03.20.12

Celebrity March Madness 2012: How to Pick NCAA Tournament Winners

Not sure who to root for in Monday’s NCAA final? Michael Solomon's celebrity bracket shakes up the final March Madness pairing: It's Ashley Judd (Kentucky) versus Paul Rudd (Kansas).

The NCAA Final Four has come down to a dream celebrity matchup—Judd vs. Rudd.

Ashley Judd’s beloved Kentucky Wildcats will face Paul Rudd’s alma mater, the Kansas Jayhawks, in Monday’s title game. Both stars are huge fans of their respective school teams—Judd is in New Orleans for the Final Four, and Rudd went to Madison Square Garden (along with Kansas fan Jason Sudeikis) to watch the Jayhawks play Kentucky last November. (The Wildcats won 75-65.)

So what’s the pick? Judd’s Wildcats have been favored to win the tournament since it started. (And they opened as a 6.5-point betting favorite over Kansas.) They have a lot of talent—including the best player in the country, Anthony Davis—and have only lost two games all season. Meanwhile, Rudd’s Jayhawks haven’t played superb basketball over the past two weeks, but they had a dramatic comeback victory Saturday night in the Final Four against Ohio State. In other words, they’re peaking at the right moment.

But let’s let their movies decide this: Obviously you have to love a guy who once said I Love You, Man. But remember, Judd starred in A Time to Kill.

Prediction: Ashley Judd.

The Daily Beast's Celebrity March Madness NCAA Bracket 2012

SWEET SIXTEEN PREVIEWS

A lot of March Madness brackets got busted early because of some opening round upsets but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to make some adjustments.

With the Sweet Sixteen a few days off, here’s a preview of the next round in the NCAA Tournament, based on their celebrity alumni.

(1) Ashley Judd, Kentucky vs. (4) Jane Pauley, Indiana

Scouting report: Jane Pauley, like Indiana basketball, has been a class act for years. But in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Ashley Judd’s Kentucky Wildcats are still the favorite to win it all.

(3) Willie Nelson, Baylor vs. (10) John Boehner, Xavier

Scouting report: Could this matchup be any more strange politically? Willie’s Baylor Bears were expected to make it this far—they could even be a Final Four team—but Boehner’s Xavier is the real X-factor. Still, in true Willie Nelson fashion, expect Baylor to smoke Xavier.

(1) James Caan, Michigan State vs. (4) Mitch McConnell, Louisville

Scouting report: No doubt about it, when it comes to politics, Mitch McConnell plays hard. But have you seen The Godfather? In other words, neither Michigan State nor Louisville are going to go quietly in this game. Slight edge to Caan whacking McConnell.

(3) Chris Farley, Marquette vs. (5) Erin Andrews, Florida

Scouting report: Perhaps the toughest game in the Sweet Sixteen to pick. How do you not go with Chris Farley, who years after his death is still hilarious to watch? On the other hand, there’s ESPN’s Erin Andrews. Even die-hard Farley fans love her. Jump ball here.

(1)Bob Costas, Syracuse vs. (4) Dick Cheney, Wisconsin

Scouting report: Admittedly, Bob Costas’s Syracuse team is not as strong as it was before tournament began, having lost Fab Melo to injury. And someone like Dick Cheney would just love to prey on that kind of weakness. No doubt his Wisconsin Badgers will, but will it be enough to crush the Orange?

(6) George Clooney, Cincinnati vs. (2) James Thurber, Ohio State

Scouting report: No doubt you’re saying to yourself, “How do I not go with Clooney? He’s the Sexiest Team Alive.” Especially when you look at the other side of the bracket and see bookish James Thurber. So here’s how—Thurber created Walter Mitty, a character who dreamed big. And the Ohio State can play big. In this intra-Ohio match-up, the Buckeyes should do to Cincinnati what Jean Dujardin did to Clooney on Oscar night.

