Monday, March 17, 2014

How To Put Together Your Bracket

Ramblings Post #259
March. Wasn't it supposed to warm about now? Hello? Can I get a little heat up in here. I'd like to thank that California station for their bold musical effort to end winter, but I'll guess we'll just have to move on. Basketball! This used to mean the start of the Atlanta Pro Party Circuit. Ah, the good old days.

My brother is not a sports fan, not really. For years he seemed amazed that I would devote time and attention to following my favorite football team. Only recently has he started following a team of his own, the exact rationale of which I'm not sure, although at one point he articulated his interest as the game being a small metaphor for life: No matter what happened on the last play, you have to line for the next play, etc. He may have another motivation now, but I don't know what it is.

This life long attitude is why I wasn't surprised when he asked me about NCAA brackets a week or so ago. I think he's doing this because in his office, much like in every other office in America, it's a thing you do. Print a bracket, put in $5 bucks, and comment on it going forward. Realizing the truth of the matter, that the lottery has better odds, I've taken a few moments to put together a little primer to get him and all the rest of you interested in donating to office pool started.

Step 1. Watch every college basketball game, keeping track of who did what.

I realize that this step is long and tedious, and at this point will require a time machine, two cases of red bull, a unlimited pizza account and a cray supercomputer. Since this particular step may prove a bit pricey and difficult for most, so let's chuck this one and start over. But, if you can afford it, get the time machine with XM, you're gonna be in there a while.

New Step 1.  Print out a bracket.

If you can't find a printable bracket online, you might want to just go ahead and let this go now. Just donate that $5 to the office pool and tell everyone you'll submit it later, then pretend to get busy and forgot. Yeesh, everybody has one. ESPN, CBS Sports, NCAA, Slate, everybody. Okay, I don't have one on here, but I know everyone else does. Just type "printable bracket" into Google. You may need to just type "printable br" and auto fill in will get it.

Step 2. Pretend to do some research.

Traipsing about I found this wonderful tool on HuffPost, which also has a printable bracket. It's a research thing type bracket dealie whatsits that lets you decide how much weight to give to all the pertinent factors - experts, seeding, defense, rebounding - and to all the non-pertinent factors - tuition, graduation rates, etc. Play with it, it's kinda fun.

Or you could read through an ESPN, USA Today or Sporting News article to see who is hurt on which team, who looks hot for the tourney and who is off their game right now. Expert opinions are crucial in pretending to know what you don't know. It won't matter, but do it anyway. Reading is fundamental.

Step 3. Fill in your bracket.

Yes, just fill it in. Let your pretend research guide your hand. Just remember that #1 seeds always beat #16 seeds. Well, there is always a first time they might lose, but what are the odds? And #2 seeds almost always beat #15 seeds. Almost always. After that it gets, well, I want to say tricky but I'm gonna say easy. Pick the higher seed unless you know the team, in which case pick the team you know, unless you know one of the coaches, then pick the coach. Unless of course you know which team has the more prominent shoe contract, or if you read an article about them, in which case flip a coin. Not rock paper scissors, that would be unscientific. If you know a player or a water-boy, pick that team, unless it's Wednesday and you had fries with lunch, then pick the team with dark colored jerseys. Unless the coach has a G in his name. Now, if it's Tuesday and you use a Mac, pick the team whose mascot comes first in the alphabet, otherwise, you'll need some soup bones, some chicken blood and then draw a circle on the ground with 64 numbers around it. Let me look up the spell you'll need.

Your pretend research should have also revealed a few "bracket busters", teams which nobody expected to win and which ruins cumulative wins by removing a team everyone thought would go far. Actually it won't, I'm just playing. You won't see them either, heck, half their fans won't, but it's nice to pretend you did see it, so claim you meant to pick them, but hedged your pick.

Step #4. Relax. 

If anyone asks how you're doing, you always have to "Go check your brackets." Never have it handy. In reality, the only person paying that close attention after day one is the person running the pool. If it's online, he's not even doing that. Feel free to use the phrase, "I think I got that one" after a victory or loss if anyone asks. No one expects you know all the teams or all your picks.

The weird part is I've actually won my office pool in the past. I don't know how, I was told that I did and I accepted my winnings. Just so you know, the odds of picking a perfect bracket, getting all the teams right, are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. I was nowhere near perfect. You see, you don't have to beat those odds, you have to only get luckier than anyone in your pool. As the tourney proceeds, few of the expected winners are going to have off nights and lose. There will be a Cinderella story that will fizzle out before its all over. But in the end we'll all get to see some pretty good basketball, and that's what counts.  

Barkeep, I'll need a bucket of beers, a thing of nachos, a bowl of peanuts, the wing appetizer, and double order of ribs. I don't know if anyone else wants anything. And no, I'm not leaving for a while.

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