Here’s the deal. I thought I had it this year. I thought I had the perfect bracket. I looked it over carefully and couldn’t find a single mistake…until they started playing.
Of course, I’m talking about March Madness – the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. I suppose it should come as no surprise that my bracket did not end up perfect – there are, after all, quintillions of ways to fill out your bracket. That’s not hyperbole, by the way – just the numbers. Now, a number sixteen has never beaten a number one, and a number two has almost never lost in the first round, so your odds are slightly better than that, but even the most generous estimates figure it’s in the seventeen billion to one range to pick every single game correctly.
But I started so well. I was 100% through the new first round. I know, it’s only eight teams. I had a one in sixteen chance of getting them all right. It’s no great feat. But it was so lovely to look down at that pristine bracket, without a single error. Now, of course, my bracket has more red ink on it than a Mike Tyson dissertation.
My tricky eleven-over-a-three-seed pick failed to materialize. The safe bet one over an eight went down in flames. It took a double overtime squeaker to keep me in the running in my two-man pool. The whole thing is a mess.
Then again, I didn’t watch a single college basketball game all year before this week. I make my picks based on whether or not I know someone from that school or area, memories of how well these teams are historically (if someone says Georgetown, I think of Patrick Ewing…it’s been a while since I followed the sport), and how cool their names are (I pick Gonzaga to make the sweet sixteen every year…if I’d known there was a school called Gonzaga when I was a senior in high school I would have applied just because their moniker is so awesome). I took Princeton to upset Kentucky because I figured they were smarter (which really speaks more to my intelligence). I reckoned Notre Dame would lose because I envision a team of hunchbacks. And I picked San Diego State to win it all because…okay, I have no idea why I picked San Diego State to win it all (I’m beginning to suspect that igorance might not be bliss).
And, as a result, my bracket has more miscalculations than a chimpanzee taking a calculus exam with a broken abacus. (As if, I suppose, a chimp with a fully-functioning abacus would ace the test).
So, how am I going to do it? How will I ever pick a perfect bracket? I suppose I could do my research and make more educated predictions. I could fill out millions of brackets to better my odds. I could actually watch some games beforehand. But I think my best bet is hoping that, instead of continuing to increase the number of teams in the tournament, the powers that be decide to shrink the tournament to the top eight teams.
I’m pretty darn good when there are only eight teams.