March Madness

To piggyback off my wings and March article last week, I thought I’d take a few quick moments to share some thoughts on filling out a bracket for this year’s March Madness, NCAA basketball tournament.  The 68-team field is set, seeds are doled out, and everyone is scrambling to make their picks.

I have been filling out brackets for over 20 years!  Never missing a single March.  I love doing it.  It is exciting and fun and makes the entire tournament more engaging.  I also think that the it creates such a sense of community or sports unity with the folks that I have done it with.

For years, I ran my office pool. I loved managing the brackets and doing the math.  For some goofy reason I was resistant to moving the bracket management to the online automated format.  I’d lug the big envelope around for three weeks and highlight and calculate standings.

As I am sitting here mulling this year’s bracket, trying to convince myself Duke is going to lose and UNC is going to win it all, I thought I’d share some of the madness behind my methodology over the years.

Straight Chalk

Top seeds are top seeds for a reason.  They are the best teams in the country.  Duke, Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky are the blue bloods and they should not be overlooked.  Picking the higher rated seed is hardly the worst approach. It may be boring, and quick, but the higher seed usually wins.  This doesn’t mean all four number one seeds will be in the Final Four, but the odds are certainly there.

The Wise Guys

Speaking of odds.  The odds-makers seem to always know.  ALWAYS. An easy method is to simply go with their choices.  This does not always mean the higher seed is the odds on favorite. But the sports-books make millions because they are usually closer than the average person. If you not sure how to do this, look at the -/+ number next to a game.  For example, if the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets read with a -11 next to their name. This means the odds-makers favor them by 11 points to win.  Therefore, they are the odds favorite.  I won’t get into all the gambling elements here.

What About the Madness

Upsets will happen.  The 5-12 seemingly always happens.  But as the years have gone on, you have more double-digit seeded teams winning at least one game, some two or three.  For the first time EVER last year we had a 16 over a 1. Sorry Hoos. I wouldn’t bank on this happening again. A little nugget for you here when looking at the upsets.  Pay attention to who received an automatic bid for winning their tournament versus an at-large bid from a major conference. This may give a little guidance on the selections too.

Outside the Box

Now for the fun approach.  People have used all sorts of wild and unique strategies to fill out their bracket.  One of the most fun is the mascot match-up approach. In essence, you pick the mascot who would win in some fantasy fight if the two creatures met on the street.  I know this sounds nuts, but check out this article where they have actually gone into a little more statistical analysis to guide your madness.

At the end of the day, you cannot predict it.  Yes, someone will claim to know it all win they when your office pool.  But let’s all admit it, they got lucky. At least that is what I say when I never win.  But I love filling my bracket out. And will continue forever. Hopefully some of these tips will help you win yours.  Or even entice you to fill one out for the first time. Good luck to everyone and Go Heels!

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