A bracket win: why not you?

This year’s annual 64 (68 including play in games) team college basketball tournament was another thriller. This year’s upsets were highlighted by 15-seeded Middle Tennessee taking down one of the favorites to win the whole tournament, Michigan State, in the first round. The tournament averaged around three lower-seeded teams winning first round games in each region, highlighted by an improbable final four run by 10-seed Syracuse. Only 2.6 percent of all brackets correctly picked Villanova to win it all.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is to stress how unlikely it is that your bracket finishes in the 99.9th percentile or even wins the bracket group you may be in. Mathematically, the chances of having a perfect bracket are around 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Of course, some games could be considered easy ones to pick but as we learned this year with Michigan State vs. Middle Tennessee, no game is out of reach for any team.

It seems like a blind guess is as good of an approach as anything. Who saw Hawaii coming? Who saw Yale, or Northern Iowa? Who saw Arkansas-Little Rock, or Stephen F. Austin? The key isn’t even seeing an upset coming. It’s seeing them all coming. When I was younger, I used to test different theories for my brackets. I employed everything from mathematical formulas to dropping a ball down a pegboard into baskets. Nothing has worked.

These days I look at a few stats I think are most important, watch a few clips from a few different teams, then pick based on my gut feeling. This approach has worked much better than any formula. Maybe not the pegboard.

People always think that they need a perfect bracket to win the tournament challenge. They couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the winner of this year’s tournament challenge on ESPN missed 9 of the first 32 games, which is average for a knowledgeable basketball fan. The key to winning your bracket group or simply having a good bracket comes down to something else. The key is not sending a team in your bracket too far in the tournament. Believers in West Virginia and Purdue found that out the hard way this year as both teams were projected to go far only to lose in the first round. Of course, this is easier said than done.

There truly isn’t a solution to relieve you of your frustration from watching your bracket crumble. Maybe you shouldn’t make a bracket next year. Take a few years off, take the disappointment out of your life. While that may be logical, it takes all the fun out of watching the games. Someone has to win. Why not you?