Friday, March 15, 2013

A Guide to March Madness: How (Not?) To Fill Out Your Bracket

With March Madness just around the corner, I thought it only fair to dedicate my comeback post to letting my loyal readers in on some powerful lessons that I’ve learned about filling out NCAA Tournament brackets. Unfortunately for all of you, everything that I know about brackets comes from nearly a decade and a half of watching my best friend cement his legacy as the Least Successful Bracket Picker in Northern Michigan history. In fact, some of the bracketeering strategies that you’ll find on this page are the very same tactics that landed Big Mitchy with 3 of the top 5 lowest scores (including last place and second to last) in the 2005 Harbor Springs Tournament Pool. It’s hard enough to win one of these things, but I’ll go on record to say that I think it’s even harder to get double last places.

Big Mitchy is notorious around the Great Lakes State for using the ‘shotgun approach’ to his pool sheets; he enters multiple bracket contests, and places multiple entries into each contest, adding up to anywhere between 7 and 10 total brackets in a given tournament year. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always felt that the spirit and sanctity of gambling on the athletic pursuits of 19 year old kids is somehow tarnished when some bad apple jumps in with nearly a dozen entries to increase their chances of winning. Maybe old age has just made me cynical. When questioned about this controversy in an exclusive interview, the Big Guy flashed an ‘aw shucks’ sort of closed-mouth grin and conceded, “Well, I do just love filling out brackets.” Back in high school, most of these brackets were entered into the Harbor Springs Pool, and my grievances about his high number of entries were quickly dismissed due to the fact that he never came anywhere close to winning on any of them.
So then what do some typical Big Mitchy brackets look like, you might ask? Here are some of his more common bracket templates (**Use at your own risk)

The “Holding Grudges” Bracket
This one is simple: Every team that he hates or that has a player that he hates gets picked to lose in the first round. This strategy backfired tremendously in 06’ and 07’ when Big Mitchy’s legendary hatred of Joakim Noah kept him from cashing in on back-to-back Florida national championships. Duke is usually involved here, for reasons that don’t need to be explained. Luke Harangody and his younger, uglier, and less talented twin Jack Cooley have ensured that Notre Dame be on this list for the last 6 years or so as well. I’m pretty sure Joey Dorsey from Memphis was also part of this (which is saying something, because he also happens to be a Dunks & Blocks guy).

 The “Teams That Big Mitchy Has Replica Basketball Shorts Of Will Meet in the Final 4” Bracket
This ends up being Michigan State, Arizona, Syracuse, and a second Michigan State team every time. It may be rudimentary as far as the thought process is concerned, but if there ever were a year where Big Mitchy can finally put it all together and pull of some winnings, this is probably the combination of teams that will do it.

 The “Darnton Madness" Family Tournament Pool
You need to have a strong showing in the early rounds to set yourself apart in this one, since they all invariably will pick Michigan State to go all the way every year. However, family bragging rights are typically the only thing at stake in this pool, so Big Mitchy doesn’t necessarily give his best effort in filling the rest of it out. Consequently, this is usually the highest scoring of his brackets.

 The “Dunks & Blocks Guys” Bracket
You know, I think to some degree, we all fill out a bracket like this. I mean, you have to be a real nerd to make your tourney predictions based on who sets the good screens and has good shot clock awareness. The reason the tournament is fun is because of the close finishes, the dunks, and the blocks. The rule instituted around 2003 that gives each team eleven time-outs in the final minute has made the close finishes a lot less fun, so what does that leave us with? You guessed it. If that means incorrectly picking Jeff Trepagnier’s USC to the 02’ Final Four (they lost to a 13 seed in the first round) based on one cool alley-oop highlight that you saw sometime in February, then so be it. I honestly don’t have much negative to say about this bracket, sometimes you’ll even see some Dunks & Blocks teams make a solid run (Michigan’s Fab Five, Auburn in 03’ Memphis in 08’, Kentucky last year). There’s not very much that I respect about Big Mitchy’s approach to tournament pools, but with the Dunks & Blocks bracket, I can make an exception.

**side note, I’m sick of hearing announcers talk about teams that “play the game the right way” or “the way it was MEANT to be played”. This usually refers to Duke, Indiana, the Ivy League teams, and the San Antonio Spurs.  It’s essentially a thinly-veiled euphemism for teams that have a lot of Caucasian players who set the good screens and take a lot of charges. Anyone familiar with James Naismith’s original game of Basket Ball will find that the game was originally intended to be played 9on9 with one a tip-off after every basket. There were no picks. There were no charges. You weren’t even allowed to dribble. Oh, and they played using a soccer ball.  With these criteria in mind, I don’t think you’ll find a single team in the tournament this year that plays the game the way it was meant to be played. Any idiot who tells you differently is sadly mistaken.

**side note #2: I always think it's funny how in some basketball team pictures, you can pick out the one guy on the team who forgot their jersey on the day the picture was taken and has to wear something stupid looking. Imagine my surprise to find that this type of picture day mental lapse has been going on almost as long as the game itself. You'll notice in this team photo from the 1908-09 season that one guy on the Swastika team forgot to bring his Swastika jersey to practice on picture day and had to just wear the plain tank top instead. That's gotta be embarrassing.

 “The Funny Bracket”
The Funny Bracket is like Brent Favre’s fondness for Wrangler jeans: it’s annoying. Always has been…always will be. In Big Mitchy’s mind, however, The Funny Bracket is kind of the Holy Grail of bracketeering, the crown jewel of all “What If” scenarios. He puts all 15 and 16 seeds in the Final Four, just to see the look on everybody’s faces when he shows it to them. Sure, filling out this Funny Bracket is a waste of dollar, but it’s totally worth it. The upset angst, stat-checking, and flip-flopping of the 8vs9 games while filling out his nine serious brackets is all worth it knowing that he has the joy and catharsis of the Funny Bracket waiting on the other side.

A Final Thought About Brackets
He seems like a good guy and all, but I think we all could do without seeing an enlarged version of Barack Obama’s bracket every day on ESPN during this year’s tournament. First of all, Obama is not as good at basketball as he is made out to me. Despite the media’s claims that “Obama is a GREAT basketball player”, this is a guy who has a weird one-handed lefty set shot, rode the bench for his high school team in Hawaii, and plays once in a while when he isn’t busy Presiding and stuff. Secondly, as a general rule, I make it a point to never take basketball advice from a guy who plays the game wearing the tucked in shirt and sweatpants with elastic around the ankles. Call me prejudiced, but I just can’t do it. Happy March Madness everyone; I hope this guide has cleared up any lingering concerns that you might have had heading into next week.

1 comment:

  1. weird that the guys on the swastika team all look mexican... anyway i'm assuming that's the 1908 Notre Dame basketball team. great advice on the picks. INNIT H!!!!