April 9, 2012
As ESPN’s resident bracketologist, Joe Lunardi has become a household name every year when March Madness rolls around. With the tournament having recently ended, Joe had some time to answer our questions about the NCAAs. Be sure to check out Joe’s page over at ESPN for his tournament updates and projections throughout the year. His first 2013 bracket will be out on Friday, April 13th.
You’re the biggest bracket guy maybe in the history of the NCAA Tournament. So I’ve got to ask, do you fill out a bracket yourself? If so, how do you typically fare?
Of course I do a bracket (for amusement only!). ESPN.com uses it for all kinds of things, plus I enter contests at home and in the office. Most years I have a respectable finish, but rarely win. Maybe it’s like the tournament itself, where the so-called “favorites” rarely win (Kentucky notwithstanding!).
Nearly everyone knows you as ESPN’s Bracketologist, but you’re also the Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications and provide commentary during games at your alma mater, St. Joe’s. I always think the A-10 Conference is a bit underrated on a national scale. Following basketball and interacting with people around the country, do you ever get that sense?
I think the perception of the A-10 is appropriate and positive. The league wants to be known as the best basketball-only conference in the country, and the data over time bears that out. Aside from a blip in 2005, the Atlantic 10 has consistently been a multi-bid league with a number of schools – Temple, UMass, Saint Joseph’s and Xavier — having stretches in the national spotlight. Losing Temple to the Big East in 2013 will certainly hurt, but I’m hearing very good things about potential replacement(s).
During the season on your ESPN page, you post your weekly bracket updates. It gets even more maddening the week leading up to the tournament when you have daily updates. But with recruiting, transfers, injuries … all of those things can play into how a team is seeded. So this is really like a year-round job to some degree, correct?
It’s become a year-round fascination, to be sure, but nothing like the non-stop attention from the end of the Super Bowl until Selection Sunday. I literally could update the bracket every 20 minutes during that time and people still couldn’t get enough. And it’s almost amusing that I’m now getting several messages a day suggesting that we are “late” (or “lazy”) in posting the first bracket for 2013. Well that’s coming on Friday, a couple days after the deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft. Not much point in doing a bracket before then.
In a typical season, about how many games do you watch?
Less than you might think. The TV is never off, but the number of times I sit still and watch a game uninterrupted is probably no more than 50. What I do non-stop is track scores and schedules, then, in the many cases in which individual results deviate from expectations, I go back and read game summaries and box scores. The S-Curve is updated constantly, even if the public bracket is not.
This year, I believe your only miss in your final projection was on Seton Hall. The Pirates being left out with 20 wins playing in the Big East was a bit of a surprise for me. What did you see in them that made you think they would get the nod over Iona, who was eventually the team that made the field?
It was an educated guess, nothing more. I personally would not have voted for Seton Hall as the Pirates tailed off badly down the stretch. My prediction was based upon what I thought the Selection Committee would do. My own vote for “last team in” would have gone to Drexel, which really had little chance given its strength of schedule numbers.
Bigger 15-seed upset this year: Lehigh beating Duke or Norfolk State beating Missouri?
With so many college players to watch, I’ve always wondered if you’re a big NBA fan? Do you follow them into the pros or are you too focused on the next crop of young talent coming into the NCAA?
Medium. While I do pay attention to players I’ve personally covered or gotten to know (usually from the Atlantic 10), for the most part the NBA is a non-factor for me. For one, most players of impact in college are not immediate regulars in the NBA (which is a separate problem in terms of sustaining fan interest from one level to the next). And, two, I usually take a “basketball break” after the NCAA tournament to spend time with my family and at my “regular” job. I am a huge baseball fan and also love the NHL playoffs, so it’s more likely my TV is tuned in those directions in April, May and June.