Jonathan Coulton Fills Out His First March Madness Bracket

jocoOur last conversation with musician Jonathan Coulton proved two things: 1) He has no clue about what’s on television these days and 2) his ideas for what should be on television are far more interesting than anything that has ever been broadcast.

The provocative results of that discussion about Fall TV convinced us that Coulton should be our go-to expert on any subject that he has limited knowledge of. Given that none of his infectious songs touch on sports, we suspected that another such topic would be the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, starting this week. And we were right again!

“I have never cared about college basketball,” says Coulton proudly, almost defiantly, by phone from his Brooklyn apartment, a few days after returning from a tour opening for They Might Be Giants. “Frankly, I don’t even understand precisely what March Madness is.”

In our mind, this bold declaration — along with another mind-boggling claim: “I have never filled out a March Madness bracket” — makes him the perfect person to help us fill out our March Madness bracket.

After all, even the boss’s daughter won the office pool that one year, and studies have shown that picking well may be entirely arbitrary anyway. With a little luck, Coulton might provide every bit as much insight as the next guy — or at least an eight-year-old girl.

“But,” wonders Coulton, “don’t you have to make your picks with some sort of plan?”

We’re about to find out. Only time will tell how Coulton — whose latest opus, Best. Concert. Ever., culls from his shockingly frequent live shows — fares as a one-day sports pundit. But we’re never going to bet against a guy who pals around with John Hodgman and who will be performing live in New York City twice during Final Four weekend.

Read on for Coulton’s take on all 32 first-round matchups (his picks are marked in red) and click here to see a PDF of his unconventional, upset-heavy bracket.

UPDATE: We’ve entered Coulton’s bracket in The Awl‘s NCAA Men’s College Basketball giveaway under the name JoCo and the Spiders FTW. As this pool is open to the public, we highly recommend you enter — the winner gets two Jock Jams CDs!


The matchup: Kansas Jayhawks (#1 seed) vs. Lehigh Mountain Hawks (#16)

JoCo’s take: “It’s surprising that’s how they’re seeded because you would think that a mountain hawk would be tougher than a jayhawk. They’re obviously seeded incorrectly.”

JoCo’s pick: “Sometimes it’s hard when you’re comparing teams, but in this case we have two types of hawks. So, it’s easy — Lehigh.”


The matchup: UNLV Running Rebels (#8) vs. Northern Iowa Panthers (#9)

JoCo’s take: “It’s a close matchup because of the seeding. And because the mascots are so hard to compare.”

JoCo’s pick: “If it’s Las Vegas against Iowa, I’m going to say Iowa every time because that sounds like a state where basketball is pretty popular.”


The matchup: Michigan State Spartans (#5) vs. New Mexico State Aggies (#12)

JoCo’s take: “The Spartans — interesting. Are there 300 of them, by any chance? Because that’s the only way. The Spartans need that critical mass to take any sort of victory — even a victory where they lose. If there aren’t 300 people on the team, I’m afraid they’re going to be overwhelmed.”

JoCo’s pick: “The Spartans are going to get destroyed.”


The matchup: Maryland Terrapins (#4) vs. Houston Cougars (#13)

JoCo’s take: “I don’t know the team, so it’s possible, but I’m willing to bet that Houston’s mascot is not an older lady in a suit dress.”

JoCo’s pick: “It’s going to be a long game because the Cougars will have to wear down the Terrapins defenses — obviously. But ultimately the Turtle doesn’t have a chance.”


The matchup: Tennessee Volunteers (#6) vs. San Diego State Aztecs (#11)

JoCo’s take: “You think the Volunteers really give a shit how this is going to go down? No. They volunteered! When it gets serious, the Volunteers will say, ‘Holy shit — fucking Aztecs?’ I don’t want any part of this.”

JoCo’s pick: “The Aztecs are going to win by forfeit would be my guess.”


The matchup: Georgetown Hoyas (#3) vs. Ohio Bobcats (#14)

JoCo’s take: “This is tough for me because I have allegiances on both sides. My high school mascot was the bobcat — the Bacon Academy Bulldogs. And of course I went to Yale University, where bulldogs figure prominently [note: Georgetown’s mascot is inexplicably a bulldog]. In both cases, our sports teams were terrible, so probably this is not a game that people should watch if they want to see good basketball.”

