NOTHING BUT GREEN: March Madness brackets becoming father-daughter tradition

Mar. 22—You cannot fathom the anticipation I've harbored for this moment.

Each year, a staggering 60-100 million brackets emerge across various NCAA Tournament contests, famously dubbed March Madness. Count me among those numbers — it is practically part of my job description.

However, gone are the days of painstakingly deliberating over picks.

With the landscape of college basketball growing evermore unpredictable over the years, success in bracketology often hinges on sheer chance. These days, I trust my instincts, breezing through the bracket in a mere 10 minutes, making intuitional selections based on emotions or tenuous affiliations with schools.

I also concoct brackets relying solely on dice rolls, coin flips and geographical proximity to my home — both closest to and furthest from.

I've even occasionally persuaded my wife Kelsey to join in, injecting an extra dose of unpredictability with her truly random choices. Yet, in recent years, my favorite bracket has become my daughter Ivy's.

Introducing Ivy to the bracket world at just a year old in 2022 was a creative endeavor. Utilizing a culinary method, I presented her with two food items, letting her choice dictate the team selection — left for the top, right for the bottom. I resorted to a similar tactic in 2023 as well.

However, this year marked a significant change.

Now a 3-year-old as of March 6, Ivy's growth and comprehension has blossomed. She is now able to communicate effectively, so when I proposed filling out a bracket together, her excitement was palpable.

Being the quintessential daddy's girl, she eagerly exclaimed, "I'd love to!"

This time, the process was simplified. I presented her with team logos, and she effortlessly indicated her preferences.

A couple of insights into Ivy's world: she has an adoration for the color purple and a profound affection for animals, particularly dogs. Armed with this knowledge, I anticipated her favoring teams aligning with these criteria.

Initially, canine-themed logos garnered her attention, with notable interest in UConn's Husky emblem and the Samford Bulldogs' "mean doggie". However, she unexpectedly bid adieu to three out of four purple-clad teams in the first round, favoring only 12-seed James Madison, which she propelled to the Sweet 16.

The Sweet 16 marked a shift in strategy as Ivy's allegiance veered toward character-mark logos, with the emergence of unexpected contenders causing the demise of animal-logo schools. Animal-logo contenders UConn, Samford, Washington State, Nevada, Oakland and Texas all bit the dust during this phase, though two of those lost to other animals mascots.

Reflecting on her bracket, a clear pattern emerged.

Her fondness for Cinderella stories — evident in her taste for double-digit seeds — mirrored her admiration for Disney's Cinderella. Remarkably, she propelled 12 double-digit seeds to the Round of 32, including all four 14-seeds, 15-seed Long Beach State and 16-seed Longwood.

Seven of those double-digit seeds advanced to the Sweet 16, and though only three went on to the Elite Eight, they were all 14-seeds — Morehead State, Colgate and Akron. She also advanced three 8-seeds to the Sweet 16, two of which reached the Final Four.

Furthermore, two 5-seeds, San Diego State and Saint Mary's, reached the Elite Eight. Despite her unawareness of each team's seeding, her selections reflected a consistent trend.

The West Region had the most noteworthy upsets, with Ivy boldly selecting four-consecutive underdogs in the bottom half of the bracket — 11-New Mexico, 14-Colgate, 10-Nevada and 15-Long Beach State — to ensure an Elite Eight spot for a double-digit seed.

In the end, Ivy's Final Four featured a broad-ranging mix:

(5) San Diego State

(14) Colgate

(8) Nebraska

(8) Utah State

In the championship game, Ivy crowned San Diego State victorious over Nebraska, a choice undoubtedly resonating with our familial ties to the San Diego area. It holds a special place in our hearts because my wife's family has a yearly camping retreat at San Elijo State Beach in San Diego County, and that is actually where we got engaged back in 2016.

San Diego is in Ivy's DNA, and her picks reflected not just her innocent intuition but also her connection to our family's traditions.

As for Nebraska, any connection is a stretch, except perhaps a loose association with my best friend Seth Olson, fondly known as "Uncle Seth", who is a Cornhusker alum.

Regardless of rationale, the joy of sharing this tradition with my daughter surpasses all else.

As I reflect on Ivy's March Madness journey, I'm filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share this bracket-filling passion of mine with her. The joy of bonding over basketball with my daughter is a priceless gift that I cherish deeply.

I can't wait to see where Ivy's picks will take us next.