March Madness Bracket Palooza

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Welcome to March, a time of dreary weather, academic struggles, and non-stop basketball. With the start of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness, on the horizon, many fans have begun to pore over season records and past championships to try and predict the outcomes of each of the 67 games played throughout the tournament.

The NCAA selection committee released the full list of the 68 eligible teams competing in March Madness last Sunday, March 11. Fans have a short window of opportunity, namely until the first game on Thursday, March 15, to create and submit their bracket predictions to any number of online pools, or in simple competition amongst friends.

Prediction methods vary hugely amongst fans and may include any combination of statistics, history and personal bias. Some have even been known to choose winners based on superficial characteristics, such as a team’s color or mascot. Others may simply choose to flip a coin or create elaborate and highly entertaining schemes involving their exotic pets. No method is foolproof, however, as no one person has yet to create a perfect bracket in the modern version of the tournament.

Ellie Strauss ‘21 says that she tends to take a pragmatic approach when creating her own bracket predictions. “I don’t have favorite teams, [although] I definitely have favorites between match-ups,” she explains. “If there’s a rivalry, like UNC and Duke, I have my favorite and I’m definitely more biased to pick them. But a lot of me goes into looking at what they did, especially in previous matchups. Duke has played UNC three or four times this season already, so you have to factor that in as well.”

The makeup of a team also factors highly into her decisions. Strauss will look at the seniority of a team’s players and how well they have worked together in the past. Additionally, team histories play a significant role in her selection process.

“I look at records as well as previous NCAA appearances,” she says. “For instance, if it’s a team first appearance at the NCAA tournament I’m less likely to choose them to win against a team that has been at the NCAA tournament a bunch of times…Then there’s a few teams that I know right off the bat who always win one or two rounds and then they’re done.”

Jaimin Keliihoomalu ‘21 tends to take a softer approach with his predictions; statistics may be useful in choosing the winners for the outer brackets, however the inner brackets are much more difficult, he says.

“It’s not about choosing who is going to win for the majority [of the games],” he says. “The higher seeds are going to win; now you just have to pick the upsets. You can guess every one of the first 32 games right, and you get all the points and all your teams move onto the next level. Then you can get all of the next ones wrong and you can lose. Every year, there are always upsets, there will always be upsets.”

When it comes down to these brackets, Keliihoomalu will look at who other people are choosing and go with his gut instinct.

“Sometimes you just know,” he says. “When you’ve been around sports long enough, you see how a team works, how it functions. It’s not something you can really point out…[but] you just know that this team is going to play really well against this team. In the end, it comes down to matchups.”

Justin Levine ‘20 is similarly enjoys choosing predicting brackets. His strategy? He first starts by picking his favorite team to win and then moves down from there. He tries to identify strong teams that are ranked higher than they should be as upset picks, focusing much of his time on the inner brackets.

Yet, Levine notes that his own personal preferences often drive his choices.

“[First], I usually pick my favorite team, which is Duke. Depending on the year, they are usually the team I pick to win…sometimes I pick teams based on whether I like the school or not.”

For most, March Madness is a time to get together with friends and family to enjoy one of their favorite sports.

“March Madness is a lot of fun,” Levine says. “My family has done a bracket every year since I was a little kid, so it’s just a really exciting time [for me]. I really love basketball.”

Justin Levine ’20 similarly enjoys predicting brackets. His strategy? He first starts by picking his favorite team to win and then moves down from there. He tries to identify strong teams that are ranked higher than they should be as upset picks, focusing much of his time on the inner brackets.

Yet, Levine notes that his own personal preferences often drive his choices.

“[First], I usually pick my favorite team, which is Duke. Depending on the year, they are usually the team I pick to win…sometimes I pick teams based on whether I like the school or not.”

For most, March Madness is a time to get together with friends and family to enjoy one of their favorite sports.

“March Madness is a lot of fun,” Levine says. “My family has done a bracket every year since I was a little kid, so it’s just a really exciting time [for me]. I really love basketball.”

 

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