Vices

The AMOG Guide to “Bracketology”

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Image Source: Marianne O’Leary via Flickr

In case you didn’t notice it’s March, which means only one thing. And we’re not talking about getting silly during your drunken stupor on St. Patrick’s Day. We’re talking about the insanity that is March Madness.

While the annual NCAA tournament is full of great moments, huge upsets and on-the-edge-of-your-seat-action, it wouldn’t be the same without the brackets. There are many reasons why filling out brackets has become a frenzied tradition for fans. But that’s a debate on its own. What’s really interesting is that the so-called “Bracketology” is one of the few times when the biggest of meathead jocks becomes the obsessive geek who is fascinated with numbers and stats. In fact, “Bracketology” has become more than just an association with March Madness. It’s become an American institution. Today, we can find brackets that pit music, movies and even hairstyles against each other for either fun amongst friends or for a huge pay day in things like an office pool.

So, without further ado, here is AMOG’s Guide to “Bracketology”

The Origins of “Bracketology”

One of the most influential events in the history of brackets occurred in 1985, when the number of teams increased from 48 to 64 teams. Not only had the format of the tournament been altered, for example it eliminated first round byes, the expanded amount of games became more widely televised. The brackets then became symmetrical and easy to understand for fans, who could easily catch a live game on ESPN. These factors helped increase the popularity of brackets.

However, it’s speculated that the term “bracketology” itself appeared in 1996. It’s believed that Joe Lunardi, a spokesman for St. Joseph’s University and a college-hoops junkie, referred to himself as a “bracketologist” while projecting the tournament field.

“I used to own a college basketball publishing company called Blue Ribbon and we published The Blue Ribbon Yearbook every year at the beginning of the season. It was a pretty thick and meaty preview book of the Division 1 scene. In the mid-90’s, I had the idea ‘What if we added a postseason edition? Suppose we could get those picks out on Sunday night and get the book out by Thursday. Would people have an interest in that? Do they want more information?'”

However, it wasn’t Lunardi that coined the term. Many believe it was Mike Jensen, Temple beat writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer who actually created the term. Regardless of who exactly came up with the term, it exploded in January of 2002. It was then that ESPN.com featured Lunardi’s “bracketology” predictions. Within 90 minutes of posting the bracket the page received 250,000 hits. Since that 2002 debut, “bracketology” has been regularly featured on ESPN’s programming. It has also become an essential part of the NCAA tournament.

Where Can I Get a Bracket?

Brackets are readily available for those wanting to participate. During the tournament you can fill out your brackets by signing in on sites like the official NCAA page, ESPN, CBS, NBC, Fox Sports and Yahoo.

Most of these sites are willing to offer some pretty sweet prizes if you win, which you probably won’t, but still it’s a nice opportunity. In the past, sites like Yahoo and Fox have offered monetary prizes in the millions. While CBS has given away a trip for two to next year’s Final Four.

Besides being interactive on your computer, many of these sites have an app on iOS and Android. Also, you can compete against your friends online via Facebook. Of course, you can always go old school and print out a bracket and fill it out by hand.

Tips For Picking The Field

Here’s the important part. Filling out that all important bracket. So, here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind.

Do Your Homework

Since every season features a new batch of teams in the tournament, you need to be as up to date as possible. Find out the seeding of each team. Analyze each conference. Gather as much data about the teams as possible, a site like kenpom.com is an excellent resource. And by all means check out predictions by gurus and bracketologist. Just remember that knowledge is
power.

Play It Safe

Don’t ruin your bracket by having a bunch of upsets. Because the stats are against you. Check this out, 53 out of the 84 Final Four teams have been either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds since 1991. In case you’re not great at math that’s 63 percent. Furthermore, from 1985 to 2011, No. 1 seeds are 108-0 in the first round, while No. 2 seeds are 104-4. Needless to say, it’s a safe bet to have No. 1 and N0. 2 seeds going deep into the tournament. Finally, you should probably have at least one No. 1 seed in the Final Four. Why? Because during the last 27 years there have only been two times where a No. 1 seed has failed to reach the Final Four.

If Lost, Bet on Vegas

If you need some assistance with the lower seeds or upsets then check out what Vegas has to say. Vegas bookmakers know the lines for individual games better than anyone else. So, if you’re looking for some points in your pool, Vegas is one of the best resources to have in choosing a potential upset.

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