Bubblehead's Basketball Bracketology Bonanza!
Bracketology: The art and science (mostly art) of predicting the results of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. This is a word used only in March of each year.
The Men's NCAA Basketball brackets have been released, so it's time for that time-honored tradition of filling out your brackets for the office pool. (By "pool", of course, I mean that people predict the winners of the games, and compare them with their friend's predictions. At the end of the tournament, people have had such a good time comparing their brackets that they spontaneously give presents, often $5 cash gifts, to their friends. Coincidentally, the person who did the best seems to be the only one to receive these out-of-the-blue gifts.)
I'm here to provide you with a sure-fire way to finish in the top three of your office pool. What, you may ask, makes me qualified to give such advice? Well, I'm one of the approximately one-tenth of 1% of the public whose school won the tournament the year I graduated. Plus, I've participated in enough pools that I've come to understand certain truths about how it all works.
There are two schools of thought about how to do well in the pools. Some say that you should research all the teams, look at past trends, and carefully analyze all the games to determine who has the best chance of winning. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of time, and doesn't really give you a better shot of winning than if you follow my advice.
(Note: There are some methods of picking the tournament which don't do as well. My daughter's habit of picking the team with the "coolest name" means she ends up with Xavier vs. Winthrop in the final. I'm also hesitant to recommend the "mascot fight" method -- deciding which mascot would win in a fight, with special weight given to humanoids with supernatural powers. Using this method, the Arizona State Sun Devils would always win if they make the tournament. One method used to rank mascots is this: (paranormal phenomenon > natural disasters > guys with guns > poisonous insects > animals with teeth > animals with claws > guys without guns > trees) < ninjas/pirates.)
It's clear to me that the only way to pick enough of the games to win the office pool is to get lucky -- so, if you have 20 people in the pool, and since skill isn't a factor, you've got a 5% chance of winning. If the pool gives "gifts" to the top three finishers, though, my method is almost certain to get you one of those top three spots.
There's a lot of talk about "a 12 seed always beats a 5 seed in the first round" (something like 19 of the last 21 years) and "a 13 through 15 almost always wins a game". The thing is, it's a crapshoot about which lower seed will pull off the big upset. The only thing you can be sure of is that it won't be the one that everyone is predicting -- so this year, #12 Texas A&M will not beat #5 Syracuse. Your odds of picking the right one aren't too good, and when you do pick the wrong one, now you've missed two games -- the one you picked, and the real upset winner you didn't pick. Here's how to get around this problem:
In all games (except 8/9 games), pick the higher seed. Do this all the way through the tournament up to the regional finals, where you have all the 1 seeds playing all the 2 seeds. Will you get them all right? No. Will you do better than almost everyone else who picked a lot of upsets? Almost guaranteed. Resist the urge to stray from this formula -- you're almost sure to lose. (I actually won't be taking my own advice, since I'll have my alma mater, 4 seed Kansas, reaching the Final. I won't pick them to win, though, since I've picked them to win every year since 1990, and they haven't -- I figure maybe me picking them has been the reason they haven't won.) From there, you can pick whoever you want, but lean more towards the 1 seeds. The only thing not to do is have Duke playing Connecticut in the Final -- the #1 and #2 in the final regular season poll met in the Final last year for the first time in forever, and it won't happen two years in a row.
For the special case of the 8/9 games, the important thing is to take all the 8 seeds, or all the 9 seeds. Trying to mix and match leads to nothing but trouble. You'll probably end up 2-2 there, but that's better than 0-4. (Of note, the 9 seeds have actually been winning more of the 8/9 games lately.)The important thing, though, is to have fun... and use easily erasable pencil when filling out your brackets.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk!