Thursday, March 15, 2007


Today is the last day – last morning until brackets are due. And why I doubt what I write will matter to any needing to complete their brackets, it is an intellectually stimulating discussion.

Okay, first, I know squat about basketball. I mean, I know that there is a ball, a hoop, cute shorts and betting, but that's the extent of my basketball knowledge. For most of us, actually, that's all we need to know about the NCAA tournament. And here is why.

They split up the 65 teams into four brackets, so things don't look so daunting. Then they seed teams 1 through 16, one being, in their views, the best team of that bracket, and 16 the worse. So even if you don't know Drexel from Duke, you know who should beat whom most of the time. Problem is, the teams play once, so sometimes a lower-seeded team (and, confusingly, the lower-seeded team is the higher number) will beat the higher-seeded team. Life is unpredictable, sort of, and I guess this is an example of this. My point is that there is lots of data – how basketball experts rank the teams, you have their schedule, you can look at the last 10 games, lots of things.

There are two types of contests that I am familiar with: office pools, and large, national pools. Now I don't know about office pools (most of them involve betting, and you know, they are sort of illegal). The larger pools have prizes, and, well, the strategy is different.

Office Pools
Office pools are rather small, ranging from a few people to hundreds. The participants are generally part of the same geographic location, which can be a benefit to the person who can put their team loyalties aside for betting purposes. Let's say, for instance, you lived in Columbus, Ohio (a commenter mentioned this devotion recently), most people in the pool would probably have Ohio State go to the Final Four, or even winning it all. Most people in your pool will choose this, so if you want to win, find a game where they may not win and pick that other team to win. Maybe have them lose in the Sweet 16. Point is, if you are right, you are a leg up on most, and that is great, especially since you know little about basketball. My point is not to bet against Ohio State, but if you are in an area where most bet on a particular team, bet against them prudently.

Don't bet on too many upsets. Number 1s rarely bear number 16s (if ever), and 2s don't beat 15s. 3s rarely beat 14s, but they do so occasionally. Play the odds. Randomly picking teams, with just seedings, works as good as knowing things, I think. How often do non-sporting guys or gals win these pools? As often as those who are experts. While sporting fans overall do better than average, winning the whole thing seems to be a bit more random.

Large Pools
I suggest playing the lottery. Your odds are about as good, but you know, but the payout is a lot less. Spend the buck and go after millions legally. And support education!

I finished my pools a few hours ago; now that I think of it, I should have gone to the nearest 7-11 and purchased a lottery ticket. Go GA Tech! Go Jackets!


LarryLilly said...

First beatches

happy bracketting

LarryLilly said...

OK, I filled mine out on a woodworking forum where its a year of bragging rights at best. I used all sorts of mental masturbation, then sat down and guessed my ass off (cant you see my back is a bit trimmer today?)

I dont even remember my final 4, but my pick is GO BRUINS (UCLA), why? beats the chit out of me, I just know its a 2 seed thats why!

Leesa said...

larry: Yeah, what I thought was weird is that Texas was the only "Other" listed. If I would have been smarter, I would have put them in the Final Four.

Editor said...

don't do brackets, but enjoyed your blog just the same. I think your writing is very, very good by the way.

kathi said...

I'm so bad at this sort of thing, I have a hard time even picking out numbers for the lottery, all too confusing for the simple minded.

RWA said...

I confess. I put Texas in as the "other."

I couldn't believe they weren't on the list.

Pittchick said...

I have 2 brackets going, but since Duke already lost tonight, I think I'm hosed.

Leesa said...

editor: thanks, sweetie!

kathi: I am bad at this as well. I was hoping for dumb luck, but that doesn't even cut it anymore.

rwa: I just listed the top 15 teams at the time. Looks like even though Texas was not in the Top 15, several have suggested they may make the final 4. What does that say about rankings?

pittchick: I will admit I picked VMU for that game, though now that I have heard that Duke has not been bounced from Game 1 since the '80s, I would have chosen Duke if I had more information. Weird, huh?