Let’s check how you did last weekend:
11 Minnesota over 6 UCLA
12 Oregon over 5 Oklahoma State
12 Ole Miss over 5 Wisconsin
12 California over 5 UNLV
13 La Salle over 4 Kansas State
14 Harvard over 3 New Mexico
15 FGCU (I don’t even know what that stands for) over 2 Georgetown.
Got all those? Ok then you also must have gotten:
9 Wichita State over 1 Gonzaga
12 Oregon over 4 St. Louis
15 FGCU over 7 San Diego State.
This was the year you finally picked a 15 to reach the Sweet Sixteen right?
I was once like you. I lived by laws like:
Pick one of the 13s and one of the 12s in the first round (that’s actually not quite frequent enough for the 12s).
Never pick all the 1s to reach the Final Four (only happened once) but pick one of them to win it all (1 seeds account for over 60% of champions).
Just don’t pick the overall #1 seed, they’ve only won the whole thing five times.
Pick your Final Four from among the top 4 seeds. Seeds 1 through 4 account for nearly 90% of Final Four spots.
Here’s one I find fascinating: If you’re going to pick a low seed to go deep, pick an 8 or an 11. 7, 9, 10, and 12 seeds win more often in the round of 64, but none of them have reached the Final Four*. Only one 12 seed has ever reached the Elite Eight (Missouri in 2002, I picked that one NBD) but five 11s have made the Elite Eight and three have reached the Final Four.
Those rules would actually have served you just fine this year; that is if you could figure out which upsets and chalks to pick and that’s a big IF. Despite knowing and loving all of these beautiful statistics, I often struggled to build a bracket of mind blowing accuracy. The 11 I had in the Sweet Sixteen would get killed in the first round. The 3 that I pegged for the Final Four would get bumped by the 11 I should have backed. The 2 that should have been motivated by being snubbed a deserved 1 seed would come out flat against a 10 and the 1 that shouldn’t have had their seed would roll on into the title game. My unwillingness to pick Duke past the sweet sixteen has given me great joy and horrible agony on a couple occasions. As has my bias for Pac 12 schools.
2005 was a rough year for my bracket
A few years ago I realized that my bracket, the reason I lived for March Madness, was really the source of my March Sadness. If I had filled out a bracket this year I’d by miserable right now. I would have put Gonzaga in at least the Elite Eight. I would have been right about Cal and Oregon only because I’m a West Coast homer. I would have picked some other upsets too, just the wrong ones. Like Montana, a team with some tournament experience, over Syracuse, whom I find morally offensive. The last thing I’d heard about Syracuse was how they lost historically bad to Georgetown. Which might have also lead me to believe that Georgetown was going to make their first deep run since 2007. Syracuse beat Montana worse than Georgetown beat Syracuse, and Georgetown got dropped by Florida Gulf Coast (I looked it up).
My bracket probably would not have been too bad just yet. My likely Elite Eight and Final Four would only really be missing Gonzaga and I probably would have picked Kansas to win it all. Which probably means we’ll have Duke, Ohio State, Florida, and Syracuse. It would be the third time that none of the 1 seeds reached the Final Four and just the sort of thing the universe does to torture anyone who takes their bracket too seriously to put a mystery 15 seed in the last sixteen.
Now I don’t begrudge anyone from the fun of tournament time. Just like some people can actually have just a couple drinks and then stop, I’m sure some people can pick a bracket and then not worry about how accurate they were. I haven’t met anyone like that but I’m sure they exist. My girlfriend barely watches her alma mater Gonzaga’s games much less any others. When I texted her excitedly on Friday that the 12, 13, and 14 advanced in Gonzaga’s bracket (foolishly thinking this would pave their way to their first Elite Eight since 1999), the response I got was “yeah but my bracket is a mess”. I’m not sure what system she even used to pick teams. I don’t think she knows but she’s still angry that she got it wrong.
As a recovering bracketologist I’ve come to understand that I’m just too competitive to not be homicidally angry when a 13 upsets the 4 that I went out on a limb to pick to win the title. I eventually realized that it was robbing me of the joy of the best post season in the entire world of sports. With the exception of Gonzaga, I’m having a great tournament. Watching double digit seeds get huge upsets is supposed to be fun. It turns out that it is. It only stinks when not predicting it a week before hand means you might have to show up to work dressed like a duck. When you’re under no such Nostradamian pressure the tournament retains all of its entertainment with very little of the agony. Sure I don’t have the vindication of rubbing my office rivals’ noses in my irrefutable genius. But I can just quote some stats they foolishly ignored anytime I need to appear superior.
So next year you might considering joining a Bracketologists Anonymous group. This is a tough time of year for us to get through at first but watching the Gulf Coast Eagles drop the Hoyas makes it a bit easier. If you can’t let go just yet, then this basketball serenity prayer might help you through:
Dr. Naismith, grant me the serenity to accept the upsets I didn’t predict,
The courage to pick a 14 to beat a 3,
And the wisdom to know that none of my favorite teams will reach the Elite Eight.
- This always makes me feel better too.