The “Perfect” NCAA Bracket
March is upon us again, and that means temperatures will rise, birds will chirp and the sun will shine. That is a very romantic way to think about it, but March is also the time for high hopes and shattered dreams for millions of Americans. It is the time when everything can change in an instant. March is the time for NCAA March Madness, and the fever spreads like wildfire. The 68 best teams in college face off in this single-elimination tournament for a shot at being crowned number one in the nation. While the games themselves are exciting to watch, filling out a March Madness bracket makes the action even more thrilling.
The bracket itself is very simple. It is a 64 team bracket with four play-in games decided the night before the tournament. The bracket is divided into four quadrants, and each quadrant will be seeded from first to sixteenth when the final tournament pairings are decided. If the winner of all the games is predicted correctly, then the perfect bracket has been chosen. Although it sounds relatively simple, the problem with picking the correct winner of all 67 games is that there a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of that happening. Obviously, the technique is to try and get as many correct as possible without embarrassing yourself among friends and coworkers.
The First Round
This round of the tournament always has some surprises, and quite a few brackets get thrown in the wastebasket after some upsets. The goal in the first round is to minimize the damage. The number one seed has never lost to the 16-seed, and only six times has the 15-seed won the first game. It gets more difficult to choose the winner in the other games, but that is where the fun of upsets happens. The 12-seed has often upset the 5-seed, causing joy and elation for some and pain and heartache for others.
The second round of the tournament can make or break a bracket. After the tumult of the first round, some teams will be flying high, and others will be dejected and sluggish. A good bracket should reflect that. The basic idea is to assume that teams who struggled to barely win their first game may have and equally difficult time in the second round. This is the round to be generous choosing upsets, and it never hurts if superstitions or cocktails are involved in the decision making process.
The Round of 16
Things begin to get a little murky at this point. At this point in filling out the bracket, anyone filling out a bracket should grab a sandwich. The number one seeds from each region should still be playing, but this is a good time to pick one of them to lose in a heart breaker. If a team struggled in the regular season against mediocre opponents, now is the time to cut them out of the bracket.
The Elite Eight
With four more games to choose in this round, doubts will set in about other areas of the brackets, and some die-hard sports fans will be seen pulling out their hair while agonizing over these four simple decisions.
The Final Four
The perfect bracket should ideally have at least two of the number one seeds still playing. At least one of the top teams is practically guaranteed to be there, unless like every other year something unforeseen happens and ruins all the fun.
The Championship Game
At this point, a coin toss may work out just as well as anything.
The numbers against having a perfect bracket are staggering. Any attempts to visualize what the number 9.2 quintillion represents will result in possible headaches and loss of sleep, but spending hours agonizing over the “perfect” NCAA bracket will most likely have the same effect. Fortunately, anyone who fills out a March Madness bracket is guaranteed one thing: There’s always next year.