Monday, March 14, 2011

Bracket busting

Am I participating in the great American pastime of filling out NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets?  You bet I am.  And so is everyone in this house.  As Noel and I agonize over our uninformed, gut-level picks disproportionately influenced by whatever mid-major tournaments we happened to tune into over the weekend, Cady Gray used the "I just picked whichever had the lower number" system and Archer   exhibited a system that frankly none of us can understand.

What I don't understand -- what hasn't been explained to my satisfaction -- is how we are supposed to deal with the four play-in games.  The field has been expanded by four teams which play each other for the privilege of meeting the overall first and second seeds.  But now the four overall lowest seeds also play each other, with the winners entering their respective brackets as number 11 or 12 seeds.

I was never fond of having to pretend that the winner of the previous single play-in game had no chance of victory, as symbolized by having to pick a bracket without an actual contestant on that number 16 line.  How can you evaluate the chances of success of a team you can't identify before your brackets are due?  And now the problem has compounded and gotten completely out of control.  Historically, number 12 seeds win over number 5 seeds more than one-third of the time.  Yet I am supposed to know whether to pick that line when I have no idea who will be on it?

Or maybe it's best treated as an invisible pre-pick.  You have to decide which of the two play-in teams will win, then pick according to that choice.  Then why don't I get a point for picking what is now officially termed "the first round"?

The tournament has changed, but bracket competitions haven't changed with it.  I hope somebody's working on a better system.

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