Bracketology Maddening to Some

Posted on May 24, 2012 by


As the calendar flips to March each year, college basketball fans everywhere prepare for one of the biggest and most widely-followed sporting events in America. The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships, known informally as March Madness, is a nearly month-long competition to determine the best college basketball team in all the land.

The tournament, created in 1939, pits 68 teams against each other in an unpredictable single-elimination race to the finish. The field is composed of 31 conference champions who receive automatic tournament bids as well as 37 teams chosen for “at-large” berths by an NCAA selection committee.

Before the tournament begins, a bracket is composed to determine the matchups for the first round. This bracket is split into four regions, each containing rankings one through sixteen. As in most tournaments, the lower seeds are matched up against the higher seeds, giving the higher ranked, and often more skilled, teams a definite advantage.

In the week that precedes March Madness, basketball fanatics and casual observers alike fill out brackets of their own, their intent being to do so with as much accuracy as possible. Though choosing victors for each game may seem easy when taken at face value, the chaos that results from a single upset is often enough to leave many brackets in shreds.

For this reason, the science of pursuing the perfect bracket, known as bracketology, is a frustrating and difficult one. Many create a multitude of brackets in hopes of increasing their chances while others put money on a single bracket and pray that it pays off.

When it comes to filling out a bracket, strategies range from the conservative to the completely outlandish. Many prefer a conservative bracket, and thus tend to choose the “safe” teams that are most likely to win. Others, however, prefer more unconventional methods that can include anything from the strength of the teams’ mascots to the colors of their jerseys.

FAHS junior Nick Braswell, for one, is quick to choose the latter option.

“The first rule is that you can’t know anything about basketball. Second, you’ve got to pick whichever team name sounds cooler. It’s practically an art,” Braswell said.

Others, such as FAHS science teacher Mark Coassolo, prefer an approach more informed than farfetched.

“Pay attention to the regular season, and always pick the favorite unless you’re one hundred percent sure,” Coassolo said.

Still others, such as sophomore Josh Ravel, prefer to stay even farther within their comfort zone.

“Always pick the higher seed. Always,” Ravel said.

No matter the strategy, the odds of sketching out the perfect bracket are astronomical. More often than not, there is not one perfect bracket left in the country once all is said and done.

Though most fill out brackets with the understanding they will likely be pulling their hair out by the end of the first round, there is surely no harm in trying. And who knows? –Anyone could be the one to hit the jackpot.  After all, the odds are only 9.2 quintillion to one.

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