Monday, March 19, 2012

Breaking Down My Broken Bracket

NCAA BracketAfter a bit of hemming and hawing I did submit a bracket for Dr. Pauly’s annual NCAA pool. I came close not to doing it at all, having so little faith in my picks. In fact, after many, many years of filling out brackets and participating in pools I’d taken the last few years off from doing so.

I’ve written here before about how I don’t generally go in for a lot of sports betting, only occasionally doing so for fun in low-risk, low-cost ways. In fact, a few years back I wrote a post right about this time of year talking about why I don’t normally sink money into NCAA pools.

I decided to play this time, though, in part because I somehow managed to win Pauly’s Pub NFL pick’em pool this past year and thus had a few extra bucks with which to play.

Was a fairly mediocre couple of rounds of picking games for me, although I still have my entire final four intact as well as six of my elite eight picks. Only hit 20 of 32 in the round of 64 games. I picked the higher-seeded team in all but four of those Thursday-Friday games, a pretty damned conservative sheet now that I look back at it. Only got one of those upsets right, meaning I missed out on the other nine that happened. By the time the round of 32 began I could only possibly get 10 right and hit nine, so felt reasonably okay about that result.

Each subsequent round is worth double the points of the previous one, so I’m not sure if I’m mathematically eliminated from winning the whole thing or not. Gonna guess I probably am, although if somehow I’m not I assume I’ll have to go perfect from here on out.

If you think about it, filling out these brackets -- sorta like playing a 63-game parlay in which you aren’t even sure who’s playing who after the first 32 games -- is kind of a weird way to compete. The only more gambly way to go is to pick a team out of a hat, another type of March Madness-related gambling that is quite popular in offices around the country.

I much preferred the NCAA pool I used to play years ago, one into which I was recruited by a faculty advisor in grad school (no shinola). There we picked each round as the tourney went, with the rounds gradually being worth more and extra points awarded for correctly picking so-called “upsets” in which a lower-seeded team wins.

I might not be remembering it perfectly, but I think the scoring went as follows:
  • 1 pt. for a correct round of 64 pick
  • 2 pts. for a correct round of 32 pick
  • 3 pts. for a correct round of 16 pick
  • 5 pts. for a correct regional final pick
  • 7 pts. for a correct semifinal pick
  • 10 pts. for a correct final pick
  • bonus pts. for upsets = subtract seeds and add total
  • Thus if somehow you’d brilliantly picked Lehigh (a #15 seed) to beat Duke (a #2 seed) in the first round, you earned one point for the pick and another 13 points for the upset. Even getting a game like N.C. State’s win over San Diego State (an #11 over a #6) would earn you a nice five-point bonus to add to your first-round total.

    Made for some interesting strategic decisions, including encouraging some to pick upsets in later rounds so as to try to make up points and catch the leaders. The other thing the format ensured was that pretty much everyone still had a shot at the sucker even after a bad first couple of rounds.

    I think the best I ever did in that one during several years’ worth of attempts was a single min-cash, doubling my buy-in once by finishing eighth or something. But every year I felt like I’d gotten enough enjoyment out of it all to make the expense worthwhile.

    And really, while some may argue -- or even really believe -- that gambling and/or poker is strictly about the money, there are a lot of other reasons why most of us get pleasure out of such risk-taking games.

    Speaking of finding pleasure in pain, I also wanted to pass along this photo I created after enduring that godawful Chevy Malibu Eco ad repeatedly over the last four days, one of what seemed like four or five commercials they had on a constant loop during the coverage of the NCAA games.

    You know the one, in which a driver up front turns down that cringe-worthy Spandau Ballet crooner “True” and the dude in back complains. (By the way, I read somewhere that guy in the back seat is actually one of the Geico cavemen.) Like anyone in history has ever gotten upset at someone turning down Spandau Ballet. I mean I remember rushing to turn the channel about a couple of hundred times back in the ’80s when this thing kept coming back over and over again like some sort of incurable rash.

    Feel free to use this in forums whenever a particularly absurd comment warrants an inexplicable non sequitur in return:

    That's Spandau Ballet, man!

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