JoCo’s pick: “It’s sort of 50-50. Someone will win it but not through any sort of skill. It’ll be accidental. For sentimental reasons, I’m going to have to go with the Bobcats.”


The matchup: Oklahoma State Cowboys (#7) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (#10)

JoCo’s take: “I have to give edge to the Yellow Jackets because they’re going to have the technological edge. Essentially you have a bunch of country bumpkins going up against a bunch of people in mechanized war suits.”

JoCo’s pick: “Obviously it’s going to go to the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.”


The matchup: Ohio State Buckeyes (#2) vs. U.C. Santa Barbara Gauchos (#15)

JoCo’s take: “[Laughing maniacally about the term ‘gauchos’] Which, as I understand it, is some sort of Spanish cowboy? Going against a delicious peanut butter and chocolate concoction? [Pause] Wait — a buckeye is a nut? Really? Oh, boy. [Laughs manaically again] How can I possibly approach watching March Madness when there are 850 teams that I’ve never heard of with all of these different mascots? [Pause] Anyway, you can’t go on mascots here. A nut is just going to sit there.”

JoCo’s pick: “I will say that the Santa Barbara Gauchos sound a little fey to me. And the Ohio State Buckeyes sound like a solid, manly, aggressive team. I think they’re going to steamroll right over those swishy Gauchos.”


The matchup: Syracuse Orange (#1) vs. Vermont Catamounts (#16)

JoCo’s take: “Looking at this, you might say, well, a catamount against a man is going to take him every time, as long as the man doesn’t have any weapons. But an Orangeman sounds to me like he might be some kind of superhero.”

JoCo’s pick: “I’m going to have to go with the Orangemen. They have the power to abrade your skin with the power of citric acid.”


The matchup: Gonzaga Bulldogs (#8) vs. Florida State Seminoles (#9)

JoCo’s take: “Gonzaga is a planet in the outer rim of our Federation, right?”

JoCo’s pick: “I think the Gonzagans’ otherworldly technology will overwhelm the competition. Plus, the Seminoles will be punished for their racism.”


The matchup: Butler Bulldogs (#5) vs. UTEP Miners (#12)

JoCo’s take: “The Butler Bulldogs will be too polite. That’s what they’re trained to do — be polite. That’s why they wear tuxedos.”

JoCo’s pick: “Butler will just step out of UTEP’s way and say, ‘After you, sir.'”


The matchup: Vanderbilt Commodores (#4) vs. Murray State Racers (#13)

JoCo’s take: “First of all, I think it’s crazy that Bill Murray started his own college. I don’t think you’re going to get a good education if you go there. He’s a great comedic actor, but I don’t think he’s qualified to run a university. But that’s just from an educational perspective. The Commodores have such a smooth, soulful sound because they have been working together for so long. Just look at some of their albums, even after Lionel Richie left. They’re really smooth. And that kind of smoothness only comes with excellent teamwork.”

JoCo’s pick: “Murray State, being a newly formed college run by Bill Murray, just doesn’t have it together yet.”


The matchup: Xavier Musketeers (#6) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (#11)

JoCo’s take: “Wow. Okay. Can I ask you, is the ‘golden gopher’ a euphemism for penis?”

JoCo’s pick: “I’m going to have to go with Minnesota just for the sheer audacity of having a metal penis as their mascot. It just shows what kind of rough-and-tumble team they are. They don’t give a shit.”


The matchup: Pittsburgh Panthers (#3) vs. Oakland Golden Grizzlies (#14)

JoCo’s take: “There are no bears right outside of Detroit. So, fake bears, obviously. Oakland’s mascot is a fake bear that doesn’t exist — so, good luck. Also, Pittsburgh is a fantastic city with a really great downtown collection of bars and a lot of ladies walking around, scantily clad, late at night, going to clubs.”

JoCo’s pick: “It’s a city with a well-developed intellect and a lot of sexy ladies, so I’ve got to go with Pittsburgh.”


The matchup: Brigham Young Cougars (#7) vs. Florida Gators (#10)

JoCo’s take: “Recently, when I was shopping for shoes at an online store I will not name, I was looking for Crocs, and they had some Crocs that were Florida Gators Crocs. Honestly, any team that’s got a shoe based on them, they’re obviously doing something right.”

