Posts Tagged ‘Bracketology’

Politically Correct NCAA Bracketology and Why I’m Voting For Hank the Cat

Posts about NCAA bracketology have the most general appeal, of course, early in the college basketball tournament when everyone still has a shot at glory. At this point, most brackets have been destroyed beyond recognition and few are left who really care anymore.

As for myself, there was no office pool this year because the young lady who had been administering it in past years is on maternity leave, which left me entering brackets on websites going up against hundreds of thousands instead of, say, 20. Had we had our normal pool, I would be in position to take this thing for the 2nd time in three years.

I have three of the Final 4 and if Ohio State wins it all, there’s little doubt victory would have been mine. But, no….I entered ESPN’s bracket game and the good news is that according to the little meter at the top of my brackets page, I am in the 92.8% percentile of all entrants. Impressive, no? Except there are literally over 5 million entrants, so even though I’m currently in the top 7%, that also means I currently rank 465,033rd.

George Allen’s Brackets

But I’m doing a hell of a lot better than Republican Virginia senate candidate, George Allen. reveals that his home-state pandering has resulted in the strangest brackets ever publicized. You can see them for yourself here right on his George Allen for Senate web site.

For a guy running for a Virginia U.S. Senate seat, it would be quite the conundrum, for example, to pick a second round match-up between Virginia and Norfolk State, both teams located squarely in the Old Dominion. So who does he have winning this intra-state contest? Why— Missouri. Huh?

Turns out his initial instincts were a first round pick of Missouri beating Norfolk State. I’m thinking one of his political aides noticed this and said, “Sir- you’re picking a home-state team to lose.” So you can see he’s scratched out Missouri and written in Norfolk State. And, I might add, it’s not gently scratched out, it’s harshly scratched out with heavy black marks- almost angry black marks as if to say, “Jeez, how could I have been so stupid?”

Except he forgot to adjust his third round pick accordingly and so that’s how he has Missouri winning the Virginia/Norfolk State game. He also did it with Davidson which he initially picked to lose to Louisville. Davidson is not in Virginia but it is in neighboring North Carolina. And so George Allen has Davidson upsetting Louisville—but in the third round, the winner of the Davidson/Long Beach State game is—Louisville!

Every politician panders- that is not exactly a state secret. But wouldn’t you think the pander should be a bit more subtle and not quite so overt? And what kind of campaign staff does Mr. Allen have that would allow such a thing to be published on his actual campaign web site?

Well, obviously not the sharpest staff in the tool box- because apparently they don’t read either. The result being that even though this exercise in blatant pandering has the full light of the media spotlight on it—the picks, their heavily scratched out amendments, and the bizarre results- are still on the campaign web site for all to snicker at!

Hey, my NCAA picks may not have been perfect, but at least no one’s pointing their finger at them as an object of ridicule. For that, I have my own crack staff to thank- Bernstein, the cat and Suki, the dog. And this, my friends, is why I’m voting for Hank, the cat this November in the Virginia Senate race. You can buy his T-shirts here.


March Madness Office Pool Win!

It’s been a long time coming but the stars, a great borrowed formula, and faith in one of the great college coaches of all time have combined to produce a victory in the ol’ 30-person office pool.

First of all, I’m inordinately happy that I have an office to go to in the first place. I suppose one could crash the occasional office pool but it seems rude and just a little weird.

It was one of the best NCAA title games ever played. Butler is for real. Duke is an efficient team, equal parts brute force and smooth jumpers but the Bull Dogs hung in there with them every second of the game nearly nailing a desperation mid-court shot that truly would have been the greatest finish in the history of the sport.

Lessons learned:

♦  Take emotion out of the picks- everybody has their favorites, but sentimentality gets you nowhere. Because I work and live in DC, there are plenty of discarded bracket sheets that had lots of Georgetown’s and Maryland’s going far into the tourney.

♦  The early rounds do matter. You won’t win without taking some big games in the Elite-8 and Final Four rounds- but you have to have an edge in some of those early games. The formula I used pointed to six 1st round upsets and four of them came through. It also got me another upset in the 2nd round. In the end, that was precisely the margin that separated me from the runner-up.

♦  Find a winning formula! There were many out there to choose from in cyber-world; great sites created by true basketball and statistics geeks who know their stuff. I went with a system that was heavy on strength-of-schedule. There are so many match-ups in the tournament that would never happen in the regular season, that it seems factoring in the caliber of a team’s opponents is a pretty necessary ingredient.

♦ There are going to be upsets, but ultimately, it’s an established team in an established conference that’s going to go far or all the way. Most people thought Kansas was that team. I happened to think Duke was. I had the good fortune of watching them play in the ACC tournament and they had a real clutch quality about them.

♦  There’s still room for mysticism. One of the intriguing stats that I fell in love with was Duke’s national titles as a #1 seed. They won under such circumstances in 1992 and 2001. Now it’s nine years later again- and they did it. Note: watch out for Duke in 2019!

If you’ll forgive me, the pool’s commissioner is strangely silent this morning. Unless she has fled to Mexico, we have some business to conduct.

Hello, Mr. Lobster.  Hello, Mr. Porterhouse….


March Madness is upon us, people! It’s off to the races and the biggest annual time-suck since you last filled out your own tax forms. I don’t know how much productivity is lost in the American workplace and really, I don’t care. This is important stuff.

Every year, I come up with some new fangled, bizzaro formula for predicting the winners. I am, actually, a total spreadsheet nerd and I can spend hours on this stuff analyzing and sorting. I have had mixed success. I’m usually in the top 5 in my office pools.

I almost perished from a bitter, awful, horrendous and deeply sad disappointment in 2008. I had picked Memphis to win it all. Nobody ever thought friggin’ Memphis would win the National Championship. And there they were- beating Kansas by 9 points with 2 minutes to play. I had this. I could taste the $400 pot. Regrettably, the Memphis boys had a significant weakness. Free throws. Coming down the stretch, they couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. I had not factored in their horrific FT%. Aaaauuurgh. I know the Memphis players and the larger Memphis community were crushed. But so was I. Big-time.

Last year, I correctly picked North Carolina to win the title, but my other Final 4 were off so, again, close, but no cigar.

This year, I have discovered that there are many, many people out there on the World Wide Web, smarter and nerdier than I. They have applied their mathematics degrees to the greater societal good and have used logarithms, Pythagorean theorems and good old common sense to come up with their sets of predictions. And so I have researched them thoroughly and selected the analysis I thought was the most complete and I’m going with their rankings which were made before the tournament field was set.

I will not tell you what system I am using, ok? Find your own! I will tell you this:
The system is cool and I believe, accurate enough, that it honed in on a number of 1st round upsets that include five teams seeded 9th-12th. I do have three top-seeds getting to the Final 4…but also a #4-seed. It all has the ring of truth to it. If there are alternate realities out there, I KNOW this is one of them. I am just hoping the cosmic dice select this particular reality, because, I’m telling you people, I’m feeling it this year.

Here are the 1st round upsets:

#9 Northern Iowa over UNLV
#9 FSU over Gonzaga
#10 St.Mary’s over Richmond
#11 Old Dominion over Notre Dame
#12 Utah State over Texas A&M

My Final 4: Kansas, Duke, Syracuse & Wisconsin

National Champion: Duke. Very few teams entering the tournament as the #1 seed actually win it all. But if Duke pulls it off in 2010 it will be their 3rd time. They do it approximately every ten years. Check it out.