Sports commentary: March Muddiness

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How much luck, how much skill in putting an NCAA bracket together?

By Mike Forster

  C’mon, guys.  Admit it.

It’s all about luck.

You try to tell yourself otherwise as you pore over your bracket sheets.

You want to believe that, when it comes to picking the NCAA men’s tournament, more knowledge means better results.

Sorry.  I’m not buying it.  And neither should you.

I’m not saying that picking an NCAA bracket isn’t worthwhile.  It most certainly is.

Nor am I saying that doing your homework in filling out said bracket doesn’t make it more fun.

All I’m saying is that your effort makes that of Sisyphus** look productive.  

I can prove my theory.  The wife and I have our own two-person pool each year.

I use the vast store of knowledge that I have garnered through arduous study.

The wife uses factors such as whether or not she likes the school.  Or, perhaps she has a friend who went to a particular college.  Or, the school’s colors might have some appeal for her.  

More likely, she dislikes a school because, in her words, “That place is loaded with crooks,” or “Their coach is so smarmy,” or “It’s Duke.  I don’t have to justify why I’m cheering against them.”

Invariably, she beats me.  And, I’m not throwing it on purpose to make her feel good.  That type of behavior ended after a bowling/putt-putt date when we were first courting.

.  But, please don’t be one of those people who tears up his bracket sheet after the first round.

You’re going to get some wrong.  Plenty, in fact.  Perfection is not an option.

In fact, some egghead calculated the odds of putting together a perfect 63-game win sheet.  The odds of you hitting all 63 games (they didn’t mess around with those silly play-in games) is 1 in 9 million trillion.

I believe you have better odds of being struck by lightning as you learn that you won the Powerball while you jockey your car to a victory in the Daytona 500.  With Queen Elizabeth riding shotgun for you.

Them’s big odds.

But, don’t despair.  You’re going to get some games right.

  For instance, we all know that the top seeds will beat the #16 seeds.  In the history of the tournament, there has never been an upset by a #16 seed.  That might shave a couple trillion off the odds.

After that, though, it becomes a crapshoot.  Cold, steely-eyed analysis gets tossed to the side when you look at the West’s bracket and try to decide between  a #8 Michigan and  a #9 Tennessee.

It gets worse in the next level, when you get #4 Texas vs. #5 Arizona.  The worst part about that is, Arizona may not even still be in the mix at that point, having had to face Memphis in the opener.

I’m sorry, but at some point, tarot cards or coin flips or tea leaves have to play into your selection.

If it was so easy, some guy like Dick Vitale would turn in a perfect dance card every time. 

As annoying as Dickie V is, I’ve got to give him credit for knowing the game and the teams.  Even he can’t do it.

If luck had nothing to do with it, all four regional top seeds would come together in the Final Four.  That has happened only once (2008) in the 30+ years they’ve been seeding teams.

Please don’t let my thoughts put a damper on your dreams.  Just adjust those dreams a bit.  Know that you have just as good a shot as anyone else in your pool does of winning the whole thing.

Regrettably, though, your coworkers have that same chance.  And they include the guy in the next cubicle over, who goes for UConn because he has a nephew that went to school there.  Or that woman in billing who likes Kansas because it has a neat mascot.

Me?  I’m going with a final four of Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Kansas and UConn.

Pittsburgh will win it all.

  Of course, fortune cookies, Ouija Boards and Magic Eight-Balls had nothing to do with that choice.

Well, not much.

And with that, I kiss my five-dollar investment farewell.


**Sisyphus is a figure from Greek mythology.  A former king, he was doomed to spend  eternity rolling a large boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down the other side of the hill.  Then, he’d repeat the task.

As if being named Sisyphus wasn’t enough of a punishment.  

Geez, what did they expect out of this guy when they pinned such a name on him?