JoCo’s pick: “I’m going to have to go with the Florida Gators on this one. Based on footwear.”


The matchup: Kansas State Wildcats (#2) vs. North Texas Mean Green (#15)

JoCo’s take: “The Mean Green — this is the ecologically-friendly basketball team?”

JoCo’s pick: “I give them props for wanting to save the planet, but really, green technology has not advanced enough to fully replace the old-fashioned fossil fuels. Basically, what we’re talking about is putting a solar car up against a coal-burning locomotive. And I think we know who’s going to win that.”


The matchup: Kentucky Wildcats (#1) vs. East Tennessee State Buccaneers (#16)

JoCo’s take: “I didn’t know there was a lot of swashbuckling going on in eastern Tennessee. This sounds like a case where East Tennessee State is a bunch of poseurs. They’re not really buccaneers. Are they even ocean-going people? No. They’re land-locked.”

JoCo’s pick: “You have some sort of dangerous cat on the other side, I believe? I think the cat is going to take it.”


The matchup: Texas Longhorns (#8) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (#9)

JoCo’s take: “Interesting. Where is Wake Forest again?”

JoCo’s pick: “I’m going to have to give it to the Longhorns on this one. Mostly because Texas frightens me. Even Austin frightens me. I can’t imagine the other team is going to feel any different.”


The matchup: Temple Owls (#5) vs. Cornell Big Red (#12)

JoCo’s take: “I went to an Ivy League school. And I can tell you that Ivy League schools cannot compete in the world of sports. I’ll tell you, the Yale Bulldogs every year had a game against UConn, and the UConn fans always came and made a big show of how they were going to destroy us. They would get drunk and taunt us and stuff. And the Yale people would never really go to the game because it was obvious that they were going to destroy us. So, two very different perspectives there.”

JoCo’s pick: “Anytime there’s an Ivy League team, I’m going to say the Ivy League team is going to lose.”


The matchup: Wisconsin Badgers (#4) vs. Wofford Terriers (#13)

JoCo’s take: “Badgers are bad-ass animals. They burrow. They have claws. And they are tenacious. Of course, terriers were bred to get into tiny holes and dig out animals — you know, hunting dogs that were good inside of a tunnel of earth. Which is obviously the métier of the badger as well.”

JoCo’s pick: “If you think about it, a badger versus a terrier, given that both of them are willing to fight — which I think they are going to be in this case — you have to go badger. I mean, terriers are yappy lap dogs.”


The matchup: Marquette Golden Eagles (#6) vs. Washington Huskies (#11)

JoCo’s take: “Where’s Marquette? Milwaukee? I think that university is right next to Hasenpfeffer Incorporated. I’m sure that’s a joke Milwaukeeans have not heard in a long time.”

JoCo’s pick: “I have to say, Seattle is a lovely city. I like Seattle quite a bit. But I hope you’ll pardon me for saying so, it is a soft city. There are a lot of hippies there because it’s near Portland. I don’t have anything against soft cities — or hippies, for that matter. But if you want a rough-and-tumble team that’s really going to shake it up, you’re going to need to look somewhere other than in the hippie population.”


The matchup: New Mexico Lobos (#3) vs. Montana Grizzlies (#14)

JoCo’s take: “I don’t know anything about Montana. I don’t know if there are actually bears there. It sure sounds like there could be. Montana sounds wilderness-y.”

JoCo’s pick: “Based on terrain, I’ve got to give it to Montana. The rugged terrain that I’m imagining Montana might be seems like more rugged a terrain than I’m imagining New Mexico might be. Desert and scrub grass — if you have water, your problem is pretty much solved. But water’s not going to save you in freaking Montana. Or in basketball for that matter.”


The matchup: Clemson Tigers (#7) vs. Missouri Tigers (#10)

JoCo’s take: “You have a South Carolina tiger versus a Missouri tiger. Man, that’s tough. That’s a tough one. I think the only way to tell them apart may be with the names of each school’s fight song.” [Note: Clemson’s is “Tiger Rag”; Missouri’s is “Fight, Tiger.”]

JoCo’s pick: “I’m sure ragtime music was very scary music at some point but now it is no longer frightening — it is an antique style of music. Based on their fight songs, Missouri’s tiger has the edge.”


