News Column

March Madness: Shake off Selection Snubs; Focus Now on Your Bracket

March 19, 2013

Jay Greeson

You're welcome to bemoan Tennessee's exclusion if you need to. Feel free to complain about Gonzaga, the little school that has, getting a No. 1 seed. That's the fun of Selection Sunday.

The fun of Monday is the possibility of a winning bracket. It's Madness Monday, the least productive Monday of arguably the least productive work week on the calendar.

It's the time to debate your underdog and figure out which 12 seed will win later this week, because let's face it, a 12 seed always wins in the opening week.

The controversies of the selection process become the conversations of winning the office pool. Not unlike the passage of spring, every bracket is pure right now, every entry a potential winner.

We know two things: This could be the year your sheet wins, and yet again this will be a year without a perfect bracket. The first one may happen -- and I'll offer some potential tips in a moment -- but a perfect sheet is perfectly senseless.

Even if you take the play-in games out of the equation and dive into a 64-team field, here are some of the mind-boggling numbers for the NCAA tournament that we recycle because, well, they are mind-boggling:

--Over $12 billion (yes, billion with a "B") worldwide is expected to be wagered on the NCAA tournament, and that's more than the Super Bowl. According to RJ Bell of pregame.com, less than 1 percent of that worldwide sports betting occurs in Nevada and more than 100 million people likely will play a tournament bracket contest.

--There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets (9.2 quintillion). That number is a million times bigger than 9 trillion. It's also this big:

--If everyone on the planet each randomly filled out a bracket, the odds would be over ONE BILLION to 1 against any person having a perfect bracket.

--If one bracket per second was filled out, it would take 292 BILLION years to fill out all possible brackets (that's 20 times longer than the universe has existed).

--If all the people on Earth filled out one bracket per second, it would take more than 43 years to fill out every possible bracket.

--If all possible brackets were stacked on top of each other (on standard paper), the pile would reach from the moon and back over 1.1 million times.

As for trying to get as many right as possible, well, here are some starting points:

--The odds of a No. 1 seed getting to the Elite Eight (it's happened 72 percent of the time) is better than the odds of a No. 5 seed winning a single game (roughly 50 percent).

--Most of the early upsets involve a No. 2 or 3 seed. Only once in 28 years have all the top three seeds from each bracket made the Sweet 16, despite 88 percent of the No. 1 seeds from each regional getting there.

--While upsets will happen -- hey, that's how they can stack the notebook paper to the moon -- find some 10, 11 or 12 seeds to support. A double-digit seed has made the Sweet 16 in 26 of the last 28 years, but only seven of the 448 teams seeded higher than 12th. Among those super-high seeds were the 1997 UTC Mocs, who made the Sweet 16 as a 13 seed.

--The balance between upsets and playing the favorites is dicey. No team seeded worse than fourth has won the title in the last 24 years -- Kansas was a No. 6 seed in 1988 -- but there have been only six title games between No. 1 seeds since the tournament started seeding the field in 1979.

All of this means it could be anyone's guess and anyone's tournament. Play your favorites or pick your winners by the color of their uniforms or whether you know anyone who attended those schools.

Looking across this year's bracket, the No. 1 seeds that look the strongest are Louisville and Indiana. The double-digit seeds that seem poised to extend their stay could be Oregon and Ole Miss. There are exactly two teams that are projected as underdogs according to the committee -- 11th-seeded Minnesota and ninth-seeded Missouri -- but are favorites according to Vegas.

There are really only two things for sure, however. Picking a bracket will be fun, and it will be far from perfect.



Source: (c)2013 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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