March (Madness) Preview

by Jethro Swain

My favorite month of the year is March. And there are many reasons why.

First, my birthday is in March, and who doesn’t like their birth month I mean, come on. Second there’s Spring Break and Winterim so very little school. Thirdly, March is when golf season starts, so that means the weather should also be getting better.

But my favorite part of March is March Madness.

Now many of you might be saying, “Jethro no one cares about the golf season besides you,” and I get your point. Some of you might be saying “Hey Jethro what’s March Madness” and I’m here to tell you.

March Madness is the NCAA basketball tournament that decides the NCAA Champion for the season. The reason it’s called March Madness is because the tournament is filled with upsets, close games, blowouts, and buzzer beaters.

The tournament consists of 68 teams. There are two ways for teams to qualify for the tournament. Either by winning their conference title (there are 32 conferences and each conference has about 10-12 teams), or by being one of the 36 most deserving other teams that did not win a conference title and receive what is called an “at-large bid.”

The 68 teams are then ranked and put into four separate brackets consisting of ranks 1-16, so there are four seeds for each number in the tournament. For example, last year Wisconsin, Kentucky, Villanova, and Duke were all #1 seeds because they were ranked as the four best teams in the tournament.

The tournament is single elimination. There are 68 teams because there are four “play-in” games that determine which four out of eight teams get to move on and play in the round of 64. Two of the play-in games are usually played for a 16 seed spot between conference champions from a weak, or not very good, conference, and the other two games are usually played for an 11 or 12 seed between the “last four in” teams which are the four teams that barely qualified for an at-large bid.

Once the winners of the play-in games fill their spot the round of 64 begins, usually during either the second or third weekend of March. The example bracket below pictures the 2013 NCAA bracket and how the games between each seed work.


The bracket is split into four parts with each part representing a region where the games are to be played at neutral sites. The 1 seed plays the 16 seed in each region, the 2 plays the 15, 3 plays 14, etc. until 8 and 9.

From there the bracket is simple, win and move on, lose and you’re out.

Now normally someone who has never seen this bracket it would think that the “Final Four”, which is what the teams that make it to the semifinals are called, would be composed of all 1 seeds, or maybe some 2 or 3 seeds. But that is a rare case.

There’s only been one year since 1979 when the bracket started having seeding, where all four number one seeds made the final four. That came in 2008, and that the first NCAA tournament that I remember watching. Kansas pulled out a win in the championship game with a clutch 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers to force the game into overtime after Derrick Rose of Memphis, coached by John Calipari, missed the first free throw that would’ve sealed the game.

The following year North Carolina won with Tyler Hansbrough, no doubt the peak of Tyler Hansbrough’s career because it’s safe to say that he is now the most mediocre player in the NBA. That tied North Carolina with Indiana for the third most NCAA championships in history at 5, only trailing Kentucky with 8 and UCLA with 11 (UCLA won 10 titles in 12 years between 1964-1975.

2010 was the first of two straight national championship appearances and loses by a low seed in Butler. In 2010 Butler, coached by current Celtics coach Brad Stevens, was a 5 seed and lost to Duke in the finals, almost making a half court buzzer beater off of a missed free throw by Duke that would’ve won them the title by one point. In 2011 the 8 seed Butler played an 11 seed in VCU, who were tied with George Mason in 2006 and LSU in 1986 as the lowest seeds to make the final four, in the semifinals. However Butler lost their second consecutive championship to the 3 seed UConn.

In 2012 Kentucky got one of their eight titles under John Calipari and led by Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, beating Kansas who was led by former Blazer Thomas Robinson.

2013 was my favorite year of the NCAA tournament. The final four consisted of 1 seed Louisville, the champions, (some of you might remember Kevin Ware’s freak injury which happened this year, if you haven’t seen it look it up it’s pretty cool), 4 seeds Michigan and Syracuse, and 9 seed Wichita State, whose “Elite Eight” game over Ohio State I was able to see in Los Angeles and made me an instant fan of them.

