.

In the end, the Ultimate Bracket played out completely different from this year’s actual NCAA tournament. Three of the four No. 1 seeds made the final four, with the lone other seed being Brian Kelly, who came in as a No. 2.

But Kelly wasn’t necessarily the deserving winner — once the final four was set, the athletic department decided to ditch the head-to-heat format and go straight to popular vote. In their words, “The (Final Four) champion was then determined by the total number of votes each one accumulated over the course of the tournament.”

But wait, that’s not fair. If you’re going up against an opponent that is still famous here, that opponent is going to take away more of your votes than if you were going up against someone or some team that was relatively unknown. Brian Kelly would get just about every vote if he were going against No. 5 seeded 1976-77 men’s basketball team, which not many students have a vivid recollection of, but put Kelly up against ever-popular No. 9 seed Chuck Martin and it’d be a closer tally. So it really all depends on who you played.

Can you imagine if that’s how it worked in the real Final Four?

“Hey UConn, you would stomp VCU if you were to actually play basketball against each other, but since they scored more total points in the tournament (it was 440 to 406, VCU), we’re just going to go ahead and give them the trophy. Thanks for playing.”

This is worse than the BCS. I was pulling for the 2010 women’s soccer team, which came just 67 votes away from the title (1203 to 1136). So, in the GVSU Sportswriters’ Ultimate Bracket Poll, the women’s soccer team edged out Brian Kelly, 1-0, for the championship. Congratulations to Dave DiIanni and his entire 2010 squad.

sports@lanthorn.com

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