Bracketology 101: The Study of Madness

With the March Madness tournament nearing closer and closer, and more teams punching their tickets to the tournament each day, I have decided to start teaching my own class; I am also happy to inform you that everyone is accepted into the class. There’s no homework, quizzes, or tests (isn’t that nice?) and the main focus will be solely on learning the course content. Welcome to class.

Course Description

Hello, I am your professor Austin Lane and welcome to Bracketology 101. The NCAA Division 1 Men’s basketball tournament over time has developed into a lottery ticket for sports fans and non-fans alike. It has other names, such as March Madness or the Big Dance, and rightfully so. It stands as one of the major tournaments around the world annually. In this class we will be investigating the history, strategy, and beauty that make up bracketology. We will dive deeply into how to fill out your bracket and also the influence this event has on people throughout the country. This class sadly does not fulfill a general education requirement, although it should. However, it is the prerequisite to fulfilling your degree in bragging rights.

Class Schedule

This class will meet only once and will be divided into three equally important chapters.

Chapter 1: Historically Important Statistics of March Madness

Chapter 2: Strategies to Filling Out Your Bracket

Chapter 3: The Beauty of March

Let’s begin.

Chapter 1: Historically Important Statistics of March Madness

9.2 quintillion. That is roughly how many different ways you can fill out one bracket of winners and losers. That’s a nine, a two, and 17 zeroes after that. To put that into perspective, the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, has made about .000000072 percent of that... money wise that is. So are your chances of filling out a perfect bracket impossible? No… but pretty much yes. It’s odds are so low that completing a perfect bracket has had it’s perks historically, such as Warren Buffet’s prize last season of one million dollars a year for life for anyone who can do it, or Yahoo’s prize for a perfect bracket of five million dollars in 2008.

25. The longest streak of wins recorded in an online competition in 2016 before being busted. That’s not even halfway to the total of 63 games you have to choose correctly. Most people will find themselves out of the running merely four or five games into the tournament, and most of the time the people that get lucky enough to start their predictions hot end up cold by the end. The hardest part most years isn’t the first or second round, but being spot on in the Sweet Sixteen and on. The brackets that find themselves on the brink of not quite being ripped up and thrown away after day two are the same brackets that have a chance to be at the top of the leaderboard come the final four.

Chapter 2: Strategies to Filling Out Your Bracket

The best part about the tournament is it’s unexpected twists and turns along the way. While you do want to make sure your bracket is unique and different than everyone else’s bracket, you still want to follow a couple rules when filling one out. Here’s a couple rules I incorporate each year.

Do not pick a 16 seed. 16 seeds have never, ever won a game versus the one seed in the history of March Madness, and taking a 16 seed is a sure way to trash the perfectness of every bracket. Just because they have never won does not mean they have higher odds to do it this time around (see Gambler’s Fallacy.)

Pick a 12 seed. The five seed in the tournament seems like a friendly one to most teams, but most teams do not want the five seed due to this scary fact - a 12 seed has beaten a five seed at least once in each tourney since the 2007 season. Last year two 12 seeds took out their five seeded opponents in the first round.

Do not make your Final Four all one seeds. While it may seem obvious, a lot of people make the mistake of putting the highest seeded teams to go the furthest in each portion of the bracket. This is not the case 99 times out of 100. Before picking who is in your championship game based on seeding remember this - in 2014 the championship game was between an eight seed and a nine seed.

Chapter 3: The Beauty of March

We all know the story of Cinderella. It is the ultimate story of proving people wrong. It’s being given a chance and with no one believing in you, you capitalize. The true beauty of the bracket year in and year out is the Cinderella story team that emerges. Every year there is that one team that busts brackets nationwide and makes sure no one’s perfect. It’s the team you hate for ending your streak of games picked correctly, but the team you love because of it’s execution and clutch performance when it matters the most. Last year that team was 10th seed Syracuse University. They started their run upsetting seven seed Dayton by 19 points. They would have usually played against a two seed in the next round, but another huge upset also occurred; 15 seed Middle Tennessee State beat two seed Michigan State. Syracuse would beat them and move on to the Sweet 16, something not many 10 seeds can accomplish, but most wrote them off as lucky. They would end up playing another low seeded team in Gonzaga and beating them. Sports fans around the country agreed it was one of the easiest roads to the Elite 8 they had seen for a 10 seed, and that their luck would run out against Virginia, a one seed that was tearing up opponents. Here’s where the beauty part kicks in. Syracuse had built up some kind of magical momentum, and it showed against Virginia; beating them 68-62 to go to the Final Four. They would go on to lose to North Carolina, but it further proved that the bracket is unpredictable, no matter what your strategy is. Pick a team that you think could do something similar this year and maybe, just maybe if you pick right, you’ll see your bracket skyrocketing to the top of the leaderboards as each round passes.

I’ll be filling out my bracket to the best of my ability this season and hope to make it onto the leaderboards for the first time. Thank you for your participation in Bracketology 101 and to all of my students; good luck.

Source: Google, labeled for reuse

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