The Bracket

You’ve got to admit, when it comes to inventions, “brackets” are right up there with the giant piano that Tom Hanks jumps on during the movie “Big.”  Seriously, if it wasn’t for brackets, you would never experience a pub in Boston erupt into a roar in reaction to Tennessee’s buzzer beater to defeat Winthrop.  Half of the room couldn’t even tell you where Tennessee is, let alone Winthrop.  

This year in particle, I’ve come across several so-called “improvements” on the bracket.  The Facebook website uses a method called “Underdog Scoring,” in which correct upset picks are worth the difference between the seeds.  So if you got yesterday’s Montana over Nevada pick correct, this would have been worth 7 points, as opposed to the standard 1 point that a normal first round choice is worth.  Had I known that this was the scoring being used, I would have chosen every underdog in the games I didn’t have advancing past the second round, the points gained in each upset far outweighing the majority of games I would have gotten wrong.  

One guy in my department is running a pool in which participants choose their top 32 teams in the tournament, and rank them in terms of confidence.  Then you get a point for each game your teams win, multiplied by where you ranked them in confidence.  Since we’re all mathematicians, I’m constantly hearing about the probabilities involved in each game, which have somehow all been calculated to exact percentages up to two decimals.  

As for me, I’m quite content with the good old bracket.  And for my bracket, I decided to play it safe this year.  I normally choose lots of big upsets, especially between teams that I really don’t like or really do like.  This year, I’ve got Duke and UConn in the finals.  I know I know, before you boo me off of this blog, you should also know that I picked Gonzaga and B.C. as my other two semi-finalists.  

Yesterday I was really wishing I could have a mulligan on that B.C. pick.  Even though they pulled it out, they played so terribly I found it impossible to root for them, regardless of the countless online/office pools I have riding on them.  

But isn’t that what’s so great about The Bracket?  Why else would I find myself so emotionally involved in these games?  

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