March 20, 2014

ZAKOUR | Keeping Your March Sanity

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By JOHN ZAKOUR

As you fill out your bracket and enter every pool ranging from your five dollar buy-in, to Warren Buffet’s billion dollar challenge, I have one key piece of advice for you. Ignore everyone else’s advice. This is the time in the sports calendar where one gets bombarded with analysis and wisdom from every columnist, writer, journalist and other in the sports world. The stated goal is to help you fill out your brackets and be as informed as possible. The ulterior motive is the same: ratings or clicks.

March Madness is maybe the best time in the sporting calendar (although I hear this about each significant section part of the year from the Super Bowl and the start of baseball to the NBA and NHL playoffs) and talking heads love to remind you of it. It might be march madness, but it would behoove you to pick some sanity.

So are you going to pick upsets? It is always fun to hit on one that makes you seem smart when you can point out that you accurately forecasted it to your friends. But they are risky. And upsets do not allow the best matchups to materialize. A five usually beats a twelve, yet Butler made the final as a five.

But there is always a few upsets and usually one or two big ones. Two seeds have been prey recently. Duke and Missouri fell victim to 15 seeds, and neither was a trendy upset pick two years ago. Last year’s Georgetown squad was regarded as a final four caliber team, yet they were upended rather easily and violently by Florida Gulf Coast in maybe the most surprising first round upset in history. But how stupid would you feel if you have Western Michigan in your sweet sixteen and Syracuse ends up trouncing them in round one? Your friends would not let you live it down, or at least they should not if they are your friends.

Or are you just using the simple algebraic logic of picking all the lowest numbers? You are probably better off. And with a few under seeded team picks (I’m looking at #5 ranked and #4 seeded Louisville), you could probably have more success than you think. You can win your friends’ pool by picking Florida if Florida actually wins. A one, two or even three is very likely to win the whole thing. Since Florida’s win in 2008, only one team lower than the number one spot has won the whole thing.

Do not overthink it. Picking the national title combatants and a winner (very possible) is just as good as going 48 for 48 in the first two rounds (not happening), assuming usual scoring. Also, do not let your friends get away with winning with their chalk bracket just because they picked all one seeds in the final four and two happened to make it.

So then what is my personal advice, since I told you to not take any? Have fun. Just have fun. Whatever does it for you. One bracket? How honorable of you. Sixteen? Sure, it will not make a difference anyways. And since it is too late to change your bracket now (it should be at least), do not let it guide your rooting interest for more than a few days. You know, until Western Michigan and Tulsa are playing in the elite eight when you know your bracket is useless anyways. Then forget it.

Just enjoy the basketball. Follow your gut. Even though your stupid, worthless bracket had Kansas going all the way, if Stanford is giving them a scare in the second round (and yes, it is the second round no matter what anyone calls the first four rounds), root for the underdog. You know you want to. Just enjoy the basketball. The twists and turns of a tournament. The ebb and flow of a season in six games. It is high drama, and I do not want to hear about how you stumbled into the upset of the tournament. When I ask “did you see that game,” please just answer “yes.”

Me personally? Much like President Obama, I am going with Florida, Arizona, Louisville and Michigan State in the final four. I could see Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky or Virginia as well. I am just equivocating. I could see a lot happening. What matters is no matter how off my predictions are, I will enjoy the basketball regardless. That is a guarantee. –

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