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It's a Mad World

March Madness: The tenuous golf connections bracket

March 15, 2023
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When it comes to March Madness, everyone has their own bracket strategy. There's the chalk bracket, the cinderella bracket and the copy-Joe-Lunardi's-homework bracket. There's the homer bracket, the gut-feel bracket and even the Waffle House bracket. This year, we here at The Loop are trying something different, however:

The tenuous golf connections bracket.

We didn't worry about the historical likelihood of 12/5 upset. We didn't sweat SPI or try to guess which incredibly average, mid-seed blue blood will make a run simply because it is their birthright to do so. Instead, our experts fired up their deranged golf brains and picked all 67 games of the 2023 NCAA Tournament based purely on their golf connections (or lack thereof). When the dust settled and greens cleared, we found one, true national champion.

SOUTH REGION - By Coleman Bentley

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1ST ROUND

Alabama (1) def. Texas A&M C.C. (16) - With "C.C." in its name, A&M gives 'Bama all they can handle, but the tourney’s number-one-overall seed prevails on the strength of Justin Thomas' and Nick Saban’s bromance.

West Virginia (9) def. Maryland (8) - The 8/9s are alway a toss-up, but with slow play still an issue, we can't in good conscience go with a school named after tortoises. Pick up the pace or pick up your ball. West Virginia wins.

San Diego St. (5) def. Charleston (12) - STORM THE COURTS! Charleston pulls off the always-trendy 12/5 upset with a little help from legendary Golf Guy, Charleston local, and documented Cougars fan Bill Murray.

Furman (13) def. Virginia (4) - Another upset as Brad Faxon’s alma mater takes down high-powered Virginia. Come on you Paladins!

Creighton (6) def. NC State (11) - Did you know there's a guy named Myles Creighton who has racked up four top 10s on the Latinoamerica Tour in the last year? Neither did we, but that's enough for the Bluejays to take down the fighting Tim Clarks and keep chirpin'.

Baylor (3) def. UCSB (14) - Baylor Bears … bear … gold … The Golden Bear! Baylor advances.

Missouri (7) def. Utah State (10) - Rule No. 1 of the tenuous golf connections bracket: Always favor teams named after tigers. Missouri is on to the round of 32.

Princeton (15) def. Arizona (2) - See above.

2ND ROUND

Alabama (1) def. West Virginia (9) - The Greenbrier ain’t on the calendar no more. Tide roll.

Charleston (12) def. Furman (13) - Bill Murray, clad in head-to-toe madras, completes his Sister Jean-like transformation as Charleston stay alive. Sorry, Brad.

Baylor (3) def. Creighton (6) - Rich hues of green and yellow dot the landscape. A bear marches toward glory. This is starting to feel an awful lot like 1986 ...

Princeton (15) def. Missouri (7) - A tiger-on-tiger matchup is always a tough call, but Princeton lies just 50 miles from Pine Valley Golf Club, Golf Digest’s top-ranked track in the nation. That's enough to get them over the line.

SWEET 16

Alabama (1) def. Charleston (12) - Charleston’s Cinderella story comes to an end as Saban—a guy who once scheduled hip surgery around a round of golf—takes down Murray 3&2 in match play.

Baylor (3) def. Princeton (15) - New Golf Twitter phenom Keith Mitchell’s alma mater roars on to the Elite Eight.

ELITE EIGHT

Alabama (1) def. Baylor (3) - Did you expect anything different? JT seen jumping around his March Madness man cave in his socks.

MIDWEST REGION - By Greg Gottfried

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1ST ROUND

Houston (1) def. Northern Ky. (16) - “Hello, friends.” Jim Nantz is set to call his final men’s NCAA basketball tournament in 2023. Jim Nantz was also a member of the Houston Cougars golf team.

Auburn (9) def. Iowa (8) - This is certainly a hell of an 8/9 matchup, but only one of these schools has Charles Barkley’s backing. His improved swing is enough to make the critical difference.

Drake (12) def. Miami (FL) (5) - It's a routine W for the university named after a guy once seen hitting balls at Topgolf while listening to his own music (also a W, BTW).

Indiana (4) def. Kent State (13) - Yours truly went to IU and I’m now working for Golf Digest. That’s enough of a golf connection to make the next round.

Pittsburgh (11) def. Iowa St. (6) - It doesn’t get any more challenging than Oakmont, and Pitt’s proximity to the Golf Digest top-five course has toughened them up enough to pull off the upset.