(1) Andy Griffith, North Carolina vs. (13) Matt Lauer, Ohio

Scouting report: So you’ve got Matlock versus Matt Lauer. And even though Andy Griffith’s Tar Heels may be without their best player for the rest of the tournament—(John Henson has a fractured wrist)—they should still be able to stop the Today show host’s Ohio Bobcats from seeing tomorrow. Then again, Cinderellas never want to leave the Big Dance.

(2) Paul Rudd, Kansas vs. (11) Zach Galifianakis, North Carolina State

Scouting report: A comedy classic. And it should play out just like their onscreen personas. On one side you have the always dependable Rudd—meaning the Kansas Jayhwaks are solid performers. On the other is the wild card—N.C. State was not supposed to make it this far. Now consider this—in The Hangover, Galifianakis described himself a “one-man wolfpack.” And that just happens to be N.C. State’s mascot. And wolves probably loooove to eat jayhawks.

OPENING ROUND PREVIEWS

As with last year, you don’t have to know a thing about college basketball to win your NCAA office pool. All you have to know is which celebrity you like better. Simply replace each team in the bracket with a famous alumnus (or dropout) from that school, and you’re on your way to March Madness glory. In other words, do you prefer George Clooney (Cincinnati) or Matthew McConaughey (Texas) in the opening round? Or think Regis Philbin (Notre Dame) can make John Boehner (Xavier) cry? And who do you like in this classic TV newsman battle: 60 Minutes legend Mike Wallace (Michigan) vs. the Today show’s Matt Lauer (Ohio). Let the stars be your guide on the road to the Final Four.

A lot of March Madness brackets got busted early because of some opening round upsets but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to make some adjustments.

With the Sweet Sixteen a few days off, here’s a preview of the next round in the NCAA Tournament, based on their celebrity alumni.

(1) Ashley Judd, Kentucky vs. (4) Jane Pauley, Indiana

Scouting report: Jane Pauley, like Indiana basketball, has been a class act for years. But in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Ashley Judd’s Kentucky Wildcats are still the favorite to win it all.

(3) Willie Nelson, Baylor vs. (10) John Boehner, Xavier

Scouting report: Could this matchup be any more strange politically? Willie’s Baylor Bears were expected to make it this far—they could even be a Final Four team—but Boehner’s Xavier is the real X-factor. Still, in true Willie Nelson fashion, expect Baylor to smoke Xavier.

(1) James Caan, Michigan State vs. (4) Mitch McConnell, Louisville

Scouting report: No doubt about it, when it comes to politics, Mitch McConnell plays hard. But have you seen The Godfather? In other words, neither Michigan State nor Louisville are going to go quietly in this game. Slight edge to Caan whacking McConnell.

(3) Chris Farley, Marquette vs. (5) Erin Andrews, Florida

Scouting report: Perhaps the toughest game in the Sweet Sixteen to pick. How do you not go with Chris Farley, who years after his death is still hilarious to watch? On the other hand, there’s ESPN’s Erin Andrews. Even die-hard Farley fans love her. Jump ball here.

(1) Bob Costas, Syracuse vs. (4) Dick Cheney, Wisconsin

Scouting report: Admittedly, Bob Costas’s Syracuse team is not as strong as it was before tournament began, having lost Fab Melo to injury. And someone like Dick Cheney would just love to prey on that kind of weakness. No doubt his Wisconsin Badgers will, but will it be enough to crush the Orange?

(6) George Clooney, Cincinnati vs. (2) James Thurber, Ohio State

Scouting report: No doubt you’re saying to yourself, “How do I not go with Clooney? He’s the Sexiest Team Alive.” Especially when you look at the other side of the bracket and see bookish James Thurber. So here’s how—Thurber created Walter Mitty, a character who dreamed big. And the Ohio State can play big. In this intra-Ohio match-up, the Buckeyes should do to Cincinnati what Jean Dujardin did to Clooney on Oscar night.

