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Method to the madness: Making sense of the NCAA tournament bracket

After a long college basketball season of buzzer beaters and upsets it’s finally time for one of the most anticipated sporting events in the world.

It’s March so it could only mean that its time to fill out the yearly NCAA Tournament bracket.

Year in and year out, fans and non-fans of college basketball fill out their brackets in hopes of claiming some semblance of bragging rights among friends, family or co-workers.

Many amateur bracketologists carefully analyze the match ups and check strength of schedules, or even check for injuries on teams to give them insight on which team to choose.

Other March Madness participants just pick schools based on the most arbitrary reasons, whether it is that their relative goes to that school, that the school has a cool mascot, or maybe they just blindly picked winners.

There is not a correct way to solve the 68-piece puzzle that is the NCAA Tournament, but regardless of the outcome we find ourselves more and more desperate to reach that almost impossible goal.

The best place to start when looking at the bracket would be to look at the numbers.

Not the stats or wins that teams have racked up, but the actual seeding that goes into placing these teams at their rankings.

WAFB sports anchor Jacques Doucet does not find himself as a slave to the rankings.

“Outside of the obvious ones like a 15 or 16 seed, I would not trust any of the numbers or seeding that these teams are given,” Doucet explained.

“I feel that if these were just regular season games you would think much differently. You would make regular judgments based on the match up, but because of these little numbers in front it really screws you up when making picks.”

LSU graduate Jace Huval sings a different song when it comes what these numbers mean.

“I’ll pretty much pick teams I know and for the most part those teams have good rankings,” Huval said.

“I’ll admit that I am tempted by the things the media say about these basketball teams because I know I haven’t kept up with these teams as much as they have. I’ll buy into the hype if they talk about them that much. They must be that good.”

Another big factor when choosing each matchup is the strength that each team holds as a program entirely.

When most sports fans think of college basketball, the most powerful conferences that come to mind are ones like the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East to name a few.

With there being so many teams from different conferences it is hard to say that one is better than the next.

DIG sports contributor Mario Jerez has a conference that sticks out in his mind when doing an overview of the bracket.

“Of course I have level of respect for all the teams with such high pedigree,” Jerez said. “But you have got to have a level of respect for what the ACC does, with the way they play and the level of competitiveness that they bring each year.”

Being an LSU basketball fan doesn’t always translate to success in the tournament so in some cases people might have to find other teams to root for.

In many cases these “back up” teams represent the local area.

“Well with LSU out, its nice to rally around another local team in Southern as they make the tournament again,” Doucet said.

Huval falls back on a childhood allegiance for his rooting interest.

“Well I’m a product of the Jordan era so it’s easy for me to just root for North Carolina if LSU doesn’t make the tournament,” Huval said.

Besides asking how one picks the bracket, another question is why people always seem to find themselves filling out a bracket year in and year out.

“Its more about the comradery that goes along with doing one at work,” Doucet said. “It’s different from a Super Bowl pool because it lasts so much longer and you get to have fun and be involved in the picks you made throughout those weeks.

“The funniest part about it is when you see the sports guys at the station as the ones who are trailing behind, whereas we might have a board operator who hasn’t watched a single game and is winning the whole thing.”

Huval and his friends have a different motive when filling out their brackets.

“In all honesty we really don’t have a winner at the end of the tournament in our pool,” Huval said. “We all just try not to lose because the loser takes so much ragging and has to eat ‘Fire in the Hole’ hot wings from Pluckers. So really there is more pain than joy that comes from doing these brackets.”

At the end of the day we each will find ourselves drawn to filling out a bracket whether we have, or don’t have, the knowledge on college basketball.

When it came right down to it, Jerez gave his best advice for what should be done to have a successful bracket each year.

“I think the things that need be done are to trust the schools that have been historically good and know how to win in the tournament, ride the hot teams into the tournament and most importantly just trust your gut and not over think it.”

With the tournament getting started this week, the basketball watching world will find themselves pouring over games they would never want to sit through during the regular season, but I guess that’s all part of the madness that comes with this month of March.


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