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Basketball Brackets: Is There a Secret to the Madness?

Photo courtesy of Judy **/Flickr

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my years of filling out March Madness brackets, it is that there is very little correlation between “knowing” basketball and making accurate NCAA tournament predictions.

Growing up, I always seemed to have one teacher per year who passed out photocopied brackets for a class competition. The prize was usually something pretty trivial — like 10 bonus points on the next test or a free slice of pizza in the school cafeteria. In other words, we weren’t gambling away the piggybanks containing our life savings.

As I got older, it seemed like there was more strategy involved in picking teams. I always overheard the class basketball buffs bickering with each other over their selections and defending their choices with terminology that, to me, sounded like a foreign language. I guess my one season of YMCA rec basketball wasn’t enough to educate me on the nuances of the game.

But despite their wealth of knowledge and insight, these sports nuts rarely came out on top. The overall winner almost always ended up being some clueless band nerd who wouldn’t know a basketball from a hockey puck.

Why? Because post-season play hardly ever goes the way it should. Even if a team is clearly superior on paper, there are no guarantees when nerves, emotion and pressure come into the mix. The NCAA tournament is notorious for upsets, which are nearly impossible to predict.

So when you’re filling out your bracket, you might as well flip a coin. Or pick your teams based on the appeal of their uniforms, like the girl who won the class bracket competition my sophomore year of high school. I even had a decent run a couple of seasons back when I made my selections based on which mascot would win in an actual fight. (For example, if a grizzly bear faced off against a badger in the wild, the badger wouldn’t have a chance. Therefore, I would pick UM over Wisconsin.)

Whatever your strategy is, remember that it’s just for fun — even if you lose, you can always buy your own piece of pizza in the school cafeteria.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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