Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Madness of Rube Goldberg

Why does ESPN allow you 10 brackets for March Madness? I realize I am probably the last person who should be complaining about this, given how much I hate basketball. But I like college basketball, I like choosing, and I like bracket formations, so this annual ordeal is perfect for me, I suppose.

This is only my third year of actually participating in the madness beyond "Oh, is it that time of year again?" My first foray I think has been and will be my best year. With so little knowledge about the sport I wasn't going to be biased by team loyalties or statistics. All I knew was that you never, ever pick the 16 seed to advance. However, the rest of my picks were based on the following criteria:

1. I considered going to the law school on the campus.
2. I recalled the school having some vague association with a good basketball team at some (not necessarily recent) point.
3. I knew someone who went to the school.

I think I actually made it to the Elite 8 with this strategy.

Last year I made the mistake of using prior knowledge and experience to factor into my picks. Granted, there were some early upsets, particularly in Tampa, that pretty much ruined me. It doesn't help if your Final Four pick from a section is knocked out in the second round. I have no confidence in any of my brackets this time around. For example, I called a UNC/Syracuse matchup before the selection process this past Sunday. All my biases are kicking in, as are my past experiences with bracket busters.

What I don't understand, though, is how anyone could fill out 10 brackets. I have my pool bracket, a secondary bracket which I think is at least 70% the same as my pool bracket, and then my experimental brackets. There's the bracket where you pick all the high seeds. There's the bracket where you select the team with the better win-loss record. I did a bracket where I picked the winner based on proximity to Detroit (surprise - Michigan won that bracket).

My favorite bracket, both last year and this year, is the Coin Flip bracket. Heads: Top line advances; Tails: Bottom line advances (exception: 1 seed advances to second round). This has led to a semi-bizarre Final Four:

*Pittsburgh (1) - The East is the most sensible bracket with Pitt, Xavier, VCU, and Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.

*Wake Forest (4) - Okay, this isn't that unlikely, and I have Wake Forest advancing to this point in at least one other bracket.

*Western Kentucky (12) - The South is the most bonkers section of the bracket. UNC loses to Butler in the second round. Western KY beats Akron in the second round. Clemson takes on S F Austin after unseating Oklahoma. The good news is if even half of this turns out to be correct, I will be raking in the points.

*Cornell (14) - Memphis out in round one, UConn out in round two, and that's just two results. The only reason the West isn't as insane as the South is because BYU, Washington and California make it to Sweet Sixteen. If the South is the Bracket Buster, the West is Upset Central.

The finals are between Wake Forest and Western Kentucky(!) with Wake Forest taking it all.

So how are your brackets looking? Are you using all 10? What sort of filler brackets are happening?

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