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Bracketology basics 2019

March 13, 2019
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It’s that time of year again, that time when even the most casual of sports fans (or even non-fans) start paying attention to the wild and wooly world of college hoops.

That’s right, folks. NCAA tourney time is upon us.

Selection Sunday is just around the corner, so I thought I might try to get some thoughts out there far enough in advance for you fine folks to take advantage when the time comes to fill out your own brackets. Bear in mind - I’m no expert when it comes to the college hardwood.

However, I do have a touch of the degenerate gambler about me.

We all know the drill at this point: you pony up a bit of cash or sign up for a contest and fill out your own copy of the bracket, picking winners all the way through the tournament, up to and including the 2019 champion. If you make the best picks, you win the pot.

Of course, with over 9 quintillion ways to fill out a bracket, the odds are not in your favor. But hey - there’s always a chance.

Here are a few of my (very basic) observations with regards to the sweet science of bracketology.

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The selection committee is smarter than you are

Here’s the thing: I don’t care how many hours a day you spend searching sports websites and the blogosphere and trying to glean informative tidbits that justify picking a 14-seed to upset a 3-seed in the first round. These teams aren’t just seeded at random; the committee consists of experts who have made college basketball their lives.

Seeding almost always wins out, especially in the first two rounds, so trust the selection committee to do their jobs. If you’re dying to make upset picks, check out the 8-9 and 7-10 match-ups. Those games tend to feature teams that are pretty evenly matched.

(Though it is worth noting that there is almost always an upset in a 6-11 or 5-12 game; a roll of the dice here could wind up being very beneficial in your quest for victory.)

Keep an eye on hot streaks

Check out things like conference tournament results; if a highly-touted team made an early exit, they might be due to catch fire. If an overlooked team made a deep run, they might be on a ‘no respect’ kick that could carry them deep into the NCAAs.

On the flip side, that early-exit team might have gone over a week without playing a game. That could lead to some rust. Also, if a team went all-out in the conference tournament, they might not have anything left for the Big Dance.

A corollary to this is media saturation - there’s always going to be one team that becomes a media darling going into the tournament that fails to live up to the hype. Look for third and fourth seeds out of power conferences and listen for buzzy terms like “tradition” and “heart” - it’s fairly common for a flavor of the week to flop when the games are played.

Don’t overthink

Let’s be honest. The true-blue fans and die-hard stat heads rarely win these things. At the end, it’s always the person who filled out his or her bracket in a seemingly illogical manner. Maybe his favorite color is blue, so he picked teams with blue uniforms to win. Maybe she went through and did the whole “Obviously, a tiger would beat a husky” comparative mascot thing. Maybe they just filled it out randomly.

Regardless, the point of this tip is that tips are pointless. You can invest a ton of time and energy, working out match-ups and listening to the experts, only to lose in the end to the dude in the next cubicle who picked his winners by who came first alphabetically. Despite any attempts to be sensible, never forget that it is often the senseless selectors that go deep.

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So it’s time to enjoy the best postseason tournament in all of American sports. Have fun. Fill out your bracket however you like. I know I will.

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