This year had some great games, including Wichita State’s upset over Gonzaga, La Salle as a 13 seed making the “Sweet Sixteen”, and Florida Gulf Coast upsetting Georgetown and San Diego State as a 15 seed making them one of the most memorable Cinderella stories to date, and this year they’re back in the tournament for a second time.

I also enjoyed predicting the upset of Michigan over Kansas (a game which was thrilling you should look it up and watch the ending) who was the 1 seed because Kerr gave me multiple speeches in Granada telling me why Kansas was going to win because they were clearly the best team.

2014 was another year of upsets. That year Wichita State was led to a 1 seed by Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker but sadly were upset by an underrated 8 seed Kentucky, who would make it all the way to the championship game under Julius Randle. Kentucky was beat by a 7 seed in UConn and Kevin Boatwright, one of the lowest seeded champions ever.

Last year many people thought Kentucky would complete an undefeated season and win the tournament, however they were beat by Wisconsin, another 1 seed, in the final four, but would lose to Duke in the championship.

Now last year was infuriating for me, because I predicted the miracle upset of Wisconsin over Kentucky when 70% of the country had Kentucky winning it all. But then Duke beat Wisconsin in the championship and Daniel L. won our bracket pool and I lost out on 50 dollars. I’m still pissed (even more pissed because he beat me in the fantasy football championship game this year and I lost out on another 50 dollars there as well). Daniel gets so lucky I swear he doesn’t ever know what he’s doing.

This year Spirit Squad has created their own bracket pool for the students and faculty to compete in and everyone should participate. Some of you, like Daniel, might not know much or anything about college basketball, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about the bracket challenge, is that success has so much to do with luck. I would say it’s about 30% knowledge and 70% luck that makes a successful bracket.

Anyone could make the winning bracket. One year a woman made one of the best brackets because she picked the teams that most closely resembled the names of her dogs.

The way the bracket works is you choose the winner of every game for the entire tournament before the first round, all the way up to the national champion. If you choose a game correctly in the first round you get 10 points for a maximum of 320 points.

In the second round a correct pick is worth 20 points, again for a maximum total of 320 points. However, here’s the catch. If a team that you picked to win a game in the first round loses, or in other words you chose a first round game incorrectly, you not only lose out on the 10 points from the first round, but if you picked that same team to win in the second round, you automatically lose out on the 20 points for that possible correct pick, because that team is out.


Because what I just said might be a bit confusing, I’ve provided a section of my bracket from last year above. I predicted the 11 seed Ole Miss to beat the 6 seed Xavier, however, I was wrong. So I didn’t get the 10 points for the first round, and, because I predicted that Ole Miss would win in the second round as well, I lost out on the 20 points for the second round.

However, I correctly predicted that Wisconsin would win all four of its first four games, and I was right, so I got 10 points for the first round, 20 for the second, 40 points for the correct pick in the sweet sixteen game (against UNC), 80 for the elite eight game (against Arizona), and I also got 160 points for correctly picking them to win in the final four game (not pictured) but I lost out on the 320 points for the correct pick of the national champion, because I picked Wisconsin to win, but they lost to Duke.

If you did the math that adds up to 320 point per round for a total of 1920 points over 6 rounds. The person with the highest number of points wins the pool. However, don’t expect perfection. No one has ever gotten close to picking a perfect bracket because there are 2^63 different combinations, and with so many upsets, it’s actually impossible.

My advice is to pick more upsets than you think there would be. If you have all seeds 1-8 winning in the first round, you’re going to be quickly upset. A good number of upsets I say is 5 or 6 out of the first 32 games, not including the 8 vs 9 game because historically that has barely been an upset since the 9 seed has won roughly 50% of the time.

Also pick at least one underdog to make a run, because there’s always one, and if you’re lucky and you pick the right team, you get a lot of points that no one else gets.



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