(1) Andy Griffith, North Carolina vs. (13) Matt Lauer, Ohio

Scouting report: So you’ve got Matlock versus Matt Lauer. And even though Andy Griffith’s Tar Heels may be without their best player for the rest of the tournament—(John Henson has a fractured wrist)—they should still be able to stop the Today show host’s Ohio Bobcats from seeing tomorrow. Then again, Cinderellas never want to leave the Big Dance.

(2) Paul Rudd, Kansas vs. (11) Zach Galifianakis, North Carolina State

Scouting report: A comedy classic. And it should play out just like their onscreen personas. On one side you have the always dependable Rudd—meaning the Kansas Jayhwaks are solid performers. On the other is the wild card—N.C. State was not supposed to make it this far. Now consider this—in The Hangover, Galifianakis described himself a “one-man wolfpack.” And that just happens to be N.C. State’s mascot. And wolves probably loooove to eat jayhawks.

EAST

(1) Bob Costas, Syracuse vs. (16) Ty Wigginton, UNC-Asheville

Scouting report: On the surface, it might seem as though a sportscaster such as Bob Costas would have no chance against a professional athlete like Philadelphia Phillies infielder Ty Wigginton. But this is a basketball tournament—and Costas has called a lot of games in the NBA and ABA. More important, in the history of the tournament, a No. 16 seed has never upset a No. 1.

(8) Eric Stonestreet, Kansas State vs. (9) Jimmy Buffett, Southern Miss.

Scouting report: How fun is this matchup? The big man from Modern Family going head-to-parrot head with Mr. Margaritaville. Too close to call, you say? That’s why it’s a No. 8 seed against a No. 9. Go with your gut.

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(5) Willie Geist, Vanderbilt vs. (12) Conan O’Brien, Harvard

Scouting report: One school thinks it’s the Harvard of the South while the other is, you know, Harvard. But this isn’t about SAT scores—it’s about Dawn vs. Midnight. Do you believe Morning Joe’s funnyman Willie Geist can topple late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien? (Forget Linsanity; this could be the start of Conan-sanity.) But if Vanderbilt can get past Harvard—and they should—they could go deep in this tournament.

(4) Dick Cheney, Wisconsin vs. (13) Carroll O’Connor, Montana

Scouting report: Mascot-wise this is the Badgers against the Grizzlies. But in simpler terms this is Darth Vader against Archie Bunker. Who do you think is going to come out on top? Give in to the Dark Side.

(6) George Clooney, Cincinnati vs. (11) Matthew McConaughey, UTexas

Scouting report: A classic match-up between a one-tiime and a two-time winner of the Sexiest Man Alive competition. Also, this isn’t the Oscars, and Matthew McConaughey is no Jean DujardinGeorge Clooney ought to get the victory here. But if you like an upset, go with Mr. J.K. Livin’ for the W.

(3) Burt Reynolds, Florida State vs. (14) Neil Cavuto, St. Bonaventure

Scouting report: Burt Reynolds against Fox News’s Neil Cavuto? Talk about unfair and unbalanced. Unless you’re related to Cavuto or an alumnus of St. Bonaventure, Reynolds should wrap up this early win.

(7) Bing Crosby, Gonzaga vs. (10) Don Knotts, West Virginia

Scouting report: Here’s an old-timey contest—the legendary crooner Crosby against Barney Fife himself, Don Knotts. But don’t underestimate the meek Knotts—he could easily upset Bing and take this thing.

(2) James Thurber, Ohio State vs. (15) Tom Clancy, Loyola

Scouting report: Two literary powerhouses in this game—James Thurber against Tom Clancy. While Clancy has obviously sold more books that Thurber, only one of them is in the Modern Library. Clancy is no clear and present danger here.

celeb-ncaa-bracket-teaser

WEST

(1) James Caan, Michigan St. vs. (16) Nicholas Pileggi, LIU

Scouting report: A game for Mafia lovers. It’s Sonny Corleone himself, James Caan, against author Nicholas Pileggi, whose book, Wiseguy, was made into Goodfellas. It’s not personal, it’s just business—Godfather whacks Goodfellas.

