The art of bracketology

Aro Majumder

March. It’s springtime, St. Patrick’s Day is coming and, in the midst of all this chaos, there is only one thing that unites us: brackets. That’s right, it’s that time of year again, and everyone is rushing to fill out the dreaded brackets. The ones we cry and tear our hair out over, the ones we cheer and celebrate about and the ones that give us bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Indeed, there is no better time than March for college-hoops fans around the nation. Sixty-four teams will take part in the “Big Dance” starting on March 17. Once again, it promises to be action-packed with upsets and memorable moments and will culminate in Houston, Texas on April 4.

But that’s not what we’re all here for is it? No, the real “March Madness” comes from the almost feverish excitement to fill out brackets. Whether it be for a local office pool or an open-to-all online league on Yahoo! or ESPN, brackets are the universal call to try your hand at picking results, even for those that don’t follow college basketball that closely. Brackets have become so much of a craze that president Barack Obama has gotten involved with the annual showing of Barack-etology on ESPN.

So where did this craze originate from? Although college basketball is not unique in its bracketed playoff format, its craze and obsession with filling out brackets is one-of-a-kind. It’s not known exactly when people started filling out brackets, but it most likely came around the time of the expansion of the tournament to 64 teams in 1985. It also most likely started on paper, and some fans still prefer to do it on paper. However, “bracketology” has expanded into an online sensation that even features cash pay-outs, with Warren Buffet famously offering $1 billion.

In a college basketball season as tumultuous as this one has been, with six different number-one seeds in 17 weeks, as well as top-ten schools consistently getting upset by low-ranked teams, it’s very unlikely that anyone will be able to maintain the coveted perfect bracket, even through the first day. That won’t stop the millions of fans of college basketball from trying however, and in order to gain an edge, it’s important to have the perfect ritual.   

Those that truly want to succeed have honed their techniques through years of hard-work and dumb-luck. Some like to have their dogs pick; others prefer the classic dart-throwing method, but no matter the approach, everyone has their own unique superstition. These superstitions are part of what makes bracketing so special.

So what can you do this year to make sure you have the best chance possible of getting the perfect bracket? Here’s a few tips:

Don’t talk or even think about the end result of a not-yet-completed game — it’s the cardinal sin. Until the final buzzer sounds, anything can happen, so don’t prematurely jinx your team.

Don’t let your heart dictate your mind — your favorite team isn’t always going to win, especially if you happen to be a fan of a team like Austin Peay. Accept it and pick smart.

When in doubt, go against the experts — the so-called “experts” have just as much of a chance of picking a perfect bracket as you do, so go with your gut. Besides, the experts probably jinx the teams anyways.