But for 3 weeks each March, there is only one -ology that really matters. And that would be bracketology, the frustratingly fun science of trying to figure out just which one of 68 (which used to be 64 which used to be 32 which used to be 16, which in the 1930s used to be 8) teams will win the NCAA basketball championship.
But here's where the fan fun comes in. Using brackets they fill in and then scratch out and then fill in again, millions of Americans try to predict the winner of each of the games with the object, of course, to pick as many winners as possible including (and most importantly) the eventual national champion. These bracket sheets are then entered into national pools, online pools, and office pools, sometimes simply for bragging rights, but most often with some kind of financial reward for correct picks. However, despite your sports knowledge or luck level, the seemingly simple task usually proves to be so frustratingly difficult that you often end up believing you should have bypassed your office pool, again won by a secretary who had never attended a basketball game in her life, and instead drowned your bracket in the nearest swimming pool.
And what makes it so difficult? It's a little thing called upsets. Upsets can, and do, happen. A #15 seed isn't supposed to beat a # 2 seed, but it happens. In fact. it has happened 6 times over the years. Last year, it happened twice. Duke lost in the 1st round to #15-seeded Lehigh, as did Missouri to Norfolk State. And the upsetting upset situation just gets more uncertain as you move down the seeds. In the tournament:
- 16 times, a #14 seed has defeated a #3 seed
- 24 times, a #13 seed has defeated a #4 seed
- 38 times, a #12 seed has defeated a #5 seed
- 38 times, a #11 seed has defeated a #6 seed.
In fact, the only certainty in the 1st round of the tournament is that no #1 has ever lost to a #16 seed. But , as my Mother used to say. you should never say never. Indeed, two #1 teams over the years have come away with a single-point victory, making it just a matter of time until a #16 bests a #1.
|The Perfect Game: As a Villanova alum I had to show this|
But what do you do if you don't have a plan and you can't spend the next 72 hours studying every aspect of all 64 teams in the tournament (assuming your pool doesn't ask you to pick the play-in teams and you have that much time)? Pressed for fast action, you could go with the selection committee's 4 #1 teams. If you followed that this year, you would have Louisville playing Gonzaga and Kansas playing Indiana in the Final 4 with Louisville winning it all. Of course, the fact that only once (2008 with Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Memphis) have all 4 #1 seeds made the Final 4, might not make you anxious to adopt that approach.
In the end, it all comes down to numbers. First, there are the numbers produced on the court. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the only team to win 6 straight games will be the champion. And, in each of those 6 games, that team will have produced more points than its opponent. Then there are the odds numbers. There are 2^63 or 9.2 quintillion possibilities for the possible winners in a 64-team NCAA bracket, making the odds of randomly picking a perfect bracket 9.2 quintillion to 1. With the expansion of the tournament field to 68 teams in 2011, the odds are now increased to 2^67 or 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 (147.57 quintillion) possibilities. With numbers like that facing you, I only have a final 4 words for you --- good luck in picking.
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
by clicking here. Finally, DC is home to the nation's #1 college basketball fan, President Barack Obama. As he has done since he has been in office, President Obama will be filling out his bracket and posting it on the White House website.