Bracketology: Three Ways to Pick ‘Em

The 2013 Final Four takes place in Atlanta (Photo/Gadome)


This is the time that college basketball fans crave. It is a time when fans get to witness March Madness and wait in anticipation for the insanity of the NCAA Tournament. With the Division I championship on the line comes the fun and uncertainty of bracketology. According to statisticians, more people fill out brackets, than eligible voters headed to the polls in last year’s election. Each year, people of all ages try to accurately pick the winners of each game in the tournament, trying to understand the madness and pick, not only the supposedly easy game, but also the eventual upsets.

Most people filling out their brackets for either a competitive office pool or friendly contest between friends analyze the statistics of each team. People attempt to look at the records, points/game, and all sorts of various stats to predict each game’s winner. Of course, all this is a sure route to failure, as it leads to one taking the chalk. It is very rare in college basketball today that all four number one seeds would ever make the Final Four, in fact, it has only happened once (2008). This year the AP No. 1 team has changed constantly as teams continue to get upset every week and the same will be true in the NCAA Tournament. By using stats to pick the winners, one then ignores the possibility of the upset, which can dramatically alter one’s bracket. One upset to a bracket can quickly unravel all your theories on bracketology and bring your chances of winning your bracket contest to a screeching halt.

The next method to the mystery of bracketology is to pick the occasional upset, with the challenge being to balance a few favorites in the tournament that you seem positive could survive and advance throughout the tourney with a Cinderella. This is usually a very sound method as it gives you a few hopeful contestants to push through your bracket, while also allowing you to try to predict the unpredictable. However, if you pick the wrong upsets, or even worse if your Final Four favorites themselves get upset early in the tournament, that bracket you put so much time into is busted. In addition, you’ve ignored Cinderella’s run past the round of 32. This team squeaks into the tournament as a 9 or 10 seed and makes a run through the bracket, upsetting each team they encounter. Every year, bracketologists convince themselves that there cannot be another Cinderella team this year, but there always is.

Or, you could toss the above out the window and just pick teams for no particular other than a simple got feeling or a dislike of a certain team. Ironically, this method can produce some great results but can also cause many awful brackets. In 2010, No. 9 seed Northern Iowa beat No. 1 Kansas in the second round of the tourney. With the exception of the few people who decided to randomly pick teams without any knowledge of Kansas’s dominance during the season, UNI’s win was a shocker.

Bracketology is a science, a madness, and just plain insanity. Brackets are created through a variety of methods in the hopes of picking each winner correctly. However, all can be for not with one simple upset that the NCAA Tournament always produces.

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