By Jimmy Hyams
One thing you should know about Joe Lunardi: He has a great sense of humor.
Speaking at the Big Orange Tip-Off Club on Wednesday, Lunardi joked about his height, about the genesis of bracketology, about Kentucky fans and about an NFL owner.
But he didn’t joke about his admiration for the Tennessee Vols.
Lunardi, who began doing bracketology after the 1994 season while attending a Sweet 16 in Knoxville, has been impressed with UT all season long.
And while he recently moved Tennessee off the No. 1 seed line, he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Vols finish strong.
“It’s absolutely not out of the question,’’ Lunardi said about UT possible regaining a No. 1 seed – something the program has never done.
Lunardi also said seeding doesn’t matter as much as matchups and location for NCAA tournament games. He pointed out that in the 34 years the NCAA tournament has fielded at least 64 teams, only once have all four No. 1 seeds make the Final Four (2008 – North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, Kansas).
Odds suggest it won’t happen this year, either.
Lunardi said the origin of projecting brackets started in Knoxville in 1994 when he attended NCAA Tournament regional and he tried to figure out a way to forecast brackets and monetize the process. He had published an 80-page magazine featuring each tournament team, but that required writers previewing over 100 teams. They got paid whether those teams made the field or not.
That led to expenses exceeded profits.
So Lunardi decided he would project the field to cut expenses.
It led to him being called Mr. Bracketology and a gig on ESPN.
Not bad for an athletic department employee at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia who is a radio color analyst for St. Joe’s games.
Lunardi says he studies brackets longer and more often than the NCAA Selection Committee members, which is one reason he has average missing only 1.5 teams per year in the field over the past 25 years.
After the dust settles on the brackets, Lunardi said he often sees why the committee didn’t pick the teams he projected but he also said are times when he thought “they were complete idiots.’’
In other notes:
*Lunardi told the audience at about 12:40 that he was going to tweet that he was thinking about dropping Kentucky from a 1 seed to a 2 after a “lackluster performance’’ in a win over Arkansas on Tuesday night, dateline KNOXVILLE
Lunardi was besieged by Kentucky fans upset with his “projection,’’ one saying he is ranked “the 64th best bracketologist for a reason,’’ another saying “when we (Kentucky) beat Tennessee Saturday, you can eat that crow.’’. Another: “Nothing this man says should be taken seriously.’’
*Lunardi said he expects eight from the SEC to make the field. He told me it will be harder to project the NCAA field this year because the NCAA is using a NET formula, instead of the RPI, but he said he thinks he has figured out the NET formula.
*Lunardi said one ESPN producer called him at halftime of a game in which a No. 1 seed was losing and wanted to know if Lunardi would update his bracket. Lunardi said no, adding they don’t give out the Lombardi Trophy at halftime “no matter where Robert Kraft had breakfast.’’
*Lunardi said he dropped Duke from the No. 1 overall seed to No. 3 after losing Tuesday night to Virginia Tech but he expects Duke to remain a 1 seed. He said Duke is “really good’’ without Zion Williamson but “head and shoulders’’ better than the field with him.