Kennesaw St. (14) def. Xavier (3) - Kennesaw State’s mascot is an owl; Xavier has D’Artagnan the Musketeer and The Blue Blob. An owl’s local knowledge of any course will win out.

Texas A&M (7) def. Penn State (10) - Although GD’s very-own Stephen Hennessey is a Penn State alum, he is not filling out his picks for this story. That’s an L.

Texas (2) def. Colgate (15) - The Texas Golf Hall of Fame features Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, while Jordan Spieth is a tried-and-true Longhorn. That’s enough to sneak Texas by the toothpaste school.

ROUND 2

Houston (1) def. Auburn (9) - The school of Nick Faldo is not going down to the school of Jason Dufner. Sometimes, it’s just that simple.

Indiana (4) def. Drake (12) - Pete Dye hails from Indiana. Automatic Sweet 16.

Kennesaw St. (14) def. Pittsburgh (11) - This battle between double-digit seeds is fun and all, but only one school has a D1 golf program.

Texas A&M (7) def. Texas (7) - We love a Lonestar state battle, but A&M holds on for a slight win (mostly because of Kevin Durant’s terrible swing).

SWEET 16

Houston (1) def. Indiana (4) - Jim Nantz continues his epic swan song. Stephen A. Smith also has Indiana making a run this tourney, so obviously Indiana’s out. This doesn’t have much to do with golf, but c’mon.

Texas A&M (7) def. Kennesaw St. (14) - The Cinderella run ends here. The Georgia school's proximity to Augusta National proves to be a distraction as players scramble to finagle last-second tickets to the Masters.

ELITE EIGHT

Texas A&M (7) def. Houston (1) - Apparently former Aggies superstar Mike Evans still has good club-pro contacts in Texas. That's enough to get them over the Houston hump.

EAST REGION - By Chris Powers

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1ST ROUND

Purdue (1) def. FDU (16) - If we assume FDU wins the play-in game, it’s tough to not back the Knights given how close their Madison, Florham Park and Hackensack campuses are to some of the most underrated golf courses in the country (my fellow N.J. folk, stand up!). Ultimately, Purdue wins this one considering the school once awarded the late great architect Pete Dye with a Doctor of Landscape Architecture degree.

FAU (9) def. Memphis (8) - FAU is in South Florida, a place an endless amount of tour pros have made their home due to the amount of golf courses in the area (and the tax benefits). This one is a rout.

Duke (5) def. Oral Roberts (12) - Oral Roberts’ proximity to Southern Hills, host of multiple PGA Championships, makes this a close call. But Duke boasts far too many pros like Adam Long, Alex Smalley, Kevin Streelman, Leona Maguire and Celine Boutier on the PGA and LPGA Tours to be upset in this spot.

Tennessee (4) def. Louisiana (13) - Ever heard of Sweetens Cove? The Ragin’ Cajuns never stood a chance in this one.

Kentucky (6) def. Providence (11) - If you put together an all-time starting five of golfers from these two states, you’d have a hell of a match on your hands. When you think of Providence, you don’t think golf, but Rhode Island as a whole has given us Brad Faxon, Billy Andrade and Lawson Little, who have 20 combined PGA Tour wins. Not bad, but not quite the big three of Justin Thomas, J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry, who have combined for 34 and counting.

Montana St. (14) def. Kansas St. (3) - Basing this purely off of which is the better golf destination, we have our first real upset in the region. That’s not to say Kansas doesn’t have great courses, but the elevation changes and scenery in Montana give the Bobcats the edge over the Wildcats.

USC (10) def. Michigan St. (7) - Sparty has a recent U.S. Amateur winner in James Piot, whose victory came at one of the most iconic courses in the world, Oakmont Country Club. That said, the USC alum list, featuring Stewart Hagestad, Craig and Kevin Stadler, Dave Stockon and Dave Stockon Jr., Justin Suh, Jamie Lovemark, Scott Simpson and Al Geiberger (among others) is simply too much to overcome.

Marquette (2) def. Vermont (15)
There are some sneaky great golf courses in Vermont but they are probably in peak condition for about two months out of the year. Not saying Wisconsin is some sunny paradise, but it has become one of the top golf destinations in the country. Marquette wins big here.

2ND ROUND

FAU (9) def. Purdue (1) - South Florida or Indiana? For golf, you already know the answer. Owls hoot their way to the Sweet 16.

Tennessee (4) def. Duke (5) - Let’s do it this way - would you rather play golf with someone who went to Tennessee and will blare “Rocky Top” from the speaker in the cart or some nerd who went to Duke and is aim-pointing every putt like it’s their last? I rest my case. Vols move on.

