Saturday, March 17, 2007

Currently Ranked 1,188,291st

Well, on Day Two I ended up going 11/16, which is better but not particularly thrilling. That gives me a total of 21 for 32 for the first round, which is disappointing for me, since I usually do about 24 for 32 the first round. At least, that's how I remember it. I may be exaggerating my predictive abilities from years past.

The real reason why it stings so much, though, is that the best way to see how you're doing in the bracket is to calculate how many you would've gotten right if you'd just picked the higher seed, and how much you're doing better than that number is how good you're doing in the tournament. I'm usually two, three, maybe four points better after the first round. But this year, not so much.

The higher seed won 27 of 32 matches, and three of the other matches are games in which the 9-seeds beat the 8-seeds, and that doesn't count as an upset because there's literally no difference between an eight and a nine seed (by the way, I was 0 for 4 on my picks for 8 and 9 seeds. There's the ballgame, right there). So there were only two real upsets: Winthrop over Notre Dame and VCU over Duke, of which I called only one correctly.

Each year the tournament has been progressively more and more upset-prone, until a couple of years ago my dad and I calculated that, according to the results, there was almost no difference between a 5-seed and a 12-seed. It was like they were completely equal rivals. And George Mason last year (have you tired of hearing about George Mason this March yet? I have.) proved that a small team from nowhere can be a legitimate contender in the NCAA bracket.

So this year I picked a whole pile of dark horses (Ew. That's a disturbing mix of metaphors), figuring that with all the upsets about to happen, there was no reason why my picks couldn't be the right ones. It's a dangerous strategy, because the upsets that happen can end up being the ones you aren't expecting, and then you have a bracket twice as bad as everyone else - the upsets you picked that didn't happen, and the ones you didn't pick that did. But this - I wasn't expecting this. I wasn't expecting the favorites to dominate this dramatically.

Good news on the horizon, though: while I have a tendency to pick a lot of upsets in the first round, I play things pretty straightforward the rest of the way. So if the favorites-always-winning pattern continues, I'll be looking pretty good. And, all my Sweet 16 teams are still alive. I may be a little shell-shocked, but it is still mathematically possible that I could have a perfect bracket the rest of the way.

It's just not particularly likely at this point.


At March 17, 2007 1:07 PM, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Remember is you picked the eventual winner correctly, that million is going to divide by 8 or something and put you in the 100-200K range right there. Picking 3 of the final four, even if the right ones don't win, should also push you forward.

Here's the thing about upsets that I'm just starting to get my mind around. If you pick a 12 over a 5 and it wins, the next round is a 12 versus a 4, which is even riskier, and doesn't happen so often. Two upsets in a row like that do happen, but not often. So that brilliant 12 over 5 you pick in the first round that always makes one look like a genius, usually washes out in the next round anyway.

But if you the 5 beats the 12, that's a 5 playing a 4 now (or a 13 if there was a big upset on the other side), with a better chance to move on. Now that whole string of your bracket is in danger.

This is where inconsistent teams kill your bracket. You correctly figure out that a particular 5 seed is inconsistent or has matchup problems in the first round and is ripe for plucking. Then you see that the 12 seed is streaky, or matches up well, and you figure it's gold. So the 5 seed barely pulls it out 59-58, proving that you were right, they were vulnerable, but they escaped, and now they don't have the same matchup problem in the 2nd round, and might catch lightning in a bottle themselves for a game or two.

So the picking of upsets really has to be a team you think can win the first two rounds. I just don't have the knowledge for that. Maybe it would be better to work backward from the second round, picking which 6 might beat a 3, or 7 beat a 2, then see if the first round still looks favorable. That way a loss in the first round won't hurt you as much as a win in the 2nd round will help you.

On that reasoning, you pick the 7-10 game by going for the team that has the best chance of getting lucky against the 2-seed the next round. Small risk, medium gain.

Or maybe not. If you get that upset wrong you screw your whole region. Hmm.

Maybe it's better to just focus on who's going to the Elite Eight. If you get 6 of 8 of those you have a good bracket, regardless of what happened before, right?

At March 17, 2007 7:14 PM, Anonymous Assistant Village Idiot's wife said...

I got 13 in the first round just picking names I didn't know. And so far 2 in the second round.

At March 17, 2007 8:27 PM, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Across the top scoreboard line on ESPN right now there is an OT, a 3-pt final, another 3-pt final, a 2OT, a 7-pt game, and another OT game. Given the element of chance in close games, who really picks these all that well?


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