Bracketoology – Is It an Art or a Science?

March Madness!  You bet.  What a great time for college basketball.  And each year, the TV coverage gets better.  This year, every game was on TV.  Even in earlier years when the games were only on CBS, they made sure they would switch over and catch the exciting ending of every game.  My son, Paul, even schedules his vacation days so he catches every minute of the fantastic first week.  So what went wrong for me?  I hope you have a few minutes.

First, I generally don’t get into a pool.  I hate losing.  About the only exciting thing for me is filling out the brackets.  After that, everything goes down hill.  My main frustration is that I am terribly conflicted.  It is my general rule that if I don’t have a dog in the fight, I pull for the underdog (My dog/dog rule).  However, when I filled out my brackets, I usually picked the favorite to win.  So there I am cheering against myself.  This has nothing to do with the glass being half empty.  It’s a zero sum game and if I win, I lose.

But this year, a friend of mine was running a sophisticated pool and I did have a dog in the fight.  So I went against my better judgement and jumped into the pool.  Splash.  I even recorded a couple hours of ESPN bracketing.  I’ll never do that again.  I got more out of the commercials.  Would it surprise you that Digger Phelps likes Notre Dame’s chances?  Dick Vitale liked everybody, baby.  Geez.

VCU was one of my underdog favorites.  I liked their coach and they did well last year.  But, in doing my “research,” I discovered that a lot of “experts” liked Wichita State to go deep.  Wichita State was a five seed and VCU was a 12.  I had never seen Wichita State play, but all the buzz got me excited.  So I scratched out VCU (who, of course, won) and went with Wichita State to not only beat VCU, but also Indiana.  If I picked stock the same way I picked my brackets, I’d be broke.  In fact, during the era, that’s how I did pick my stocks and I lost my shirt.  Some of the stocks I invested in can now only be found in time capsules.

Of course, my alma mater, MIZZOU, was a two seed and picked to go far in the tournament.  I have previously written about what a great team they are and what fun the are to watch (see Fun Ball – MIZZOU B-ball).  They lost in the first round to Norfolk State.  State could do no wrong and we just couldn’t find that spark.  That was my personal disaster and dropped a shroud over the entire tournament.  I looked at Kansas and said to myself, “We beat them.”  I looked at Baylor playing in the Elite Eight and said, “We beat them THREE times.”  It would have been so much fun to see how MIZZOU would have done against a Michigan State or a Louisville.  But it was not to be.  It is easier to say, “Get over it,” than to do it.

My friend, Chet, who is running the bracket pool is so prolific.  He sends out a report after every day’s play.  Charts, lists, diagrams, he does it all.  And so almost every day, I am reminded that I didn’t know and don’t know what I am doing.  Enough!

President Obama picked MIZZOU to be in the final four.  Maybe that is what jinxed it.  Having that guy on your side has got to be trouble.  But with all the help he got, I suspect he did better than I did.  In fact, I did so poorly in my predictions that a number of high level Republicans have approached me and requested that I predict that Obama will be re-elected.

Written by PJ Rice at

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