Kentucky (6) def. Montana St. (14) - The Big Three of JT, J.B. and Kenny Perry can’t be stopped. That’s a squad even John Calipari could get the most out of.

USC (10) def. Marquette (2) - Can’t get over how good that USC golfer alum list is. Down goes Shaka and co.

SWEET 16

FAU (9) def. Tennessee (4) - The boys from Boca cannot be stopped. They get 18 in before you even wake up and they’re in bed by 4:30 p.m. ET so they are always well-rested.

USC (10) def. Kentucky (6) - Sh*t gets very real in this one. In fairness, JT didn’t actually go to Kentucky, and he’s from Louisville, the Wildcats’ arch rival. The Trojans actually have the alumni edge here when it comes to golf.

ELITE EIGHT

USC (10) def. Florida Atlantic (9) - Southern Florida vs. Southern California, in terms of golf, is game of the century type stuff. Given the proximity to a golf architecture GOAT in Riviera Country Club, the Trojans punch their ticket to the Final Four.

WEST REGION - By Alex Myers

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1ST ROUND

Kansas (1) def. Howard (16) - Tougher than it looks with Gary Woodland’s alma mater vs. the golf program Steph Curry helped revive, but we’ll stick with the 2019 U.S. Open champ.

Arkansas (8) def. Illinois (9) - Two words: John Daly. And five more words: Grip it and rip it.

St. Mary’s (5) def. VCU (12) - Not a lot of PGA Tour ties here so we’ll go with the Bay-area school near a bunch of sweet San Francisco courses.

Iona (13) def. UConn (4) - Rick Pitino worked a house right behind Winged Foot’s third green into his contract with the Gaels. Legend.

Arizona State (11) def. TCU (6) - In a clash of titans, we give the edge to Jon Rahm’s Sun Devils over Tom Hoge’s Horned Frogs.

Gonzaga (3) def. Grand Canyon - Arizona’s national park is beautiful, but think of all the great golf courses that could be built on that land. Instead, you get a big fine for even hitting a golf ball there.

Northwestern (7) def. Boise State (10) - Gotta go with the alma mater of the reigning U.S. Open champ Matt Fitzpatrick—even if he only spent a semester there.

UCLA (2) def. UNC Asheville (15) - We have the Bruins shuffling into the second round like their own Patrick Cantlay does on the greens.

2ND ROUND

Arkansas (8) def. Kansas (1) - Slide off those flip-flops, John Daly, your alma mater is going dancing in the Sweet 16!

Iona (13) def. St. Mary’s (5) - Again, coach Pitino lives ON Winged Foot. Dude must clean up charging for parking when the U.S. Open comes to town.

Arizona State (11) def. Gonzaga (3) - Phil Mickelson and Pat Perez may have taken their (diminishing) talents to LIV, but the Sun Devils still cruise here.

UCLA (2) def. Northwestern (7) - Cantlay still can’t win a major, but the Bruins are a sneaky golf powerhouse with a former U.S. Open champ of their own in Corey Pavin.

SWEET 16

Arkansas (8) def. Iona (13) - John Daly goes knock, knock, knocking on Pitino’s door and keeps rolling.

Arizona State (11) def. UCLA (2) - Two great golf destinations, two storied golf programs. It’s a shame they had to cross paths so early, but we’re taking the Sun Devils.

ELITE 8

Arizona State (11) def. Arkansas (8) - Sorry, JD, but the Hogs magical run comes to an end against a school that claims a group of tour pros that can hit it hard both on and off the course. We’re looking at you, Pat Perez.

FINAL FOUR

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USC (10) def. Alabama (1) - WHAT A GAME BABYYYY! With the chips down and the shot clock off, the Trojans upset Thomas' beloved Crimson Tide with a Big Three of perfect year-round golf weather, world-class courses, and a NCAA-to-PGA Tour pipeline that makes Saban's draft record look downright pedestrian.

Arizona State (11) def. Texas A&M (7) - While USC and Alabama delivered thrills and chills aplenty, this one was never close as ASU rides Rahmbo's momentum to the final, becoming the first ever First Four team in Tenuous Golf Connections Bracket history to do so.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

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USC (10) def. Arizona State (11) - An all-PAC-12 championship game. Who saw that one coming? Unfortunately ASU fans' spring-long binge, starting at the WM Phoenix Open and continuing through late March, turns into a crippling hangover as USC batters them from the jump. The Trojans cut down the nets and take the national championship home to golf's de-facto La La Land.

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