March Madness: Apollo 11 Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Pulling Hard for Villanova

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the moon in July 1969. (Image credit: NASA)

Buzz Aldrin is hoping to do some serious gloating this weekend.

The Apollo 11 moonwalker is taking on ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale in the fourth annual "Allstate March Mayhem Challenge," a competition to see who can pick the most accurate bracket for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The tournament field has been whittled down to its Final Four, who will take the court on Saturday (April 2): Villanova will play Oklahoma, and North Carolina will battle Syracuse.

Aldrin is currently leading Vitale by a point and will triumph if Villanova advances to Monday night's (April 4) title game. If that happens, don't expect a subdued celebration by the iconic former astronaut.

"I'm going to shout from the highest hill if I win," Buzz Aldrin told

If Oklahoma wins, on the other hand, Vitale and Aldrin will end up tied. (Aldrin picked Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan State and North Carolina to reach the Final Four, with Michigan State beating Kansas for the title. Vitale's Final Four is the same, except with North Carolina swapped out for Kentucky; he has Michigan State defeating Oklahoma in Monday's championship game.)

There's nothing personally at stake for either man here except pride. No matter the outcome, the Allstate Insurance Company will make a donation to Space Center Houston and the V Foundation for cancer research on behalf of each man.

The NCAA tournament is famously tough to predict, even for experts such as Vitale. Small, unheralded schools routinely upset basketball powerhouses (as happened this year when 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State beat second-seeded Michigan State).

If Aldrin wins, Vitale may chalk it up to beginner's luck. This is the first year that Aldrin — who in July 1969 became the second person ever, after Apollo 11 crewmate Neil Armstrong, to walk on the moon — has filled out an NCAA tourney bracket.

"I didn't know what a bracket was," Aldrin said. "I'm an engineer, and I know that we have to bracket certain things so that they don't fall apart."

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.