You’re American. You interact with others, even if they are online others. There’s a strong chance you are entering some form of NCAA Tournament bracket pool. There’s a fair chance the winner will be some random neophyte who watched no college basketball and filled out a bracket for fun. This will frustrate you. You may feel the basketball gods are capricious. But, here’s why that occurrence is not entirely random.
CHALK IS FOR WINNERS
College basketball aficionados love the cute upset. They pore over telling stats. They want to feel like geniuses for calling that No. 13 over the No. 4 seed or picking the right lower seed that makes a Sweet 16 run, even if it was only in their fourth, seventh, and sixteenth brackets. Nailing that outlier does not win you a bracket pool.
Nailing that outlier does not win you a bracket pool.You win the pool by picking the right chalk, getting most of the teams in the Final Four and Elite Eight. John Q. Knowsnothing isn’t picking three No. 16 seed upsets because YOLO. He enters the process with a natural conservatism. He sticks with the higher seeds. When he does foray into seeds 5 or below for a team to make a run, it’s probably for a name-brand program such as Michigan State. Limiting risks in the early rounds is mitigating crippling bracket busts. This is a sound strategy.
DON’T GET SUCKED INTO THE MEDIA CONSENSUS
People who follow college basketball consume college basketball media. Opinions coalesce and harden, especially during the tournament. The cognoscenti have centered on the same three or four favorites. They think the same teams are overrated. They call the same first round upsets (FYI that No. 5 seed everyone thinks is garbage has spent all week fueling themselves by hearing that.). You don’t want to ignore that wisdom. It’s not baseless. But, you don’t want to be beholden to it either.
Value comes through finding probable outcomes that aren’t popular, especially in a larger pool. If 60 percent has some combination of Duke, UNC, Kentucky, and Villanova in the final, choosing that makes it much harder to win. The best value is with a rarer bracket that has Arizona in the final but also landed Oregon in the Final Four. Plausible, but not very popular.
That’s the sort of result John Q. Knowsnothing, without entrenched perceptions, may be more apt to stumble on.
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM THE NEOPHYTE?
So, you can’t unwatch the college basketball you consumed all season. But, as in life, you can be conscious of your media diet and question your assumptions. Be humble. When in doubt, stay conservative. Be strategic in the later rounds depending on your pool size. If you’re still fretting over RPI, offensive efficiency numbers, and guard play, have your partner fill out the bracket within some basic parameters.