(8) Fred Thompson, Memphis vs. (9) Robert Guillaume, St. Louis

Scouting report: Two veteran TV stars here—Law & Order’s Fred Thompson against Benson’s Robert Guillaume. Slight edge to Thompson here, because he was also a U.S. senator while Guillaume only played a fictional governor’s aide.

(5) Brian Urlacher, New Mexico vs. (12) Steve Martin, Long Beach State

Scouting report: It’s a classic brawn vs. brains contest—Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher or comedian Steve Martin? The joke is probably on Steve here.

(4) Mitch McConnell, Louisville vs. (13) Woodrow Wilson, Davidson

Scouting report: These two also squared off last year—but they were representing other teams. (McConnell, the Senate minority leader, went to graduate school at Kentucky, while Wilson graduated from and later became president of Princeton.) But expect the same outcome as 2011. Wilson should get Mitch-slapped.

(6) Jim Varney, Murray State vs. (11) Keith Carradine, Colorado State

Scouting report: If this were the Academy Awards, Keith Carradine would own the late Jim Varney, who is best known for his Ernest movies. But don’t mistake the man and the character—Varney was a prodigy who attended Murray State at 15, while Carradine dropped out of Colorado State after just a semester. Besides, how can you not bet on the guy who once starred in Slam Dunk Ernest?

(3) Chris Farley, Marquette vs. (14) Mitt Romney, BYU

Scouting report: To make it into the tournament, Mitt Romney (BYU) had to say bye-bye to Mr. American Pie Don McLean (Iona) in this week’s First Four. Well, March Madness isn’t the Republican nomination—Romney’s run will end against Chris Farley, who should go fairly far in this field.

(7) Erin Andrews, Florida vs. (10) Katie Couric, Virginia

Scouting report: Do you prefer ESPN or ABC News? If you’re watching the NCAA Tournament, odds are pretty good you’ll go with Andrews to defeat Couric.

(2) Jon Hamm, Missouri vs. (15) Tim Reid, Norfolk State

Scouting report: Another serious mismatch. Don Draper versus a guy who became famous for playing Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati? This is March Madness—Mad Man all the way.

SOUTH

(1) Ashley Judd, Kentucky vs. Cordell Hull, Western Kentucky

Scouting report: Is there a bigger fan of Kentucky basketball than Ashley Judd? For years since she graduated, Judd has been seen in the stands at regular-season Wildcats games as well as March Madness. Can she topple former Secretary of State Cordell Hull? No diplomacy is needed here: Ashley all the way. Possibly to win the whole tournament.

(8) George Washington Carver, Iowa State vs. (9) Meg Ryan, UConn

Scouting report: Another vexing matchup. Do you go with the man who discovered more than 300 uses for the peanut? Or the woman who had the greatest fake orgasm in the history of cinema? Meg Ryan is the defending champion, but this is a whole new year.

(5) Bill Parcells, Wichita State vs. (12) David Baldacci, Virginia Commonwealth

Scouting report: As a football coach, Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. But David Baldacci is a giant in the publishing world. Is this the game where the 12th seed upsets the No. 5?

(4) Jane Pauley, Indiana vs. (13) Brittany Toll, New Mexico State

Scouting report: First important question: Who is Brittany Toll? Well, she is the reigning Miss New Mexico USA, which should be your first clue that she’s no match for Jane Pauley. Like the former Today show host, Indiana has been a powerhouse for decades. A loss to New Mexico State here would be a huge upset.

(6) Jimmy Kimmel, UNLV vs. (11) Trey Parker, University of Colorado

Scouting report: A serious comedy showdown. Do you go with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel or South Park’s Trey Parker? (Yes, Matt Stone is also an alum.) If it helps narrow this decision, consider that Kimmel transferred after a year and never got a degree, while Parker and Stone both graduated—with double majors.