The matchup: West Virginia Mountaineers (#2) vs. Morgan State Bears (#15)

JoCo’s take: “Think about it: The Mountaineers have been up in the mountains for a long time. They haven’t felt the touch of a woman in while. So, when they come down to Buffalo [note: this is where the game will be played] and see these sexified Bears — even though they’re men — they’re going to be in trouble.”

JoCo’s pick: “The sexiness of the Bears is going to overwhelm the Mountaineers.”


The matchup: Duke Blue Devils (#1) vs. Arkansas–Pine Bluff Golden Lions (#16)

JoCo’s take: “Arkansas–Pine Bluff is way down in the standings, aren’t they? And they’re up against a team I’ve heard of?”

JoCo’s pick: “Duke.”


The matchup: California Golden Bears (#8) vs. Louisville Cardinals (#9)

JoCo’s take: “Why so much ‘golden’? Why not just ordinary bears for once?”

JoCo’s pick: “That’s not even going to be a bloody fight. The Bears are going to eat the Cardinals — whole.”


The matchup: Texas A&M Aggies (#5) vs. Utah State Aggies (#12)

JoCo’s take: “Ooh, it’s Aggie versus Aggie, just like in the Civil War.”

JoCo’s pick: “Agricultural & Mechanical has the edge. It sounds like the other team is a bunch of Luddites. It’s fine if you want to focus on agriculture, but you cannot deny that you’re going to get more out of a technologically-advanced farm. You’re going to get more tomatoes. They might not be the most delicious tomatoes, but you’re going to get more tomatoes. From the tomato yield alone, I’ve got to give it to Texas A&M.”


The matchup: Purdue Boilermakers (#4) vs. Siena Saints (#13)

JoCo’s take: “Wasn’t there another Purdue team in there? No? Oh, wait — I’m thinking of Lehigh.”

JoCo’s pick: “This is another instance where my judgment is a bit clouded because I’ve heard of Purdue. It seems like if I’ve heard of it, they’ve got something going for them. Siena I’ve never heard of, and I live in New York State. So in this case, I’m going to say that Siena is going to get burnt.”


The matchup: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (#6) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (#11)

JoCo’s take: “I know Notre Dame is going to be the sentimental favorite here because of the movie Rudy.

JoCo’s pick: “But I have to go with the Old Dominion Monarchs because that sounds like an awesome mascot. Is it a guy in enormous robes wearing a pince-nez? That should be their mascot, if not. You know what? I’m picturing the Burger King as their mascot. I don’t care who is more likely to win, but I want that dude to win.”


The matchup: Baylor Bears (#3) vs. Sam Houston State Bearkats (#14)

JoCo’s take: “Aren’t there cartoons about half-bears, half-cats?”

JoCo’s pick: “Just for the sheer inventiveness of the half-bear, half-cat, I’ve got to give it to the Bearkats and their adorable ‘k.’”


The matchup: Richmond Spiders (#7) vs. Saint Mary’s Gaels (#10)

JoCo’s take: “I was just in Richmond, Virginia. I had a fantastic show in Richmond. What a lovely city and a warm, loving audience. It’s hard to believe that they are imperiled by spiders. I didn’t know there were so many spiders in Richmond.”

JoCo’s pick: “The fact that the people of Richmond seem to be able to live ordinary lives even though there’s got to be millions and millions of spiders all around menacing them makes me think that they’re going to be victorious.”


The matchup: Villanova Wildcats (#2) vs. Robert Morris Colonials (#15)

JoCo’s take: “[Laughing] The Robert Morris Colonials? That just makes me laugh, I don’t know why. [Pause] Oh, Robert Morris is in Pittsburgh, you say? So these are sexy Colonials. Sexy Colonials out clubbing, with the heels, the dress, the drunken stumble.”

JoCo’s pick: “Even so, the Colonials don’t stand a chance in this day and age. To me, a colonial is sort of an old-school guy who wears some sort of old-fashioned hat from the olden days in the United States. No.”


Coulton also quickly filled in the rest of his bracket for us — here are his shocking picks. Fear the Spiders!


6 thoughts on “Jonathan Coulton Fills Out His First March Madness Bracket

  1. I honestly don’t care about basketball any more than JoCo does but I laughed so hard I cried reading this. Thanks for a great article that showed up on a crappy day and made me smile.

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