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The finer points of bracketology: Coming up short versus going deep

Jonathan de FriessWho does not love a thrilling game that goes down to the buzzer? Both teams’ fans are standing and cheering with inspired enthusiasm and belief that their team will prevail.

Suddenly, the final basket drops and one group of fans erupts while the other group stands aghast, hands over their eyes or quickly falling back in their seat.

What is even better about the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is the brackets everyone fills out. Some participate in pools at work. Most will drop a few in at CBS Sports or ESPN. What an awesome way to get fans involved. Even better, someone can win one billion dollars for filling out a perfect bracket.

Over the years, the term “bracketology” emerged from ESPN College Basketball Analyst Joe Lunardi.

Bracketology truly means the science of accurately predicting the field of teams that will be in the bracket for the tournament. The definition, however, has expanded in the minds of fans to include the science of correctly selecting the team who will win the national championship as well as the other 67 games played in the tournament.

As of now, the first day of the sweet sixteen is over and most are in two different proverbial boats. On one side, your bracket is demolished. Maybe you are like my roommate and picked Duke to go all the way. Even worse, you may be bitter about ORU not winning the Southland Conference Tournament and had Stephen F. Austin out in the second round.

On the other hand, your bracket may be going strong. You may have been a member of the 3.3 percent on ESPN to pick Mercer over Duke. You might have picked Dayton over Ohio State and then over Syracuse.

In light of the current status of your bracket, I would like to offer some general points to help give light to your current success or set a foundation for future bracket building:

1. Pick your team
The spirit of college basketball lies in the hope of your team. This is not the NBA where teams have to win a series to go to the next series to go to the next series to go to the final series. March Madness is all about the buzzer beater by the 13 seed over the four seed or the dominance of Florida Gulf Coast. Regardless of what the science may say, all teams of the tournament have a shot. If you have not given your team the support to go all the way, you have already lost.

2. Go with your gut
Some people spend the entire time from the end of Selection Sunday to the deadline of their pool play finalizing their picks. For what? Do you really think a scientific approach can contain the hype of a hot team out of a conference tournament or the way injuries either hurt or help each team? When you sit there with your bracket, take into account what you have seen this year and pick who you think will come out on top

3. Pick UNC
There is absolutely no personal bias in this suggestion. Who cares if they are already out? Michael Jordan went to school there. Need I say more? Also, if you pick based on team colors, this is the choice for you: baby blue and white.

4. Have fun!
This isn’t just a chance to win a competition. This is a chance to watch teams from across the country play each other with no meetings between the two in the past 67 years. The number one seeds have everything to lose while all of the double digit seeds have everything to gain.
Whether it is Florida Gulf Coast, Butler, Mercer, George Washington, VCU or any other recent bracket buster, cheer for the spirit of the sport.

You may feel enlightened or indoctrinated. Either way, watch the tourney. Go root for Mercer to go all the way since you picked Duke to win. If you’re a Dukie, root against UNC. If you had someone going deep and they were upset, root for the team that beat them so that your bracket suffers the least amount of damage. At the end of the day, the bracket is just a piece of paper. Enjoy the eruption of cheers and the surprises. Love the game.


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