(3) Willie Nelson, Baylor vs. (14) Tom Daschle, South Dakota State

Scouting report: Granted, if Willie Nelson were actually playing for Baylor, he would probably not pass a drug test. But Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, is not without his troubles either. And just as he did when he was nominated for HHS secretary, Daschle will go down when he has to face the music here—in this case, Willie’s music.

(6) Regis Philbin, Notre Dame vs. (10) John Boehner, Xavier

Scouting report: Are you really going to bet against Reege? He’s tan, he’s rested, he’s ready—but wait. Boehner has a pretty great tan himself. And as he’s shown time and again when going one on one with the president, Boehner plays hard. Xavier could easily upset Notre Dame here.

(2) Charlie Rose, Duke vs. (15) Lee Iacocca, Lehigh

Scouting report: There was a time when Lee Iacocca (Lehigh) turned Chrysler around and was one of the most influential men in America. That time was 20 years ago. Charlie Rose also has been around for that long, but the new co-host of the CBS Early Show is still a powerhouse. His alma mater, Duke, isn’t quite as formidable as it has been in past NCAA tournaments, but will make it to the second round and could go deep.

MIDWEST

(1) Andy Griffith, North Carolina vs. (16) Trey Anastasio, Vermont or The Big Bopper, Lamar

Scouting report: Playing Sheriff Andy Taylor on TV earned Andy Griffith a statue in his native North Carolina. It doesn’t matter whether he goes up against Phish’s Trey Anastasio (UVM) or Lamar’s J.P. Richardson, the musician known as the Big Bopper who died in a plane crash with Buddy Holly. You don’t mess with Andy Griffith, people.

(8) Bob Gibson, Creighton vs. (9) Joe Namath, University of Alabama

Scouting report: OK, so Bob Gibson was a Hall of Fame baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Joe Namath made it to the football Hall of Fame playing for the New York Jets. What does all that have to do with basketball? It means this matchup is a jump ball. Go with whichever player you like.

(5) Bill Cosby, Temple vs. (12) Chris Pine, UC-Berkeley or Mark Consuelos, University of South Florida

Scouting report: Before the new Captain Kirk, Chris Pine, or the (potentially) next Regis Philbin, Mark Consuelos, can go up against Bill Cosby’s alma mater, Temple, they have to get past one another. Either way, Cos is an NCAA institution. Both teams will need a lot of prayers to get past Temple.

(4) Mike Wallace, Michigan vs. (13) Matt Lauer, Ohio

Scouting report: Here’s one for journalism fans. Do you go with 60 Minutes legend Mike Wallace or the Today show’s beloved host Matt Lauer? If you treat March Madness like a popularity contest, you go with Lauer here. But if you go by their on-air personalities, Wallace is the pick. He plays hard.

(6) Gregory Peck, San Diego State vs. (11) Zach Galifianakis, NC State

Scouting report: What a tough call. On one hand, you have one of the most legendary actors in Hollywood history. On the other, there’s that beard! March Madness—it practically screams Hangover. If you’re looking for an upset pick, it could be Galifianakis taking down Atticus Finch himself.

(3) Bill Clinton, Georgetown vs. (14) Brad Paisley, Belmont

Scouting report: Two good ol’ boys in this game—one from Arkansas who’s known as “Bubba,” and the other a big country-music star from West Virginia. But honestly, are you really not going to choose a former president over a guy who once sang “Who needs pictures?"

(7) Tony Martin, St. Mary’s vs. (10) Neil Armstrong, Purdue

Scouting report: Tough one here. Tony Martin had a lot of hit songs and made a lot of movies from the 1930s to 1950s. He’s now 99 years old. Impressive, right? Then again, Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. So who do you pick? Here’s one hint: this game is being played on Earth.

(2) Paul Rudd, Kansas vs. (15) Elmore Leonard, Detroit

Scouting report: No doubt about it—Elmore Leonard writes terrific novels that have been made into some great movies. But who doesn’t love Paul Rudd? You’d have to be clueless not to go with the young gun here. And Rudd could go far in this tournament.