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Sports Authority

The perfect imperfection

| Monday, March 17, 2014

I once had a classmate ask me if I fill out my NCAA bracket by picking the teams with the prettiest uniforms. It remains, to this day, the most offensive thing anyone has ever asked me. Part of my indignation stemmed from the implication that a girl could not possibly watch enough basketball to intelligently fill out her own bracket. The rest came from the fact that I actually do fill out my brackets using completely arbitrary and unreasonable criteria, but I like to think my own methods are much more creative and entertaining than picking pretty colors.

Let’s be honest about bracketology: even the experts aren’t very good at it. Like Cubs fans at spring training, at this point in the game we are all filled with an inordinate amount of optimism. We take a fond look at our still-unsmirched bracket, completely sure that Michigan State is totally making it to the Final Four. But two weeks and four or five upsets from now, Jay Bilas’s sheet may or may not be looking better than your little cousin Timmy’s. This is an activity where Nate Silver (the economist/fortune teller) admits that there is an 85 percent chance he picked the wrong national champion (his money’s on Louisville.)

My advice? Unless you’ve got something important on the line, like money or personal pride, have fun with it. Here are some of my favorite completely unscientific ways to fill out a bracket. They may or may not be as effective as picking the team that actually has the best record or the most talent:

Battle of the Mascots

This one is easy, and best if you intend for this to be a group activity. If the mascots from the two competing schools were to fight, which would win? This activity lends itself to endless and amusing debates. Who would win, a wolverine or a bear? A cavalier or a wildcat? Could a cyclone destroy a Cardinal (as in the tree)? Problems with this method: aside from the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the success of the team, you run into trouble with the Crimson and the Orange. Also, you need to find out what Manhattan’s mascot is (the Jaspers, for those of you wondering).

Personal Preference

Let’s face it: if you really, really, really dislike a school or a coach, it is no fun to pick that team to win it all (even when you know they have the best chance). So let you own prejudices make your decisions for you. I can’t stand Duke, so every year I have it losing by the second round (Mercer, the pressure’s on you). My fondness for UConn means I give the Huskies one more win than anyone would reasonably expect, and I always give the benefit of the doubt to small, Midwestern, private schools that no one has ever heard of in any other context. Problems with this method: when Duke does win, I’m doubly angry.

Impossible Names

The only thing better than awesome names? Hearing over-exciting basketball announcers stumble over “Arcidiacono” when calling a Villanova game. Problems with this method: no Louisville, “Russdiculous” does not count.

Prettiest Uniforms

Okay, I’ve already said I don’t approve of strategy. But let’s look at the numbers: UCLA and North Carolina, both known for their particularly attractive blue uniforms, have won a combined 16 national championships since 1920. Those are pretty good odds.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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